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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 May 1960

Vol. 52 No. 11

Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1960—Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

This is a simple Bill to extend the time for the completion of works in respect of which grants are payable under the Housing Acts. These works comprise the erection, reconstruction or repair and improvement of dwelling houses and the provision of private water supplies and sewerage facilities.

The effective provision of the Bill is contained in Section 2 which provides for an extension from the 1st April, 1960, to the 1st April, 1962, of the date for the completion of work so as to qualify for payment of any appropriate grant. No changes in the amounts of the grants are proposed.

A comprehensive housing measure, consolidating the provisions of the Labourers Acts and the Housing of the Working Classes Acts in a single code and including amendments of the existing codes is in course of preparation. The grant and other relevant provisions appropriate to private housing are also proposed to be consolidated in a single measure when a suitable opportunity presents itself. I have therefore decided to limit my immediate proposals to a simple continuing measure which, from the very beginning of the new financial year, will enable private persons to plan for the carrying out of house-building and house-improvement works in the next two years, with the knowledge that grants will be available at the rates and on the conditions that have prevailed for the last two years.

The Housing (Amendment) Act, 1958, provided for increased scales of grants for the reconstruction, repair and improvement of existing houses and for the provision of sanitary facilities in houses. It also provided for the payment of an additional sum in respect of the erection, of a new house provided with private sanitary facilities. The stimulus given by the increased grants has resulted in a remarkable response. The numbers of grants approved during the financial year 1959/1960, as compared with the year 1958/1959, showed increases of 52.3 per cent. for new houses, 42.9 per cent. for reconstruction, repair or improvement of existing houses and 57.2 per cent. for water and sewerage grants.

While the emphasis has, in recent years, tended to be on the conservation or improvement of existing houses rather than on the erection of new houses, nevertheless, there is still evidence of a need for new houses. The impetus given to the meeting of that need by the improved facilities made available under the 1958 Housing Act has been clearly indicated by the increase in the numbers of grants approved in the past year. The number of new houses completed during the financial year 1959/1960 was 3,190, as compared with 2,626 in the previous year. The numbers of new house grants approved in the same periods were 3,868 and 2,539 respectively.

The work of reconstruction, repair or improvement of existing houses is a very important aspect of private housing activities. These houses represent an important national asset and much has been done with the aid of grants to maintain and improve them. It is essential that these activities should be encouraged and, indeed, that the pace should be accelerated. There is enormous scope for work of this kind and the generous facilities provided by way of grants and advances are proving to be a very desirable form of encouragement. During the financial year 1959/1960 the number of grants of this type finally paid was 7,851, as compared with 6,517 in the previous twelve months. The numbers of grants approved in the same periods were 13,312 and 9,314 respectively.

A scheme of grants which is of special interest to the rural population is that which assists the provision of piped water supply and sewerage facilities in dwelling-houses. Generally, in the less densely populated areas, piped facilities have not been available hitherto and the residents have been largely dependent on drawing water from streams or wells. The broad improvement in the economic level, the spread of rural electrification and the amount of mechanisation on farms have combined to bring the amenities which town dwellers have long enjoyed within reach of many who reside even in quite isolated parts of the country. The response to the increased grants which were provided by the Act of 1958 has given evidence, if such were needed, of the urge to improve the rural environment.

A most welcome development and one which gives proof of the community spirit in rural areas has been the co-operation of groups of persons in the provision of private water supply schemes in the outlying rural areas. These co-operative schemes will prove to be of immense benefit in the more isolated parts of the country, and particularly in areas which would not normally be served by public water supplies. The formulation of these schemes is still only in the early experimental stage. Our experience to date, however, has been that group communities are quick to appreciate the very real benefits that accrue by co-operative effort and I look forward with confidence to a wide extension of this type of scheme in the near future.

There is not a great deal to be said about this Bill which is only a Continuing Bill as the Minister has said and of course the policy of grants for new houses or reconstruction, for water or sewerage installation is one which must commend itself to members of this House on every side. There are only two or three points I should like to make.

The first relates to the approval of grants by the Department of Local Government. I gathered from the Minister that in the past year, some 13,000 grants had been approved and in the previous year something over 9,000. I must say it comes as something of a surprise to me that the number of grants has reached such a high level, but I think one complaint which members of the public have about the administration of grants, whether for reconstruction, new houses or the installation of sewerage or water, is the long time that elapses between the application for the grant, the visit of the inspector and eventual approval by the inspector or indication by him of his requirements. I think perhaps that since the number of applications has increased, the Minister might consider increasing, if only on a temporary basis, the staff of his Department to enable people to proceed with these works.

I should perhaps point out that for some people, most especially in rural Ireland, delay in obtaining approval for particular works is quite an important factor. At this time of year particularly when there is not that much work to be done on the farm for a few weeks and later on, when the hay has been saved, people have some time to carry out the necessary works on their homes. Consequently, it is of importance to these people that they should be able to begin the work at the time when they are ready, not at the time when some inspector decides that he has time to come round and inspect the place. It would greatly facilitate the people of rural Ireland if they were assured that at the time they were ready to proceed, the inspector should be also ready to call and do whatever inspection was necessary.

I think I should not be wrong in saying that part of the philosophy behind this grant of £275 or £285 in respect of construction of dwelling houses was to enable a contractor to make roads and instal a sewerage and water system on undeveloped sites. I think, therefore, I would not be out of order in referring to a matter which arises on new estates which have been developed as a result of grants under the various housing Acts during the past 20 or 30 years. A particular problem has arisen on housing estates on the perimeter of Dublin and one to which I should like the Minister to direct his attention.

The position up to date has been this: a builder has taken over a particular area of ground; he has developed it up to a certain point by installing water and sewerage and building a road; people have come along and purchased the houses from him and paid him his full grant. That is all right up to a point but what has happened then is that the builder has either gone broke or he has sold all the houses in the area and is not to be found or he has no further interest in the owners of the houses on the estate he has developed. But the roads have not been developed to the satisfaction of the local authority and they maintain that they are not liable to take over the roads until certain things have been completed— and the builder is either unobtainable or he has no intention of completing the development of the site.

Apparently the local authority, Dublin Corporation or Dublin County Council, are not concerned unduly to take over these roads. The people on these new estates therefore find that the county council will not take over the roads because the site has not been properly developed and they cannot exert any pressure or get the county council to exert any pressure upon the builder to complete the estate so that the county council will have no excuse for not taking over the roads. If the state of legislation is such that the ball can be kicked from one person to another and that these people are to be left there, the Minister should consider amending the legislation to provide some remedy for the people who have paid for these houses, with the exception of the grant, out of their own money.

There is another aspect of the housing legislation to which I should like to draw attention. One sees from time to time in the Courts what we may call building contract actions. We find quite frequently that the quality of the houses which have been passed for Department of Local Government and local authority housing grants has not been satisfactory from the point of view of construction. I know quite a number of houses that were passed by the Department's inspectors which, after a period of less than a year, have proved quite unsatisfactory.

I do not know to what extent the Department of Local Government inspectors inspect the houses which they are supposed to inspect for the purpose of passing them for a grant. It may well be that it is the business of the people building the house and getting the grant to discharge their liability but, from the national point of view, with which the Minister should be concerned, we are getting a great deal less value for the money being spent on housing both out of public revenue and the people's private earnings than would be got if there were proper supervision. I had a house built on one of the new estates and it was completed to my satisfaction because I had my own architect there.

In relation to houses of that kind, the quality of the workmanship has not been what it should be. I have known people who had to have their houses completely stripped of plaster and replastered because there were leakages in the flat roof of the garage adjoining the dwelling itself. With regard to my own house, I think there were at least six occasions on which inspectors came either from the county council or the Department of Local Government. To my certain knowledge, the inspection consisted of the inspectors coming to the house and seeing that there were, in fact, so many bedrooms and so many rooms downstairs. That was the sum total of the inspection so far as they were concerned. That, to my mind, is not the way in which a house should be inspected for the purpose of passing it for a Local Government grant. These men should see that the quality of the workmanship and the materials is what it should be.

I have a suggestion to make to the Minister which I think would be worth considering. In my own case, I happened to know an architect or, at least, I knew the brother of an architect and in this country, if you know a man's brother, it is as good as knowing him himself. He was good enough to look after my interests when my house was being built, but most people do not know architects or engineers. The Minister should seriously consider at this stage—in relation to all the houses that are to be built in the future, or houses that are to be reconstructed, improved or repaired—the advisability of providing for the people who apply for grants under the local authorities or to the Department of Local Government a service along these lines:

Where the house is eventually to be inspected, or inspected at various stages, by the Local Government inspector or the local authority inspector, the person building the house, or having the repair work done, should be able to pay, with a fee of five guineas or ten guineas, as the case might be, to get the inspector to visit the house at specified times in the course of the construction or reconstruction, to examine the progress of the building, and to supervise the work being carried out by the building contractor. If that were done, a lot of the shabby building and the inferior material which has been put into—I shall not say a great number—too large a number of the houses that have been built under the housing grants, would be avoided. At the same time, it would help people to get value for the money they are spending on their dwellings.

Those are the only observations I have to make on this legislation but I hope the Minister will consider both the propositions I have made and that he will have something to say about them in his reply.

This is really a machinery Bill to extend the very admirable provisions of the Housing Act of 1958 and to ensure that the housing grants, the reconstruction and repair grants and the water and sewerage grants which were increased in that legislation will continue. The Minister has used this occasion, and rightly so, to point out the admirable progress which has been made in the use of these grants since the passing of that legislation in 1958.

I shall just take one set of the Minister's figures. For the past 12 months, there was an increase of 52.3 per cent. in 1959-60 as compared with 1958-59 —in the number of grants for new houses; an increase of 42.9 per cent. in the number of grants for reconstruction, repair or improvement of existing houses; and a very welcome increase of 57.2 per cent. for water and sewerage grants. That, and the fact that it is guaranteed to continue by reason of this Bill, are facts that can be welcomed by the Seanad. Our present financial position, of course, guarantees that there will be no difficulty in these grants being made available from the Department and of the local authorities being able to avail of the necessary finances for their supplementary schemes from the Local Loans Fund.

Speaking as a representative of a rural area, I think those percentages would be even higher in the rural counties. Certainly, in County Roscommon, which I know fairly well, I am certain that the percentage for reconstruction, repair or improvement would be much higher. In that respect, the most welcome feature of the Housing Act of 1958 was the increased grants made available for reconstruction, repair or improvement of existing houses. The important thing to-day is to conserve, from the national point of view, the existing stock of houses, because particularly in the rural areas small farmers in many cases are not able to enter into the commitments which would be involved in building new houses. It is in those areas that these grants are particularly important.

Reconstruction grants have had the most beneficial effect in the past few years. Small farmers may now embark with confidence on reconstruction work, secure in the knowledge that so generous are the grants and so generous is the administration of the grants that in many cases they can do practically the whole job within the grant.

In the Housing Act, 1958, it was first made possible, provided the local authority adopted the supplementary scheme, for a person reconstructing, repairing or improving his house to get a grant of two-thirds of the estimate from the Central Fund and the local authority. My experience is that the Department inspectors have rightly been generous in their administration of the Act, and that in many cases in the rural areas where the farmers can get their neighbours' labour, their own labour or a small contractor who does not insist on too high an estimate, they can do the work within the grant which is made available. In fact, they find themselves at very little expense. That has been my experience in County Roscommon and I believe it is the experience elsewhere. That accounts for the tremendous use which is being made of the reconstruction grants.

Linked with that idea of conserving the existing stock of houses, we have the reconstruction loans scheme which is also being adopted by many local authorities. I should like to say as a point of criticism that some local authorities have not seen fit—despite the fact that these funds are available and despite the fact that the legislation is there—to avail of the supplementary housing schemes. That is a deplorable state of affairs in the year 1960. I shall not name the local authorities. I know some of them near my own county. They refuse to adopt the supplementary housing scheme for the purpose of making county council grants for new houses and reconstruction work available to people who wish to build or reconstruct houses. In effect, it means that in these counties a lot of work which could be done is not done.

It makes all the difference to get the grant doubled when putting up a new house or when doing a reconstruction work. It makes all the difference to get the extra money. In many cases, it means a twofold increase in the grant being made to the applicant where the local authority adopts the scheme. If it does not adopt the scheme the applicant is dependent upon the Department grant. That cuts down necessary housing in that area to a very considerable degree.

There is very little excuse for any county council not adopting the supplementary housing grant scheme. The fact that in some cases it has not been adopted shows a lack of national spirit and a failure to realise the importance of co-operating with central government when schemes and funds are provided for desirable social objectives such as this.

The Minister referred to water and sewerage schemes and, in particular, to the piped water scheme proposals announced recently. I think that particular scheme again underlines the importance of having county councils that will co-operate with Government policy in vital matters of national importance.

Here, again, the Government are making available with, I think, particular applicability to rural areas, an admirable scheme whereby the necessary finance for providing a piped water supply and sewerage facilities is being made available to local authorities. The finance is being provided by way of loan and the repayment is spread over 50 years. In rural areas, 60 per cent. of the repayment cost is being borne by the Exchequer and full repayment is spread over 50 years. That is a considerable advantage and should be an inducement to county councils to implement the scheme. Unfortunately we are up against the difficulty that if a county council is conservative, reactionary, or obscurantist, it need not follow up the scheme at all.

On the local authorities has been placed the responsibility of carrying out the very necessary survey to get a picture of the position in a particular county in order to provide an overall scheme. The onus has been placed on the county councils to initiate that survey. If the county councils are not co-operative, the surveys will not take place or will be delayed for a long time. Since the funds are now available from the Government and the scheme has been announced, it is very important for people in responsible positions on local authorities to press that the proper engineering personnel be made available to the county councils for the proper survey so as to decide what type of scheme to adopt.

In some areas, they may decide on a piped water supply scheme supplied by the local authority. In other areas, they may decide on a co-operative scheme where a group of householders join together in an application for the necessary water and sewerage grants such as was mentioned by the Minister. In other areas individual applications can be made for the water and sewerage grants that are available. A survey is necessary so that in a detailed way a plan can be made for each county and the appropriate water supply scheme, whichever is applicable, can be laid down. That depends on the co-operation of the local authorities, as in the case of the supplementary housing grants. I would strongly urge that local authorities adopt and initiate with vigour the scheme laid down by the Government in recent months in that regard.

In many urban areas, supplementary housing schemes have not been adopted. The reason is that in urban areas the adoption of the scheme would mean too great an impact on the rates compared with a county area. The Minister should investigate the possibility of making arrangements whereby the county council would, out of its apportionment from the Local Loans Fund, allocate moneys to urban areas where a supplementary housing scheme could be adopted and the loan charges on the moneys got from the Local Loans Fund could be spread over the whole county.

The increased rate for repayment charges could be spread over the county as a whole and the urban authority could get its allocation from the county authority by adopting a supplementary grant scheme. I think good work could thus be done. I welcome the Minister's statement as an indication of the tremendous progress that has been made since the passing of this Act in 1958 and as a guarantee that that progress will continue. There is a very marked improvement on the position that existed in regard to housing in the latter stages of 1956 and early 1957.

The Senator was doing reasonably well until now.

The Senator has destroyed the effect of his speech.

To listen to Senator Lenihan, one would think that he was speaking from a local elections platform. He said a county council must co-operate with the Government. I have been a member of a council for 30 years. Fianna Fáil never had a majority on Dublin County Council. Senators may wonder why I mention that. It is to show the House how much we are co-operating and taking advantage of every scheme. Last October, the Minister announced the water and sewerage supply schemes. In less than four months, Dublin County Council placed before the Minister a scheme for water for Clonsilla and district, water and sewerage for every labourer's cottage in County Dublin, a scheme embracing £70,000. Despite what the Minister said—I was thrilled to hear his statement over the radio—we have not got sanction for these yet, and they have been with the Department for a few months. I expect some news for Friday night.

Senator O'Quigley was not correct in his reference to Dublin County Council. He is absolutely wrong about a builder erecting private houses and going away and leaving the work undone. Before a builder gets leave to build houses in county Dublin, he must sign a bond that roads, paths, and everything else will be put in order. I hope every local authority does the same. We have taken that precaution in county Dublin.

For the information of the House, what Senator O'Quigley was referring to is true about those roads. That was before we introduced the bond system.

We have introduced it.

I know what I am talking about. I have a letter from Dublin County Council saying they will not take over the road.

That will never happen again. We have taken precautions. I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill. I appreciate the Minister's attitude since he became Minister for Local Government. As far as his statements and actions are concerned, they could not be better but I want here and now to accuse the officials of his Department, and intend to make a very serious statement.

The Senator knows that it is not in order to make accusations against civil servants.

It is the Minister against whom I am making the accusation, then.

As an un-civil servant.

Some time ago, we had a scheme of houses for the Lucan area. I approached the Minister in connection with the matter. I shall give him credit for this much—it was no length of time before he sanctioned a scheme for half the number. The full number was 84. He sanctioned a scheme for 42 and very quickly at that. What happened? To cut down the cost of those houses, the Minister compelled the Dublin County Council to build 42 houses in Lucan without a fireplace. Is that the type of house you should erect for a farm labourer? An all-electric house is all right for a person with £30 per week coming in but no farm labourer can take one of those houses because he cannot afford to pay £6 every two months. The Minister by his action has cut out every poor labourer in the district from getting one of those houses. Some of them are living in shacks that should have been demolished years ago. I think it is a disgrace, whoever is responsible. Who would build for a farm labourer with £5 16s. per week a house in respect of which he must pay £6 every two months to the E.S.B. after paying his differential rent?

Have we gone mad? I have been pressing for those houses with Senator Carton for the past 10 years. I am not an architect or an engineer, but, had I seen the plans, I know what I would have done. In fact, I would prefer if such houses had never been built. I believe in helping the poorest section of the community first. They cannot take those houses. I shall be discussing on Friday night at the meeting of Dublin County Council a motion requesting the Minister to take this matter up with the E.S.B. with a view to getting a reduction in the E.S.B. rents for these poor labourers.

In connection with water and sewerage, Dublin County Council have a most comprehensive scheme. Dublin County Council, although they are not Fianna Fáil, are a good council. They are in front of any other authority in Ireland, so far as these schemes are concerned. We have made provision that every cottage and district within a reasonable distance of water will get it.

In connection with repairs, I have been several times with the officials of the Minister's Department seeking expedition of claims. I found nothing but courtesy and consideration from the officials in connection with these improvements. I cannot find words to express my appreciation of the courtesy of the officials in the Minister's Department who deal with improvements to houses.

I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister a case which came to my knowledge to-day. This case in county Dublin would be laughable, were it not so serious. The poor law valuation of the house is £35 and rates must be paid on that. The unfortunate man in question went ahead with improving the house and spent about £400 on it, employing a contractor. It is not the officials of the Minister's Department but the officials of Dublin County Council who said that the man was not eligible for an improvement grant because the roof was not high enough. It is the same roof as that which conformed with the by-laws of the county council. It is a case of some official outstepping his duty, without having recourse to the Minister's Department. Surely they did not expect the man to put a new roof on a house of £35 valuation? Were it not for the fact that he improved the house and put slates on the roof, it would be derelict in seven years' time. I ask the Minister very specially to have this case looked into. Does he expect this man to knock down the roof and raise it? It is the same house as was already approved under the county council by-laws.

I could say a lot more on this Bill in connection with housing. I can find no words sufficient to praise the Minister's action on this question of encouragement in relation to water and sewerage. It is terrible to think that you had until recently—and in some cases still have—within a couple of miles of the G.P.O., workers living where there is no water and sewerage available. Henceforth, that position will not be the fault of Dublin County Council because we have submitted a most comprehensive scheme to the Minister's Department and I hope he will sanction it.

There is one other point I want to bring to the notice of the Minister. I am always for the farm labourers. I suppose that is because I worked as one myself. In county Dublin we have about 40 people over the past couple of years who got nominee sites. I am sure Senator Carton will bear me out when I say that during that time— I do not accuse this Government any more than the previous Government; it was the same during the previous Government's term—we could not get sanction for a nominee site. There is a site near where Senator O'Grady lives and for the past four years we have been trying to get a house built there for a farm labourer. The Minister will not allow the house to be built unless it can be built for £1,000. In Lucan, they have cut out the fireplaces and here they will not sanction the erection of a house on a nominee site for a farm labourer, unless it can be built for £1,000. After all, farm labourers are as much entitled to have a little comfortable home as any other person. It is on the farmers and the farm labourers we depend to produce the food.

I would ask the Minister to look into that. I would say that there are 12 or 15 of those cases with the Department. They will not sanction the contract prices. There is a house in The Ward and one over at Oldtown. These houses have been advertised four times in an endeavour to get somebody to build them for £1,000 but because the figure does not come near the £1,000, the Minister's Department refuses permission for their erection.

In conclusion I appeal to the Minister in regard to the all-electric houses at Lucan, to back up the workers in seeking to get some reduction, to sanction the water and sewerage schemes submitted, and also to go into the question of the nominee sites in Dublin and give the council a chance of erecting its cottages.

Usually Bills which are continuing existing legislation and which do not introduce any new principle go through the House without much discussion but it appears that there is to be some discussion on this Bill and it is a good thing. It shows the active interest we have in housing generally.

I have a few comments to make in regard to rural housing. One thing which has occurred to me in regard to rural areas is that where a new dwelling is erected to take the place of an old dwelling, because there is no provision in our housing legislation in regard to the old building, a certain thing happens in very many cases, that is the old dwelling is left to die a very slow death. It becomes an eyesore, the walls become unsightly, and the roof falls in. That sort of thing happens frequently very close to the new building erected by an individual, with the aid of grants from the Department of Local Government and also, in many cases, with the supplementary grant from the local housing authority.

I think it is a pity that that should happen. After all, one of the reasons for the intervention of the Department of Local Government is to improve the conditions and also the aesthetic features of the countryside. It is my view that the Minister should look again at this point now or in the near future, even if it meant giving an extra sum under the existing grants under Section 16 of our housing code. I leave the amount of that extra sum to the Minister to decide but it would be paid only when an old dwelling was removed, if a new one was built to take its place, and only when the site on which the old dwelling rested was put in a decent condition and ceased to be an eyesore. I hope the Minister will seriously consider doing that and I am sure there are many people here who would agree with me on that matter.

The question of water and sewerage in rural areas is another matter to which I should like to refer. Even though this Bill does not introduce any new principle, a lot of good work has been done under the existing Act and it was heartening to hear the Minister giving the figures in this regard. The Minister is making a valiant effort to get the local authorities to supply sewerage and water services in rural areas and he has succeeded in many counties. He has indicated that 60 per cent. of the capital cost is repayable over a long term, which is a very good thing. I should like the Minister to tell me what would be the ratio of cost in relation to an existing scheme which is carried out by an individual who relies on his own initiative and without the aid of the existing grants. I know we cannot get a figure at this stage but the time will come when we shall be able to get a figure. One way would be to work out the ratio of the cost of supplying services to houses in any given county, the capital cost of supplying water to all the villages in Leitrim, as matched against the number of houses using that supply.

I wonder what would the figure be for Leitrim or Donegal and how far the Minister would be prepared to go, having got that figure? Is he going to allow that figure to influence his mind in giving a similar ratio of grant for the provision of water to the people in a rural area? I am prepared to argue that if the Minister does get that figure, the ratio of capital cost per house of every house serviced by the local authority in Leitrim or any county will be rather a high figure. It is fashionable to do that now and the Minister is to be congratulated on introducing the new fashion.

I hope that when the figures are worked out, if it is found more economic to ask the individual householder or farm labourer to use his own initiative, rather than to ask the local authority to provide the service, that will be done. It is very desirable that self-reliance should be developed and if we can, we should lead our people to be self-reliant rather than to ask the local health authorities to do something which they themselves could do. I hope the Minister will keep a close eye on the costings of rural and urban water supplies and that the grants for individual houses in rural areas will be stepped up, if necessary, in relation to the cost of water supplies in towns and villages.

I hope the Minister will do that. It may mean that the present water supply grants will have to be increased and if the Minister is forced into that position, there is a good case for it since the people in urban areas have received benefits from the general tax-payers, including the rural community.

There is another matter on which I should like the Minister to make some statement in his closing remarks. What exactly is the position as between the Department of Agriculture farm water supply grant and the Department of Local Government water grant? The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Local Government are like the two mothers who went before Solomon with the one child. Both Departments seem to claim the child and I doubt if the responsibilities of the two Departments have been sorted out. Perhaps the Minister would give us a clear picture of the situation when he is replying.

I know a case of a farmer who bought a farm on which there was no house. He rented a house and because he decided to run a dairy farm, the first thing he had to acquire was a deep well suitable for dairy farming. He then built a dwellinghouse on the farm and the health authority took steps to examine the water supply, and so on. He had a pressure pump for supplying water to the house. He was told he would qualify for half the cost of supplying water up to a maximum of £100 from the Department of Agriculture. When he got as far as making an application, he learned that because he had connected the house to the pump which he had provided for the dairy farm, he was not entitled to a grant from the Department of Agriculture. If he had not connected the house to the pump, he probably would have qualified. There seems to be some co-ordination needed in that respect between the two Departments. I should like to hear a statement from the Minister on that.

Is the Senator handing over the baby to the Minister?

If the Minister did make a statement, it would be in the public interest.

The Minister does not want to hold that baby.

It could be that Senator O'Quigley has a point on the question of supervision in rural areas. In places like Donegal, Mayo or Kerry, I agree there is a limit to the number of officers the Department can employ. There are big areas to cover. However, when an application is received in the Custom House either for a new house grant or a reconstruction grant, there should be a deadline—let it be three, six or nine weeks—by which time the file would be back with the Department after the inspection. That might be a good thing for the officers from the point of view of preventing criticism.

One point on which I do not agree with Senator O'Quigley is that of getting the Department's officers to act as architects or supervisors for individuals building houses. I hope I am not misinterpreting Senator O'Quigley's argument. I gathered from his remarks that the officers of the Department of Local Government should be free to act in a private capacity in respect of individuals building or reconstructing houses. That would be a dangerous thing to do. Those officers have a duty towards a Government Department.

Surely there is no conflict between the interests of the Department and those of the owners of the houses?

There is a certain responsibility on the person who is building or reconstructing his own dwelling. He applies for a grant. It is his work and his responsibility and he has no right, not even a moral right, to shift that responsibility on to the local authority, the Minister or officers of the Department of Local Government. If the owner of the house, the person who will enjoy the house, will not take steps to ensure there is no jerrybuilding, then it is unreasonable to expect the officers of the Department of Local Government to do it. They have a duty to see, as far as they can that when public funds are ploughed into a particular project, they are not misspent. It should not be their duty to do something the citizen can do for himself.

There is a further danger if that suggestion were implemented. These officers would have to draw the plan. As things are, you can get, for a small fee, plans from the Department of Local Government. Sometimes they are suitable and sometimes they are not suitable in rural areas. It would be a dangerous thing to allow the officers of the Department to act as architects or engineers in a private capacity for a citizen. There is always the risk that in Kerry or Donegal, if a small farmer intending to build or reconstruct his own house asked a housing officer of the Department of Local Government to supply him with a plan and that officer were not an industrious person, he might do nothing more than supply a stereotyped plan, perhaps a copy of a plan of some other place, and would get a fee for that. Knowing rural minds, I can say that the applicant in Kerry or Donegal would say to himself: "If I do not get the plan from this officer, I may have trouble in getting a grant."

Does the Senator know that happens at the moment?

I am merely trying to answer Senator O'Quigley's criticism. If the Senator knows that sort of thing is happening, he should do something about it.

I know it is happening.

The Senator should point out the case.

I shall refer to it here in another context.

If he did, he would be doing a good job. Perhaps other people have seen these things; perhaps other people have dealt with these problems; and because of that are not prepared to agree to the Senator's suggestion. I do not think the Minister should adopt Senator O'Quigley's recommendation in that connection.

May I suggest that the Chair be addressed on all occasions?

I am sorry Sir. I did not intend not to do so.

Those are the only things I wish to say except that I welcome the measure and I hope the Minister will look into the question of an extra grant for the removal of eyesores where a grant is given for the erection of new houses.

Whenever the subject of housing comes up, I have up to the present so far as I recollect refrained from making a contribution, but when I hear remarks like the final remarks made by Senator Lenihan, I have great difficulty in saving myself from apoplexy. Therefore, I went to the Library to get a few figures. Let us look at the figures. Take the easy figures first: expenditure from the Local Loans Fund and what was left over from capital issues of Dublin Corporation and Cork Corporation. In 1956-57, it was £14.4 million; in 1957-58, the first year after the change of Government—when Fianna Fáil were supposed to have paid all the debts that were left—it was £11.8 million; in 1958-59, it was £6.5 million; and in 1959-60, it was £6.5 million. In each year, it has been about half—less than half—the expenditure incurred by the inter-Party Government in their last years of office 1955-56 and 1956-57.

Let us take the local authority area where the housing situation is most serious: Dublin Corporation. Capital expenditure, including slight additions to housing like vocational schools, in 1955-56, was £4.9 million; in 1956-57, it was £4.4 million; in 1957-58, this year when all these debts had to be paid, it was £2.6 million—in other words, if the Government paid any debts in 1957-58, they certainly did very little else—in 1958-59, the sum was £2.777 million—there are three sevens but these are the only sevens in it, the effective figure is two. Any person who considers housing in the Dublin Corporation will find how little has been done in the area during the past three or four years. I am certainly glad that any Government with whom I had any association had nothing to do with that.

Let us take these figures for Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act purchases and the Local Loans Fund. These were stopped by the Finance Committee of Dublin Corporation at whose instance in 1956? At the instance of Deputy Briscoe who is such a good Irishman in relation to this country, according to the news that comes back to us but such a bad Irishman according to the New York Sun.

I would ask the Senator to refrain from referring to members of the other House.

Perhaps I shall get the quotation and use it on some suitable occasion. He was responsible for stopping applications for Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act purchases from the Local Loans Fund in the middle of 1956 in Dublin Corporation. What happened at the end of the year? Dublin Corporation had surplus moneys amounting to a quarter of a million pounds over and above what they had to pay out, as was admitted in the Dáil by one of the people who supported him in that move.

Look at the figures for the city of Dublin, the place where the housing situation is the worst. Not much more than half the amount was spent, though we all know very well that the value of money has gone down: £2.777 million in 1958-59. Of course, the present Fianna Fáil Government are great people when it comes to estimating for next year. Last year, the Estimate was £8.6 million but expenditure was £6.5 million. There is a big sum again in this year's Budget for housing, but what will be spent? Will it be the same story at the end of the year, that £10,000,000 has been provided for but some £5.5 million spent? Is that what we want? Every time this case is trumped up in this trumpery fashion, as it was by Senator Lenihan at the end of his speech, it is time one spoke out very robustly and now I have every intention, on every opportunity I get, of speaking out very robustly.

Senator Lenihan said that this was a mere machinery Bill but afterwards he destroyed it all by the kind of propaganda he used to bolster up the Fianna Fáil record in regard to housing. We all know that in the past two years everything has slowed up. The dead hand of Fianna Fáil has descended. According to figures given in the Dáil, 4,000 fewer people are employed today by the local authorities on building houses than there were in 1956-57, the "disastrous year" we are told about. In county Westmeath, my own county, two cottages are in course of erection at the present time. There were over 150 in 1956-57. We are told that money is available today to build houses but we are sending up plans to the Department from Westmeath County Council and first of all, they are held for three or four months and then they are returned each time because this is wrong with the plan or that is wrong. We got a plan where they wanted us to build labourers' cottages and not plaster them and put in cement floors. We refused to do it. The contract prices we have got—the Department has failed time after time to sanction them. They will not sanction anything over £1,050. We have a false sense of values in this country. If we have £10,000,000 to spend on jet planes, surely we should be prepared to spend £1,050 or £1,150 on building a good type of cottage for agricultural labourers or any other rural workers.

Senator Lenihan gave figures a few moments ago and talked about the "tremendous progress" that has been made and the "marked improvement" compared with 1956-57 as a result of the 1958 Bill. In passing, let me say that the 1958 Bill was only a continuation of the previous Bill and when he talks about tremendous progress and marked improvement, it reminds me of the Russian delegates talking about peace and democracy because I think words must have lost all meaning altogether. Senator O'Donovan has told us that expenditure on local loans has dropped from £14.4 million to £6.5 million. If that is tremendous progress and marked improvement in three years, then words have certainly lost all meaning. In Dublin, the amount spent has dropped from £4.5 million to £2.777 million.

It should be £2.9 million; I am sorry.

Let us take the new houses built for private persons in those "disastrous years": In 1955-56, the number was 5,368; in 1956-57, it was 5,561. Then we come to the time when we have the "marked progress" and "tremendous improvement": in 1958, it was 3,569.

The rake's progress.

Last year, in 1959, the rake's progress gave us 2,626. There is a drop of 3,000 in three years under the heading of new houses built for private persons. Then we are told of the wonderful progress that has been made.

Let us come to the total number of new houses built with State aid. In 1954/55, 10,490 new houses were built; in 1955/56 the figure was 9,873; in the disastrous year we have been told about—and I remember Senator Colley shedding crocodile tears about there being no work for the people employed in house building—the figure was 10,969. Now, with the marked progress that has been made after two years of a Fianna Fáil Government, we find that last year the figure was 4,893, a drop of 6,000 houses built with State aid in the past three years. That is supposed to be progress and a marked improvement!

Let us come now to old houses reconstructed with State aid. According to Senator Lenihan, there was, to quote his own words, tremendous progress under Fianna Fáil and a marked improvement in the past three years. In comparing this year with the so-called disastrous year of 1956/57, it is only right to quote his own words. In 1956/57, 8,147 old houses were reconstructed with State aid and last year the figure was 6,909, a drop of over 1,200 houses in two years. That is supposed to be tremendous progress and a marked improvement. When people get up to speak in the Seanad or anywhere else, they should tell the truth. It is no wonder that the people are losing faith in our politicians and in the country.

Not a bit.

If people make such statements, it is no wonder our people cannot share the optimism displayed by so many Ministers. Unfortunately, people are packing up and leaving the country because they cannot believe a single word they are being told in their own Houses of Parliament.

That contribution was short.

Facts, and that is sufficient.


Listen and learn something.

Truth in the news.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach


I must say the debate departed far from the terms of the actual Bill before the House tonight.

That is a serious reflection on the Chair.

It is rather difficult to reply without continuing to depart.

That is a serious reflection on the Chair.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister is entitled to reply——

Is the Minister entitled to reflect on the ruling of the Chair? That is the question.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Order! The Minister is entitled to say that the——

It is not the first time the Minister has done so.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

——debate departed from the Bill before the House, that it was wider than the terms of the Bill.

May I point out that the person who set the trend of the whole debate was Senator O'Quigley?

It was Senator Lenihan.

I was entirely relevant.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach


Nevertheless, I shall try to deal with some of the points that were raised, whether——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Relevant or not.

I shall try to take them in the order in which they were raised by the various speakers. First of all, Senator Lenihan came on the floor on this matter of getting approval for various grants. He questioned the details of administration and suggested as a remedy that there should be an overall increase. He further suggested we should do something about what he said has come to his notice—the unsatisfactory workmanship which is put into a great deal of our house building by the various builders and contractors throughout the country.

First of all, let me say that, while it is quite likely in the vast number of houses being built over the years, there will be some houses the workmanship of which will not be up to par, on the other hand, I do not think it is quite true to say that there is evidence that because of this bad workmanship, there is a problem we should take special measures to deal with. In fact, if anything, over the years, due to usage, the skill of our workmen, builders and contractors is improving. At any rate, if we in the Department were to concern ourselves with the actual structure, and with every last detail, it would not be the score or so of inspectors we have at the moment who would be required, but at least ten or twenty times that number to carry out the job.

From what the Senator advocates, it is quite clear that the inspectors or officers of my Department would be expected to act as clerks of works on every job in every part of the country, no matter how small it might be or how infrequent the building operations carried on might be. It would tax the ability and strength of the whole staff of the Department if we had them on the road like that. From the practical point of view, it could not be done and secondly, there is an idea implied in that suggestion that because my Department or the local authority make certain inspections, everything is right at the top level so far as the customer's needs are concerned, during the years he may live in that house.

First of all, let us look at the cost of houses ranging from £1,000 to a couple of thousand pounds. With regard to those houses, an average of possibly £200 is paid out in grants. Surely the person who is putting up the other £800, or £1,800, as the case may be, should have some regard to what is being done with his money, which is a very much larger amount than the amount paid by way of grant. Again, so far as our inspectors are concerned, they must inspect the houses on at least two occasions. Those two occasions are generally the half-way stage, when the roof is on and when the house is completed. Two inspections of a house where a builder is trying to diddle a customer would not be at all sufficient. It would not be possible for any inspector at the half-way stage, or at the final stage, by merely visiting the house on those two occasions, to find all the flaws which might appear in the building years afterwards.

I should like to make it quite clear to any person who is getting a grant that he should not feel quite happy and carefree in his mind about how the job is being done merely because an inspector visits it on two occasions. That does not relieve him of the responsibility of seeing that the job is properly done, and that the contract which he has presumably made, is observed. That is something our people should know.

There is another matter which it would be well to bring to their notice. Very often, the jobs are practically completed before the application is even made. In such cases, it is absolutely impossible to keep them right in the fundamentals, never mind the details. Over the years, we have taken a very lenient view of late applications both for new housing grants and for reconstruction and repairs grants and I think that leniency has not been of benefit to the applicants. In many cases that come before me for final decision as to whether a grant can or cannot be paid, a difficulty arises very often because the applicant went on with the work and very often it was partially done, or completed, before the application was made for the grant.

However, to come back to the question of complete inspection, and inspection that would be regarded as a certificate of worthiness in every sense, I do not think it would be possible for my Department to do that. There was a suggestion that a fee of five guineas or 10 guineas might be asked from the applicant. I would say if he were prepared to pay that amount, he should get a qualified man of his own to look after his interests for the five guineas or 10 guineas, a man with whom he might be more intimate than possibly he would be with inspectors from my Department.

There are not sufficient engineers in the country for that purpose.

I am aware that in a great part of the country, there are sufficient architects and engineers who are qualified to look after the aspect of building operations that might come within the terms of a clerk of works. I am sure they could well do with those 5 or 10 guineas the Senator mentioned. If 5 or 10 guineas were available from every applicant, I am sure they would get better service by employing the private architect than if it were a case of regional inspections.

Senator O'Quigley also mentioned the problem where contractors, developers and builders leave a site where they built houses, speculative building in particular, in an incomplete state of development. That is not a matter in which it is necessary for my Department to intervene. The local authority have power to see to it that the development that it was understood would take place by virtue of an undertaking before the building commenced is completed to their satisfaction and according to the agreement. It is not a matter in which my Department need take any strong action, as might be suggested; rather is it a matter for the local authority.

If in certain circumstances, the local authority feel they are up against it, if they do not seem to have sufficient control or powers to get things done as they want them done, I should be glad if they would refer their difficulties to my Department. We shall try to smooth them out and direct the way for them, if necessary.

Senator Lenihan mentioned counties which are not operating the supplementary grants scheme and also counties which are not operating the facilities under our present Housing Acts whereby Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts loans and moneys from the Local Loans Fund may be got through the local authorities for the purchase and repair of houses. I would make a very special plea to our local authorities to consider this question fully and to realise, as the great majority of our local authorities have come to realise, that the making of supplementary grants to the limited categories of people outlined and the making available of loan moneys for the repair of houses are very good investments not merely from the individual's point of view but from the point of view of the local authority and the national point of view.

In a great many cases, if houses are conserved at this stage, properly repaired and improved, it will obviate very costly new building by the local authority in the future. They will have to fill the gap if these houses are allowed to fall down and people whom the local authority would be obliged to house are left without houses in the future. A supplementary grant of £140 maximum in the case of repair, improvement or reconstruction or £275 in the case of a new house, is surely a very good bargain for a local authority as against having to build a house costing £1,000 or £2,000 in the future to replace such a house or to house people who themselves, if they got this small encouragement from the local authority, would build their own houses or repair the houses they are living in and in that way preserve the overall stock.

I appeal to all our local authorities to have another look at the situation and, from their financial point of view and the wellbeing of the people in their area, to reconsider it. I urge them to make a start now even if, up to this, they have not done anything in this regard. I want to express my appreciation of those counties which, over the years, some from the beginning and some from a later date, at present are operating these schemes— the loan schemes, the supplementary grant schemes in respect of houses, reconstruction, repair and sanitary services, and water and sewerage grants. These people are doing an excellent job. Much credit must go to these counties for the excellent encouragement they have given by making these financial facilities available as well as the schemes.

Mention was made of urban areas being in a difficult position—in some cases not being able to afford to pay supplementary grants because of the impact on their small rating units. I think Senator Lenihan and some other Senators may have some problems in mind. If there are areas where a county council of the area in which the urban district is situated has found it impossible to do just what the Senator has been asking, if problems are met with by any county council which seem to prohibit them from making grants available to people residing in the urban district of their county area, I should be glad to hear from such county council and go into the matter with them. I think it is possible within the terms of our existing laws and regulations to come to a satisfactory conclusion. I think there could be a problem there for certain urban districts which is not insurmountable. It is possible to get over it under our existing Acts.

If any such problems are known to any Senator, I should be glad to hear of them and, if we can, we shall straighten them out. We hope we shall be able to show them how to do this very necessary job of helping the urban areas to finance the supplementary grants and the loans scheme which we have advocated here this evening.

Senator Tunney mentioned the holding-up of house-building because the cost is too high. Unfortunately, this problem is not peculiar to county Dublin. It has been met in a number of other cases and I am glad to say, has been solved in quite a number of instances. Let it be quite clear that the interest of my Department and myself in this matter are that if a house is costing too much, if it is costing a price beyond that for which a similar house can be built in any other part of Ireland, then somebody is getting more money than they are entitled to get for building it.

What is even more important, either the future tenant will have to pay a higher rent, which we all deplore, or it will be foisted on to the backs of the ratepayers who can ill afford to shoulder that extra burden in order to give a price beyond reason to a builder. That is the only reason and it is a reason which we reluctantly had to accept in order that prices would not continue to keep one step ahead of the amount my Department is prepared to sanction for a particular category of house. Instead of stopping at £1,000, Senator Tunney said, in regard to houses in county Dublin, we have sanctioned houses costing £1,100 and even as high as £1,200.

The very significant factor in this instance was that as our level of sanction rose, so also did the tenders that came in subsequently for other schemes. That is a problem which is not easy of solution. Our appearing to leave ourselves open to the accusation that we are, in fact, stalling on building in these cases is one which is hard to understand. It is certainly not very palatable to me as Minister.

Those are the facts which I have to face and deal with and if there have been delays in this regard, those are the reasons. I should be glad if there is any member who has the wisdom and experience to advise me as to how we can deal with a situation such as I have outlined and which applies not only to Dublin but to other parts of the country as well. Our handling of the situation had the desired effect. I could get figures to show that in circumstances similar to those obtaining recently in Dublin, by our policy in the Department we got building costs back to a reasonable figure.

The suggestion that we want the people of county Dublin to live in inferior houses is wrong, as is the suggestion that we want houses built without plaster, thereby inferring that it is an inferior house. The suggestion that we think less of the people in Dublin than anywhere else is also entirely wrong. The suggestions from my Department are aimed at trying to keep the cost of the house down so that the tenant occupying the house will not be carrying an undue burden in the form of rent or, alternatively, that the rates will not constitute an unduly heavy burden on the backs of the ratepayers. These are the two things we have primarily in mind and which motivated us in any action we have been reluctantly forced to take in the manner suggested to-night.

Senator O'Reilly mentioned a number of matters. He suggested that old houses, which are being replaced by new houses, should be removed by the owner by giving extra money on removal. It might have been far more to the point to suggest that until these houses were removed, no money should be paid for the new house. That might have been a much more sensible approach. That method possibly would have been used long since, were it not for the fact that the local authority have full and ample powers, as they now stand, under various Acts, to compel the removal of these unsightly buildings. They are a hang-over from the time they became derelict and the new house was occupied.

I know what the Senator has in mind. I certainly agree fully with him but it is not for me to suggest that further moneys from the Exchequer should be paid to people in order to ensure that they will do what they should do and what, in fact, they likely promised the local authority to do—what the local authority can compel them to do and should, in those circumstances, compel them to do, once they have occupied the new houses. On the other hand, in rural Ireland, the old house becomes readily adaptable as an outhouse. That is one of the considerations which results in the retention of the old house.

The local authority can and should deal with the matter. They have ample power to do so and my advice to them is that they should do so. We shall give them every encouragement but to suggest paying the people who already have got the benefit of our grants to build a new house to replace the old one and to suggest we should give them a present of money to wipe out the old house is asking somewhat too much.

If you withheld the second portion of the grant?

If we were to do that, this position would obtain. The person who contracted to build the houses would still be waiting for the money. It is not the person owning the house who would be out of the money but the builder or the local contractor. If that were done as a general rule, we would be hitting the small builder and contractor and possibly, in some cases, extinguishing these people altogether. After all, these are matters for the local authority, if for no other reason than to make their own countryside as respectable looking as possible. They have the powers and they should operate them. I hope they will do so.

It is very hard to get them to do it. I am in favour of pulling down the derelict buildings.

You have the power in the local authorities—it is a question of using it. Senator O'Reilly also raised a peculiar case. He said he would call it a hypothetical case, although it is a real stickler by reason of the fact that it exists. It was something about a house on a farm being used as a dairy farm and a grant being sought from the Department of Agriculture in respect of the supply of water from a well. The water supply was connected to a dwelling house and an application to the Department of Local Government for a grant in respect of that water supply was turned down.

It is the other way round.

Either way, it is apparently a question of looking for two grants for the same well by the same person. That is what I want to get at, if that is what it is.

That is not so.

I should be glad to have the facts. Certainly, it did not appeal to me. The question, of delays in inspections was mentioned. In that regard, over recent years, there have been the usual comings and goings of our temporary inspectorial staff. Sometimes more of them leave together than at other times but gradually they come in. It seems to be an accepted training ground for our young engineers. We have to send them out with a senior inspector for six weeks or two months to get them run in. Twelve months later, they go before the various boards and pick up a permanent job. Nobody can blame them for that. The pool has to be gradually filled up. The drain on it is not always regular. Sometimes we are more shorthanded than others. We have been making every effort to try to keep a pool in reserve that can fill in the gaps and meet the inspection demand that sometimes comes unheralded to us.

It is rather a notable fact that a house is a job that is done perhaps once in every two lifetimes. Yet, we find that people who are not going to build another house next week or next year, after taking years getting around to it and gathering up the few pounds needed to add to the grants they get, seem to feel that unless we are all waiting for them ready to get them going right away, they have got to blame somebody. All I can say is that I think it is asking too much.

They have the whole year to apply; they have the slack, dead period of the winter to apply in anticipation, of the good weather in which they can do their building. Why can these people not make their applications just that little bit in advance of the time they need approval rather than look for the grant the week they are starting work or apply for it a month after the house has been completed? Then they all want grants in a hurry and very often we just cannot give them to them in a hurry. We would like to be able to do it in a hurry, but we cannot turn on and off our inspectorial staff like a tap. We have to train these people and if there is a rush of work we may be shorthanded.

Another feature of our inspections is that our inspectors, in the areas to which they are assigned and in order to get the greatest possible amount of work done with the least possible travel tied to it, do a regular circuit of these areas. Depending on the volume of work and the size of his area, that circuit may take the inspector anything from three to six weeks to cover. If somebody applies to-day and wants an inspection immediately, the inspector may just have passed by his locality yesterday. The file is sent to the inspector but unless that inspector is to make a special run back, he will not call on that person until he has completed his circuit.

As I say, in normal circumstances, these trips on average take five or six weeks and this delay, coupled with the need to submit questions to the Department and perhaps re-submit some query to the inspector, while it may be irksome to the applicant, is not of our making. If the delay seems undue at times, it is because of the necessity to maintain some sort of regular train of events and not to have inspectors at one end of the county to-day, reporting to the other end to-morrow and coming back to the first end the following day and wasting their time by totting up a lot of extra cost through travelling. Those are the things which operate to give the appearance of delays which I can assure the House are not undue delays, when all the circumstances are taken into consideration.

Another point which was mentioned was in regard to plans not being suitable in rural areas. The plans, which are more or less pre-sanctioned plans, are available from the Government Publications Office in the Arcade at a cost of 1/3d. There is quite a variety of both single and two storey houses and I think with any intelligent sort of manipulation, any plan can be enlarged or contracted to suit the requirements of practically any person who wants to build a house at the least possible cost, which is the aim of most people to-day.

If there has emerged some situation in which all the variety of plans have not been available, it may arise on occasion because of a run on particular types of plans and some time may be required to get them back into stock. Ordinarily, there is a good variety of plans capable of being contracted or expanded to suit the individual person. Those plans as I said cost 1/3d. and are obtained by many people. I think they are really very good value and the quality and variety is fairly adequate for the needs of the community, and particularly the rural community, so far as I am aware.

Senator O'Donovan took the floor next and gave us quite a dissertation on the figures which he had extracted from the large volume he procured in the Library and which I noticed him bringing into the House a short time ago. One of the things which he mentioned—I cannot avoid mentioning it—in quoting these figures, which as the Senator well knows is quite a dangerous occupation on many occasions, was that we in Fianna Fáil appear to make very big estimates of what we intend to do in coming years and that the actual situation develops that we make a small expenditure. I do not agree with that statement nor do the figures show that there was a big estimate and a small expenditure. Let me rather say that when we make an estimate in my Government, and in my Department, we usually make it as near to the accurate figure as we can. A prudent estimate is generally made and that prudence is judged thereafter by whether or not the amount provided is somewhat greater than the amount spent or as near to it as possible.

We are being accused of providing more money in the Estimates than is actually needed for expenditure. If that is a feature of our Government, it is a feature which I do not think I would decry. It is a feature with which I do not think there is anything wrong but I cannot help comparing it with the reverse trend that was so evident in the previous Government which, if noted for one thing more than another, was noted for deciding on an expenditure and not providing the money for it——

100,000 new jobs.

——and if there is any necessity to refresh the minds of the members of this House, just let us take a look at the mess in which we found the matter of housing at the beginning of 1957. On 20th March, that year, there were tenders and site acquisition proposals from local authorities lying in the Department of Local Government to the tune of £865,685, an accumulation of the mismanagement of the Government in office up to that date.

10,000 were built that year.

Further, let us look——

Only 4,000 were built last year.

——at the Small Dwelling Acquisition Acts advances. We had this deplorable condition obtaining also on 20th March: applications for instalments of approved loans in respect of supplementary housing grants were on hands to the extent of £374,000. That was the money we had promised then to the local authorities who in turn promised it to the individuals in their counties and they were not given the money to pay. A backlog of £374,000 was there which had not been met and which should have been met because it was a commitment by the Government to the various housing authorities for the payment of these supplementary grants. At the same time, there was a backlog of demands worth £259,000 lying there in regard to the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts and another to the extent of £523,000 for local authority housing schemes, so that roughly we had £1,100,000 under the headings of supplementary housing grants and S.D.A. advances which were the commitments and debts of the Coalition Government which they did not pay but which they promised during the preceding three years.

And which they paid.

Would the Minister give us the figures at present?

How many speeches do Senator L'Estrange and Senator O'Quigley think they are entitled to make?

We are not making speeches.

We listened to these Senators without interruption and surely they should not interrupt the Minister.

As the Minister has been interrupted, I take it that, if necessary, the House will sit later than 10 o'clock to deal with the next Bill? Is that agreed?

If these interruptions continue——

We can sit after 10 o'clock.

To finish the story of the trend with which I do not intend to proceed thereafter, we had at the same date, 20th March, 1957, in regard to sanitary service works held at the tender stage in my Department to the tune of £750,000 that should have and could have been sanctioned at that time but for which no sanction was issued. I might remind the House also that during the previous six months, the last six months of the Coalition Government, while £750,000 worth of tenders for sanitary works were lying in the Department, only £13,000 worth of schemes were proceeded with.

There are no tenders lying in the Department now?

There are no schemes for which we have not got money in the Department.

The Minister is prevaricating.

The Minister's Government had to have £7 million from the prize bonds.

It is tough that Fine Gael cannot take their medicine.

Would the Minister give us the figures up to 31st March, not the 20th?

I am giving the figures which are relevant to the arguments which I heard made here by a few of the Senators who spoke in the latter part of this debate. If the figures I have given are not a full answer——

How could they be a full answer?

——to all the expressions we heard from those Senators who would now wish to criticise the movement and the trend in the building industry, then on another occasion and in another place, I may get the opportunity of going more fully into all these figures that led up to the situation where we find £4 million worth of various projects relating to the Department of Local Government alone backlogged and held up in that Department through lack of finance in the Coalition Government who would now talk as if they could put wheels under ducks.

That is the picture we had in 1957. How could there be progress in the ensuing few years in regard to housing and sanitary service schemes, both of which take considerable planning and considerable time to get under way, if the dead hand of "no money" of the Coalition Government in, their later days was laid on all those schemes to the degree I have outlined and to a far greater degree which will be known to the members of local authorities listening to me now? At that time in the local authority of which I was a member not only had we schemes at tender stage in the Department which were not sanctioned but so bad was the situation in September, 1956, that our council in its prudence decided it would be unwise to plan and spend further money on planning, if we could not even get the money to pay for the schemes on hands already.

That is the time you were trying to ruin the country.

That is the situation against which we must consider the development of housing and other relevant matters at the moment and during the past three years. If that can now be fully comprehended, surely it is evident that in the ensuing years, there was bound to be an almost complete cessation of building as a result of the mismanagement in the Department of Local Government I have outlined in regard to the building trade through lack of money. In regard to any development since then and any progress we see to-day, we must have regard to the fact that we had to take building from its knees, work it up off the ground in 1957/58.

With 4,000 fewer employed in the local authorities?

Fine Gael do not want any answer to their lies.

The figures are in the official statistics—11,000 houses in 1956/57.

If the Senator will bear with me a little longer—I do not intend to keep him much longer because I know these things must be most painful to him—we had to lift the building trade up off the ground when we came in in 1957, and if the trend is now upward, it is due to the efforts of this Government and to the fact that they paid the debts of their predecessors in regard to these matters and that some little confidence has again been instilled not only into the speculative builders but into the ordinary people throughout the country who have sufficient faith in the nation's future to proceed with the building of their houses which they did not have after the experience of the last Coalition Government.

Over and above that—and this is the last answer I want to make to all the various innuendoes, inferences and suggestions being made here to the contrary—there is no shortage of money for these things to-day. There are no schemes being held up and backlogged in my Department because we will not give the money. There are no such things as schemes being put on the long finger. There are no false promises being made to the local authorities and they realise that when we promise to pay, we shall pay and we differ from our predecessors in office in that we shall not let the local authorities down.

Our estimates are prudent estimates. We expect that the estimates will cover actual expenditure and, above all, we have a provision made for the moneys to cover the expenditure, if and when it takes place during the coming year.

It is £6 million against £14 million.

Question put and agreed to.
Bill put through Committee; reported without amendment; received for final consideration; and passed.