National Building Agency Limited (Amendment) Bill, 1969: Second Stage.

Tairgim go léafar an Bille don Tarna Uair.

`Sé aidhm an Bhille teorann na nairleachan agus na ráthaíochtaí atá ar fáil don Gníomhaireacht Foirgníochta Náisiúta i gcóir tithíochta do thionsclaíocht a mhéadú ó £2m. go dtí £5m.

The agency was set up in 1960 as a company under the Companies Acts with the primary object of facilitating industrial expansion through the provision of houses and ancillary services where this need could not be met appropriately by local authorities or was not being catered for by private enterprise. It was placed on a statutory basis by the National Building Agency Limited Act, 1963. Two years later the scope of the agency's activities was extended to cover any housing or related operations which the Minister for Local Government might assign to it from time to time.

The work of the agency now falls into three broad categories—the provision of housing and ancillary services related to industrial expansion, the provision of houses for State employees whose duties involve occasional transfers of residence for them, and housing operations undertaken on behalf of local authorities. It is with the first of these categories that this Bill is concerned.

The agency's industrial housing service is comprehensive and extends to the acquisition of land, the design and planning of the scheme and the financing and construction of the houses. Within broad policy outlines determined by me, industrial housing is provided by the agency in consultation with the various Departments concerned, the Industrial Development Authority and the local housing authority. Normally the dwellings are provided at the request of individual industries and are financed by way of mortgage loans, granted by the agency either to the firms or to nominated individual employees, and by the usual State and local grants. A small proportion of houses is provided for letting.

In the industrial growth centres of Galway and Waterford special arrangements have been made with An Foras Tionscal to provide industrial housing on a more general basis related to the anticipated growth of the industrial estates as a whole, rather than for specific industries. As indicated in the recent White PaperHousing in the Seventies, it is intended to extend these arrangements to the provision of housing for industry on a more general basis, to the order of the Industrial Development Authority. A wider role is also envisaged for housing authorities in this field by the decision that houses built by the agency, in association with local authorities, for key workers in new or expanding industry should qualify for subsidy at the higher rate.

The agency's operations for the provision of housing, and ancillary services related to industrial expansion, are financed by repayable advances made by the Minister for Finance under section 6 of the 1963 Act. Provision is also made in section 7 of the Act for the Minister for Local Government to guarantee moneys borrowed for this purpose by the agency. Under section 9 of the 1963 Act, the aggregate at any time of advances and guaranteed borrowing obtained by the agency and still unrepaid may not exceed £2 million. No guarantee has as yet been given under section 7, but the full amount of £2 million has been advanced to the agency under section 6. The accounts of the agency are laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

By the 30th September, 1969, a total of 751 houses for industry had been completed by the agency, 109 were then under construction and 378 were being planned. It is estimated that further advances amounting to £3 million will be required over the next five years or or so to finance the agency's industrial housing activities, hence the proposal that the limit of £2 million specified by section 9 of the 1963 Act should be increased to £5 million.

This seems to be a relatively simple Bill. The Minister has told us that he envisages increased and expanding activity in the National Building Agency and is seeking an extension of lending permission from £2 million to £5 million. I am sorry that the information which has been made available by the National Building Agency in regard to their activities in general has been rather scant. One would expect that an agency which engaged in such extensive activities, particularly over the last couple of years, would give more comprehensive information in their annual report than they do. I had occasion to look up their annual reports dating back to 1960-61. They have submitted about eight reports and while it was understandable that they would not have as much information in the early reports I was surprised at how little one could glean from looking at them. There was a question tabled yesterday by Deputy Bruton as to when the various reports were laid before the House and I have a copy of the reply here. It states that in 1964 the report was produced on 3rd December; the report for 1965 was produced on 13th January, 1966; the report for 1966 was produced on 3rd February, 1967, and the reports for 1967 and 1968 respectively were both presented on the same day, 27th March, 1969. I cannot understand why two different annual reports should be laid before the House on the same date. I am sure the Comptroller and Auditor General audits these reports and I am sure he had completed his audit before then but, whether he had or not, the report for 1967 was not laid on the Table of the House for a year afterwards.

Again, the report merely contains a balance sheet, an income and expenditure account and just one page from the managing director. There is very little information as to where the houses are being built or the number in each area. One would expect an agency handling some millions to state at least where the houses were built and how many in each area. That kind of general information should be given. I would ask the Minister to ensure that the reports in future are not limited to just one page, a page which is a simple summary of the auditor's figures and fails to go into detail in relation to the housing activities in general of the National Building Agency. I do not know whether some special report goes to the Minister, but this is the only one we were told about when Deputy Bruton put down this Parliamentary Question.

It is our duty to offer criticism of the activities of a body of this kind, particularly when such bodies come before the House looking for extra financial help. I want to deal now with one particular instance in which the NBA was concerned in my constituency of South Tipperary. I refer to the Ballingarry mines housing estate. For many years these mines were under government management and considerable sums were spent on their operation. Ultimately they were sold to the present proprietor. They were an immediate success, providing good employment and good wages on a production basis. There was, however, always a difficulty about housing and buses had to bring workers for surrounding villages to Ballingarry. Believing housing might help to solve labour difficulties, the proprietor approached South Tipperary County Council time and again but, despite the fact that Fianna Fáil is the largest political party in that local authority and the gentleman in question is a strong supporter of the party, the council could not be persuaded to provide houses. The main objection came from the then county manager who believed that the provision of houses for one employer as against other employers was not justified. He also took the view that if the mines failed—mining is a speculative business —one might be left with a number of houses on one's hands. The proprietor failed to get the houses built by the county council. With the advent of the National Building Agency, he presumably approached that body. As far as mining was concerned, he was an excellent operator and he made a great success of the mines, having received, of course, considerable financial help in the way of grants from An Foras Tionscal.

Now the National Building Agency were not as optimistic as he was from the point of view of the number of houses the proprietor would be able to fill and they cut down his demand considerably but they did, however, build a number of houses outside the village of Killenaule. A number of these houses are now unoccupied and are falling into decay. A local agent is running around trying to get them off the agency's hands. In South Tipperary we have not got the demand locally for these houses and no one from other parts of the local authority area is prepared to come in and take the houses, even through there are schools, shops and so forth in the area. It looks as if they will be a drag on the hands of the NBA or on our hands if we purchase them. I believe the building of these houses was an error on the part of the NBA, an error made in all good faith, perhaps, but an error which has created considerable local comment. Because of the political associations of the man for whom the houses were built it is widely accepted that the National Building Agency were pressurised into building this housing estate for the Fianna Fáil proprietor of Ballingarry mines.

I would ask the Minister to elucidate one point in the reports and returns which I quite fail to understand. I am not an accountant. I understand the Minister is an experienced one and he may, perhaps, be able to help me. The manager, Mr. Kearns, in the second last and in the last report gives a summary of the expenditure to date under the headings of State housing, local authority housing, health authority housing and industrial authority housing. He gives a figure for State housing of £1,055,565; he gives a figure for local authority housing of £3,173,698; he gives a figure for health authority housing of £6,102 and for industrial housing as £105,086. This makes a total figure of £4,340,451. Then, for 1967-68, the figure for local authority housing jumps from £3 million odd to £8 million odd. I am unable to reconcile that figure with the audited returns and perhaps the Minister when replying will explain it to me because it would seem that if you are comparing like with like the figure should be £3,884,788. I would ask the Minister if he would explain that because I was quite unable to understand it. I am sure there is a good explanation for it. Certainly, it is beyond me.

This National Building Agency raises in a very pertinent form the entire question of the Minister's Department and the question of planning control. There is a Bill coming before the House entitled Local Government (Planning and Development) No. 2 Bill, 1969, which has not yet been printed. I do not know whether the Minister in that Bill contemplates setting up some other authority to deal with planning appeals rather than his own Department and himself. Here we have a National Building Agency. I am jealous of the reputation of Government Departments and of administration generally, but I feel that here we have rather exposed ourselves. We have a National Building Agency to which appointments of the directors are made by the Minister and made annually, I believe. It is the Minister who is responsible for feeding this organisation with the necessary funds with which they operate. This is an organisation which can buy up property, can develop property and can expend considerable amounts of money and yet this is an organisation which must subject itself to planning controls the same as every other enterprise, individual or local authority. Local authorities conduct their affairs in a more open fashion. You can speak of them as following the practice of open conventions more openly arrived at. Private developers are utilising their own money. But, here is a building agency utilising public money, utilising it as a developer and under the control of the Minister for Local Government and if they look for a planning appeal they go back to that same Minister. I believe you have a kind of circular arrangement here which is undesirable.

I think the Minister should take another hard look at the situation, particularly now that it becomes very obvious when one sits back and reflects on the position of the National Building Agency. The Minister should consider seriously and consider it in the new Planning Bill that he is introducing or in any amendments that may be introduced to that Planning Bill to that effect, the question of divesting himself, for his own sake, of this authority as being the final arbiter of all planning appeals which may come before him. When you consider a body like the National Building Agency that is so closely interlocked with the Minister's own Department and his own activities, it would be desirable in a case like that that planning appeals from such a body—indeed all planning appeals—should be submitted to some kind of public tribunal so that, to quote the old aphorism, not alone is justice done but that it may be seen to be done. I would urge the Minister strongly to consider that aspect of the administration of his Department and particularly with respect to the question of planning appeals.

The Labour Party Deputies certainly welcome the introduction of this Bill. The Minister is to be commended for showing foresight in its introduction.

The construction industry, as we know, in this country, now employs the best part of 96,000 people in the public and private sectors and any legislative innovation such as we have before us this afternoon which will extend that major sector of the economy most certainly is worthy of support. At the same time, I should like to make a number of observations on the Bill.

In the first instance, I would suggest to the Minister, on a tentative basis, that while undoubtedly at the moment we are faced with a very scarce allocation of the national resources, it may well be that in a few years, a very short period of time, if the NBA extends as we would wish it to extend, he may be back looking for a sum well in excess of the £3 million allegedly required here for the next five years. If expansion of the size that we would wish to see does, in fact, take place, then an increase from £2 million to £5 million may not be adequate. That is the first point that I should like the Minister to consider.

Secondly, it can be said that the record of the NBA, notwithstanding the fact that it did not assume statutory functions until 1963, while laudable and acceptable, has been one of slow growth overall. I do not think that we can record ourselves as being entirely satisfied with the position, as indicated by the Minister, that a total of 751 houses for industry have been completed by the agency, that there are currently 109 under construction and that 378 are being planned.

I am aware that the Minister both currently and in the pasts has had, perhaps, a surfeit of complaint that not enough houses are, in fact, being built. Frankly, we would envisage a much greater expansion of the role of the NBA. I would respectfully suggest that when one considers the far greater dynamism displayed in Northern Ireland, particularly by the Northern Ireland Housing Trust, in the provision of industrial housing and of housing for key workers in key areas and growth centres, there is a lesson to be learned here and an example which we could very usefully follow. Their rate of expansion in house building and in industrial house building has been much more effective than ours and has made a major contribution to industrial development in Northern Ireland.

In supporting this Bill I would point out to the Minister and to the House the critical situation which exists in many of the major urban areas in this country in respect of industrial housing. It is no secret that houses are at a premium. In such major growth areas as Galway and Drogheda, industrial workers are being exploited in the matter of rents. These areas could do with very rapid expansion on the part of the National Building Agency bearing in mind that many local authorities are rather sluggish in regard to advanced planning and preparation for industrial expansion.

We are sanctioning today an increase to £5 million. Government policy in relation to ancillary services and in relation to industrial expansion generally should urgently be clarified. The previous Deputy mentioned Ballingarry. Unless Government policy is clarified it could happen that a good deal of money would be misallocated on an area basis. If I were working in the IDA, I should find it rather difficult to be precise, particularly in long-term indications to the NBA, when I would be unaware of the Government's decisions in relation to the vital Buchanan Report. The end result might be a situation of increased capital being given to the NBA, with it necessarily going off and working on its own volition, at the request of local authorities, of Government Departments, of the IDA, and so on, when, in two or three years time, the other outlines of the policy decisions of the Government in relation to the Buchanan Report could affect quite dramatically the allocation of these scarce resources. This is an interwining of State policy with that of industrial development which is lacking in this country at the moment due to the reluctance of the Cabinet to face up to difficult decisions. There seems to be a complete inability to ensure that development.

Therefore, we certainly welcome this Bill. I have no doubt but that, in time, the NBA will expand quite rapidly. It is quite in accord with the policy repeatedly advanced in this House by the Labour Party that there should be State responsibility, national responsibility, for the development of housing, particularly housing for industrial workers so that they would not be at the mercy of the capital market in areas close to major industrial growth centres and in suburban areas.

The NBA is now nine years in existence. My experience, though not very wide, has at least been extensive enough on the trade union side and I regard the Department of Local Government and its allied agencies as the best in the State in terms of Government Departments. Certainly, I rank it as vastly more effective, progressive, farseeing and generally more enlightened than the other Government Departments. However, I do think there is sufficient internal imagination in that Department that could very usefully be harnessed. Perhaps, the Minister would consider issuing a White Paper on the future role of State expansion of industrial housing in Ireland. The NBA has been of slow growth. It is now almost a decade in operation. I have in mind a White Paper analysing particularly the experience of the NBA in relation to contracts it has placed; in relation, perhaps, to the NBA itself taking much more initiative in undertaking construction projects; its experience in planning and in relation to local authority applications and so on. A co-ordination of the experiences of the NBA in those regards would be extremely welcome.

In brief, the sum is inadequate. We should like to see a greater expansion of the role of the NBA. We should like a White Paper on this essential aspect of national development. It is difficult to talk about this in the absence of the Buchanan Report and the Government decisions in relation thereto. Nevertheless, we give full welcome to this Bill. We wish the expansion of the NBA every success notwithstanding the reservations recently expressed by Mr. Reynolds of the Federation of Builders on State involvement in certain types of construction projects.

We do not, I think, share his view. We wish to see a more rapid expansion of this agency in the years ahead.

I should like to associate myself with the support expressed of this agency. Its effectiveness is indicated in the Minister's speech and also in positive results at Ballymun and elsewhere in largescale development. It has brought new techniques to Irish workers. It has coordinated very well with the trade union movement in a very effective way in that particular development at Ballymun in relation to which we in the city must appreciate the efforts of the agency in overcoming the many difficulties and obstacles placed in its way from time to time. The positive result is there now. I am quite sure that, with additional capital, it can go much further afield.

I am quite certain that many industrialists in this country are not aware of the facilities offered by the NBA in relation to house-building for workers. I suggest that the Minister or his. Department should give further publicity to the facilities which are available. We may have industrial concerns who have an appreciation of their workers and who would be prepared to erect and develop houses for their workers, thus assisting the authorities in the city area in the relief of the housing shortage. This is what we would expect by virtue of the fact that they attract many skilled workers from outside the city area. Industrialists have themselves a responsibility to such workers to ensure that homes are provided for them. We have an effective agency here to assist them in that respect. I would ask the Minister to publicise the fact that such an agency is available which can assist industrialists in having houses built for the types of skilled workers required in some development industries within the city limits. This may also apply to other areas but I am mainly concerned with the city where there is a housing shortage. Furthermore, the housing shortage may have hampered the return of some such people from abroad. I am quite sure that if some of the industrialists were aware of the full position they would be only too happy to avail in some small way of the services which are there for the asking.

Once again, I want to associate myself with the work that has been done and particularly with the Minister's foresight in relation to all the developments in recent times and the projected developments in Tallaght and elsewhere that are being brought along by this agency.

I welcome this Bill because it provides an extra £3 million for the building of houses for key workers in industry. Indeed, if we are to expand in the industrial sphere we cannot expect emigrants to come home unless we have adequate housing.

Having said that, I wonder whether the National Building Agency is superfluous to the needs of this country. Local authorities have done excellent work in providing houses and I see no reason why the Minister could not have worked with the local authorities to provide these houses. It leads me to wonder whether this is a move by the Minister's Department to hive off the powers of local authorities in the matter of housing. I am sure the Minister could clarify his Department's stand on this issue.

I would be grateful also if the Minister could tell the House the procedure which the agency adopts for building new houses. Is it by tender? Is it by direct labour or is it by the Minister sanctioning a particular building company? This is a rather important issue and I have no doubt that the Minister will clarify it for me. I certainly hope it is not by the method whereby the Minister himself sanctions and appoints a particular building company.

I should like to know also what powers the actual agency have in taking on employees and what power the Minister holds over any decisionmaking policies within the agency. I should also like to know the rates of interest which the Minister for Finance demands on loans to the NBA. I hope the rate is a nominal one because we are very short of houses for key workers throughout the country and I can assure Deputy Dowling that there is a shortage of houses throughout the country as well as in Dublin city.

I welcome this measure and I pay tribute to the National Building Agency for the very excellent work they have done in recent years. In my experience they have fulfilled a very welcome purpose especially when they operated in conjunction with local authorities for the erection of houses for the working classes and I would be concerned if in respect of the £3 million we are providing today it would be provided solely for industrial activities. I appreciate the importance of industrial expansion and the necessity of providing houses for industrial workers. It is very laudable, indeed, but to confine the National Building Agency to industrial activities of this kind would in my opinion be lamentable.

The National Building Agency have provided homes for categories of people who could not afford to build houses of their own, who could not take upon themselves the commitments involved in repaying the normal type a loan that goes with the erection of a house today. By reason of the utilities which the NBA devised they were, most commendably, able to bring down costs and to bring houses within the means of the ordinary working classes. I refer to the category of workers in the £800 to £1,000 a year bracket—the tradesmen, the artisans, the industrial workers of this country. These are people who would normally have to be rehoused by the local authority, who could not rise to a home of their own and who were pleased to avail of the opportunities provided by the NBA to take on the reasonable commitments there and the very definite lower repayments on the loans which were offered by the NBA.

The houses which the NBA have been building have not been of the traditional type. They have been devising their own plans. The industrial unit type of house or the semi-prefabricated type of house is the house which we have seen erected by the NBA. Consequently, costs were lower, consequently these categories of persons to whom I referred were able to avail of them. However, I want to sound a note of admonition here. By reason of the alleged lowering of standards from the traditional type of house I fear that the NBA house may quite quickly get a bad reputation. This is not to say that they have been badly built but the durability of this type of house is very definitely in question. I should like the Minister to ease our minds in that regard, to ease the minds of all those people who have committed themselves to this type of home. I hope he can tell us that they are as durable as the traditional type of house and that they will not require the kind of annual repairs that many envisage.

My colleague, Deputy Hogan, has already referred to housing schemes within our constituency. If the Minister were to pass along by Ballingarry tomorrow and look at the NBA scheme there—a very lovely scheme originally —he would see that today it presents an appalling appearance—houses clearly dilapidated, with windows boarded up with sheets of galvanise and materials of that kind. The lovely scheme that we envisaged there is now a colossal eyesore. It is a blot on the map of Killenaule, the town in which these houses were erected.

The plain truth of the matter is that the sponsor of this scheme was unable to provide the number of families earlier envisaged for rehousing. The need was not there seemingly for a grandiose scheme of this kind. Our council in Tipperary South Riding are anxious to secure some of these houses for the rehousing of our own people and we are in active negotiation with the agents or the owners of this property towards that end. However, it is worrying in the extreme to see the deterioration which has obviously taken place in this scheme in a relatively short time. True it is that many of these houses were never occupied. True it is that when a house is unoccupied, neglected in this manner, it does deteriorate, but there are reservations about this type of house. There are misgivings about this type of house especially as regards maintenance and durability and I should like the Minister to clear up our anxieties in that respect.

I should like to see the NBA coming to the rescue of our housing authorities, many of which are clearly remiss in rehousing the working classes and in directing their energies towards this end in a definite and urgent way. I, therefore, hope the local authorities can continue to call on the NBA for aid in rehousing our people. I should like to see the NBA aiding and stimulating the activities of housing authorities rather than that they should be regarded as builders in industrial estates only. They have been building houses for State employees, assisting local authorities in providing housing for workers and also building in industrial estates. There is no reason why they should not continue this three-pronged activity.

The Minister is aware of the many questions asked in the House about NBA houses in our constituencies. We had a very pleasing group of houses erected at Gurtmalogue, Clonmel. They were quickly taken up by the Clonmel workers and there was no difficulty in finding tenants for them but we were perturbed at the long list of defects which became evident in this scheme and in respect of which we could get no redress without raising the matter here. The defects were numerous. Some were minor but others were certainly serious and we were concerned about the undue delay involved in getting the NBA to acknowledge the defects, in the first instance, and in getting the contractor back to carry out necessary repairs.

We had another difficulty in respect of the otherwise very excellent lay-out of the grounds around these houses. The frontages of the houses were open and devoid of any railings or walls and presented a very pleasing appearance. I approve of open frontages and would like to see this kind of frontage extended to different parts of the country. But when it comes to the provision of electric current in this case, instead of the cables being laid underground, poles and overhead wiring were suggested. Any layman would know instinctively that these poles and cables would utterly destroy the fine, open appearance of the frontages concerned. I hope that problem has been amicably resolved now.

We are glad to see the State engaged in this important job of house building when so many thousands of our people are homeless and so many local authorities remiss in discharging their obligations and when there is a threat of a capital shortage for this essential work. It is good to know that there will be a State agency in existence with the task of helping to resolve this great problem.

That is why we support this measure very strongly and our only anxiety is, as I have said, in respect of the type of house which the NBA have been providing. We should endeavour to clear up certain anxieties about the future type of house. While we are concerned to economise we should also ensure that the type of house we build will be as durable as the traditional type to which we are accustomed. When replying, the Minister might let me know if, in fact, there is much discussion of the type of house the NBA propose to erect in the future. I should hate to think that we would supply a stock type of house indiscriminately all over the country and certainly, in the many schemes I have seen I found that stock type of NBA house with two colour tones, industrial unit construction, prefabricated in part. This may make for efficiency, reduce costs and so on but if that type of house gets a bad name there is no point in continuing to construct it.

With these sentiments I support the measure and wish the NBA every success in their efforts to resolve the problem of the homeless. I hope they will not be restricted in that project and that while the Bill mentions industrial purposes the Minister will clear up any misunderstanding that may exist and make it clear that this will not inhibit the NBA from embarking on the traditional type of work in which it has been engaging such as housing State servants and, in particular, aiding local authorities to resolve their individual housing problem.

This is a very short Bill and my remarks will be equally brief. The Bill gives the House and opportunity of welcoming yet another measure from the Minister for Local Government and is further evidence of his dedication to the housing problem generally. The fact that the Bill has been welcomed by all sides of the House shows the sincere desire of all parties that we should deal as quickly as possible with our housing problem. The fact that the Minister has introduced this Bill to give further power to the NBA is a vote of confidence in the work the agency has done in the few years of its existence. I do not think it amiss to pay tribute to the former Minister, Deputy Blaney, who founded the NBA and guided its first steps towards that major contribution to housing it has already made, as instanced by the Ballymun housing project.

This is the signal for the agency to go ahead with the greatest confidence because it has carried out one of the biggest single housing projects in Europe at Ballymun, Dublin. The fact that there are now over 3,000 families living there is proof that even in its present form the agency is a dynamic factor and the fact that the Minister is giving it more powers now ensures that its future will be, indeed, bright and that those people in Dublin or outside it who are still awaiting proper housing will have more than hope to go on. When the agency was set up it had many problems to overcome. The type of industrialised building which it undertook was something new in this country. Despite some very big obstacles which it had to overcome, the Ballymun project, which was very much criticised, will now be finished in time—in the time suggested by Deputy Blaney the then Minister when he initiated the scheme.

It posed questions for many interests and for the trade unions also because this was a new idea in building which might affect the traditional interests of the craftsmen. Be it said, in fairness to the unions, that they rowed in with the Government and the Ballymun project got under way and, today, we have over 3,000 families living there. I often feel that the NBA has, perhaps, more powers than the local authorities. I get this impression because it seems to be able to tackle things in a speedier way than the local authorities. It is only right that the Government should garner all possible help in the housing drive. They are doing this because the NBA relieves the local authorities of much work which has to go into the preparation of a housing scheme.

It may be that in this Bill people may see a type of provincial bias because of the fact that we are providing houses for industrial undertakings, but that is not quite true when the Bill is read. This is happening in Dublin, too. Deputy Dowling suggested that we should bring home to industrialists the benefits which can be had from using the NBA to provide houses for workers and that this should be publicised as much as possible. I have always felt that we are inclined to look upon the local authorities as being the sole provider of houses. We are tackling this on all fronts now and it augurs well for the future. This year about 30,000 homes will be built in the country. Many of these will be NBA houses.

The previous speaker referred to the Northern Housing Trust and said it was comparable to the NBA. Deputy Dunne and I inspected the position in Belfast some time ago and saw the very fine job which the Northern Housing Trust has done. At the same time, it is not quite right to draw a complete comparison or analogy between the two bodies. The Northern Housing Trust does very fine work, indeed, and spent a tremendous amount of money in putting up a magnificent scheme near Belfast. The NBA had, perhaps, greater difficulties to overcome but it has overcome them. Today in this Bill, we are giving more money which is the sinew of building, and we are getting greater encouragement from the attitude of Deputies on all sides of the House to go ahead and try to solve the housing problem. When I talk about solving the housing problem I may say that I am one of those who believe that in a growing economy you will never be without a housing shortage.

With the work done by the present Minister through the local authorities, through the private sector, and through the NBA, we will reduce the problem as much as possible. I want to congratulate the Minister on his fine work on housing. He has been criticised in relation to housing but, if one studies the White Paper,Housing in the Seventies, one sees the amount of work he has put into the housing drive. I am sure he is heartened this evening by the support he has received from all sides of the House. Let us say to him: “Go ahead and press on as far as you can with housing because you have the whole House behind you.”

This is a short Bill which calls for short speeches. It recommends itself not only to every party but to every Deputy. One of the major concerns of Deputies, as public representatives, is the housing of our people. All of us know that there is at the moment a real and a great demand for houses. I want to pay tribute to the work which has been undertaken by the National Building Agency. I have seen some of its work. I have seen and inspected that design of the houses which it constructed. I should like to place on record my appreciation of the design, layout and finish of houses erected by the NBA.

I suppose it is easy for us to find fault if we want to find fault, but the only fault I can find with this Bill is the question of whether it provides sufficient money to do the job properly. We know this is only a step towards the completion of the housing of industrial workers and State servants and many others who will be calling on the NBA for assistance. All of us who are members of local authorities know that it is becoming increasingly difficult for local authorities to respond to all the demands for housing made on them. The setting up of this body in 1960 was a step in the right direction. When we look back on nine years of work we find that roughly only 126 or 127 houses per year were built by the NBA. The Minister said:

By the 30th September, 1969, a total of 751 houses for industry had been completed by the agency, 109 were then under construction and 378 were being planned.

We cannot count houses which are being planned as erected or constructed and, therefore, we can say that in the nine years since the agency was estabgratulat lished 751 houses were provided for industry and 109 are under construction, I presume also for industry. I wonder has the NBA carried out any survey because, if we are to plan for the future, we should have a target and, therefore, a survey should be carried out. If State servants are to be housed in houses provided by the NBA, and others who will not come within the scope of being provided with houses by the local authorities, the NBA will have a very difficult task to perform in the years ahead.

I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that in every district where we have a Garda station a house should be provided by the NBA for every married member of the Garda. There is nothing more humiliating than for a garda to have to occupy a third-rate or fourth-rate flat in a town. Many of these flats have not got the facilities which young married people would expect. As a matter of fact, I expressed surprise before that the Garda Representative Body have not made a more determined effort to secure more support for members of the Garda in relation to housing.

We have also in this country a large number of people known as foresters who are working in our various State forests. They do not come within the scope of local authority housing but they most certainly are State servants. I would certainly recommend that the NBA, in consultation with the Department of Lands, should undertake a survey of the housing needs of our foresters and the officials and officers of the Forestry Division and see that those houses are erected in towns where there are educational facilities and which are at the same time convenient to the various State forests.

We are embarking upon an era of expanded education and the great difficulty being experienced by many vocational education committees and secondary school authorities is that where we now have large schools the local authority is not in a position to expedite housing to accommodate the various teachers that are now required in our vocational and secondary schools. There are many towns, particularly in my own constituency, where there are first-rate vocational and secondary schools, and the big handicap is the lack of housing accommodation for teachers. Therefore, I would respectfully suggest to the Minister for Local Government that in consultation with the directors of the NBA, a national survey should be made at the earliest possible date in relation to the housing needs of all State officers and servants who require the assistance of the NBA.

In my own constituency the NBA have provided what I consider to be the best type of houses that I have ever seen erected, in record time and to a plan and a design second to none. I feel the NBA are entitled to that tribute. Unless we provide accommodation for key workers, industry cannot be run efficiently. We have an obligation to provide houses for those key workers through the National Building Agency, and we also have a responsibility to the promoters and proprietors of our secondary schools and to vocational education committees who are at their wits' end in regard to housing accommodation for teachers.

Let us hope that the rate of industrial expansion will continue. I should like, without going unduly outside the scope of the Bill, to make reference to the Buchanan Report. There does not appear to be any scope for industrial expansion from Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Laois-Offaly, you might say from the coast of Wexford right up to the town of Athlone. I hope the NBA is not going to study the pages of the Buchanan Report in order to ascertain where houses are to be built for industrial expansion. I have always held the view that the State should have as one of its primary responsibilities the provision of houses for all our people. I am glad to see that in the NBA we have one State-sponsored body that is prepared to tackle this problem energetically and enthusiastically.

If there is to be greater progress by the NBA I would suggest that the agency consider the establishment of three sections in that organisation: one section to deal with the city areas, and we have heard glowing tributes from Deputy Moore and others as to the progress which was made in Ballymun and other areas in the city; there should also be a section to deal with newly established industrial estates and the areas where industrial estates are about to be established; and there should be a third section to deal with the rural areas where there are no extensive industrial activities but, nevertheless, where housing accommodation must be provided for gardaí, teachers, foresters and the other sections of the community to whom I have referred and who do not come within the scope of local authority housing.

If a survey was taken of the housing requirements, say, over the next five years in relation to people who cannot be housed by local authorities, the amount of money being provided in this Bill would pale into insignificance in comparison to the amount that would be required. However, it is a step in the right direction and I presume the NBA, now nine years old, is only a little over the use of reason. Agencies of this kind usually suffer from teething troubles, but I hope the NBA are beyond that stage and that within the next nine years, between now and 1978 they will be able to show a significant improvement in the output of houses. As the Minister has outlined to us here, in nine years they have provided 751 houses plus 109. We do not take into consideration the houses that are being planned because Government offices throughout the length and breadth of this city are crammed with plans many of which are on the shelves of the various new offices covered with dust and surrounded by cobwebs. Therefore, we shall not take into consideration what is planned but only what has been erected, what has provided a roof over a family. That is the right test of progress.

I would respectfully suggest that there should be a greater measure of co-operation between the NBA and the local authorities. At one time an urban area council known as the town commissioners was a housing authority. Under legislation town commissioners are no longer housing authorities. The housing authorities are the county councils and the urban district councils. Due to the demand by people to be housed by county councils and urban district councils, there are many areas where there are town commissioners and where the rate of progress does not seem to be very significant. For that reason I was wondering if at some future date the NBA might undertake, in co-operation with the town commissioners, the erection of houses in various townships which are urbanised but still not housing authorities. For many years to come, with people marrying younger and with the steady increase, however slow it is, in employment, there will be a great demand for houses in this country. No matter how quickly or efficiently we proceed with housing we shall never find it possible to reach the day when we can say our ambitions in relation to housing have been achieved.

The job before the NBA is a very great one. In the past nine years they have built approximately 126 houses per year. This is not very significant progress for a national building agency. Nevertheless, it is as significant as the money, which was voted by this House, allowed, especially when one realises that building materials are soaring and that building workers are likely to be making increased demands for a proper wage in order to meet higher living costs. When one takes into account all these increased costs one realises that the amount of money being sought by the Minister under this Bill is not very great. I would have preferred to have seen a far greater State investment in the NBA.

With these few words I most certainly endorse what has been said by other Deputies in relation to the NBA but I should like to hear from the Minister what his opinion is of the future needs, not alone for key workers in industrial employment, but for the other sections of the community who look upon it as the duty of the State to provide housing for them.

Whenever the Minister for Local Government comes into the House with legislation seeking money to provide houses for our people I always feel he will be met by Deputies who realise the necessity of providing houses for our people. In the past the provision of houses has not brought much credit to the State. It has been handled in a very patch-like manner. Nevertheless, the NBA as a result of this increased money is about to make greater strides and greater progress. We hope and trust that their efforts will be crowned with the success they deserve. It is the desire of all Deputies in this House to see that the housing needs of this country are satisfied.

I could not agree more with the previous speaker that we must produce more houses for the wellbeing of our people. In saying this I would welcome houses from any organisation or local authority able to provide them. Since election to this House I have heard sad stories about housing in Dublin. The same situation exists in the country.

In Kilkenny at the present time we have 300 applicants on our housing list and in the city alone we receive three applications per week for houses. We had a vaccum for a number of years but during the past two years we have provided a large number of houses. We still have a long way to go. We have young people who will be three and four years married before they have a hope of getting a house. I regard the NBA as carrying out a very essential service. Anybody who provides houses for our people is doing a very worthwhile job.

I should like to question the position of local authorities — this is outside the county boroughs — because I feel the local authority in Kilkenny can provide the same houses at the same cost as the NBA, which will be purchased by a certain category of worker over a 30-year period. I heard a previous Deputy say that these houses are provided at a very low cost. We have facts to go on in Kilkenny and I do not think there is any great difference in the cost of the two houses, but the finished product is vastly different. In Kilkenny we have NBA houses which need a lot of attention once they are built. The NBA are very slow in carrying out these repairs. In fact, I have had representations from people in other areas, living in NBA houses who feel these houses are substandard and again the common complaint is that the repairs necessary after completion of the house are carried out very slowly. I make this point because I feel the local authority would be in a better position to build this type of house for the people for whom they are meant because they have local knowledge and local engineers who are able to supervise the project.

The people who buy these houses take anything from 25 to 30 years to pay for them and it is a hardship on these people if they have to pay year after year for repairs to their house because of bad quality. I would urge the Minister to look into the matter and make some sort of regulation to ensure that these houses will be of the quality people are entitled to expect.

The agency is being expanded but I have reservations about this because they are a specialist society. If the money channelled to the agency was channelled to the local authorities they would build all the houses needed. There is a lack of money: we all know this and planning has been held up over the year because of it. The Minister has said that houses can only be built when money is available to finance them. The finance which is available should be channelled through our local authorities. We in Kilkenny —

Is there any limit to the points which may be discussed on this Bill? Is it the ruling that all aspects of housing can be dealt with? There are such things as the Department's Estimates.

The Bill is for the provision of extra money for the National Building Agency. It is only in so far as the NBA are concerned that the provision of money can be discussed.

For housing for industrial purposes.

Surely the Deputy can compare the quality of the houses produced by the NBA with those of the local authority of which he is a member?

Is this the Deputy's maiden speech?

An Leas Cheann-Comhairle

Irrespective of that, the position is that the debate on this Bill is confined to the provision of money for the NBA. Deputies will appreciate that is the content of the Bill before the House.

I should have thought that a Deputy's maiden speech would not be interrupted in this fashion.

The work of the agency is wide open because the agency provides houses for State employees and others. The agency also deals with expansion and planning in collaboration with the local authorities. Therefore, the debate is wide open.

The Bill before the House deals with the provision of extra money.

For industrial housing. I have not made any effort to ask you unduly to restrict the debate but I think the debate should deal only with the NBA. I have no objection to going into a full-scale debate on housing but I suggest there should be some limit. I do not care; I do not mind.

A point of order has been raised in connection with what is before the House. It is a Bill for the provision of extra money for the NBA for specific purposes and Deputies will be obliged to keep to that matter.

Also for local authority houses.

Obviously, Deputy Esmonde has not read the Bill.

The first section of this Bill refers to section 9 of the 1963 Act which deals with all the activities of the agency.

The Bill before the House is composed of two sections only.

If there is any desire to have any kind of expedition, there should be some limit.

I am surprised at the Minister.

A debate on housing will be relevant when the Estimate for the Department of Local Government comes before the House.

Do you not agree that the work of the agency covers local authority housing when it concerns the agency? Therefore, is it not absolutely in order to discuss local authority housing, as the Minister must well know? I am surprised at the Minister.

If it was the setting up of the agency that was before the House, then it would be in order. The Bill before the House is concerned with the provision of money for specific purposes.

Which purposes?

Industrial housing only.

Section 9 covers——

Section 9 of what?

Of the 1963 Act.

Could the Deputy be allowed to make his maiden speech without interruption?

I was led to believe that I could raise the question of housing generally and I apologise if I went outside the scope of the Bill. Finance which provides housing for our people comes from the same source, the Minister for Finance, whether it be to the NBA, to the local authorities or to any other body. It was on that reasoning that I raised the question of the advisability of expanding the NBA. They have to get the money from the same source, from the Minister for Finance, and I was saying that this money, at least in the rural areas, should be channelled to the local authorities concerned. I have first hand knowledge of what the local authority in Kilkenny have done during the years both in the provision of council type houses and houses for purchase. They have done a very good job and I am quite happy with the quality of the houses they have provided by comparison with NBA houses, at related costs. It is from that point of view that I question the advisability of expanding the NBA because I think better work would be done if more money were channelled to local authorities.

I think the Minister may have been a little hasty in trying to stop my predecessor in his speech. As I understand it, section 1 of this Bill seeks to amend section 9 of the 1963 Act which covers advances to the NBA by the Minister for Finance. On my reading, section 9 of the 1963 Act is not limited to industrial housing. It covers all the activities of the NBA and, therefore, Deputies are entitled to discuss all of their activities.

I did not object.

The Chair has already pointed out in regard to this matter that the Minister's brief, as the Deputy will note, is concerned with the question of industrial and ancillary services and with the provision of money for specific purposes and it is with the first of these categories that the Bill is concerned. The Bill is only concerned with increasing the amount of money for the provision of ancillary services where industrial housing is concerned.

With the utmost respect, Sir, that is not in the Bill. There is no reference to industrial housing in the Bill. I do not think that what the Minister said in introducing the Bill lays down the terms of relevance.

What is in section 1 of the Bill is a provision to increase the sum of money from £2 million to £5 million.

Abide by the ruling of the Chair.

I did not object to any aspect of the NBA being discussed. I thought there should be some limit.

I should like to point out that the NBA do a great deal more than building industrial housing and I am thankful for that fact. In 1967-68 they spent a considerable amount of money on State housing, local authority housing and industrial housing and I think Deputies should be allowed to discuss the entire scope of their existing and potential activities.

The Chair on this occasion is ruling that the discussion will be confined to what the Chair has said.

I wish to welcome the provision of further money for this agency. The general concept of having a National Building Agency, which probably have a greater degree of flexibility and are not tied down by the same amount of red tape as a local authority, is definitely an advance and we must welcome the provision of extra capital to allow such a body to expand their activity. This flexibility is very important because in an expanding economy it is necessary to avoid the bottlenecks which might occur through delay in the provision of housing for industrial expansion. The NBA by reason of their greater flexibility can proceed with greater speed than the local authorities.

However, in approaching this Bill and the provision of this money, the Deputies must find themselves in a very awkward position as regards the supply of information. The annual report, as the shadow Minister has pointed out, is, to say the least, skimpy. It consists of one measly page of foolscap and tells us very little about the general policy considerations which lie behind the decisions of the NBA. We are not told, as far as I know, where the houses are built. Therefore, we cannot consider whether the location of NBA housing is in line with the needs for such housing. We cannot consider whether it is in line with the general policy of regional development, of growth centres and so on.

In general reports it is essential that we should be told where those houses are being built not just the number of houses built. We are not told what size of houses are being built and for what income groups they are catering for. This is another matter which is very important if we are to consider the activities of the agency. We are not told either the cost per unit of room space of houses put up by the National Building Agency. In view particularly of the fact that there is a certain amount of boasting that the NBA produce a cheaper product than certain other building agencies surely they should be prepared to present the cost per unit of room space per house in their report.

Again, I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the Northern Ireland Housing Trust which is generally acknowledged as being very successful in its field, as was pointed out by other Deputies, publishes a very comprehensive report which is available not just in the Dáil Library and to Deputies but to the general public for purchase at a reasonable price from the Government Publications Office. This should be the practice with the NBA. They should publish a comprehensive and freely available report.

I should like to draw attention to a fact to which the shadow Minister also referred. Why was the report for 1967 not brought out until March of this year? Other Deputies have referred to the alleged rather poor quality of some of the houses built by the NBA. While I am certainly no expert on housebuilding such complaints have also come to my notice. I understand that the walls of some of the houses are supposed to have buckled but I do not know to what extent. However, I have heard that those houses are, to say the least, not earthquake proof. I also understand that repairs have to be carried out on those houses at a much earlier date and at much greater frequency than is normal with most houses built by other authorities. This would suggest that the finished product put forth by the NBA is not all that it might be when one considers repairs have to be carried out so soon afterwards and to such a great extent. This is also a matter which might be treated in future annual reports of the agency. They might tell us something more about the rate at which repairs are needed and the general average interval which elapses between completion of the house and the need for repair.

It has come to my notice that in my constituency the National Building Agency carried out repairs to a house at Dunboyne and they did not complete the job. They left a hole in a wall and went away before the job was completed. It was months afterwards before they came back to fill in the hole. This may be a minor example but it is symptomatic of the general trend. The agency would appear to be rather lax on the question of repairs to property and the speed at which it carries them out.

Are the houses built by the National Building Agency of the same quality as those of similar capacity built by local authorities and would they meet the standards laid down for local authorities by the Department of Local Government which they must come up to if they are to get grants?

There are some needs which the NBA could consider meeting. I understand that in many towns there is a need for small houses, houses for single people and perhaps a married couple, which is not being met at the moment. Many people are forced, as I think another Deputy pointed out, to live in rather uncomfortable bedsitters. This need could be met by the NBA on a greater scale than at present particularly in view of the fact that the NBA are more flexible in the type and size of houses they build than the local authorities.

I should like the Minister to comment on an experiment tried out by the NBA with regard to building expandable houses. I believe the Minister was particularly interested in this project and I would be grateful if he would give us some information about future plans which he has with regard to expandable houses and if the experiment has been a success so far. I would go a little bit further than Deputy Flanagan in regard to carrying out the survey. I think the NBA should carry out a comprehensive survey of all housing needs in the country based on a demographic basis with a prediction for, perhaps, 20 years ahead to ensure that we will have some proper basis for planning houses and that it will not take place in a haphazard manner. If the NBA carried out such a survey, while it might not pretend to meet all the needs, it would provide a useful basis for local authorities also.

I wonder if the NBA are considering building houses in Navan. As the Minister probably knows, Navan is rapidly expanding and it is quite possible that the need for houses there will outrun the capacity of the local authorities to provide them quickly enough. I would commend to the Minister and the agency the idea of making some effort to provide houses in Navan.

Deputy E. Collins referred to the method by which contractors are taken on by the National Building Agency. He asked the Minister to tell us if this is carried out on the basis of an open and public tender. I sincerely hope it is because certain rumours have come to my notice — I do not know whether to give them any credit or not — that in relation to the distribution of contracts by the NBA there is a certain element of political discrimination in favour of contractors who support the present governing party.

I should also like some information on the relations between the NBA and the Board of Works in the matter of providing houses for gardaí. The report does not give all the information that I would like to have on the relationship between these two bodies and the general degree of co-operation between them.

I do not know whether the Minister can explain something about section 5 of the Schedule to the 1963 Act regarding superannuation schemes and the necessity for having these approved by the Minister for Finance. If the Minister could give me some information on this and the consequent red tape involved I should be very grateful.

In conclusion, I should like to say that perhaps the greatest blot on the NBA is not its work or the lack of work done by them but the fact that they are not prepared to provide comprehensive information on their activities. It is essential that we should have such information in consideration of the amount of money that is being spent.

I take it from the Chair's ruling and from the Minister's speech that this Bill is for the extension of credit to the NBA from the sum of £2 million to £5 million and that it is solely for the purpose of expanding industrial estates. I am considerably confused as to what is the state of affairs because the NBA have existed, as stated in the Minister's speech, since 1960 so it must have had some funds with which to carry on. There is a considerable staff in the NBA. They have carried out a considerable amount of work other than expansion for industrial estates. From where did they get the money for these things? How did they carry on to date in the other activities in which they are occupied? Do they request the money solely for the purpose of industrial expansion? That poses another question: if one does not happen to live within the particular industrial area does that mean that that part of the country is entirely obliterated from the benefits in this Bill?

In his opening address, the Minister told us very little. He said:

The work of the agency now falls into three broad categories — the provision of housing and ancillary services related to industrial expansion——

Does that apply to a particular area or does it apply to the whole country? The Minister continued:

——the provision of houses for State employees whose duties involve occasional transfers of residence for them——

Everybody in this House knows that the number of State employees is increasing. There are certainly not fewer civil servants than we had three years ago — there are a great deal more than we had five years ago. However, to continue with the quotation from the Minister's speech:

——and housing operations undertaken on behalf of local authorities. It is with the first of these categories that this Bill is concerned.

Therefore, I take it that the money which the Minister is now asking for is solely concerned with industrial expansion. It is very difficult if the operations of a housing society such as the NBA, whose principal function is the expedition of housing, are confined, instead of its being taken out of direct State control and being made a semi-private organisation. Regarding my own constituency — I am glad to see Deputy Browne here to represent the same constituency as I do — are we to be entirely cut off from the £3 million that is being voted here this evening? We have no particular industrial expansion, though goodness knows we have looked for it often enough.

This is probably one of the most important Bills to come before this House in recent years. We are all actively concerned with the shortage of housing just as we are concerned with any legislation that may be introduced for the purpose of expanding housing in any way. However, I am restricted in discussing fully what I consider would be the most expeditious and perhaps the most reasonable means of expanding housing to make it available to all sections of the community. The tragedy of this is that the three categories concerned exclude State employees, the people who have been sitting on the fence waiting for houses for years — houses that could very easily be provided for them if only the NBA which is an off-shoot of the Department of Local Government would expedite the housing situation in the country.

I suggest to the Minister that in his reply to this debate he would indicate to the House what exactly is the real purpose behind this Bill. Is it solely for the purpose of expanding industrial estates? Where are the industrial estates? Does it apply only to places like Ballyfermot and Ballymun, the areas in which most of the industrial estates are springing up? Are the people of rural Ireland, who pay taxes and pay the loan charges, to be excluded from the privileges of this sum that is being granted to the NBA to expand industrial estates most of which are in Dublin? Perhaps it will benefit some of the other larger centres in the neighbourhood of Shannon Airport.

From my knowledge of the NBA in my own constituency I have found that they are largely a sponsoring body. Their function is to sponsor housing authorities and to start housing schemes wherever they may be or for whatever purpose they may be. A great many of the houses that are built are built on the loan system. I found in the housing estates that the people were unable to secure from the State the benefits that are normally given to anybody who builds a house until such time as the loan had been sanctioned. Therefore, there was this Gilbertian situation whereby the Department of Local Government did not pay the grant and the NBA did not sanction the loan until the grant was paid, so that the position was that it was impossible to get a loan without getting a grant and it was impossible to get a grant without getting a loan.

I am happy to tell the Minister that after a prolonged interview with the Department of Local Government, when I received the greatest consideration and satisfaction from the officials concerned, and after lengthy telephone calls with the NBA they decided to meet each other half way and the situation was resolved. This was the situation in quite a sizeable housing estate in the constituency which I represent. The people concerned were waiting for a period of over 12 months before the matter was resolved. I do not know whether that situation prevails now. In my constituency the National Building Agency have now quite an extensive scheme and, I hasten to assure the Minister, it is concerned with the building of houses for industrial employees. When the people take over the houses I hope that the situation will not obtain that they have to wait until they get the loan before getting the grant, or where, on the other hand, they are told that they cannot get the grant until they get the loan. I hope that will not happen again.

I would like to say more on the National Building Agency. I feel it is one of the most important things in this country. It would be a most important body if it were fully expanded and given full authority as a semi-State body. In that way it could go a long way towards solving the housing question. Of course, no semi-State body is, as a rule, given full authority.

From a previous ruling of the Chair it seems that we are confined practically entirely to industrial estates. Therefore, I regret that I must resume my seat without saying many things which I would like to say.

I wish to thank the House for agreeing to this Bill which is intended to provide for the extension of the permissible borrowing powers of the National Building Agency from £2 million to £5 million for houses for industrial purposes. I suppose it is because everybody was unanimous in agreeing to that simple purpose of the Bill that there is very little reference to it in any of the speeches that were made.

I will deal now with some of the points made, although they had not anything to do with the purpose of the Bill.

Deputy Hogan referred to the scanty information available in the annual reports of the National Building Agency. I am inclined to agree that it would be desirable to have more comprehensive annual reports. I will request the agency to publish more comprehensive reports and to make them generally available to the public. If this is done it should also cover the point raised by Deputy Desmond with regard to his suggestion that a White Paper analysing the experience of the National Building Agency should be published. Much was made of the fact that this year two annual reports were published on the same day. There was no sinister motive in that. It was merely due to inadvertence and to change of personnel in the agency itself. There was not any reason why the 1967 report should have been delayed until this year.

With regard to the Ballingarry housing estate, it is a fact that the houses were never fully occupied. The owner of the mines in question expected that miners from the Castlecomer area would move to that area and occupy the houses because of the availability of employment in his mines. His expectations were not realised with the result that this housing estate was never fully occupied.

With regard to the question of the standard of these houses, either Deputy Treacy or Deputy Hogan referred to the dilapidated appearance of the estate now. This is not due to any fault in the houses themselves. It is due to the fact that there was a great deal of vandalism in that particular scheme. Much destruction was done on these houses which were vacant through no fault of the agency. The fact that this destruction was done does not in any way reflect on the durability of the houses, either there or elsewhere. With regard to the whole question of durability I may say that before the agency developed the cross-wall system of building now used, and before this system was accepted for loan and grant purposes, exhaustive investigations were made. Deputies can be assured that there was no doubt about these houses being any less durable than the traditionally-built houses.

Deputy Hogan also referred to the fact that there was a sudden jump in the expenditure by the National Building Agency on local authority housing. This was due to the Ballymun scheme. I do not know what planning appeals the Deputy was referring to. I have no recollection whatever of any planning appeals involving the National Building Agency. I am at a complete loss to know to what he was referring.

A number of Deputies, including Deputy Desmond, raised the question as to whether the extension of the borrowing powers from £2 million to £5 million would prove to be sufficient. It is to be expected that there will be a need at some future stage to increase further the borrowing powers of the National Building Agency. Experience to date would lead us to assume that this extra £3 million should be sufficient for five years probably. It may then be necessary to extend the borrowing powers again. On the other hand, it may not be necessary to do so. I think it is adequate at the present time.

Deputy Desmond thought that the growth of the National Building Agency in respect of the building of houses for industrial purposes had been rather slow. I can only say that no reasonable request for the provision of these houses has been rejected. Deputies, particularly Deputy O.J. Flanagan, referred to what they described as the low number of houses built by the agency. These Deputies were forgetting, or ignoring, the fact that this is only one aspect of the activities of the agency. The figures Deputy O. J. Flanagan quoted here refer only to houses for industrial purposes. Expenditure on local authority housing by the agency has to date been well over £12 million. The agency have in fact built a total of 4,635 houses and they have 3,779 dwellings now in their present programme. These are the figures for the overall performance of the agency.

Deputy Dowling felt that industrialists in general were not aware of the services available through the agency. Well, the agency have been in touch with the Federation of Irish Industries on two separate occasions in the last couple of years and prevailed on the federation to circularise to industries details of the services that are provided by the agency. The IDA also bring to the notice of industrialists that these services are available.

There was only the one Deputy who felt that the National Building Agency were not desirable. Deputy Collins said that the NBA were superfluous. The work that has been done by the agency should be substantial proof of the fact that this is just not so. The huge building scheme that was provided at Ballymun in Dublin was additional to the maximum possible output of Dublin Corporation and similarly in so far as the Cork and Limerick projects were concerned. Certainly the Cork project could not have been tackled by Cork Corporation. Again, the NBA are undertaking on behalf of Dublin Corporation the provision of 700 houses at Tallaght. In general, we can say also that the industrial schemes which the agency have provided could not have been provided by housing authorities, particularly those which had a substantial backlog of social housing demands. This type of housing just has to get priority from the local authority and they would not be in a position to provide houses for facilitating the establishment or expansion of industries.

Local authorities have also dealt with houses on the basis of the priorities. Again, the NBA have done valuable work in developing the cross-wall type of construction which has resulted in a lowering of costs. I do not think that any housing authority would have had the resources or the initiative to undertake that type of things. Therefore, I certainly reject the suggestion that the NBA are superfluous. There is not, as Deputy Treacy seemed to think, any suggestion of trying to confine the NBA to this particular type of activity. As I said, the agency at present are commencing the erection of 700 houses in Tallaght.

Might I ask if this £3 million is specifically designed for industrial purposes?

Yes, this is specifically for industrial purposes. I explained in my opening statement that this is the manner in which the agency operate for the provision of houses and ancillary services related to industrial expansion and it is purely dealing with that. There is a limit on the amount that can be borrowed at any one time by the agency of £2 million and that is being raised to £5 million. I agree, of course, that section 9 covers all borrowing and I did not in fact object to anybody discussing that aspect of the agency's activities. I did suggest to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle at a certain stage that it did not seem desirable to allow the debate to develop into a general discussion on the housing position in the country, not that I have any objection to discussing that, but the more appropriate occasion would be on the Estimate for the Department of Local Government. The extra money that is being provided for in this Bill is for industrial housing only. All that I was objecting to was a general discussion on housing.

As far as the other activities of the agency are concerned, the money comes from direct recoupment from local authorities for local authority housing, recoupment from house purchase moneys and grants and recoupment from any other non-industrial grants such as are given by the Departments of Health, Justice and so on. I may say that I am glad that the agency's services have been availed of to the extent they have been. This Bill will enable the agency to provide a very useful and essential assistance to the extension and expansion of industry throughout the country generally.

Would the Minister be so kind as to let us know the method of contracting for the building of houses by the NBA?

Yes, there is open tendering. I did not refer to that because I thought it was very well known. I knew some insinuations were made but I am used to them.

I do not think the Minister answered my question about the £8 million.

It was due to the Ballymun scheme.

Is it departmental and ministerial policy now to consult with the local authority in the allocation of these houses? Is there consultation by the NBA with the local authorities?

It is, yes.

Is the Minister considering the idea of having an overall demographic survey of housing needs and would he consider that that——

That would not be a matter for the NBA——

That would not arise on this Bill.

——but all local authorities have done that.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 4th November, 1969.