A lot was said on section 18 when we were discussing the amendments. I appreciate that the Minister has seen fit in relation to two amendments to give an undertaking to the House, without prejudice, to look at those amendments and to come back to us on Report Stage. That is a response to reasonable argument on Committee Stage and I welcome it. One of those two amendments referred to the cost of the site as an element in the consideration of the CRV and the other relates to the system of appeal that is open to somebody who is denied a CRV.
I would like, in putting forward my arguments against this section, to look at what the Minister said on 27 June last when he introduced this Bill. He stated in Volume 315, column 1115:
To sum up, I think that section 18 will provide a comprehensive statutory framework for the operation of a form of control on the price of new houses and flats which benefit from State funds or which are financed by mortgages available from limited resources. The section attempts to strike a fair balance between the interest of the public authorities, the householder, the builder and lending agencies.
I do not believe anybody on this side of the House, especially Members of the Labour Party, have any argument whatsoever with the objectives defined in that quotation I have given from the Minister's speech. The reasonable objective of section 18 has been explicitly supported by us. We have said that the principle of the CRV has not been or will not be in question as far as we are concerned but that, subject to the two amendments to which I referred, the method of administration and assessment as set out in the amended section will not reach the objectives which the Minister set out in the quotation I have just given.
I do not believe it is the Minister's intention to screw up the building industry or to cause the kind of difficulties that have been represented to us. The Minister can readily understand that the building industry do not come to the Labour Party to seek protection. It is a mistake when talking about the building industry to think that it is a sectional interest within the community controlled by a minority of people. There are vast numbers of craftsmen and their families who depend on the vitality of that industry for their livelihood. The house building section is the largest part of that industry. Those are people removed from this House, from administration and from other stages of consideration of those matters whether in the National Prices Commission or in the appeals board. Those people are expressing concern in very real terms. Their concern is that the CRV system, as administered, does not work satisfactorily. It only applies to approximately 30 per cent of the total number of houses constructed. It will now effectively extend to 100 per cent of the houses constructed.
The system of administration has not been significantly modified by the Minister in his approach to the various amendments put down to section 18. The basic reservation expressed by the company whose submission I read out yesterday claimed among other things, that the refusal of the Department to give the reasons for their refusal of an application for a CRV made it almost impossible for a builder to calculate within reason in terms of time, programme and the rest of it what the prospects were and where he was in relation to organising his finance and sales and, consequently, organising his economic viability.
I know that this section has been dealt with by the Minister, by Deputy Fitzpatrick and by my colleague, Deputy Tully. I prefer to deal with what I consider is the major objection to section 18 as far, as the Labour Party are concerned. We have yet to get sufficient reassurance from the Minister that there is not a state of war between him and the CIF, that the industry is not concerned with the implementation of this section, that there will be no distortion in the housing market as a component of the building industry. All of my comments are made in the context of a housing strategy with which the Labour Party fundamentally disagree. We fundamentally disagree with the way the Government are pursuing housing objectives at the moment. It is wrong, economically and socially; and in planning and environmental terms, to say nothing about the energy conservation content, it is wrong as well.
The Minister has the majority to pursue a housing strategy. While I disagree with that strategy I would argue that whatever strategy he elects to pursue should at least be pursued with professional and administrative expertise and competence. The CIF cannot be described exactly as Marxist-Leninist at the best of times. After the pronouncements which came from the Rotary Club in Bray last night they could hardly qualify for inclusion in the selected works of Left Wing thinking. When I see the CIF, with their present leadership, expressing in a press statement major reservations about the applications of the CRV, when I hear the Minister refuting in the Second Stage debate that there are a number of misleading comments in that press statement, as he did on 27 June last, and when they in turn state they have nothing to add, when they place advertisements in the newspapers that they are calling meetings to discuss the implications of the Bill, I am fearful that the selected housing strategy, with which the Labour Party fundamentally disagree, is not going to be successful. Failure in housing is to the advantage of nobody, and certainly it is not to the advantage of people who are forced into trying to buy a house in the private sector because of a conscious political strategy on behalf of the Government.
A claim was made by the building societies in a submission to me and which was also submitted to the Minister, according to the covering note I received from Mr. James Malone, secretary of the Irish Building Societies' Association. It is a very serious claim and I should like to put it on the record of the House. I understand that part of it has already been put on the record of the House, but in case there is any doubt about it I shall read it into the record now. It is dated 27 June, the day the Minister spoke, and it reads as follows:
The Association was informed at a meeting on 17 May 1979 attended by officials of the Departments of the Environment, Finance and Economic Planning and Development that the societies had too much money and that the Government had decided, following an independent research, that the number of houses to be built each year should not exceed 25,000 houses.
That is an extraordinarily serious charge for any organisation to make and I do not think that the Building Societies' Association made that charge lightly.