Committee on Finance. - Vote 41—Local Government and Public Health (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
"That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration."—(Michael Brennan).

I have very little more to say on this Vote. I hope that when the Minister is making his statement he will deal with the points I have raised. Some of them are of great interest and the Minister's reply to them is being eagerly watched by local authorities. I would like in his statement that he would give a clear view of what he anticipates doing by way of local loans, particularly for housing, including the continuance of the facilities afforded under the Small Dwellings Act. Those facilities recently— and only recently—have been availed of in the City of Dublin, particularly, by a class of people that heretofore were not provided with housing accommodation. They were a class between those for whom speculative builders hitherto catered, and the cottage dwellers for whom the Corporation had catered. As a matter of fact, a lot of the cottages were provided by the Corporation, as the Minister is aware from first-hand knowledge, at an initial loss to the rates of the city and consequentially a loss afterwards. These houses in many cases have been occupied, and have become marketable housing property, by people who would be able through the operation of the Small Dwellings Act, to provide themselves with their own houses. It is the view of responsible officers in the Corporation that use the Small Dwellings Acts to their fullest extent. By that I mean that the Corporation would lend the full 90 per cent. value of houses built at a certain valuation. They have differentiated in the last scheme of loans they gave by increasing the percentage advanced from 80 per cent. to 85 per cent. on houses of marketable value of £600 and under. A further sliding scale might be feasible, and as I have just said, it is held by very responsible technical officers of the Corporation that by extending the use of these Acts by builders catering for a class hitherto not catered for by private enterprise, all classes in the City of Dublin could be provided with dwellings under the Small Dwellings Acts, except that class that is not able to pay 100 per cent. for their own housing accommodation and must inevitably rely on the rates of the city to provide them with housing accommodation. The key to that idea, and to the schemes emanating from it, is the money to finance the Small Dwellings Act, and we in the City of Dublin will anxiously await the Minister's reply on that particular matter. Now I have covered enough ground. I do not want to occupy the time of the House much longer, but I want to draw the attention of the Minister to a matter that is causing great agitation in the City and County of Dublin concerning milk. That is a provision in the Milk and Dairies Bill, which is at the moment before the Seanad. I do not want to go into the details of that, but it has aroused technical officers of both city and county, responsible for clean milk and public health in both the city and county to express their views—the views held by their professions. What gives rise to this supposed or alleged grievance is that full public health services according to existing legislation and full services under the existing Dairies and Cowsheds Orders are in operation in Dublin City and County.

I am sure the Minister appreciates that very little further, if any, services will be imposed in the City and County of Dublin by the Bill now going through the Oireachtas. By that I want to convey to the Minister that if the whole country had come up to the standard in public health administration and clean milk administration of the County and City of Dublin, very little more would require to be done by his Department.

Does not all this arise out of the Bill before the Oireachtas at the moment?

I submit, Sir, that it arises on Local Government, as Local Government is responsible for it.

It is not administration.

The point I am on is the administration not of contemplated legislation, but on the administration of existing legislation, and the point I am trying to make is that existing legislation is being administered to the full in Dublin City and County but is not being administered to the full in any other county, entailing consequential commercial loss to Dublin City and County producers of certain commodities. In support of uniformity of administration, I should like to quote a paragraph from the Reorganisation Commission for Milk, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in England. I will just read it and leave it for the Minister to digest. On page 92 of that Report, paragraph 81 says:—

"We consider it essential for the progress of the industry that the Milk and Dairies Order should be brought into universal operation and uniformly and efficiently administered. As one of the measures by which this might be facilitated we recommend that county and county borough councils should be empowered to take over the administration of the Order in cases where it is felt that more uniform and effective administration could thereby be secured. We must again emphasise our view that the routine clinical examination of all dairy cattle is of as much importance from the standpoint of establishing the confidence of the public and of the medical profession as it is an indispensable part of any scheme of milk grading. Although we feel that the financial burden of our recommendations for reform and reorganisation should, in the main, be borne by the industry itself, we do not consider that either the Government or the local authorities should shirk the duties already laid upon them by statute. We have pointed out that the councils of counties and county boroughs have already the duty of causing such inspection of cattle to be made as may be necessary and proper for the purposes of the Milk and Dairies Order. We have drawn attention to the inadequate manner in which this duty has, in many cases, been carried out, and we indicate later in this chapter the comparatively small expenditure which is necessary in order to set up an efficient veterinary service. We would, therefore, earnestly beg the authorities concerned to reconsider their attitude in the interests, not only of the milk industry, but of the whole community."

That paragraph was inserted in a British report in connection with conditions in England.

What is the report?

It is the Report of the Reorganisation Commission for Milk and the date is 1933. This precisely applies to the case I am making and to the administration of existing legislation. Of course, in the other matter of legislation that is going through, there is no grievance with it so long as it is passed by this House. The grievance can only arise if there is not uniformity of administration, and that is the point I am pressing on the Minister now.

I wish to direct the Minister's attention to the position of nurses in this country. I think that representations have been made over and over again to the Department regarding them, and I think the answer generally has been that if a scheme is put up it will receive the greatest possible attention. There is considerable difficulty in lay people, if I may use the expression, presenting a scheme to the Department in connection with nurses. They fall under so many categories. There are some, I believe, but very few nurses, who enjoy pensions. I think that the major number of nurses working in this country have no pensions. I am not immediately concerned with their present status although I have heard that notwithstanding the vast wealth that has gone into hospitals recently the position of nurses in these institutions has not been improved. That may be so or it may not be. I am concerned, however, with those who, through ill-health, overwork or age, have nothing to rely upon when they have to retire. I see in the Estimates here that there is a very large number of officers in the Minister's Department—medical inspectors, lady inspectors, and other inspectors, first-class officers and so on. If there is wisdom in a multitude of counsellors, the Custom House ought to be bursting with wisdom. Surely this collection of people with experience of the Government in the country would be able between them to devise some scheme whereby pensions would be ensured for these great servants of the State. In fact, they compose the major portion of the Minister's army and he ought to look after them as well as the Minister for Defence looks after his Army. He has even an intelligence officer, I notice. I hope he will consider the advisability of introducing a pensions' scheme to help these women. I am sure he has great sympathy with what I am saying. He must have. I know sufficient and hear sufficient, however, about this matter to believe that I am warranted in asking that this House should agree that the Minister should bring in that scheme. There is one institution with which I am concerned in this city for many years, and it is painful to me to see a nurse who has given 40 or 50 years of her life in fighting disease to be left in the end without some provision being made for her old age.

Has the Minister power by administration alone to do this?

Mr. Kelly

I hope you are not going to rule me out of order, Sir. In any case, if you do, I do not mind, because I have got in all I had to say.

It is somewhat regrettable that the Minister should break such a record this year in discussing the local government at this early date before the financial year for local bodies has completely closed—at any rate, before we had the final information as to how the finances of local bodies stand at the end of the year. While the Minister passes that over simply by a statement that according to the reports the position with regard to the rate collection has improved in a number of counties, in other counties the details that are available show that a very serious position with regard to rate collection still exists. In the case of say, Galway and Cork, there must be considerably more than £50,000 of arrears added to the very considerable arrears that accrued in these counties last year. The matter with regard to the financial position of local bodies can only be discussed when we get that information, and we may have that information by the time we come to discuss the Vote for the Supplementary Agricultural Grant. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the Minister did not make some more elaborate statement with regard to the financial position of local bodies, in view of the fact that he has advised the county councils that they are going to suffer a cut of something like £716,000, from money they expected to receive from the State, by reason of the non-collection of land annuities in the year ended 31st January last. A very gloomy prospect must be opened up to those in charge of local government throughout the country when faced with the kind of statement that the Minister has supplied to them up to the present. If there is any suggestion that that matter is going to be reviewed, the sooner the local bodies know it the better. Otherwise, with the very considerable arrears that face them in the matter of rates, they will start the work of the new year with a very considerable handicap.

The Minister thought it necessary in the autumn before last to address a very vigorous circular to the local bodies with regard to the backwardness of the rate collection. He did not issue any circular of that kind in the autumn that has passed, although the position was considerably worse. Certainly there must be apprehension as to the position that will disclose itself when the figures for the year ended 31st March are available. As I say, in the case of two counties alone, it would look as if something more than £50,000 was going to be added to the considerable arrears which existed last year.

There is another matter to which the Minister might address himself. A considerable sum of money was withheld from local bodies the year before last on the ground that the Unemployment Assistance Bill was going to be introduced, that it would relieve local authorities of a very considerable amount of the money that they were spending on poor relief. The local authorities were disappointed because they had to bear the full burden of the poor relief for that year; and it was only during the year just passed that the Unemployment Assistance Act came into direct operation. It was only in operation from about April or May last. We had the position in the first week of January, 1935, that upwards of 75,000 persons were being given assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Act. Nevertheless, the local bodies found that they were at that time responsible for almost as big a burden of outdoor relief as they were supporting before the Unemployment Assistance Act came into force. The average weekly expenditure for home assistance in January, 1932, was £12,226 and in January, 1935, £12,217. The total number of persons in receipt of home assistance on the last Saturday of January, 1932, was 90,270 and in December, 1934, 86,104. The total number of persons was very nearly the same, and the cost to the local authorities was almost exactly the same, although very considerable sums of money were being paid out weekly under the Unemployment Assistance Act to more than 75,000 people.

Many local authorities have shown by the discussions which have taken place that the home assistance bill is a very considerable burden on them. It was only the other day that we had the Board of Assistance in Galway declaring that their bank had dishonoured some of their cheques, and they were in fact not able to meet the demands for home assistance. On several occasions throughout the year, as the Minister must be aware, local authorities found it necessary to suspend the payment of home assistance. That must have been a considerable hardship in the districts where it happened. Yet we have had no word from the Minister as to how it happens that the cost of home assistance now is as big as it was in 1932, in spite of the fact that very considerable sums of money are being spent in relief in other ways. Has the Minister taken any steps to see that what occurred during the last 12 months, when persons entitled to and passed for home assistance by local authorities were unable to obtain the home assistance because the money was not available, will not occur again? Have any steps been taken to remedy that position for the coming year? It is all the more necessary that steps should be taken to prevent occurrences like that this year, because the Minister is aware that an order has been issued under the Unemployment Assistance Act withholding unemployment assistance payments from certain classes during a period in April and May and during a period from July to the end of September.

Endeavour has been made by different Deputies to find out what there is in the economic condition of the country that indicates that payments under the Unemployment Assistance Act need not be paid during certain periods. If the Minister wants advice from anybody outside his own Party, he will find plenty to tell him that he need not expect any economic improvement in the months of April or May or July and September. Nevertheless, these moneys for relief are being cut off this year. They were cut off after the local authorities responsible for the provision of outdoor relief had made their estimates and had their estimates established in the matter of rates, so that there will, undoubtedly, be a deficit in certain areas in the amount of money that has been provided. If there was a deficit last year when there was full provision made, the position is likely to be worse this year. It is essential that the Minister should say what he hopes to do to meet the situation, for situation undoubtedly it is, and to prevent what happened last year happening again in certain areas.

When the Minister had a Supplementary Estimate before us a few weeks ago I urged on him the necessity for making a more detailed and more intelligible statement on the general matter of housing than he had up to then, and apparently, than he was prepared to make at that time. He comes before us and gives us no more information with regard to the general housing position than he did on the last day. Certain statements have been made as to the number of houses actually built. These have been apparently contradicted by statements issued recently to the Press and apparently by a statement which the Minister has issued. It is essential that we should get clear on the statistics of housing, in order to be perfectly sure of where we are going, but I think it is even more essential that we should get clear on the spirit in which he is pursuing his housing policy and what is happening to the people. We had the Mayor of Wexford, Deputy Corish, complaining in respect of the persons to whom houses were given by the Wexford Corporation, that when they had got houses, the next demand from the tenants was for work, so that they could pay their rents. In view of the fact that most of the houses in urban districts that are being built at the present moment are being built at a cost to the State of two-thirds of the total cost, and in view of the statistics the Minister quoted last year of the increases in the non-payment of rent in, at any rate the labourers' cottages, it would be desirable, that with instances no doubt before him in the country, he would give us some idea of the classes of persons that are being put into these houses and the extent to which he was assured that the comparatively small rents being demanded were likely to be paid. It is, I say, a very serious thing when a Deputy, a member of a local authority with the experience of Deputy Corish, with his understanding of the housing situation and the situation of the workers, finds himself driven to complain that that is the position of some of the tenants put into the newly-built houses in Wexford.

The Minister made a statement, published in the Irish Times of about three weeks ago, that the total number of houses built during the year ended December 31, 1934, was 12,332, the number built by local authorities being 6,093, and the number built by private persons and utility societies 6,239. The Minister, in reply to Parliamentary Questions, indicated the number of houses built under the different sections of the Act by private persons and public utility societies in various types of areas, and if he will refer to figures issued in that particular way he will find that the figures quoted for local authorities tally with the statement in the Irish Times, but when he comes to the figures for houses built by private persons he will find a discrepancy of 3,236. In other words, he says in his statement in the Irish Times that 6,239 houses have been built by private persons and public utility societies during the year ended December, 1934. He has given figures to the House showing that only 2,983 have been completed in that time, namely: in urban districts by private persons, 285; in urban districts by public utility societies, 60; in rural districts by private persons, 1,324 and in rural districts by public utility societies 1,314. When the Minister is so skimpy in the statement he makes to us with regard to housing generally, I think it is essential that there should be some kind of clear examination which will show us where the missing 3,256 houses are. The same type of discrepancy exists in the statement that he made recently in answer to Deputy Norton. He told Deputy Norton that the total number of houses completed at the end of February by private persons and public utility societies was 9,645. The figures he has already quoted to the House in greater detail show that 6,499 houses were completed under the Act by December 31 last.

The question of cost was raised with the Minister when this matter was under discussion before, and I put it to him that the 6,646 houses built by local authorities and the 3,010 built by local authorities in rural areas had cost £1,816,000 to the State and that the 2,473 houses built by private persons in urban areas and the 4,026 in rural areas by private persons and public utility societies had cost the State in grants £4,365.

I think it is essential that the Minister would come down more definitely to numbers and cost, and it is because the Minister has shown such reluctance to do so and because I consider the matter so important that I want to give the Minister, as it were, my side of that position. There is no use in thinking that the quotation of a big number of houses springing up, raising the hopes of the people that they are going to get houses, is going to give them houses or to help them to pay for them. Housing in the City of Dublin is in a very critical position at the present time, and the number of people who want houses in the City of Dublin is very great. The distresses that most of them are incurring at present are almost unbearable and I do not think that the present system of housing finance is going to use the money that is available in the country for housing in such a way that these people can be provided for. There are, unfortunately, people in the city looking for houses at the present time. They all get the same answer to their applications and the answer is something like this: that cases are being dealt with in the order of hardship; that the cases that are being dealt with first are those where people are living 12 to a room; next, 11 to a room; next, ten in a room, continuing that type of thing and then—next, tubercular cases; next, basements; next, dangerous buildings.

When the ordinary person is looking for a house a very considerable time must elapse before he has any hope of getting it, because a number of those classes require to be dealt with before the ordinary person can be touched. In the meantime, the ordinary person who is able to pay for a house, and who must be the foundation upon which the whole of our housing finance rests, is living in conditions which are demoralising, and which are sapping his strength and capacity to be a wage earner. As I say it is essential to get a clear idea as to what exactly is going on in building, and what it is costing. The Minister has thrown doubt on the figures that are being quoted. He has given us statistics with regard to the number of houses completed, which require to be reconciled. It is for that reason that I want to tell him that the following figures show the achievement in the completion of houses, in so far as we have been able to get information from him by detailed question and answer, up to the 31st December, 1934.

Clause 5 (1) (a) of the 1932 Act provided a grant of £45 for houses commenced between 1st April, 1929, and the 12th May, 1932, and completed on or before 31st December, 1932. One hundred and ninety-six in urban districts and 198 houses in rural districts were completed under that section, and I submit to the Minister that the cost to the State was £17,730. Under Clause 5 (1) (b) (1) grants of £70 were made available for houses commenced between 12th May, 1932 and 31st May, 1933. Under that clause 393 houses were completed, costing the State £27,510. Under Clause 5 (1) (b) (2) provision was made for a grant of £60 on houses commenced on or before 12th May, 1932, and completed between 1st June, 1933, and 31st March, 1934. Under that clause, 694 houses were completed, costing the State £41,640. Under Clause 5 (1) (b) (3) grants to the extent of £50 were payable on houses commenced on or after 12th May, 1932, and completed between 1st April, 1934, and 1st March, 1935. Under that clause, 667 houses were completed, costing the State £33,350. Under Clause 5 (1) (c) (1) grants of £70 were payable to persons deriving a livelihood from agricultural holdings under £15 valuation. Under that clause, 396 houses were erected at a cost of £27,720. Under Clause 5 (1) (c) (2) grants of £60 were made available to persons deriving a livelihood from agricultural holdings of between £15 and £25 valuation. Eighty-seven houses were built at a cost to the State of £5,220. Under Clause 5 (1) (d) grants of £70 were made available for agricultural labourers. One hundred and ninety-seven houses were completed at a cost of £13,790. Under Clause 5 (1) (e) grants of £45 were made available to private persons who built houses in rural areas; 1,329 houses were built at a cost of £59,805.

All those houses were built by private persons. They were completed, under the Act, up to 31st December, 1934. In all, 19,950 houses were built in urban areas, while 2,207 houses were completed in rural districts. The cost was £226,765. Public utility societies erected 523 houses in urban districts, and 1,819 houses in rural districts at a cost of £173,600. Those houses were erected as follows: Under clause 5 (1) (a), where there was a grant of £45, 30 houses were built in urban districts, and 12 in rural districts, the State grant amounting to £1,890. Under clause 5 (1) (b), where grants of £70 were made available, 84 houses were erected in urban districts, the cost to the State being £5,880. Under clause 5 (1) (b) (2), a grant of £60 was made available. In urban districts 175 houses were erected, the cost to the State being £10,500. Under clause 5 (1) (b) (3), where a grant of £50 was available, 214 houses were erected in urban districts, the cost to the State being £10,700. Under clause 5 (1) (f) (1), a grant of £80 was available for persons deriving a livelihood from agricultural holdings under £15 valuation. 1,219 houses were erected, the cost to the State being £97,520. Under clause 5 (1) (f) (2), a grant of £70 was available for persons deriving a livelihood from agricultural holdings between £15 and £25 valuation. 193 houses were erected, the cost to the State being £13,510. Under clause 5 (1) (f) (1), a grant of £80 was available in respect of agricultural labourers. 395 houses were erected, the cost to the State being £31,600. Under clause 5 (1) (I), 20 houses for town workers were erected at a cost of £2,000. I think the Minister informed the House that the cost would be £3,000, but I have put the cost down at £2,000 as I think that would be the statutory limit. The total number of those houses built by public utility societies was 523 in urban areas and 1,819 in rural areas, the cost to the State being £173,600, so that the total cost to the State under grants raised out of taxation was £400,365.

As far as local authorities were concerned, they built under clause 6 (1) (a) (1), 6,100 houses under replacement schemes. I have put it to the Minister that the average cost to the State of houses erected by the local authorities, when you take in Dublin City and other areas, is £300. 6,100 houses were erected in urban areas under replacement schemes during the period ended 31st December, 1934, the cost to the State being £1,220,000. Of ordinary houses erected under clause 6 (1) (a) (2), in respect of which the State pays 33? per cent. of the interest and sinking fund, 546 were completed at a cost of £54,600.

In the case of labourers' cottages, where the State pays 60 per cent. of the loan charges for 35 years, the total number built was 3,010, the cost to the State being £541,800. Therefore, I say, that the 6,646 houses erected by the local authorities in urban areas up to 31st December, 1934, and the 3,010 erected in rural areas, are costing the State £1,816,400. The total of 16,000 odd houses are then costing the State £2,250,000. I have already pointed out that under the previous Administration 24,000 odd houses were erected at an expenditure of about £1,250,000. The figures are more correctly: 24,131 houses were erected at a cost to the State of £1,609,152 as against 16,155 houses which are now costing the State £2,216,765, and whereas the £1,609,152 that went to the building of the 24,131 houses was paid out of revenue raised from year to year, leaving no debt on the State, the houses that have been built by local authorities are leaving a debt of £1,800,000 in respect of 9,656 houses.

Will the Deputy say whether his calculation in respect of the 16,155 houses includes subventions to enable houses to be let at something less than the economic rent?

I do not catch the Deputy's point.

Under the Housing Acts, 1932-34, it is possible for the local authority to secure subventions towards interest charges in connection with the erection of labourers' cottages and houses in slum areas under slum clearance orders. Is any calculation of that amount of expenditure made in the figures quoted by the Deputy?

The figures I am quoting are figures based upon this fact, that the Government provides two-thirds of the loan charges in respect of all replacement schemes.

Will the Deputy say how much of that expenditure is in the sum of £2,216,765?

The whole of that expenditure is.

What proportion of the expenditure on schemes of that kind is in the £2,216,765?

In respect of replacement schemes, where 6,100 houses have been built in urban areas in order to wipe out slums or meet overcrowding, £1,220,000 is included for that. The £1,220,000 constitutes the capital cost of the subvention that is going towards these 6,100 houses. In the case of 546 houses, ordinary houses for the working classes, where the State only provides 33? per cent. of the loan charges, £54,600 is accountable for that and, in the case of labourers' cottages the capital cost of the State provision for 60 per cent. of the loan charges for 35 years amounts to £541,800, so that the total capital cost is £1,816,400.

Was any similar expenditure involved in the figure of £1,609,000, which the Deputy stated was incurred in respect of 24,131 houses built under his Administration?

In respect of that the assistance to local authorities was given by lump sums of money paid as an assistance to the cost of the houses and the sums went to reducing the rent. If Deputy Norton's point is that such money was not granted under the previous Administration for the reduction of rents of the houses being built by local authorities, that is a fact; but what I want to get at is that the Minister will tell us what the cost of this scheme is going to be in the first place and, in the second place, to what extent it is providing the people with the houses that he set out to provide.

I would have Deputy Norton understand that while this enormous charge is being provided for, it might be well to take an example of what is being done. Let us take the case of the County Borough of Limerick. Although this capital charge is being placed to be met by the taxpayers in the future, the only houses that have been built in Limerick, where the slum conditions are very serious, total 74 houses, and there are many urban districts from one part of the country to the other where practically nothing has been done. If this charge is going to be left on the State, increasing year by year in respect of a certain number of houses built every year, I hope that the Deputy will join with me in telling the Minister that we would like to hear him at greater length on his general plan, and also that we would like to hear him much more clearly on the statistical side of the question. It must be very confusing to Deputy Norton to get, in reply from the Minister, figures which he cannot reconcile with the figures I get, and it certainly does not increase our confidence in the general progress of the scheme.

The whole thing is all the more regrettable and inexcusable in view of the fact that we have a Housing Board and the total number of persons employed on the general administration of housing in the Department of Local Government is rising enormously, both the persons employed on the indoor and on the outdoor staffs. It is up to the Minister to let us know the facts with greater clearness and to let us have returns in a different kind of way from the kind of summary that he gives either to the Press or when he speaks here—to let us know more clearly in a statistical way the progress that is being made and the extent of the problem that requires to be attacked. It is only then that we can see whether we are cutting our cloth according to our measure and what hope the people who are down at the tail-end of the waiting list for houses in Dublin City, Limerick or in any of the counties have of ever getting into a house.

The Minister had indicated that the houses that are being built in the rural areas are being built in those areas where the housing conditions were shown to have been worst under the Census of 1926. I would like to hear the Minister in greater detail on that subject too. Take a county like Wexford, which was the best housed county in the country according to these statistics and you find that the total number of houses completed up to 31st December, 1934, in Wexford, was 533, whereas in Galway, which is one of the worst counties, there were only 263 houses completed. In Clare, which was nearly as bad as Galway, you had only 290; in Sligo, which was as bad as Galway, you had only 176; and in Donegal, which was worse, you had only 170. So that again we would like to hear the Minister in more detail as to the housing conditions, at any rate in certain small country districts, and what is being achieved there. Last year, I had occasion to point out that the reconstruction grants were being distributed in a very peculiar way. I pointed out that there was an area around Cavan, Monaghan and Louth that was getting very substantial grants in money under the construction section of the Act—more than the whole of the West of Ireland, where reconstruction was so important, and where the really bad housing belt of the country lay. The figures quoted here by the Minister up to the end of December last continued to show the same thing.

If we take the whole of the bad housing area that was "blacked out" in the census of 1926—that is Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry—we have a part of the country where there are 195,000 houses and 872,000 of a population. The total amount of grant for reconstruction that has been put into that area up to December last was £81,000. When we turn to Monaghan and Louth, where as against 195,000 houses there are 24,000 houses and a population of 90,000 as against 872,000—we find that that area receives £81,000 for reconstruction. Louth and Monaghan got as much since the reconstruction work began under this Act as the whole of the counties in the West of Ireland which formed the real bad patch, and that have nearly ten times the population. It would be interesting to hear the type of work that is being done in Monaghan and Louth under the reconstruction provisions of the Act, and whether the Minister is satisfied that it is good development; and we would like to know the effect generally on the lives of the people in the area, by the improvement that was brought about in their dwelling-houses by these grants; and why it is that so little of a stir of that particular kind is taking place in the West of Ireland, where the position is so bad.

We always wanted to know from the Minister what is the function of the public utility society in rural areas. When we last entered on the subject at any rate, we pointed out that the public utility society in the urban districts was passing out of the picture, but that the public utility society in rural areas was showing up in a strange but interesting way in certain counties; and we have never been able to get from the Minister a statement as to what the function of the public utility society is. I think that, considering the example that must have come before the Minister from Kildare, we ought to have some kind of a statement from the Minister as to the function of the public utility societies and whether they are doing good work. It is possible to understand a public utility society in a county erecting only a few houses, working where there are a large number of houses being erected. There are places, however, where is it quite clear that the public utility society machinery is just a kind of facade to put in front of a certain type of semi-political organisation which helps, at any rate its friends, to make profits out of the operation of that section of the Housing Act which gives an additional £10 of grant to a house put up by a public utility society.

The case in Kildare shows that you had there a public utility society of which the members, including one Deputy member, declared that the only function the public utility society had was to get the increased grant for the person building a house. On a question, the Deputy declared that they had no function to assist the person to get materials, or to assist him in any other way. We had a case of a person who applied for a labourer's cottage, when his application was refused by the local body on the ground that the cottage was not available, approached by the secretary of County Kildare Public Utility Society. He was got to give a subscription of £1 and then 30/- to the public utility society. He did not become a member of the society, but he was made pay into their fund. In some way he arranged with a person, who was introduced to him by the society, to build a house for him, and the only thing the society did was to stand in front as a kind of protection to a local building-material-providing society there, which charged him more for the materials than he would pay in any ordinary building provider's place. A considerable scandal was brought out there, showing the way in which members of the public utility society acted as philanthropic people in the public utility society's body, but acted as business people making unreasonable profits in their own interests, while acting as a builders' providers' society in the shadow of the public utility society. If the Minister does not stand for the wasting of public funds, if he does not stand for assisting the imposing on unfortunate persons in rural districts, and getting money out of them that ought not to be got, he will take the precaution of stating publicly what the functions of these public utility societies are—whether they are working well—and the districts in which they are not working.

I mentioned that the position with regard to the Dublin Corporation in the matter of housing was a very serious one. Undoubtedly, building will be held up in the City of Dublin before very long—that is, corporation building—if it is not being held up already—arising out of the financial difficulties in which the corporation is finding itself in the matter of housing. The Minister for Industry and Commerce gave a Parliamentary answer some weeks ago which indicated that the total number of persons unemployed in the building trade on 7th January, 1935, was considerably greater than on the 1st January, 1934. There were 943 carpenters unemployed where there were only 580 in 1934. There were 120 bricklayers where there had been only 43, and soon generally throughout the whole line of occupations—masons, slaters, plasterers, painters, plumbers, and builders' labourers. The total number unemployed in the building trade in the City of Dublin on 7th January, 1935, was 7,580 as against 4,196 on the 1st January of the year before.

The Minister must be aware of the desire that exists through the country to get assistance under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, so that persons can finance their housing desires; that there are large numbers of people who would take advantage of that Act; that there is a type of person that ought to be assisted; and that it would help to keep a greater number of work people in the building trade employed, if whatever difficulties exist with some of the local authorities could be overcome, and if the county councils generally could be made grants to facilitate the operation of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act for those various people that are looking for the assistance. This is a way in which the Minister could help out, but again, as I say, he has given us a most skimpy statement with regard to housing.

I do not profess to have touched on anything like all the various aspects of housing that ought to be touched on. The Minister is keeping up a very extensive housing staff in his Department. He has a Housing Board. I do not know where they are hiding. We have heard very little from them. We have had broadcasts from members; some of them have been sacked. The Minister has not taken the House into his confidence as to why one of the members of the Housing Board has had his services dispensed with. He has not told us either what the others are doing and if the board have not something on their conscience. I think it is high time we got some kind of a report from them as to what they have been doing. They ought to be able to assist the Minister in giving the kind of statement that the House would like to hear as to his housing achievements and the extent of the problem that he is tackling. Only when we have a statement like that can public opinion really keep the Minister right on his housing programme and can the Minister be kept safe on the financial side. Everybody is terribly anxious to tell the Minister to go ahead and God bless the work—clear the slums and build the houses—but it would be a very dangerous thing for the happiness and well-being of a lot of people who want houses, if, urged on in that particular way, the Minister were to go along blindly. I submit that he is going along very blindly at the present moment and that he is, apparently, spending money that is not there to spend. I suggest that it is near time we had a review of the housing position.

I did not quite gather from the Deputy where the discrepancy was. Would he mind giving us that again?

The statement was published in the Irish Times of the 6th March last. That statement said:—

"The official return shows tremendous progress made in the house-building scheme of the Free State Government during the year 1934. In the 12 months ending the 31st December last there were completed 12,332 houses."

Below that it gives figures for the number of houses completed by local authorities, by private persons, and by public utility societies. It says that during the year ending 31st December, 1934, 6,239 houses were completed by private persons and public utility societies. I ventured to tell the Minister that he has given figures to the House which show that only 2,983 houses were completed by private persons and public utility societies during that 12 months and that the detailed figures upon which he based that statement show that private persons built in urban districts 285 houses, that public utility societies built in urban districts 60 houses, that private persons built in rural districts 1,324 houses and that public utility societies built in rural districts 1,314 houses—totalling 2,983 and leaving 3,256 to be found in some place or another. A discrepancy, of somewhat the same size, arises between figures quoted by the Minister in a reply to Deputy Norton on, I think, the 15th February, where he stated that 9,645 houses had been completed by private persons and public utility societies up to, I think, the end of January, since the 1932 Act came into operation, whereas the figures provided by him, in a more detailed way, to me, indicated that by the end of December, 1934, only 6,499 houses had been completed.

I should like to make a few observations on one side of the work for which the Minister is responsible. I refer to the matter of public health. In the debate similar to this last year, I criticised the Minister's Department on two questions mainly, and I am glad to notice that during the 12 months that have elapsed he has taken away, as he then stated he would, the grounds of my criticism on these two very important points. He was able to tell us, in introducing this Estimate, that the number of county medical officers now appointed almost covers the whole area of the Irish Free State. I criticised him last year on the grounds that he should press on the appointments more rapidly, and he then said he hoped to have them made in the ensuing few months. He has certainly been more active since that time.

The other point on which I criticised him was the delay in the production of any legislation dealing with the matter of the milk supply. We are all aware that the Minister has now introduced a promising measure in this connection to this House, so that we may hope that in the near future that will have a very definite effect on the health of the country. I am interested in some of the statements of fact which the Minister was able to report to us a few days ago. He informed us that the infant mortality had shown some improvement in the year under review and that it had fallen from 65 per 1,000 births to 63 per 1,000 births, the previous average having been 69 per 1,000. That is a matter upon which we may congratulate ourselves. I should be glad, however, if the Minister would tell us how far the urban areas have improved in this matter of infant mortality. From the last figures available, one sees that the infant mortality in some of the urban areas was more than double what it was in the country as a whole. The last figures available were three years ago, and in Galway the infant mortality was 136 per 1,000 births, in Waterford 132 per 1,000, in Sligo 124 per 1,000, in Wexford 113 per 1,000, and in Dublin 100 per 1,000. While one can be pleased, and while the Minister has a right to take pride in the reduction of the general average from 65 to 63 per 1,000, one would like to know that that improvement has shown itself to a considerable extent also in the urban areas as well as in the rural areas. In the rural areas we know that infant mortality has never been high as compared with the mortality in other countries. But, while we have such mortality rates as those of Galway and Waterford, and even Dublin a couple of years ago, it is clear that there is much more work to be done in regard to putting infant mortality into a satisfactory condition. I agree in that respect with the Minister's statement, that good housing is the foundation of all the social services. I believe that in no department of health will the effects of good housing be more evident when the Minister's programme is completed than in regard to infant mortality.

The Minister told us that, while the rate of maternal mortality had remained stationary, there was an increase in the number of deaths from puerperal sepsis from 80 in 1933 to 92 last year. Taking the percentages, that is a very heavy increase in the number of deaths, and it would make one anxious that more investigation should be made of the causes and treatment of this very fatal malady than we have had opportunities for up to the present. I stress it particularly in the hope that the Minister will give encouragement to any scheme of medical research which will have as one of its objects the investigation of the causes and treatment of puerperal sepsis. It is not necessary to stress the human importance of this very tragic disease.

It is satisfactory to know, as the Minister has told us, that there has been a decline in diphtheria both as regards incidence and mortality. It is interesting to note that he gives some of the credit of that to the immunisation campaign which some of the medical officers of health are carrying out. I associate myself with the plea put forward by Deputy O'Dowd that that campaign should be intensified and not only be active at the time when there is an epidemic or fear of an epidemic, and that it should be carried out not only in the cities but in the counties. I associate myself also with the argument of Deputy O'Dowd that, as far as possible, those in charge of the scheme, the medical officers of health, should make use of the general body of the profession in carrying out immunisation. I think we will bring it more closely home to the people through the dispensary doctors and other general practitioners than if the whole campaign is in the hands of whole-time officers. I think that the campaign will be better understood if it is, to a considerable extent, in the hands of those with whom the public are dealing habitually. I suggest, too, that it is not fair to private practitioners that work of this kind should be absorbed by whole-time departments—work that can be thoroughly and efficiently carried out by private practitioners.

I associate myself also with what Deputy O'Dowd said about the importance of vaccination. We have developed a sense of false security in this country as regards smallpox, because we are living on a past in which the vaccination laws were very thoroughly carried out, with the result that smallpox has hardly been seen in this country except in a few imported cases for very many years. That we have not seen smallpox depends on the fact that the population up to recent years was very thoroughly vaccinated. Unfortunately, there has been a slackening in the application of the vaccination laws, notably in certain parts of the country, with the result that the country is not at all as well protected now as it was 20 years ago if smallpox chanced to be introduced, as it is very likely to be introduced from time to time when it is fairly common in other countries. I trust that the Minister will press on the local authorities the necessity of carrying out their duties in this respect. He has shown a very praiseworthy energy in keeping them up to their duties in other respects, and I hope he will add this to the list.

It is perhaps disappointing that there was not during the year any extension of the number of schemes for the inspection and treatment of school children. One hopes, as the Minister said, that with the number of county medical officers of health appointed, these schemes will be extended. He hopes to bring the entire school population under inspection in the very near future. I am afraid he will have to recognise, and the local authorities will have to recognise, that if that is to be done the staff available for the purpose of inspection will have to be increased. If the inspection is to be valuable each school child should be inspected at least twice during school age—when he enters school first as a young child, and again before he leaves, and, if possible, between times. With the amount of staff that there is at present, it would be quite impossible to make an inspection as often as that. Up to the present, according to the figures we are given, apparently, only one child in three attending school has ever been inspected at all.

I do not know how far the Minister has control over the sanitary conditions of school buildings. I may be wrong, but I understood the Minister for Education a few days ago to say that that matter fell to the Department of Local Government and Public Health. To-day we had the Minister for Education stating in answer to a question that in the Dublin area the accommodation in school buildings for school children would accommodate some 29,000 children, as well as I could hear, but that the average attendance was 31,000. So that we have a position, whether these figures are exact or not, that the average attendance in the Dublin schools is greater than those schools are able to accommodate, if proper attention is given to sanitary conditions. I am not sure how far the Minister for Local Government has any control over that matter, but I think the responsibility has been put upon him by his colleague and, if so, I would wish that he would take that responsibility very seriously.

With regard to child welfare, I was rather surprised to notice that the Estimate has been reduced from last year and I hope that the Minister will give us an explanation of that fact. One would like to see the child welfare schemes greatly increased rather than reduced. The sum spent last year was £24,000; it is now proposed to reduce it to £22,800.

There are some points with regard to dispensary services to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention. It is quite true that there has been a general improvement in the salaries of this service during the past 30 years, an improvement which approximately has made up for the altered value of money, but it has not made any great advance beyond keeping in step with the altering value of money. There is still great need for standardisation of scales of salaries in several counties. There is considerable variation—some counties begin at £175 and others at £250, and it is unfortunate that in the counties where there is the least possibility of securing some extra income from private practice, the scale is the lowest. In the counties where there are more people able to pay for medical assistance the amount is larger. That is anomalous and creates considerable discontent in the service. I would suggest to the Minister that he should devote some attention to an attempt to standardise salaries throughout the medical service and thus approach nearer to the ideal of a State medical service. It will remove one of the difficulties which existed in the past towards establishing a State medical service.

There are a number of matters in the administration of the Poor Law medical services which cause discontent from time to time and I would like to draw attention to some of them. In regard to the question of study leave for dispensary medical officers, great advances have been made in recent years. Boards of health are permitted to give medical officers study leave amounting to three months during a period of three years. That is a very great advance. The board of health provides a substitute for the officer while he is absent from home studying for improvement, but it does not give a medical officer any assistance towards the expenditure on his study. The Committee of Inquiry into Medical Services in its majority report, recommended that study leave and grants should be given and that medical officers should be encouraged in every way to improve the value of their services to the public by that means. I hope that the Minister, in considering any steps for the improvement of the dispensaries generally, will not lose sight of that point. He would find a considerable number of medical officers really anxious to undertake studies but who cannot afford the fees themselves. They would be encouraged if they had some help towards meeting fees even without getting a further grant towards the extra expenses involved. Courses of study are not benefits peculiar to the medical officer concerned. They are benefits which react on his service to the public.

I would also like to draw attention to the considerable irritation which is caused by a certain lack of reasonableness shown in regard to the giving of what may be called emergency leave to medical officers. It must occur to any of us that there should be a sudden family illness or urgent business to be attended to. It is laid down in the regulations that an officer must not leave his duty to a deputy without leave from the board of assistance and permission from the Minister. It must be recognised that it is not always possible to go through all these formalities and the medical officer, if a relative becomes suddenly ill at some distance, breaks that regulation by leaving. That will not occur very often and I have no doubt that the Minister and his Department would show reasonableness, but in some cases complaints have been made that medical officers have gone through the course of applying to the board of health and to the Minister and the leave has been refused without, as I am informed, adequate reason. In some cases where medical officers of long service wished to spend a few days with a relative who was very ill, the leave has been refused and there is some considerable delay before the particular circumstances can be explained to the Department. I think that the Department might show itself a little more ready to deal with these special cases but, at the same time, I recognise that too great slackness in this matter might lead to considerable abuses. I do not think, however, that any confidence shown in medical officers would often be abused.

There is one other more general matter which requires very serious attention at this particular moment. That is consideration of the general hospital services of the country. The Department, in the hands of the present Minister and of his predecessor, has shown a very keen desire to improve the hospital services throughout the country and we all know that very considerable improvements have been effected within the last 15 or 20 years. But, those improvements have been made in individual hospitals rather than in the system as a whole and it is to ask the Minister and the House to consider what is necessary for an efficient hospital system that I draw attention to this matter now. I must draw the Minister's attention particularly to the criticisms which were made public in a very helpful and constructive speech delivered a month or so ago by the President of the Royal College of Surgeons. Speaking with a due sense of his responsibilities in the matter he pointed out that the public hospital system, apart from institutions for special purposes, consisted of district hospitals and county hospitals or hospitals corresponding to those titles, with power to send patients in special cases to voluntary hospitals in one of the larger cities. At first sight, it appears to be an admirable system. It is, if it is well worked. These several classes—the local district hospitals and the larger county hospitals with some equipment for doing surgical work, ought to be able to deal with much of the therapeutic work of the county but at the present time there has been very little attempt to define the functions of these institutions or to plan these institutions to suit particular areas. The President of the Royal College of Surgeons suggested that the first step should be a survey of each county having regard to the distribution of population and the health of each district and that definite plans should be followed in planning hospitals and in determining the sizes most suitable. That has never been done though it may seem elementary. He gave examples of the number of hospitals in County Cork where there are no fewer than 17. Five were in a radius of 30 miles from Cork City, and in that county, each of the institutions served a population of 17,000. In Meath two hospitals deal with 60,000 and in Sligo there is one hospital for over 70,000. It is clear that if these figures are exact, and I am sure he has taken pains to make them as exact as possible, there is need for planning the hospital system, bearing in mind the number of people to be served.

It is not merely that those hospitals have existed for a considerable time and have not yet been considered from the point of view of amalgamating or abolishing some of them, but similar mistakes are being made at the present moment. The President went on to say that in another county there had been for some years two district hospitals with 15 and 20 beds respectively, and that the number of beds occupied in each was 50 per cent. According to the local Press they were to be replaced by two new hospitals with 30 beds each, that is 60 beds to take the place of 35, although only 17 of the 35 were ordinarily occupied. That is in regard to the need for suiting the hospital system to local conditions.

I now come to another point, and that is in relation to the relative functions of the district hospital, the county hospital and the city voluntary hospital. It should not be a difficult matter to fix their relative functions. We realise that many cases requiring a simple form of medical attention, without elaborate equipment, could receive adequate treatment in the district hospital. The cases requiring urgent surgical treatment and cases which could not readily be transferred elsewhere could receive adequate attention in the county hospital. Many acute medical cases could, no doubt, be treated in the district hospital also. Many boards of health appear to think that the county hospital is, and must be, the last word in treatment, and that it is a confession of incapacity when the county surgeon from time to time sends patients to the city hospitals. What is the staffing of these county hospitals? There is a county surgeon. Most of the county surgeons have been appointed in comparatively recent years and are competent men. No criticism can be made of them. The assistance given to them varies very much. In some places there is also a physician who acts occasionally as anæsthetist to the hospital. In some of them there is a house surgeon—not by any means in all. In not less than 16 county hospitals, the President stated, there was no house surgeon. In nine county hospitals, the county surgeon had to work single-handed, or with only inadequate assistance. It is impossible for any county surgeon, no matter how competent, to do efficient work without proper skilled assistance. In many cases, if the county surgeon recognises his disabilities and insists on sending cases to the city for investigation and treatment, he is criticised by the board of health. In one case an advertisement actually appeared for a county surgeon who would have to undertake all operations which required to be performed. It is not recognised by those boards of health that nowadays the investigation of many cases of disease requires the co-operation of a large number of experts of different capacities. The county surgeon is himself frequently an expert in the use of X-rays. He is expected to be, and may be, expert as a pathologist, but it is unreasonable to demand or expect him to be expert in those matters as well as in the ordinary work of a surgeon. It is necessary that he should send patients to other institutions where expert advice can be had at call— where, not only the expert advice of an X-ray expert or pathologist, but the expert advice of a gynæcologist, an eye surgeon and so on, may be available when required. Such advice is required in a constantly increasing proportion of the cases which come up for investigation in the city hospitals.

It may be said that I am criticising the system rather than the Department. The Department, of course, is responsible for the system or lack of of system, and I do complain that very little help has been given to the county surgeons in the way of assisting them to convince boards of health that some of the demands made on them are unreasonable, and that it is reasonable and proper for the surgeon to send cases on to a hospital where a greater variety of expert advice is available. He would not be doing his duty to his patients if he did not seek that advice in certain cases. Of course we are all aware that the Minister has the advice of the Hospitals' Commission on particular matters as to the hospitals of the country and their equipment, and as regards the distribution of Sweepstake Funds. I hope it is not to be expected that the whole hospital problem of the country—the planning of the hospitals and their future upkeep—is to be dependent on the amount of money which comes to the country from the Sweepstakes. I believe that the Minister will get very helpful expert advice from the Commission. They are working hard and thoroughly, but the ultimate responsibility rests with the Minister. Many of the matters which I have been discussing in regard to this hospital system would have arisen and would have called for attention and criticism—as they have called for criticism at any time during the last ten years—had there been no Sweepstakes and no Hospitals Commission. I hope my criticism is constructive and not destructive. It is certainly not intended to be hostile, and I do not wish it to be taken as conveying any suggestion whatever against the work of the Hospitals Commission. It is merely my intention to point out that those problems are not altogether dependent upon the work of the Hospitals Commission, or on the funds in regard to which the Hospitals Commission alone has the power to give advice. Those are the only matters arising out of the Estimate upon which I wish to make any comment.

I want to take advantage of this Vote to offer my criticism of the Ministry for their change of policy in so far as the distribution of free milk is concerned. Up to March, 1934, that is to say, during the financial year 1933-34, the local authorities were directed to give free milk to children, regardless of age, provided that they were delicate and that their parents were able to procure a medical certificate. That was a great boon to the children and a source of great consolation to their parents, especially in cases where the father had been unemployed for some considerable time. Everybody knows how hard it is for an unemployed man to provide proper nourishment for his children. At the beginning of the last financial year, that is 1st April last, the Minister refused to permit local authorities to give free milk to children over a certain age. He fixed a maximum amount of milk to be given to each family, regardless of the number of children, and regardless of whether the children were delicate or not. One could understand the attitude of the Minister in this connection if the amount of money would not permit him to continue that policy; but so far as I know, in districts with which I am familiar, a larger amount of a grant was notified to the local authorities at the beginning of the year than they were able to spend under the changed policy of the Department, with the result that a good deal of money reverted to the Minister at the end of the year in consequence of the restriction in the giving of milk. I appeal to the Minister to revert to the policy which obtained in the financial year 1933-34. It certainly was welcomed by the poor people who were unable to provide proper nourishment for their children.

I would like to add something to what Deputy Rowlette has said about the dispensary doctors. There is no question about it, some time or another the Minister will have to set himself to the task of standardising the salaries of the medical officers. In some areas the salaries given to dispensary doctors are absolutely scandalous. In recent times more especially, people who hitherto would not think of getting a red ticket to bring to a doctor are taking them, and obtaining the services of the doctors in that way. I am aware that on various occasions county boards of health were in favour of increasing the salaries of their medical officers, but the Ministry turned down the proposal for some reason or other. I have in mind a case from County Wexford. It was not exactly the case of a dispensary doctor. It was the case of a lady doctor in the county fever hospital and her salary was £200 a year. The county board of health agreed to raise it to £275, but the Ministry were very reluctant to agree, and it was only after pressure that they finally agreed.

I do not think there should be any hesitancy on the part of the Minister to agree to an increase of that kind, because everybody knows that a doctor in attendance upon fever patients has not the same chance of getting private patients as another doctor, as there is a reluctance on the part of people to have any contact with a doctor who is in touch with fever patients day after day. It may be foolish, but nevertheless the objection is there and the doctor suffers in consequence. I suggest that the Minister should standardise the salaries of these medical officers. I would go so far as to agree with the suggestion made by Deputy Rowlette that there should be some sort of a State medical service set up in this country. I believe the time is opportune for such a service. In a great many local areas the county boards of health, in consequence of the depression, will be reluctant to raise the salaries of their medical officers and I believe the Minister should come to the aid of the medical officers who are very badly treated in some of the rural areas. I would like to stress the point in connection with the distribution of free milk. I do not think it is too much to ask that the Minister should revert to the policy that prevailed in this connection in 1933-34.

There are a few matters to which I wish to draw attention. They do not exactly bear relation to the construction of houses, but they have reference to the payment of the grant for the construction of houses. I am now referring to houses in rural districts. I think it should be known that in the county which I represent the people who are applying for grants are almost in every case poor people. They are not possessed of means and whatever assets they may have in the way of stock there is one thing which they have not got, and that is cash. I now refer to cases in which the applicants are entitled to a building grant of £80. I am not conversant with the rules or regulations that govern the payment of these grants, but I am conversant with the manner in which the grants are paid. Instances have come to my notice where it has been determined by the Department that people are entitled to a grant of £80. Very grave cases of hardship have arisen in this connection and, instead of the grant being regarded as a favour, it is, in reality, as a result of the way in which payment is made, a most harassing thing to those who are entitled to receive it.

The circumstances of the applicants are probably known to contractors, who are consequently somewhat reluctant to undertake the responsisibility of carrying out a contract without some guarantee with regard to payment. The contractor will go a certain distance with the work and when he has reached a certain stage he looks for some money. I have brought several instances to the notice of the Department and I went so far as to get the applicants to go to the housing inspector and seek a certificate from him with regard to the amount of work done. I urge them to get a certificate that the building of the house had been brought to the stage of what is known in the country as side-wall high; that is, that the masonry part of the work had been carried out. The position is that no proportion of the grant will be paid until the roof has been reached, and in the majority of cases poor people have tremendous difficulty in proceeding with the work. The Department informed me that no payment would be made until the roof was on. That is really the crux of the whole thing. In one case a widower with a big family was in very poor circumstances. The Department indicated that no part of the grant would be paid until the roof was on. That almost means the completion of the work, because when the roof is on the house is practically built. I consider that is a matter the Minister should interest himself in. It deserves serious consideration, because if poor people are left in that position they will be utterly unable to complete the contract they have undertaken. It is a great boon to them, I admit, to get a grant of £80 to assist them to do something that would otherwise never be possible.

There is another aspect of the question to which I should like to draw attention, that is withholding payment of portion of the grant which inflicts further injury on them. I expect it is known to the Minister that where holdings are vested in tenants the Land Commission refuses to make grants. Loans are made by the Land Commission on certain conditions. They will not be given until the amount of the grants have been expended or, in other words, until a certificate of final completion of the house has been lodged. The fact that a part payment will not be made renders it impossible for the party who has to get a grant to complete the building. It renders it impossible for him to secure from the Land Commission the loan to which he would otherwise be entitled. The Land Commission makes the loan on the completion of the work. That is the position and I consider it a very grave injustice to the people concerned. I am speaking of a matter of which I have knowledge, and about which I hold correspondence both from the Department of Local Government and the Land Commission. I am giving actual particulars of what occurred and I can produce the correspondence for the Minister. I consider this is a matter that requires the immediate attention of the Minister because he will realise that it is one of outstanding importance to poor people. The Minister's first duty, in my opinion, should be to come to their rescue, and to assist them to complete houses of which they are badly in need by having them paid some portion of the free grant to which they are entitled.

There is another matter dealing with administration to which I should draw the Minister's attention. I refer to the construction of a county hospital in the urban area of Castlebar, County Mayo. Needless to say, that county hospital is being constructed from a grant provided by the Irish Hospitals' Sweeps through the Department of Local Government. A contract was entered into some considerable time ago and the work was carried on for months. For reasons of which I have not heard a satisfactory explanation construction then came to a standstill. In the circumstances that now exist in that area I cannot explain the real position or say who is really responsible. The contract was for about £100,000 and the work has been held up for months. That fact must have come to the knowledge of the Department. If so, what is the real explanation? The delay is inflicting not only inconvenience but great expense on the ratepayers of the county. The ratepayers are aggrieved in this way, that while the hospital should now be almost completed nothing has been done for the last four months. I think the public are entitled to an explanation because even if the people had not to put their hands in their pockets to pay the expenses of constructing the hospital, the money was provided through the Hospitals' Sweep and the hospital should now be available without any compliment. The work has not been carried on with the efficiency or with the speed that one would reasonably expect. That is where it comes home to the Minister as a duty to take the matter up. I should like to have an explanation with regard to the cause of work having ceased. What is the meaning of it? It has meant considerable expense on the ratepayers of the county, because an institution that was to be available as a surgical hospital is not available and the expense of sending patients to other hospitals for treatment had to be incurred. Is that good business? Is the Minister aware of it? I feel inclined to think that he is not. If he was aware of the facts I think he would have an inquiry held. It is a case in which the holding of a sworn inquiry would be fully justified. I make that statement here on behalf of the ratepayers of Mayo, and as one who feels charged with a grave responsibility as their representative, I feel it my bounden duty to call the Minister's attention to it. When closing the debate I hope he will give some indication of the position now, and when we may expect that the work will recommence and the hospital be completed.

There are a few matters to which I wish to draw the attention of the Minister. I need hardly say that I am glad to be amongst those who congratulate the Minister on the extent to which housing has been assisted by the Central Government. Nevertheless, although a great deal of work is being done, with a view to the ultimate solution of the housing shortage, I suggest to the Minister that we should not lose sight of the immediate evils that exist and that demand radical and prompt abatement. One of the most prominent of these is the question of slum rents. Those who have been in any way associated with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are familiar with the rents charged for certain tenement rooms in Dublin, and which seem to be out of all proportion to their value. We know that the Rent Restriction Act which is in force should provide an effective remedy for tenement dwellers against certain landlords who are overcharging for houses, and we all know that if individual tenement dwellers could be instructed in the provisions of the Rent Restrictions Act, and were financially able to seek the assistance of the courts, in the vast majority of cases they could not only get rents reduced, but could recover from landlords substantial sums that they had overpaid during the period of their tenancy. So much for the tenants who paid the rents regularly but, when you look into the problem you find that while the nominal rents of many of these rooms seem ridiculously high, in many cases the tenants have not paid their rents because they were unable to do so.

The Minister for Local Government has nothing to say to that.

It has been the old gag for the Minister for Local Government to say that is a matter for the Minister for Justice, and for the Minister for Justice to say that it is a matter for the Minister for Local Government. If I try to raise this matter on the Vote for the Minister for Justice he will say, "What have I got to do with housing?" I urge the Minister for Local Government and Public Health not to say, "What have I got to do with the Rent Restriction Act?" There has been too much of that old gag.

Nevertheless, there is nothing in this Estimate in respect of rents.

No, but I shall relate rents to housing in a moment if the Minister will have patience. What I suggest to the Minister is this: That on careful investigation it might emerge that the adequate housing of the poor in cities is, in its essence, an uneconomic business, and that if we fixed fair rents for the accommodation available in the existing tenement houses it might appear that it would be impossible for the slum owner to repair or maintain the houses, because, as we all know, many of these houses are very dilapidated and their maintenance has become ridiculously expensive because they have not been kept in the state of repair in which they ought to be kept. If that is so, it in no way reduces the responsibility on the Minister to intervene and deal with this evil. It is no defence whatever for insanitary conditions to say that it is not an economic proposition to keep the house in a sanitary condition. If it is not an economic proposition, then the duty devolves upon the State to provide sanitary and decent accommodation for the people living in those houses. I suggest to the Minister that he should institute an inquiry into slum rents because I am quite satisfied that both he and I are far more concerned to see justice done in that matter than some of the gentlemen who conduct rent strikes in back streets in Dublin, not for the purpose of securing reduced rents for the people, but for the purpose of promoting anarchy in the city. Let us recognise that there are unscrupulous people who delight to exploit any passing evil for the purpose of promoting anarchy.

Having, as I believe the Government have, effectively met that sort of activity and put an end to it, let us then deal with the evil which these people have sought to exploit. An inquiry should be held, a reasonable rent should be arrived at for the existing accommodation, and, in order to make it reasonably known to potential users, I suggest that a system should be adopted somewhat similar to that being put in force under the Hotels Code in America at the present time and that is, that the fixed rent of every room should be painted on the door. If a room is decided to be one which the landlord may legitimately set for 5/- a week, let some note be affixed to the door or some part of the room informing any tenant who may go into it that the statutory price is 5/- a week and that the landlord has no right to charge any more. Having done that, if it emerges that the rents are insufficient to maintain and repair the houses or yield the owner any interest on his investment of capital, then the Minister must seriously consider taking over these houses and administering them for the short period that must elapse before he or the municipal authority have had time to provide alternative accommodation for these tenants, as, I have no doubt, that in the long run he intends to do away with all the existing tenements and put in their place modern sanitary and more comfortable flats, or separate houses under the building schemes that are at present proceeding and that he proposes to initiate in the future. But whatever details he may decide on in his method of procedure, there should be no delay whatever in examining this question closely and making it perfectly clear to the poor people of this city that the law in respect of the restriction of rents will, if needs be, be strengthened in respect of tenement rooms and that the Government is determined that the poverty of people, for which they themselves are not responsible, will not be exploited either by slum owners or by the Department of Local Government itself.

I mentioned the Rent Restriction Act in order to point out to the Minister that if the tenants were comparatively wealthy and educated people they could quite easily enforce their rights themselves. Owing to circumstances over which they have no control, they are not getting the benefit of the legislation that was passed in this House, and it is up to the Minister to see that they do get it. I do not wish to delay the House unduly, and the only other reference of a critical nature that I desire to make to housing is that the Minister should stop ribbon building on the main roads. At the present time, a large number of labourers' cottages are going up all over the country and the tendency is for the people to ask that the land acquired for the erection of labourers' cottages shall be adjoining the main road. You then have a row of cottages, the average juvenile population of which will be four children, along the main road. You will have small children playing in the evening and running in and out of the cottages. Inevitably, you will have serious accidents, taking into consideration the heavy motor traffic on the roads at the present time. If the people want the houses built so immediately adjacent to the main road, then by-roads should be driven in to the acquired land and the houses faced away from the main road. God knows, there are enough of all kinds of roads in the country already, and by-roads can be found. If possible, the cottage should be set back some considerable distance on the proposed plot in order to prevent that constant danger of children chasing one another in play out on to the main road and under the wheels of passing traffic.

The Minister will have noted, I am sure, that this question has greatly agitated the minds of responsible Ministers in Great Britain and that a Bill is being drafted, or has already been submitted to the British House of Commons, to put an end to ribbon building. The problem has not assumed dimensions comparable to the British problem in this country yet, and therefore I suggest, before it becomes a real evil, that the Minister should take active measures under his existing powers to restrict ribbon building. I remember, Sir, that I may not advocate the enactment of legislation. Now, in regard to the labourers' cottages which are being erected, many local authorities have already laid down a rule for themselves that married labourers and those living in houses already condemned by the medical authority will get the preference. I should like to know from the Minister definitely whether or not he is determined to enforce that preference in every case, because I have been obliged to bring under the attention of his Department recently a case of a very grave departure from what I believe to be the well-established policy of the Department over which he presides.

I have mentioned on more than one occasion a minor problem which, owing to its minor character, is being neglected. The Land Commission when dividing land ever since 1885, have been in the habit of building accommodation roads. Some judgement was delivered by the late Chief Baron Palles defining a road of public convenience and it was held that a local authority might not undertake the maintenance of any road that was not a road of public convenience. Substantially, the definition of a road of public convenience is a by-road which connects two main roads. The vast majority of these small Land Commission roads do not connect two main roads, but go off the main road to serve three, four, or perhaps more houses, and sometimes to serve no house at all, but to lead into a patch of land, or to a series of patches of land. On roads of this character in more than one case the local authority has acquired land and built labourers' cottages. Having built the cottages on the Land Commission road, they have disowned responsibility for the maintenance of the road. The Land Commission will not maintain the road, and eventually we find that nobody will maintain the road. I know of one such road which in wet weather is more than ankle-deep in mud, and no one is responsible for its restoration to a passable condition. I submit to the Minister, though that is a minor problem from the point of view of the general administration of the Department, it is one which causes a very great deal of inconvenience to the people living in the rural parts of the country.

I have on more than one occasion, and with reference to more than one Department, raised the question of correspondence with each Department. I fully appreciate that in the Department of Local Government the volume of correspondence must be very great. Let me say at once that certainly, in my experience, if I ever approach the Minister or any of the higher officials with a specific complaint that any of my correspondence has been neglected, it has always been promptly and courteously attended to. I want, however, to submit to the Minister that something more than that is required. Every business house of any size has long ago discovered that in order to carry on its business efficiently it must establish what is known as an adjustment bureau. An adjustment bureau consists of a trusted official, with a sufficient number of assistants, whose sole business is to deal with complaints or inquiries. Every letter that comes in containing an inquiry or complaint is referred to his department. They are divided according to the subject matter, or according to the officer who deals with the particular division of the department to which the inquiry applies. Somebody who knows his way about the Custom House, in the case of the Department of Local Government, who is well acquainted with the responsible officers, who has some knowledge of the ordinary procedure of the Department, starts out in the morning with, perhaps, a bunch of 50 or 60 letters. He knows whom to go to; he knows the kind of information required; and in the course of an hour he can get from the responsible officer a note on each one of the letters which he can bring back to the office whence he came and there elaborate that note into a suitable reply to the inquirer or the person who is complaining. If further correspondence arises it joins the files and goes into the hands of the man who dealt with the first inquiry or complaint.

In that way you save the time of hard-worked and highly-paid officers, who are spared the necessity of dictating long letters in answer, sometimes, to somewhat fatuous inquiries. You also provide, if somebody comes in with a specific complaint, that the person who has been in charge of his correspondence to date may be able to give him all the information he wants or, in any case, can act as his introducer or intermediary with the more hard-pressed officer in charge of a division. The result of the whole scheme is that you spare the time and labour of highly-paid, highly-efficient and hard-worked men and get a lot of the donkey work done by persons who are suitably remunerated and with suitable intellectual equipment for that kind of work. The Minister, if he inquires, will find that every up-to-date business establishment operates such a service. I have often heard him say, albeit in his salad days, that he intended when he took charge of the Government of this country to shake it up from the foundations, to establish sound business principles, to eliminate red tape, and do away with the evil institutions set up by the base, bloody and brutal Saxon. Let me suggest to him that this is a new departure which will mark him out beyond all the despised dispensations of the past if he will set up an adequate correspondence bureau in his own Department, and in doing that he will set a headline for his other colleagues.

As to the question of blind pensions, at present there does not seem to be any common standard of blindness whereby the claims of persons for blind pensions are decided. I recognise the difficulty, but I submit to the Minister that that is a question deserving of close investigation. I know of one case of a man called Michael Scanlon, of Meenreagh, County Donegal, who applied for a blind pension and was examined by the doctor. He had one blind eye and I do not think that he had more than one-third of normal vision in his other one. Yet he was refused a pension. I have come across other cases in which the disability was not as great and the persons have been granted pensions. I think the Minister will find, if he inquires in the Department or calls for the file of correspondence in connection with claims, that there are many similar cases. I invite him to institute an inquiry into the matter and to satisfy himself that there will be some common denominator for the decision of these claims.

There is one last question to which I wish to direct the Minister's attention. The Minister may have noticed that his colleague, the Minister for Education, has recently been discussing and investigating conditions obtaining in industrial schools. I want to submit to the Minister that a great many committals to industrial schools might be avoided if he would encourage the boarding-out of the children of destitute widows or destitute parents with the parents themselves. At present, if children are taken from the care of their parents on the grounds of financial inability to maintain them, they must be put in an industrial school where the charge for their maintenance and upbringing is 12/6 per week. If there be two children that would amount to 25/-. What objection is there, instead of committing children to industrial schools to taking them into county homes and boarding them out with the parents who would not then be obliged to part with them because they were not able to support them? It seems to me the money would be much better spent in keeping the children in the family circle and while I do not desire for a moment to reflect on the excellence of many of the industrial schools in the country, I think the Minister will agree that as between institutional upbringing and the family circle, the family surrounding is very much better. If he is prepared to accept my view that boardingout of any kind is better than institutional maintenance, he will agree, I think, that it is far more desirable to board a child out with its parents than to send it to an institution. I do not know whether that scheme has ever been put before the Minister but I know at least of one case where a widow was left destitute with, I think, five young children and she was obliged to send four of them to industrial schools because she was unable to maintain them. How much better would it have been if that widow could have gone through the necessary formalities to get those children boarded out to herself for the same money that was paid to the institution or even less? If she got 50/- to maintain her four children she might then have said with the Roman matron: "These are my jewels." She would have attained a measure of prosperity which she probably never knew before. I therefore suggest to the Minister that he should set out to ensure that the Irish matron would be in a position to say to her neighbours when she is asked to describe her five children: "These, through the intervention of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, are my jewels."

I would like to say one or two words without going over the ground which has been covered by the previous speakers, on the question of housing as it refers to the rural districts. I presume it is realised by everybody that, after agriculture, the greatest industry in this country at the moment, is the State building of houses and it seems to me that the great offensive which was started some time ago is now beginning to expend itself somewhat. That is probably because the administration of this huge industry has shown itself to be a job that is taxing to the last degree the energies and capabilities of the very efficient staff which surrounds the Minister. My own view is that if this great scheme is ever to be brought to a stage of completion to the satisfaction of those who are behind it, and I hold the country is behind it, it will have to be done, more or less, under a Ministry of Housing.

It is quite obvious that in the rural districts between vacillating public bodies and all sorts of obstructional jealousies which occur, this great housing scheme is not getting the chance it should. I believe that a commissioner of housing with a committee of five appointed by county councils or urban councils should be set up to speed up and develop housing in rural areas. Some system of speeding up, and more essentially, control, is desirable. I would like to ask the Minister to define exactly what is a public utility society. I do not want to refer to the case which is now before the courts in my own county, but is the position that any four or five persons can come together, pay 10/- and register themselves as a public utility society in the eyes of the Minister? My view is that if it is going to function properly it would need a capital of £10,000, but it seems to me there is something very wide between what constitutes one that is going to be effective and one that is not.

I have seen houses built and the people occupying them were forced to put up additions to the chimney so that they would be habitable. This was necessary to draw the smoke which would otherwise smother them out. They are becoming a very ugly sight along our country roads. It may sound a petty thing to mention this matter. It may sound a thing not worth consideration, but I have seen it in several cases already, and it seems to me that proper control is not being exercised by those contracting for or building houses in country districts for rural people.

I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the question of the expedition of the schemes that he has in hands. I believe that he will have to set up a new driving force behind this whole scheme—that although his present steps have worked and worked well, the support behind it is not strong or powerful enough to push on the schemes to conclusion within reasonable time. Your problem is not in the City of Dublin—it is mainly in the country and byeways. There are some of the most disgraceful houses, lying up in the boreens, where people live in muck and filth, where this propaganda for better housing has not reached. Unless there is intensive propaganda in the schools and by inspectors and commissioners sent around, the energy and ambition that is desirable will not be behind schemes. The whole question therefore to my mind wants to be investigated in a stronger way and in saying that I want to pay a tribute to those who are with the Minister, without wishing to curry favour. At any time they have been asked to assist local boards or to reply to communications involving complications, they have given always their best services and for that reason and with those fine officials behind him, I say that there is something wrong when we cannot get along faster. I suggest that a commissioner be appointed for every three counties and that public bodies be obliged to appoint three or five representatives to hasten the job. Let them utilise all the propaganda, the films, if necessary, to get the whole country roused to the urgent necessity of housing in the State.

I should like to say a few words on this Vote in regard to the increased number of officials. I am quite prepared to admit that they may be necessary, but it is very hard to reconcile their existence with the various promises of the Fianna Fáil Party. I do not want to go back on those promises. Deputy McGilligan or somebody else will remind the Minister of them. I notice in the details of the Estimate that there is an increase of four in the number of junior executive officers. The number is increased from 17 to 21. The minor staff posts have been increased from 3 to 5, while the number of clerical officers has been increased from 64 to 79, and so on. I do not want to go through the whole lot. Those are a few examples of increases. Of course, I quite appreciate the Minister's difficulty in trying to reconcile his promises of increased services and reductions in the number of officials. He now has responsibility on his shoulders for reconciling those promises of his Party. Now his Party has fled, and left him, like Casabianca, on the burning deck, to take care of himself. With the exception of a few die-hard friends, he is left alone to defend the situation.

With regard to the collection of rates, I think that there is certainly something to be said in relation to the Minister's attitude. It was never known before that ratepayers were pushed so hard, or that rates were squeezed out of the unfortunate people at a time when they are unable to discharge their liabilities.

What about cutting the agricultural grant? What about that shame?

I do not know what the Deputy means.

Deputy Minch will tell the Deputy.

Ask Deputy Norton about the no-rent campaign.

The agricultural grant was cut down. If we go into the question of grants, and the question of equity, it will be found that there is no equity at all in the assessment of rates. This matter has been discussed on other occassions; and I do not want to go into it now. I think it is generally admitted that the unfortunate farmers are not able to pay their rates at the moment.

They are paying for the defaulting annuitants.

The Deputy will admit that there is hardly any farmer in his own constituency, or anywhere else, who would wish to see his cows go to the pound, and it is only on account of the difficulty in which they find themselves that they allow that to happen. The farmers of this country were always good payers. That is on record, because up to the start of the economic war they promptly met all their liabilities. There is no necessity for this wonderful drive against the farmers, or this increased expenditure in erecting pounds. I might mention also that the Minister has not discharged his duty to the local bodies in defining their right to make regulations where they are compelled to pay money. They have to insist on the collection of the money, and bring extraordinary pressure to bear upon unfortunate people, in order to meet expenditure which is not being incurred by the local bodies elected by the people. Power is being given to other persons, such as happened here to-day when the district court clerk and the registrar were given power to expend money on courthouses, and to compel the local bodies to raise the money in rates. I expected the Minister to defend the right of the local bodies in this case——

We cannot discuss that Bill now.

——and not allow the right to be passed on to the Minister for Justice. He failed to keep within his own Department. That should be a matter between the local bodies and the Minister for Local Government.

There is another matter to which I should like to refer. I think it is the Minister for Finance is responsible for the stamping of rate receipts, but if the Minister for Local Government is not to be directly charged in that regard he is at least liable to be charged with contributory negligence. He should not have allowed the Minister for Finance to insist upon this new departure in the collection of rates— the stamping of receipts of over £2— especially at a time when it is so difficult to collect rates and to find the last 2d. There should not have been this insistence on collecting the last 2d. from people whose cattle are being sold at 10/- apiece in some cases.

It is 2d. more. It is not the last 2d. at all.

That is what I mean. It is 2d. over and above. The Minister has failed to stand up against those departures. Power is steadily being taken away from the local bodies. They are bodies elected by the people. It does not matter on what vote they are elected, or what Party happened to be in the majority. Those bodies are elected by the people for the purpose of local administration, and if the power given to them under the Local Government Act is not increased, it should at least not be diminished. The tendency of late is to diminish their power.

Deputy Morrissey, Deputy Minch and others referred to houses. There is a general complaint about the roofing material used in those new houses. There is a general opinion, and it is backed by experience, that tiles prove very unsatisfactory. I believe it is almost impossible to get timber which is able to bear the strain over a number of years, owing to the weight of those tiles. I do not know whether the new tiles are lighter than the tiles used some time ago, but unless they are very much lighter and very much better than the old ones they are going to be a complete failure. In the part of the country where I come from a number of those old tiled houses were put up. In every case the timber shrunk. The houses began to leak and they turned out not only very ugly, but absolutely useless. I hope, if it is at all possible to develop the slate quarries I heard other Deputies say are in the country, they will be encouraged so that we can get really good material for our houses. There is no use in building houses for only 20 or 30 years. We should aim at erecting good houses that would last at least 100 years.

There is another very important matter to which I would like to call attention, because it is causing general complaint all over the country. I refer now to the slippery state of the main roads. Something should be done to make the roads available, not only for motor cars but for the men who use horses and who drive cattle. There is a general complaint in this respect and the matter has been discussed at county council and other meetings all over the country. Nothing definite has been done so far. I believe the Minister is more responsible than local bodies for the present condition of the main roads. The local bodies have not complete control so far as the main roads are concerned. The roads are partly administered nationally, the trunk roads at least, and they are the roads that are the cause of most complaint. I have had some experience of slippery roads and I found that there could be a remedy provided in the use of certain material with which to finish them off. If the roads were finished off with sand, instead of limestone chippings, I believe that would prevent the roads acquiring a slippery surface. I have seen it tried and it proved a success, and I think it would be worth the Minister's while to recommend to the engineers under his control the use of white sand, where possible, for finishing off the roads. I believe that would prevent any further slipping. It might mean a little extra trouble, but it would result in a better road surface. All things considered, it would not cost very much extra and it would mean that the roads could be used safely for all kinds of traffic.

This is a very serious matter in some districts; many accidents occur because of the slippery road surface. Horses and cattle have had their legs broken and even the people driving them have been hurt. This may seem to some people quite unimportant, but it is a very serious matter for the farmers who are paying towards the maintenance of these main roads and they are entitled to the use of them. It is not fair that motor cars should be given a monopoly of the main roads, turning away the people for whom the roads were mainly intended and who contribute a large amount towards their maintenance. Anything that can be done by the Government to remedy this grievance should be done.

The debate on this Estimate has given us an interesting insight into the widely divergent views of the members of the United Ireland Party on the subject of housing. Deputy Minch, in a tornado of eloquence, told us that every conceivable piece of publicity must be mobilised in order to have houses built at the utmost possible speed. He suggested that a whirlwind campaign ought to be conducted in order to have houses built much more rapidly. Even the films were to be pressed into service in order to awaken the people to the necessity of building houses at a much greater speed than the rate of building obtaining to-day. If the Deputy had been listening to Deputy Mulcahy, I do not think he would have made a speech of that kind in the course of the same debate, because Deputy Mulcahy treated us to a regular epidemic of statistics as to the cost of house-building. The whole philosophy of the Deputy's speech was "Can we afford to spend so much money on housing?"

It was quite different altogether.

The Deputy further argued: "Are we not spending too much money on housing already?"

Deputy Norton is confusing and twisting Deputy Mulcahy's speech. Only Deputy Norton would be capable of making an irresponsible remark of that description.

I will deal with the Deputy's irresponsibility in another respect.

And I will deal with your irresponsibility as well—your campaign in Athy, for instance.

And this is the responsible Deputy——

It is the responsibility of the Chair to keep order. Deputy Norton is entitled to speak.

Something should be done to cure the effervescence of this Deputy during the course of this debate. If Deputy Minch was in the House while Deputy Mulcahy was speaking——

I was here the whole time.

You were not. I saw you going out.

I stayed here during Deputy Mulcahy's speech. You must have fallen asleep.

Deputy Minch went out before Deputy Mulcahy finished.

That has nothing at all to do with the Estimate.

Of course, I do not wonder at Deputy Minch going out during Deputy Mulcahy's speech.

Rip Van Winkle!

The whole trend of Deputy Mulcahy's argument was: "Can we afford to spend so much money on housing? We are spending too much already." He even suggested that we ought to stop and think of where we were going and whether we could continue to spend such huge sums of money on house building.

That is your interpretation of the Deputy's speech.

It is my interpretation, and the speech was capable of no other interpretation to any intelligent person.

And it is even Deputy Morrissey's interpretation.

Of that speech?

Mr. Murphy

Of the same type of speech.

Anything I ever said about Deputy Mulcahy as a Minister, I am prepared to stand by it, and I would say the same again if he were a Minister.

Deputy Mulcahy said that a sum of £2,216,000 was being spent on the erection of 16,000 houses. In reply to an interjection by me as to what proportion of that was in respect of subsidies towards interest charges on slum clearance schemes, Deputy Mulcahy said the figure amounted to £1,220,000, that another £54,000 represented a subvention towards interest charges in the case of the erection of houses under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, and £541,000 represented the subvention towards interest charges in respect of the erection of labourers' cottages, making a total of £2,216,000, which, he said, was being spent in the erection of 16,000 houses. He mentioned that a sum of £1,816,000 was in respect of reducing rents, on slum clearance schemes, on labourers' cottages and on the erection of houses under the Housing of the Working Classes Act. I move to report progress.

Progress reported.