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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 17 Jul 1979

Vol. 315 No. 16

Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1979: Fifth Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

During my Second Reading speech on 27 June I referred to a notice which was inserted in the Press on 1 June about section 18 of the Bill. I said that it contained several inaccuracies and misleading statements. A further notice was inserted by the CIF on 4 July which also contained the same type of inaccuracies. The notice referred to my lack of consultation with the CIF about the Bill. As I have already stated in this House and to the press, there have been numerous meetings between the CIF and my Department since the Government came into office. At these meetings various, aspects of the CRV system were discussed and the CIF were informed that further discussion on specific provisions of the Bill could be held after it was published. I received a request from the CIF for a meeting at which they would give me their views. I replied that I was prepared to meet them and that firm arrangements for a meeting would be made as soon as they gave me details of the matters which they intended to raise.

On 25 June I was informed by the CIF that they had nothing to add to their views already contained in the press notice. They chose instead to insert a further notice in the press on 4 July, notwithstanding the points I made to them. It is fair to say that the amendments passed will both strengthen the provisions of the section and ensure that builders are treated fairly. The notice says that the Bill will extend the CRV system to all new houses for sale. This is incorrect. The notice also says that the Bill will give my Department the power to decide the number and type of houses to be built by a particular building firm. This is also incorrect. Any regulations made under the Bill in common with all other regulations having the force of law must be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and will be the subject to a motion of annulment by either House.

As soon as the Bill becomes law I intend to invite representatives of the CIF to discussions regarding the implementation of the revised procedures for the CRV system which will be necessitated by the provisions of section 18. As I have already indicated, I will go as far as I can to meet them, especially in regard to the question of giving reasons for refusals, where this is possible. It is certainly my intention that these discussions should not be prejudiced by what I referred to earlier and that they will be frank and fruitful.

I should like to draw attention to a printing error in section 6 (2). The words "contribution in kind" in line 4, page 6, were inadvertently hyphenated in the text of the Bill as initiated. This error was overlooked at the proofing stage and the words appear incorrectly in the text of the Bill now before the House.

On Friday last I issued a statement giving details of a special house improvement grant of up to £600 to reduce dependence on oil. This Bill covers the making of these grants. The grant applies to the following works: conversion of oil, electricity or gas central heating systems to solid fuel systems; the installation of a back boiler or other solid fuel burning appliance where a house has a fireplace but no back boiler; the cost of replacing a fireplace or appliance or installing an additional fireplace or appliance is not reckonable for the special grants; the installation of a fireplace or solid fuel appliance in a house which has central heating but no fireplace or solid fuel appliance in it; the cost of installing a back boiler in such fireplace or appliance may be included in determining the amount of the special grant. This special grant is not subject to the normal limiting period of ten years for further grants.

I need hardly say that this announcement has far-reaching implications for our energy policy. Let me say here and now in unequivocal language that, while I stand over everything I said on 13 June during the course of supplementaries to questions put down by Deputy Collins on this subject, at that stage our policy in the matter was being developed. Last Friday's statement shows that we have at least got the guts to tackle the oil problem head on. We are now determined to take a number of measures to reduce our dependence on oil. The latest announcement is a further important step in meeting this need. I now wish to bring the attention of the House to the fact that I do not propose to hold up the payment of any grants under this special scheme. After the Housing Bill becomes law section 5 will be brought into operation and regulations will be made under the section as soon as practicable. For the benefit of Deputy Horgan section 5 of the Bill covers these grants.

Before I conclude I wish to thank Deputies Fitzpatrick, Quinn, O'Brien and Tully who were mainly concerned with the lengthy debates during the various stages of this Bill. The debate lasted some nine hours on Second Stage and 19 hours on Committee Stage. The Deputies that I have mentioned have generally adopted a constructive approach to the provisions of the Bill which reflected their own views and, in the case of section 18 and section 20, the views put forward mainly by the building societies and the CIF.

For my part I have very carefully considered the observations made by Deputies and by outside bodies. It is of course impossible to reach agreement with all interested parties. For example the CIF described section 18 of the Bill as a draconian measure and at the other extreme Deputy Keating said that the CRV provisions were weak-kneed and cosmetic. In fairness to the CIF they indicated the changes they wished to have made. On the other hand, Deputy Keating spoke in vague emotive generalities which seemed to be designed to grab the media headlines at the time. But I failed to hear him make any practical suggestions as the other Deputies did.

Any fair-minded Deputies opposite will accept that I have gone a long way towards meeting proposals for amendments. Essentially as amended the Bill provides a statutory framework for housing grants, loans and subsidy systems. The Bill also provides a flexible framework for a form of house price control which may be applied, modified or dismantled as is necessary.

Debate adjourned.