With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 44 together.
In the January-March quarter of 1969, approximately 64 per cent of persons borrowing house-purchase loans from local authorities had incomes of less than £1,050 a year. The remainder, almost without exception, had incomes not exceeding the limit of £1,200 a year. The value of applications for loans with local authorities at 31st March, 1969, was £9.4 million compared with £6.1 million at 31st March, 1968. On these figures, the existing income limits clearly do not inhibit the successful operation of the scheme, and I do not propose at present to increase them.
Local authorities may advance loans, without reference to the income limit, to tenants of local authority houses who surrender their tenancies on getting a loan and to persons whose loans are financed from sources other than the Local Loans Fund.
The determination of income for loan purposes is, by law, a matter for the local authority. Authorities generally determine income by reference to gross earnings, but I advised them by circular letter H.6/68 of 17th May, 1968, to adopt a liberal interpretation in assessing overtime, where, for example, a person has worked an unusual amount of overtime in a particular year in order to accumulate funds for the initial deposit on a house, on marriage.
Supplementary grants are outright cash payments to the recipients. House purchase loans are repayable by the borrower on terms which generally cover the full cost. Different limits for grants and loans are, therefore, not anomalous and I do not propose, at present, to widen the loan scheme in the way the Deputy suggests.