Last night I referred to the provisions for the financing of housing and the housing drive. I want to refer to it again this evening because I feel that since the foundation of the State we have made progress under various Governments towards easing the housing problem. In recent years we have increased the tempo of the housing drive. Today for one reason or another, various groups in this city particularly are making an issue of housing not, perhaps, to help us to ease the housing shortage but for reasons of their own. They can cause a lot of trouble, indeed, and impede housing progress because by their action they take away the concentration which is necessary if we are to reduce our housing problem to the smallest possible proportion. To the people who agitate I would suggest that they should take some definite action and try to emulate bodies like the Methodist Church, the Catholic Housing Aid Society, the Soroptomists, the Legion of Mary, and other voluntary bodies who have shown their interest in the housing problem by taking definite steps to provide more dwellings.
In this city of ours at the moment, no one will deny that we have a housing problem. I am glad to see that in his Budget the Minister provided almost £30 million for housing. Included in that sum is £1 million to Dublin Corporation to purchase more land for housing. Of course, £30 million is not the total of what will be spent on housing in this city. The corporation will spend about £10 million on housing also and, included in that, will be a subvention from the Government. With regard to the private sector which will be building houses, in most cases they will qualify for a grant of £275. I am trying to point out to the people who are really and genuinely interested in our housing problem that we are tackling it in a realistic way.
Under construction in the Dublin city areas at the moment there are 2,100 dwellings. Tenders have been received for 1,100, and development work is taking place for 2,500. That gives a total of 6,000 dwellings being constructed by Dublin Corporation alone. I am not including those being provided by the private sector or the charitable bodies I mentioned who all have the same worthy motive of reducing the housing problem in the city to the smallest possible proportion. In a little over two years these dwellings will be completed.
If we take the waiting list as being 1,000 people—and I should point out that the waiting list approved by the city medical officer is only half that total—we should not be lulled by those figures into thinking that we have solved the housing problem. As I said before, the only city which ever solved its housing problem is a dead city. The last census showed that for the first time in a century the population of this part of the country had increased by just over 60,000. In the various plans made we expect a much greater increase in population in the next decade and, indeed, up to the 1980s. We must gear our housing output, therefore, to provide for those people.
I have no official figures on emigration, but most of us will realise that emigration is dropping rapidly. We must also face the fact that the drift of population is towards the east coast and that Dublin takes most of this increase. So, it is unfair to suggest, as has been said, that we have not made progress. It might be said that if the population of Dublin city stayed at 300,000, let us say, we would have no housing shortage now, but because there was an increase in population there will be a housing problem for many years to come. However, I am optimistic enough to hope that in a very short while there will be no such thing as an acute housing problem. Therefore, I think that the Minister for Finance, who has been thanked so much on other aspects, should be thanked most sincerely for his provision for housing.
Up to recently I and other members of this House were also members of Dublin Corporation. Unfortunately, the corporation is gone, and whether it was through the action or inaction of its members, this is not the place to discuss. I regret its passing but my regret is tinged with this comforting thought that the city manager and the Commissioner appointed by the Minister for Local Government will ensure that the housing drive is not impeded because of the absence of the city council. I do not want to speak any more on that subject, because it is generally realised now that by refusing to strike the rate the city council acted in a very silly manner, and it is unfortunate that those members of all Parties who had rendered such great service to the city cannot now do so because of their action in forcing the Minister to abolish the corporation.
In speaking of the city and, indeed, of the whole country, let me mention the rates problem to which the Minister referred in his Budget speech. The payment of rates is a tremendous problem to many of our people. Take the widow who has been left a house by her husband. He perhaps, thought he was providing adequately for his widow's future, but the rates continue to increase as the cost of living increases. There is no easy way out of the rating problem.
Across Channel they have had the same system as we have, though they do not have the health impost on the rates; yet in the city of London they were considering doubling all commercial and industrial valuations in order to try to arrest the colossal rise in rates. I mention this for the benefit of those people who seem to think that if the Government removed the health impost from the Dublin rates everything in the garden would be lovely. Of course, this is not true. This is a very deep problem and, again referring to the situation across Channel, they carried out a comprehensive investigation of the rates problem there, and the Association of Municipal Authorities of Britain, having carried out this great probe of the rating system, almost admitted that there was no solution. I think a solution can be found, but the solution we seek is the one which would ease the burden on those least able to pay rates. I would again put forward to the Government the suggestion I made last year, that was, that the remissions given under the present rating system should be reviewed. At the time I pointed out that if certain public utilities were made pay their rates and if the contributions to the universities, the law societies, and the King's Inns were spread over the whole country the burden would not be felt generally over the whole country but the Dublin rate could be reduced by 14s in the £. There was no reason why this should not be done. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Deputy Blaney, set up a committee to probe the whole rates problem, and they have made some progress. They have issued three reports so far and we await a fourth and, we hope, final one with their findings.
In their first report this committee stated that the present rating system was inequitable and should be replaced by a more equitable one. We look forward hopefully to the day when this will be done because there are many of our young people not alone in Dublin but in all urban areas and in the rural areas who, when they marry, have difficulty in buying their own house. Any young people buying their own house today must make tremendous sacrifices to find the necessary deposit and then be able to pay their way after getting their house. To revert again to the Dublin Corporation, there is a scheme for tenant purchase houses which are let at a deposit of £150 which is payable in instalments. It would make a great contribution to solving the housing problem and the difficulties of young people if there were more of these schemes.
This year and next year will see a tremendous breakthrough on these schemes. At the moment there are couples living in furnished flats paying exorbitant rents while waiting for the day when they will get a house. It behoves each one of us—I do not want to claim that my Party here have any monopoly of sincerity in their desire to end the housing shortage—to do everything possible in order to ensure that more dwellings will be built. However, even had the Government doubled the allocation for housing this year I do not know if we would have made much more progress, because in the craft section of the building industry there is full employment and a shortage of labour; there is also a shortage of housing sites. The Minister has helped the city council here by providing £6 million to buy more land and the corporation have 2,000 or 3,000 acres available for development. I am not being unduly optimistic when I say to our critics that we are making progress at a very great rate indeed. If the economy can be kept in its present buoyant stage so that it can support the present housing drive, I see no reason why, within a very short number of years, this city of ours should not rank as one of the best housed in Europe or in these islands.
The Minister introduced a biblical touch into his Budget speech when he mentioned that there was more to life than merely material things, and he has provided some relief for artists in order that they could pursue their distinctive arts and not be taxed in this respect. I am afraid I am something of a Philistine as regards art but I do appreciate the Minister's gesture towards art and I hope it will help artists to produce work which the ordinary citizen can understand and appreciate, whether it be literature, sculpture or painting. The Minister also allocated £100,000 for sports organisations, and Deputy Andrews made a very good speech on this matter, but I disagree with him in his anxiety for specialisation. This is the age of specialisation. It is also an age in which we are faced with great problems from the point of view of youth, problems which must disturb all of us. The sum provided by the Minister is not a very large sum, but it is at least a gesture and it is an indication of what the future may hold. The Minister has taken definite steps to help. He is proposing to set up a body to administer this £100,000. I suggest this body should be representative of the entire country because there are a number of sporting organisations which embrace the whole country and it is notable that these organisations are the most successful sporting organisations.
I am against specialisation. It does not matter whether our athletes win Olympic medals. What is important is that we should have sufficient playing fields in our cities and towns, where the young may take part in athletics. We are very short of playing fields here in Dublin. Some years ago the Dublin Corporation initiated a scheme to cost £100,000 to provide playing fields. The sad thing is that, because there is such a lack of playing fields, there are teams which can get a game only every second week. I hope that the money provided by the Minister will go towards providing more facilities for recreation. If the facilities are there the champions will emerge and. when they do, we will be very proud of them. Instead of watching star performers on the pitches the young men should themselves be playing games; they can watch the stars when they have no match of their own. With sufficient facilities we could have a very healthy youth, healthy in body and healthy in mind. Indeed, as facilities improve, I believe juvenile delinquency will drop. Some may scoff at this provision of £100,000. A First Division soccer player in Britain is sold for twice that and Pele of Brazil would command three times that amount. But that is not the point. We have our own problems. We must provide facilities for the greatest numbers. The stars will emerge because nothing will keep good men down. I would be happier to have thousands of our boys playing football or hurling than if we won one or two gold medals in the Olympics.
This is the age of leisure. As automation increases the working week will grow shorter and shorter and young and not so young must be provided with facilities for spending their leisure time. We must not make the mistakes that other industrialised countries made in their cities and towns. We must provide ample facilities for sports of all kinds and for all ages. I do not suggest the provision of these facilities to counteract other less desirable pursuits. I suggest we should provide them because sports are good in themselves.
The needs of the old from the point of view of housing are now being catered for and the Minister for Local Government has instituted generous grants to provide specialised housing for the aged. The idea today is to provide a building with a communal diningroom because we discovered there was a problem about proper feeding. In these diningrooms the aged will be able to have one really good meal in the day and they can cater for themselves in their own rooms if they require light repasts. They will not be living in the lap of luxury. Neither will they have gargantuan feasts, but they will have one good meal every day.
The Minister for Finance has been criticised because, it is alleged, he suggested at some point of time that we were facing a crisis. The Minister is one of the most able men in the House and he would be the last to start scares. What he did was to get the whole picture across to the entire country. He paid tribute in his Budget speech to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and I think we all endorse that tribute. The congress acted very responsibly indeed. Like the rest of us, they have their own troubles. It is very often harder for them to act in an impartial manner than it is for others. But they have done so and the Minister has recorded his appreciation of that.
It has been suggested there may be a general election and the Budget was designed with that possibility in view. I should not like to think that the Budget was designed purely for vote-catching purposes. A Government gains or loses votes by its record and, if the Budget is a good one, then it is a case of virtue being its own reward. The fact that the Minister has been able to look after the aged and the infirm and to increase children's allowances will stand to his credit and to the credit of the Government, whether or not it is an election year. We can take heart from the fact that the Government during their term of office have been able to build up our economy so that in the last decade we have been able to double the amount spent on social services.
I have heard some Deputies saying that we have the lowest expenditure on social services in Europe. There are other countries which are very much ahead of us, but the fact is that all the time we are improving. I would emphasise again, if it needs emphasising, that unless the economy is buoyant and the money is there we cannot help anybody. The Minister and the Government are to be praised for this good Budget. I have not heard one person saying that it is a bad Budget although I have heard the Minister being criticised for his tax on office buildings. The critics say that it is an unfair tax and that if the legislation governing office accommodation for workers in the city were really applied many people, including public authorities, would be in queer street and therefore that to tax office accommodation is as wrong as it would be to tax, say, housing accommodation. I think what the Minister had in mind was to divert more capital and labour to housing and away from the building of office blocks.
I do not join in this condemnation of office blocks. Most office blocks accommodate workers who require proper accommodation. If we had the housing problem reduced to the minimum we would be able to look at these matters in a more appropriate way rather than in a petty way. I know that we cannot reach all our targets at once and that we have to set priorities and I am sure most Members would agree that housing must continue to be a top priority. There are many calls made on the Minister and he has met them. I am not an authority on agriculture but looking at the allocation for agriculture I feel that the farming community have not done badly. In regard to health I would suggest that there is one section of our people, a small section, who suffer because they do not get any kind of benefit or grant. I am referring to people who have to remain for long periods in hospitals and institutions. I am a member of a board of a hospital in which people have been sick for 30 years. In some cases their families have died out and there is nobody to visit them except representatives of charitable organisations. Surely a person who has been ill in hospital for 30 years should be entitled to some grant from the Central Fund to buy even the small things which he wants? I know that they are well looked after, they get good food and they are in good quarters but they have no independence. They must depend on the local people, the charitable organisations or the governors, to bring in small things to them. If a person has been in hospital for a certain time, with little hope of being cured, the disability allowance should be extended to cover him or her. This would not cost a great deal but it would bring a great deal of happiness to the people concerned.
It has been said that if anything goes short education should certainly not go short. We welcome the great breakthrough which has taken place in education in the last few years. However much more requires to be done because of the problems which are involved particularly in regard to boys and girls leaving primary schools, the vast majority of whose education finishes at 14. We also have the problem of the drop-outs in vocational education and this is something the Government cannot stop. If we perfect our educational establishments and really have a system whereby any boy or girl who wants to go to university can go then we would have made great progress. I should like to pay tribute to the various Ministers for Education who made the great breakthrough but, at the same time, there are families in the lower income group who have not got a great deal of hope of putting a son through university without making sacrifices. Be it said that our parents are always ready to make these sacrifices, but we should not impose too much on them and we should make it possible for their children to go to universities if they wish.
The Minister stated that each Budget should take our people on the road to better living and prosperity, and we would not have a prosperous community if we had a bad educational system. Countries like West Germany and Japan have realised the importance of education and have so trained their technicians that today they are leading the world in technology. West Germany is probably the most prosperous country the world has ever seen. They have reached this position because they do not spend money foolishly and because of the expertise of their technicians. They have been able to build up their country to the point where their economy is so buoyant that they can now lend money to countries which won the war.
The social welfare policies of the Government have been excellent and, while nobody would say that we are satisfied with the position, the proposal to grant the old age pensions at 65 is a welcome one. In this we are keeping in step with modern Europe. Finally, I want to say that the Minister, through this Budget, has shown himself to be one of the ablest Ministers we have had. I look forward to next year's Budget when a new Dáil will have been elected and can only hope that the Minister who introduces next year's Budget will introduce one on a par with that brought in by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Haughey, this year.