Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1956—Second Stage.

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

The purpose of this Bill is to secure the continuance of that fundamental policy and to make such amendments and improvements in the provisions of the Acts as experience has shown to be desirable. At 30th April, 1956, 65 per cent. of the houses estimated in March, 1947, to be required by local authorities had been provided, including 89 per cent. of rural needs. To meet the need for 40,000 private houses as estimated in the White Paper of 1947, approximately 35,000 have been built under the Housing Acts administered by my Department. The total number of new houses provided since March, 1947, with State assistance under these Acts exceeds the impressive total of 80,500. This figure does not include houses erected by the Land Commission, Bord na Móna, the Department of Defence or houses erected by private enterprise without assistance under the Housing Acts. In the same period more than 20,000 houses have been reconstructed by small farmers and agricultural labourers with the aid of State grants. The State and the local authorities have invested approximately £100,000,000 in housing between March, 1949, and March, 1956. As regards families still living in unfit housing conditions and unable to provide new dwellings for themselves out of their own resources, the means will be found, up to the limits of the State's resources to rehouse them as soon as practicable in addition to the 80,500 families rehoused since 1947.

The grants payable from State and local funds to private persons and to public utility societies, together with rates remission, have been effective incentives to private enterprise to provide new houses or reconstruct existing houses. Section 6 of the Bill proposes to continue these incentives for a further period of two years to the 1st April, 1958, so that there may be no retarding of these major aspects of housing progress. It is proposed also in Section 6 that the grants payable under Section 24 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1952, to housing authorities for the provision of houses for sale or lease to persons, irrespective of whether they are or are not members of the working classes or agricultural labourers, and the grants payable under Section 20 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, to public utility societies providing houses for letting to members of the working classes should be continued for a further two years.

Section 7 proposes a simplification of grant administration, by omitting the requirement that a house when completed must be occupied by the person who erected it. This will enable grants to be paid to a builder providing houses speculatively and selling at net prices. There will be no change in the case of a person or public utility society erecting a house, whether by contract or by direct labour: the society or person will continue to apply for and to be the recipient of the grant. Housing authorities will continue to have power to make supplementary grants to eligible persons occupying new houses.

Legislation prior to the passing of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, enabled the payment of grants to builders rather than to individual house owners except in certain cases. In the conditions of the post-war years, competition for sites, materials and labour presented the possibility of a sellers' market developing in which the benefit of the housing grants might not be passed on to the purchasers of the houses. The grants were, accordingly, made payable to persons erecting houses for their own occupation and to public utility societies erecting houses for occupation by members. Improvements in conditions facilitated a more liberal approach to speculative building and grants for purchase, as distinct from erection of houses, were introduced in 1950.

The total production of 35,000 grantaided houses in eight years ensures that there is now no danger that market conditions would operate to the disadvantage of the person for whose benefit the grant is intended. In these circumstances it is possible to introduce more flexibility into the administration of grants and to relieve the individual purchaser, if he so wishes, of the tedious and often tortuous task of complying with statutory and administrative procedure to obtain a grant which he will ultimately hand to the builder. The necessity will cease for the allocation of grants specifically for houses purchased under section 6 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1950, or houses built for letting under Section 19 of the Act of 1948 or Section 13 of the Act of 1954, but where a grant has been allocated for such houses, the time for completion will be extended to 1st April, 1957.

Provision is also included in Section 7 of the Bill to ensure that, even though a purchaser of a new house is not personally the recipient of the grant in respect of the house, the concession in relation to stamp duties under the Finance Acts will continue to apply to his purchase.

The installation of water and sewerage facilities in both urban and rural houses and the conservation of houses by works of repair and improvement are operations calling for high priority in a comprehensive programme. The State grant available for the combined installation of private water and sewerage facilities has hitherto been £50, which may be supplemented by a grant from local funds, and is payable only in areas in which no public water supply or sewerage scheme has been or is being provided. These conditions preclude, for example, the payment of grant for the provision of water supply alone, or, where public water supply only is available, for private sewerage system alone. It is proposed in Section 11 to remove these limitations and to make separate grants of £40 and £20 available for the separate services. This amendment provides an overall increase of 20 per cent. on the present combined grant.

The volume of repair and improvement works undertaken since grants for these purposes were introduced in 1954 has been growing steadily. There is a large stock of houses, however, particularly in the major urban areas, the conservation of which is an integral part of housing policy. Some of the bigger houses could be converted into several separate dwellings of adequate standards and amenities for working class families, a process much to be encouraged in place of the letting of rooms or so-called flats which, because of overcrowding and the neglect of property by owners, can only result in the creation at a future stage of further unfit housing conditions. That has been the history of the slums, of the Georgian houses in Dublin and indeed of houses in all big towns and cities.

Housing authorities have been slow to exercise their duties and powers in regard to unfit properties but I am hopeful that they will become more active in this field of preventive housing work in future. It is proposed in Section 9 of the Bill to offer further inducement to landlords and tenants to enlarge the volume of repair and improvement work at present being undertaken by making available increased grants. The amending section differentiates such grants on a basis similar to grants for reconstruction by farmers and agricultural labourers. The maximum grant of £80 per dwelling will be increased to £100 or £120 for each separate dwelling of four, or five or more rooms, respectively, provided. The power of housing authorities to make grants of amounts similar to the State grants will continue.

The participation by local authorities in financing the acquisition of ownership of private houses dates from the introduction of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act of 1899. The aim of this Act was " to assist persons of modest means to acquire ownership of the houses in which they live and to do so by putting simple machinery at their disposal." The original Act has been so amended by our own Parliament that even its Title is not now illustrative of the purpose which it is expected to serve. The Acts are now applied exclusively for the financing of new houses and not at all for the acquisition of ownership of old houses by tenants.

A great expansion of the operation of the Acts took place in the immediate post-war years with the result that the State has been called upon to provide from the Local Loans Fund since 1949 more than £15,000,000 for the purposes of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, apart from its participation to the extent of about half this sum again in financing the Acts by the Dublin and Cork Corporations. Side by side with these activities, there has been a substantial growth in the amount of shares and deposits available for private housing by building societies, and the resources of assurance companies have also increased. House financing facilities are available from these sources to a greater range of borrowers than was the case in the immediate post-war years.

It is not the function of the State or local authority to provide loan facilities for persons in a position to finance their houses from these or other sources. It is intended that local authorities should continue to operate the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts for persons willing to provide their own houses and who are unable to provide the necessary finances otherwise, but many persons have been availing of the facilities provided under the Acts who either did not need to do so or who would not have needed to do so if commercial agencies would advance a higher percentage of the purchase price and would allow a longer repayment period.

I have investigated this matter in recent months and, as already announced, discussions have been held with the principal commercial agencies engaged in house financing. I am pleased to say that the representatives of these agencies gave ready and generous co-operation in those discussions. The principal building societies were willing to widen the scope of their loan activities by making higher proportionate advances than hitherto, and by extending the period of repayment as far as practicable, on the understanding that they would not be required to bear the full risk of higher loans and longer repayment period, and they have now agreed to the terms of guarantee schemes which will enable them to extend their loan facilities in these respects.

Section 10 of the Act of 1952 enables housing authorities to make grants graduated on the following scale:—

Family Income

Amount of Grant

(a) Up to £208 per annum

100%

of State grant.

(b) £208 to £312

66 ,,

do.

(c) £312 to £365

50%

do.

(d) £365 to £416

33 1/3;%

do.

The scale of income was amended by Section 10 of the Act of 1954 in relation to houses situate in a county borough, the Borough of Dún Laoghaire, the County of Dublin or the district electoral division of St. Mary's, Bishopstown, Blackrock and Douglas in the County of Cork, as follows:—

(a) Up to £260; (b) £260 to £377; (c) £377 to £442; (d)£442 to £520.

Having regard to increases in living standards since the foregoing provisions were enacted, many of the persons for whom these provisions were designed would now be ineligible for grant or entitled only to a lower proportionate grant than formerly. It is proposed, accordingly, in Section 8 to raise the scale by £104 a year at each point. The revised limits will apply to applications made to housing authorities in respect of houses for which the State grant is allocated on or after 17th July, 1956.

The amendment of the definition of "family income" will make for simplification of administration. The revised definition will be more equitable to the classes of persons to be assisted in providing their own houses.

It is proposed, in Section 10 of the Bill, to enable effect to be given to the principles agreed upon with the building societies. It will be noted that the section enables assurance companies to be brought within the scope of schemes for guarantees in relation to advances. The assurance companies which took part in the earlier discussions indicated that, in view of the nature of their house purchase loans and other considerations, they were not participating, for the present at any rate, in the guarantee scheme. If, however, any assurance company wishes to participate in such a scheme they will be facilitated.

I may mention that some assurance companies, as well as continuing to make advances to individuals for house-purchase, are making or have offered to make direct loans to local authorities. The facilities available to borrowers under a guarantee scheme will be similar to those provided by local authorities under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, in that a guarantee will only be given for advances made for the purchase or erection of new houses for owner-occupation, and that advances will not exceed £1,800 in Dublin City and County and Dún Laoghaire, and Cork City and its immediate vicinity, and £1,600 elsewhere. Subject to these limits, the societies will advance up to 95 per cent. of the market value, exclusive of a grant under any enactment. The minimum deposit required from the borrower will be 5 per cent. Some of the societies are prepared to make advances repayable over 35 years. Interest will be at the rate charged by the society in its normal course of house financing.

Under a guarantee scheme, a housing authority will undertake liability to a building society for two-thirds of any loss which, on default by a borrower, the society may incur in excess of the loss which it would have incurred if it had made only its normal advance. A guarantee will terminate when the principal sum outstanding has been reduced to 50 per cent. of the market value or purchase price of the property, whichever is the lower. The State will recoup the housing authority half of any certified payments made on foot of guarantee. The principal building societies have agreed to make advances under schemes in anticipation of legislation. Housing authorities have been advised of the detailed lines which a guarantee scheme may follow and have been asked to notify building societies immediately on deciding to make a scheme, so that applications for guarantees can be made in appropriate cases. The making of schemes will be a reserved function of the elected members of the local authority.

I commend the proposals to local authorities and building societies in general. The margin of risk of loss on the higher rate of advance envisaged is negligible. Experience of the operation of the Small Dwellings Acts has shown that default has been so rare as to constitute for all practical purposes no risk whatever to the lender. The extent to which building societies can advance money for house purchase depends largely on their success in attracting savings. In this connection, I should like to remind the House and the public generally of the statement by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Speech that increased saving "is our basic prescription for economic security and progress".

I should like to repeat that the proposals in Section 10 of the Bill do not amend in any way or interfere with the operation of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. These Acts will continue to serve their purpose, which is to facilitate persons who could not meet otherwise the cost of house purchase.

The method of calculating the appropriate advance under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts in any particular case is recast for administrative convenience in Section 19. Section 19 removes the limit of 1/2 per cent. above borrowing rate on the rate at which housing authorities may make advances under the Acts. This will enable them to fix a lending rate prior to arranging their own permanent borrowing.

The consolidation of the Labourers Acts is a task which has been proceeding for a long time. Many of the provisions of the Acts are so outdated and outmoded that the entire code as it stands calls for revision and this work has been undertaken. Important changes in advance of consolidation have been effected from time to time, and in this Bill it is proposed similarly to make some amendments which in due course will fit into the scheme of consolidation.

Cottages erected on State lands are specifically excluded from purchase schemes made under the Labourers Act of 1936 for the reason that at the passing of that Act, title to State lands could not be transferred in fee-simple to county councils, and consequently tenants of labourers' cottages could not obtain fee-simple title to their cottages. The State Property Act of 1954 enables the transfer of certain State lands to local authorities and where the transfer is in fee-simple, there is no longer any necessity to exclude the cottages from statutory purchase schemes. Provision is made in Section 14 to give effect to the new position.

Since 1950, councils have been enabled to house in labourers' cottages persons who are not agricultural labourers, but such persons were specifically excluded from availing of purchase under the Labourers Act of 1936. This exclusion has resulted in certain anomalies. A serving soldier, for example, may not purchase his cottage while a working carpenter may. It is only fair that this exclusion should be waived where it is clear that the tenant is of a class similar to those coming within the definition of agricultural labourer, that he and his family are likely to settle permanently in the cottage and that he would not avail of the facilities with merely speculative intentions. I am satisfied that county councillors can be the best judges in the circumstances of each case, as to whether or not they should permit tenants who are not agricultural labourers to purchase their cottages. Section 16 of the Bill accordingly provides this power to county councils as a reserved function.

With a view to expediting the vesting of cottages in tenants who apply for purchase, it is proposed to modify the prohibition on the incurring of expenditure by local authorities on vested labourers' cottages. The procedure envisaged in Section 15 is that, following application for purchase by a tenant, the local authority will, when it has carried out its statutory obligation of putting the cottage into good repair and sanitary condition, vest the cottage in the tenant. The tenant's existing right of appeal to the Minister if he is not satisfied as to the condition of the cottage, will be exercisable within 30 days from the date on which the local authority notified him of vesting, and notwithstanding that a vesting Order has been made, the local authority will be empowered to incur expenditure on such further works as the Minister may specify to be necessary for the purposes of the Act.

Doubt has been expressed as to the power of a county council to arrange for the sale of a dwelling erected under Section 35 of the Act of 1952 otherwise than by a lump sum payment. This was not the intention of the law and Section 16 puts the matter beyond doubt.

I am seeking authority in Section 18 to enable me to deal separately with the sites included in a compulsory purchase Order for the purposes of the Labourers Acts, by annulling or confirming the acquisition of particular sites or groups of sites by separate Orders, instead of having to await the making of comprehensive Orders. The parliamentary draftsman has examined the effect which the section as introduced in the Dáil would have on the validity and date of operation of compulsory purchase Orders. A further amendment was found to be desirable, and this was inserted on Committee Stage in the Dáil. It is proposed in Section 13 to amplify the scope of the local authorities' powers of land acquisition for the purposes of the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, to facilitate in particular the provision of roads, streets, parks, and open spaces for the service of existing housing schemes.

Section 12 provides for the continuance of the prohibition of the demolition of certain habitable houses and the empowering of housing authorities to grant or refuse permission for the use other than for dwelling purposes of any part of a habitable house.

I recommend the proposals in the Bill for the favourable consideration of the House.

Níl aon rud nua sa Bhille seo ach admhaím go bhfuil athruithe beaga anseo agus ansiúd inti thar a bhfuil le fáil sna hAchta eile a rith an tOireachtas. Táimid go léir ar aon-aigne gur ceart dul ar aghaidh leis an mbeartas seo, beartas na dtithe do thógáil, mar tá géar-gá leis an mbeartas sin sa tír seo, agus ní feidir linn bheith sásta go dtí go mbeidh tithe le fáil ag na daoine go léir a bhfuil tithe ag teastáil uatha.

Go deimhin, tá ceist an airgid le réiteach maidir leis an mbeartas seo agus do réir mar bheidh airgead ag dul i ndaoire agus i ngannachúis, sin mar is deacra a bheidh sé dul ar aghaidh leis an mbeartas seo i dtaobh tithe do thógáil agus tithe do dheisiú chomh tapaidh agus ba mhaith linn. Ar aon cuma, an beartas atá anseo againn inniu maidir le tithe do thógáil agus tithe do dheisiú, tá sé bunaithe ar an gcuspóir a cuireadh i bhfeidhm blianta fada ó shoin agus atá á chur i bhfeidhm ó bhliain le chéile ó shoin.

Níl anseo ach Bille den tsaghas céanna atá ar an aon-dul go bunúsach leis na Billí eile a rith an tOireachtas cheana féin.

I have not very much to say on this measure. Furthermore, I have not given it the consideration I would like to have given it since it left the Dáil after having been amended. Every one of us realises that the provision of houses for those who need them must get a high place of priority in the capital schemes of the State. This applies also to the reconstruction of existing houses that are in need of such reconstruction.

This is a Bill to continue, as the Minister has said, for another period of two years, the housing policy pursued here for a number of years. That is as it should be, because we all realise that the proper housing of our people is a matter of fundamental importance to the improvement of social conditions. No matter what progress we may make in other directions and in other aspects of social policy, we must always bear in mind that, if we do not provide proper houses for those who are in need of them, our social policy will fall far short of what should be expected in a well organised and well governed State.

There is no revolutionary change in this measure. In fact, I think it can be said for the most part that it is substantially a continuation of the housing legislation that we have had to deal with for almost a quarter of a century. It is true to say, I think, that all Parties in this House and in the Dáil are in agreement as to the fundamentals of our housing policy, though sometimes we may not be in agreement as to certain details. These latter are the things that have to be considered when dealing with a measure of this kind.

Section 6 is what would be described as the operative section because it gives authority to continue the payment of grants for new houses and provides also for reconstruction grants. I sometimes think that having provided all the necessary incentives to our people to build houses for themselves or reconstruct existing houses, we occasionally place impediments in the way in the form of too many regulations. We have, of course, certain regulations that cannot be dispensed with. There are many which are fundamental to the success of the housing policy, but I think there are some regulations that could be dispensed with because the more regulations we have, the more likely is it that the carrying out of the housing policy will be delayed.

We have delayed inspections and sometimes too many inspections and that can be said not merely of private house building but also of schemes of house building carried out by local authorities. There is the question of the acquisition of sites, the inspection of those sites and the mutual agreement between the local authority and the central authority as to the suitability and lay-out of the sites in question. All this should be reexamined to see if some of the delays which take place could not be eliminated.

I have one scheme in mind, in a certain provincial town, where a building scheme by the local authorities has been held up for the greater part of two years because of divergent views between the officers of the local authority and the officers of the Department of Local Government. The site in this case was acquired and the owner of the site was compensated; he got his money and he had no great cause to worry. The couple of acres of the site which were acquired have been idle ever since, in a derelict condition and covered with dock leaves, nettles and weeds.

I cannot, for the life of me, see why that should be the case and why land like that, even though it may have been acquired by the Department's officers for the purpose of a housing site, should be left idle. Having regard to the value of land to-day, it should not be left idle. The thing about this site is that the owner had been letting it to plot holders and it had been well cultivated, but for the past two years, it has been a derelict waste. I mention that to the Minister and to the Seanad to show that there are delays of this nature which impede the progress of our housing policy and that these delays should be examined to see to what extent they can be removed.

As regards Section 7, there appears to be a change in direction, inasmuch as the section provides for the payment of grants to builders, instead of to purchasers. The wisdom of this alteration in the law is questionable. I submit that while speculation, within certain limits, is right in almost every sphere of life, too much speculation in the matter of house building may not be a very desirable thing. I know that the Minister, and his Department, have given this matter very careful consideration and far be it from me to find fault with anything that has been so well considered. At the same time, I may be pardoned for having some doubts about this alteration, but time alone will tell whether this change of direction is a wise one or not.

In regard to Section 11, which was Section 10 in the original Bill before it was amended in Dáil Éireann, its provisions are to be commended because it covers the installation of water and sewerage which, as every Senator knows, are very important amenities in the social life of the people. It is only right that every inducement, every encouragement, should be given to people to install water and sewerage schemes in their houses for the purpose of better sanitation, and better health conditions generally. I do not know whether the inducements which are mentioned here in this section are entirely sufficient or whether they could be described as being over-generous to induce people to carry out these schemes. The amounts mentioned are £40 and £20 respectively, in a case where the water scheme will be carried out without a sewerage scheme, or vice versa. Of course there is still provision in the Bill for the installation of both combined, but I am still a little sceptical about the adequacy of the provisions of the section and whether they could be regarded as sufficiently conducive to the installation of water and sewerage facilities.

There is another section to which I should like to refer, Section 15, which deals with labourers' cottages and which was Section 14 in the Bill before it was amended. It deals, as I said, with the erection of labourers' cottages and the acquisition of sites for labourers' cottages. Provision, it seems, is being made under the section for the annulling or confirming of Orders in relation to sites, or particular groups of sites, without having to await the making of comprehensive Orders. I wonder if the net result of that will be that the building of cottages up and down the country will be expedited. If it is, the section is to be commended, because there is a great need in many places for the erection of more cottages. This question was referred to in the Dáil and there were other aspects of the matter brought to the attention of the Minister, in connection with labourers' cottages.

I should like to mention one aspect here to-day, because I have not seen so far that the Minister has given any explanation as to certain regulations which debar certain people from getting labourers' cottages. I refer, for instance, to the regulations in operation in my own county which debar widows from getting these cottages. That matter was mentioned in the Dáil and I do not know if the Minister dealt with the point in his reply. I mention it now in the hope that the Minister will deal with the matter here to-day. I want to point out to the Seanad that a widow, no matter how many children she may have, is not eligible for a labourer's cottage in the county I come from, because of regulations in force or authority I do not know what force or authority there is behind these regulations, or whether they are locally devised or emanate from the central authority. At any rate, wherever they come from or whoever is responsible for them, I do not think they are fair regulations. I consider that a widow with a young family is as much entitled to a labourer's cottage as anybody else. In my opinion, there should be no regulations to debar her.

Another matter I should like to mention in connection with labourers' cottages is the question of sites. I remember in my own experience coming across cases a few times where the landowner was prepared to give a site to his workmen entirely on his own initiative and that proposed transaction would not be accepted because it did not fit in with some general comprehensive scheme. I wonder will the phraseology, or the amended phraseology, in this Bill cover cases of that kind. We have in this country now what is described as the group system of labourers' cottages. I do not know whether that system is widespread or not, but it is certainly in existence in certain parts of the country of which I have knowledge and I am very doubtful as to whether it is the best way in which to carry out cottage building schemes.

There is a lot to be said for housing the labourer in his cottage adjacent to the holding of the landlord for whom he works. There may be a lot to be said for the other system of the group cottages and I am sure there is much to be said for and against both. The matter is one, however, to which I should like the Minister to give further consideration.

I have not, I must say, a lot of experience of local authority building, but at the same time I have always been deeply interested in the proper housing of our people. Therefore, I take a great interest in any housing measure that comes before the Oireachtas and it is for that reason that I welcome this Bill, which, as I have said, gives continuity to existing legislation for a further period of two years up to April 1st, 1958.

On a point of personal explanation, a Chathaoirligh, I should like to apologise to the Senators and the Seanad for my late arrival in the House this morning. Through a misapprehension, I understood that the Housing (Amendment) Bill had been ordered second for this morning and that was the reason for my delay. I wish to apologise to Senators for my late arrival.

The House accepts the Minister's apology.

I welcome this Bill as a continuance of the drive instituted by the Government in 1948 to provide a remedy for the shortage of houses that existed not alone in the urban areas but in the rural areas throughout the country To support that drive, very liberal facilities by way of finance had been provided by the State and the local authorities and the evidence as to how these facilities were availed of is shown in the very impressive figures which were given to the House to-day by the Minister. Those figures show that 85,000 new houses have been provided and 20,000 were reconstructed and these figures do not include the houses erected by Bord na Móna and the Department of Defence, two bodies which have made a very valuable contribution towards the relief of the housing shortage. There was another impressive figure given by the Minister this morning and that is the investment of £100,000,000 by the State and the local authorities to finance the housing drive. I mention these figures again to show that the State and the local authorities were not indifferent to the necessity for remedying the housing problem.

Certainly these figures have put an extra burden on the taxpayers and ratepayers but good value has been received for the money expended. I am speaking for my own county and the counties immediately adjoining it when I say that nobody passing through those areas at the present time can help being impressed with the beautiful houses which have in many cases replaced the shacks which had been in existence ten or 20 years ago. Everybody must feel on looking at those houses satisfied that whatever money was spent, good value has been received for it.

In the operation of the different Housing Acts that have been introduced by the Government, it was natural that defects should show themselves from time to time. This Bill, I take it, is designed to remedy some of those defects. The provision of grants for builders who might provide houses either for letting or for sale is, I consider, a very good feature of this Bill and another excellent feature of it is the direct payments to the contractors or builders, for the houses they build. I think I heard Senator Kissane say it was not desirable that direct payment should be made to the builder or contractor. I do not agree with the Senator, because I know that, when the direct payment is made to the contractor, he will be responsible naturally for the purchase of the housing material and be particularly careful as to the finish he gives the house. The result is that, when the final inspection is made for the payment of the second instalment of the housing grant-in-aid, the departmental inspector finds everything in order.

I know many cases when payments were made direct to the people for whom the houses were being built and in that case evidence of faulty workmanship was always conveyed to the people who would receive the grants in due course. They had to contact the builder and a certain amount of useful time was lost. Now that the payment is being made direct, I believe that defect will be remedied.

It seems to me that, by the provision of loans to people who wished to purchase their houses, building societies helped many people to acquire their own homes within the past eight or ten years; but, as the Minister pointed out, the amount of the loans in many cases was not large enough to enable many others to avail of them. In this Bill, the Government has got over that difficulty and, as a result, I believe many people hitherto unable to negotiate loans to purchase their dwellings will now be able to do so.

I consider also that the segregation of the grants-in-aid for sewerage and water is remedying a defect which in many cases held up the provision of these amenities for people in districts where no public water or sewerage systems were in existence. The remedying of that defect will encourage many people who have not already secured either one or the other or both of those benefits to avail of this opportunity of doing so.

The giving of discretionary powers to local authorities in the matter of the sale of labourers' cottages is a power that has been too long deferred. Now that the local authorities have that power where the sale of labourers' cottages is concerned, I believe that in many cases people who hitherto could not purchase these cottages will now be able to do so, and by doing so relieve the local authority of the responsibility and cost of repairs and maintenance.

Taking it altogether, I consider this Bill is a necessary one and I believe that, by the time the provisions set out in it are availed of by the people, the housing problem will at least be solved in our time. I congratulate the Minister on introducing it and I congratulate all those concerned with the drafting of the measure because they show that the experience gained in the administration of the other housing Acts which have been in operation for some time has been availed of to remedy defects, and we have had the results in this Bill.

There is one point to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention, concerning the sale of labourers' cottages. Supposing a labourer has purchased his cottage outright and he dies. I have known cases of this kind. He wills his interest in that cottage to a wealthy individual. The county manager or county council have the power not to allow that individual to put anybody into it, except a labourer or some other person entitled to it; but still that individual is in a position to keep possession of the house and leave it unoccupied. If that became universal, it would be too bad because ratepayers would find they built cottages for labourers or others entitled to them and yet, when they were bought out, they would come into the hands of other people.

I can quite understand that, when houses are willed to such people, those people are definitely entitled to some interest in them, and that interest should be measured according to the amount the owner of the cottage paid; but there is the position in my county —and I am personally aware of it— where a house has been derelict for the last couple of years, and there are labourers looking for a house. They are prepared to buy that house, but I think the exorbitant price demanded by the present owner frightens them from taking it. I bring this matter to the attention of the Minister so as to ensure that in this legislation some means may be devised to prevent this from becoming a wholesale occurence.

I wish to congratulate the various Governments up to the present on the amount of money they have spent on housing the people. From the figures given by the Minister I think they have been very generous and I do not think anybody can doubt that.

I am very disappointed with the terms of the Bill presented here by the Minister. It is now practically six months since the time the Bill was due, and one would expect that in that period a general review of the housing position would have taken place; and that, having examined the results achieved in the past years and what future demands may be, the Minister would have presented us to-day with a Bill making the necessary provisions to meet these demands.

The Minister gave us figures of what has been accomplished since 1948. I wonder why the Minister thought fit to start his housing review from 1948? The housing drive was started in 1932 and great strides were made from 1932 until 1939, when the war broke out. Even during the war, when materials were scarce and costs high, a public fund was inaugurated—the Transition Fund —out of which moneys were made available to local authorities in order that the houses being provided at the time might be let to tenants at a reasonable rent and in order that the housing drive might continue. On an occasion of this kind, I think the Minister could be more generous than just starting at a particular year, though I have an idea as to the purpose of that. I do not think considerations of that kind should enter into such an important discussion as this.

In this Bill and in the debate on it, as in the debate in the other House, there is much emphasis on the importance of what has been accomplished through the operation of the Small Dwellings Acts. These Acts were passed by the British Government as far back as 1899. They were amended, somewhat, though not very extensively, since then. I think it was in 1932 that they first became availed of to any great extent in this country. What has been accomplished as a result of this implementation by the various local authorities is, I am sure, a picture which the Minister could very well paint for us this morning by giving us the number of persons who have become the possessors of their houses by the operation of those Acts by the local authorities. It is true that the moneys were provided, in the greater part, from the Local Loans Fund. It is also true that much of the money made available to local authorities for this purpose was made available by insurance companies and other concerns.

Some people may agree or disagree with the Minister's statement: it depends on what one would term a "modest income" or what one would term something over and above a "modest income." As reported at column 500 of the Official Report of the Dáil of the 10th July, 1956, the Minister said:

"It is not the function of the State or of local authorities to provide loan facilities for persons in a position to finance their houses from these or other sources."

One can agree or disagree as to whether it is the function of the State or the local authority to provide facilities for persons in a certain income group in order to enable them to be possessors of their houses.

The Minister has introduced a new feature into our housing legislation. Provision is made whereby the local authority and the Central Government will go as guarantors to building societies who make moneys available for the purchase or erection of their homes for this class of persons who, the Minister said, are not persons for whom it was the function of the State to cater. No group of persons in the country will benefit from the proposal of the Minister, except those very persons for whom he has already said it is not the function of the State or the local authority to cater in this manner.

Despite what the Minister has already said in the Dáil that, so far as persons of a modest income are concerned, the moneys will be made available from the Local Loans Fund to the local authority in the manner in which they have been made available during the past, we should like an assurance from the Minister that that is the case. We should like to have from the Minister some more definite definition of that group of persons and what really their incomes might be. I do not want to tie him down to a very exact figure. Perhaps he could give us a round figure—persons whose incomes might be £10, £15 or £20 a week, or whatever the sum might be. I think that would be a better headline to give to the local authorities than just to say:" You will get from the Local Loans Fund moneys to operate the Small Dwellings Acts, as far as the applicants from this group of persons are concerned, either in relation to the valuation basis or in relation to their income."

Before this House passes this Bill, we should have something more definite from the Minister than the vague statement about a "modest income." We should try to insert in this Bill—we cannot do it, unless the Minister is prepared to meet us—what group of persons would come under this definition that has been used very much in relation to the operation of the Small Dwellings Act.

We must also get an assurance from the Minister as regards the operation of this Bill. He stated its purpose is to ensure that a higher percentage of advances may be made by the building societies. Up to the present, they generally made an advance of 75 per cent. of the market value of the house. The market value of the house, in the view of the building societies, was based on what they considered would be the market value, after deducting the Government grant. They would deduct the £275 made available as a grant and then base their calculation on 75 per cent. of the remainder. If that is still to be the case, all we are doing is providing building societies with a new outlet for development and investment of their capital and, on the investment of that capital, we are giving the local authorities as guarantors, together with the central authority. I do not think that is the right approach to this matter and I have great doubts as to the success of the operation of the new proposal or its acceptance by any local authority.

The next question is: When is this guarantee to be called into operation? A person gets a loan. He defaults after, say, five years, for one reason or another—sickness or unemployment— in the payment of an instalment. It is when that default occurs that the guarantee of the local authority is to be called into operation. I have here a document issued by a county manager to the members of a local authority. I am sure this is in conformity with the form of guarantee. It provides that a building society shall give notice to the county council within two months of any default by the borrower and the local authority may require the society to exercise all or any of its powers as a mortgagee. Should the society be willing to do so, the local authority may cause the property to be valued by an independent valuer and pay the society the sum provided for in the guarantee as if the property had been sold at a price equal to the value and the same shall be held by the society towards making good any deficiency which may arise on final settlement between the society and the loanee and in so far as it shall not be required for that purpose, it shall be refunded."

If that is the case, that, on the very first occasion of a default by a loanee, the society is in a position to demand that the local authority meet its obligation as a guarantor, what exactly is the position? I can see great difficulties arising between a local authority, the society, and the loanee in questions of this kind and I do not think it is going to make for the successful operation of this section.

Provision is also made in the Bill in relation to the purchase of labourers' cottages, that is, for a demand by the proposed purchaser to the local authority to have the cottage put in proper repair before the signing of the deeds. The right is also given to the applicant to appeal to the Minister. The Minister has a further right to demand that the local authority carry out whatever repairs he may, on the report of his inspector, think fit. There may be something in that, but I would prefer to see it left to the local authority to carry out these repairs, because it is often very difficult to satisfy an intending purchaser in relation to what should be done.

Senators have drawn the attention of the Minister to Section 7 which reintroduces the proposal that grants may be paid to persons erecting houses, whether they are for sale or for their own occupation, that is, that the grants may now be paid to builders. In practice, this means speculative builders. For a long period of years, these grants were made available to persons building houses, and we had in this House a very long discussion during which members on the Labour side of the House urged that the then Minister should see that payment in future would be made not to the builder but to the person who was having the house erected for his own occupation or, as later happened, to the first occupant.

In relation to this matter, a question that was not, to my knowledge, satisfactorily answered by the Minister in the Dáil is that where a person proposes to erect his own house now, either by contract or by direct labour, in relation to his income, he is entitled to a supplementary grant from the local authority. I wonder what will be the position where the grant under this section has already been paid to the builder?

It will not be paid to the builder in that case—the State grant will not.

I have not asked the question yet. The question is where a State grant has been paid to the builder for the erection of a house and that house is later purchased, will the purchaser, being the first occupant, be entitled to receive the supplementary grant from the local authority?

That is going to lead to a lot of confusion in relation to its operation. It is not clear in the Bill that, where a grant is already paid to the builder and the house is afterwards purchased, the first incoming tenant will be entitled provided he qualifies under the various regulations that are made for supplementary grants.

This brings us to the principle of supplementary grants. I personally was not over-enthusiastic about the proposals when they were first introduced. I do not think all local authorities have operated all the provisions of the 1948 Act, but we have set up in each local authority a housing section, a section that is growing daily. An applicant has to duplicate his application, duplicate his plans, and duplicate the expense in every way when making an application. Now, the duplication might be objectionable enough for persons in rural areas, but the most objectionable feature is the inquiries that have to take place to find out what really is the income of the person to enable a decision to be made as to whether he comes within a particular income group or not. Even at this late stage I would recommend the Minister to incorporate in the next Housing Bill an alteration of the system. The present system is very objectionable, in view of the inquiries that have to be carried out at the present time in relation to these matters when local authorities make the supplementary grants.

A new section was introduced in the Dáil by the Minister in relation to these supplementary grants with which I agree. The Minister has made a very good case for the introduction of this section. He has been rather careful in not giving us any indication of where the demand came from. I have no doubt that it came from a particular direction and that its provisions come to the assistance of one particular group. That is the group of persons earning an income, salaried people, and I am sure that the recommendation to insert this section was one that was highly recommended to him by his colleagues on the Labour Benches, even though they did not contribute much to the debate in the other House and even though I do not expect them to contribute much in this House.

The Minister has justified the insertion of this section, but, having done that, he should have gone much further and introduced, at the very outset, provisions for that section of the people who need it most and for whom this Bill should cater to a greater degree than it does. I refer to the small farming group and when I said at the outset that I expected a comprehensive Housing Bill I looked forward to some additional encouragement being made to help this section.

From time to time, we hear a great deal of talk about the slums in our towns and cities, but housing conditions in rural Ireland are just as bad as those existing in any of our large or small towns. The occupants of such houses are people who are not in a position to get grants and loans. Prior to the introduction of a housing Bill, the Department carries out a reexamination in relation to the applications received since the introduction of the previous Bill and finds out the number of persons who received approval certificates. They find out the number of persons who, as a result these certificates, have begun their work. A circular is sent to those who have not, in accordance with the certificate, begun work after six months and the certificate is cancelled.

If the Minister asks his officials how many certificates have been cancelled in the last six months because the people have not begun the work of erecting the houses which they intended to erect, and if he wants to go one step further and find out from each of these applicants the reasons why they were not in a position to go ahead, he will find that it was because the financial assistance made available to that very class of persons was not sufficient to encourage them to undertake the work. They are in a much worse position than the persons in the slums in the towns, because in towns and cities the local authorities will make provision for housing them. But the small farmer, with a valuation of £5 or £6, a low income, and credit still lower, has poor facilities available to him to undertake the erection of a house.

I put it to the House that we should recommend as strongly as we can that the Minister should consider increasing the grants to this section of the people; otherwise we will not make the progress in this housing drive we would like to make. Other Senators have referred to the proposal for the installation of water. These are just technical matters which have come out as a result of the operation of the Acts up to this, but I suggest to the Minister that serious consideration should be given to increasing the grants for those people in our rural areas who come within the category to which I have now referred.

I said that we could all congratulate ourselves on the progress made in the housing drive, but, without the co-operation of many sections of our people, that advance would not have been possible. I should like to say a very special word on behalf of a section of our people who have contributed in no small way to the advances that have been made. These are the builders' providers. As far as the operation of one society in which I am interested in is concerned, the builders' providers have given their wholehearted support in accepting credit notes issued by the society and making materials available to the people in rural Ireland. They have made a very great contribution and they have been of great assistance and I should like to avail of this opportunity to express appreciation of that type of co-operation which is so essential in work of this nature.

This Bill has taken a very long time to hatch and, in consequence, it is now to be rushed through both Houses of the Oireachtas without a great deal of opportunity for discussing it. Despite that, I believe the improvements in the Bill are very desirable. For instance, the segregating of water and sewerage is very proper and it will enable people, who have already a water supply in rural areas, to obtain £20 for the installation of sewerage facilities which, from a sanitary point of view, should be encouraged. The provisions in Section 14, to enable cottages to be vested at an earlier date, and giving the tenant an opportunity of appealing to the Minister within 30 days, are to be commended. I know that on many occassions tenants found that improvements which they required had not been carried out and that the houses and the cottages were vested and they had no opportunity of appealing to a higher authority.

In connection with Section 13, which enables a cottage to be vested where the land has been State property, that provision is something which was badly required. At Ballyshannon and at Glenties, cottages were erected on former workhouse property and, as a consequence, the occupants could not purchase the cottages from the local authority. I also think that Section 17, which enables the part of a compulsory Order to be made effective, and which deletes another portion which has resulted in a very great delay in compulsory Orders being implemented, is a very good one. There appears to be a considerable amount of difficulty in connection with the amendment which the Minister has now brought in to Section 12 of the 1954 Act. I am not quite sure whether it means that every person, whether or not he is a farmer or agricultural labourer, will now come under this section and that these people will be entitled to a grant of £80, £100 or £120, depending on the number of rooms in the house. The memo which the Department issued in this matter some time ago stated that the Minister may make a grant with limitations. If that means that farmers and agricultural labourers are to be deprived of the benefits of that section, and if they are to be encouraged to fill in forms describing themselves as traders or skilled labourers, or even as professional people, that is, to my mind, a bad principle.

The section itself does not seem to set out that a person must not be a farmer or agricultural labourer to qualify. It simply suggests that the house is suitable for occupation by the working classes. That, to my mind, is a very vague section, and I am aware of a great number of people who have already obtained benefit under that section, even though they themselves could not be regarded as being of the working classes. I do not know whether there is any definition in any of the Acts as to what persons are of the working classes, but I certainly think it could be interpreted very widely.

With regard to Section 9 of this Bill, the Minister is encouraging people to obtain loans from building societies and insurance companies. I suggest to the Minister that he should consider including the commercial banks. I do not see why commercial banks are excluded from that privilege and I know that, when many clients come to me who require loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, they are encouraged by me to go instead to the bank manager. The costs which they will have to incur in obtaining a loan from the bank when they have two solvent securities is lower than it would be through the local authority. At least, in my knowledge, it is necessary to have the charge registered against the holding and to have the equities discharged and to have two solvent securities in the case of the local authorities. The alternative is to go to the banks to obtain the loan certificate which costs £1 and leave it with the bank as an equitable mortgage. After all, the bank manager has a good knowledge of the people in the area—that is why he is there—and he is aware of the solvency of the two sureties who are proposed. The manager of the bank will be in a much better position to assess the solvency of these sureties than would be the county manager.

The Minister has suggested that the scheme will be drafted by the local authority, but it will be the county manager and his officials who will administer it. They will have apparently to decide for themselves whether the people are able to provide facilities elsewhere. I do not think it is humanly possible for anyone to decide whether or not people will be able to provide facilities elsewhere. The Minister suggested in the other House that a teacher, for instance, with a salary of £700 or £800 should not have to get a loan from the local authority, that such a person should instead go to a building society. We know that, on the current rates of interest charged at the moment by the building societies, such a person would be required to pay a much higher rate of interest than would be the case if he got the money through the local authority.

The local authority obtains the money from the Local Loans Fund at an interest rate of 5¼ and charges an extra ½ per cent. for administering the scheme. I do not think the local authorities have lost money in these loans. There would be no harm in allowing the local authorities to get the money from the commercial banks, where they can get it at ½ per cent. less than is the case from the Local Loans Fund. The banks' rate of interest is 4¾ per cent. against the 5¼ per cent. charged on money from the Local Loans Fund. The bank might not allow a 35 years' period of repayment, but they certainly will allow 20 years and many people would prefer to obtain a loan for 20 years rather than for a period of 35 years. As long as that money is available from the commercial banks to the local authorities, then I suggest that the Minister should not discourage the middle income group from obtaining money from that source.

The increased supplementary grant is naturally going to impose a greater burden on the local authorities, but I certainly agree that £4 in order to obtain a 100 per cent. grant is too low, considering the increase in the cost of living which has taken place since 1952. I consider that no person can build a house when his family income is only that amount.

The Bill has many improvements, but I ask the Minister to consider again whether or not the advantages which are now being given to building societies will be provided to the banks as stated. I still do not know how building societies will be interested in remote rural areas. Up to the present, their activities have been largely confined to the cities. The acquiring of the knowledge necessary to ascertain whether or not people in these areas are solvent for the advances which are to be made would impose a good deal of administrative costs on building societies and insurance companies.

For that reason, I think the Minister should not direct the local authority to divert people from applying to the local authorities in those areas, particularly where no loss has been incurred by these councils up to the present in the advances which have been made under the schemes of loans.

First of all, I should like to thank Senator Kissane for the very constructive manner in which he criticised this Bill, and to thank the Seanad for the manner in which it has been received by the House generally. The debate has been of a very high standard. I am glad to hear from the various Senators their opinions of the various sections of the Bill.

Senator Kissane questioned the advisability of the amendment in Section 7 whereby speculative builders are now being paid the grant instead of the occupiers and the eventual owners. I think this will encourage speculative building and will encourage the building of houses. Our difficulty down through the years has been that the speculative builder would not, if I may use the phrase, "cut a sod," until he had procured a purchaser. One could hardly blame him for that. Now, he will have at least some of the outlay and can be getting on with the building while procuring a purchaser. I think Senator Hawkins mentioned the question of the supplementary grant. The first occupier, not the builder, will receive the supplementary grant. I think this will really encourage the speculative builder to get on with the job.

Senator Kissane criticised Section 11. He said he did not think the amount of the grant for sanitary services and sewerage was sufficient to encourage people to have sanitary services laid on to their property. The Senator was inclined to forget that I have increased by 25 per cent. the amount of the grant. Up to this, it was only £50. I have increased that by 25 per cent. and, what is more, a supplementary grant may also be obtained. It may be possible for a person to obtain £120 for the laying on of sanitary services. Senator Walsh rightly pointed out that it was a good thing to segregate. I agree with that, because there are places where a person may have a water supply and no sanitary services, and this will enable him to lay on sanitary services now, and a grant will be paid.

The Senator also requested me to eliminate delays in the acquisition of sites for labourers' cottages. I am very glad to be able to inform him that I have a working party of the Department and of local officials going into all aspects of the proceedings governing the submission of plans, technical consultations and so on. This committee has made certain recommendations designed to simplify the procedure. These recommendations will be adopted and I hope that will meet the suggestions made by the Senator.

Senator Kissane also spoke about the position in regard to labourers' cottages in County Kerry. I am not unaware that there is a problem in Kerry. I have heard it on many occasions from Deputy Jack Flynn, Deputy Mrs. Crowley and Deputy Palmer. I think it is the only county in Ireland in which there is this problem of women occupying labourers' cottages. There is nothing to prevent women or pensioners as such, from occupying labourers' cottages or becoming tenants of labourers' cottages. The statutory priority given to agricultural labourers is subject to the overriding consideration that regard must, first of all, be had to the character, industry, occupation, existing housing conditions and family circumstances of the applicant. A labourer's cottage may be let to a woman who is an agricultural labourer or it may be let to a woman, or even to a pensioner, who is a member of the working classes living in a county health district. Women are not excluded from becoming tenants of labourers' cottages and even pensioners are not excluded.

Senator Kissane also referred to the grouping of labourers' cottages. There is a lot to be said on both sides of that argument. It has been the practice, however, both of myself and my predecessors, to build labourers' cottages in groups. The purpose is to facilitate the provision of sanitary services and other amenities. Any of us who have experience of labourers' cottages on the Continent will know that the first thing to strike a person there is that the labourers' cottages are built in groups and the workers are transported out to the farms. On making inquiries, we are told that one of the reasons for that is to get the people to work on the land. People are now inclined to seek amenities and facilities, such as electric light, dancehalls, theatres, and picture-houses; and, of course, these can only be procured where houses are built in groups. In my opinion, the lack of these amenities is one of the reasons for the flight from the land because people have now become accustomed to these amenities. I think it is a good thing to build labourers' cottages in groups. It encourages people to remain in the vicinity of the land, if not acually on it.

It was also recognised that the single cottage would be needed. If a farmer is willing to provide a site for a cottage, it is quite in order for the local authority to allocate a cottage on that site to the farmer's employee, provided there is no conflict with the housing management and letting regulations. I think those are the points made by Senator Kissane and I hope that I have dealt fully with them.

Senator Ruane referred particularly to the grants for sanitary services, and I am glad they will benefit people in his area. Senator Meighan referred to the vesting of cottages. The position is this—and I think it is right we should all clearly understand it—when a cottage becomes vested in a tenant, that tenant may devise it to anybody he wishes, be he a millionaire or otherwise, but if he devises it to a millionaire, the millionaire may own it, but may not occupy it. Only a person of the labouring class may occupy it. The ownership may vest in whatever devizee the vested tenant wishes to leave it to, so long as it is not occupiel by a person outside the labouring class.

Why not have a provision that no vested interests acquired would be sold, even by the millionaire, except on so many years' purchase?

The Senator is suggesting that the devizee of a vested tenant should sell only at a certain figure?

So many years' purchase.

To whom should he sell?

To a person qualified to receive it.

There is something in the point.

My point is that the purchaser of the cottage has not the value of the cottage. A rural cottage costs, say, £1,000 and is vested in the tenant. The rent is reduced: that would be in relation to five or six years. I presume it is not assumed that he has paid the full value of the cottage?

Assume, then, that it is left to a millionaire. It is scarcely fair that he has the right to do that. He has the right to leave the amount of money he has paid on it or the value thereof. Supposing, as is the practice at the present time, the rate-payers of a county spend £1,000 on a labourer's cottage. Suppose that cottage is vested in a week, a month or a year, and that, in another year's time the tenant can leave it to a millionaire and that he can just leave it there vacant, or even derelict without occupying it. It is too bad. I do not want to deprive the millionaire of what he would be morally entitled to and that would be the amount the tenant had paid for it, the value—

Where would the millionaire come from?

I am merely using the expression "millionaire". The only place you would find them is in Kerry, that I know of. I see the point of view put forward by both Senators. There is an old saying that a man's home is his castle and it is a pity to interfere with it. If this labourer's cottage becomes a man's home and his castle and is vested in him, he must then have some rights for the devizing of it. If he wants to leave it to some person, it would be too bad that the Minister should have to control the price a person would get for his private property. He is going far enough when he says: "You may leave it to whoever you like, but I will control the occupation of it and only a person of the labouring class should occupy it."

Mr. Sheridan

It is even hard to find out who is the person who will occupy the cottage. We have even been told that a bank manager could be termed a labourer.

There is a definition.

Mr. Sheridan

It is becoming a racket that persons are buying cottages and then selling them. That has been known to take place. People have even taken advantage of old people in whom cottages were vested and resold them at a profit. I should like a definition of the term "labourer" and I should like to know who is entitled to live in a cottage after it has been sold.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Perhaps the Senator would raise these matters on the Committee Stage.

It is a matter for the local authority to decide who is of the labouring class. If another party is aggrieved by the definition, that party has the right to appeal to me and then I shall have the unfortunate duty of deciding. I can assure the Senator, however, that it will not be a bank manager.

Senator Hawkins referred to the Bill being overdue. The last Act is still in existence. Only one section of the 1954 Act expired. He then went on to criticise my description of those who should have access to the Small Dwellings Act fund. He asked me to define a person of "modest means." It is impossible for me to do that. Each individual case must be taken on its merits. As I said in the Dáil the other evening, a school teacher with £700 a year may not be a man of modest means. He may be a bachelor with £700 a year with no dependents. On the other hand, a school teacher with £900 a year could be a man of modest means. He might be a man with a large family or he might have a widowed mother or a crippled father depending on him. Each case must be examined on its merits. I can visualize a man with an income of £700 a year who is not a man of modest means, whereas a man with £800, £900 or a £1,000 a year could be called that. Each case must be taken on its merits.

By the county manager?

By the local authority. That is a matter entirely for the local authority. It would be very unfair to ask me to define the group and say that any person over £600 or £700 a year should not have access to the Small Dwellings Acts fund because he is not a man of modest means. It is much better to examine each individual case and see what happens.

A bachelor school-teacher would not have £700 a year.

I am only using that example. He could be a member of any other profession you like.

He could have other sources of income, too.

Yes, any other profession you wish.

All teachers are people of modest means. Even professors are people of modest means.

I am sure the Minister is well aware that he has already done in relation to the supplementary grant what I asked him to do in relation to this matter. In his statement to-day, he has drawn our attention further to it by defining the various groups and the amount to which they are entitled, so far as the supplementary grant is concerned. I want him to do the same thing in relation to the persons who are in receipt of this modest income.

I am not responsible for the 1899 Act. That Act defined who should benefit. It said that the people who should benefit were those of modest income and I think that is a very good definition. Each case will have to be taken on its merits. I think hardships would be inflicted on individuals were I to define a man of "modest income."

Senator Hawkins also suggested that, because I amended Section 10 of the 1954 Act, I should have amended Section 9. In other words, he holds that, because I stepped up by £2 a week the wage-earners' income, so far as the supplementary grant is concerned, I should also step up the poor law valuation of farmers. The mere stepping up of the wage earners' weekly wages by £2 per week does not bring one additional applicant into the class of wage earner who will be entitled to grants, but owing to the decreased value of money, it is the same number of applicants who will come in. Remember, however, that the poor law valuation of farms remains static. It does not change and were I to step it up to £50, I would be bringing in farmers who never had access to the supplementary grant. That is one of the reasons why I have not amended Section 9. The Senator should also remember that the farmer has certain amenities and certain facilities that the wage earner has not.

The Minister must have misunderstood the point I made in connection with this section. I suggested that where the Minister had already, by the introduction of his amendment, given an increase to a certain groups of people, grants in relation to those people in the smaller valuation group should be increased. I made no suggestion of increasing the valuation to £50.

The maximum valuation at the moment is £35.

I did not use the word "valuation" at all.

I cannot increase the grants without increasing the valuation.

You can increase the money value of the grants.

We are giving a 100 per cent. grant up to £12 10s. valuation. Where a farmer has a valuation of less than £12 10s., he receives a 100 per cent. grant. What does the Senator wish me to do? Does he want me to give him 200 per cent.? Perhaps this would be more appropriate on the Committee Stage.

Senator Walsh referred to the Bill being rushed through this House. I am not trying to rush the Bill through any House. I did not try to rush it through Dáil Eireann.

We have not had an opportunity of reading the Committee Stage in the Dáil.

It was published yesterday evening.

Not the Official Report.

One can procure it, if one is sufficiently interested. I am not responsible for the publication of the Official Report.

The Senator has referred to the segregation of the water and sewerage grants. He said it was desirable, but he did not refer to the fact that I have increased the grant by 25 per cent.

The local authority must increase the supplementary grant, if they adopt the scheme.

If the Senator is opposed to local authorities increasing the supplementary grant, I cannot do much about it.

The Senator did not say he was.

Sometimes I take a nod for assent. If the Senator means a negative, I will accept it as such. The Senator also referred to the fact that I should bring the banks into the guarantee scheme. I only hope the Senator will use his influence to bring them in. I am not excluding them.

Did you make any effort to contact them?

You can rest assured that any source of finance in this country that can be tapped has already been tapped.

That is true.

You can rest assured of that, be it by Dublin Corporation, Cork Corporation, National Loan or the E.S.B. later.

The Senator also said that I should not divert people from applying to local authorities for loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. Remember that this guarantee scheme is optional. No local authority need adopt it, if they do not want to. I only hope every local authority will adopt it, but I will not coerce any local authority. In my opinion, there is a certain class of people in this country. You have the modest income group who have access to the Local Loans Fund, the wealthy group who can afford to put down a 25 per cent. deposit, and, in between, you have a class who cannot afford to put down 25 per cent. deposit and who have no access to the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Fund. They are the group I should like to see taking advantage of this scheme, whereby there would be a guarantee of one-third by the local authority, one-third by the State and one-third by the building society and by which the building society will then advance as high as 95 per cent. of the purchase price.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.