SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - HOUSING (BUILDING FACILITIES) BILL, 1924. (THIRD STAGE.)

SECTION I.

I would like to ask the Minister why, in the definition of "local authority," the District Council is excluded. There is power to build houses in a rural area, and if a district council is excluded as an authority it would, I think, be impossible to place the cost of any grant upon the district. It may be very desirable to limit the area on which any cost of that kind would fall.

I expect that when this Bill comes into operation we will not have any rural district councils.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

That is a very good answer.

A valuable piece of information.

Section ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Section 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

SECTION 3.

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Section, this Act applies to a house which fulfils the following conditions—

(a) the house shall, in respect of its site, aspect, planning, construction, sanitation and number per acre, comply with the prescribed conditions;

(b) the house shall in respect of the size and number of rooms and necessary appurtenances be in general accordance with prescribed plans or with such other plans as may be approved of by the Minister;

(c) the total area of all floors of the house measured inside the external walls shall not be less than 520 square feet, and shall not exceed 1,000 square feet, and the total area of any self-contained two-roomed flat in the house measured as aforesaid shall not be less than 400 square feet;

(d) the house shall be certified by an appointed officer to have been completed in a proper and workmanlike manner;

(e) the erection or reconstruction of the house shall be begun after the passing of this Act, or, in special cases approved of by the Minister, within six months before the passing of this Act, and shall in any case be completed within eighteen months after the passing of this Act, or within such further period not exceeding four months, as the Minister may in any particular case allow;

(f) in the case of the reconstruction of an existing house or building, that existing house or building shall be certified by an appointed officer to be capable of reconstruction as a house fulfilling the foregoing conditions, and except where the reconstruction is begun before the passing of this Act, such certificate shall be given before the reconstruction is begun.

(g) in the case of the erection of a new house, such house shall not be a house erected in fulfilment of a re-instatement condition within the meaning of the Damage to Property (Compensation) Act. 1923 (No. 15 of 1923), and shall not be erected on or on any part of the site of a former house which has or shall have been the subject of a claim under the said Act or any other Act relating to compensation for criminal injuries;

(h) in the case of the reconstruction of an existing house or building, such existing house or building shall not have been the subject of a claim under the Damage to Property (Compensation) Act, 1923 (No. 15 of 1923), or any other Act relating to compensation for criminal injuries.

(2) The provisions of this Act in relation to the reconstruction of houses or buildings shall apply only to houses or buildings situate in a county borough or urban district, or in a town having commissioners under the Towns Improvement (Ireland) Act, 1854, or to a house or building situate within 880 yards of the nearest point of the boundary of such county borough, or urban district or town having commissioners, or in a town having a population according to the latest census of not less than five hundred.

I beg to move:—

Section 3, Sub-section (1). To insert after the word "exceed" in line 7 the words "in the case of a house erected by a person who is permanently employed in the Civil Service of Saorstát Eireann for his own use and occupation, 1,500 square feet, and in the case of any other house."

This amendment is to enable Civil Servants to take advantage of this Bill and to extend the area permissible in their case. There are special circumstances, I think, we all will admit, in connection with the officers of the Civil Service and the amount of exemption would be very limited. We feel that it is only reasonable that they should be enabled to build rather larger houses than are provided for in the Bill.

There are certain obvious objections to this amendment. First of all this Bill is mainly for the working classes and it is necessary to restrict the size of the house for that reason. We have gone very carefully into this matter however, and as the main object is to get houses built and to encourage private enterprise in building, we are willing to accept the amendment. This amendment, I suppose, can be considered in conjunction with No. 14. I do not think it will be necessary to introduce that amendment because it is a Departmental matter rather than a matter for legislation.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move:—

Section 3, Sub-section (1). To add at the end of sub-paragraph (e) the words "provided always that all time during which work is stopped on account of industrial disputes shall not be reckoned when calculating the period within which the erection or reconstruction of any house must be completed."

The object of this amendment is obvious. It is to exclude in the calculation of the period within which a house must be built the time lost on account of industrial disputes. The words of the Bill are very positive. "The house shall be completed." Of course you may reach a state of affairs where a house is half finished and then I do not know what would happen.

I do not think it is advisable to legislate in anticipation of industrial troubles of this kind. We are assuming that there will be the best of goodwill on the part of the workers and builders under this Bill. In any case this is not by any means a final Bill. We expect to bring in a Bill every year, and perhaps oftener. If there are any hardships of the kind suggested under this Bill we will be able to deal with them next year when we bring in another Bill.

The wording of the Bill is imperative. If a house is not completed what is the position? Is the grant forfeited? I am seeking for information in this as much as anything else.

I think it is very necessary to have a time limit as the object is to have the houses built as soon as possible. If we had not a time limit people would naturally hang back and we would not be able to get the houses built at all.

Am I to take it that where a man receives a grant to supplement the cost and where, owing to industrial disputes, the house is not completed within the period, he forfeits the grant? If that is so I think it is an extraordinary position where the building is delayed by circumstances over which he has no control.

The position the Government has taken on this is that provision is made in the Bill for 3,000 houses. The construction of these houses is most necessary, and we cannot take into consideration for a single moment the possibility of industrial disputes or anything of that sort. If it was going to take one month, two months, or three months to settle disputes we might as well make up our minds that the housing question is not going to be settled. Having regard to the circumstances of the case I do not think there will be such unreasonable conduct on the part of the two parties concerned with housing construction, employers and employees. If there be, then it is evident that there is no sanity, business or constructive methods whatever in this country, and we must admit a bankruptcy of ideas and of effort. I do not think that such a thing need be contemplated.

If we put in these safeguards we set a headline for a possibility to which, I think, no sane person is going to give any consideration. I take it that it will take something like twenty years to relieve congestion throughout the country. It may be said that we have had considerable interruptions in business or commerce through industrial disputes. I think, even if one does look with a most unfavourable eye over the last twelve months or two years as regards these conflicts, it will be admitted that during that period there has been a real effort on the part of both parties to the disputes to end them as quickly as possible. In view of that, we would not agree to the insertion of an amendment such as this, as people would say it does not matter when the house is built, the money from the Government is safe. We want the two parties to see that such a condition of affairs will not be tolerated by the ordinary people of the country.

Might I have the information as to what will be the position if the time limit is reached and the house not finished.

What will happen will be that the money will be lost. There is no doubt about that. Let the two parties concerned make up their minds that we are not going to subsidise incompetence on the one hand or grasping on the other.

I do not think the President seemed to grasp the point that Senator Sir John Keane wished to make. The Senator wanted to know if a man who put money into the building of a house would run any risk if the building was held up. If a man is not positively certain that he is going to get his house, and that through the question of time he may lose the money, well, he will not build the house, even with the promise of the Government grant. I have been looking through amendments put down by Senator Sir John Keane, and they try to make it perfectly clear to everyone who has got money, and who wishes to go in for building, that there is a certainty of carrying the thing through, and getting the benefit that the scheme conferred. I think Senator Sir John Keane was perfectly right. He wanted to know if the building was held up, not only by a strike of workmen, but even by a railway strike, over which he had no control, what would be his position? Such a man will be very slow to put his money into building, if the Government make any conditions by which he would be deprived of the benefits of the Bill owing to a strike.

I should say that the original time limit in this Bill was twelve months, but we extended it to eighteen months, to which four months were added, making twenty-two months in all. Now, with regard to the interruption of business, the Seanad will recollect that Mallow Bridge was destroyed in July or August, 1922, and it was completed by the 15th October, 1923, although we were not in full possession of Cork until perhaps a month or two after the bridge was destroyed. Steel was brought to Cork, but it had to go back to Glasgow, and was sent again from Glasgow to Kerry, and then to Mallow. These were extraordinary interruptions and extraordinary operations, but yet the work was completed within fourteen months. We are asked now to give time for the completion of houses. If those houses are not started within two or three months, this Bill will be out of date, and a new measure will be introduced within twelve months. Unless people look alive in the matter there is no use making experiments. We will have a new Bill possibly within less than twelve months, and unless people are going to start now, this Bill will not be of much use. Surely twenty-two months provide a sufficient amount of time to indulge in strikes or interruptions of that sort if people want to indulge in them.

It might relieve the situation somewhat if I informed the President and the Seanad that so far as Dublin is concerned, I have very little fear of industrial disputes taking place in the building trade this year. Generally what happens in Dublin happens in the rest of the country.

As we have already passed one amendment here in regard to houses being erected by civil servants, I take it that the idea is that it is desirable that they should have a better class of house than that contemplated in the Bill for the ordinary artisan, and that persons erecting such houses are prepared to put in an amount of money out of their private funds to supplement the grants available under this Bill. It has been pointed out that if any obstacle arose it would mean that the man would lose his money, that enterprise of that sort would be checked, and also that civil servants will not very lightly embark on the erection of such houses. I would suggest that it might meet the case and meet the objection raised here if, instead of this amendment applying generally to all houses contemplated under this Bill, it should only apply to houses where the individual man was prepared to supplement the grant by investing his own money in constructing a larger house than that contemplated in the Bill. If the amendment were confined strictly to houses built by civil servants, who expend portion of their own money, and if there were such a strike as has been outlined here, people would easily realise that they would not lose money. If we do not insert something of that sort you check such enterprise. The great desideratum is to have houses of every size and reasonable construction and to encourage outlay in bricks and mortar, and if you can guarantee to civil servants who enter on enterprises of this sort, which will mean additional employment, that they will not incur risk of losing their money, I think it would all be in the right direction.

I would like to assure the Seanad and the President that my object in this amendment is not to obstruct the Bill. I am anxious that houses should be built, but I am afraid that under this Bill a man who builds houses must have great faith in the harmony amongst the various parties engaged in the industry. An industrial dispute need not occur within the country to cause delay. Certain articles that go to the making of houses are not manufactured here at all.

There are two cardinal points against the acceptance of the amendment. First, it practically ensures the parties engaged in disputes against loss during the period of a strike. That is most inadvisable. No one is going to lose, and the longer they hold out the less likelihood there is of a settlement. The second point is that a man loses his money. That goes by the board, because a house built under this Bill is limited to be sold for a certain sum. Take away the limitation, and the man will get money for the house allowing that there is no grant from the Government. If you build a house for £600 under the Bill it must be sold for £450. There is a market for such houses. Therefore, a man does not lose his money by putting it into bricks and mortar.

Amendment put and declared lost, on a show of hands, 10 voting for and 16 against.

Question: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
SECTION 4.
(1) A house in respect of the erection or reconstruction of which a grant is made under this Act shall not at any time before the 26th day of June, 1926, be sold or leased at a price, fine or rent exceeding the approximate price, fine or rent specified in Part I of the Schedule to this Act:
Provided that in the case of a reconstructed house to which the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1923, applies, the rent shall not exceed the rent allowable under that Act, but the percentage increase allowable under sub-section 1 (a) of Section 8 of that Act shall be calculated on the amount of expenditure referred to in that sub-section, less the value, to be determined by the Minister, of any assistance granted under this Act in respect of the reconstruction.
(2) If any person contravenes any of the provisions of the foregoing sub-section he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100.

I beg to move in Section 4, Sub-section (1), "to delete in line 55 the figures 1926 and to substitute therefor the figures 1936." The object of this Section is to prevent any exploitation of the public with regard to traffic in these houses. I can conceive a case where in June, 1926, a person who has built a house and received a grant can sell that house at a profit. A good deal depends on how the market for houses goes. The same individual receives a free grant of £200, as he can under the Bill, and having built a house for £500 if he sells it for £500, he is getting a substantial benefit. Even if he sells at £400 he makes £100 on the transaction. He has only put £300 of his own money into it. I suggest to the Government that the matter might be considered either in the form I suggest or the Government might retain a lien on the house for a certain period after completion. I do not think it is desirable in view of the possibility of houses improving in value that it should be within the power of any favoured person who does secure a grant to profit after June, 1926, by the sale of such a house.

The objection to this amendment is based on much the same considerations as the previous one. The calculations in regard to the cost and selling prices are based on the most intimate knowledge of the housing problem. We have had an opportunity during the last few years of observing how prices go from one end of the country to another. We have been able to get an exact curve as to the downward trend over that period. They have gone down from £700 to £590. There are parts of the country where a slight alteration in prices took place. The price mentioned in the Schedule, taking into consideration the grant by the Government and the amount subscribed by the local authority, is calculated so that the speculative builder has just got the margin of profit. Fixing this date beyond 1926, to a certain extent stereotypes the present high cost of building and the tendency ought to be in the other direction. Another peculiar feature of the Bill,—I regret I was not here when the Second Reading was on because it would have been a better opportunity for going into every phase of it—is that it is like a delicate piece of mechanism, any cog of which, if removed, disturbs the character of the whole machine.

In this particular case extending the time from 1926 to 1936 postulates two things—one, high cost of building; and two, that we are not going to do anything in the future. We who are engaged in the housing problem are endeavouring to resurrect—if that be the correct term—the speculative builder. He has been out of the building trade for a number of years, and his absence is a serious one to the community. It is with a view to bringing him back and to supplying as little money as possible out of public funds to bring him back that the Bill has been framed. It is not a vital matter, but it would appear to us that it vitiates the general proposal of this Bill: trying to increase the yearly output of houses, and trying to minimise the present high cost, and trying to assure people that if they build now they are not going to lose by it. At the same time the facilities provided by this Bill will not be handed down during the next ten years. They will not extend to that time. In other words, if a man says, "I will wait two or three years until prices are going down," we are not going to give him the same terms then that we are offering now.

I intended to hand in a similar amendment to that of Senator Sir J. Keane. On the Second Reading I expressed the view that a Bill fixing the 26th June, 1926 as the date up to which the houses could not be sold at a greater figure than that laid down in the Schedule leaves a danger of doing what the President wants to avoid. I speak for the City of Dublin. Owing to the enormous demand for houses, and the scarcity of houses, I believe if prices are not controlled beyond June, 1926, there will be profiteering in those houses. A man can buy a house that cost £500 or £600 for £400. The Bill provides that the person who built this house may get a subsidy of £100 from the Government and another £100 from the local authority for a five-room house. He is bound under Sections of the Bill to sell the house at a figure not greater than £400. I know there is a scarcity of houses, and I believe that owing to that there is a danger of a fictitious sale between the date of the completion of the house and June, 1926.

When we remember that from the date of the passing of this Bill a person is entitled to a period of eighteen months to build a house and you have something like six months for the expiration of the time at which he is compelled to sell it at a certain figure, I am afraid there will be the danger of further profiteering in those houses. I do not say that it is the people who build them will profiteer because I do not think these people will be in a position to hold them. The President says he wants to resurrect the speculative builder. They were not men of large capital. They were generally speculative artisans themselves who started to build houses. All their capital would be sunk in the houses they build. These men will be compelled to sell those houses because all their available capital will be sunk in them, but people may buy them under this Bill for £400, although they may be worth about £600 after holding them for a couple of years. After June, 1926, people who build them may sell owing to the great scarcity of houses because people are compelled to pay more than the value of the houses at the moment. I believe that houses are being bought to-day at prices far beyond their value because people are compelled to pay prices beyond the value of the houses. If the President insists upon fixing the date at June, 1926, there is a great danger of doing what he wants to avoid, that is, charging exorbitant prices.

The date we have fixed coincides with the date of the expiration of the Rent Restrictions Act. We have some sort of hold there.

That does not apply to the sale?

No, but I am coming to the question of sale. Holding for six months means a certain loss. If the houses are empty there is so much capital held up, and Senator Guinness, for instance, would understand the foolishness of holding up £500 or £600 capital and getting nothing out of it. The necessity of getting back the capital and the uses to which that could be put, are reasons which prevent me agreeing to this amendment. Suppose for a moment that a person started to build twelve of these houses. He puts something like £5,000 worth of capital into them. When they are built he has got this contemplation in mind: Will he hold them for six months, sell them at perhaps, a higher price, or will he sell them now and make a smaller percentage on his capital, and invest again. I believe that the latter suggestion would appeal to him, because within six months there is always a danger of something happening. A fire or anything else may occur. It may not be a suitable time to have them on the market. What we want is persons with capital to build 10, 15 or 20 houses, to sell them quickly and to see that there is money in falling in with our ideas in connection with this particular scheme of house construction. For this reason, owing to the necessity of inviting somebody to start on this scheme, I would like, while securing that nobody is going to make money out of it, to attract as much money into it as we can. It is a perfectly sound proposition. It would require a pretty considerable amount of capital, and there would be no loss. There would possibly be a gain, but because it is nobody's business it will take some oiling of machinery to get people to start at it, and for that reason I am against restrictions that might make the whole more water-tight, but will not make it more fool-proof.

I differed from the President on the last amendment, but I am certainly with him on this amendment. The fault of this Bill, to my mind, is that there are a number of things in it to prevent people from going on with building. In this case we will get houses built and if, two or three or four years hence, somebody makes £100 out of a house what on earth has that to do with us? That is the business of the man who buys the house. The real fault I see in this Bill is that it goes too far in cutting down profits. If people can make money let them make it. Under this clause, in June, 1926, a man will get his money out and have it ready to make another bit out of it. I have no objection to somebody in the year 1927-28 making £50 or £100 out of a house, if he can get it, and the man who buys it will only pay what he considers the value of the house.

It is all very well to say that we do not object to people making £50 or £100, but Senator Jameson is forgetting the fact that the taxpayers are providing a couple of hundred pounds for each house. I object to any private individual getting a profit. People should not be allowed to get a profit in these cases and make money out of them when the taxpayers are putting down £200 each for these houses.

As one who always favours a maximum profit in private enterprise, I am rather interested to hear that the State should also assist the private individual in securing profits. But there is another aspect that occurs to me. I hope I do not take a very low view of human nature, but what is to prevent this happening—a person building a house and holding it up deliberately until June, 1926, without putting a tenant into it at all. I do not think you can forecast prices, and what is going to happen. After all, I am afraid you will have to admit the fact that as long as people can make money legally the national point of view is a minor matter to that of personal gain. I can quite see circumstances in which a man might calculate, rightly or wrongly, that it will pay him to keep these houses unoccupied until June, 1926, and then sell them. They would be also free from rates. He might do it and gamble for a profit. The public are suffering in the meantime, and the accommodation is not available. However, the Government appear to be firm on this matter, and that is all I have to say.

It is not so much the speculative builder as the speculative buyer that has to be guarded against. The man who builds a house may sell it to some person who may be speculating. A man might buy half a dozen houses, and hold them until June, 1926, and then sell them, and he might even make £100 on each house without having done anything to produce the houses at all. I think that he is the great danger, and not the man who builds the house.

The innocence of the supporters of this amendment is positively amazing. The last argument I was interested in was, if a man built a house in a hurry and sold it to a speculative purchaser he could start building another house. You are turning out houses all the time, and the more houses there are available the less opportunity there is for speculators to make money on them. If this thing stood alone and it was an evil in itself there might be something to be said for it. But in view of the fact that there are enormous numbers of people who will be getting a small amount of money for nothing, it is not an undesirable thing in the circumstances. The more houses built the less opportunity there will be for speculative men to get unreasonable opportunities for making money.

Amendment put, and declared lost.

I move in Section 4, Sub-section (1), to insert after this Sub-section a new Sub-section (2) as follows:—

"(2) The materials to be used in the construction of houses under this Act shall be of Irish manufacture, except in cases where the persons erecting or reconstructing such houses shall satisfy the Minister that Irish materials cost 7½ per cent. more than foreign materials."

The reason I propose this amendment is because of the great unemployment there is in the country; it is absolutely necessary that all the materials we can possibly manufacture should be manufactured in Ireland. In connection with this amendment, I was thinking particularly of cement, bricks, doors and windows. There are in this country a number of things that we would be able to manufacture and procure—stone, lime and bricks—and there are a number of things we cannot manufacture, such as glass and ironmongery. We have a cement works in the Free State, and doors and windows should be made here. I do not necessarily mean that the timber would be produced here, because we have no suitable timber, but for a great number of years a number of doors and windows, manufactured in England, have been used here, and I think that any money expended on doors, windows and cement under this Bill should be manufactured in Ireland. For that purpose I would give a preference of 7½ per cent. There might be a difference of opinion about that, and 5 per cent. might be considered sufficient, but you must have some preference, and I put down 7½ per cent.

This is an amendment which I find it very difficult to resist, but which in the circumstances of the case I fear I am bound to. In the first place, we have estimated, as I have said before, exactly what the cost of these houses is and what the cost is likely to be, and the introduction of such an amendment as this would certainly impose on us the necessity of reviewing the Schedule at the end. I will go so far as to assure Senator O'Rourke that the Local Government Department of Dáil Eireann, which has to a large extent, I think, carried out some of the proposals which had been for many years advocated by the late President Griffith and the Industrial Development Association, have started central buying, and as a result of that they have been, I think, in a position to enable some new industries to be founded in the country, and to maintain some of the existing ones. In this case I regret to say that from the information submitted to me there are some particular industries affecting the supply of building materials which are not in such a state of efficiency as would warrant the inclusion of an amendment of this sort.

We have been in consultation with some of these suppliers, and it was not in a moment that we managed to get some of the industries I have mentioned started by the Local Government Department. But I would undertake that within the ensuing twelve months we will go further into that matter and endeavour to help the production of material for building to as great an extent as Senator O'Rourke recommends. The supply of building materials of Irish manufacture is a matter about which I addressed an industrial conference in Cork 13 or 14 years ago, so that I am not absolutely a child in the matter. Times have changed very much since then, and at this conference I have mentioned, two out of three of the persons who were present asked for a Government subsidy to enable them to supply materials at much the same cost as they could be imported at. It raises the whole Fiscal problem, and it raises it in a way in which we are at a great disadvantage. We cannot afford to pay higher prices for goods than the world markets can supply them. We ought to be working towards producing as efficiently as other countries these particular commodities. If we start on this particular uneconomic proposition—namely, housing—to impose a further blister, I think that it would be almost impossible without an expenditure of very considerable sums of public money to make this housing problem a success. I would wish that it were some other problem than this of housing that the extra cost would be entailed on, but this particular one, in view of its uneconomic position at the moment, cannot, in my opinion, bear any additional burden. Senator O'Rourke mentioned cement and other things; some of these commodities are at the moment engaging the earnest attention of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, with a view to seeing what steps are necessary to help these particular industries. I would ask the Senator not to press this particular amendment now, and I assure him that we are impressed with the case he has made, and see the necessity for doing whatever is possible to revive the industry of building materials.

Under the circumstances I withdraw the amendment, and I hope when we have the next Housing Bill we will be able to build houses of Irish materials. I am afraid that the houses we are building are not Irish houses at all.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Section 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 6.
(1) Any local authority may with the approval of the Minister, and subject to the prescribed conditions, do any of the matters following; that is to say—
(a) make to any person to whom a grant is payable by the Minister under this Act in respect of a house situate within the area of jurisdiction of the local authority, a further grant not exceeding the amount of the grant payable by the Minister in respect of that house;
(b) make to any person to whom a grant is payable by the Minister under this Act in respect of a house situated within the area of jurisdiction of the local authority, a loan not exceeding twice the amount of the grant payable by the Minister in respect of that house, such loan to be repayable by instalments or otherwise within a period not exceeding fifteen years from the making of the loan, with interest at a rate not more than ten shillings above the rate at which the local authority can at the date of the making of the loan themselves borrow money, and to be secured by a mortgage or charge on the house aforesaid;
(c) grant or lease any portion of any land then in the possession of the local authority to any person, subject either to a covenant that such person will erect on such land a house or a specified number of houses to which this Act applies, or a covenant that such land will be used solely as additional garden space for a reconstructed house to which this Act applies;
(d) execute any works necessary or incidental to, or tending to promote the development of, land suitable to the erection or reconstruction of houses to which this Act applies:
Provided that the total value of such assistance, as determined by the Minister, shall not exceed the value of the grant payable by the Minister in respect of that house.
(2) Any local authority may, with the approval of the Minister, borrow money for the purposes of the foregoing sub-section, and moneys borrowed for those purposes shall not be reckoned as part of the total debt of such local authority for the purpose of any limitation on borrowing imposed by or under any statute.

Having regard to the very unbending attitude taken by the Government in these amendments, I would like, with the permission of the Seanad, to withdraw amendment 5: "to delete the Sub-section (2)," and to try and get the President to accept, when it comes to the proper time, amendment 6.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Now is the time.

I move Amendment 6:—"To insert after this Sub-section (2) a new Sub-section (3) as follows:—‘In the case of any local authority whose rate for 1923-24 was more than double the rate for 1914-15, the provisions of this Section shall not apply until after the next Local Government Election.'" This amendment is put in in the interests of a class that are very hardly pressed by local burdens at present. Moreover, these burdens are not evenly distributed. In some counties the increase of local rates has been almost, you might say, surprisingly small in relation to the index number. In other cases it has been abnormally high. In four counties, or more, the rates are three times pre-War. If the President will not mind my saying so, there is a very ugly spirit in some of these counties, and a very disturbed feeling which is expressed at the Farmers' Union owing to the burden of these rates. I do not wish to say that there is any strong movement to anything unconstitutional, but there is a distinct sense of grievance that these heavy rates are due to the abnormal circumstances over which the ratepayers' representatives have not had a full control, and that the full burden of these rates should not be borne by the local authority. They view with great alarm the additional burden that may be placed on them under this Bill.

The further fact must be faced that these Councils at present are not really representative of the ratepayers; they are obsolescent, and the period for their renewal has long since passed. When they were elected, they were elected in the special circumstances not mainly with the view to efficient administration, but with the view mainly to political action. These obsolescent bodies, or their personnel, in many cases are not acceptable to the ratepayers, and power to put further burdens on the ratepayers and to remove the limit of borrowing is a measure that the farmers view with great uneasiness. In order that these provisions should operate more or less equitably this amendment seeks to exclude powers to make grants in these counties whose present rates are double those of 1914-15, but only until new and, we hope, representative councils, have been elected.

I was a member of a local authority during the period of the Great War, and at that time I recollect the British Government refused to allow the Local Government Board for Ireland to sanction the borrowing of any money by local authorities for housing. The Great War started in 1914, and this particular restriction commenced to operate about 1915. Down to 1922 scarcely any housing whatever was done by local authorities, with the exception of Rural District Councils. In their case I think a sum of £1,000,000 was made available about 1914. I mention that to show, in the first place, that during that period there had been a very remarkable restriction on the output of houses, and unfortunately during that period the cost of providing houses increased by about 300 or 400 per cent. At that time I recollect a case being made by the Dublin Corporation for permission to borrow money to build houses. I recollect discussing the matter of housing with a gentleman who had very strong Imperial views, and he helped me with regard to the case we were making at that time. I said to him, "What about other local authorities; if they are in the same position as the Dublin local authorities, what about them getting money also?" He said, "If the other local authorities have as good a case as that of the Dublin Corporation, then there is a case for the provision of these houses."

That was at a time when the money markets of the world were restricted to a very large extent. Although I suppose he would have preferred to have concentrated upon the winning of the war at the time, his views with regard to the necessity for providing houses were none the less strong by reason of that fact.

This amendment puts out of court the area of a local authority which is unfortunate enough to have been, we will say, financially damned by the particular class of persons who constituted the Council of that area. It is not a fair case to exclude or to prevent an area from being provided with houses because during the last eight or ten years a number of incompetents have managed the business of that particular local authority. If there has been mismanagement that is one thing. If there be money to spend on anything there is no better service upon which it could be spent by a local authority than upon housing. Take the Dublin Corporation, for example. Even if the rates were 25/- in the £ in Dublin I would still say that there is a case for putting a 1/- in the £ on the valuation in order to provide houses. The very first time that I canvassed a ward in the city for election to the Dublin Corporation I made up my mind that under no circumstances if elected would I ever take part in a social function by reason of my position owing to the horrible conditions under which I saw people living.

Something like 100,000 people in the City of Dublin live under conditions which practically condemn them to death within a few years. If one examines the census returns he will find that, although the City of Dublin has a very great number of children, only 62 per cent. of the people are Dublin born. The supply from the country to keep up the population is enormous. We are draining the country of its life-blood in order to maintain cities like Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Waterford. Anyone who has studied the problem of social reform will tell you that the real matter which has to be remedied is the housing conditions. I noticed in leaded type in the paper the other day a statement of the Medical Officer of Health for Dublin. I went round with the Medical Officer of Health six or seven years ago through what are called the common lodging-houses in Dublin, and saw the awful conditions under which the people live. I ask the Seanad to say whether, even if the rates in Dublin were 25/- in the £ as compared with 10/- ten years ago, that is a reason why those people are to be allowed to live in the present conditions, and that the Corporation should not be asked to contribute its quota towards an improvement in the housing conditions. I admit at once that an increase of 100 per cent. in rates is entirely unjustifiable, but I do say that if it is allowed to any local authority to commit an extravagance that extravagance ought to be in providing houses.

I quite appreciate the point of view that the President takes up, but one has always to keep in mind in dealing with the burden of local rates that we farmers take the point of view of what we can afford to pay. The other side take the point of view of the essential services that must be kept up. What we say is that already the burden of local taxation is inequitable. Too heavy a burden is placed on the local authorities. If these services, as we admit, are essential, they should take the form of an increased grant from the Central Fund.

May I say that the Central Fund cannot bear the increase any more than the farmer's.

Amendment put and lost.
Question: "That Section 6 stand part of the Bill," put and agreed to.