I move amendment No.3:—
In line 47, to add, at the end, the words: "The computation of floor area shall not include any internal walls built wholly or mainly of masonry."
This amendment arises out of the regulations made in connection with the computation of the floor area of houses. From the very beginning the floor area of a house was deemed to be "the sum of the areas of every floor, together with any porch or open space within the lines of the containing walls of the house which increases the bulk thereof" and "the area of any floor shall be measured within the external or containing walls of the house, and shall include any portion of such floor which is occupied by staircases, landings, interior walls, chimney breasts, bay windows and similar spaces or structures." I quote from paragraph 12 of Statutory Rules and Orders, No. 80 of 1932—The Housing (New Houses) Order, 1932. Briefly, that Order has remained in force, with certain exceptions, and applied to urban areas: I think that the staircase or landing or hall in an urban area was excluded in 1936. It is clear, from that, that the manner of construction of the outer walls of, say, a farmer's house is immaterial. Whether they are built of 8-inch concrete or 18-inch or 20-inch masonry walls, the floor area remains exactly the same. Where, however, the interior walls are built of stone, the minimum that these walls will be must, of necessity, be 18 inches as compared with, say, concrete of may be six inches to eight inches. There is a corresponding reduction in the floor area of each room as a result of building the internal walls in masonry. It may seem a small thing, but, mark you, you could reach a point when a person would be deprived of the grant because the floor area might exceed the 1,400 feet, the maximum set out under the Act. Let me give an example. Take the position as it applies in rural Ireland. It is not uncommon to find a two-storey house having, as internal measurements, 47 feet by 15 feet. Ordinarily, the floor area of that house would be 1,410 square feet, the total for the two floors. Even the Minister has not power to give the grant if the area exceeds 1,400 square feet. The internal walls, which must be, as I say, at least 18 inches wide in the case of masonry, will go to 90 square feet. If they were deducted, the floor area would be down to 1,320 square feet and, as far as floor area goes, he would qualify for the grant.
There are parts of Ireland where stone is available readily. Personally, I have a liking for a masonry wall. I think it is very satisfactory for the internal walls of a house, far more so than concrete. I think that the ordinary person, when he thinks of building, has at the back of his mind the idea that concrete blocks and walls are very easy to make and build. That is true. But good concrete walls are extremely difficult to build, that is, concrete walls which will be good for the purpose of keeping the house weather-proof and which will, at the same time, ensure that there will not be excessive condensation on the inner leaf of the wall. Therefore, we should encourage as far as possible, where the stone is freely and readily available, the building of farmhouses and cottages in stone. As an inducement to people who would be willing to go to the little extra trouble and bother involved in building the external walls in stone, I would exclude the two internal walls— containing, say, the staircase, if these were built in masonry—in computing the floor area. There are a number of reasons why that would be good for the house itself and I believe that you would have a better house. I have seen three external walls of a room built in masonry and the internal wall, that is, the one containing the chimney breast, built of concrete and, because of condensation on the concrete wall, I saw distemper and decoration being destroyed on that wall while the other three walls remained perfectly good.
A further reason is that in building in stone you require only sand and lime —both, in most parts of the country, fairly easily obtainable. You would, therefore, avoid something which at the moment I think all of us should try to avoid: we should try to avoid, as much as possible, the use of cement in our building. Our two cement factories are not capable of meeting the enormously increased demands for cement. The result is that, in order to keep essential works going, we have to import huge quantities at a much dearer price and, so that Irish, Belgian or British cement sold in the Republic will be sold at the one price, there has to be a surcharge of 15/- on every ton of cement produced by Irish Cement, Limited. For that reason alone, I think it is very desirable that we should encourage the building of our farmhouses and our labourers' cottages in masonry as far as we can possibly do so. I feel that it would result in a better house and I feel that, from the point of view of the national economy at the present moment, it is something that we should all strive for. Therefore, I ask the Minister seriously to accept the amendment which I have moved.
In anticipation of what the Minister may say, let me explain that it would not be necessary for the Minister to accept the amendment as it is drafted on the amendment sheet. If the Minister agrees with the principle I have set out here, he is authorised to make regulations under this Bill, when it becomes an Act. I have quoted from an Order which was made and he can do exactly the same thing under this Bill, when enacted. I would strongly impress upon him, therefore, if he cannot accept this amendment, to ensure that the regulations will so provide for what I am asking. I believe strongly in it. I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the occupant of the house and in the national interest that we should encourage the building of our houses in masonry rather than in concrete.