Committee on Finance. - Vote 26—Local Government (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That the Vote be referred back for reconsideration.
—(Deputy T.J. Fitzpatrick)(Cavan).

Before Questions, I was referring to the retarding effect of having dual responsibility for the provision of houses, and having this responsibility shared between the Department of Local Government and the local authority. I think I said the Minister tried in some measure to remove the need for the submissions that have been made for years. We on this side of the House have been pressing for years for some sort of an arrangement whereby a submission would not be necessary. The Department have laid down normal building standards and so long as these standards were roughly conformed with, that would meet the situation and the local authorities could just get on with their job. The Department would tell them in advance the approximate amount of money it was proposed to spend on building in any particular year, based on an assessment of their building needs at that time and the amount of money available for building generally throughout the country.

I cannot see why the Minister still continues to insist on submissions and tenders which create additional hold-ups in the provision of housing. I do not think that serves any useful purpose whatever. Local authority engineers and architects are quite capable of deciding what is or what is not a suitable site, what is or what is not a nice type of building, and what is or what is not suitable accommodation. Ordinary standards could be laid down to be followed, and provided the local authority kept within those standards, I do not know what the Minister or the Department would have to fear by allowing the local authorities to do their own job and by allowing the professional men employed by local authorities to take full responsibility for the siting and carrying out of housing schemes.

The Minister has said that it is no longer necessary to consult him in relation to a housing site. This is right and it is wrong. I have had experience of this, as the Minister knows. If there is in the area of land being purchased by a local authority a portion to be set aside for recreational purposes then the whole area must be submitted for sanction to the Minister. Here is where the Minister can hold up a building project. I am sorry to say that in one case that I am only too well aware of the Minister refused to sanction purchase of a first-class building site in an area very close to him and to me. I am sorry to have to say that I believe that site was turned down on nothing more than political grounds. There were two owners concerned in a 36-acre site. They were both well-known Fine Gael supporters. For this, and for no other reason, the site was turned down by the Minister. Never again will land in that area be purchased as cheaply as the price at which that site was offered.

I raised the matter in the House by way of Parliamentary Question and was told that the town planning people advised the Minister that this was an unsuitable site. That is contradicted at local level by the people concerned who say that this is an excellent housing site. Some of it has since been sold for building and sanctioned for building and it was sold at a higher price than the price at which it was to have been purchased by the local authority.

This is a serious indictment in an area where there is considerable housing need. There was included in this site an area for a recreation centre, a football field and something for the people locally. In this case it was possible to purchase land at a reasonable figure for that type of amenity. We hear a great deal about the importance of these amenities. Immediately a proposition came to the Minister to provide housing and amenities it was turned down and, I am sorry to say, for no good reason. In case the Minister might be in any doubt, I am referring to the site in Newcastle and giving the reasons why, as I believe, it was turned down. I am glad the Minister is here because I want to say it in his presence.

Generally speaking, it is right to say that in relation to the purchase of sites for building, the local authority can go ahead and buy except in a case where part of the area is to be used for recreational purposes. Invariably, where there is a tract of land, some of it cannot be used for housing but can be used as a recreational centre. When this is involved, the Minister must make the decision in regard to it. In my view, this reference to the Minister is totally unnecessary. Local authorities are keenly aware of requirements, especially in a rapidly developing area such as Dublin city and county. They know where the failures have been over the years. If it is possible to learn from mistakes, certainly there were enough mistakes made in relation to the non-provision of amenities in places where there are large communities.

I must emphasise that over the years the Department have failed to take an active part in keeping down building costs. We had the National Building Advisory Council. I do not know what that council were doing and nobody else knows what service they provided for the building industry. That has not been evident. The cost of that council was £40 000. I do not know what advice they gave, what work programme was set for them. Nobody knows what the performance was. Now, after a number of years it has been decided to do away with this council because, apparently, nothing came from them. It was jobs for the boys. That is the only thing anybody can think of. The council produced nothing. Now they are to be merged with An Foras Forbartha. I hope there are useful people among them who can give service in An Foras Forbartha. They have not given any indication of doing anything worthwhile for the building industry where they were.

The Government have done a good deal to increase building costs. There was the turnover tax and the wholesale tax, increasing building costs by approximately eight per cent. There was the failure to extend services. There was the rapid increase in the cost of building land and people were allowed to speculate. That is Government responsibility. The Government allowed it to happen.

The latest thing is devaluation. I am reliably informed that building materials generally will increase by 17 to 20 per cent; that the cost of timber will increase, certainly, by 17 to 20 per cent. The people in the timber business anticipate that they will be permitted to increase the price by 20 per cent. A great variety of fittings will also increase in price as will copper and many other building materials.

In addition, there has been an increase in interest rates on money for building purposes. Of course, this increase was permitted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and it is not a matter over which the Minister for Local Government has any control but it will certainly increase the cost of building and the price that people purchasing houses will have to pay. I know that this whole matter is under consideration. A peculiar thing about it is that in England where they operate on a lesser margin they have more money than they know what to do with. They cannot get sufficient people to take it from them and they are now looking elsewhere to invest the money that they got for building and they will buy furniture and household effects of one sort or another. Here we do not seem to be able to get enough money at this high rate of interest for building. All the factors to which I have referred are increasing building costs enormously. It emphasises how we missed the bus by not building houses when the cost was very much less than it is today.

Deputies have referred to the housing grants. Most of the housing grants were fixed in 1948. There is no justification for continuing those grants at the present level. There are upper limits of £1,650 and £1,100 for serviced and unserviced houses. It is supposed to be two-thirds and one-third. They bear no relationship whatever to present day building costs.

The Minister may say that the percentage contribution from the Department has increased over the years. It has increased only because more houses have come within the two-thirds subsidy group. People in overcrowded houses are now included in that group. Heretofore they were excluded if they were living in overcrowded conditions as cottage tenants. The number of people eligible for the higher subsidy has increased. In that way the Department's percentage contribution has increased but it is no longer a realistic figure. It would be far better if the Department were to say: "Here is the money. We will give you 50 per cent. of all housing costs. Go and do your job and we will not interfere any more." Perhaps then we would get something done.

Of all the private houses built in the country, it is right, I think, to say that about 55 per cent are built in County Dublin. This is a very important matter for us and I think it is completely unrealistic now to have the upper loan limit pegged down at £270. There are people who are now debarred from buying their own houses because of the amount of deposit they have to find. It is time a sensible look was taken at this. I do not know whether or not the Minister is aware of this, but for some time past there has been only a trickle of applicants to Dublin County Council for SDA loans. This will have a very serious effect on the building industry all over the country and on the employment position in Dublin and elsewhere.

The Minister has said there is no shortage of money: he has emphasised that. As far as I am aware, that statement is correct; I do not think we have any building scheme held up at the moment for want of money. But many people do not believe that there is no shortage of money because, for years, we had a Minister here telling us emphatically there was no scarcity of money and, at the same time, plans were being trotted up and back, up and back, and every possible artificial delay was resorted to simply because there was no money. No money, or only very little money, was provided for years. At the moment I know of no project in County Dublin held up because the Department say they have no money. The money is forthcoming but building development is not always possible because services have not been provided. It is the past rather than the present which is responsible for the present slow pace and the hold-up in building generally.

Private house building will, I am afraid, suffer a severe blow unless a keen look is taken at the present grants and the upper loan limits. As well as that, if the Government are satisfied it is necessary to increase interest rates, then there should be a subsidy provided by the Government to enable people to avail of housing finance. As I said earlier, a house is a fundamental need. There are many people affected by the present unsatisfactory grant and loan system. Young married couples or young couples anxious to get married can do nothing to provide themselves with houses because they have not got the necessary qualifications. Unless they are flowing out the windows of their in-laws' houses, they do not qualify for consideration by the local authority. Many of these young people have told me that if there was some system whereby local authorities would build houses which they could purchase paying an initial deposit of £150 to £200, they would be able to get houses. They have not got the means to build their own houses.

It would be well worth the Minister's while going into this matter to see if it would be possible to provide a scheme which would encourage these young people to save for a deposit in order to provide themselves with their own homes. They could then marry in the knowledge that they would have a house into which they could walk on marriage. At the moment many of them get disheartened and emigrate. They will not find things any easier on the other side; they may even find them more difficult, but they go in the hope that things will not be as bad as they are here.

I said earlier that we provide one-third local authority houses here while in the North the figure is two-thirds. We have a much greater number of people in the lower income group and something should be done to enable them to get houses. They should not have to suffer the humiliation of living in overcrowded conditions and in accommodation devoid of sanitation.

Deputy Foley commented at some length this morning on the difficulties of getting planning permission and on the question of the taking-in-charge of unfinished estates. With regard to planning permission, the real problem here is that water supplies and sewerage are not available. I cannot understand why it is regarded as more sanitary to have no septic tank than to have people living in conditions devoid of any sanitary accommodation of any kind. The danger of pollution and the hazard to health should be infinitely greater than they would be if septic tanks were provided. Yet, local authorities are adamant about this and they have the last word. It takes considerable pressure to get permission to build a house on a fairly small plot with septic tank accommodation. Our standards are quite different from those in certain parts of the Continent. In some cases the septic tank on the Continent is actually under the house. I would not, perhaps, recommend that, but I think we could be much more liberal in our approach thereby facilitating more people in providing themselves with better housing accommodation and facilities.

We seem to have an antipathy to treatment works of any description. That may be because we are a small island with easy access to the sea. In countries very much bigger than ours, the technique of treatment works must by now have reached a very high standard. I do not think enough research has gone into this kind of thing here because I am aware of developments which have been held up for years simply because nobody is prepared to accept that treatment works are sufficiently safe in dealing with sewerage to ensure that the effluent need not be regarded as a hazard to health. This attitude retards development and more consideration should be given to the possibilities in this direction.

Once services are provided planning is fairly straightforward but sufficient consideration has never been given to the development of recreational amenities. Development has taken place in a haphazard sort of way. Building started and went on, and on, and there was no overall comprehensive scheme for a large community area. That has resulted in bad planning. We have now areas which have been built up for as long as 15 years which have not yet been taken in charge. Deputy Foley spoke about how unreasonable officials are in relation to this.

Considerable progress has been made with a very difficult situation in the past two or three years but an immense amount of work still remains to be done. The Minister should appeal for the fullest measure of co-operation from developers in relation to unfinished estates, open spaces and such difficulties. It should be decided in advance what will be a public open space and a private open space, whether it has to be paid for and, if so, at what price. It should not be a question of horse-dealing and bargaining when it is done. The residents should know in advance.

Invariably, when people set out to buy a house, they are shown an artist's impression—wonderful layout, trees, a public park, and so on. At the end, however, it is not a public park. It is something the county council or the local authority, or whatever it may be, have to set out to try to purchase from the developer and the haggling goes on for years while the place remains like a prairie. I do not know who is responsible but the open spaces in the whole area of County Dublin that are not taken in charge are a disgrace to the wide world.

As far as I know, at the present time the Department of Agriculture are responsible, under the Noxious Weeds Act, for having the place cleaned up. Whether or not they consider that their responsibility ends in rural Ireland, the fact is that nobody seems to have responsibility here. The Garda Síochána will not do anything about it unless they get instructions from the Department of Agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries should see where his responsibility lies and if possible, take it over himself because these patches are an eyesore and a disgrace in many of the housing schemes throughout this whole Dublin region. They are a blot and a disgrace.

On the one hand, we have an active group working on Tidy Towns. On the other hand, we have this eyesore which is being ignored, together with the derelict sites that have been described here by so many people. I think the reason the whole derelict sites situation has not been taken seriously is that the grant is far too small. Coupled with decent grants, the local authorities should be given sufficient power, if the owners of derelict sites are no longer interested, to go in and, by some sort of compulsory purchase arrangement, to deal expeditiously with the take-over of these derelict sites and clean them up and make our towns and villages much more pleasant to look at and to live in.

What does the Minister intend to do about the serious question of rates? In the Dublin region, this year, on health alone, we are confronted with an increased demand for £2 million from the ratepayers. This is a staggering increase in the rate demand. It is due in some measure to the fact that, early this year, we were promised that the Government would continue their undertaking to stabilise rates for health at the 1965 level. The estimates were prepared on that basis. Then, when they were prepared and passed and the demand was made on the local authorities concerned, we were informed that this could not continue. That leaves us with the backlog of last year and the rising prices of the present year. When we consider all the other services that have to be provided by local authorities, I believe that the increase in the present year will simply be intolerable.

I said earlier that 55 per cent of all houses being built in the country are in County Dublin. This will hit those people particularly hard. They have stretched their resources to the limit to provide themselves with a house. They are confronted with repayments on the advances they got to build their house. In addition, they are now confronted with this staggering rate. Many of them have young families who are reaching their most expensive stage.

The whole rating system needs radically to be changed. It is all very well to say that an inter-departmental committee is sitting to consider this whole question of rates but something must be done in the meantime while they are working out what is equitable. Rates are levied regardless of the ability of an individual to pay them. Whether you are a millionaire or a pauper, your house is valued in the same way; the rate demand is the same and you must pay it. This is a very serious matter.

I am amazed at this serious juncture there has been no comment from the Minister in respect of a county that will be so affected by rates that are rocketing. I am amazed that there has not been a single suggestion as to how to lessen the burden. There has been no indication as to what proportion of rates will in future be transferred to the Central Exchequer. Is it not even proposed to increase from 50 per cent to 75 per cent the cost of general hospitals and tuberculosis hospitals? Is it not advisable to transfer the housing subsidy from the local authorities to the central authority or, in large measure, to change that whole system?

A considerable amount of criticism of the Naas Road has arisen recently because of a number of serious accidents and, in some cases, fatal accidents. Unfortunately, the man who has come in for the brunt of this criticism does not in any way deserve it—the county engineer. There is not a more brilliant man, a better man or an abler engineer in the whole of Ireland. If there is an accident on the Naas Road, people immediately jump to conclusions and ask what the county engineer was thinking of when he allowed that road to be built. This is an excellent road. When the cost of land and all the other factors that go to the making of a road are added together, I believe it is costing £150,000 per mile. A motorway, instead of a dual carriageway, would cost at least £1 million per mile and that sort of money is not in the country. We should be quite happy to get a motorway between Dublin and Swords but it will cost something like that.

I think the Naas Road is a perfect road. What I think is wrong is the inadequate signposting there and the excess speed and the excess drinking which are the cause of the accidents. I think it fair to say that the local authority in question are confined to the standard signs available up to the present. This road has been designed by the county engineer but designed in full agreement and co-operation with the Department's engineers. They had to be satisfied, and were satisfied, at every stage in the design of that road that this was the best possible road in the circumstances. The signposting is totally inadequate, and if people want the type of safety they are looking for, I think you need two other roads on either side of the dual carriageway, two service roads that people can go on and off any way they like.

A count was made a short time ago and at least two per cent of the people using the road were travelling at over 90 miles an hour. That is the sort of thing that is responsible for accidents. At that speed, or at much lesser speeds, there is no possibility of pulling up at junctions or dealing with any possible emergency likely to arise. I give full credit to the Minister for having speed limits on this road. There would have been fewer accidents—I know there have been some since the speed limits were imposed and I believe those involved were not observing the speed limits, although I cannot say that positively—if the limit were general. If there is justification for a speed limit of 60 m.p.h. on a road as good as the Naas Road, surely there is justification for a national speed limit of 60 m.p.h.? Where will you get a better road? The thing is completely contradictory.

I think the people of this country have gone mad speeding and I ask the Minister, for goodness sake, to get the professional people in his Department to get down to the problem of signposting on the Naas Road. You need a special set of signs for a dual carriageway carrying the volume of traffic there is on the Naas Road, signs for crossing and signs for junctions. Some people condemn the straight crossings on the Naas Road. This got adequate consideration not only by the county council engineer but by the Department's engineers also and they were satisfied that this was the safest type of crossing, that if you had turns left and turns right, you would have vehicles crossing the road at an angle and they would not have anything like the same vision as by going straight across.

Another thing that is wrong is that we have no control over access on this carriageway. I cannot advocate legislation in speaking on an Estimate but this is a serious snag, that the legislation is inadequate to control access. That gives rise to many difficulties. The signs are completely inadequate. If you go down that road, at night particularly—somebody spoke today about the effect of a wet night and windscreens— you go in the face of a blaze of light and you have no hope of seeing those junctions in time to be ready for somebody crossing. Also it has been pointed out that trucks and trailers in Northern Ireland and England are compelled to have lights on the sides as well as in front and behind. For this type of crossing, they need lights at the sides. I want to emphasise that this is a first-class road and any criticism of it is, I think, totally unjustified. The only thing wrong is the speed and the signposting. The speed limit has already been imposed and not too soon.

I have dealt with most things I wanted to raise but I missed one thing in dealing with housing, that is, the fact that the National Building Agency are now engaging in a fairly big way in local authority housing. I have some doubts whether this is a good development. It rather confines the number of people who can undertake this work to a few and there is considerable criticism about this. If you advertise a scheme of the size of Ballymun or of the size of the scheme in Cork and you want the whole job undertaken by the one contractor, you narrow the field down and you can almost know in advance who will get the contract because the number of people able to undertake a scheme of that size with a hope of finishing it in a reasonable time is limited.

I should like to know something about how we set about giving out schemes of this size and why we choose to do this. For instance, is there any reason why the Limerick scheme of 600 houses should not be split up into six units of 100 houses or three lots of 200 houses and so enable greater competition to take place among a greater number of contractors? I have heard very severe criticism from contractors throughout the country that they are debarred from tendering because of the way these schemes are given out. I do not know how tendering takes place but there is something here, if I might quote from the Minister's speech, where he says:

The dwellings to be built in Cork will be constructed on the Domus system which has been developed by the Sisk organisation, based on in situ concrete crosswalls, with specially designed floors and spandrils. The Limerick houses will be built by Messrs. Burke on rationalised traditional building methods. I have undertaken that the local authorities concerned will be consulted with particular regard to layouts, design, and pricing on the negotiation of the terms of the contracts. This definitive step marks the culmination of efforts, to evolve special housing projects which will enable the housing authorities to come to grips once and for all with the serious housing problems which still exist in both cities.

How do we set about getting contracts? I saw something about "letters of intent" having been issued to these groups and accepted by them. What does the Minister mean by "letters of intent"? I think he should explain to the House the manner in which these tenders are given out because these things are always surrounded by suspicion that somebody is getting a hand-out of some kind. I can see the difficulty in the case of large contracts of this size of tying it down. As far as I know, there is no exact plan and specification. The firms concerned seem to be asked to provide a package deal and there is a rough agreement on the type of package deal put up but how the pricing takes place afterwards, I do not know. Especially does the question arise when I see that local authorities are to come in on some sections of this and decide something about prices and one thing and another. I do not know where the local authorities come into it when it is being done by the National Building Agency and directed by them.

I have heard all these criticisms and I think this is the place to bring up the matter. There is no use in talking outside the House and assuming certain things are being done for certain reasons. This is where the Minister, when replying, will, I hope, tell the country what is taking place, how this business is tightened up and how they let out large building schemes, and indicate, beyond yea or nay, that it is not on the Government's preference for the colour of an individual's eyes that large contracts of this sort are given to him.

I should also like the Minister to explain how consultants are appointed for various big works throughout the country. There are very big development schemes ready to start in County Dublin, and there are a number of consultants to be appointed. I should like to know how we advertise for these consultants. Are they selected by the manager or are they selected on a competetive basis, so that all consultants are given an opportunity to apply? There is a great deal of jealousy about this sort of thing. There is the feeling that many people are being debarred and that there is about £30 million worth of work in the hands of a few consultants at the present time.

In relation to the work of the National Building Agency, it has been said to me by people who have tendered for a couple of these schemes that one of the things you are required to do when tendering for houses being built by the National Building Agency is to put in a p.c. sum for trusses provided by the consortium in Ballymun. There are ten trusses in the ordinary house and the p.c. sum is fixed at £6 per truss. My information is that the maximum price for a truss, if provided on the site, would be £4. I should like to hear from the Minister if that is so. If it is not so, it should be said publicly that it is not so. I have had this from somebody who has put in tenders on a number of occasions and who said he was required to put in this p.c. sum, and it is specified that this must be used.

The Minister has said he has provided a booklet to advise house purchasers. I am very glad, and it is not before time. The Minister is to be congratulated on that. Most people buy a house once in a lifetime, and it is often enough, because many of them run into a pile of difficulties in this regard. It is only right that they should be forewarned and, particularly, that they should be told that even though there is a loan and a grant from the local authorities and from the State, this is no guarantee of the quality of the house they are buying, that no clerk of works has been employed to supervise the various stages of the work, and that it will be up to them to get a qualified person to advise them on the quality of a house before they buy it and on the various amenities that are supposed to be provided adjacent to the house which they propose to purchase.

I have some doubts about this whole idea of high-rise flats. I have visited the Ballymun site and I have said here in the House before that I think the quality of these flats is first-class, that a very good job has been done. However, land is not so scarce that people cannot be given a traditional type home. It is wrong and unnatural to put people with families 15 storeys up. It is completely unwarranted. I am totally opposed to it, and I should like to be on record as saying that. If there had been any proper anticipation of housing needs this panic effort would not be required, and it represents a panic effort in my view.

I have dealt with the principal matters with which I wanted to deal, and have given my view as to what are the main causes of the difficulties in relation to what I believe to be the most important activity in Local Government at the present time, that is, the provision of houses in sufficient numbers and the extension of services.

This Estimate always excites the imagination and the interest of every Deputy, because this is something that affects everyone of his constituents. I have heard many of the arguments for and against since this debate started. Many enlightened and diverse views have been expressed by the various Deputies on behalf of their constituents. The Minister has a difficult job in trying to meet the reasonable and sometimes unreasonable demands of representatives. I am glad to see that the Minister has maintained the high standard set by Fianna Fáil Governments down through the years. Since Fianna Fáil came into office in 1932 they have concerned themselves with many of the social aspects of life which before had not even been thought of or recommended. I must also congratulate the Minister in regard to the housing programme which is maintaining the standard set by previous Fianna Fáil Governments. The amount of money provided for housing this year is something in the region of £25 million. That is a considerable sum of money, and anybody who cares to be particularly honest is aware that all the money required for housing last year and the year before was made available: in fact, from what I can gather some of the allocations made to local authorities were not taken up at all. Various reasons may be given for that in the local authorities, but the Department of Local Government have always endeavoured to maintain standards and I hope they will continue to do this.

It occurs to me that more building should be handled by the National Building Agency in order to achieve a faster rate of building, rather than have schemes mutilated by local intervention by politicians at all levels, and so let us get on with the job of building. I have seen some of the housing plans prepared by the National Building Agency for building throughout the country, and they are excellent. From the information I have, I am quite satisfied that they would fit in with the general scheme of any local authority, even with that of Dublin City. I mention this on the Estimate because the National Building Agency comes under the Minister's Department in regard to the decisions on money.

Criticism has been made as to what the National Building Agency do at the moment. Heretofore, so far as I am aware, they devoted themselves to providing houses for Gardaí and other personnel belonging to the various Departments, and also as an aid to industrial development in certain towns. I was pleased when they took over this major housing scheme in Ballymun. It shows imagination. It is something that possibly could not have been handled by the corporation because of the diverse views that would have been expressed on it.

I do not envy the Minister his task in these times of ever-increasing growth and flow and movement of population of trying to satisfy everybody, rural and urban dweller and city dweller, all of whose needs are changing from day to day. I heard it said we had the worst housing record in Europe. The Deputy who said that has not gone to the trouble of checking the facts over the past 35 years; otherwise, he would have come up with a different answer. We have a fine record in meeting the needs of our people.

I have heard claims made that the grants bear no relationship to those paid as far back as 1932, 1934 and 1935. Are those people concerned about the rural community, who are in fact getting grants of £900? That is a lot of money. You can still build a good house for £2,500 or £2,700, providing your own site. That is a big advance. These are people providing their own homes. Small farmers and those on limited incomes must be our first concern. There are people in urban areas being housed by the local authorities. The needs of the people are also being considered when it comes to the fixing of rents. Then there is the thrifty, middle-class person who decides he is not going to be dependent on anybody, but will own his own house. He saves and buys his house on the market. If I have sympathy with anybody, I have sympathy with that man who decides to have a stake of his own in this country.

If I agree with Deputy Clinton at all, I agree with him on this matter of rates. Time and again I have come across such middle class people in the same type of job as the tenant of a corporation house. But often they have to pay nearly as much in rates as the other person is paying in rent. I hope when we get a report on rates, something workable will come out of it. Rates without regard to income are without doubt a great impost. You can find people with a large amount of property and little income from it. A person may not realise the value of his property and use it to provide himself with the capital to furnish an income out of which he would contribute to the society in which he lives. I know there are many against direct taxation, but I know there are many more opposed to indirect taxation. That matter will have to be dealt with at a later stage.

I was appalled to hear a member of the Labour Party strongly advocate the nationalisation of the building societies, insurance companies and banks. I wonder would that Deputy care to check what percentage of the savings in those institutions are represented by the savings of the workers he says he represents? Is he prepared to say that it is the policy of the Labour Party to interfere with these institutions, that he would take these workers' savings, pay a nominal interest rate and use them for their own purposes? If they have this type of society planned, a form of workers republic, I wish they would come on and say so clearly. This Estimate debate is not the right occasion to say it. Let them say it out where the people will know what they are saying.

I want to deal with urban renewal and redevelopment. Over many months I have listened to speakers on all sides of the House advocate the building of houses in preference to office buildings. I am one of those who look upon an office as a modern factory wherein our boys and girls, our white-collar and blue-collar workers, may work in comfort in decent surroundings. Do those who advocate that have any regard for the working conditions of those people? Do they ever stop to think that those so-called "villains" who invest their capital to develop these modern buildings are providing good working conditions for our people? I would recommend to Dublin Corporation that they follow the example set by these exploiters, enterpreneurs and speculators, as they are called, and provide their workers with decent facilities.

I know Dublin fairly well over 20 years. When I first passed through Dublin, there was a building here that used to be pointed out as a wonderful landmark—Liberty Hall. I was told that here the type for the Proclamation of Independence was set and printed. Here it was first signed. I do not know if the owners of that premises were concerned with the people in Dublin without homes, because their social interests should go hand in hand. When they first decided to redevelop this as a national shrine or a historic place, I do not know whether they forgot who they were or what their aims were, whether they were socialist, nationalist or personal. We had a tall building erected.

I do not want to interrupt the Deputy at this stage but would he relate this to the Estimate?

This has to do with the matter of housing. The Labour Party who are so vocal on other matters could have spent £1 million on providing something like 500 homes for their own members if they were concerned about them. However, one sees vested interests. I must say the Labour Party are involved in this plan of capitalistic investment rather than the socialist republic they tend to tell us about.

The Deputy is worried about us.

Frankly I am.

So he should be. We could throw a lot of light on Mountjoy Square.

The Deputy is a fellow worker.

I did not get as much out of it as the Deputy.

Deputy Gallagher should be allowed to contribute without interruption.

He is punctured.

I want to speak now about planning, about density and about the standards set. They are high and as land prices tend to increase one has to look to the matter of density. I know that in England there are 14 houses to the acre and excellent development is carried out. Yet, from what I know, it is doubtful if you could do better in the Dublin Corporation area than nine or a maximum of 10 houses to the acre. This is brought about by a series of standards set in the various departments of Dublin Corporation. One is the road regulations. Roads must be 24 feet wide with footpaths in addition for building projects. There is also the building line and the size and area of the back gardens. The planners who are responsible for this, I have no doubt, are endeavouring to interpret the by-laws adopted from time to time by that body. I would suggest that this should be re-examined with a view to improving standards and the density in an effort to reduce the cost of housing which tends to rise. I do not say this will be easy to achieve having regard to the diverse views which exist but I can at least recommend it for examination because I have seen it done and excellent results obtained.

There is another rather static regulation in regard to housing grants. Certain rules are laid down for specific minimum room areas. This tends to bring out a single pattern. I am delighted to see that serious consideration is being given to this aspect because heretofore it tended to turn out a stereotyped dwelling with repetition and without much imagination. I would prefer the floor area to be stated and fixed at a minimum, and let the architects and those responsible for the layout of the house internally handle the problem. A much better effect could be achieved and greater variety could be achieved. I know this can probably be overcome by appeal to the Minister. On this matter of the minimum frontage of 20 feet, this was adopted at a time when the problem of land and land prices was probably not as pertinent as it is now and when standards were not so high. Everything changes rapidly today and it will be necessary to examine all these facets, planning, house design, housing grants, and so on and so forth, to achieve better results.

I want to refer now to the Tidy Towns scheme. Since this form of competition was introduced and grants were given, there has been a remarkable improvement. If the Minister feels that more encouragement is necessary, I recommend it. Up to now the progress has been remarkable. One of the things I am slightly concerned about— and I have seen this in other cities—is the resolution to put parking meters on the streets. I understand that they will be every 10 or 12 feet along the footpath. I do not agree with that. I think it would be monstrous. Some other method should be available. So far as possible we should not impede movement on the footpath. There are enough impediments to movement on the footpaths already with stops and standard lamps. Recent planning has tended to remove these services so far as possible off the streets to give a clear view, but these meters will tend to impede the pedestrians. I would ask that this matter be re-examined. Those people who can be so vocal at times about the preservation of our cities, our landscapes and skyscapes might express their views on this, as they are so good at doing.

The matter of piped water supplies in County Sligo is being handled very slowly. I want to mention in particular, the group water scheme at Annagh, Tourlestrane. That was one of the first schemes initiated in that county. People there invested their money and also borrowed from the bank for this scheme. Subsequently the county council decided that there were possibilities of expanding the scheme. Their engineer recommended that the diameter of the pipes be increased and the council said they would pay the increased amount. This led to considerable delays and certainly to a delay in the payment of the grant, with the result that the original promotors find themselves pressed by the bank to pay and, secondly, being told they may have to pay interest on overdraft for a longer time. I would recommend the eradication of that type of thing as far as possible.

In regard to group water schemes, in one case in County Mayo where the scheme crossed a railway line, the cost may not have been very great but the charge imposed by CIE was excessive. CIE would not permit anybody but their own employees to lay the two-inch pipe under the railway line. In that way the promoters of the scheme were discouraged and they have not yet got on with it, or had not the last time I was speaking to them.

Generally throughout Sligo, there are roads and drains that come under special employments schemes which have now been transferred to the Department of Local Government. Despite many representations made, progress is unfortunately slow and this causes a degree of irritation at local level. There is the stock reply. Sometimes there may be an uncooperative farmer or neighbour or there may be a person who has riparian rights who will not let anybody through. This causes delay.

There is the matter of the maintenance of gravelled roads leading off secondary county roads, and even crossroads between country roads, which may be gravelled one year and then left unattended to become a source of annoyance to people who can travel at only 12 miles an hour on them because of their pot-holed condition.

Local housing in Sligo and Leitrim shows very little progress. Schemes have been planned that have not got very far. I am particularly concerned about one scheme in the town of Tubbercurry. For 15 years they have been looking for an extension to a sewerage scheme. Various excuses have been given to me at local county level. I was quite surprised and annoyed to find after that length of time that three weeks ago they decided to appoint a consultant. There is urgent need in the town of Tubbercurry for homes. I will be making further representations about this matter to the Minister in due course and will say no more about it now.

There is need for stronger action in regard to derelict sites throughout Sligo. The grants made available are adequate for the work involved in clearing them. Action is necessary to deal with derelict sites along highways, especially in Sligo and Leitrim, which is a tourist area. The work should be carried out with more expedition. There are sensible people who have cleared derelict sites but there are others who would defer doing so even if they were offered £1,000. Money is no inducement to them. The authorities must come in and do everything for these people.

A great deal has been said about differential rents. My view is that everybody pays according to his means and that is a fair enough test.

That is not so.

If that is not a fair test, what is? Is the Deputy suggesting that that is not the principle that is applied in so far as the administration is concerned? Of course it is. I do not know if Deputy Coughlan agrees with the view that people who got possession of houses 30 years ago at a very nominal rent should continue to occupy that house while a son or daughter or somebody else——

The rental was related to the cost of building at the time. Now you want to jack it up.

Is that the Deputy's sense of social justice?

You do not know what you are talking about. There are no differential rents in Mountjoy Square.

No, there are not, but there is a slum there.

That is what you want to try to create.

He succeeded.

If it is any information to Deputies, I have no personal interest in the matter at all. If Deputies want to adopt that attitude, I want to put on record that I have no personal interest in Mountjoy Square, good, bad or indifferent, but, if I had, my view would be well expressed in this House in regard to the perpetuation of a slum, of uneconomic buildings, of a place that has been a slum since I first came through it 20 years ago, falling down. You people concern yourselves with Dublin city.

That is not true. Who let it go into a slum?

The Deputy's assurance on the matter ought to be accepted at this stage.

If that slum were replaced by decent office buildings, it would be doing a great deal for the workers in Dublin, however cynically Deputy Mullen may laugh.

A lot of money you make out of it.

What about the Planning Commissioners turning it down?

I have no interest in it and will not discuss the matter any more in this House.

We appreciate your reluctance.

You need not. Having no interest in it, I am not going to discuss it.

"I am not my brother's keeper".

One of the conditions applied by planning authorities in relation to site development is that the developers shall do certain work, and turn over open space to the residents or some other body. It is very difficult to get local authorities to designate anybody to take them over or to designate the work to be done in order to leave the site in a satisfactory condition for them to take it over. Certain sections have been blamed for this, developers in particular. While I shall not say that there are not developers who do not fail in their obligations, there are many developers who have encountered a great deal of difficulty by the failure of local authorities to take over sites. It is only after many years that they will take them over.

Bonds are virtually unobtainable today in Dublin for this purpose. Anybody giving a bond does not know when he will be released from his obligation and the thing goes on indefinitely. I would like to see the Department tackling this matter vigorously, stating that certain things must be done and that when they are done the council should take over the sites. If further action is necessary, this will be built in to the ownership of the house. If this is done, we will definitely get somewhere and remedy the present vague situation in which no one seems to know who has responsibility and who has not. It is this vagueness which gives rise to the accusations and counteraccusations.

I should like local authorities to avail of the provisions of the last Housing Act in order to buy up and develop sites. They have the powers to acquire the land and they can acquire land more cheaply. They can certainly develop it much more cheaply. That would remedy the present situation and negative the allegations of excess profits. If there are such profits in the industry, why do the local authorities not themselves go into the industry and make these profits? The answer to the present alleged unsatisfactory situation is for local authorities to avail themselves of the provisions to which I have already referred. To accuse a person of carrying on his business unfairly is, to say the least of it, unfair. Who Deputy Coughlan had in mind when he used the epithets he did I do not know. He used words like "grafters" and "speculators".

The Deputy knows nothing about that kind of thing.

No, I do not.

Innocence, did I ever offend thee?

I am a bit like the Deputy.

Thank God, we are poles apart.

The Deputy said he was in an honourable profession.

I am licensed and, if I am guilty of malpractices, the public have the right to object to me, which is more than can be said for the Deputy.

The Deputy is licensed because his profession requires him to be. There is a tax on his profession.

I do not know what the Deputy is talking about.

I see. Since the Minister came into the Department of Local Government, he has considerably speeded up activity there. Not alone has he done that, but it can be seen to be done. I commend him for it. In dealing with local authority officials, I must say I have always found them courteous and helpful. They have a difficult job. Despite that, and despite pressures, they keep their tempers and do their job to the very best of their ability.

I should like to comment, first of all, on some of the remarks made by the last speaker and, in particular, on his attack on the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and on the Labour Party. I would deal very lengthily with the Deputy's remarks, were it not for the fact that I realise the remarks were made as a smokescreen to cover his own very personal association with the despicable type of land speculation and Rachmanism that is going on in this country at the moment.

I do not think the Deputy should impute to any Member of the House any such offence.

Deputy Gallagher himself was in no way reluctant to describe himself as a speculator. All I am doing is stating that, in my opinion, the type of speculation going on in land and the advantage that is taken of the needs of people for adequate housing accommodation are despicable. I do not intend to develop the matter further.

There are two main classes with which the Minister for Local Government should concern himself. The first is the people living in their own homes, paying off mortgages, and the other is the people who have no homes. These latter should be the particular concern of the Minister. Very many of the first category are finding it increasingly difficult—in many cases impossible—to meet the heavy burden of rates imposed upon them. This question of how rates are levied has been under discussion for a long number of years and the former Taoiseach during an election campaign in 1961 referred to rates in very definite terms and indicated that the Fianna Fáil Party intended to change the present system and to introduce a more equitable system under which consideration would be given to the ability of the person to pay. We realise, of course, that that was an election speech but, even allowing for the over-enthusiasm of Fianna Fáil spokesmen during election campaigns, it is, I think, now obvious to all Parties that the burden of rates is a very serious burden for a great many people. It imposes an impossible burden on widows trying to maintain homes left to them by husbands without the incomes their husbands brought in and it imposes an intolerable burden on young married people trying to rear families. The remission of rates is undoubtedly a relief but, when the period of remission comes to an end, they are faced with a heavy burden of financial responsibility.

House repayments recently have been added to very considerably by the increase in the interest rates imposed, with the Government's sanction, by the building societies. Very many people also find themselves at that period, when the remission of rates has elapsed, with children going to school, with school fees, school uniforms and all types of additional financial commitments. These people are finding it almost impossible to feed, clothe and shelter their family with this very heavy burden that has been placed upon them by the rates. I urge the Minister seriously to consider the introduction of a rating system that will take into consideration the ability of the person to pay.

The other category to which I referred are the people who are not in a financial position to buy their own homes and who are not able to obtain any type of accommodation from the local authorities. In the city of Dublin today, which is the place I am most familiar with, there are approximately 7,000 families on the waiting list for housing. There is no possibility in the immediate future, by which I mean within some years to come, of these people being housed. After approximately 50 years of native government, this is a deplorable situation. It is made more deplorable by the fact that not only are the types of speculators to whom I have referred earlier allowed to carry on what they describe as their "business" in these circumstances but apparently every possible facility is given to them by the Department of Local Government.

Members of the Labour Party have tabled many questions to the Minister for Local Government about people who acquire property and deliberately allow it to deteriorate to such an extent that it will be declared dangerous. When that happens, the local authority —Dublin Corporation, in particular— have no alternative but immediately to house the families that have been living in the premises. This is a scheme deliberately entered into by people who acquire premises and make sure that, as quickly as possible, the premises will deteriorate to such an extent that they will be declared a dangerous building. They are then relieved of all responsibilities they may have had: I refer to legal responsibilities because these gentlemen have no moral responsibilities. They then proceed to demolish the house and find themselves with a very valuable site on their hands. What happens to the people who were living there is of no concern to them and this has been proved time and time again in the most appalling fashion in this capital city of what we like to refer to as a Christian country. I repeat that this has been done with what would appear to be the full co-operation of the Minister and the Department of Local Government.

Now and again—as a matter of fact, it has become more frequent recently —local authorities throughout the country have received lectures and circulars from the previous Minister for Local Government as well as from the present holder of that office to the effect that the Minister is not satisfied with the rate of progress in the building of houses and urging them to take all necessary steps to ensure that more houses will be built within their respective areas. This is a very good thing from the point of view of a Minister for Local Government. It goes over in a very big way in the press. The poor unfortunate people living in rat-infested insanitary hovels get the impression that the Minister and the Government are deeply concerned about the way these people are forced to live.

The local authorities cannot build houses unless the Minister and his Department provide the money. In recent years, the Minister has been, to say the least of it, most reluctant to provide that money. Although we had what was properly described as a housing emergency in Dublin city between 1963 and last year, the Minister saw fit to cut back, by over £1 million, the money to Dublin Corporation for the provision of houses within the Dublin area—this, at the same time as he was writing letters and making speeches urging local authorities to hurry up with housing. What kind of a democracy is this? What kind of behaviour is this for a responsible Minister to fool people who are living in what can only be described as the most appalling circumstances? We know that the people who want to come in and to make a harvest out of this misery are getting every facility and, at best, are in no way hindered from carrying on their "business" as they describe it.

In accord with one of the Minister's circulars, Dublin Corporation set out to acquire sufficient lands to erect approximately 16,000 houses. In order to acquire these sites and for some— not all but some—development of these sites, it is necessary for them to secure £3 million. They have already made provision for £1 million and find it necessary to raise the other £2 million. I mention this now because I believe they will find it extremely difficult to get the additional money from the Minister. I should be surprised if this necessary acquisition of land goes through and the reason it will not go through is that the money will not be forthcoming from the Minister.

There has been one note running right through all this controversial matter of housing, a note played loudly by Fianna Fáil spokesmen, that no matter what was holding up the provision of adequate housing, it most definitely was not lack of finance. The Minister kept assuring the country that money was no barrier so far as housing was concerned and gave the impression to those who did not know better that it was only necessary for a city or county manager to go to the Custom House to be handed what could nearly be described as a blank cheque by the Minister for housing. I now inform the Minister that I, and I am sure, my colleagues, in Dublin Corporation also, will keep a very close watch on how the City Manager fares when looking for the extra £2 million for land acquisition.

There is one very serious development that has come about in Dublin city in my own constituency. I have described the practice of acquiring property and allowing it to deteriorate in order to have it condemned as dangerous. Apparently, the people who engage in this practice with the obvious co-operation of the Department, have found a quicker method. Has the Minister any comments to make on the practice I shall describe in a moment? I should like to know if the Government and the Minister, in particular, have any policy to deal with the unfortunate consequence of this practice for individuals and families.

In Lower Mount Street and also in East James Street, Dublin, property has been acquired by a company known as Dunkerrin Estates and they have acquired several houses which were structurally quite sound and were not classified by the health authority as unfit for human habitation. People had lived in these houses for a long time and they had been kept by the previous owners in reasonably good repair until this company acquired them to develop office blocks. They acquired the property, having received permistion for its redevelopment from the Department. As a result, 11 families in Mount Street alone have been rendered homeless.

I, as the public representative for the area, made strong representations to the Dublin Corporation to rehouse these people. While I was successful in having the people rehoused, I take no pride in that because the only way they could be rehoused was at the expense of those on the existing waiting list. That is the point on which I would like the Minister to comment. This situation was brought about with the active co-operation of the Department and I should like the Minister to tell us, now for preference, or when replying, if the policy of the Government in a city that has a waiting list of over 7,000 families is to allow speculators to acquire habitable houses, dispossess the tenants and render them homeless or leave the local authority in the position that the only way they can house them is at the expense of others who possibly have been a long time on the waiting list?

The Minister, in the circumstances I have described, cannot evade this responsibility not only to the particular families but to the community also. There is not much point in developing this further. The Minister is well aware of what is happening regarding speculation in houses and land and, unfortunately, in human misery, but he has the responsibility of answering to the House for his attitude and the attitude of his Department to the dealings that are going on and the very tragic repercussions they have for our citizens.

Obviously, the Minister does not intend to comment now but I sincerely hope that the misery and mental anguish of these people are sufficient justification for the Minister to condescend to answer and give his Party's and his Department's attitude on these matters in replying to this debate.

In regard to the case raised by the previous speaker, he stated that permission for redevelopment was received from the Department of Local Government. I wonder is there such a thing alive at all as Dublin Corporation. I take it that if a side of a street is going to be wiped out in that manner or changed, permission has to be received from the local authority concerned. Was the local authority asleep? I happen to have here minutes of Cork Corporation meetings in which even smaller matters than the wiping out of the side of a street are dealt with:

The manager recalled that planning permission had been granted to the Green Property Co. Ltd. for the formation of a shopping arcade at the Todco premises, Patrick Street.

Another minute refers to Reports of City Architect and Town Planning Officer:

...retention for use for motor repairs and building of shed at rear of Nos. 46-48 Green Street...

If small matters of that kind have to be brought, and are brought, before Cork Corporation, surely Dublin Corporation have some responsibility in this respect? What were they doing? These are the minutes, which I have here for another purpose. At one meeting of Cork Corporation, they dealt with no less than five planning proposals. Are planning proposals brought before Dublin Corporation, and if they are, who deals with them? What do the members who are elected by the people of Dublin to look after their rights in Dublin Corporation——

Let me tell the Deputy. Does he want an answer?

I am asking a question.

The Deputy obviously does not want an answer. He wants to be left in his ignorance.

Come back here and answer when I have finished. Do they go into a meeting to fall asleep, and then blame the Department of Local Government for their negligence?

It is turned down by the local authority and goes to the Minister.

Was it turned down by the local authority? That is what I want to know.

That is what happened.

That did not happen, and Deputy Coughlan knows it did not happen. He knows what he is saying is untrue and that is why he is saying it.

That is tantamount to calling him a liar.

Order. Deputy Corry.

I am commenting on a statement that was made here. I do not want to interfere with Dublin affairs at all. Complaints are made here that 7,000 houses are required in Dublin. I was present here a fortnight ago when on another Estimate I called attention to the fact that some £5 million was being spent in this city on monstrosities, money that could go into the building of these 7,000 houses, but I did not hear one word from the Dublin Deputies about that. There is a way of getting these 7,000 houses that are required in Dublin. I certainly would not sit silent while money was being passed here for redecoration such as we have seen even in this building for the past 12 months and while that condition of affairs existed in my constituency. Put first things first.

Why is there such a need for housing? In my opinion, housing deserves to be the top priority in this country. The sole reason for the demand is that we are establishing industries, giving employment to our people, and those people finding themselves in safe, permanent employment are anxious to get married and have a home of their own. We have heard Deputy Coughlan and my friend, Deputy Clinton, saying that there are political reasons for this and political reasons for that. We have one day in the year in Cork county when we play politics, that is, the day of the election of the chairman of the county council. For the other meetings we come together as a team and work for the good of the people who sent us there. That is what is wrong with Dublin; apparently it is also wrong with Limerick.

When you are elected, it is not as a politician. You are elected to do your job for the people who sent you there. Go and do it and do not let us have the spectacle of a complaint here in regard to the wiping out of half a street in Dublin. I do not know how many were at that meeting; I suppose about 40 or 50 members of Dublin Corporation were asleep when it was being done, and then they blame the Department of Local Government for their negligence.

There have been many changes in local government in a few years, and I should like to bring those changes to the attention of the Minister, because they are not changes for the good in so far as regulations are concerned. Some years ago I decided there were houses needed in a part of my area. I brought it before the housing committee of the county council, had it put through there and sent up to the Department, where it was sanctioned. We built 50 houses there. In regard to the last eight of them, the tenancies were given on a note from the parish priest to whom the couple called and made a declaration they were going to get married. What is happening today? I go into places where we have built these housing schemes and what do I find? I find that though there is a regulation by the Department of Local Government that houses cannot be sublet and that they cannot take any lodgers, the son or the daughter, with the son-in-law or the daughter-in-law, another little family, are put in there. A house built for one family sometimes has two or three. Why? Because the Department decided on a new angle. They decided that no local authority could give a house to a single person. He must first be married. When he gets married, according to the regulations of the Department, he can live under a bush for 12 months before the local authority can house him. Those are the facts.

No. I am not a member of a local authority but I know that has been relaxed for a long time.

I know what I am talking about.

For heaven's sake, go down and clean your own house. I will look after mine.

You are not telling the facts.

I am giving you the facts that no single man can get a house built for him by any local authority in County Cork.

It is different from everywhere else.

Deputy Corry should be allowed to make his speech.

If you took a family out of one of those houses I have been speaking about, where they are living with their in-laws, and put them into a new house, there is a rat-tat-tat down from the Department refusing the subsidy on that house. My job is to bring these matters to the notice of the Minister concerned. Deputy Clinton was talking about the circular concerning parcels of land being taken over for housing development. That circular has been around for the past ten years, but apparently it is only now it has found its way to County Dublin. I did not think the Custom House was so far away from them that it would take ten years for that notification to reach Dublin County Council.

It took us three years of tough work to get through one housing development site under that. That was 16 acres we purchased in Blarney. At last Monday's meeting of the county council we brought in a scheme to develop that. It is going to cost £14,000 to put in a water supply, sewerage and roads. When we have that done, we can let the fully developed sites at £250. I do not think there is any speculation in that. There was nothing to stop other counties doing the same if they wished, but apparently the fellows in Dublin did not know about it.

I admit that now, instead of the tenants' names going up for sanction by Local Government, the manager can appoint a tenant. But when he has appointed a tenant the list is sent to the Department and they write back saying that Michael So-and-So and John So-and-So do not qualify under the regulations and therefore the subsidy will not be paid on those houses. If we are to do our job and go ahead with the housing of these people—people who now, thank God, have permanent employment—I say to the Department to keep their hands off us while we are doing it and not to be holding us up. There is too much hold up in the Department, caused, I believe, because there are about three men trying to do the work half a man should be doing.

I find it practically impossible, when an appeal is lodged against a decision of the local planning authority, to get a reply from the Department. In one case it took 20 months to get a reply. This was in respect of a scheme of houses where a fellow living behind claimed it would spoil his view. It was only got out of the Department finally when I advised the man building the scheme to go ahead and not have his workers idle. He went ahead and was then summoned by the county council, who had previously given him planning permission, for not waiting for the appeal. I informed the county manager I was going down to Blarney court. There were only nine days left but within those nine days, the appeal was decided by the Department. Those delays should not be allowed.

I wish to deal now with the Department's safety first precautions. Proposals in regard to speed limits in Cork county were sent up to the Department, and it was a year and a half before they came back from the busy boys. Lo and behold, when they did come back, they had to make some change to show that they had at least read them. There is a village in east Cork where there are five crossroads all leading into tourist resorts and seaside resorts. The Department demanded that a 30 mph speed limit sign should be removed from there. That is what the geniuses of the Department did. They said this 30 mph sign should be removed from that village where there are cars flying past at 80, 90 and 100 mph. I had to bring the matter up in the House and ask a question about it to get it straightened out.

This is the manner in which we find ourselves frustrated by the Department. These safety first proposals are a joke. It is another joke that when anything happens within 20 or 30 miles of Dublin, it can be dealt with immediately, for example, the Naas road. Any sensible person would try to reduce the horrible death rate on the roads of our country by putting a 60 mph limit on all traffic. The man who cannot get there soon enough at 60 mph should go to the other side, and he will get somewhere quickly. This kind of thing is nonsense. It is unfair for the Department to hold up for 18 months a whole scheme for a county dealing with speed limits for villages and towns. That is unfair and unjust.

I was amazed at Deputy Clinton. In his new role as the protector of the agricultural community, as chairman of the County Committees of Agriculture for the whole country, he complained, very rightly, about the burden of the rates. I had hoped to hear from him with unanswerable force the argument that our competitors in Northern Ireland and Britain pay no rates on their agricultural land. They are the people we are expected to compete with, and we have the same right to be relieved of rates on agricultural land as they have, particularly since we are the worst paid section of the community.

Why? Because you are too mean to pay for the bread you eat. Is that not fair enough?

I take it you are not blaming me personally?

I would not like you to take it personally.

I trust the Deputy will address the Chair, and that Deputies will not enter into an argument across the floor of the House.

It was for clarification.

If Deputies on the other side keep their mouths shut, we will get along fine. I did not interrupt anyone all day.

I was only asking a question, through the Chair, of course.

Acting Chairman

Question should be addressed to the Chair, not through the Chair.

Wages in agriculture today are at best about £11 a week, and I am sure Deputy Dockrell would not offer £11 a week to the smallest lad he would have sweeping the floor.

There is nothing preventing the Deputy from offering them more.

The man who works for this wage has to work on Sunday as well as Monday. He has not got a five-day week. The cows must be milked on Saturday night as well as on Friday night.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy is straying rather from the Estimate.

I am not. I am calling attention to the burden of rates on this section of the community which, in my opinion, is the section that most needs relief. Let me come to a local matter. Three years ago a guarantee was given by the Minister for Local Government when he was in the town of Cobh. When the cost of the demolition and clearance of derelict sites was pointed out to him, he gave a guarantee that he would consider making a special case for that town in regard to giving something over £100. I suggest that this would be a good time to honour that guarantee.

So far as grants for road improvements are concerned, I can only say this much: when we found that certain workers in Cork county would have to be laid off for a period, we immediately instructed our engineer to prepare an estimate of the amount, and we intend to pay it out of the rates. That was one way in which we could ensure that none of our people would be thrown out of employment for two or three months, due to the fact that there was a reduction in the road improvement grants. I suggest that other areas could do the same. I admit that we are further ahead in our housing work than other counties would seem to be. With the way industry is moving into Cork county, and particularly into south Cork, we will have to treble the number of houses for the people there. You are faced with this housing problem. When young men and young girls find themselves in permanent employment the next thing is they want to get married. Why would they not? They have no home to go to after marriage except some dirty slum in Cork city where they will pay £5 a week for a bed and there will not be a toilet in the house. The alternative is to go to the home of their parents. I am asking the Minister to assist the local authority in getting rid of that problem.

I can name four or five industries that have expanded in the area I speak about. There are two buses bringing workers from Macroom and other places into Messrs. Mahony of Blarney, Messrs, Mahony have done a great deal. They have provided about 60 houses for their workers. When industries provide employment, they are entitled to expect that the local authority concerned and the Government will provide housing for their workers so that they will not have to bring them from 20 to 40 miles to work.

The same position obtains in Midleton where the employment today is four times what it was five years ago. There is the same position in the town of Youghal where again there is no unemployment and where young people are getting married and they want houses and homes. I need not tell the Minister, because he knows it already too well, that the biggest problem of all is in the town of Cobh. For the past ten years, Cork County Council have built around the suburbs of Cobh 168 houses in order to relieve the Cobh ratepayers. We had to surmount difficulties which arose from the Departmental regulations. We were lucky in that the island of Haulbowline is in the rural area and not in the urban area and every man working in Haulbowline was entitled to be housed by the county. We had to meet those problems as best we could. All we are asking of the Minister is that he and his Department will assist us to the best of their ability and will not erect barriers in the way of progress in connection with our projects.

One last matter that I wish to raise with the Minister is the question of sanction for the Cobh water improvement scheme. There is a water supply required for some 1,500 workers in two industries, Rushbrooke Dockyard and Irish Steel. Whereas there were about 20 men employed at Rushbrooke Dockyard five or six years ago, there are now 800 or 900 men employed there today. They are in the urban area. The urban authority is responsible for their water supply. The same applies in Irish Steel. When we introduce a scheme to supply the extra water required for those industries and for the people working in them, we do not expect barriers to be put in our way by the Department that should be helping us. More than that I will not say.

This Estimate is one of vital concern to all of us in this House who are also members of local authorities. It is our annual outlet, the annual opportunity we get to voice the frustrations we suffer throughout the year as local authority members endeavouring as we are to provide what we know to be vital, essential and urgent services for our people and being prohibited from providing these services by action, more often, I suppose, inaction, on the part of the Minister for Local Government.

Delays and impediments seem to be the order of the day in the entire field of housing, both local authority and private, with regard to the building of the houses, their maintenance, reconstruction and servicing. There is no need to reiterate that a separate dwelling in sound structural and sanitary condition for every individual family is a basic necessity. It is a pre-requisite to good health, both physical and mental. It is, indeed, the prerequisite to a child being able to avail to the full of whatever educational facilities can be afforded him. Yet, it is a basic social necessity denied, and continuing to be denied, to thousands of our Irish people.

Our rate of building, as most of us now know, compares very unfavourably with that of any country in Europe. It is, in fact, the lowest in Europe. Figures supplied to us recently in connection with house building at the rate of 3.5 per 1,000 of our population, according to a UN survey, is the lowest in Europe. When we look at the figures supplied to us in the Government's own White Paper in 1964—and there has not been much change since—of 50,000 dwellings outside the cities of Dublin and Cork, incapable of economic repair, of 40,000 further dwellings unfit for human habitation, unfit for living purposes, of numerous houses, something in the region of 60,000, overcrowded, of 6,000 to 7,000 dwellings each year becoming obsolete and remember that, on average, again outside the cities of Dublin and Cork, we are building only a total of about 7,500 houses per year, it must be abundantly clear that the Government are totally incapable of dealing with the housing problem that at present exist.

There is no need to repeat what we continue to advocate, that a new, intensive housing drive is a social necessity. It is imperative. We doubt the ability of the Government to cope with this problem. In order to make such a drive effective, more reliance should be placed, in the first instance, on the local authorities and, in the second instance, on the officials of the local authorities. These long delays with which we are all too familiar, in obtaining sanction for the various stages to be gone through before erection of a house starts must be reduced to a minimum and there must be a review of the unrealistic approach to housing subsidies—the ceiling of £1,650, the limitation with regard to those qualifying. If we are ever to cope with the problem realistically as local authorities, these inhibitions, these impediments to progress, must be removed.

We are very disheartened, at first glance at the Minister's Estimate speech, to find that the total Estimate for his Department is down by £51,450, that the Estimate for private housing is £3 million less than it was last year. The Minister maintains that £¼ million more will be spent than last year but, to our knowledge, this will go nowhere whatsoever in solving the enormous housing problem, the problem with which we as local authority members are so familiar. When a local authority house becomes vacant the local authority and members of the local authority are literally flooded with applications from people who need houses badly. It is not unusual to have as many as 12, 14, 20 and sometimes more, applicants for one house. These are hard facts and they indicate better than any statistics the dire need that exists for housing.

With regard to private housing, I believe the aids by way of grant and loan are so designed that they debar from benefit those who need this type of help most. I think that holds true of most State-aided schemes. There are high loan charges which are quite beyond the capacity of those in the lower and middle income groups. It is because of that that this Party have consistently advocated the provision of subsidised loans, particularly for lower income group borrowers. They cannot cope with the present loan charges or, indeed, with those which have been in existence in recent years. These loans will have to be subsidised if these people are to avail of them. Again, those on low incomes are unable to find the deposit required. The deposit should be reduced considerably or wiped out entirely. If it is reduced, arrangements should be made for its payment in instalments. It is unrealistic to expect people in the lower income group to meet the type of deposit required at the moment.

The provision of sites for those anxious to build their own houses is an important matter. The sites have reached prohibitive prices in the built-up areas. It is because of that that we, in Cork County Council, when preparing our recent development plan, insisted on including in that plan provision for the county council to acquire sites adjacent to those areas in which planning permission will be readily given. However, there is one matter requiring clarification. The impression is that we will not be in a position to allow people of very low incomes to procure these sites. In Part II of the Town Planning Report dealing with central control, we are told that the Minister's consent is not necessary, providing the price is the best obtainable. In the near future, we will be allocating these sites to people wishing to build their own homes and we should like to know what "the best obtainable" means: is it the best obtainable on the market or is it the best obtainable from the person to whom the site is being allocated? If it is the latter, then social justice is done. If it is the former, a great deal of hardship will ensue. It will make the difference between a house and no house.

The ceiling for grants for those trying to improve their homes is completely unrealistic. Again there is a gap and there are many who, because of this gap, cannot carry out necessary improvements to their homes. The ceiling of £140 is too low. The scale of costings applicable within the Department is also too low. The Minister may say the scale is under review constantly. In my opinion, it needs complete upgrading to make it realistic in view of the present day costs of building.

Again, this balance that has to be met in the case of repairs is also creating a problem in relation to tenants of vested cottages. Cottages vested even within recent years have been proved to be in an unfit state of repair, and that after a very short time. There is a sad history of failure. At most I think only marginal repairs have been carried out as a result of appeal to the Minister. That brings me to the Minister's decision in recent years to disallow borrowing by local authorities for the purpose of carrying out repairs to county council cottages. For the past three years, we have had a problem in the South Cork area. Our applications for loans have been refused. The Minister says the money should come from local revenue. It has been our sad experience that when Labour Party representatives ask for this money for repairs from local revenue, the other Party representatives vote against us. We sought to increase the revenue from £60,000 to £80,000 and the other Parties voted against that increase. This year there were honourable exceptions, but our request was defeated nevertheless. With the exception of one member of the Minister's Party, all the others voted against us. Is it too much to ask the Minister and his Party to make up their minds as to where this revenue should come from? The Minister says it should come from local revenue and his Party members on the local authority say it should come from the Local Loans Fund. As a result of this wrangle, there are a great many people still living in houses unfit for human habitation.

I come now to something that has been a very vexed question with all local authorities in recent years. It is something which has caused a great deal of frustration. I refer to the total inadequacy of the amount of money made available for water and sewerage. This is a burning question in rural Ireland. Water supplies are no longer considered a luxury, if they ever were regarded as such. They are a vital necessity today. Six years ago, in 1961, Cork County Council prepared a plan. One major regional scheme has been completed. It is not through any lack of activity on the part of the members of the local authority that water supplies have not been provided. It is simply and solely because there has been no money available from the Department.

On 24th August last, the local authority got a circular from the Department stating that our plans were ambitious and were not capable of being realised because of the need for allocating capital for other purposes; we were asked to review and reclassify our schemes to see what schemes could be curtailed and what schemes could be left to people living in outlying areas who could provide group schemes for themselves. Our consultant, in accordance with the Minister's circular, got down to work on this job. The net result of his endeavours is that, instead of having regional schemes costing £2½ million, we now have reduced them to £1,800,000, the balance to be provided by way of regional schemes. We have a lot of valuable information about the formation of group schemes in outlying areas. Is there any hope of getting money for our new plan? Are we merely being asked to engage in an exercise which will help us to forget the frustration of the past six years? Will a further six years elapse without any more progress being made than was made in the past six years?

The people in the Bandon area want to know if the Bandon regional scheme will be started. People in Grange, Douglas, Rochestown, Togher and so on, want to know when their scheme will be started. Is it the case that the revised plans will meet the same fate as those of six years ago? I think we are engaged in a very futile exercise, if that is so.

In addition to these regional schemes, we have a list of minor but very vital extensions totalling £154,668 in the South Cork area. They are approved by the local authority. Some of them date back to 1963 and onwards. Naturally, the people concerned are getting restless. They wonder if what we have done for them is sufficient. I have a list of such extensions. It may sound like parish pump politics but it is what local government consists of.

What about the water extension at Ballyorban Road for 13 families which was approved on 5th November, 1965? There is no money available for it. Approval was given also on 5th November, 1965, for a water extension from Kingston's Cross along Ballinvarrig Road but there is no money available for it. Approval was given on 6th December, 1965, for a water extension at Ballyduhig North, Ballygarvan, but there is no money available for it. Approval was given for a water extension from the Waterworks along Ballygarvan Road for nine families on 6th February, 1967. The local authority also approved of a water extension along Forrest Road, Carriggaline, for 21 families on 6th February, 1967. Approval was given for a water supply at Rocky Bay to serve four families on 2nd January, 1967. The county council approved a water extension scheme along Scotsman's Road, Monkstown, for seven families on 6th January, 1967. Approval was given on 7th November, 1966, for a water supply at Killingley, Ballygarvan. The county council approved a water extension scheme to Brownstown, Fehalea, Ballynaneening, Aghamarta, French Furze, Willow Hill and Ballygrissane on 7th March, 1966. For all of these schemes, no money is available.

The ironic thing about some of these schemes is that members of the Minister's Party are now visiting some of the people concerned and saying that they will ensure that they will have water. It is ironic because they are all schemes which were passed on motions by members of the Labour Party and the only reason they are not in operation today is that the Minister whom they support has not made the money available. Certainly, the position with regard to water supplies is dreadful and is equal only to the position with regard to housing.

The problem of providing water supplies in rural Ireland needs immediate attention. There is no evidence in the Minister's opening statement that this problem will be solved within the coming year.

The situation with regard to our road workers, road works and road grants is equally gloomy and equally frustrating. Road grants were cut by a total of, I think, £¾ million this year. Consider what this means for us who see the effects of this cut in road grants. It means mass unemployment of county council road workers, mass unemployment of men whose meagre wages made no allowance for saving for the rainy day. When these grants are made, there is insistence by the Department on the work being carried out in the most economical way possible and that entails the use of machinery by the engineers in charge. Men with large families are unemployed, men who need their wages badly, low and all as they are. As well as losing their wages, the year in question would not count for superannuation purposes. All of that misery and hardship arises as a result of the niggardly attitude of this Government towards them. I urge the Minister to be more humane in his approach to these people. They are suffering great hardship.

I appeal to the Minister to reach a favourable decision on a recent request by Cork County Council with regard to the improvement of the western bridge at Kinsale which is a very important link between the town of Kinsale and the very important tourist area that lies to the south. It is also a vital link for the residents of the Ballinspittle and Old Head districts with their nearest major shopping centre and absolutely vital for the smooth operation of the school transport system. Cork County Council have applied to the Minister for a 50 per cent recoupment under Main Road Improvement Grants for this purpose. We have already passed an estimate for £7,000 to carry out vital repairs to this bridge. The Department has been asked to look into the possibility of providing a new bridge and, if it should prove necessary to do so, I hope its construction will not take as long as has that of some other bridges which have made news in recent years.

Finally, I want to refer to a subject we have all heard a lot of in recent weeks—fire brigade personnel. They appear to be getting a very raw deal from some authority. They have submitted claims for various improvements in their conditions of employment and the modernisation of the whole system with regard to the operation of the fire brigade. They have negotiated for increased drill and fire rates. They have asked for an increase in their retaining fee. They have asked for central call-out headquarters for the entire county, continually staffed. They have asked for remote control from central call-out to each brigade and for radio links with the fire engines, with the officers and so on. I think the present system is very unfair to the station officers and to their families and certainly it is not geared towards efficiency. The victims of this situation tend to blame, in some instances, the local county manager. Our county manager—I have every reason to believe he is giving us the factual position—states there is nothing more he can do for these people without sanction from the Minister for Local Government. I appeal to the Minister to deal sympathetically with this matter because it is a most useful service and the people providing it deserve every consideration the Minister and this House can give them.

I did not intend to speak at this moment but, having listened to some of the remarks made, I feel I should like to comment on the situation in which we are at the present moment in Dublin city. Dublin is mainly an eighteenth century Georgian city and one of the most beautiful cities of that period left in Western Europe. On the one hand, Dublin Corporation, the Government and the Department of Local Government have a duty to maintain the very elegant and beautiful buildings up to a point and, up to a point, we maintain them. Unfortunately, we do not always maintain them as we should. We have had buildings pulled down about which there has been a great deal of controversy and the claim has been truly made that we have not guarded the heritage we got from the eighteenth century. But—and this is the point which I stood up to make—this is one subject which is very difficult and very complicated.

We have had in Dublin some of the most appalling slums that any city ever had to deal with. These slums came about for a variety of reasons, partly through the decay in importance in the nineteenth century of Dublin as the governing centre of the country and the large numbers of country gentry who lived here in earlier times. That led to these very fine houses becoming slums.

Another reason was the fact that the well-to-do people no longer came to Dublin in the numbers that had come previously. Along with that, there also emerged the tragic fact that the slum building, under the bye-laws of those days, was one of the most profitable forms of investment. One had the extraordinary fact of Dublin's beautiful houses—many of them very lovely— becoming tenement houses and quite remunerative to those who owned them. That meant it was not very easy to eliminate this terrible overcrowding. That is a very brief and inadequate summary and it only touches on some of the reasons why we have inherited the present situation in Dublin.

Successive Governments have tried to deal with this situation and Dublin Corporation for many years have had to deal with it alongside the Government and the Department of Local Government. Anybody who has served on local authorities for as many years as I have—over 30 years—will realise that there are these three points of view and all three sections of the body politic are concerned with Dublin and its slums and have made their contribution to the solution of the problem which has not been easy to solve and is not solved yet.

I am not speaking politically but I am trying to give truth as it appears to me. Tremendous efforts have been made in my lifetime. I have seen immense changes in Dublin. Let that not be forgotten when blame is handed out to Dublin Corporation or to the Government or the Department of Local Government. The face of Dublin has been changed. I have not got the figures but I think that no less than 40 per cent of the population of Dublin is housed by Dublin Corporation. The figure may be higher. I do not think there is any other capital city in Western Europe that had to face that task. Dublin Corporation have done that. A tremendous amount remains to be done. I am no longer a member of Dublin Corporation or any local authority and so I am not giving bodies to which I belong a pat on the back.

The difficulties which Dublin has faced and overcome up to now represented a problem that in ordinary peace time no capital city in Europe had to face. That does not mean that either Dublin Corporation or this House is satisfied with what is already done. An immense amount of work still goes on and we know houses are falling into decay all the time. There is also the fact that there are some houses which it is uneconomic to repair and others which it might be economic to repair, but it would be very difficult to do so. Perhaps the owner has no money to spend on them. This is sometimes forgotten by my colleagues in the benches physically to the right but metaphorically to the left of me who seem to think that property owning is something that should be attacked on every occasion.

I am well aware that there are plenty of bad property owners: there always have been. But there are good property owners and very often the difference between good and bad property owners is the amount of money which can be spent by the individuals concerned. As we are still working under a free enterprise system, it is not always possible to force people to spend money, especially if they have not got it. Those are some of the difficulties that an authority faces in dealing with the situation in Dublin which is not an easy one.

There is first the problem of the beautiful Georgian house of which the site is valuable. It may be in the community's interest that that site should be used in a more utilitarian way. That is one of the problems: how far are you going to permit those houses to be pulled down. It is not easy for the corporation or, indeed, the Local Government official or the Minister to decide on that delicate question. It is easy to criticise, but it is not so easy to see that justice is done to all the parties concerned. I am well aware of that, and I am a great lover of Georgian Dublin myself.

Then there is the fact that Dublin is to so great an extent an 18th century city that many of these houses have come to the end of their life now, and no economic life is left to them; in other words, they cannot exist for much longer and will have to come down. This applies to some of the lovely houses, unfortunately, and to some of the ones which we all would be glad to see swept away. Then there is another category, the category of houses which nobody could say were of any aesthetic value, except perhaps late at night when you cannot see the gaping sores, so to speak. These are the houses we must pull down both from the point of view of their unsanitariness, their danger and their overcrowding.

In the area of Dublin—I shall not say which I represent as a speaker said a few minutes ago—of which I am one of the representatives and which is in the centre of the city, we had a very short few years ago the tragic circumstances of some of these houses collapsing, and people were killed. The Dangerous Building Sections of Dublin Corporation had to be augmented very rapidly to deal with this extraordinary situation which arose so quickly and in which a large number of houses in Dublin became, in a very short space of time, extremely dangerous. It was said the cause was possibly the increased motor traffic, and so on, in the city. That may well be but at any rate these would have to be cleared away, were cleared away and are still in a process of being cleared away.

In this situation the bodies concerned were faced with all the difficulties of moving people, in their own interests, to areas in many cases comparatively far from where the men had their work. This was sometimes fiercely resisted to the extent that some of these families camped out on the street. It was a ridiculous and sad situation, people camping out to prevent themselves being moved from houses in which they ran considerable risk to life and limb if they stayed in them.

I mention these facts because when one hears of a building being pulled down and of families being moved from it, in each case one has to inquire into the circumstances behind the pulling down of the building. They vary from being pulled down for the safety of the people in them to, perhaps, in certain cases, somebody speculating. It is sometimes said that speculation is a very bad thing. At the moment it is out of fashion, but a great deal of commercial life and a great deal of the advancement of our way of life as we know it happens through this.

Therefore, we are faced in Dublin with all those factors. I suppose in the end we shall be wise if we compromise between all the forces, Take, for instance, the forces which are pushing authorities to modernise the city in the interests of the Dubliners themselves. It is in our interests to see that Dublin continues as the capital city of this country with all the amenities a capital city has, and that there is livelihood, whether it be manufacturing, office, mercantile or shops, there for our people. As a representative of Dublin for many years, not only is my livelihood in Dublin but my affections are also centred in Dublin, and while I can see there are certain things to be said for decentralisation, at the same time decentralisation of the city of Dublin to too great an extent is something which I as a Dublin representative do not wish to see. Therefore I realise that Dublin has to change and to modernise itself. These people who are crying out against buildings going up are, in the main, talking nonsense. We cannot spread out everywhere all the time. We have got to go up.

In connection with higher buildings, more modern buildings, and so on, the centre of Dublin runs a very great risk of being strangled—I was going to say by its very opulence—by the fact that so many people are coming into it and that it suits these people, apparently, to come in in motor cars; and as we do not live in a totalitarian or a communist state, we do not order the people not to come in their cars. We do not forbid them. Whether that day will ever come in cities in Western Europe I do not know. At any rate, we have the problem that Dublin will choke itself with motor traffic unless we carry out the necessary changes to help prevent the centre of the city, and indeed many of the suburbs, being strangled. I would say to the Minister that it is very much in Dublin's interest that the parking problem there should be tacked in a realistic way. Otherwise, we will all pay dearly, bitterly and very expensively for it.

We should be thinking in terms of putting up high buildings to accommodate during the daytime the cars of the workers coming in. Remember that nowadays cars are no longer the prerogative of the well-to-do. One need only move about the city and suburbs coming up to 8.30 a.m. to see the number of working men going to building sites and other places of employment in their motor cars. It is very good to see that our people are raising their standards of living to the extent that they can indulge in these luxuries. But cars bring about a tremendous change in cities. We need in Dublin, as near the centre as possible, very big buildings to house cars. This is not a dream of the future. Unless we do something like that, our roads will be so cluttered up that we will not be able to move around the city. We are rapidly approaching that position. There will be a tremendous change from a business point of view. There will be a dropping off of business in the centre of the city—I am sure the same applies to Cork—unless this is done.

Dublin Corporation cannot do it themselves. It requires concerted action by the Corporation, the Government, the Department of Local Government and the Garda Síochána. You will not get people to go into buildings and pay a fair amount of money for housing their cars in the centre of the city if they are allowed to park on the side of the road for nothing. That change will have to come about by virtue of concerted action by the four groups I have mentioned. It is a real problem. I might say en passant that something like £12 million is being raised from the rates and spent by Dublin Corporation in connection with the health payments made to our citizens in the city. That is a tremendous burden on the ratepayers. Anything involving large expenditure on other lines would have to be financed by the Government. What I have spoken about is as necessary to Dublin as arterial roads are to the rest of the country. It is all part of the problem of circulation of traffic and with it is tied up the tourist industry and so on.

On roads, I think the Cork road is very beautiful and the Department are to be congratulated on the work they have done there over a number of years, and are doing. I had not been on the Galway road for some time and I note that it has improved very much, although it is not as good near Dublin. The cinderella of the great roads out of Dublin is the Belfast road. I consider it a disgrace to us. Of course, it is the road to the airport as well. It is one of the poorest roads. In fact, it gets worse after it passes the airport; it gets narrower and more twisty. The approach to Santry is very bad, very frustrating and dangerous, especially as on any road to an airport, you are bound to get people rushing to catch planes. If the road is not clear and safe, you can have a great deal of trouble and accidents on it.

Deputy Mrs. Desmond in the course of a very good speech referred to house loans and said the Government should press that forward with all possible emphasis on improving the housing situation. I think also the building societies should be helped as far as possible, because they finance a great deal of private building. It is very necessary that people be encouraged to build their own houses. In Dublin this tremendous building for housing our people has gone on in the past. It requires more accentuation at the moment. It is something that should never be lost sight of. It is very necessary that there should be as much Government help as possible in this respect.

We are mainly an agricultural country. Many of our difficulties spring from the fact that to balance our very fine agricultural economy, we have not got the industrial arm developed to the extent most other Western European countries have. We are part of Western Europe. We are trying, very successfully in many ways, to emulate Western European standards, but we are one of the least industrialised of the Western European countries, and this puts a very great burden on our people in trying to keep up the high standards which we very rightly set for ourselves and our people. We need, and will need for a long time, as much Government help in this way as possible. We need more Government help than other countries get for housing because we lack the industrial arm which sometimes can provide it, or which at any rate, can provide a great deal of the money for the expansion of building. I will close by urging the Government to keep up that programme.

Maidir le pleanáil bailte agus réigiún chítear domsa nach gcuirtear i bhfeidhm í ar an dóigh céanna in aon dá chontae. D'aontaigh gach duine leis an mBille nuair do rith an Dáil é roint bhlianta ó shoin. Níor caitheadh vóta in a choinne. Ar an Meastachán ina dhiaidh d'impigh mé ar an Aire na h-innealltóirí pleanála a ghairm le chéile chun teacht ar réiteach maidir le cúrsaí pleanála ar mhaithe lena daoine. Im chontae féin, mar shompla, ní cheadófar foirgneamh ar bith ar bhruach na Coirbe nó ar bhruach na farraige. Mar sin féin nuair a bhuailim isteach i gContae Mhuigheo chím foirgintí nua ar bhruacha Locha Masca. Sin rud nach féidir liom a thuiscint. Impím ar an Aire anois na h-oifigí a thabhairt le chéile i dtreo is go mbeidh plean ginearálta le h-aghaidh na 26 Contae. Ba chóir don Aire laghdú a dhéanamh maidir leis na deontais i leith na bpríomh-bhóithre agus an t-airgead a chaitheamh ar dheisiú na bóithre contae.

I want to mention a few points on this Estimate and one point which I want to bring to the attention of the Minister is in regard to housing. The matter which I want to raise here is the question of housing grants. I do not think that housing grants have kept in step at all with the cost of housing today. That is something the Minister and the Department must keep in mind. There should be some increase in housing grants, and they should be more realistic when compared with the cost of present-day housing. I believe, if it has not happened today, that within the next few days there will be an increase of something like 17 to 20 per cent in the cost of building materials: timber, copper piping, windows, doors, galvanised iron and reinforced iron—all these things will inevitably increase the cost of building by local authorities.

There is another matter I want to mention. Is there any way in which the Minister and his Department could offer some subvention to the local authorities to help to relieve flooding in towns and villages? I raise this matter particularly because, in the past few years in my constituency, in the town of Tullow, we had disastrous flooding, which cost the residents and business people thousands of pounds. As far as we could find at the time, there was no way in which that money could be recouped. There were no grants or loans available to help the people concerned to restock or to repair the damage to their property.

When I talk of a subvention to help the authorities to relieve flooding, I am not talking in terms of large works such as the dredging of rivers because when we raise that point at local level the first argument usually put up by the officials—and I suppose it is a proper one—is that there is always a danger in dredging a river of flooding land further downstream which might give rise to a legal action. This is not the type of work I have in mind. I am speaking of a subvention which the Department should be able to give to help in the removal of obstructions in rivers, such as trees, and minor work such as the cleaning of banks which have collapsed and the removal of overgrown weeds and obstructions in the eyes of bridges. I mention that in particular because the matter arose at the time of the flooding at Tullow and nothing seems to have been done about it since. The matter has come before the local authority. The cost to the authority was prohibitive. That is the reason why I ask the Minister to examine the position in order to see if some subvention could be made in cases such as this.

Some years ago Carlow County Council undertook a large regional water supply scheme. The first part of that scheme was opened in the past two years. The cost on the rates was estimated at something in the region of 6d in the £, which was a most accurate estimate because the actual cost when the scheme was completed was something less than 6.25d in the £. It was feared that if the council went ahead with such a scheme at that cost there were many people who would not take connection. As the scheme developed, people came looking for connection who had not asked for it previously. We have prepared further schemes. It is disappointing that in the past few months we have been asked by the Department of Local Government to review these regional water supply schemes. I should have thought that once schemes had been set on foot and progress had been made there would be no interruption. It would appear at present that in places where second sections of the scheme would have been carried out there are people who cannot wait for supply and will have to be encouraged to start group water supply schemes. I suppose the word "abandon" is not the right word, but it is a pity that we should have to have second thoughts about these schemes.

There have been a number of very successful group water supply schemes carried out in the county. In that respect we have always got the utmost help from the officers and inspectors of the Department.

Rural improvement scheme grants have been administered up to now by the Office of Public Works, but will be handed over to local authorities as from 1st April next. At Carlow County Council meeting this week, we were informed that the allocation from the Department for the coming year is in the region of £3,500. I do not think that is adequate, having regard to the number of applicants for grants under these schemes. Apart from the applications which we will receive up to 31st March, there was handed over to the county council a backlog of schemes. We will feel obliged to deal with these schemes before new applications can be dealt with. I do not believe that the £3,500 will be sufficient to cover even the backlog which should have been dealt with before this allocation was made. It means that through no fault of the local authority, many schemes which should be carried out during the coming year will have to wait.

I want again to direct the Minister's attention to a matter which I mentioned to him some months ago by letter. In Carlow, there is a site formerly known as Bridewell Lane, now known as Kennedy Street. This site was declared a derelict site by Carlow Urban Council and as far back as last July or August I wrote to the Minister asking if he could expedite sanction for the clearing of the site. I did get a letter from the Department in September stating that 31st August was the last day for objections in this case and that the matter would be dealt with as quickly as possible. In view of the fact that the Estimate for the Department of Local Government was being taken this week in the Dáil, I checked with the Town Clerk before leaving yesterday morning and was informed that the last word he had on the file was the original letter which I got from the Department and which I had forwarded to him.

I would ask the Minister and the Department to do their utmost to expedite this matter because there is at present a one-way street system in operation in the town and there is one set of streets that have parking space and other streets with no parking space. Parking space in the town is very limited and the site to which I have referred is urgently needed for this purpose. I ask the Minister to ensure that we are not kept waiting any longer in connection with this matter

Finally, there is the matter of swimming pools. Naturally, I shall be told that there are priorities, but I have raised this matter before in this House. A number of local people in Carlow collected £6,000 for a swimming pool. This money was collected four or five years ago. We are not worried about the money because it is well invested, but, within the past 12 months, I have asked the Minister when sanction would be forthcoming. I was not told if it would be within ten years or 15 years. I do not want to be misunderstood. Of course there are priorities. There is housing. There is sewerage. There are water supplies. However, when people go to the trouble of collecting money for a project, such as the maintenance of a swimming pool, and the plans for that project have been with the Department for some time, I think they are entitled to be told when sanction will be forthcoming.

This debate has been in progress for some time and most of the points which would normally be raised appear to have been covered. I propose to confine myself, therefore, exclusively to matters affecting my own constituency and, in particular, to matters in relation to which I have made representations from time to time both to the Minister and to the local county council.

I will start with a very hoary, old chestnut—the Dublin-Belfast road. Would the Minister say when it is proposed to do something about this road? I am sure he is aware that many years ago his Department earmarked a grant of £100,000 to have the portion between the Devon bridge on the Meath-Dublin border and the Blackbull on the Louth border made into a dual carriageway. Meath County Council engineers were asked to submit plans. This they did. I understand the plans included an aerial survey. There were six plans in all. It became a kind of guessing game. Obviously the engineers were not good at guessing because they did not find out what the Department wanted. After spending something in the region of £8,000 to £9,000 on planning, the matter apparently went no further.

This road must eventually be constructed. A £100,000 grant was allocated, but, as it could not be spent in that year on that particular road, it was spent elsewhere in the county. It was again allocated a second year. The third year it was not passed and it has not been passed for the past two years. In the meantime people living along the road, who are anxious to build or to improve existing houses, find they cannot easily get planning permission because the county council cannot tell them where the road will go. I am sure that, tied up in all this, is the question of the bypassing of Drogheda. I am under the impression that the reason it is held up is that somebody is pulling strings to ensure that Drogheda will not be bypassed and no one has sufficient courage to say that this must be done. Before any more money is spent, almost uselessly because plans submitted and not used are so much wastepaper, perhaps the Minister would take a hand in it. I am sure he knows the road very well. While a considerable amount of improvement has been done over the road in the past ten to 15 years, it seems to be senseless to ask the local authority to submit plans to the Department, which plans the Department continues to knock on the head.

Is it not possible to have an overall planning authority? Is it not possible for the Minister's Department to say that a road is to be constructed from Dublin to the Border, that it must run in a particular way and that this is what must be done? I believe this is what will happen eventually and, if eventually, why not now? I know there are rumours current that the motorway from Belfast to Dublin is to be routed on a certain line so that it will serve some big towns north of the Border. It is supposed to run about six miles west of Newry. This was not the original route, but, in order to serve Newry, the route was changed to within six miles of that town. I understand there have been negotiations with the Minister's Department to ensure that this road can be joined on to the Dublin-Belfast motorway, which would also serve many of the big towns, towns as far inland as Navan, Ardee, Carrickmacross, Castleblaney and perhaps even Monaghan and Dundalk.

We learned a few months ago—I do not know how true this is—that the Minister's Department had a proposal to use either the Ashbourne road or the new motorway out towards Lucan, bringing it around in a wide circle through Meath to join up with the Dublin-Belfast road. This may be conjecture, but I think there is something in it. It is time the Minister told us plainly and bluntly what his Department propose to do. I do not blame him for what is happening because he is a relative newcomer to the Department but, if there is a definite road policy the public, particularly members of local authorities, should be told what that policy is.

There is also the question of the reclassification of roads. The Minister's predecessor had a survey carried out about five years ago with the alleged object of reclassifying certain roads. After 12 months questions were asked and the Minister said he would not have the result until July. Unfortunately we did not ask him which July he meant because four Julys have passed since then and the reclassification has not been announced. Possibly the Department have carried it out. I know that reclassification will probably mean a greater expenditure on some roads in some counties and, because of that, until the Department are in a position to spend the money they do not want to reclassify the roads.

This is of particular interest to my constituency because for a number of years we had technical advisers who believed that the proper thing to do with roads was to prepare a good surface and to have all the roads what is termed "black-topped"; in other words, to have all tarred roads. This was done and, when most of the roads were finished, the Department of Local Government decided these roads were no longer eligible for county road grants.

The result is that over the past four years, Meath County Council have got approximately £100,000 less per year than they would have got if the technical advisers had done what other counties did namely, improve the alignment of the road and leave the surface, or some of it at least, in an unfinished condition. It is so grave a hardship that members of the county council decided to send an all-Party deputation to the present Minister who met us this year and said he would be only too glad to do what he could as he appreciated our difficulties. I am very glad he did not promise to do more. As a result of our discussions, we found that the next allocation of grant which Meath County Council received not alone did not include any allocation for the county roads but in fact was £30,000 less than they would normally get under any heading. If the Minister had promised to do something more for us, then possibly we should not have got anything at all.

Modern thinking on road design is placing more emphasis on the necessity for good alignment. While the road surface of our county roads is good, we have miles on top of miles of road with very bad corners. Money allocated to other counties for county roads has been used for this type of work. We do not get the money now and therefore we cannot carry out the work unless it is paid directly out of the rates.

The Minister should reconsider this whole matter. He should give county road grants where the experts—and I include his officials—decide that the road alignment is not up to standard. We are not asking too much when we ask for that. I am sorry the Minister has left the Chamber because I want to mention the plight of road-workers who are the cinderellas of our working-class population. Their wages range around £9 per week and are the lowest, or almost the lowest, in Ireland. We hear of people who get £25 and £30 per week making a case for an increase in their pay. Surely it is a little too much to expect that those responsible for the making and the maintenance of our roads should be asked to live on £9 per week?

This year, the trade unions representing the road-workers will serve a demand for a minimum wage of £12 10s per week. I want the Minister to deal with it in a reasonable way because, ultimately, it will come before his Department. Anything less than £12 10s per week is far too little at the present time on which to feed, clothe and shelter a man, his wife and their family. Hands may be raised in horror and the comment made that the rates or the taxes cannot bear such an increase. I would remind those who are receiving very much higher wages than that and those whose income, no matter from what source they may get it——

I do not think this is a matter for my Department.

If the Minister says this is not a matter for his Department, then——

I protest against this attempt by the Minister to get out of his responsibility. His Department is responsible for sanctioning the rates of wages for road-workers and for making the money available. The Minister will not dodge out of it in that way. It is unpleasant to have to listen to the plight of those people for whom he is directly responsible and whose wages he has responsibility for sanctioning. It is a fact that they are receiving starvation wages.

It is out of order in this debate.

I am putting the facts on the record. I protest that the Minister should try to dodge out of his responsibility by trying to get the protection of the Chair.

If the Minister says that it is outside the scope of this debate, then——

In what way can I have the matter clarified? It is obvious that it is a matter for the Minister's Department.

The Minister says that at this stage it is not within the scope of his responsibility and, as far as the Chair is concerned, that places it outside the scope of the debate.

I bow to the ruling of the Chair. I can assure the Minister that he will remember this night for a very long time because I will put the matter before him when he cannot dodge out of it. This action by the Minister is typical of the behaviour of the Government who are afraid to face their responsibility. He will soon realise his responsibility although he slickly says now that it is not any responsibility of his.

The practice has grown up in a number of county councils to have road material supplied through contractors. If these contractors are paying trade union wages and giving trade union conditions, very little objection is taken to them by anybody. However, many of those people do not do one or the other. It is laid down in the conditions of employment that contractors supplying a local authority should apply trade union wages and trade union conditions to the people employed by them. The Minister should take some interest in this matter. This matter has come before the Department and it will come before it again.

I should like to go on from there to the question of housing. Deputy Clinton from County Dublin said that this year there seems to be a big improvement in house-building in County Dublin. That is so. I think Deputy Clinton, who is a personal friend of mine, could have gone a little further and stated that the main reason for that improvement is the fact that last year the Chairman of Dublin County Council was a member of the Labour Party, Councillor Paddy Murphy, who knew enough of the regulations to ensure that sites could and would be acquired: his biggest enemy will give him credit for that. All over the county of Dublin where, for years, we heard no sites were available, he succeeded in making sites available and now houses are being built on them. He is due that much credit. I am rather surprised Deputy Clinton did not give that credit to him when he was speaking earlier. Councillor Murphy was chairman last year. This year, Councillor Paddy Burke, T.D., is chairman. We hear talk about coalitions. Dublin County Council this year have a coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, a Fianna Fáil chairman and a Fine Gael vice-chairman—and so it shall be, over and back, for the next four or five years. It is just as well to place on record that that is so and if some of the members of Fianna Fáil do not like it, they are very quiet about it. They are perfectly entitled to accept it or not to accept it.

Some of them do not.

In County Meath we have the position about housing that for many years we were preparing sites and receiving applications. Two years ago we had about 185 applications. Originally there were over 300 but the housing officers cut them down to about 185 people who were badly in need of houses. This was in the rural part of the county and most of the applicants had sites but the Department had no money and so the houses could not be built. Little by little, we got five here and one there, and while the number at the top was going down, others were being added at the bottom and eventually we found that the Department were holding up sanctioning of the sites. Applications were coming in a little too fast and so they had the device that the sites would have to be inspected by the Department's officers.

Then the Minister's predecessor stated in the House that the regulations were being changed and that in future if the local authority's officers sanctioned schemes of houses, it would be all right. We thought that this was at least an easing of the conditions but the next thing was that the Minister sent a circular to local authorities to say that, of course, sites would have to have water and sewerage available. We were back where we started. We are slowly getting houses built. It appears that the amount of money made available by the Minister for the erection of these houses is still far too small and I hope that in the next financial year, he will make a very substantial increase in the allocation for County Meath because over the past four or five months we have cleared a big number of sites and if we do not get the money, the houses cannot be built.

When one checks this list of applicants for houses and divides up the 150 or so still left, one finds that nearly 100 of them have been on the list for four or five years, or longer. When you go into a damp, rat-infested house where somebody is trying to rear a family, and find that they have a site, have applied for and obtained sanction for the house but that the house has not been built, it is difficult to explain to them that the Department of Local Government have no money to build the house and that therefore they must remain longer in the hovel in which they live. People may say I am a philistine for saying this but I believe that the housing of the people should get priority over some of the hare-brained schemes the Government have thought up as a means of spending money.

The National Building Agency has been mentioned and I want to ask the Minister if he is quite satisfied with the finish given to some houses built by the Agency. Has he received complaints? Has he had such complaints that requests have been made to his Department not to pay grants on some of the houses completed by the Agency because they were so badly finished? Would the Minister comment on that when replying and say if it is so?

As far as I can find out, the amount of grant being paid now—with the exception of the special classes, the small farmer or agricultural worker—has remained the same for many years, £300 from the Department and £300 from the local authority for a five-roomed house. Does the Minister understand that the cost of erecting the house has at least doubled in that period or that, because of the peculiar system we have here, many people who would like to erect their own houses are unable to do so because the grants are what they are? People who would be prepared to build a house when their income reaches a certain level at which they feel they could go ahead, find they cannot qualify for the local authority loan. This is a problem. Interest and repayments on loans are high enough. The £2,000 loan over 35 years now costs about £4 a week and if somebody wants to build a house and has to pay that sum, he must have a reasonable income. He is caught between two fires in that if the income is considered too high, he does not get a loan and if it is too low, he does not get it because it is considered that he would not be able to pay back £4 a week. That is a nice way the Department have to ensure that too much money will not be paid out.

The Minister's predecessor made a statement, or rather a threat, here some time ago about rents of local authority houses. He said that unless the rents were brought up to what he called a realistic standard, he would refuse to give any further grants for house building to the area in which the tenants lived. After various complaints and representations had been made to the Minister concerned, he changed around the regulation and it now applies only to some areas. It could not apply to County Dublin because the Minister for Local Government at present represents County Dublin. Does the Minister realise that in areas where they are attempting to put this policy into operation, unfortunate people with very low incomes are being asked to pay far more than they can afford? This is the result of an effort by the local authority to get more money to spend on other things. There seems to be an idea that if a man has a growing family of which some members are employed, every weekend they hand over all their earnings to their parents. That may have occurred in How Green was my Valley but it does not happen now because most of the youngsters I see around are looking for a “sub” from their parents on Monday night instead of handing up their earnings on Friday or Saturday night. Despite this, most local authorities now take the earnings of children into account when fixing rents of houses, particularly rents of new houses. This is something which the Minister will have to revise or somebody else will do it for him.

I notice that very many local authorities have not introduced their plans within the period laid down by the Planning Act and excuses have been made for them. I wonder if the main reason for their default is the fact that the local authorities concerned have not employed people to do the work. Checking with a number of local authorities, I was amazed to find that two or three people were expected to be able to draw up a plan for the entire county, and many of them made a great effort to do so. In one case I know they did succeed, but in very many planning authority areas, they were just physically unable to do it. The result is that the Planning Act has not been complied with and the plans have not been drawn up.

When the Planning Act was introduced first, there was this question of applications for planning for practically everything. One of the complaints I have got is that if the planning authority refuses permission for something to be done and an appeal is made to the Minister for Local Government, that appeal may not be dealt with for six or even 12 months. If somebody wants to build a new house or repair an old one, has applied for planning permission and has appealed to the Minister, it is unfair that this matter should be left over for as long a period as that. I mentioned this to the Minister last year on the Estimate. I am again making an appeal that some effort should be made to have planning appeals dealt with fairly expeditiously, and nobody can claim that appeals that are lying for six months or longer in the Minister's Department are being dealt with expeditiously.

Most local authorities, for the past couple of years, have been drawing up schemes for regional water and sewerage, and we in County Meath had got our officials to do a pretty good job on this. In June of this year, our officials submitted to the Department a priority list for water and a priority list for sewerage. We were very much surprised about two months ago to get back from the Minister's office a letter saying that, while it was all right to send in these applications, the Minister now discovered that the amount of money required would be very much more than he thought it would, and would the county council arrange to let him have one list showing the water and the sewerage schemes, comprising one set of priorities, mixing one scheme with the other.

The council replied that as they had sent the Minister two separate lists in June and were up to date still, they did not see the necessity to do anything of the sort. The Department wrote back saying they must now send him the new list. That new list has gone to the Minister, and as far as I know, he is still sleeping on it, because it has not reappeared. I assume that when the dreams are over, the Minister will, some time next year, ask for some further information from the council. I am firmly convinced that the request for the priority list which was sent in after the June ones were sent in was for no other reason than to defer the council's decision to proceed with certain works. This is an aspect of the Department's administration which is very regrettable. If a council is anxious to go ahead and is attempting to do its job properly, it should not be impeded by the Minister as councils have been in this case.

There have been quite a number of group water schemes applied for throughout the country and in County Meath we had something between 30 and 40 of them. It is only fair to say that one or two of them were started, and it took quite a long time to get the first couple completed. The remainder of them were stalled by officials of the Minister's Department going along, talking to the people, advising them what they should do, in some cases having a scheme drawn up, having money collected and then disappearing for months on end. A typical case is one in Newcastle-Old-castle where the money was collected three years ago and the scheme has not yet been got under way.

Recently some new officials of the Minister's Department appear to have taken over and are now making an attempt to bring these schemes up to date. Some of the field officers he has got seem to have an interest in the job and are visiting people, discussing matters with them and doing everything they can to put things in order. I am glad to see this development, but before that the situation was that one gentleman said he could not meet those people unless they met him at three o'clock on a Monday afternoon, all working men. It did not suit him to meet them any other time, and this is the sort of nonsense that is going on. As I say, I am glad a new approach seems to have started in the Minister's Department with reference to these schemes.

Meath County Council, some months ago, decided they would ask the Minister for permission to take the schemes over and do them themselves. The Minister said in this House in answer to a query from me, that he would welcome this, that he thought it would be a good way of having them done, by passing the responsibility back to the local authority. Some correspondence passed between the county engineer and the Minister's officials, but nothing definite seems to have been done. We are still in the same position, with letters passing backward and forward, but no decision seems yet to have been made.

I wonder if the Minister would indicate if he proposes to agree to the local authority carrying out group water schemes where they are anxious and willing to do so. If that is agreed to, the job can be properly done. I regret to say that in some cases where contractors carried out the work, the work was not properly done; a leak occurred before very long in one case, and in another case where a sewerage scheme was put in, when the people tried to use the scheme, they found that the sewer from one house came up into the house next door, and the whole job had to be redone.

When a group sewerage scheme is being carried out, there is not the necessary supervision there, and the people who are leaving the scheme carried out in the way it is done up to the present, cannot afford to supply that supervision. That is one of the reasons why I should like to see the local authorities doing the job because they could then provide the necessary expert supervision which would ensure that these jobs would not be giving trouble right from the day they are finished.

Responsibility for the rural improvement schemes is being passed on to the Minister's Department. So far it has been a matter for the Board of Works, but I should like to ask the Minister, if he intends to take them over, what proposal he has in regard to the arrangement which the Board of Works had in relation to the rural improvement schemes, so far as those who supervise the carrying out of the schemes are concerned. The Minister is aware that in some counties the county engineer was the agent responsible for having them carried out and that some of the supervisory staff were paid a sum—I admit a small sum, but a sum of money—for supervising these schemes. I wonder will this be taken into account when they are being handed over.

The second thing is, as has been stated here earlier this evening, if the local authority have to carry out schemes that are being sent to them and have to go by the priority which has apparently been given by the RISO before they closed down, it will be years before many of these schemes can be reached. I feel that the right to decide on what schemes should or should not be carried out should be left with the officials of the local authorities and they should not have to accept the list as it is given to them.

I would like to make a few brief comments about speed limits. The speed limit signs which were first erected some years ago were to be revised and the Minister's predecessor said that they were being revised but he could not do anything about the matter until the whole country was revised. He refused to accept a suggestion made by me and by other people in this House that the proper thing would be to do it county by county. He said that they were all put down together and that they would all have to be revised together. Now the Minister has changed that a bit and we find that in fact in certain areas the signs have been revised. What I cannot understand is that in the district where I live when the speed limit signs were first put up, two of the signs were put directly in front of the window of a house, between the house and a tennis court which is on the far side of the road. When representations were made to the county council, they said: "This is where the Department said we should put them". When I asked the Department, they said: "We will arrange to have them altered". That is nearly four years ago and they have not been altered since but other signs in the area have been altered. It would not be a bad idea if the Minister's Department would see to it that when those signs are being put up, they are put up where they will not cause annoyance or inconvenience to householders in the area. It is a simple matter. In this case there was half a mile of open road which could have been used. It was not used; the sign was put up right in front of the unfortunate man's window.

This is a matter for another Department.

I am afraid it is not. It is a matter for the Minister's Department and even he would not try to get out of this one. However, I do not propose to say much about this.

A matter which is possibly for another Minister's Department is the question of whether or not speed limit signs are doing much good, particularly on the Dublin-Belfast Road. Nobody seems to pay any attention to them except myself.

Another matter which the Minister might take a note of, because it is something which annoys me as I drive around the country, and as I have said before, I travel an average of 1,000 miles a week so I see perhaps more of Ireland than do most people coming in here——

On your allowance.

Unfortunately, it is not on my allowance. It would be very good if it were. What I want to refer to are the signs along the road, not the speed limit signs but the ordinary signposts. Ask anybody in the House if it is not true that most of them are indescribably dirty. Nobody ever seems to think that it is necessary to get a basin of water and clean them. In no other country have I ever seen road signs dirty. There is no reason why they should be dirty. One man would be able to clean them up in a couple of hours if he was sent out to do the job but for some reason, not in any particular county but in every county in Ireland, those signs are there with the dirt which has been on them since they went up and which has never been removed.

They are painted every so often anyway.

Are they? God help your foolish wit.

I hope the Minister will be able to do something about having a final decision made on the T.1. What is to be done with it? Is it to be a single carriageway, a dual carriageway; will it by-pass Drogheda? I would like the Minister to make up his mind about it and let us see where we are going.

I have two other small points to mention. The first one is the question of the lighting of pedestrain crossings. I know the Minister does not drive at night but those of us who do find that most of the pedestrian crossings are very badly lighted and it is almost impossible to see a person crossing them at night, particularly if it is raining or a hazy night. It is not so on the better lighted streets of the city but it is very bad when one goes out to the country towns. Swords is a typical example. The type of lighting provided is bad and there is no reason why they should not be properly lighted. I do not think it would cost any more to light them properly than it costs for the type of lighting which is used on them.

Another thing which has caused inconvenience from time to time is the level of traffic lights. Those of us who are used to them do not find it so much of a problem but for those who are not they appear to be wrong. I wonder would it be possible to have some device provided which would provide an eye level traffic light. Those of us who are used to the lights do not find it difficult at all but other people complian to me that as they drive along, it is very difficult to see them. Sometimes they are beside them or by them before they notice them.

An effort should be made to devise something. The fact that this type is used elsewhere should not be used as an excuse for continuing the system here. They have in London at the present time a system of boxing the lights whereby in the city centre traffic cannot enter a box unless there is a clear exit. It might not be a bad idea if something like that were tried at some of the busier centres in the city here. At least it would prevent the blocking of cross streets which occurs very often in this city.

The provision of the one-way streets in Dublin has been a great success.

Hear, hear.

That is my personal view. The provision of the clearways has been a great success. It is rather a pity that more clearways have not been provided on the entries and exits of the city. Those of us who use the Belfast Road find it rather ridiculous that on this side of Santry post office, along by Santry Stadium, trucks are allowed to park on both sides of the street even during the rush hours in the evening and morning, with the result that very often a garda has to be brought along to clear the traffic. The provision of a clearway there, even on one side, would make a big improvement.

Finally, I would like to say that in my time dealing with the officials of the Department of Local Government, I have found that they are very courteous, that they go to endless trouble if one asks them to find out something or to check on something which a constituent is entitled to, or indeed on a matter of general information. While I am prepared to criticise civil servants if I find that they are uncivil, I feel it is only right that they should get the meed of praise when the opposite is the case. I would also like to say that except for the Minister's occasional outbursts of bad temper in this House, I find that he too outside the House or in his office, is a courteous Minister and I would suggest that he continues to keep up the tradition.

Most of my remarks will be confined to housing because housing looms largely in this Estimate for the Department of Local Government. Before I forget, I should like to say that I listened to Deputy Tully and I would not at all agree with him when he, in his speech at any rate on essential roads, spoke of the authority of the Custom House; that they have authority to order the local authority about, shall we say, or have the power to order local authorities what to do regarding either a trunk road or a carriageway. After all, we cannot escape the fact that local authorities have a responsibility and that the members who make up the local authority are duly elected by the people of the locality and it would be too bad if they had not some say, even at the cost of delay, in these important matters.

They have not, you know.

It would be too bad if they had not some say in the direction of a particular road or carriageway. I mention that to show that we do not all agree on this point. One could easily go too far in this direction and turn the Custom House into another Kremlin. Mind you, as it stands at the moment, I would rather deal with the present occupant of the Custom House than the present occupant of the Kremlin.

Are you speaking from experience?

I do not want to drift from the two points I should like to make but Deputy Tully also mentioned group water schemes. There is no doubt that due to the way our schemes are managed, there is bound to be some conflict, delay and confusion. Our experience is, from having carried out one or two of those group schemes in much more difficult terrain than in Deputy Tully's area, that they work well and having regard to the fact that this is an innovation in local government, we found the Custom House well informed.

We found that a lead was given on the ground where it was needed. The only point I might mention in passing is that due regard should in future be given to those group schemes which we hope will become a feature of rural areas in general because they are the most appropriate type of scheme for rural areas in getting the work done at reasonable cost. We hope due regard will be had to maintenance work and that a sum of money will be set aside to fully maintain the system when it is already laid down.

In his opening statement, the Minister dealt with housing and it is, therefore, I suppose, inevitable that the main debate on the Estimate will be more or less centred on housing because housing has come to the forefront and constitutes a major part of the programme of local authorities and, therefore, of the Department. The fact that increased provision is made for the erection and reconstruction of houses and the preservation of the national housing stock in general indicates that it has certainly assumed much larger proportions in the administration of local authorities than was ever visualised.

On this point, there are some weaknesses in the system which it will be necessary to correct if we are to engage in the projected programme of housing, that is, 12,000 to 14,000 houses per year. I should like to say that up to now many local authorities were not well enough organised to become, if you like, in a short time development corporations, that is, from the housing point of view. It could be stressed in this debate that it would be well if the Minister had a look around the various local authorities to see if they could organise housing units within each local authority which would be in a position, or should be in a position, to take advantage of the moneys made available by the Minister's office in this regard.

There is already a heavy responsibility on the various local authorities when it comes to the provision of houses. It does not seem sensible that we on this Estimate should run away with the idea that there is unlimited money available for housing purposes. The housing programme makes up a part of the total national programme and the money is shared accordingly. Therefore, as a member of a local authority, I welcome the Minister's proposal to have the various housing authorities submit a survey to his office so that there will be an integration of the needs of the various areas over the years, that this question of peak and valley periods will, in so far as may be possible, be ironed out once and for all and that local authorities will become more housing-minded.

I do not agree with Deputy Tully for a moment that all the blame can be hived off on to the Custom House in respect of the position in County Meath. I do not know much about County Meath but I know my own county which is much poorer than Meath, and has a higher rate, and that is simply because the authority played their part in trying to provide water schemes throughout the county. In this House when we have responsibility at local or central level, we should be prepared to see both sides of the case. The Minister said, and I accept his word — I could quote the figures but I do not want to delay the House too long — that no local authority need be held up for lack of finance. Let us accept that and, therefore, it is open to us as members of various local authorities to acquire land compulsorily, if necessary, for development, so that the sites will be available for houses. It seems to me there is more money for the public and the private sectors and that development in both sectors is proceeding at a high rate.

It was mentioned during the debate that certain people cannot obtain finance with which to build houses. It was said that a person with a wage of £4 a week—it is a very low wage of which to give an example — could not raise a loan. My reply to that is that such a person is due to be housed by the local authority concerned. Similarly, in the upper limit, a case was given of a man with a high income and it was said he could not receive a loan from the Local Loans Fund. Why should he? That Fund is there to house the working classes. People with high salaries can go outside it to other agencies for their loans.

This housing drive will cost money, and money is getting dearer. The same applies to materials. In fact, it can be said that men, money and materials are all getting dearer. That being so, local authorities would be well advised not merely to plan their programmes but to see to it that every pound laid out for housing is well spent and that they get the best possible return for the money they borrow or raise in taxation locally.

There are some points I should like to raise in passing. One concerns an undesirable feature setting in in the housing drive. Due to lack of foresight on the part of local authorities, enough land is not available and we have consequently a certain amount of ribbon development. Ribbon building along either main or county roads is undesirable in many ways, not merely from the scenic point of view of the locality concerned but also from the health point of view. We are living in an age when every house is expected to be provided with water and sewerage systems. When there is ribbon development along main roads, one can visualise a very serious position arising later on, with very unpleasant consequences. Therefore, local authorities would be well advised, in order to try to prevent this kind of development, to proceed more on the park lines — to have sites developed which will not spread.

The local authority renting system was criticised here, As I understand it, the differential renting system has been accepted by all sides of the House as being a fair and equitable system. It provides against the many hazards which the family, as a unit, meet in life. Therefore, those who set out to condemn it should try to supplant it by an alternative. I did not hear very wide condemnation tonight but I heard some Deputies skimming over the subject and suggesting that there might be changes. They did not at all refer to the considerable relief which is given under the differential system to a number of families who otherwise might not be able to live in houses.

This Party embodied the differential system in the 1966 Housing Act to ensure that our people are housed. regardless of whether they are able to pay rent. This may not be done in a hurry simply because the various local authorities are not organised to do it, but a commencement has been made. If we had not something like the differential system, how could we do that? How do we propose to cater for the father of a family who is ill, whose income may become cut to a fraction overnight through serious illness? How are the family of that man to continue to enjoy shelter if we have not something like the differential system, which, at the lower end, provides a hedge against the hazards of life and, at the other end, ensures that a man who has a reasonable income pays his fair share of rent, and only his fair share, because, bear in mind, very few pay off all the charges which are incurred in providing loans, subsidies and discounting the interest and liquidating the principal? Therefore, when we hear widespread condemnation of the differential renting system, we must ask what the alternative is if one were to abolish it overnight.

We must realise that the money for housing has to be raised on current account, firstly, and, secondly, by national loan, and that the money which is raised by loan has to be paid for, that the money raised on current account is paid for by the taxpayers. Do not forget that there is a limit to what the taxpayers can pay out and also a limit to what one can borrow. That is why, in the context of housing, we must consider all aspects of the matter and not try to find a convenient hole through which to criticise without coming up with an alternative.

This brings me to another provision of the 1966 Housing Act. Strangely enough, it is the provision to provide cottages for small farmers with valuations of less than £5. There are Deputies from many counties who will not be concerned so much with this part of the Act. It seems strange to me that local authorities have not taken full advantage of this provision for some reason or other. We find plenty of scope, at least in my county and the neighbouring counties, and I suppose in most counties in Connaught, for a provision such as this.

Similarly, there was also a provision in the Act which caters for those people who could become a charge on the public purse. I refer to the section in the Housing Act, 1966 which deals with essential repairs to houses in order to provide houses for old people who might otherwise have to seek shelter elsewhere at public expense. I would like to say, in dealing with this aspect of housing, that a much closer look should be taken at this particular section because you must bear in mind the fact that the money which goes into this type of house is money which is never regained by the local authority. It is the very same as if you took it from a social aspect. It has a social aspect and it is necessary, but apart from the social aspect, there is no recoupment of this money. The big point here is that the very people for whom this is intended might through their old age become a public charge on the local authority. Strict supervision, for that reason, should be exercised in regard to the money spent under this section and only people in that age group who are unable to provide for their own housing needs should be catered for.

This section of the Housing Act could be abused and, therefore, it behoves the members of local authorities, like ourselves, to be honest about this matter because there are a great number of people who are not able to rehouse themselves in any shape or form and who otherwise would be liable to become a public charge. It is a social aim; it is a desirable aim; and it is a charitable aim.

We get a small subsidy towards those houses from the Department of Local Government. It roughly amounts to £80 a house but you must bear in mind that £80 per house will not go any distance when it has to do essential repairs on an old house, which may be in a very bad state of repair. There is a responsibility on us to see to it that the people who need this type of help get it because there are other people who would be looking for it who are well able to take advantage of the various other schemes which are there at the moment. It would be too bad, therefore, if they came in and crowded out the people for whom this very desirable scheme is intended.

I want to make one or two points before finishing. Now that local authorities are called on to play a more important role, shall we say, in this housing drive and that our aim is in the region of 12,000 to 14,000 houses a year, or maybe more, if we can achieve that target, I want to emphasise that we must not be like a Parkinson's law case in regard to this. It would be well in each area if we had a look around and saw what way we are progressing in such an area with the minimum of help because we must bear in mind that if we are not able to keep down expenses in the centre, then the expenses will be a bit higher at the extremity. If we are not able to provide a house at a reasonable cost, then it will not be good for anybody. I said at the outset that I was going to confine my remarks to housing. I shall do so. There are a few other matters I wanted to mention but as it is late, I will leave it at that.

Like the previous speaker, I intend, at this stage, to be brief. While this is a very important Estimate, to my mind, quite a lot of the amount of debating time has been confined to housing. I suppose every Deputy is influenced, so to speak, by the real problems which affect his or her own area.

I want to draw the Minister's attention to just a few problems in my constituency. First of all, I believe the housing situation at the present time is appalling. When you have a situation existing where three families in some cases are living in one house, it is a terrible indictment of the Government and the Department of Local Government. This is a situation which exists, I am sure, in many towns and villages.

We have heard from the Minister and many Government speakers about the amount of money being spent this year, about what was spent five years ago and about what was spent last year in relation to housing. I believe this is no criterion by which you can judge. In view of the fact that the cost of building materials has soared in the past two or three years, this is not any way in which the Department or the Minister can be judged. The acid test of any Minister or Department of Local Government is the number of houses built every year. As far as some of the towns, particularly in Mid-Cork, are concerned at the present time there exists a terrible housing situation. Many of the people in that area, particularly working people, are living in appalling conditions. It is a very sad situation to find people, particularly a young family, living in a bad house. Housing is the first priority and as far as we are concerned on this side of the House, we have stated many times that it should be the Department's top priority.

In my constituency at least one case comes to my mind, of an old person living in a house in such a dangerous condition that when the local doctor was called to attend to her, he was afraid to go in, so bad was the condition of the house. I cannot understand, for the life of me, why it is that local authorities, and I am a member of one myself, take so long to build even a rural cottage. In some cases it takes as long as seven years. It must be sent up to the Department for sanction. There is delay there. Then there is the advertising and the giving of the contract, which again has to be sanctioned. The delay is enormous. There should be some co-ordination of effort between the local authority and the Department to speed up housing.

Deputy Tully's speech brought to my mind the situation in regard to water schemes in County Cork at present. We have on the list for many years a number of regional water schemes. They have been shelved for so long because the money is not available for them. At a meeting of the southern housing committee of Cork County Council recently, we decided on a letter from the Department to re-examine the whole situation in relation to some of these schemes. It was suggested that where possible, group schemes should be carried out. I want to protest to the Minister in relation to group schemes. Several members of the county council have complained that they cannot contact the inspector in charge of these schemes. I had to contact the Department myself to get the inspector to visit an area where a group scheme was started. I could not contact him myself, even though he lives less than 20 miles from me. I contacted the Department and they had to instruct him to go to this place.

This man should not be sheltered to such an extent that the people interested in carrying out group schemes, and the public representatives who will have to face the criticism and deal with the problems arising, cannot contact him. I want to put that on record. We should be informed how to contact him. In fairness, it is only right to say that when this inspector did eventually discuss the matter, he was most helpful. At the southern housing committee, we decided to ask the Department to send this inspector to the council meeting so that we could discuss the matter with him. This reasonable request was refused. We got on to them a second time and they condescended to send him along. At the last meeting, we had a free and frank discussion with him which proved very useful and fruitful. Everyone realises, particularly in rural Ireland, the necessity of having an adequate water supply. Many farmers have failed to qualify for the quality milk price because they have not an adequate water supply. The problem is that grants are not available where a regional scheme is envisaged. The council decided to provide the mains and head works for those who decide to go ahead with a group scheme. This was a good decision.

I have already raised by way of Parliamentary Question the rates problem. Every public representative realises only too well that this year has been very difficult so far as rates are concerned. Many people found it almost impossible. Public representatives were making representations to local authorities and certain rate collectors begging for time for some of the ratepayers. I want to refer primarily to the people living in towns and villages. I have experience in my constituency of small shopkeepers and business people driven out of business by the introduction of supermarkets. Yet, year in and year out, they are still paying increased rates.

The present rating system does not in any way conform with the ability of the people concerned to pay. This is something the Minister should look into. He should reconsider the whole situation in relation to rates. Small farmers under £20 valuation had complete derating, but in fact there was an increased valuation on buildings for many of those concerned. They could not understand how it was, if they had complete derating, that their rates in some cases were up on last year.

I heard the matter of roads discussed here. For us in Cork, the greatest problem this year is that the road grant has been reduced by £129,000. We are faced now with the situation that many of our road workers will be disemployed as a result of this huge reduction. We had many meetings to discuss the matter and decided to provide by way of supplementary estimate money to keep our road workers employed. Particularly facing Christmas, it is most unfair to have to put on the unemployment list people who have given faithful service to the local authority during the year. It is a serious situation. I do not agree with asking the ratepayers of Cork county to provide money it was the Minister's job to provide. I disagree entirely with imposing a further burden on them.

We are all perturbed — in fairness, I must say I think the Minister is doing as much as he can about it — at the massacre on our roads at present. Every fairminded man must realise it is a serious situation and a difficult problem to cope with. So far as the main roads are concerned, statistics have proved that after lighting up time, there is the highest rate of fatal accidents. My personal opinion is that the greatest offender of all is the motorist who refuses to dip or dim his lights. He is certainly a road menace. Whether this is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice or the Minister for Local Government, it is certainly one of the main contributing factors to the massacre on our roads today. The Minister has, by way of the radio, the Press and television, brought home to the people the seriousness of this, and the importance of consideration for other road users. It is very important that this propaganda should continue, because unfortunately this situation still exists.

I have very strong views on the driving test. I do not know if any other Deputies have mentioned this already, but there is a rather ludicrous situation which I have brought to the Minister's notice on more than one occasion. People with years and years of driving experience in other countries have taken the driving test here and failed it. On the other hand, in order to comply with regulations in relation to insurance, I have seen these drivers protected by other drivers who got a driving licence before these tests came into force. I do not think that anyone should be subjected to one judge of his driving, because everyone has his own test and his own ideas. There should be some way out.

The Minister will recall that I brought to his notice recently the case of a person with 20 years' driving experience of a heavy bus and lorry in London. He had a current British driving licence, but when he applied for the third time here, he was refused a licence. To my mind, it is ridiculous that you can find on our roads to-day people who qualified for a driving licence by going into the local motor taxation office before this test came into force, and got a driving licence without question. That is another factor that is contributing to the situation on our roads today.

I want to draw the attention of the Minister to the position in relation to the purchase of labourers' cottages. A tenant can apply to have a cottage vested in him and have the necessary repairs carried out, and if he is not satisfied, he has the right to appeal to the Minister. It will certainly be a year, or probably two years, before his cottage will be inspected. For the life of me, I cannot see what the delay is in carrying out these inspections. We also have the situation in Cork that due to the scarcity of money, many of our cottage repair gangs will be on the unemployment list for Christmas. These are problems with which the Minister should be concerned. He should come to the rescue of these people. If possible, these people who are giving a service should be given employment up to Christmas, and for the full year, if possible.

I hope that in the coming year there will be some improvement in regard to people who are on the waiting list for houses. I join with other speakers from this side of the House in appealing to the Minister to give top priority to the housing of our people. This is essential having regard to the health of our children who, in some instances, live in appalling housing conditions and, at a later stage in their lives, will become a burden so far as their health is concerned, on the taxpayers and ratepayers. I appeal to the Minister, therefore, to try to eliminate the huge lists for houses and I can assure him that he will have our full support.

This can be considered as one of the most important Estimates to come before the House because the expenditure of money approved on this Estimate can directly affect the comfort and wellbeing of thousands of our fellow citizens. Failure to provide adequate money in past years has meant that every year thousands of our fellow citizens have had to forgo what we in this House should hold to be a basic right of the community, to live in decency and in circumstances a bit better than those provided for animals in modern progressive farms. This is a very heavy responsibility on the House and the authorities concerned.

Of course, the primary responsibility in this matter in 1967-68 must rest with the Minister for Local Government, and possibly the Minister for Finance, because Deputies have not got authority to bring in Estimates. We have authority to approve Estimates and we have authority to approve the steps to be taken to raise the money, but we cannot introduce an Estimate. The primary responsibility must rest with the Minister for people who are now homeless. When I use the word "homeless", I mean families who have not got a decent home of their own. On what is decided in this Estimate, and on the action taken by the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Finance, will depend not only those who are at present in need of housing, but possibly those who may need accommodation for the next three or four years. It is time we did a little rethinking and endeavoured to get our priorities right.

In any street, city, town or village I do not suppose one would get a single person to disagree with the suggestion that housing should be the No. 1 priority. The value of housing does not consist merely in the provision of adequate dwellings. As has been demonstrated, housing makes a tremendous contribution to the general health of the individual, the family or the community. Small as has been the effort in past years, one can see the effects of the housing that has been provided. When the members of the family living in the houses that have been provided grow up and get married and are seeking accommodation they are no longer satisfied to look for a single room, no longer satisfied if they get two rooms with water on a landing and a toilet in the yard. People were never satisfied with that type of accommodation but for many long years, particularly in this city, there were many thousands of families who knew nothing else. Whether one likes it or not, the environment in which children are reared moulds their approach towards society. It has been truly remarkable over the years that from the ghettos in the city of Dublin and other cities in this country and from some of the worse than ghettos in some villages the people of Ireland survived the conditions to which they were exposed and did not sink into a state of complete despair and frustration.

I do not think it is sufficient to say here and now that a very serious problem confronts us. There is no one in public life, no one who has had any responsibility in local government or as a member of the Government or in any other capacity, who has not known for many long years the size and the nature of the problem. We must confess that this House, to which the nation sends its representatives, has not carried out its duty in an adequate manner. It is not necessary to make any strong or eloquent statement in this connection. The cold, hard logic of the facts provide the evidence.

In the city of Dublin there are 10,000 families on the housing waiting list. We all realise that not every one of those 10,000 families would fall to be housed because the waiting list is made up of applications from individuals or families who want to be housed. There are in excess of 5,000 who have been approved for housing by the local authority. There are many thousands of young people who have not even bothered to put their names on the waiting list because of their conviction that their chance of being housed is most remote. In city, town and country the same pattern has repeated itself over the years. The rate of production of dwellings has not risen as fast as it could, as fast as it should.

I was surprised, if I may so, not too long ago to hear the Minister for Local Government when he was engaging in a discussion on Telefís Éireann.

Did you hear some of it?

I did hear some of it.

Very little.

I was amazed and surprised. Possibly Ministers may feel that they have some privilege in talking to the people to mislead them as regards the facts of the situation. During that discussion I heard the Minister quote statistics as regards the production of houses in Dublin which made me feel that either he had misread his brief or had been given the wrong information. I do not know. Certainly the period he quoted as representing the period of highest production of dwellings was not the correct one.

However, in 1967, in the debate on this Estimate, the important thing is not how many hundreds of houses were completed in 1965, 1960, 1954, 1957, 1951, 1940 or any other year. We could spend a long time rather fruitlessly quoting statistics. You would not have proved very much at the end of it. It would not be very convincing to those people who are looking for housing now and who will be looking for housing in the future to say that at any particular time there were 500 more dwellings completed than in some other year.

We must remind ourselves of what the situation is. This Government have been a long time in office and, therefore, must accept the major responsibility for any deficiencies there are in the provision of dwellings. No matter what arguments they may advance in relation to any particular period in which they were not in office, all they need do is write down the years from 1932 and work out the percentage of time during which they were in office, had the power and authority, and failed to do the job. They have been in office now uninterruptedly since 1957, a period of ten years.

We hear with greater frequency statements from the Minister's Department about the responsibilities and the function of local authorities in the matter of housing. I think we should get this whole situation clarified because in recent years it has been the practice to suggest that the failure to provide houses has been the failure of some elected county council, town commissioners, or corporation. In fact, none of these bodies has power to raise money. The power is there but, in practice, it does not mean anything. The last time Dublin Corporation raised a loan was in 1955 or 1956. Since that time money required for building, with one or two small exceptions, has come mainly from the Local Loans Fund. The reason for that is simple: the Government have been issuing national loans and collaring all the available money. Nobody complains about that because these finances are required for national purposes but, if the housing of our people is not a national purpose, then I do not know what is.

As Deputies know — possibly people outside do not know — the practice is for the Minister for Local Government to indicate each year the amount of money that will be available, with the permission of the Minister for Finance, to local authorities for expenditure on housing and other matters. A local authority can spend a great deal of time, research and effort planning capital expenditure of £X million on housing and then find that that £X million, as far as the Department is concerned, is reduced by 50 per cent. We want to get our thinking straight on all this. The local authorities are to all intents and purposes the city and county managers because it is they who direct the staffs who draw up the schemes. The schemes are prepared. To be fair to the city and county managers, they usually have a good idea of what they may hope to get approval for by way of capital expenditure and they try to avoid preparing schemes which will exceed the finances they hope to get from the Central Fund but they do not always succeed in keeping their figure as close as that.

I was on a deputation to the Minister's predecessor towards the end of 1965. The Minister was very sympathetic. Ministers for Local Government often are. I doubt if we could accuse any Minister, or any Deputy for that matter, of not having a certain amount of sympathy for the homeless. The Minister was sympathetic but he subsequently advised the local authority that the Capital Budget for the following year would have to be cut; he had done his best with the Minister for Finance, but his best fell short of what the particular local authority should and could spend during that year. This can be an annual occurrence. It has been an annual occurrence.

There is another practice in operation, a practice fairly well known to members of local authorities. There is a time of financial stringency and the Minister advises the city and county managers that the Capital Budget is being cut; his Department can take the other way and delay approval of plans. That has happened. There has been a good deal of activity from the point of view of requesting, in fairly strong terms, local authorities to carry out surveys of estimated housing needs now and in the future. I do not propose to be an apologist for local authorities, but the situation should be made clear.

I am sure the Minister knows the situation. When a local authority is asked to do certain work, then it requires staff to carry out that work. Assessing housing needs may well entail the services of administrative and clerical staff, surveyors, planning officers, architects, et cetera. I am sure the Minister is aware of a shortage of technical personnel in these spheres, at least as far as the capital city is concerned, and very likely elsewhere. We have a situation in which the Minister issues a request for something to be done, knowing in advance that, because of certain circumstances, it may not be possible to have it done. There does not appear to be too great a shortage of city or county managers but there appears to be a shortage of technical staff. I understand that, in the present situation, there are something like 24 vacancies for planning staff in the capital city; yet the same authority is required to deal with all the objections to the planning scheme within a short period. I do not know the reason for this situation. It may well be that the scale of salaries is not such as to attract competent trained staff or that they are not in the country. When the Minister sends out directives, his Department should be aware of the possibility of having those directives carried out. The city of Dublin is still without a City Architect. The last City Architect resigned and we have not been able to fill his place on a permanent basis.

I said earlier that the benefit of the provision of decent homes did not stop at the point of providing decent homes. That social service has a cumulative beneficial effect right across the whole economy and particularly right across our whole community. In providing houses for our people, we provide employment in house-building which, in turn, leads to employment in industries manufacturing furniture, fittings, decorating materials and so on. The provision of homes encourages people to look for an improved standard of living and encourages them to make efforts towards such improvement.

There is no doubt that the provision of decent homes, above all, has beneficial effects on the health and development of Irish children as it has on the health and development of children in any part of the world. It might not be unreasonable to say that, if circumstances were such that housing could be provided without cost to the occupiers, it would be a good bargain.

We are engaged in putting back the housing of our people year after year after year instead of providing homes for them in the shortest possible time. We have never truly tackled the housing problem. For a country that has been spared the horrors of war, to have a situation in which we are almost the lowest in Europe from the point of view of providing houses for our people is something of which we cannot be proud. Let us examine what we do in this House when it comes to dealing even with the question of helping the local authorities to finance the houses they provide. Local authorities carry out the policy of the Government for the time being in office. When we were discussing the Housing Bill, 1966, repeated appeals were made to the Minister from many parts of this House to look again at the subsidy level in respect of local authority houses but the Minister was deaf to them.

While, on the one hand, by one means or another, the Minister is trying to show something which is not a fact — that there has been wonderful progress in the housing of our people — on the other hand, his predecessor and himself have actively been engaged in passing the cost of local authority housing increasingly to the occupants or to the ratepayers of local authorities. I said earlier that it would not be of much use now to start talking about the figures for this year, last year and other years but there are some figures to which I must refer. One is the amount of State assistance given to local authorities by way of subsidy. In 1952, or perhaps a little later, the last adjustment was made. Originally, the subsidy on loan charges was fixed at two-thirds of the cost of producing the house and was £1,500 at the time when a house could be built for less than £2,000. We now have the situation that the amount on which the subsidy is paid on a house is £1,650 when the same type of house is costing over £2,700. A five room house may cost up to £3,000. The State subsidises the first £1,650 and there is no subsidy on the remainder.

In the case of flats the picture is equally grim as regards the State's acceptance of its obligations. Some years ago the subsidy on a flat was paid on a maximum £2,200. When a flat could be built for about that figure, the local authority could qualify for a subsidy up to £2,000 on that sum provided the families were housed in accordance with the Housing of the Working Classes Act. Today flats are costing £3,000 to £4,000 but the amount on which the loan charges subsidy is based is still the same. It is true that there has been a change as regards qualification. This is not now as narrow as previously because the condition of coming within the Housing of the Working Classes Act has been dropped, and not before its time. Up to that, in the case of most local authorities, nearly all the houses were occupied by people coming within the scope of that Act.

Ironically speaking, the State has also been very liberal regarding assistance to those who want to build or buy their own houses. For many years there was a State grant of £275. The 1966 Act made it possible for a sum towards development costs to be paid but that still did not close the gap in this regard. Not only in the sphere of local government has that picture shown itself but also in the sphere of health services. I would not be permitted by the Chair to delay on health services but I think the Chair will not object if I say that the same pattern was followed in that sphere as we shall see, perhaps, in the next few days.

I have dealt with the situation from the point of view of the State helping the local authority to do what they are required to do by assisting them to secure adequate staff to carry out their statutory duties. The Department continues in its parsimonious attitude towards local authorities as regards financial assistance. This was shown very clearly when the Minister's predecessor, using the powers vested in him by this House, took the initiative in ensuring that the rents of local authority tenants would be increased. I know that the Minister when replying will say that I was not accurate in making this statement, that neither his predecessor nor himself did any such thing, but neither Deputies nor the people outside are so naïve as to accept a denial like that if they know the machinery that was set in motion by the Minister to secure his objective.

In 1965 when members of the local authority, including members of his own Party, waited upon the Minister for Local Government and pointed out the severe financial problems facing them in Dublin city the then Minister indicated quite clearly that he would not be inclined to seek more money from the Minister for Finance or to consider any increase whatever in the subsidy unless the local authority — and he meant by that, and it is not always clear to the ordinary man in the street, the county or city manager — introduced what he termed a realistic rent system. He spelled this out: the system he had in mind was a maximum differential rent which would cover the total cost of the dwelling, cost of construction, cost of repair and cost of the money borrowed by the local authority, etc. That was quite clear and definite. If the manager did not do that, if he was unable to show that the ratepayers in the community were not able to bear any increased burden, he would have to accept it. The Minister's utterance in that regard is on record. Not only that, but within two or three months the Minister made it very plain, in case anybody might misunderstand him, by putting the same thing on record in a circular to local authorities. Most Deputies have read that circular very carefully, and it was put on the records of this House.

Therefore, if a deputation goes to the Minister seeking a greater subsidy so that the local authority can do the job that is being put on their shoulders of providing dwellings more effectively and more efficiently and with some regard for the people who will be living in these dwellings, the Minister says: "I have listened to you very carefully, but I do not propose to do anything in this matter unless you can (a) offer a scheme of what I call realistic rents; or (b) show in black and white that the ratepayers cannot bear any greater burden."

There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with butter. The natural result of the Minister's activity is that the county managers and the city managers proceeded to introduce new schemes of differential rents which provided for substantial increases. It is true that some of the schemes not only provided for substantial increases but also provided for some small easements in certain cases, but, of course, the easements were to be at the expense mainly of the people who are required to pay very much increased rents.

I have said in this House before and I repeat that a satisfactory and equitable scheme of differential rents can be, and has been, a beneficial thing. I am not familiar with what is happening in other local authorities, but I am rather familiar with the picture in my own local authority that existed before the differential scheme was introduced. Many families did not have the opportunity of going into corporation dwellings on the fixed rents because they were not able to afford the rents fixed, and as a consequence of their economic condition they were denied the opportunity of having decent dwellings.

With the introduction of differential rents and in spite of the faults that lay in the system prior to the Minister's tinkering with it, which made it worse, that situation was eased considerably, and families with low incomes could be reasonably sure that they would get accommodation in accordance with the family needs and size. They were not compelled, as I have known many cases, to take a three roomed house when their need was a four or five roomed house. The change brought about by the introduction of the differential rents was of benefit to many families from that point of view. While saying that, I do not agree with, and I have opposed, the latest changes made on the initiative of the previous Minister for Local Government and amended only in a very small respect by the present Minister.

Again on the subject of housing, it has appeared to me for quite a time that not only should we have a new look at the whole objective of providing dwellings, but that we should have a look at the dwellings we are providing. Irrespective of the size of the family, whether it is a man and his wife and seven or eight children, we are still providing a dwelling that is no larger than one thousand square feet. If we expect the boys and girls growing up to take advantage of whatever educational opportunities may be available to them, we must enable them to live in reasonable comfort and privacy, and it is not reasonable to restrict a large family to a dwelling of that size.

I doubt if the Minister for Local Government or the local authority would be prepared to approve of a loan under the SDA for houses that were any smaller than that except some of those that have been put up for what they refer to as the lower income group. Over the years a number of them have been put up which are even of a lower standard than those erected by the local authorities. There are a few of them in the city of Dublin and in other places, little concrete boxes. In Ballymun they have a scheme of flats which they call high-rise flats and families with young children have been housed 12, 13 and 14 storeys up and even on the 15th storey of the tower blocks, even though there was a protest made in relation to the lack of proper lift accommodation. There have been repeated complaints regarding the lifts in these flats. On occasions women and children have been locked in these lifts for half-hour or an hour. From the point of view of facilities, there is not a lot we can complain of but I wonder whether the Minister and his advisers subscribe to a situation where families with young children are housed in those high flats. I do not know whether it is the practice in England but I was under the impression that it was not. It may be that the local authority decided that because there was a shortage of accommodation for families it would be better to do this rather than leave these families without accommodation for a period. However, this is a matter that I would suggest the Minister should have examined carefully.

There is another aspect of housing I would like to put to the Minister for his consideration, for the consideration of his Department and maybe the consideration of local authorities as well. There has always been the practice in the cities when providing schemes of flats to include a percentage of small dwellings, single-room or two-room flats for the housing of old people. In recent years, a number of special schemes have been provided solely or mainly for old people, single people or old couples. Most of them are in units, blocks of 20 flats or two blocks of 20 flats. These dwellings have been very well received, by and large. As self-contained bed-sittingrooms they are equal to any bed-sittingroom one could find anywhere. They consist of a large living-sleeping room, kitchenette and bathroom.

There are two problems attached to this question as I see it. One is whether in 1967 we should be content with providing a single bed-sittingroom for a married couple. In cases where one may be ill, the bed is out in the living-room where friends or relations call just as if they were still living in a tenement in Gardiner Street or Mountjoy Square. I feel it is time we looked at that.

It is time we looked at something else in relation to the question of the provision of dwellings for old people. As we know, the percentage of old people is increasing in our community. I am sure the Minister will agree with me when I say that it would be much more desirable if we endeavoured to provide the type of building, even if it is only a bed-sittingroom, that would be attached to the dwelling where the families of these old people are living. There are many institutions in the country run by religious bodies and by local authority organisations but many of the old people in these institutions would in fact prefer to be out of them if they could be housed near their families and looked after by their families.

I suggested before that it should be possible to design a dwelling or to alter some of the existing local authority dwellings to make it possible, where family circumstances permit and the married son or daughter would be prepared to look after the parents, to have a special room attached to the dwelling for them. It would not only be of value but it would also be cheap to make some special grant in cases where the children were prepared to do this.

I know this is a practical proposition. I know of quite a few cases where families bought houses under the SDA and found the husband or wife was getting old and needed medical attention and with the aid of a special repair and improvement grant had a room added which was in the parents' ownership. They had their own privacy, comfort and their independence and, at the same time, they were close to their children. We are inclined to pay lip service to families, and hardly a day passes that somebody does not talk about the sacredness of family life, but we are inclined, in establishing these communities for old people, to separate them from their families, or, alternatively, to take them in, unnecessarily in many cases, to be looked after by the health authorities. It would be more reasonable and more logical and less inhuman if we were to have créches for children to spend a time away from their families than to encourage this procedure progressively, of the segregation and separation of old people from their families, their one anchor in life.

I realise that an approach like this can be complicated and troublesome and that problems can arise in dealing with it. This applies in the country as well as in the city. If the Minister will visit any of these attractive flatlets for old people, there is one thing he will note, that is, over a short number of years, the incidence of the undertaker calling to that area is far greater than in the ordinary community.

To be logical, if you have a scheme of 60 flats for old people and the youngest people going in at 55 or 60 years of age, you know that this will mean a constant calling of undertakers because people are dying. It can be most distressing for the people in that community to see the undertakers coming and the relatives calling. They get the feeling: "Am I about to end my days? Mrs. Brown has gone and Jack White has gone." They know their neighbours. It costs about £10 to keep a person under the health authority and in any of the institutions the cost is in excess of that. These particular buildings are quite expensive. They run at about £1,100 — £1,200. Surely it should not be beyond the wit of architects to design, and administrative officers to work out a scheme whereby it would be possible to have this accommodation added to some existing local authority dwellings; certainly in all new local authority dwellings it would enable people moving in from the very beginning to bring one or other of their parents with them. To my mind, it certainly would be a financial attraction to do so, and from the human point of view, the value to our old people would be incalculable.

I have confined my remarks so far to the housing problem which faces us, not just the housing problem in Dublin, or Cork, or Galway, or Castlebar, or in any of the small towns but the housing problem that faces the Irish community. I said at the beginning that I do not know whether we are even scratching the surface. We have got reports from eminent professors like Professor Myles Wright, and certainly if one-half of his report is correct, the target put before us at the present time falls very far short of being achieved and the appeals, requests, or directions of any Minister for Local Government for action by city or county managers will not be of much value unless they are put in the position of being able to carry out the projects.

In addition, on this question of housing, it appears that medical officers in dealing with applications for housing appear to have one eye on the housing programme and one eye on the possibility of certain types of families being housed within a certain limited period. It is surely the function and responsibility of a medical officer when examining applications for housing to state whether or not the family is in need of housing, whether or not they are living in unsuitable conditions and should be housed. But this does not appear to happen. The medical officer appears in many instances only to exercise his judgment on the families to be housed when it comes to the particular point of the families being housed, or a part of them being housed.

The same applies with regard to the question of unsuitable housing. A house, rather a room, is either suitable or unsuitable, fit or unfit. If the room or the accommodation is unsuitable, then at least the family should be certified as approved for housing. If the room or dwelling is unfit, that should be certified and that family should be included on a list of those in need of housing and approved for housing, not approved in any order of priority but approved for housing. In this year of 1967, surely one cannot argue that a man, wife and baby are housed properly if they are living in a room where there is no separate toilet, no separate heating system, no separate chimney. Medical officers fall back on the test of cubic capacity. Are we therefore to accept in 1967 that whether a room is 1,200 cubic feet or 1,600 cubic feet, it is suitable housing for a man and his wife to carry on the business of living, suitable in which to bring forth a child and to rear it, suitable to have friends and relatives in as visitors? That is the position today.

If one goes through the records of any local authority, particularly the Dublin authorities, one will find many cases of married couples with a child but they are not recorded as being in need of accommodation because they have a room. The Minister can change that system which operates on the cubic capacity of the room. I admit that the situation has improved. Not too many years ago, I tried to get rehoused a family living in one of the beautiful Georgian rooms in Mountjoy Square. The ceiling was 14 feet high; the room was 18 ft. by 12 ft. The water was on the landing below and the toilet was below in the back garden. A man and his wife and three children lived in that room but the cubic capacity was counted all the way up to the ceiling. The ceiling height has since been brought down to 8 ft because of efforts made by people to ensure that families living in such circumstances should not be refused priority in housing lists because there was six feet of air space above them.

We have the Minister for Local Government, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance telling us that the future rests with the youth of the country. Side by side with it, when a man and his wife with a little baby go to the local authority and say they want to be listed for housing, they will be refused because they have a room with a cubic capacity of 1,250 feet. They are not put on the approved list. I realise, of course, as most other Deputies, that even if such people are put on the approved list, they may have to wait a long time before they get any further; but at least there will be hope and at least we in the House and the public at large will have a clearer concept of the problem facing us.

It is quite easy to say that in a city like Dublin there are 10,000 on the housing list, of whom 4,500 or 5,000 have been approved for accommodation. The Minister for Local Government can say, as has happened in the past, that the effective list is not 10,000 but 4,500. In such circumstances, everybody thinks a good job of work is being done. They do not realise that the list does not include people who should be regarded as being in need of accommodation.

I realise that decisions on housing today by a local authority cannot possibly be put into operation for some time and I realise that even with the best intentions in the world and with dedication to duty by everybody concerned, there can be high periods and valley periods. The Minister referred to it in a recent television broadcast but he was again not correct when he said that 1958 was the year in which there was the greatest number of vacancies. On this entire question, is it not much better to have a surplus of dwellings rather than a shortage? In Dublin we have an accumulating problem: people are being married; there is increasing obsolescence of dwellings; and there is the question of transfers. Our programmes so far have no definite provision for dealing with dwellings constructed 40 years ago.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 7th December, 1967.