Local Loans Fund (Amendment) Bill, 1980: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of this Bill is to increase, from £1,500 million to £2,500 million, the statutory limit on issues from the Local Loans Fund through which the Exchequer loans money to local authorities to finance essential capital services.

When the Local Loans Fund was established in 1935 a statutory limit of £5 million was set on issues from the fund. The limit has had to be increased periodically over the years by successive enactments. The present figure of £1,500 million was fixed in 1978.

Local authorities, including vocational education committees and harbour authorities are heavily dependent on this fund to finance their capital projects. In 1979 almost 90 per cent of capital expenditure on services partially or wholly financed from the fund was met from the fund. At 31 October 1980, total issues from the fund were £1,445 million of which £729.5 million was for local authority housing, £360.9 million for house purchase loans and supplementary grants. Sanitary services accounted for a further £247.2 million while the balance of £107.4 million was provided for vocational schools, hospitals, harbour works, libraries, fire stations, itinerant re-settlement and other services.

Issues from the fund have increased substantially in recent years. The level of annual issues went up from £141.77 million in 1978 to an estimated £222.42 million in 1980. This reflects in particular increased provision for local authority housing including the house purchase loan scheme, the loan and income eligibility limits of which were increased by the Government with effect from 1 February 1980, and increases for water and sewerage schemes to service new housing development, to provide infrastructure for new industry and agriculture and to maintain the existing system.

As I have mentioned already, the total issues from the fund reached £1,445 million at the end of October. At the present rate of issues the limit will be reached early in 1981. It will be necessary to raise the limit substantially to provide for the estimated capital requirements of the local authorities over the next few years. Accordingly, a new limit of £2,500 million is proposed in the Bill which I commend to the House.

We accept that this Bill is necessary now that the level of money expended from the fund is coming up to the ceiling of £1,500 million that had obtained up to now. The Minister says that the increase in this Bill to £2,500 million is necessary if the capital expenditure of local authorities is to be undertaken in 1981.

We should not be under any delusion that the passage of this Bill, of itself, will be of any help to local authorities who are now in a more critical condition as regards finance than at any time since their establishment. This Bill merely gives the Minister power, if he wishes, to release funds up to that amount of money but does not automatically release funds up to £2,500 million. Any public representative who holds a clinic, or any Member of this House who is a member of a local authority, will know that at present local authorities were never in a worse state for money. I had a parliamentary question answered on 3 December about the state of Cork Corporation. I put that question down because I see almost every consecutive day, certainly every week, in the Cork Examiner and Cork Evening Echo reports of Cork Corporation meetings at which the standard answer given by the manager of Cork Corporation seems to be that they cannot undertake something because they have not got the money. That applies particularly to housing. It applies also to Cork County Council and probably to every local authority in the country at present, that proposals put forward for housing, sewerage, land reclamation or for the building of new roads receive the standard answer from the manager to the effect that they cannot undertake them because they have not got the money.

It has been customary for as long as I can remember and has certainly been the practice in Cork Corporation, and I presume in other local authorities, that at Christmas time councillors submit lists of names of people who are given what is called Christmas work. It is a method by which a local authority recognises the less well-off members of their society, giving them a week's work at Christmas and of course, a stamp at the same time. It has always been the practice that everyone who applied for that work got work. There was a major row at Cork Corporation on Monday evening last—as reported in the Cork Examiner yesterday—because, I think, one-third only of those who had been on the list seeking Christmas work had been employed. There was a motion before Cork Corporation by some members of the council maintaining that additional money should be supplied to employ those who had not got work. The manager said it was up to the council themselves, if they wanted to pass that motion, but that there was nothing he could do about it because he just had not got the money to employ people. In my ten or fifteen years in public life I never remember so many people coming to my clinics telling me that they cannot afford to build their own houses, that their names are on the local authority list and that they are being informed by the local authority that it may be two, three or four years before they get housing.

The attitude of the Minister for Finance, as conveyed by the Minister for the Environment to the local authorities, appears to be that of a poor man aping the policies being pursued on the other side of the Irish Sea of cutting back funds to local authorities which is having the effect of reducing the number of local authority houses available. At the same time private housing is not going ahead because of the recession in the construction industry.

This is the same position as the position in which we found ourselves in 1974 when because of a recession there was a drop in the number of private houses being built. Our answer was to increase the amount of money available through the local authority mortgage schemes and the amount of money given to local authorities to build local authority houses. Therefore the level of activity in the construction industry did not vary. The number of privately financed houses built in 1973 was almost 14,000. The following year, because of the recession, that number dropped to 11,000. We raised the number of houses financed by local authority mortgages from 4,600 to 8,500 and we raised the number of houses built by local authorities from 6,000 to 6,700. That position obtained throughout 1974, 1975 and 1976 and in 1976 we could afford to lower the amount of support given to local authority mortgage scheme houses.

The conditions in which too many of our citizens are living are a reflection on both sides of this House because we cannot find the courage to raise money to finance very many more local authority houses than are being financed at the moment. With the escalation in the price of houses over the past five or six years people are trapped between two situations. They are not eligible for SDA loans because they are earning over £3,500 or whatever the figure is now. They cannot afford the difference between two and a half times their salary and £20,000 for a privately owned house and they cannot put down a deposit of £7,000. They are not eligible for local authority houses because their income is too high. They get no support from the State. People building their own houses get the £1,000 grant and they get income tax relief on their mortgage repayments. Others get low rise mortgage facilities from the local authorities. People living in local authority houses have their rent subsidised. There is a whole wedge of people who are renting accommodation at £25, £30 or £40 a week. They are getting absolutely no support from the State.

I hope that when he is replying the Minister will tell us what he thinks of the scheme launched by Fine Gael about two months ago to cater for this body of people who cannot put down a deposit and who are not eligible under the SDA scheme or for local authority houses. Our scheme does not suit everybody. People who can find a deposit of £6,000, £7,000 or £8,000 will take advantage of building society mortgage schemes and pay roughly the same amount of money throughout the lifetime of the loan. It may vary according to the interest rates but, by and large, they pay out the same amount of money every week for the 25 or 30 years during which they have the loan.

We were trying to cater for those who cannot find a deposit of £6,000, £7,000 or £8,000 and who are ineligible for local authority loans or housing. Our proposal was that a new housing agency should be set up which would make use of the funds available in ever increasing amounts through pension funds and guarantee that inflation would not erode the value of the funds over 20 or 30 years. The only people who could live up to that guarantee would be the State and, therefore, the housing agency would have to have a State guarantee. The housing agency would lend money to people in the category I have mentioned. The repayment method would be that the amount would increase over the period of the mortgage by a percentage increase in their earnings. In other words, they would pay a fixed percentage of their earnings over the period of the mortgage and the percentage would be fixed at 18, 19 or 22 per cent or somewhere on either side of 20 per cent. As they got increases in wages they would make increased repayments. If their salary doubled or trebled over 20 years their repayments would double or treble.

Obviously that scheme would not be attractive to somebody who could make a deposit. Nor would it be attractive to somebody who was eligible for a local authority house or a mortgage loan. The wealthiest people get some form of subsidy from the State for houses because they can make a claim against their taxes. People who are first time buyers can get the grant of £1,000. The category of people who pay significant sums of money every week for accommodation get no subsidy from the State.

We estimate that this scheme could be implemented reasonably quickly. It would have the benefit of giving a boost to the construction industry, which is in a pretty difficult position at the moment. Many building firms and people working in the industry are not looking forward to the new year with any great joy because they do not feel the position will improve in January or February. In my own constituency and in Cork county as a whole things are much worse than they have ever been in my memory. I was interested to find out if my instinct about this was correct and I put down a question asking for the up-to-date unemployment figures for Cork city and county and corresponding figures for the past ten years. I discovered that I was correct. On 31 October 1980, the latest date for which figures were available, the unemployment figures for Cork city and county were higher than at any time in the past ten years. Those are frightening statistics to somebody living in the area. I am sure they apply to other regions as well. I cannot speak specifically about other cities or towns or even counties.

In reply to Question No. 18 on 3 December last the Minister said a further instalment of £170,000 issued to Cork Corporation from the Local Loans Fund and that a further sum will be made available before the end of the year. A sum of £170,000 is the cost of about eight local authority houses. When the Minister says that a further sum will be made available before the end of the year, I do not know whether it will be more or less than £170,000.

There is a rather anomalous last paragraph to the Minister's reply when he said that available resources do not permit the issue of additional funds from the Local Loans Fund to the corporation but that these amounts, together with the further amounts arising from internal resources, will ensure that payments on maturing loans will not be delayed unreasonably. If a young married man entitled to a loan is building a house he should not have to seek bridging finance from the bank because of delays in the local authority scheme. A scheme will have to be devised so that a person obtaining a local authority loan can follow the usual practice of paying the builder a deposit and making further payments at various stages of building. The initial capital cost of such a scheme would be high because payments would be brought forward, but the Department will have to face up to the realities of life for young people. Very often they start married life facing not only mortgage repayments but a bridging loan as well. Some way must be found to release funds to people entitled to mortgages as soon as payments are demanded from them by the builder. They should not be forced to seek bridging finance while waiting for payment of their mortgage.

I understand the reluctance of the Department of the Environment to expend funds until they have been able to carry out inspections. They have some justification in their attitude because of some types of building work which have been carried on during the past 30 or 40 years. They do not want to part with money until they see a finished product which represents value for money. At the some time we must consider the plight of young people who are, in effect, facing two mortgages. It would be an enormous relief to them if payments could be made at various stages of building work. It would also be helpful if the Minister would investigate the scheme announced by Fine Gael about two months ago for an alternative method of financing some people who want to own their own houses. If it were feasible to put through the necessary legislation early in the new year it would be of great advantage to the construction industry and would increase employment. It would involve the setting up of an agency and the terms of reference given to its directors would be all important.

I would ask the Minister to ensure the release of significant amounts of money to local authorities. The construction industry will certainly grind to a halt if ordinary infrastructural work on roads, harbours and sewerage is not carried on and if local authority housing does not go ahead. During the mid-seventies, when private house building was falling off because of the recession, we put considerable sums of money into building increased numbers of local authority houses and providing increased mortgages. Such action taken now would help the construction industry and ease the problems of the country during the present recession.

The placing of this Bill before the House highlights the very critical situation facing the vast majority of local authorities in financing their housing programme. Over two-thirds of the money normally spent from the Local Loans Fund goes for local authority housing, house purchase loans and supplementary grants. I stress that the whole strategy of the Government in availing of the Local Loans Fund and in their housing policy has collapsed and I use the word advisedly. I want to put some general thoughts before the House to illustrate what I mean by the word "collapsed" because I believe that the social policy relative to housing is in an appalling state. This year, in a situation where we have 30,000 people on the local authority waiting lists, we handed out no less than £27 million in home improvement grants to an estimated 8,000 people who already own their houses. Could there be a greater indictment of the Government's housing policy? I am all in favour of improving housing stock, yet in 1980 as a matter of deliberate policy the phenomenal sum of £27 million was handed out to about 8,000 people without any income limit or valuation limit and virtually at will on the signature of a peace commissioner. A person owning a ten-bedroomed house and using, perhaps, only two bedrooms could avail of the full home improvement grant. Is there any other country in Europe or any part of the world where this could be a matter of deliberate policy when there are 30,000 families who have no houses, the vast majority of whom have little chance of getting housing in the near future?

The Fianna Fáil Party, in their mad profligate rush to the 1977 elections, said they would have a new system of home improvement grants and that there would be an unending supply of money available for it. Yesterday I asked the Minister for the Environment if he could tell me how much money was still remaining to be paid at the end of this year on home improvement grants. His reply was that it would be such an inordinate problem for the civil servants in O'Connell Bridge House to try to estimate how much was still to be paid out on application made up to the closure of the scheme that they could not tell him how much money was involved.

Have the Government because of that scheme committed themselves to pay out of the 1981 budget another £4 million, £5 million or £10 million? Where has it ended? It appears that during the first quarter of the year every Fianna Fáil Deputy and peace commissioner in the country signed so many house improvement grant applications that the Department are still flooded with them. I should like to tell the Minister that next week, or even tomorrow afternoon, I intend to raise the matter on the adjournment. The reply I got was the greatest sidestep of all time, more than equal to the sidestep of a Welsh wing three-quarters on a rugby field.

We have not got a housing policy. I do not know why we have the Local Loans Fund. The whole structure of the financial strategy in relation to such a fund is in a total shambles. I will illustrate this by a few more examples. Here I may say things that are very unpopular, but I am tired of what I regard as the mendacity of political parties and politicians on matters of social policy and I am compelled to say these things. At the moment overtime is exempt from differential earnings but the unfortunate old age pensioner who gets an increase in pension and who will get a double week's pension this Christmas will be assessed for differential rent——

I suggest to the Deputy that he is departing from the Local Loans Fund.

I want to repeat that two-thirds of the money in the Local Loans Fund relates to housing loans and grants. Therefore, we are talking about housing policy in a very direct sense.

I suggest to the Deputy that he should not go into this matter in too much detail.

I want to draw the attention of the house to the fact that an old age pensioner who gets a double week's payment at Christmas will be liable for assessment on that amount in respect of differential rent whereas the worker who gets an overtime bonus of £50 or £100 will not be liable in respect of that bonus. This is socially unjust, discriminatory and ridiculous.

To underline what Deputy Barry said in relation to house purchase loans in County Cork, I will give the situation in relation to County Dublin. In that county in the first 11 months of 1979 we got from the State a sum of £3.6 million through the Local Loans Fund. In the first 11 months of 1980 we have got £1.9 million. That is an indictment of the Government. This money is in respect of money for house purchase loans and house improvement loans. At the moment Dublin County Council have 400 applicants for house purchase loans. The applications have been approved and the vast majority of the applicants are on bridging finance or are waiting to complete contracts with builders. The situation is critical but there has been no effort on the part of the Government to clarify it.

I wish to protest very strongly at the complete failure of the Government to adjust the whole structure of the Local Loans Fund. The Minister and the Department of Finance must be convinced that the fund is an integral part of the construction industry and local authorities must have sufficient money to continue with their house-building programmes. There has not been a clear policy with regard to the Local Loans Fund and its contribution towards economic development, and I regret to have to say that. During the years a number of Ministers for the Environment and Ministers for Finance have made some efforts to try to use the fund in a responsible way. At the moment the entire housing policy has collapsed. The differential renting scheme contains inherent injustices.

The system of tax relief so far as loans are concerned is quite discriminatory and is a penal imposition on the 30,000 families who have no homes but who wish to have dwellings of their own, either by way of local authority houses or by way of house purchase loans. I should like the Minister to give consideration to these points.

Naturally every Member of the House approves the new limit of £2,500 million as set out in the Bill. However, I despair of seeing a politician in the Department of Finance or the Department of the Environment who will be prepared to reconsider the role of the Local Loans Fund and who will give some thought to the question of housing relative to income limits and mortgage interest relief, to the differential rent system, to provisions for itinerant settlements and other services in our local authorities. Perhaps some day some politician will emerge from either of those two Departments who will take these fundamental social issues by the scruff of the neck and put up what I would call socially just criteria for the operation of the Local Loans Fund. We have regressed very considerably in the past three to four years. Indeed, right back to 1973 and 1974 we did not make that much progress either, if we want to be totally objective about what, in fact, we were all up to.

The sale of existing housing schemes in retrospect and as in operation now has an appalling number of anomalies. I shall not elaborate because to do so might not please some of my colleagues who were in office in terms of some of the decisions taken. As regards the benefits, we all remember the notorious claw-back problens which arose, the speculation and profiteering in relation to local authority housing under that scheme. We remember the promise made by the party in office, Fianna Fáil, that if they got back what they would not do—and just to make a bad situation five times worse they proceeded to do so.

No matter what scheme you examine, whether it is the sale of existing housing schemes, the differential rent scheme, the mortgage interest relief scheme under income tax, the current income limit of £5,500 for house purchase loans, or the various criteria operated by local authorities, even on terms of some of the housing allocation schemes in operation, in some counties without the points system, you find so many anomalies, so many regressive, unjust, built-in anomalies that I genuinely despair of seeing any Minister for the Environment being prepared to stand up in this House and say: "There is a serious anomaly there and an injustice there. Somebody must pay for it. It must be amended or changed." Then, very scarce financial resources under the Local Loans Fund would become available particularly for one group of people at the moment who are being shortchanged by Irish political philosophy in terms of housing policy, namely the 30,000 people without homes—people who in my constituency are paying £25 and £30 a week for one lousy, miserable room of 12 feet by 8 feet, sharing a toilet with two other families, with no heating in their room, in many cases without even a window. The vast bulk of the electorate who have houses, including ourselves, could not care less.

We have a house, we have our interest relief on our mortgage, we have our tenant purchase scheme which gives us a house, originally for £500 or £600, now perhaps for £1,500 or £2,000. We can buy that house and even sell it for £25,000 or £26,000 three months later—a local authority house the building of which was subsidised from scarce resources, in the first instance, from the Local Loans Fund. We can sell it and make a massive capital gain while our brother and sister down the road live in squalid conditions in flatland, paying £20, £25 or £30 a week rent out of a take-home income of £75 or £80 a week. They will get no local authority house for perhaps four or five years to come, but do we care?

We are an allegedly Christian society, a society which is supposed to devote scarce resources to the deprived and those without decent accommodation in our society. The only time we care about things like a Local Loans Fund is when, perhaps, a daughter gets married and we suddenly become socially conscious again, because the couple move in with us and we worry about how they are going to get a house. As soon as they have a house and have moved out, to either a local authority house or a house of particular benefit, again we do not care.

I can give other analogies in terms of the uses of this type of fund. We have an increasing number of single persons who, for tax purposes, are buying three, four, and five-bedroom houses, getting tremendous tax benefits and mortgage interest relief. I am all in favour of people investing their savings effectively, but a question arises. Such persons get enormous tax relief while families with three and four children in different counties have no hope of getting accommodation.

The Chair has been extremely tolerant in this debate relative to housing policy, for which I want to thank him. Naturally I support this Bill. It is of major importance. However, I am deeply disturbed by the rapid decline in the past 12 months in local authority house building, in the new starts for local authority houses. Government policy and strategy in relation to loans and home improvement grants has gone completely wrong. It will take rare political courage—of which there is little evidence in this country at the moment—to put the policy back on the rails so that the very scarce national resources will go to those in greatest need, namely the 30,000 on our housing list who have no houses to live in, the elderly and the deprived who are, in many cases, also without decent housing. For them, this Bill holds out some hope, but without the concomitant political courage to face up to the issues involved it is no more than a contra bookkeeping exercise of no real long-term benefit.

I see no evidence of courage in the present Government either, within the popularity preoccupation of the Taoiseach and the irrelevance of most of his Cabinet members who are scared of their lives of incurring any degree of social controversy or social agitation—confrontation, one might say—on those issues. They sheer away from them like scalded cats, afraid of their lives to talk about anything on that basis. We will continue to plod along into the eighties, wasting public money in many directions and not giving it to those in greatest need in this critical area of public policy.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Local Loans Fund (Amendment) Bill which we are discussing is the Government instrument through which the house loans scheme of local authorities is financed. It is also the instrument by which the Government play their part in building local authority houses, in providing sanitary services, vocational schools, hospitals, harbour works, libraries, fire stations and itinerant resettlements. The fund was first introduced, apparently, in 1935. The limit then placed on them was £5 million and since then it has been altered and adjusted upwards until in 1978 it reached £1,500 million. It is now proposed to increase the limit to £2,500 million. In order to appreciate whether the proposed limit is adequate one must look at the cost of some of the schemes financed by this fund. I am sure it is only a coincidence that in the last few days we have been furnished with the September issue of the quarterly bulletin on housing statistics issued by the Department of the Environment. We must assume that the statistics are accurate because they are compiled by the Department.

As far as the cost of housing is concerned, and the capacity of those in search of houses to provide their own homes, that bulletin discloses an alarming state of affairs. It discloses that since 1976 house prices have gone mad and are now far beyond the reach of young married couples and those in search of a home of their own. The bulletin also discloses that since 1976 there has been a downward trend in the provision of local authority houses erected through this fund by local authorities. At a time when the price of houses in the private sector has rocketed to an alarming figure the number of houses being built by local authorities has dropped by half.

In referring to the situation since 1976 I am doing no more than taking the period covered by the bulletin. At first I should like to deal with house prices in the private sector from 1976 to date. In 1976 the average price of a house financed by building societies was £12,113 and for the third quarter of this year the price of a similar house had risen to £28,976.

I take it the Deputy will relate his remarks to the matter under discussion, the Local Loans Fund, and not to building societies.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I am relating my remarks to the price of houses. The measure we are dealing with concerns housing finance in the private sector as well as in the public sector. I am anxious to show that in the period in question the price of houses has rocketed. The average price of houses financed by insurance companies in 1976 was £14,060 while for the third quarter of this year it was £26,746. The average price of houses financed by local authorities in 1976—this is perhaps the most striking figure—was £8,553 and in the last quarter of this year it was £22,161. The average price of houses financed by the associated banks in 1976 was £14,262 and for the third quarter of this year it had risen to £36,120. The average price of all houses financed by all agencies mentioned was £12,258 in 1976 and £28,287 for the third quarter of this year.

The figures I have just quoted show that the price of houses has more than doubled in the period covered by the bulletin. It should be remembered that I did not choose that period for any political advantage. The official bulletin chose 1976 as a start and the third quarter of this year as a conclusion. For the purposes of my argument the most striking figure of all is that related to local authority houses, utility or low cost houses. The price of those houses has now gone completely beyond the limit such people can afford. The Minister may say that this year a substantial number of new houses will be completed and I would agree with such a statement but I should like to know the number of new houses started this year. My information is that the private house building sector programme is grinding to a halt. The price of cement has fallen dramatically——

That is the first bit of good news we have heard today.

(Cavan-Monaghan): My apologies. If one slips in one's thinking it is good to have good ears. I was of course referring to the huge drop in the sale of cement. The sale of damp-proof course material which is put in at an early stage of the construction of houses has also fallen dramatically. Those figures show that more local authority houses are necessary in prevailing conditions. Again at random I find that these statistics here commence in 1973. One would think they were prepared by me and not by the Department of the Environment but they are convenient for my purpose. This is where they begin: in 1963 there were 672 local authority houses built; in 1974 that increased to 6,746; in 1975 it rose to 8,794; in 1976 it was 7,263; in 1977 it was 6,333, a small increase; in 1978 the number was 6,073; in 1979 it was 6,214. In the first three quarters of this year we find that there are 3,265 houses completed, not even half the number that Deputy Tully, who has just come into the House, built. I do not know how many are going to be completed in the last quarter of this year but if we have the same number as in the first three quarters it would be about 4,500 houses, a drop of nearly 2,000. This is at a time when house prices are rocketing. That is why I say there is a serious housing crisis. In the last number of years many business people in towns have moved out into bungalows in rural areas adjacent to the towns, vacating second and third storey flats in the business part of the town. These flats are now being occupied by young married couples, many with children. Many of these buildings that they have to live in are positively dangerous from a fire point of view. This is a national disgrace.

The picture that I have just presented from official publications shows a very alarming state of affairs. It is necessary that more local authority houses be built. I have given this House figures which show that for this year there will be a substantial drop in local authority house completions. But I have not got the figures for starts and that is more alarming still because I believe that the number of new house starts this year was negligible. There has been no worthwhile allocation made from this fund for new house starts this year. I know of one local authority, Cavan County Council, which applied for approximately one and one-third million pounds for new houses this year. That application was made in the spring of this year.

This is not a debate on housing. A debate on housing should be confined to the Estimate.

It is the Local Loans Fund.

It is only increasing the money available under the Local Loans Fund. We could discuss everything under the sun on a Bill of this nature if it were in order to do so.

It was referred to by the Minister.

(Cavan-Monaghan): In his opening speech the Minister said that this is an instrument that provides money for local authority housing.

He said it in passing but we are not going to have a complete debate on this.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I cannot think of anything more relevant on this Bill than the amount of money that has been allocated by the Local Loans Fund this year for housing at a time when legislation is being passed through this House to increase the amount of aid for that fund. Surely the amount of money this fund is making available to local authorities is very relevant. We can only decide that by talking about the amount of money that is required by local authorities. With the greatest respect to the Chair, that is what I am trying to do.

I was pointing out that Cavan County Council applied for one and one-third million pounds and did not get any money until 17 or 18 September when they were given £35,000 to a fanfare of trumpets in the local newspaper advising all and sundry that the Minister for the Environment had informed the Minister for Education that £35.000 extra was being made available but they did not say in that epistle that it was in response to an application for one and one-third million pounds for housing schemes in Killeshandra, in Ballyjamesduff, in Kilnaleck and in Bailieboro. That disclosed an alarming state of affairs, while the number of completions of new houses this year looks like dropping according to the statistics from 6,214 last year to something between 4,000 and 5,000 this year at a time when the cost of houses has doubled, as I said before the Leas-Cheann Comhairle came in, when the cost of houses has jumped dramatically from £12,258 in 1976 to £28,287 in the third quarter of 1980. That is what I am complaining about.

While we are talking about housing finance let me make a brief and sincere plea on behalf of the small number of people in each county who are living on small bits of land in isolated cottages of a very substandard nature who are unable to house themselves and who cannot get houses built for them by the local authoruties because the Minister for Finance will not release enough money through this Local Loans Fund. It takes our county up to five years to get one of these houses built. The figures are there. I know Donegal County Council have built 140 or 150 houses but in places like Cavan there are about 14 or 15 isolated houses built each year. It is a public scandal. When these people apply they are told they will be considered on the allocation of a scheme in some neighbouring townland. That is not good enough. These people have small bits of land, ten or 15 acres and they are rearing families there and they do not want to live anywhere else and because they have a bit of land they cannot live anywhere else and they are being neglected in some counties. Mayo and Donegal have done very well but there are other counties which do very badly. Unless the Government are prepared to introduce a new system of house loans they will have to release more money through this fund.

Fine Gael published a new housing loans scheme related to income and inflation. It was welcomed by Deputy O'Donoghue who gave me the impression that he approved of it entirely and had been thinking about it. It was endorsed by the Minister for the Environment who said it would be churlish of him to say there was nothing good in it. It is an excellent scheme, but will the Government introduce it? It is a scheme under which no young married couple would be required to pay more than 20 per cent of their income by way of payment of a housing loan. It is a scheme which can be financed from the pension funds and life insurance funds with the backing of the Government. It would relieve this housing loan fund over which the Minister is keeping such a tight grip in the last few years.

There is one other thing I want to say in relation to this Bill. The Minister in his introductory speech has told us that this is one of the measures that finance hospital building. I do not want to go into the hospital building programme over the whole country, but I do want to say that in my constituency the building of a new hospital has come to a complete standstill because the Minister for Health will not sanction the preparation of further plans necessary to invite tenders because the Minister for Finance, again through this fund, has turned off the tap. In 1977 the hospital in Cavan town was at the planning stage for an extension of 180 beds, and the hospital in Beaumont in Dublin was at a similar stage. The same architects and consultants were engaged on both hospitals. When the new Minister for Health, the present Taoiseach, was appointed he took the consultants off the Cavan hospital and put them on the Beaumont Hospital. Last year something like £55,000 was spent on the Cavan Hospital and I was told in reply to a supplementary question here one day that £13.4 million has been spent on Beaumont in the last two years and that it is hoped to open Beaumont in 1982. The Cavan hospital is at a complete standstill although there is a far greater need for a hospital in the Cavan region than there is in the Dublin region. That is an abuse of this Local Loans Fund. It is discrimination against rural Ireland, against a part of Ireland that needs a hospital far more than does the city of Dublin which is already well served by existing hospitals. I do not begrudge Dublin another hospital. I do not begrudge Beaumont another hospital. If the money was spread between the two and we could get on with both of them. I would be satisfied. When you bring the building operation and even the planning operation to a complete standstill on one of them it is not good enough and it will have to be rectified.

I want the Minister for Finance in conjunction with the Minister for the Environment to recognise that there is a major housing crisis here at the moment. That is a familiar term, but surely to goodness nothing could be of more crisis dimensions than houses jumping in cost in the private sector from £12,000 or thereabouts to £28,000 and at the same time the number of completions in the public sector dropping from over 6,000, and from over 8,000 in 1975 or 1976, to something over 4,000 at present. Is that not queer management of this Local Loans Fund?

I could go on talking about sanitary services and sewerage schemes. I think that the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry, paid a visit to Cavan — certainly the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, did — in connection with pollution and the Minister of State gave a lecture to Cavan County Council about them operating the antipollution laws and providing a lot of staff to monitor certain lakes and rivers. Since then I have had a question answered here on sewerage, which is covered by this Bill, by the Minister, Deputy Fahey who told me that an application for a sewerage scheme in Dowra, Co. Cavan, which was lodged in his Department at the end of 1975 is still under consideration and that he does not know when it is going to be financed out of this fund.

The Chair does not believe that all those matters should or could be raised on a Bill of this kind. I have said that before. In passing it is all right to mention the matters covered by the Local Loans Fund, but if the Deputy and every other Deputy in the House here went into detail on all the matters covered by the Local Loans Fund there would be no end.

(Cavan-Monaghan): What would be in order on the Bill?

It is only increasing the amount of money available, and that is all. The Chair believes that it is not in order to debate all these matters at length.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Surely I am entitled to make the case that the proposed increase is not enough.

All the matters the Deputy is raising now are for other Ministers and should be raised on the Estimates or at some other time.

(Cavan-Monaghan): If they will not convince this Minister that not enough money is being released from the local authority funds then I must do it.

The Chair has allowed the Deputy a tremendous amount of latitude. The Chair has already said that the Chair feels that we are overstepping the thing completely at this stage.

(Cavan-Monaghan): If I am to live within the Chair's ruling I would have to either welcome or denounce the Bill and sit down. That is not debate.

The Chair is saying that the Deputy cannot cover everything under the sun that is paid out of this fund.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister said in his speech that it covers sewerage and I am talking about sewerage.

I am saying that it is in order to mention those things in passing, but the Deputy is going into detail on everything that he maintains is lacking in Cavan.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I was talking about sewerage for not more than a minute and a half when the Chair ruled me out of order. I want to go on record as saying that, notwithstanding all the lectures we got about pollution in Cavan, we cannot get a few thousand £s to put a sewerage scheme in Dowra and prevent untreated sewage from flowing into the River Shannon. We had a similar episode in Cavan town. It took a major protest to get £70,000 from this fund to provide a filter to make the water of the town drinkable and to have sanitary services provided. I think that the finances of the local authority are in complete chaos, as some of the things that I have been saying illustrate clearly.

A request for £1½ million was sought and an allocation made of £35,000. Nothing will solve the problem or do anything to improve it other than a realisation first by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Environment that the financing of capital programmes of local authorities is in a mess. There is no use in the Minister saying we gave X pounds last year and we are giving X plus Y pounds this year unless at the same time he tells me how much work that will do. It is the number of houses that the money allocated will build that concerns people waiting for houses. That is the important thing. When one sees the increase in the price of houses one realises how little the increase in money means.

If the things I have been pointing out were not pointed out and the country was told that the fund was being increased from £1,500 million to £2,500 million one would think there would be money to burn, but when you hear that during the same period the price of a house has far more than doubled and that schemes for sewerage, water, hospitals and for every public amenity are at a standstill all over the country you will see how insignificant the sum we are talking about really is.

This is a very important discussion. While I propose to stay within the rules of order I should like to comment on some matters mentioned in the Minister's brief because we all believe that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

I also feel that the proposed increase from £1,500 million to £2,500 million is not sufficient particularly when we remember that at the present rate of spending it represents five years expenditure. If we take the last two years, in which the increase has been enormous, a Bill would have to come before the House again very much sooner than five years. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of the present situation. While Deputy Fitzpatrick rightly dwelt on local authority houses the situation is even worse than he said because the houses being completed this year are houses many of which were started two or three years ago and some which were started last year and this year cannot be completed because the necessary money has not been made available.

This is evidenced by the increasing waiting list. A few days ago a six-house scheme was being allocated a few miles from me and there were 44 eligible applicants. In another area where there were 12 houses there were 42 applicants. Those people have no hope of getting a house for years to come. This compares very unfavourably with the situation which the Government admitted existed in 1977, when they took over, when 75 per cent of those awaiting housing were, according to them, three-member families. They used that as a reason for cutting down then on additional money which was required by local authorities to house people unable to house themselves.

I heard somebody whining here the other night about the effect of the average price of a house on inner city houses which were costing so much. I should like to remind those sitting opposite that if they had built the inner city houses when houses could be built for a very small sum of money instead of listening to their masters outside who owned this property and were waiting to make a kill with it, if they had signed a compulsory purchase order and acquired the sites then and built the houses then, the houses would not now be costing £40,000 per site, which we are told is the current price. The inner city has to be built up. I contributed in my time to it and I am glad that to a certain extent the present Minister is doing so also, but not as much as I would like.

There is no point in talking about the additional money allocated for local authority housing when the cost per house unit has increased by two or two-and-a-half times what it cost four or five years ago. This automatically cuts down the number of houses being built, but when the amount of money allocated is also cut down the situation becomes much worse. I should like the Minister to let us know the comparative figures for money made available to local authorities throughout the country last year and this year because the answers I have got to questions in the House show that there has been a substantial reduction except in certain favoured areas.

I am aware that in the county in which I live the amount allocated is about half the money sought, but the greatest trouble—this was referred to very briefly by Deputy Fitzpatrick—is that the number of starts has dropped through the floor. I do not know if a study has been done on this but listening to the case being made by spokesmen for the Department of the Environment one would get the impression that local authority housing schemes were roaring along, that there was no shortage of money for building, that everybody was happy, that the number of completions this year would be a near record and that the number of starts was well up. The facts are — and I am not very far out — that the number of local authority houses completed this year will be down by well over 2,000 on last year and that the number of local authority houses completed next year, unless there is a quick change of Government and a quick change in the attitude of the Department to local authority housing, will be back where it was two years after Fianna Fáil took over from the previous Coalition Government when it went down to 1,700 or 1,800 from about 6,000.

I am making the point because I believe that, above all else, not the making available of the money but the permission to allow the Local Loans Fund to have the money with which this crisis can be attacked, is very important. Therefore the increase from £1,500 million to £2,500 million is not adequate.

Deputy Fitzpatrick did not refer to SDA loans. Let me give a typical instance of what is happening, which I am sure is well within the rules of the House. In some cases a local authority will not build a house for people where four or five members of a family are earning. The badly housed parents will not get a local authority house. When the members of the family leave the family home the unfortunate parents are left in a hovel for the rest of their lives. The local authority tell the people they cannot build or allocate a house or cottage to them but ask why they cannot build their own.

They are told that perhaps they can get a subsidised site and very often this costs £2,000 or £3,000. That amount of money could have built a good house two or three years ago. Before they start they must find that money. They apply for an SDA loan and up to June this year most local authorities were processing loan applications and notifying applicants that they would get £X up to a maximum of £12,000. With that letter in their hand they went to a bank. In most cases the bank manager gave them a bridging loan. They started to build the house and when it was completed or almost completed they went to the local authority and asked for some of the loan. What happened? The local authority had not got the money and this Government refused to give it to them. The newspapers said they were doing this in order to create a situation in which to have the national wage agreement. I could not see the sense of that and I do not believe it. The main reason they did not do so was because the money was not available. They found the £1,500 million getting smaller and smaller and decided to tighten up on this. They are good at tightening up on important things but if they are not important it is a different matter.

Such people were unable to finish their house or, if they had finished it, they were repaying enormous sums to banks for bridging loans. I know people with slightly over £100 a week who are repaying £70 a week on interest. The Government say there is plenty of money for housing and people should build their own. They ask why they do not do so. In June, finding the money was not available, the local authorities either had a discussion among their managers or a circular was sent to them from the Department. They decided to change the terms of the letter which was sent to applicants to read: "you have been allotted a loan of £X which will be made available to you subject to the availability of finance". One can imagine a bank manager when an ordinary wage earner hands him that note and says that he wants to borrow money to buy a house. A bank manager being a bank manager, and not having got there because he was a fool, decides that that is no use. Since there is no guarantee of money there is no guarantee of a bridging loan. I do not know whether I am right or wrong but I feel the person who gets that document and is refused a bridging loan is in a better position than the unfortunate who gets a bridging loan and then finds the local authority has no money to meet it when the time comes.

This has occurred because the State left the local authorities short of so much money. There is, however, another aspect to it. We heard a lot of talk from those in Government that they had increased not only the amount of loan which could be borrowed from £4,500 in my time to £12,000 but also had increased the eligibility limit. What they did not say was that, having done that, they did not make additional funds available to allow local authorities to pay the money. The position is that if one pays a loan of £12,000 it costs just three times that amount. It would have been reasonable to recognise that inflation had increased the cost of a house. To suggest that it could be done on a loaves and fishes basis, and that without getting any additional money local authorities should be able to make the same number of loans available although the amount of the loan had increased three times, makes it much worse. If a person is earning £105 a week he may be eligible for a loan of £12,000 but if he has less the loan will be less. A sum of £12,000 is nothing when it comes to building a house at present. Unless a person can raise £3,000 or £4,000 somewhere else and has saved as much——

All this detail would be more appropriate to the Estimate.

No, it would not.

The Chair should be obeyed. All the details the Deputy is going into would be appropriate to the Estimate for the Department of the Environment.

There is a Bill before the house and it provides for a certain amount of money which is inadequate. I am making a case and I must be allowed to do so.

The Deputy is going into all the details of building a house, loans, who is entitled to them and so on. It does not come under this Bill.

I beg to differ with you, Sir.

The Deputy should not differ with the Chair. It is in order to suggest that there is not enough money being provided and so on, but going into immense detail is not in order.

How will I explain to the house that I consider the amount of money being made available inadequate unless the Chair allows me to show why I consider it inadequate? If that is not the purpose of putting the Bill before the House the Chair should rule——

The Chair has given the Deputy immense latitude on this Bill and he should not overdo it.

I am not overdoing it. I am sticking strictly to the rules of the House. I have spent more time in this House than anyone else at present sitting in those benches over there, from 1954 to present. I know rulings and whether they are given fairly or unfairly.

The Chair is ruling fairly and according to the rules of the House down through the years on Bills of this nature increasing the amount of money made available in one section. The Chair is giving the rulings that have been given by all occupants of the Chair through the years.

If the Chair is giving that ruling we should have the Ceann Comhairle and find out if he is prepared to stand over the ruling.

The occupant of the Chair is in control of the House while he is in the Chair.

He is and in my opinion is ruling unfairly and is not prepared to listen to my argument. You allowed me to make 75 per cent of my case and then you rushed in as I was bringing it to a conclusion. That is an unfair ruling.

The Chair has been very fair to everybody.

I did not notice it.

That is not good enough.

If the Chair wants us to say "This is not good enough" and then sit down, that can be done but that is not my way if dealing with matters in the House. If the Government are serious about a housing programme they must make the necessary money available, first of all through the SDA loans, and they must be prepared to subsidise them if the cost of money is too high. This is where the whole issue arises. To do that, extra money is needed. It is ridiculous to suggest that the amount of money which is sought here will meet the problem over the next four or five years which is apparently suggested in the Bill.

The Minister mentioned vocational schools. We know it is impossible in a country town to get children into a vocational school this year or next year, with very few exceptions, because the necessary money has not been made available to enlarge or to build the schools required. Even when schools are built, teachers and secretarial staff are not sanctioned to run the schools.

On the question of hospitals, this Government, not the Coalition Government, when the late Deputy Childers, as he then was, was Minister for Health, accepted the FitzGerald Report. In our turn, we agreed that hospitals should be built in certain areas. That Government had already made the same decision. What have they done now? They get all the money that is available, not a lot, and they spend it on one hospital in Dublin. They are not even able to finish that. How can anyone expect that jobs can be done as required when the amount of money made available is not sufficient?

A very good case was made by a Fianna Fáil Deputy for a couple of harbours in County Dublin which were sadly neglected. He did not say it was because of his Government that they were sadly neglected. Money should be made available to have this work done. Drogheda Harbour is close to me; half of it is in Meath and the other half in Louth, where the Boyne runs into the sea. Necessary work on the harbour has not been carried out because the money is not available.

There is a lot of craw-thumping about itinerant settlements and yet the only effort ever made to settle the itinerants properly—travelling people, as they are now called—was when we made arrangements to have built, not tigeens which one would not put a dog into, but houses, but the necessary money is not available now. We have a group of people, whom I can only refer to as fascists, who object to itinerants being housed within a mile of them. I agree with the Government when they insists that houses should be built for itinerants even though some people object and try to have them chased away. It is an extraordinary attitude by so-called Christians.

There is not enough money spent on water and sewerage schemes. I do not entirely blame the Government, I blame all the Governments down through the years who sadly neglected the water and sewerage schemes. They did not do what they should have done. The result is that we have a situation where our towns and village authorities are doing more harm to the environment by allowing effluent into rivers than anything else I know of. We made efforts to have money made available to remedy the situation. It has not been remedied. It is being dealt with very slowly, shortage of money has stopped hundreds of schemes, schemes that were half completed have been left and schemes that were built with a capacity for a very large area are now working on a relatively small area because the necessary money is not available.

The amount of money being made available is entirely inadequate. I know people will say on the one hand I am complaining of too much borrowing and on the other that there is not enough being borrowed, but this matter deals with essential services. The Government will get the support of everyone in the House if they decide to provide money which would be accepted as the best estimate that can be made of what these schemes will cost in the next five or ten years. Otherwise, we will be coming back to the House in 12 or 18 months time looking for more money. The amount of money which has been spent and the devaluation of the IR£ has created a situation where £1,000 million will go nowhere.

The Bill which raises the statutory limit on issues from the Local Loans Fund from £1,500 million to £2,500 million, is an enabling Bill. It enables the Government, through the Local Loans Fund, to finance the various capital expenditure of local authorities. The fact that the £1,500 million limit was established in 1978 and has now to be increased by something of the order of 60 per cent to £2,500 million, is indicative of the rate of inflation which we have experienced under the Government. The rate of inflation for 1979-80 was about 18 per cent. This is causing concern to the Government and to all politicians. It is the inflation rate which is making things so difficult for the Government to tackle the real problems. It is the utter failure of the Government to bring the rate of inflation under control which has caused such hardship, from the lack of housing, school buildings and sewerage works being carried out by local authorities. We are complaining about the lack of real investment in these areas. The word "real" is an important one to use economically, because it is only by increasing the real investment in the superstructure of the nation that we can ensure that our people will live in comfort and get the necessary services. We are not now getting the necessary services.

The damage which inflation is causing to Government funding is exacerbated by the rise in population, which is very welcome. Here we see the real need for more investment in superstructure. Our population has increased relatively rapidly, which is an unusual phenomenon in developed countries where family planning has, to a certain extent, controlled population rises. Fifty per cent of the population are below 25 years of age. At the other end of the scale the percentage of the population aged 65 years and over, the dependent section of the community, is also increasing rapidly. This population structure is highly significant from the point of view of local authority investment in housing because it is the young population, those between 18 and 25, who make the biggest demand on housing: they get married and they set up their own homes.

In this area this Government are failing because they have not done anything to ensure that the infrastructure, water and sewerage, as well as the houses will be available. I will come back to the subject of local authority houses later and refer to the reduced number built in 1980, a serious development from the point of view of our increasing young population.

This young population also need education and it is the job of the Government to ensure that the schools and the supply of teachers will be adequate. Peculiarly, it is under the Local Loans Fund that the building of vocational schools is financed. It is the wrong way to do it. To my mind as Fine Gael spokesman for education, the financing of school building at all levels lies properly with the Department of Education. That is where all school building should be centred. That Department have a good building unit and they are to be commended on the very good secondary schools they have built, particularly from the point of view of design. The Board of Works have responsibility for the building of primary schools.

This is a very fragmented and haphazard approach to school building programmes which, as I have said, should be centralised in the Department of Education where the expertise lies and where proper programming can be done. This haphazard approach is reflected in the vocational school accommodation being provided. In 1976 a survey was done on the number of prefab buildings in the vocational education system. The survey discovered that at the prices then ruling it would take £16 million to replace all the prefab structures in this field. That is also indicative of the Government's haphazard approach to school building. Prefabs do not have a long life and they are subject to high maintenance costs, but the policy in the 1960s and 1970s favoured a programme of prefab schools as a long-term solution. This should never have been.

Now the nation is faced with a colossal problem in relation to school buildings because of the lack of Fianna Fáil's social commitment. The 1980 budget cut the provision for the building of schools and colleges by 6 per cent. Taking inflation into account this meant a real reduction of capital expenditure of the order of 20 per cent, a social disgrace in view of the increasing young population. It was a retrograde and socially dangerous policy.

This Bill is disgraceful in its provision for a school building programme. All Deputies in my party have had representations from throughout the country about the cuts in school extensions and the building of new schools. People have been told there will not be any money until 1981 or, alternatively, that cost limits already have been exceeded. Therefore, the whole attitude of the Department of Education and the Government is very objectionable. It will cause tremendous pressure for politicians in the coming two years.

I have read the quarterly bulletin on housing in the public sector for the quarter ended 30 September last. In the 1970s about 25,000 houses were completed year in year out. The target was set by Deputy Tully during the period of the National Coalition from 1973 to 1977. The target of 25,000 houses per annum was reached up to the end of 1979 and from figures available for the first three quarters of 1980 it looks as if the target will be reached this year. However, because of expressed Fianna Fáil policy the number of local authority houses has been reduced. Deputy Lynch said that Fianna Fáil's commitment does not lie with local authority housing but elsewhere. He said that Fianna Fáil's priority was with private sector housing. Local authority house building was at its highest in the National Coalition years and the figures have been borne out by the report I referred to earlier. I want to put them on the record of the House. Local authority dwellings completed, according to Table 3 (a) of the report were: 1973, 6,072; 1974, 6,746; 1975, 8,794; 1976, 7,263; 1977, 6,333. From 1974 to 1977 the National Coalition were responsible for the extremely high level of local authority houses financed and completed.

It is indicative of the lack of social conscience by the Fianna Fáil Government that since then the trend has been downward. In 1978 the number fell from 6,333 in 1977 to 6,273. In 1979 a total of 6,214 houses were completed by local authorities. This figure is again substantially below the average for the 1973 to 1976 period. The most serious downturn can be seen for 1980. Many Members of the House who are also members of local authorities can see for themselves at local level that the building programme in the public sector has come to a standstill. From January to the end of September 1980 only 3,265 local authority houses have been completed, a reduction of nearly 50 per cent of the total for 1979. If we take into account 1,300 houses completed in the last quarter, that would bring the completions for 1980 in respect of local authority houses to 4,500, a reduction of more than 25 per cent over the 1979 figure.

That is a very serious state of affairs. It is only too obvious to Members of the House who are also members of local authorities that the house applicant list is increasing daily. Under the National Coalition Government we were able to house families with two children and in many instances we were able to house families with one child. We are now back in the situation where a couple will have to have three children before they are recognised as being serious cases for houses. Once again social problems are arising. I know of a substantial increase in the number of marriages which are breaking up because of bad housing conditions.

The Chair repeats that the Deputy is going into immense detail on this sort of matter, which is not relevant to the Bill before the House but would be appropriate on the Estimate.

The net point I am making is that the allocation from the Local Loans Fund to local authorities is insufficient. I am making a political charge that the priority of the Fianna Fáil Government on expenditure from the Local Loans Fund is causing serious social problems in our society. I am surely entitled to make those points on this Bill.

The Chair is not objecting to the Deputy making those points. The Chair is objecting to all the detail the Deputy is going into, detail which is more relevant on another Bill or on the Estimate.

Would the Chair not agree that I am entitled to make political charges based on the lack of commitment by the Government in respect of the Local Loans Fund? I am only describing the results of this lack of commitment by the Government which is related to the Local Loans Fund policy. The amount of money being expended under the Local Loans Fund in completely inadequate so far as the house building policy in the private sector is concerned. I must therefore refute the statement made by the Minister this morning when he referred to the substantial increase in expenditure from the fund. He stated:

This reflects in particular increased provision for local authority housing including the house purchase loan scheme...

There has not been an increased provision for local authority housing throughout the country this year. The number of houses being built by local authorities will have reduced by 25 per cent this year. It is fallacious and is misleading the House when the Minister of State comes in and makes a statement that this reflects, in particular, increased provision for local authority housing, when it is manifestly evident from statistics from the Department of the Environment that the number of houses built by local authorities will decrease by 25 per cent. How dare he come in here, mislead the House and give false information to the House when it patently obvious from Government statistics that that is not the case. I hope he can deal with this aspect of the matter when he is replying.

In the sentence I have quoted the Minister said that this reflects increased provision for the house purchase loan scheme. We are well aware of the house purchase loan scheme, whether it is the low rise mortgage scheme or the SDA loan scheme. Many local authorities throughout the country have had to stop consideration of loans under the SDA scheme. In my local authority of Waterford city since 14 July we have not been able to process applications under the SDA scheme because of lack of funds. There is no point in the Minister of State coming in here and pretending to the House that everything in the garden is rosy in regard to the Government's commitment to the house purchase loan scheme. That is not so. Another local authority of which I am also a member, Waterford County Council, have only been able to continue processing SDA loan applications by using their own resources pending an allocation, which will probably not come now until 1981, in respect of that scheme.

The Fianna Fáil Government are slowly choking local authorities when it comes to the provision of money for SDA loan schemes and other purchase loan schemes. Since last July many local authorities have had to suspend consideration of applications under the SDA scheme. The Minister comes in here and pretends to the House that there is increased provision for local authority houses, including the house purchase loan schemes. Many young married couples come to us and tell us that they have committed themselves to purchasing a house, have put down a deposit and have an application in for an SDA loan. Those couples are entitled to houses but we cannot explain to them that the Government have no money for the next six months. Many young couples have been embarrassed by the situation which has arisen because of the failure of Fianna Fáil to provide adequate funds for the purchase of houses. It is a disgrace that the Government have not been able to meet their obligations in respect of house purchase loans. The Minister may be very pleased about the increase to £5,500 in respect of loan limits and about the loan increase to £12,000 but these figures could be increased to £10,000 and £20,000 respectively without having any effect because of there not being any money to run the scheme. Who, then, are the Government codding?

There arises the other question of the cost of housing. The Government came into power on the crest of a wave. They promised to abolish rates and they kept that promise.

We had begun that process.

That is so. Fianna Fáil introduced new house grants of £1,000. That scheme is still in operation but the scheme which provided for house improvement grants of £600 went by the board very quickly, the attitude being that once that party were in office, they could ride on the backs of the electorate. The position now is that the provision for house improvement loans cannot be met. About a year ago when we were debating our joining the EMS, we were told that membership of this system would result in lower interest rates such as those which are available in Germany and other European countries. We were told, too, that the EMS would free us from the stranglehold of the London money market. In addition we were told that inflation would be kept under control.

The Deputy must get back to the Bill before the House. The Chair must be obeyed at some time.

In relation to moneys provided for housing programmes under the Local Loans Fund, it is important to note that the problems facing local authorities have been exacerbated by a savage increase in the cost of new houses. To illustrate this point, I should like to quote some figures which appear in the report I have mentioned.

The Deputy must keep to what is in this onesection Bill. I have told him already that all this detail is not relevant to the Bill. It would be appropriate to an estimate or to some other debate.

In passing, then, I shall merely indicate the real increase which local authorities have been faced with in respect of house prices. The figures indicate the need for a substantial rise in the limits in respect of the Local Loans Fund. I am merely indicating that the limits being provided for in the Bill are insufficient. Perhaps I might quote the percentage increase in house prices during the past few years in order to prove that the increase being authorised under this Bill is insufficient. I am sure the Chair will bear with me in this case.

The Chair has displayed a tremendous amount of patience all morning in relation to this Bill.

I shall not go into the matter in depth but shall merely point out that since 1976, house prices have rocketed. In the local authority sector, houses which were costing on average £8,553 to build in 1976 are now costing £22,161. In other words, the cost of building a local authority house has almost trebled in that time. This situation has caused serious problems for those who manage the Local Loans Fund. The real value of the fund is not increasing. It is decreasing as one will realise in taking into account the rapid increase in the cost of building local authority houses. The same applies to the private sector. Houses financed by building societies cost on average £12,113 in 1976 whereas the corresponding figure today is £28,976. This is an indication of the failure of Fianna Fáil to keep down house prices or to control inflation or to care for the real needs of the people.

The situation I have outlined is a serious indictment of Fianna Fáil in Government during a period in which they have had a big majority and, consequently, real power in the area of house price control. However, they have failed miserably and are far more interested in having their pictures in the papers on the opening of supermarkets or of cow byres. That is all very good cosmetic stuff but the people are suffering in the meantime.

The Deputy continues to move away from this one-section Bill.

I should like to deal now with the question of single cottages in the context of their being part of the housebuilding programme.

The Deputy will have to wait for the Estimate to discuss these matters. The Chair cannot allow him to continue on those lines.

I would say in passing that because of the lack of funds, the local authorities are not able to meet their commitment to build single cottages where sites are provided by the applicants. The number of such cottages being built, especially in Waterford, is so minimal as to be a cause of derision. I know of many families who have the sites but who cannot get Waterford County Council to build the houses. There are a number of other matters arising from the Minister's speech which I should like to deal with before the Chair takes a stick to me.

The Chair will not interfere with any Deputy who is being relevant to the Bill before the House.

A good deal of concern has been expressed regarding the Government's policy in the area of the building of hospitals. It is obvious that the amount of money being allocated from the Local Loans Fund to the health authorities is totally inadequate in this respect. A particular example of this is to be found in my constituency where Ardkeen hospital has been designated a regional hospital. I understand that plans in that respect have been finalised but that it has been made quite clear that the necessary moneys are not available and that the plans will have to be shelved for the time being. Surely this is an obvious example of the stop-go policy. There is a fine site in Waterford for the building of a regional hospital and there is a great need there for such a hospital. I have seen out-patients standing in corridors for hours while awaiting specialist treatment. The facilities available there are totally inadequate and the staff who are doing very good work are operating in very difficult circumstamces. Again, this is another example of a lack of commitment on the part of the Government in regard to Ardkeen hospital. The situation at the hospital is so bad that it has become almost impossible to get a machine in any of the departments there.

The same applies in relation to harbour works. The volume of work in this sphere is pathetic. This is because of the small amounts of money that are committed to this work under the Local Loans Fund. In fairness, though, we were very lucky in so far as Dunmore East was concerned. A very good job of harbour development was completed there about eight years ago but there is a need now for the drawing up of a comprehensive plan for the establishment of a deep-water facility in the Suir Estuary.

I have told other Deputies that all these local matters should not be raised on a Bill of this kind. If every Deputy were to be allowed raise every local matter that he could think of, we might spend six months on the Bill.

I am only mentioning some things in passing which are indicative of the uselessness of the present Fianna Fáil commitment——

The Chair cannot allow Deputies to raise individual constutuency matters on a Bill of this kind.

I will not go into detail——

Mentioning them in passing is the same as debating them.

I am about to finish if the Chair will bear with me for five minutes. There is a need for the development of a deep water facility in the Suir harbour, and it would only be a recognition of the importance of Waterford port in the context of our involvement with Europe. I accept that there is a need for plans to be drawn up by the harbour board but when those plans are to be considered I hope they will receive priority attention in Dublin.

On a deputation to the Minister for the Environment a short time ago, the question of finance for the East Waterford regional water scheme was discussed.

I am not pleased. What does the Chair need to say? We will not discuss individual matters on this Bill. They are more relevant to an estimate debate.

This is indicative of the lack of money——

Can the Chair make it clearer?

I am about to conclude.

Everything in Waterford is being mentioned.

I have a few still to mention.

The Chair is not allowing any more.

I am saying that the tardiness with which the East Waterford regional scheme is being considered by the Government is causing infrastructural problems and I hope greater priority will be given to the scheme at Government level.

May I make a plea to the Minister to have the construction and reconstruction of courthouses made a charge on central funds and financed from the Local Loans Fund? It is improper that a reconstruction of a courthouse—for instance, the courthouse in Waterford is costing £1.5 million——

The Chair will not allow the Deputy to continue. This does not arise on this Bill.

That expenditure should come from the Local Loans Fund and should not be a burden on the local ratepayers.

The first thing that strikes me when studying this Bill is that we are dealing with "Monopoly" money, money which seems to have no value. The Minister said that in 1935 this fund amounted to £5 million and in 1980 it amounts to £2,500 million. As big as this might seem, I wonder if it is big enough. What strikes most public representatives when dealing with constituents is the lack of progress in many fields. One reason for this lack may be that we are not spending enough money on many of these projects.

An unbelievable thing happened in 1980. At one stroke of the pen this Government took away reconstruction grants and oil central heating grants. This trend is wrong. We should be encouraging people to improve and build their own homes. I could not believe it when the announcement was made taking away the grants for extending homes. The Minister knows the number of people who ask public representatives if there is any money available to improve dwellings. In many cases these people are living in very bad dwellings. I ask the Government to reconsider this trend, where we are encouraging people to sit back and let the State do everything for them. We should be encouraging them to renovate, improve, and, where possible, build their own homes. The State should be giving them more money by way of grants, loans and increasing income limits to encourage them to do something worth while.

We hear a lot about the £1,000 grant. Many people say it is too much but I do not think it is half enough. At present everybody looking for a house goes to the local authority hoping they will provide them with houses. We must stop this trend. If we increased these grants some of those people would be encouraged to build their own homes. I would be the first to admit that there may be a big number of people who do not have the initiative — they probably do not have the capital — and may not be capable of doing this kind of work.

We are talking about a very large sum of money, but what value will we get for it? Every week the number of people looking for local authority accommodation is increasing. The local authorities are inviting tenders and holding back the housing tenders at some stage because the money is not being made available to build these houses. There are over 30,000 people who do not have any homes and many of them are living in squalor.

This Bill deals not alone with hospitals but with old people's homes. In a rural community what strikes me is the number of old people's who are living on their own, without sanitary services or telephones and often even without electricity. They live miles from their nearest neighbour. This is another top priority the Government should look at. We must think about housing our old people who are past working age——

These are policy matters which do not arise under this Bill.

Surely £2,500 million is a policy matter? The point I am making is that taking care of old people should be a Government priority.

Over the last few weeks Supplementary Estimates for £50 million, £30 million and £33 million were discussed. This is nothing less than a second budget. Today the Minister is asking for a vast amount of money. I am wondering if this money is being properly spent. I do not think it is.

I want to ask the Minister if this Bill means we will have a resumption of the flow of money from the Local Loans Fund to local authorities. Perhaps the Minister would spell that out clearly when replying. Does it mean that local authorities, at present starved of finance, will get an injection of cash for the remainder of this year and obviously also early in the new year?

As has been stressed by other speakers today, the situation has become chronic, with most, if not all, local authorities at present encountering tremendous financial difficulties because of a shortfall in the injection of cash from central Government funds, in other words, the Local Loans Fund. Nowhere is this shortfall more evident than in the housing sector. Those of us who serve on local authorities — I am a member of Waterford County Council and Dungarvan Urban Council — know very well the chronic situation obtaining. We want to see money flowing back into the coffers of these local authorities.

Housing is the main concern at present because our housing lists have grown out of all proportion in the last couple of years and the number of houses being built, especially local authority houses, has decreased. Can the Minister give us any hope that the number of houses being built by local authorities will be increased? Three, four or five years ago a family with one child, and in some cases couples with no children, under the National Coalition Government, at the time when Deputy Tully was Minister for Local Government, had a reasonable hope of being rehoused by local authorities. Nowadays they have no hope at all. I am aware of many two and three children families who are not being rehoused, who have been on the housing list for several years with no immediate prospect of being rehoused. It is a very sad state of affairs to see young married couples with two or three young children, or in some cases four or five, living in dreadful flats. The standard of accommodation in which some of these people live is deplorable. More and more of them are living in mobile homes completely unsuitable and causing many health hazards.

I have a constant flow of worried parents coming to me wanting to be properly rehoused because their children are suffering grievously from the terrible conditions in which they live, be that in unfit flats or mobile homes not suitable to our climate, particularly in winter.

The dependence of local authorities on moneys from the Local Loans Fund is greater than ever because of our increased population. At a time when our population is increasing at such a rate it is imperative that moneys provided for basic essentials — and here I am referring to housing — should be increased constantly in a realistic way thereby ensuring that our people live in reasonable comfort. The position in regard to the provision of houses by local authorities is shocking at present, as is the position of people who want to build their own homes, or those who wish to avail of SDA loans. I do not know of any local authority at present sanctioning SDA loans for new applicants. I believe there is no local authority at present in a financial position to do so. That position must be remedied immediately.

It is a terrible state of affairs that young couples who had assumed they would get an SDA loan from a local authority, who had paid a deposit on a house, now find they will not and are being told that the earliest date at which money will be provided will be some time in 1982. That is a most unsatisfactory situation. When replying the Minister might tell us if moneys for SDA loans will be given to local authorities on a scale sufficient to meet their present demands. I should like to know if such moneys will be provided and, if so, when.

There has been a tendency in recent years also to remove people from local authority housing lists because of the income of the husband or principal earner. The general practice has been that anybody whose income exceeds £5,500, which is the eligibility limit for an SDA loan, is not considered for local authority rehousing. Five-and-a-half thousand pounds is not a sufficiently high limit. For instance, a man earning £6,000, at today's prices, could not reasonably be expected to build——

The Deputy is now going into policy matters which he should properly raise on the Estimate.

I shall say merely that a man earning £6,000 could not reasonably be expected to build his own home particularly when one considers that the cost of a house nowadays is well in excess of £20,000; in fact I think the figure given today was something of the order of £22,000. Therefore, such a man is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. He is not eligible for inclusion on a local authority housing list, he is not in a financial position to build a home of his own and has no alternative but to rent a house at an exorbitant rate, anything up to £30 a week, or otherwise live in a flat of inferior quality. Young married couples especially who are in need of rehousing are not getting a fair crack of the whip at present. Local authorities will have to accept for rehousing people with an income in excess of £5,500. In addition the eligibility limit for SDA loans — when they become available again — will have to be considerably greater than £5,500. In today's money values probably that eligibility limit should be closer to £8,000.

Reference is made in the Bill to the fact that the Local Loans Fund provides finance for items such as hospitals, harbour works, intinerant resettlement and so on. I wish to express my concern at the slow flow of cash to finance such projects. The building of hospitals is being delayed all over the country because of a lack of funds from the central Government and from the Local Loans Fund. A number of instances have been cited. In my area a hospital which was due for replacement 30 years ago has not yet been started — and we were told emphatically in 1979 that it would be started in 1980 — because the money has dried up, we are told, in the Department of Health. Can the Minister hold out any hope of a fresh flow of cash for projects such as this and other worthy causes?

Because of a lack of financing from the Local Loans Fund no county is suffering more than the county I represent. I represent the entire county since I serve as a member of Dublin County Council, and I recognise the great hardship inflicted on house purchasers today. I would be glad to hear from the Minister that there will be some easing of the situation and that there will be a ready flow of cash before Christmas to bring relief to many people who are eagerly awaiting the money which has been approved by the councils in anticipation of a cheque being forwarded by the Minister to the local authorities.

It is not necessary for me to go into the great hardship being suffered by these people because I am sure the Minister is aware of it. The case has been made for them over and over this morning in this House. I cannot honestly see how the Minister and his colleagues — and I include the back benchers in the Fianna Fáil Party in his colleagues — can be so disinterested that some of them have not come in here this morning to make a similar case for those people. I am sure the queues are as long at the Fianna Fáil advice centres as they are at the advice centres of the Deputies on this side of the House.

When I arrive at the centre where I meet my constituents on a regular basis, half of them are looking for loans and wondering when they will get money from the local authority. A great deal of the time of public representatives is being wasted but that is a small matter for us, when you think of the great suffering caused to the many newly married couples and others not so newly married with families. This is the greatest transaction in their life. It is probable that many of them hesitated before seeking a loan to purchase a house from a private builder. For many of them there was an easier course. They could go on the local authority housing list.

The slowing up in the flow of money to local authorities is putting more and more people on the local authority housing list, many of whom do not want to go on that list. This is putting more and more strain on the local authority to obtain the land, get the building under way, and process the ever-increasing housing applications. If the situation were not so serious for these people, I would say it has got to the stage in County Dublin where it is almost laughable.

Over the past number of years the demand in County Dublin has been increasing. The population has been increasing. The population in County Dublin has increased at a far greater rate than in any other part of the country. Because of this, Dublin County Council were seeking more and more money from the Local Loans Fund. The county council have on stream approvals to the extent of £4 million. If the Minister sanctioned £4 million today for Dublin County Council, it could be paid out before Christmas because there are approvals in anticipation of the receipt of that kind of money from the fund.

I do not know how many people that represents who are awaiting loans. They have supplied the information to the council and that information has been checked. They are now entitled to a loan to house themselves and their families. They cannot house themselves because they have not got the loan, and they are forced to go to the bank where they are paying anything from 16 to 18 per cent interest on a short-term loan. The banks are now hesitant about giving cash because they do not know how long-term the short-term will be.

During the months of September and October payments from the Local Loans Fund to Dublin County Council were somewhere in the region of £350,000 to £400,000. In November the payment was £370,000. In December, when so many people are waiting for their cheques to be sanctioned by the Minister, the county council received a cheque for £74,000 on Monday. Is that an indication that no further money will be paid until after Christmas? Where did the figure of £74,000 come from? Who decided that Dublin County Council, with a backlog of approvals totalling £4 million, were to get £74,000? That would represent six-and-a-half loan payments.

Debate adjourned.
Business suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.