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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 May 1950

Vol. 38 No. 1

Local Loans Fund (Amendment) Bill, 1950 (Certified a Money Bill)—Second and subsequent Stages.

Question proposed "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I feel an apology is due from me to the members of the Seanad. I had understood this morning that my colleague was to have substituted for me as I was otherwise engaged but, through lack of co-ordination, for which I am sure I am responsible, the co-ordination was not made effective. I did not intend to have the Seanad put to any inconvenience. I am very sorry it should have happened.

The Local Loans Fund (Amendment) Bill, 1950, is to make provision for local loans. The Local Loans Fund Act, 1935, made the issue of loans from the Local Loans Fund subject to an aggregate limit of £5,000,000. Legislation in later years, enacted in 1937, 1940 and 1949, raised the limit of £5,000,000, under the first Bill, to £11,000,000, and then to £17,000,000 and to the present figure of £25,000,000. This Bill proposes to extend that limit to £35,000,000.

From 1st May, 1935, when the Local Loans Fund was established, up to the 31st March, 1950, issues—and I stress that word—amounted to £23,750,000. The items of that are as follows: £18,500,000 for housing, £3,500,000 for public health loans and a little more than £600,000—about £626,000—for vocational education loans. Of the rest, about £1,000,000 and a bit, part was for a temporary advance to the Dublin Corporation under a special statute, the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1945—that was a rather exceptional matter, it had to do with stock redemption—and the rest is for loans for services of the type of harbours, bridges, purchase of road machinery.

I should explain that the difficulty that arises is caused in this way, that loans are sanctioned ahead of the issues. The loans that were sanctioned over the period ended 31st March, 1950, amount to nearly £33,500,000. There is usually a very definite time lag between the sanctioning of a loan and its issue and, in addition to that, the borrower finds it more convenient, of course, to draw loans as sanctioned in instalments. That all means that the amount of loans sanctioned at any time is considerably in excess of the issues. When I referred to the £23,750,000, I was speaking there of issues. The £35,000,000 limit that I am now asking for refers also only to issues.

The statutory limit on issues, as can be understood, has now almost been reached. It is expected that the £10,000,000 extra now provided for in the Bill should meet requirements for about another year at the existing rate of issues.

I would like to ask the Minister for Finance one or two questions in relation to this particular Bill. Is he satisfied that the ceiling that he is now asking the Dáil and Seanad to provide is sufficient for a number of years or do I understand from his closing remarks that it is only for one year? The Bill is a very simple one. It was passed through the Dáil in a very extraordinary procedure, to my mind, without very much comment, except comment from members of the Parties who now support the present Government. This Bill is a measure in which local authorities throughout the country are very much interested. They derive revenue from the Local Loans Fund to implement many of their schemes.

I have here a copy of a motion that was placed on the Order Paper of the Dáil and that was made available to members of the Oireachtas on 28th October, 1947. The reference number is List No. 14. There was an amendment to that motion, the signatories to which include no less a person than the present Minister for Local Government, who is charged with responsibility for carrying out the major functions for which the funds made available by this Bill would be expended. That amendment covered, among other things, a very important aspect of housing, namely, the rate of interest. That amendment was in the names of Deputy Martin O'Sullivan, the late Deputy Murphy, who became Minister for Local Government, and the present Minister for Local Government. At that time, they thought fit to recommend to an Irish Parliament that the first and most essential consideration in regard to the provision made for housing was the rate of interest charged on local loans.

I want to direct the particular attention of the Minister to that motion that was put down at that time by the present Taoiseach, Mr. Costello, and the present Minister for Education, General Mulcahy. I would like to ask the Minister in what way have the circumstances changed since that motion was on the Order Paper of the Dáil and the presentation of this Bill. The Bill that the Minister presents to the Seanad is a very simple measure. It makes provision for raising the ceiling from £25,000,000 to £35,000,000. That is the ceiling up to which local authorities may borrow from central funds.

Let us examine the question of the right of local authorities to borrow, the rates of interest on which they should borrow and their bearing on the national life of the country. In 1947 the present Minister for Local Government thought fit to subscribe his name to an amendment to make moneys available to local authorities at a rate no less and no more than 1¼ per cent. In 1938 provision was made to make funds available to local authorities from the Local Loans Fund at no less a rate than 2½ per cent. With the change of Government came another approach to national and local problems and the present Minister for Finance thought fit to make a change. That change was made to give loans to local authorities at the rate of 2½ per cent. as far as housing was concerned and 3½ per cent. as far as other activities were concerned. I think every Senator will agree that one of our greatest desires is to have as many happy homes in the country as we can establish at a rate which the occupants could afford.

The Minister, in introducing this Bill, should have told us more explicitly what it really entails. It is a very simple measure raising the ceiling from £25,000,000 to £35,000,000. Over what period? The Minister has already informed us that up to the 31st March the fund amounted to £23? millions and, having regard to that fact, what period does the Minister expect this proposal will cover? When does he expect that local authorities will be in a position to implement the many schemes they are called upon to undertake? What are the schemes?

The major scheme, of course, is housing. Every member of the House will agree that housing is a national necessity and that it must be provided for. What provision is made for it in this Bill? The Minister when introducing his first Budget made it quite clear in this and in the other House that he was raising the rate of interest on money borrowed by local authorities, but he added that he was prepared to make a provision under which local authorities would be reimbursed for the difference between their outlay and their borrowing power as between 2½ per cent. and 3½ per cent. Every local authority in the country to-day is mystified. It was only in the 1950 Estimates that provision was made to reimburse local authorities. In many areas houses have already been let and the local authorities have decided on the rent which the occupant should pay. But because of some delay between the Minister for Finance conveying his decision to the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Local Government conveying it to the local authority, we find that people are paying a much higher rent than they would be called upon to pay if the Minister had made provision in his earlier Budgets for this subvention.

Having agreed that housing is a national project we must also agree that the provision of sewerage and water must be a national project. We cannot discover for ourselves why there should be differentiation in the rates of interest or why local authorities should be called upon to pay 2½ per cent. on the one hand and 3½ per cent. on the other while the projects they are undertaking are equally important.

The Minister will ask me to put up an alternative proposal. The question must be examined from the point of view of local authorities and I think the alternative must be this. There are Senators who are members of local authorities and who, with much more experience than I have, will put to the Minister, before this Bill leaves the House, much more influential arguments as to why there should be a change in the present scheme. What do we find? What is the present policy of a local authority? When a local authority proposes to engage on a housing scheme, a sewerage scheme or any other local scheme, they make an application to the Department of Local Government for a loan from the Local Loans Fund to cover the period. Now, a great part of the scheme must be carried out before an advance is made from that fund. Undoubtedly, the money is made available at a much lower rate of interest than it would be from any other source. However, in order to proceed with the scheme, the local authority must approach its local trustees—which means the local bank. From these local trustees they must get a certain amount of money, not at 2½ per cent.—nor at 1¼ per cent., which was proposed by Deputy Keyes' amendment in Dáil Éireann—but at the terms decided on by the local trustees, the banks. Progress is made. A certain amount of payment is made on the work undertaken. Then an advance is made from the Local Loans Fund. But already the local authority is committed to paying no less than 4 or 5 per cent. to the local bank for having undertaken that work.

The Minister may say that that is a matter for the local authority and that it is passed on to the local ratepayer. I think the time has arrived when this whole matter of the financing of funds for local development must be examined, whether for housing, sewerage, water or other amenities that our people require. We must approach the question, not in a local manner but in a national manner. We should not try to place on the shoulders of the local representatives a burden that they are not prepared to carry and which they will not be prepared to carry in the future.

The Minister has stated on many occasions that it is impossible for him as the custodian of the nation's finances to make available to local authorities or to other persons or organizations, money at a lower rate of interest than that at which he can borrow the money himself. If we cast our minds back to this particular amendment put down in Dáil Éireann under the name of no less a person than the present Minister for Local Government, we must ask ourselves if there is no way in which we can make money more available to those engaged in building projects, in the national interest.

Provision is made under this Local Loans Fund to make money available to those people prepared to borrow from a local authority in order that they may become owners of their houses under the Acquisition of Dwellings Acts. What do we find? We find a provision that the local authority, having first secured the money where they may—whether it is from the Local Loans Fund or from an insurance company or otherwise—makes it available to those anxious to have a dwelling house for themselves. The local authority is authorised to place, on and for the making available of the money to such persons, no less than 1 per cent. One per cent. might not convey very much to some people, but when I look over the Dáil Debates I find that the leaders of the Labour Party suggest that 1 per cent. is equal to no less a sum than 2/6 a week on the average tenant. When we examine that, we must agree that it is certainly some impediment to persons who would like to be owners of their houses.

In conclusion, I wish to point out that the Minister has not told us over what period of years this Bill might make provision, nor has he told us that in passing this Bill we are making provision for local authorities to have at their disposal money issues from this fund. He has been very careful to make a clear distinction as between issue and sanction. If in the last number of years it was found that the sum necessary to meet the local authorities' applications was £25,000,000, is he satisfied that, in the coming years, raising that issue by £10,000,000 is sufficient?

It is certainly a sign of the progress of the times that we have advanced in this fund until it now stands at £35,000,000. The major item, of course, is building. Nobody objects, I am sure, to the amount of money, but there is a feeling that the cost of building is entirely too high. There are a number of people who believe that those engaged in the building industry, suppliers of materials, contractors and others are getting too much out of the industry. The cost of a house to any ordinary workman of the artisan or clerical type is entirely too high at the present moment. I know of a case where a man with a salary of about £500 a year acquired a house recently through a building organisation down the country and it cost him up to £2,000. That was entirely beyond his means, but he had no alternative. The rate of interest has been discussed. It is really a difficult thing to compute. In a scheme of houses we were building we thought the rate of interest was 3¼ per cent. We had to borrow money from the bank sanctioned, of course, by the Government and the bank rate of interest during the period we were borrowing amounted, I think, to 4½ per cent. It has now through various channels, I understand, been brought down to 2½ per cent. It is very difficult to compute it because you have a Transition Development Fund grant, and you have extra money to meet the difference between the 3¼ per cent. and 2½ per cent. As far as I am personally concerned, I do not know where that extra money comes in. Then you have a subvention from the local rates, which is a very considerable sum. In our particular case, the local ratepayers of the town had to subscribe or are subscribing 4/6 a week per house to bring down the rent to what you might call an economic rent for the poorer class of people. That is very heavy on the ratepayers, but they are trying to meet it.

The differential rents which have been discussed, too, are very difficult, because we have not come to the time yet when the more lowly-paid people are fully serviced with houses. Until you come to that time, you cannot get the higher rent for the houses. You could get the higher rent, but you would be passing over the heads of those who need them most, and that is not considered desirable in present circumstances. It would be a good thing if the Minister could codify the interest so that we would know exactly what we were getting. I think he mentioned this before himself, that instead of these Transition Fund grants and that sort of thing the local authorities would get so much grant at such a rate of interest, and that they would have to pay the balance themselves. It would be much simpler than those various subsidies, that you cannot very well understand. I think the Minister mentioned this himself before, that he would make some endeavour to codify the thing in such a way that there would be a standard rate of interest which everybody could understand, a standard grant, which is supposed to be free, and showing what the local ratepayers would have to put up. I think, with these few points, I should say that the Government is making a very fair effort to solve the housing question, and with a good effort on the part of the local authorities, it will be solved in due time, but it will take some time yet. The trouble is the cost. The cost is extreme, and if any commission could be set up to see where all that money is going in building a house at a couple of thousand pounds that could be built at £500 ten or 15 years ago, it might help. It is well known that a whole lot of people getting these new houses, even the higher paid, have to pay so much off their houses. I know a man who has only £500 or £550 a year, and the house he and his wife and family had to purchase under some scheme, cost £2,000. It is entirely too much for that class of citizen.

Tá áthas orm go bhfuil beartaithe ag an Aire breis airgid a chur in áirithe i gcomhair na n-iasachtaí do na húdaráis phoiblí. An t-árdú seo ó £25,000,000 go dtí £35,000,000 is comhartha é go bhfuil an obair thábhachtach seo ag dul chun cinn. Is ceist í ag an am chéanna an bhfuilmíd ag fáil an oiread as an airgead atáimíd a chaitheamh ar na tithe agus ar na scéimeanna a bhaineas leo agus ba chóir. Do phlé an Seanadóir Ó hUanáin an scéal go réasúnta mion agus aontaím leis an moladh a rinne sé. Sé an moladh sin go ndéanfaí fiosrú cruinn ar an dóigh a bhfuil an t-airgead á chaitheamh agus ar an toradh atá ar an gcaitheamh. Ba cheart go mbeimis i ndon an obair atá ar bun anseo do chur i gcomórtas leis an obair atá ar bun sa Bhreatain Mhóir agus sna Sé Contaethe agus b'fhéidir in áiteanna eile. Ó mo thaobh féin de ní bheinn ag súil go bhféadfaí tithe a chur ar fáil sa Stát seo chomh saor agus is féidir a dhéanamh i gcás, na Breataine Móíre, abair. Tá deacrachtaí fé leith ag baint leis an Stát seo agus nuair cuirtear iad sin san áireamh creidim nach bhfuil aon bhuntáiste neamh-ghnáthach á bhaint amach ag na haicmí éagsúla, oibrithe agus conrathoirí, as an obair.

Thairis sin, tá pointe nó dhó eile go mba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh dóibh. Do réir mar deirtear liom beidh an 2½ per cent. ús i gcónaí ann le haghaidh tithe ach beidh ráta úis fé leith á ghearradh as na hiasachtaí le haghaidh scéimeanna riachtanacha a bhaineas leis na tithe. Ní thaithnaíonn sin liom mar gheall ar scéimeanna taobh amuigh de scéimeanna tithe féin. Mar shompla, másfíor a n-abraitear liom, beidh 3¼ per cent. le híoc ar airgead a gheobhfar ar iasacht le haghaidh scéimeanna uisce, scéimeanna camraíochta nó sewerage schemes. Beidh an ráta céanna 3¼ per cent. i bhfeidhm le haghaidh na n-iasachtaí a cuirfear ar fáil le haghaidh gaírm-scoileanna, páirceanna imeartha agus a leithéid sin. Níl fhios agam céard iad na hargointí atá ag an Aire ar shon an ráta úis le haghaidh iasachtaí mar iad seo tá mé tar éis a lua a ardú ó 2½ go dtí 3¼ per cent.

Rud eile agus tá súil agam go mbeidh mé in ordú agus é lua anseo. Is é an rud é sin an mhoill mhór atá ann agus cead a thabhairt d'údaráis áitiúla dul ar aghaidh le go leor scéimeanna. Tá a fhios ag an Aire tar éis chomh minic agus labhair mé ar an gceist seo go bhfuil spéis fé leith agam sa ngairmoideachas. Ní maith liom a rá go bhfuil aon scéim oideachais níos tábhachtaí ná scéim ar bith eile ach, an saol atá ann, is dóigh liom go mba chóir dúinn áird ar leith a thabhairt ar an obair seo, an gairm-oideachas. Ba mhaith liom iarraidh, agus ní amháin iarraidh ach impí arís ar an Aire go mbeadh a Roinn seisean níos flaithiúla agus go mbeadh siad níos sciobtha ná mar bhí go dtí seo ag cur an airgid ar fáil le haghaidh na scoltacha gairm-oideachais atá beartaithe ag na coistí go léir ar fud na tíre.

In ár gcontae féin, Gaillimh, le haghaidh ceantar na Galltachta, silím go bhfuil 5 nó 6 scoltacha beartaithe againn le blianta agus argóintí anláidir ag teacht isteach gach aon lá ó shagairt pharóiste, ó mháistrí scoile, ó thuismitheoirí agus uile ar chomh riachtanach agus atá sé go rachaidh an coiste ar aghaidh leis na scoltacha. Tá mé cinnte go dtuigeann an Roinn Oideachais chomh práinneach agus atá an obair agus is baolach gur ar an Aire Airgeadais atá an milléan i dtaobh an mhoill atá á cur ar an obair go léir. Tá súil agam, nuair a thiocfas an tAire ós ár gcomhair arís mar do réir mar thuigim níl a dhóthain airgead á iarraidh aige ach le haghaidh aon bhliain amháin agus caithfidh sé teacht ós ár gcomhair arís, go mbeidh an fhigiúir a bheas san áireamh i gcóir na scoltacha gairm-oideachais i bhfad i bhfad níos airde ná mar tá faoi láthair.

Na comhairlí contae, tá siad lántsásta an t-airgead atá riachtanach a chur ar fáil le haghaidh na hoibre sin go léir agus is ceist í ansin cén áit a bhfuil an mhoill agus céard is údar leis an moill. Muran san Roinn Airgeadais atá an mhoill á cur ar na scéimeanna inseoidh an tAire sin dúinn, ach más ea, mar gheall ar chomh tábhachtach agus chomh práinneach atá an obair, tá súil agam go ndéanfar athrú éigin i dtreo is go gcuirfí na hiasachtaí ar fáil níos tapúla ná mar tá faoi láthair. Tá súil agam freisin go bhféachfaidh an tAire chuige go bhfuighmíd an t-airgead sin ar an ráta 2½ faoin gcéad. B'fhéidir go bhfuil míniú éigin ann. Má tá, agus má tá údarás maith ag baint leis, beimíd sásta.

Thairis sin, más comhartha an Bille go bhfuilmuid ag brath ar dheacrachtaí scéal seo na dtithe a réiteach cuireann sé áthas agus ríméad orm, agus tá súil agam nach staonfaimíd den ghluaiseacht seo anois go dtí go mbeidh an scéal réitithe amach is amach agus go réiteofar é gan mórán achair.

I should like to bring this matter back to the real point of relevancy. This legislation is entitled the Local Loans Fund (Amendment) Bill, 1950, and its object is to repeal the Local Loans Fund (Amendment) Act, of 1949, and, in lieu of what is contained in that Act to enact that the aggregate amount of the moneys issued from the Local Loans Fund in repect of local loans shall not exceed £35,000,000. The whole idea is to raise the ceiling, which is already fixed at £25,000,000, to £35,000,000. I am not changing the law in any other way and this has nothing to do with how grants are given in respect of houses or anything else.

Certain other matters have been discussed, however, and I suppose I shall be permitted to deal with some of them. I want to point out, in the first instance, that I did say to the Seanad that originally the limit put upon loans from the Local Loans Fund by the Act of 1935 was £5,000,000. That figure has been raised since by legislation. In 1937, it was raised to £11,000,000 and in 1940, to £17,000,000. It stayed at that figure of £17,000,000 until 1949, and this must be related, first, to the problem that exists with regard to housing, in so far as housing is facilitated by advances from the Local Loans Fund, and, secondly, to the effort being made to deal with that problem. In 1949, the limit being then £17,000,000, legislation was promoted before the Dáil and this House to raise it to £25,000,000. That was a considerable advance on the £17,000,000 which was then the ceiling. In other words, we allowed ourselves to go from £17,000,000 to £25,000,000. We now find that the sum of £25,000,000 is not enough and I want the limit raised to £35,000,000.

I have said to the Seanad quite frankly that I believe the £35,000,000 limit will carry me for another year. That is the beginning and end of it. Senator Hawkins seemed to complain because I have not asked for more, but I meet his colleagues in the other House who say that I am asking too much. I suppose it is possible to have it both ways. I do not think this amount is going to last more than a year, if housing goes on at the rate at which we propose it should go on, and if I can raise the money otherwise to feed into the Local Loans Fund, it will be speeded very considerably indeed.

Again I want to point out—and I want to stress it again in connection with housing—that I have said that the issues to 31st March, 1950, amount to roughly £23,750,000. I divide this sum into housing proper, £18.4 millions, and public health, £3,500,000. You can nearly add these together and relate them to housing, because although the public health advances have to do with sewerage and water, they are altogether related to housing and mainly related to new housing. There are occasions upon which a village or small town which has a water supply or sewerage system finds that it is not sufficient, or that it has to be repaired or renewed, and some money will be spent on that, but a good deal of the £3,500,000 relates to new houses being built in these areas. In addition, there was a sum of £750,000 which represents a redemption of a particular involvement of the Dublin Corporation which had to do almost entirely with housing. There are then two other items, £626,000 for vocational education services and £446,000 for other services. Added together, there is a sum of £1,000,000 in these. If I subtract that £1,000,000 from the £23,750,000 it means that £22,750,000 represents the issues in relation to the problem of housing in this country. We want to increase that by £10,000,000. That will be expended along lines consistent with the issues already made. It will be nearly all in respect of housing.

Two things have been said about housing. One is the complaint that comes from Senator Hawkins, who is wondering whether there is enough in the way of subvention made. The other is a particular query with regard to interest rates.

I, in the Dáil, offered for the future to provide for a number of years money interest free for housing on the guarantee to me that nothing else would be required from me except that. I believe I would save money to the taxpayer if that bargain were accepted because I think people are doing better than getting money interest free. When people begin to talk about the interest rates that are being charged, it really has very little to do with this question of the rents that are charged eventually or whatever part of the housing costs fall upon the local authority. The State is almost entirely providing housing as if the money was given to them interest free.

I do not think what is being provided by the State for local authority housing in the county boroughs and other urban areas is well enough realised. The whole matter is confused, and in the Dáil I did state, and I hope what I stated will be fully implemented this year, that there is going to be a new system with regard to local authority housing. I do not know whether it will make any improvement from the point of view of the taxpayer or of the man who has to pay the rent or of the local authority, but I think the public mind ought to be clarified and the public ought to realise what is being done in respect of housing.

At the moment, subventions towards houses come under three heads. First of all, there is a capital grant from the Transition Development Fund. That varies between £300 and £400. You can take the upper limit as being the ordinary one. Secondly, there is a subsidy paid. That subsidy varies, depending upon whether the housing is what is called slum clearance or whether it is other type of housing. There is also a differential as between the county boroughs and other urban areas. Under that second type of subvention, for slum clearance, the State provides two-thirds in the county boroughs of the first £400 and, in other urban areas, the State provides two-thirds of £350. Where it is not slum clearance but housing of another type, the State provides one-third in the county boroughs of the first £450 and, in other urban areas, provides one-third of the first £350. In addition to that, over the last couple of years, there is a special subsidy which I have provided myself, aimed at making 2½ per cent. the effective rate of interest on advances from the Local Loans Fund for housing. That is a special subvention. The effective rate, if I took the rate at which the State can borrow money at the moment and added on certain small administrative charges, ought to be 3¼ per cent., and 3¼ per cent. is the effective rate other than for advances from the Local Loans Fund for housing. I have said I would keep the 2½ per cent. rate steady and there is a special subsidy given to meet that promise of mine. I do not know that that promise can hold much longer, particularly if the State finds it has to pay a higher rate of interest in order to get money. Then, of course, the amount of money that is chargeable to people who borrow from the Local Loans Fund would correspondingly have to rise.

It is hardly fair to say that the Minister has raised the interest rates. I do not go out deliberately to raise interest rates. I give even below, at the moment, the effective rate at which the State itself can borrow.

Adding these three together, if I take a house that costs £1,200, in the county boroughs, the State assistance to the £1,200 house—I am speaking of the slum clearance type of property at the moment—is £738. There is no question of interest in that. That is a grant. £738 goes out, paid for by the taxpayer, towards the cost of the £1,200 house. That is 62 per cent. of the cost. I take the £1,200 house as a model throughout. In Dublin and Cork county boroughs, the State provides £667, 56 per cent. of the entire cost, and, in other urban areas, the State provides £709, 59 per cent. of the cost. That is all related to the slum clearance type of housing where, of course, the subventions are higher.

Take non-slum clearance housing. In the county boroughs, except Dublin and Cork, for the £1,200 house the total assistance provided by the State is £637, 53 per cent. In Dublin and Cork, the State provides £550, 46 per cent. of the cost and, in other urban areas, the State provides £609, 51 per cent. of the cost.

All over, on the £1,200 house, the State is providing more than half of the cost of the house. The provision which the State makes decreases as the cost of the house goes up and increases on the lower price house. On the £1,000 house, where it is a slum clearance matter, in the county boroughs, instead of merely meeting 62 per cent. of the entire cost of the house, the State meets 71 per cent. of the cost of the house and the percentages I have given previously rise as the cost of the house goes down and decrease as the cost goes up.

It must be admitted that the taxpayer is making a very handsome provision towards this attempt to solve the housing problem. The housing problem has accumulated here over the years. It started away back in 1914-18, through the Rent Restrictions Act. Probably there was a good intention behind these Acts. Certain people who owned houses realised the position in which there was a shortage of housing and raised the rents. The Rent Restrictions Act was a very good move on the part of the State, with the usual unforeseen consequences, that the speculative builder was to a great extent put out of operation and, as the Rent Restrictions Act has been extended over the years and the area of the limitation extended, the private speculative builders have been more and more put out of commission. It is surely coming to the point where very few houses will be provided by anybody except those who depend upon State assistance. What appeared to be a good State project at the start, to meet a vice developed by the circumstances of the time, has turned out to be somewhat vicious in its results.

Senator Honan comes to the other side—the building costs. That is a matter that ought to be more carefully examined and one of these days the Government will meet to determine some new scheme for the financing of local authority housing. In these circumstances I intend to bring before whatever group meets the very careful analysis that Senator George O'Brien gave in a recent debate in the Seanad with regard to housing costs. I feel that there is no doubt about it that there is a good deal of slack to be gathered in, altogether apart from what the State is providing by way of subvention towards houses. Again, it is just the defect that arises from the circumstances.

We are out on a programme, impelled by everybody, impelled by all the considerations of humanity and the highest social motives, the desire to make good conditions with regard to housing in the country. It is an attempt to do away with the rather desperate conditions that have grown up, certainly here in Dublin, and most of the cities and right through the country, and an attempt to get rid of the bad viewpoint that can be bred by bad housing conditions. There is an all-out effort now to try to get the housing problem solved. There is a danger when there is an all-out effort because those builders' providers, architects, builders of all types and the employees in the building industry all see their chance to cash in on what amounts to a national emergency. I am afraid it has been done to a great extent and I would like, with the assistance of Senators here, and a number of members of the Dáil with the same views—those who are experienced and have some definite association with the matter—to give their help in trying to get the costs of building down. In that way, we may be able to relieve the State and certainly in the end, the community, of some of the hardships we suffer from at the moment. I am afraid that I have drifted into some irrelevancies and raised some important issues. All I am asking now is to get a new ceiling set of £35,000,000. If that ceiling requires to be raised, I may appear here looking for more.

There is one-point which I would like to put to the Minister: local authorities must often themselves go into the banks for accommodation pending the arrival of the subvention from the Department. Will the subvention cover the cost to which local authorities are often put by the delay in the arrival of the money?

That does not affect my area because at the moment our building funds are in credit.

Does any Senator say that there is any delay caused by the delay in the arrival of Local Loans Fund advances?

There has been in the past, anyway.

Not in the last two and a half years—the question did not arise.

Question—"That the Bill be read a Second Time"—put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.
Bill passed through Committee without amendment, received for final consideration, and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.