As I explained to the Dáil the main object of this Bill is to get authority for further issues of loans out of the Local Loans Fund to enable the social activities financed from it to be continued. The fund was set up on a statutory basis on the 1st May, 1935, under the Local Loans Fund Act, 1935, Section 4 (3) of which put a limit of £5,000,000 on issues. This was extended to £11,000,000 by Section 2 of the Local Loans Fund (Amendment) Act, 1937, and authority is sought in the present Bill for a further extension of £6,000,000 which will bring the limit to £17,000,000.
From its establishment in 1935 up to the 30th June, 1940, the loans issued from the fund aggregated £10,319,309. Of this £7,989,132 was for housing loans the apportionment being — urban, £2,877,009; rural, £4,387,548; small dwellings acquisition, £658,718, and Gaeltacht, £65,857. The balance of £2,330,177 went in loans for public health, £941,865; hospitals and county homes, £736,382; vocational education, £452,711; drainage, £149,593, and other services, £49,626.
Over the same period the total commitments of the fund, including the carry-over of loans sanctioned, but not all given out before the 1st May, 1935, were £13,246,487. The aggregate of loans sanctioned up to any date will always be substantially more than the total issues up to that date as the full amount of a loan is sanctioned before any issue is made and loans are ordinarily given out in instalments. The existing statutory limitation of £11,000,000 applies only to issues of loans; the same will, of course, be true of the new limitation of £17,000,000.
It will be seen from what I have said that by the end of June last the margin available for issues within the £11,000,000 limit was less than £700,000. This should be exhausted by about the end of September. The extra £6,000,000 provided for in Section 2 of the Bill should do for about three years, or up to about the summer of 1943; fresh legislation will then be required if the granting of loans from the fund is to continue, as no doubt it will.
The Bill also provides for some subsidiary matters. Section 3 extends to all borrowers from the fund the provision in the existing law respecting local authorities which enables arrears due by them to be recovered out of any Government money payable to the borrowers; Section 4 applies to borrowers like harbour boards and public utility societies, provisions like those in Section 2 of the Local Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1936, which protect the Local Loans Fund against evasion of repayment of a loan on the plea that the borrowing body is not properly constituted or has exceeded its powers. Section 5 confirms the arrangement as to the making of loans by the Minister for Finance through an intermediate body—the Commissioners of Public Works. Section 6 is designed to remove doubts that have arisen as to the powers of the Commissioners of Public Works concerning the making of harbour and other loans. Sections 7 and 8 are intended to clarify the position as to the disposal of money received in repayment of loans before the present statutory Local Loans Fund was established.