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."—(Micheal O Braonáin.)

In the course of a discussion that took place in this House last night Deputy Cosgrave paid a tribute to the medical graduates of the Universities in this country and said in the course of doing so that their contribution to the improved public health of this country was considerable. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health sitting in the front bench intervened and said "Any improvement in public health is probably much more due to improved housing." I want to read a copious note which I took while Deputy Tom Kelly was speaking on housing in this House two nights ago, and I want my note of what Deputy Tom Kelly said to serve as a comment on the Vice-President's interjection last night. My note is as follows:—

"There are 1,600 basements in the City of Dublin occupied to-night. I do not suggest that the whole 1,600 are unfit for human habitation but I do say from my knowledge that the larger number are and should be closed up. Life in them and the conditions under which people live in them are beyond description. In the tenements themselves, especially where families are growing up, the situation is very bad. A sheet has to be hung across the room at night to divide the sexes and sometimes the boys have to go out on the lobby while the girls undress. Sometimes the overcrowding is so dreadful that the very smell of the room sickens one. A reporter came to me one day after hearing me make some statement on this subject. He asked me if it was really true and where would he go. I recommended him to go to a certain street on the North side. He went there and he came back next day and told me ‘I got sick'. I asked ‘Do you mean figuratively?' and he said ‘No, physically sick, and I had to leave.'"

That is my note of what Deputy Tom Kelly said of the housing conditions in this city. I have a peculiarly good reason to know how well Deputy Tom Kelly is qualified to speak on that question. Deputy Tom Kelly and I were both born and reared in the middle of the slums of this city and we know them pretty well. For that reason I venture to quote still further from the note which I took of what Deputy Tom Kelly said. He continued:—

"There is scarcely a member of the Housing Committee of the Dublin Corporation who has not had, day in and day out, for at least six days in the week, a constant stream of people coming to him looking for Corporation houses—all sorts and conditions of the poor, many of them bringing with them terrible evidence of the conditions under which they live. Many of them come in with clear glass bottles in their hands in which there are filthy sewer slugs that crawl up the wall at night and horrible looking beetles of a colour which I could not describe. Children are brought in with their faces all marked with bug bites. At night the mothers have to tie a cloth over their faces—that is, the faces of the children—in order to protect them. As for evidence of sewer rats, over and over again have I got it. Over and over again, have these people implored me: ‘Mr. Kelly, do not let us have to put in another summer here.' Just imagine, when all other civilised people live under decent conditions and enjoy the summer, that is the time slum dwellers hate most, because that is the period when the vermin are most active. Face to face with our responsibilities! Every day in the week, every member or most of the members of the Corporation are faced with these things. They are faced with the imploring cry: ‘Take us out of this terrible place'."

It is right that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health should be called upon to-day to face his responsibility in connection with that situation that is described by Deputy Kelly. He has had the pleasure of being complimented in this House on the Bill under which he is to deal with rural housing. As I have pointed out here before, it is comparatively easy to deal with rural housing. All you have to do is to inform the local authority that the Government will make grants for that purpose and that it is the Government's wish to enter freely into debt in order to build houses. There are no administrative difficulties of any serious character in the way of going ahead. Signs on it, we are building labourers' cottages all over the country in great numbers. To my mind, that is simply the easy, and, it must be added, the popular part of housing reform. But the difficult part, the part that is going to give raise very possibly to material unpopularity, the part that is going to present serious problems, the part that requires genuine action on the part of the Minister himself, is the solution of the city problem. That has not been done in the way in which it should be dealt with. The Minister himself has said here on another occasion that if the programme which was at present being carried out in regard to slum dwellings in the city continued, he could see no hope of the solution of the Dublin slum problem in his lifetime. It may be that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health thinks that he has discharged his responsibilities when he expresses himself in that sense, but I do not think he has, and I feel sure that, on reflection, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health will wish to add to that warning a statement that he is not prepared to stand idly by in the knowledge that there is no prospect of a solution of the slum problem in our cities in his lifetime. If he has made up his mind that the local authorities are unable to overcome the problem which confronts them, then he should take the advice which Deputy Tom Kelly gave him later in his own speech, and that was that if the Government are not satisfied with the work which the local authorities have been able to do in regard to slum clearance in our cities let them take on the job themselves. I want to repeat that challenge to the Minister now. If the Minister has no more hopeful message for the country than that he can anticipate no abolition of the slums in his lifetime without a radical change in the attack that is being made upon them, the time has come for him to take over the problem himself, and he cannot hope to escape the responsibility for disposing of it, not only in his life time, but in the course of the next five or six years.

The plea has been made by the Minister for Finance to deputations which approached him on behalf of local authorities that he was not in a position to advance them sufficient money to deal with the problem as promptly as it should be dealt with. I understand that deputations also went to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and asked him to press upon the Minister for Finance the urgency of finding the money, and if one can judge of the truth from what Deputy Tom Kelly hinted in his speech, both these Ministers told the Dublin Corporation that they could offer them very little assistance and that they must try and borrow on their own. Why were these Ministers in the position in which they had to tell the Dublin Corporation that although the Corporation was ready and willing to abolish the slums, if they had the means whereby to do it, they, the two Ministers responsible, could do nothing to help them? Was it for the want of goodwill on the part of the Vice-President? I do not think it was. I think the Vice-President is as anxious to get the people out of the slums of this city as any man in this House. Was it for the want of goodwill on the part of the Minister for Finance? I do not think so. I think the Minister for Finance is familiar with city conditions, albeit conditions of another city than Dublin, and I am satisfied that he is as anxious to get the people out of the rooms which Deputy Tom Kelly described as is any man in this House. Was it because these two Ministers felt that we were coming to the end of our financial resources, and that they dare not requisition the money necessary to solve this problem because they would be unable to raise it? If that is the case, is it not time that this House should ask itself the question why they have allowed the Executive Council to manoejoinuvre the country into a position when that can be true? There are people who, according to Deputy Tom Kelly, are being afflicted with sewer rates, who are being eaten by vermin, and whose health is being jeopardised by sewer slugs crawling on their walls.

We are here representing the people, and our duty is to protest their legitimate interests and no more. Why can we not do it? So far as I am aware the only reason is because we have not got the money. If we had the £17,000,000 that Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the English Chancellor of the Exchequer, delighted in having collected from this country over the last four years, is there any Deputy in this House will deny that we could clear not only every tenement house in the City of Dublin, but that we could clear every tenement house in every city in Ireland, and do that without asking another penny from the public purse? If that is true, are the consciences of Fianna Fáil Deputies at rest when they realise that during the last four years they have spent £17,000,000 fighting President de Valera's private war? Are their consciences easy when they go to their comparatively comfortable homes and realise that they have condemned 15,000 families in the City of Dublin alone to live in one-room tenements, because they want to spend £17,000,000 fighting President de Valera's private war?

The Estimate before the House is for the Office of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health; it is not the President's Vote.

I know that, but both Ministers have made the case that we cannot meet this problem because we have not got the money.

On this Estimate the Committee is confined to the consideration of the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government as such.

Not in his capacity as a member of the Executive Council?

The collective activity of the Executive Council does not arise.

Those facts, however, require no elaboration. It might be said that in face of them there is no hope. Now I want to make this clear. I have said here in this House, greatly to the scandal of Deputy Belton, I think, on that occasion, that counting myself a conservative person in regard to financial policy, I took the view that it was sound finance to abolish the slums and to count the cost afterwards, because I take the view that if we do not abolish the slums in the course of our time the occupants of the slums will abolish us, and the institutions which we represent in this country. Now, a lot of us wax very eloquent about Communism, and I think rightly, because we believe Communism to be a trap into which poor afflicted people may fall, driven thither by despair, and that instead of improving their condition, their condition will be made infinitely worse by the adoption of Marxian principles and by the implementation of the tenets of dialectical materialists.

But, let us be clear on this, that unless the philosophies that we have to offer the people can provide them with the things to which they are most unquestionably entitled, then no matter how much we talk and no matter how much anybody else talks, the people will certainly be seduced by the superior promises of other persons into following them and overthrowing the institutions for which we stand in the hope that they will get something better from what the other people offer them. The Communists promise a dead-level of reasonable comfort for everybody, and the truth of it is that is an objective that we all want to attain. No person in this country, or in any other Christian democratic State, wants to see individual wealth existing—I used the word wealth there in the popular sense of the term—side by side with destitution and misery such as has been described by Deputy Tom Kelly, and I believe that our existing institutions are most effective for the purpose of putting an end to that scandal. I want to see them used. I believe that it is sound finance to abolish the slums—I am speaking now purely from a financial point of view—and count the cost afterwards, because I am satisfied that no matter what is the cost of abolishing the slums, the cost of surviving another civil war or revolution will be infinitely greater. I have put it to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health on more than one occasion, and I think I speak for our Party, that I am prepared to lift the question of slum dwellings in urban areas out of the arena of politics altogether. I am perfectly prepared, if the Minister wants it, to co-operate with him in a committee of inquiry into the ways and means by which this can be done, but I seriously apprehend, Sir—I do not want to go back over ground off which you have warned me—that the end of our inquiry would be that we are completely ad idem in our general desires in regard to this matter, but cannot find the money to finance them, and we will be driven back to the question: “Where are we going to find the money?” Some of us will be saying: “There it is, and you are squandering it” while others will be saying: “We cannot touch that money because it is required for the redemption of a high principle.” That is a very terrible problem.

Members of the Labour Party will remember that I have frequently adverted to the danger of the social services of this country wilting and dying for want of money; that I have constantly urged that social services were an eminently desirable thing, and that everybody wants to see them increased, but that it was a wicked thing to establish and increase them, and then let them die, because you accustomed people to added comforts which they had not previously enjoyed and when you took them away it was much more difficult for the people to get along without them than it had been before you started them at all. I envisaged that danger if the Exchequer was no longer able to finance the added social services. That is the danger which I see besetting us in regard to the solution of the slum problem in this city, and it is the only difficulty of an insuperable kind. I hope and pray that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, either in his exclusive Ministerial capacity or in his capacity as a member of the Executive Council, may be able to clear the path to a solution of the appalling problems to which Deputy Tom Kelly referred. Deputy Tom Kelly exonerated everybody from blame. He said everybody was trying to do the best he could, and in saying that he exonerated the Dublin Corporation, which is at the moment predominantly a body manned by the political opponents of Deputy Tom Kelly. I have said that I am prepared to lift this question out of controversial politics, and I mean it. I take a deep interest in housing, and have always done so, and I gladly say I am profoundly convinced that Deputy Tom Kelly and the Vice-President of the Executive Council are every bit as anxious as any person on this side of the House to get the people out of the slums. I have no desire to charge them with any bad faith in the matter, or with any double-dealing in the matter. I offer them all the co-operation they can require or ask for from this side of the House in surmounting the problem.

On that note, I prefer to pass on to the other questions that arise on the Minister's Estimate. Those other questions, after that one of supreme importance, perhaps flavour a little of anti-climax. There is one problem to which I want to direct the attention of the Minister, and it is the question of boards of health. I am not going to recapitulate the history which led up to the establishment of boards of health as we now know them. It is reasonably long and fairly complex, but the net result is that the boards of health to-day are not doing their work. I can well believe that that will bring down about my ears not one hive of bees but a whole apiary. Nevertheless, I conceive it to be my duty to say that publicly now, and I want to say that the boards of health are not doing their work, not from any want of goodwill, not indeed from any want of ability, not from any want of readiness on the part of their members to make any sacrifice they can make to get the work done, but because it is impossible to do it in the time at the disposal of members of an average board of health. There are only 12 hours in any given day; I have gone to meetings of the board of health at ten o'clock in the morning, sat there until 8.30 at night, and still left a very large number of questions on the agenda which had to be dealt with at a special meeting called a week or a fortnight later. If you want to get the best type of men as members of boards of health they will ordinarily be men who are successful farmers or artisans or business men in the counties to which, they belong, and they have got their own work to do. They are prepared to sacrifice a day to attend a board of health meeting once a month, or occasionally in exceptional circumstances to attend a special meeting at more frequent intervals, but it is idle to imagine that the type of men we want to see on the boards of health can afford to spend an entire day twice a month to try to get through work of a detailed, and very frequently of an almost routine, character, with the result that a good deal of the work of the boards of health is being rushed through without the careful supervision that it ought to get.

My suggestion to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health is that this work should be reviewed for the purpose of ascertaining whether a great deal of it might not be done without bringing it under the attention of the boards of health at all—whether a great deal of the routine work might not be discharged in some other way. I believe that the time has come when we have got to consider the extension of the county manager system, certainly in regard to board of health business. A great deal of the business is of critical importance, and it is very necessary that it should receive careful and informed consideration. The boards of health have not time to ask for the information that they ought to have. They cannot devote the necessary time to listening to their medical officer of health, or their county engineer, or whomsoever is the expert at their disposal, addressing them in sufficient detail and at sufficient length to enable them to follow all the problems they are called upon to decide. I want routine business taken away from them, and time given to them to decide matters of principle with the fullest information that they are capable of assimilating from the experts at their disposal.

Is the Deputy giving us the considered view of his Party?

No, and I take it that on these Estimates it is better to speak on certain matters from our personal experience as we go about. On all the matters on which I am touching at the moment I am speaking as an individual Deputy, as is I believe the practice on Estimates of this kind. After the first speaker has replied to the Minister, I take it we are all free to open the particular problems that have confronted us as we go about our business on local bodies, or as we come in contact with his Department here, there and everywhere. I fully recognise that there are two views on this problem. I fully recognise that the Minister might find many who would express the view that the existing system is the best system. I want to put myself clearly on record as saying that the boards of health, in my opinion, are hopelessly overworked, with the result that the work is not being done with the consideration and attention with which it would be done if it were more within the time available to the boards of health to deal with it. That is the second matter I want to touch on.

The third matter is in regard to labourers' cottages. We are building labourers' cottages all over the country in enormous numbers. In most counties at the present time each labourer's cottage means an annual subsidy from the county, after you have credited the Government grant, of about £2 10s. or £3 per cottage, according to the cost of the cottage and the rent that has been fixed for it. I have no objection whatever to that arrangement continuing to obtain where the tenants of those cottages are agricultural labourers working on the land, but as we all know the definition of agricultural labourer is becoming widely extended, and we find that in many places cottages are being subsidised to the tune of £2 or £3 per annum out of the pockets of small farmers who are the ratepayers in a given county, and that the cottages are in the occupation of people who are earning £3, £3 10s. and £4 a week. Sometimes you will find them in the occupation of a person who himself is not earning a large income, but whose wife has, perhaps, £300 per year. If that goes on, an agitation is going to get up in this country against the building of labourers' cottages at all, and I think that would be a great pity. If we could devise a plan whereby labourers' cottages would be let to the genuine agricultural labourer at the subsidised rent, which is usually about 2/- a week, and that where there was no agricultural labourer applying for a cottage and you gave it to an artisan, a craftsman or somebody earning £2 or £3 a week, in that case you would fix an economic rent.

You can do that at present, and it is done.

I am coming to that. My suggestion is that the Minister should use the powers at his disposal to make it compulsory. I think it is being done under the South Cork Board of Health. I think a scheme has been worked out there, whereby the rent of cottages of this character is adapted to the income of the tenant. If that is done, there need be no check on the building of houses by local authorities in any part of the country. There is no objection whatever, where the credit of the local authority is good, to building houses, so long as the local authority is getting an economic rent for them, because the ratepayers will get their money back in due time, and it will never form any burden on the rates at all. On the contrary, it will be a contribution to the rate revenue of the council, and help in bearing the total rate burden of the county. The Minister says, and rightly says, that that has been done in certain areas. One area is South Cork.

In one division of Cork. May I suggest to the Minister that he should begin by circulating to all boards of health an explanation of that scheme, with a recommendation that it should be put into operation in every board of health area? If that fails to secure its adoption here, there and everywhere, I suggest that the Minister should examine the powers at his disposal at present to ascertain whether there is amongst them one which could be used for the purpose of making such an arrangement compulsory. For the Minister, in the middle of the Custom House, it is difficult to realise what a great block to the adoption of such a scheme is the absence of a plan. Plenty of boards of health, if you put that proposal to them, would say: "In principle we agree with it, but how would you do it? It would not work." If the Minister will draft a model plan as to how it can be worked, and circulate it to local authorities, I think he will be amazed by the number of boards of health that will jump at the opportunity of implementing it in future. It will make an end once and for all of what is at present an ever-recurring difficulty, that is, the choosing of tenants for labourers' cottages, because if we have such a scheme as that in force, and if a man wants a cottage, and if we think there are more deserving people, we can say to him: "Are you and the other applicants who have been turned down prepared to pay an economic rent, because, if you are, we will have no hesitation in setting up another scheme to erect cottages which will constitute no burden on the rates at all."

There is a third matter I want to raise. A number of grants have been given by the Local Government Department to local bodies on condition that the persons employed on the schemes for which the grants are designed are persons who are in receipt of unemployment assistance. I object to that principle most strongly. There are plenty of deserving people in this country who are not in receipt of unemployment assistance. There are some people who have that kind of spirit in them that they do not want to take unemployment assistance. There are many people in this country, who, when they cannot get a job, have the old fashioned view that when you are out of work the family will lend a hand, and that, later on, if you are in a job and another member of the family is out of work, you will lend a hand; that no member of the family ever went on the rates before and that this is not like unemployment insurance where you stamp a card and only recover a part of the premiums you paid but was analogous to outdoor relief; and that no member of the family had gone on outdoor relief; and that you did not want to be the first to break a good tradition. That person finds himself not only having to forego the few shillings a week which unemployment assistance made available, but also, instead of being praised for his independence and for his reluctance to make himself a burden on the public boards, informed that he will not get work on any job which carries a Government grant.

Let me make this clear. The unemployment assistance scheme is perfectly sound in principle, but it can become a great abuse in demoralising the country by being granted freely to persons for whom it was never intended when this House was passing the legislation. But let not this element creep into the administration. It is bad enough that unemployment assistance money should be distributed where it was never meant to go, but it would be infinitely worse, if, having distributed it over sections of the community who were never meant to get it, the Minister for Local Government should proceed to endeavour to spare the Exchequer the payments that were being made out of the Unemployment Assistance Fund to persons who really ought not to be getting them at all, by forbidding local authorities to employ anybody but somebody who was on unemployment assistance, and thus save the Exchequer the unemployment assistance being paid to those people by getting them employed in works for the undertaking of which the Minister was giving the grant. Possibly the Minister has been deluded by the Minister for Finance, or, perhaps, by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, into entering all unwittingly into a conspiracy of that kind. If that is the case, let me urge him most strongly now to mend his hand and to recognise that there are many people in this country who never took unemployment assistance, and never will, who are more deserving of work, more deserving of an opportunity to earn an honest livelihood, than a great many of the gentlemen who are collecting unemployment assistance and who want it no more than I do.

Let him remember this, further, that if you have to be on the dole to get a job from a local authority, not only will all the people who are on it unjustifiably at present remain on it, but thousands more will scramble to get on. If you have to be on unemployment assistance to get work, you have the dual temptation of the money to which you are not entitled and the chance of a job to which you are entitled, and ought to have, whether you are on unemployment assistance or not. If that dual temptation is allowed to operate throughout the country, far from saving the Exchequer, it is, in the long run, going to bring hundreds and thousands of people on to unemployment assistance who would not go on it now, so that a continuation of that system gives rise to injustice and may give rise to very grave abuse. I urge most strongly on the Minister not to allow himself to be driven into a continuation of that plan by any of his colleagues, but to restore the discretion, which local authorities used to enjoy, to employ whomsoever they thought best in their particular areas on any works they are putting in hand.

And thereby raise the cost of administration enormously.

Now Deputies begin to spot that that is the plan. Deputy Moore does want to use the Minister's grant to put people off the Unemployment Assistance Vote. That is what is in the Deputy's mind, and he thinks it a pious work. He spent the last ten minutes chatting with the Minister while I was telling the House what I thought of that plan. I suggest that the Deputy should read, at his convenience and leisure, what I said of people who tried to do that, and then perhaps he will blush in the seclusion of his own boudoir. I should be sorry to repeat it here and bring a blush to the countenance of my friend, Deputy Moore, coram populo. I want to ask the Minister why is it that the county homes have not had any money made available to them out of the Hospital Sweeps? Some of the county homes in this country are shocking old barracks.

Roscommon, for instance.

That is the very one I am going to describe.

Is there not available for the renovation of Roscommon County Home?

Not a penny.

On a point of information for Deputy Dillon, I am in a position to state that they appointed an architect to prepare plans and specifications a year ago, and that the architect is working on the plans.

The Deputy is mistaken. He did not hear me clearly. I spoke of county homes.

I am speaking of them.

County surgical hospitals, surely?

No, the Roscommon County Home in particular. The Deputy is a member of the Roscommon Board of Health, and that board has appointed an architect to prepare plans for the improvement of Roscommon County Home, and the architect is down there at present doing the work.

It is most interesting to me that the Deputy and I should have a clash of this kind, because I was going to paint a pathetic picture of what took place last Saturday. I was at the Roscommon County Board of Health on that occasion, and I proposed that a sum of £5,400 should be levied on the rates of County Roscommon in order to carry out certain essential repairs and improvements to the county home. I asked the Secretary of the County Board of Health on that occasion: "How is it that we can get no money from the Hospitals Trust funds for the county home?" and he said: "No provision has been made for county homes." I suggested to him that it was a very great scandal, since the county home was a deplorable old structure, although, despite its defects, it was a model for county homes owing entirely to the zeal and endless labours of the nuns in charge of it. As a result of their labours it is kept spotless, but Deputies will find it hard to believe that the interior walls of the home have never been plastered. They are simply whitewashed and distempered, and we have just charged the rates of Roscommon with £5,000 in order to plaster them, while at the same time we are spending a sum of £100,000 out of the Hospitals Trust funds in order to erect a new surgical hospital. Perhaps that is what Deputy Dr. O'Dowd has in his mind. I may say that there is also a considerable sum of money from the Hospitals Trust funds for a mental hospital and a considerable sum of money for a new sanatorium for the County of Roscommon. As I say, perhaps that is what Deputy Dr. O'Dowd has in his mind, but I must say that he amazes me when he says that we have received a grant from the Hospitals Trust funds for the county home and that an architect has already been consulted about it, because, if so, I know nothing about it.

I may tell the Deputy that I was with the architect last Wednesday week when he went down there. When he was down there he saw the Secretary of the County Board of Health and also the County Surveyor.

Last Wednesday?

Last Wednesday week. The architect came back, and I know that he has plans for the renovation and improvement of the county home. The architect's office is in Dawson Street, within a stone's throw of this House, and, if Deputy Dillon wishes it, I can bring the Deputy around.

Do I understand Deputy Dr. O'Dowd to say that the Roscommon County Board of Health has got a grant from the Hospitals Sweepstake Trust funds for this purpose?

Not yet.

But do I understand him to say that they will?

We have not got it yet, but the architect has the plans, and I understand that it will be available.

Well, if that is so, I shall take immediate steps to have the levy of £5,400 on the rates cancelled.

Oh, the Deputy should not do anything rash. The Deputy should wait until we know for certain where we stand.

Deputy Dr. O'Dowd may rest assured that I do not question his veracity, but I should like to know whether or not the Minister confirms the statement that county homes, as distinguished from other hospitals, are eligible for grants from the Hospitals Trust funds. Can the Minister say that?

Not now. I shall reply later.

Well, of course, I do not want to waste the Minister's time urging him to make available immediately information that will be available later on in the debate, but I deem it my duty to suggest to him that, where the fabric of a county home or its equipment is not adequate to the situation of the county where it is, the Minister should evolve a scheme whereby local authorities could get money from the Hospitals Trust funds to put these county homes in repair, because they are the medical hospitals of the poor in rural Ireland and should be put in a condition whereunder the poor would get reasonably effective treatment for the minor ills for which they are sent to such institutions. It is also right to remember that these county homes, not infrequently, shelter the county fever hospital in a part of the structure, and there it is even more urgent that the fabric of the structure should be in reasonably good repair. So far as my information goes—and I have spared no trouble in trying to find out the truth—no money is available for this purpose from the Hospitals Trust. I studied their report with minute care and I could find no reference to the county home of the county in which I live. Deputy Dr. O'Dowd says that not only is money available but that it has already been ear-marked for that purpose, and that plans and specifications are in hand. Well, one of us is labouring under a misapprehension, and I have no doubt that an opportunity will present itself of clearing that matter up; but if I am right, I ask the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to remedy the situation, and if Deputy Dr. O'Dowd is right, then I only want to see the thing carried out as soon as possible and to straighten out the other matter of the levy to which I have referred.

The last matter I want to refer to is the sum of £100,000 which appears on the Local Government Vote for Tuberculosis. The sum, in fact, is £122,750, under sub-head N. I want to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that we are making progress under this scheme sufficient to justify the expenditure that is going on. I want to ask the Minister can he give us the statistics for cures? Every patient who comes under the attention of the county medical officer of health is returned in a schedule to the local authority at regular intervals, and, doubtless, finally reaches the Minister's office. I should like to know from the Minister has he any encouraging news to report to the effect that, with these new schemes, patients suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis come under medical care earlier than they used to do, and that we have a very much higher percentage of cures than we used to have?

I should also like to know from the Minister whether, in his view, the spread of tuberculosis has been materially checked as a result of better precautionary methods arising from earlier notification. I want to ask the Minister also if he could give the House the opinion of his experts on the question of whether this tuberculosis problem is not very largely a problem of malnutrition, and, if it is, whether he will not consult with his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, with a view to absorbing some of the surplus milk and other surplus agricultural produce that at present seems to afflict the Minister for Agriculture so much and that have to be shipped to Morocco and Spain; and whether he cannot find a means of shipping them down to the children who, for the want of them, form the material of the tuberculosis of this country. It would be of great interest to all Deputies in this House to know whether the Minister for Local Government and Public Health is in a position to say that he is confident that cases of pulmonary consumption are coming under the care of the doctors at an earlier stage of the disease than they used to come before these schemes were set in motion.

I should also like to know from the Minister for Local Government and Public Health whether he has consulted with the Minister for Agriculture with a view to ascertaining how far tubercular cattle become tubercular through the medium of tubercular milk. I know that that sounds an odd suggestion, but I have reason to suspect that it is largely true. I have recently discovered—I think the Department of Agriculture can confirm this, and it is a very alarming fact—that where you have pigs fed upon skim milk taken from creameries you have a much higher incidence of tuberculosis amongst pigs than if they are fed without skim milk. The same is true of fowl. But the difficulty in which the layman finds himself is that we are informed by the experts that the variety of tuberculosis that may affect fowl may be entirely different from the type of tuberculosis which affects human beings, and that the variety of tuberculosis that affects cattle may not affect fowl.

These are highly complex problems which would want experts to examine. But I want to put this case. If the skim milk, which is used as animal food very widely through the country, is a source of tuberculosis for live stock, and if the tuberculosis of live stock is communicable from one type of live stock to another, we may have tuberculosis creeping into the cow byres indirectly through the skim milk that is being fed either to the cattle themselves or to other live stock, and from the cow byres through the cows' milk to children, and so precipitating a great deal of the juvenile tuberculosis which exists in the country. If that is true we can do a great deal to stop it at its source. There is a very material objection—Deputy Dr. O'Dowd will be able to confirm or contradict me in this—to the pasteurising of milk designed for human consumption. As I understand, unless it is done very carefully material damage may be caused to the food value of the milk. I do not believe, however, that there is any comparable objection to pasteurising skim milk designed for the feeding of live stock with other foodstuffs. There ought to be no difficulty in requiring all skim milk in co-operative creameries to be raised to the temperature necessary to pasteurise it before it is returned to the farmers.

If that is a potent source of tubercular infection we can stop it absolutely by getting the Minister for Agriculture to make a regulation requiring that all skim milk be pasteurised before it is returned to the farmers for feeding live stock. It is not going to involve a lot of trouble, because there is all the machinery in the creamery already for raising milk to high temperatures, so that the facilities are there. All that will be necessary will be to use them on the skim milk, which I do not believe is being done at present. I should like to get a comprehensive statement from the Minister on that question of tuberculosis, and I think the House is entitled to ask for it. But the dominant question is the slum question, which I touched upon in the earlier part of my speech. It is one which I hope the Minister will be able to deal with finally and comprehensively when he comes to wind up the debate.

I agree with Deputy Dillon that the housing question, especially in the cities, is a very serious problem. How serious it is the quotation that he gave from Deputy T. Kelly's speech the other night proves. I would like to ask Deputy Dillon, however, what the position would have been but for the action of the present Minister? What effort was made in the past to cope with this problem? Speaking as one coming from a rural area, I can say, and Deputy Dillon knows it as well as I do, that the improvement in this regard in rural areas has been tremendous, while the improvement in the smaller urban areas has also been very marked. The problem in the city is a special one and will require special treatment. Apart from the question of this country at all, if the people in the neighbouring country used their £17,000,000 surplus to deal with their slum problem it would be far more desirable than using it for purchasing arms.

The reason that I intervene in the debate at all is to point out that the Minister in his statement made no reference to the question of hospitals throughout the country. I represent one of the counties for which practically nothing has been done in the way of hospitalisation. I should like to know from the Minister what the position is generally. There is one point to which I wish to make special reference. There is a feeling abroad that, owing to the growth of modern transport and the substitution of up-to-date motor ambulances for the old-fashioned type of ambulance, distance does not really matter, and that it is quite sufficient to have apparatus for dealing even with minor operations situated in the county hospitals. That is all very well. But I have in mind a district situated between 50 and 60 miles from the county hospital. I have known patients who have had to be rushed for a sudden operation to the county hospital from that district. I am afraid that there is very great danger of unnecessary suffering being caused, and very often very grave danger of death, as a result of the delay incurred.

What I wish to impress on the Minister is that it would be very desirable that in one, at least, of the district hospitals in these counties provision should be made for dealing at least with minor operations. Many of the doctors in charge of these district hospitals are skilled men. I have known them to be quite capable not alone of performing minor operations, but of dealing with major operations. I have known many cases of valuable lives being saved as a result of a hurried operation carried out by these men. I hold that every facility should be given, even if it entails extra cost, to carry out such work.

The delay in dealing with the question of hospitals in some of the counties is causing a lot of unrest. So far as my own county is concerned, very little has been done so far. I wish, therefore, to impress on the Minister the desirability of speeding up the work of dealing with the hospital question in the County Waterford. We have waited for a long time for this matter to be dealt with. I do not wish to decry what has been done in other counties. Magnificent hospitals, thoroughly equipped, have been erected in some counties. My only hope is that this will now be done for my county.

It seems to me that housing is really the important matter in connection with the Minister's Estimate. I suppose he is well aware of the fact that all over the country public bodies are convinced that the Minister has done great work in the matter of providing good houses in the various towns and cities. I am not going to dwell very much upon that, except to make a few suggestions to the Minister in regard to this question of housing. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of certain disabilities under which urban areas suffer at the present time.

So far as I can understand, it is the concern of the Minister to proceed with as much speed as possible clearing away what are known as unhealthy areas. I think the Minister will agree that public bodies in towns throughout the Free State are fully co-operating with him in his efforts to clear away those areas. For some months past it has crept into the minds of members of urban councils, particularly the council of which I am a member, that the Department is somewhat averse to the erection of houses of a fairly decent type for the ordinary artisan. What I mean by ordinary artisan is the tradesman, the carpenter, bricklayer, tailor and painter. It seems that when we set out to provide that type of house, the capital of which works out about £430 or £440, there is an obstacle in the path. Many people think it desirable to provide that most important thing in a house, namely, a bath, and when we set out to erect houses of that type we are confronted, when applying for the loan, with an intimation from the Department that they will only give sanction for a loan up to £350 per house. I can assure the Minister that that puts the urban authorities in a very difficult position, getting so much from the Local Loans Fund, and then having to go to the open market for the remainder of the money, thereby adding an unnecessary increased cost and, of course, having to impose an increased rent.

We are also threatened that if we build houses of that type it is uncertain whether the Minister will give the full 33? per cent. The Act sets out 33? per cent. in the case of a house of that type, the cost of which does not exceed £350, and that will be done in the case of houses erected with the object of clearing people from unhealthy areas. Whilst I have the greatest sympathy with the provision of cheap houses for people in unhealthy areas, I still contend that there is a type of decent, hard-working men who, possibly, may not be as well off as some people living in these unhealthy areas, and such people are entitled to all the consideration that can be got from the Department. I think there should be no uncertainty about giving the full 33? per cent. on houses of that type. There are families, the head of which may not earn more than £2 to £2 10s per week, but the total earnings of a man and his sons and daughters may average £6 or £7. These people are entitled to the 33? per cent., because the earnings of the father do not exceed 50/-. Of course, the sons may get married and leave the father, and it would be a hardship to reduce the 33? per cent. The Act sets out that "the Minister may," and I suggest to him that he should keep up the good name he has throughout the country, and not make two bites of a cherry, and give the full 33½ per cent. where houses are erected of a type that may slightly exceed the sum allotted by the Department. I refer to that matter because it is more or less delaying schemes that we have in view. I want to remove from the minds of the members of the council the idea that the Minister has any antipathy towards the erection of houses of that class. I urge the Minister to put no difficulties in the way of erecting houses of that type in the future.

Deputy Dillon has referred to another very important matter, and that is the provision of houses for labourers in the country. Of course the definition of agricultural labourer is very fully set out in the Act, but it so happens, by way of supporting Deputy Dillon, that there are large numbers of people resident in the rural parts who are in a position to pay an economic rent for a house but who, because of the fact that they do not come within the definition laid down for agricultural labourers or small farmers in the Labourers Acts, are not entitled to go to the various boards of health and ask to have houses erected. That applies to large numbers of people living around big towns like Dundalk or Drogheda whose place of residence is in the rural part of the country, but who work in the towns. Some of the houses in which these people dwell are very unhealthy. Some of them have made application to the local council, but their application is turned down on the plea that not being resident in the urban area, they are not entitled to a house in preference to people living in the urban area. If they go to the board of health and apply for houses they are told that since they are not agricultural labourers, because they are working in the towns, there is no power to erect houses for that type of person.

It would be easy to get over that difficulty if the Minister introduced an amending Act giving the same powers to boards of health as are at present enjoyed by urban councils, and that is to allow them to build houses for people who are prepared to pay an economic rent and thereby involve no loss on the ratepayers. That would be a simple way of dealing with that difficulty. There is a way under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, but you might have some difficulty in trying to assimilate the claims of the board of health with the urban areas and difficulties might arise as to who should have charge of the schemes, whether the engineer under the board of health or the engineer under the urban council. The best way to get over that difficulty would be to introduce a Bill to give the same powers to the boards of health as are at present enjoyed by urban authorities.

With the transport facilities we have at present, distance is no object. People can come into their work from four or five miles away who, perhaps a few years ago, when there were not such transport facilities, had to live in the towns and take lodgings there. Now they can live out several miles from the town. In many cases their houses are in a bad way and they urgently require new ones. I think that would be a very good way of increasing the number of houses that are now being built by the boards of health. This is a matter that has been raised by the boards of health but they cannot get over the Act. They are willing to erect these houses but they are up against a stone wall since they cannot go outside the provisions of the Act, these people not being agricultural labourers. Another important matter arises in connection with the erection of these houses. I was somewhat alarmed to read in the accounts of the proceedings of various boards of health throughout the country the number of complaints in regard to certain materials which have been used in the building of labourers' cottages and the manner in which the work generally has been done. I quite realise it would be impossible for the Minister to give personal attention as regards the construction of hundreds of labourers' cottages, but I think it would be no harm if a strong circular were sent out from the Department, particularly to the engineers, intimating that the Department will take serious notice of any defects that will be found after inspection by the Government engineer of these cottages. I know several cases where the most essential parts as regards the construction of houses were very badly done. I refer to the damp course, where a light damp course no better than paper was allowed to go in instead of the type of material specified, and that was in the architect's plans.

The remarks passed by certain members of boards of health would lead one to understand that they are not giving very much attention to the reports submitted by engineers to the various boards with regard to these defects. Generally, in Kerry' and Clare, one reads where an engineer went about and with the point of his stick lifted out some of the stones from the walls. Any builder that would allow that kind of thing should not be continued at such work, especially as there is a section in the Act which provides that none but fully qualified men should be employed. That may cost more but it will lead to better results in the end. Reading about that type of work makes one suspicious of what is done throughout the Saorstát. As far as I know the County Louth, houses there are properly built under proper supervision.

There is another matter that I want to raise. What power has the Minister over public bodies as regards the materials used in the erection of houses? It has come to my knowledge, that in a large scheme here in Dublin, certain materials supplied by hardware manufacturers in the Free State were not allowed to be used in the building of houses constructed under the auspices of the Dublin Corporation. I refer now to cast iron cisterns. We have a foundry in Dundalk which is engaged in the manufacture of cisterns. That firm was supplying these cisterns to housing schemes all over the country. But for some reason or other these cisterns have been turned down by the Dublin Corporation in connection with a certain scheme although they were used under previous schemes, and were passed by the architect as fulfilling all his requirements, and as suitable in every respect.

I can quite understand the members of the Dublin Corporation being naturally anxious to have all materials used in the construction of houses manufactured in the city, and if possible to have such specified. No one could object to that; it is only natural, although it may be bad in principle. It would do away with competition, and it might mean Dublin versus the rest of the country, and the rest of the country might take up the challenge and say: "Very well, let it be the rest of the country against Dublin." I do not mind that, but I am concerned about a letter that was sent from the Housing Board to Messrs. Gaskin Bros., Dundalk, manufacturers of these cisterns. That letter reads:

"A Chairde,—I understand you are supplying cast iron flushing cisterns for Dublin Corporation housing scheme, and in connection therewith I would be glad to hear from you whether these are all cast and finished at your Dundalk works, or whether any quantity of them is imported from Northern Ireland or elsewhere."

Who signed that letter?

It is signed on behalf of the Chairman of the Housing Board.

I thought it was a Corporation letter you were reading.

No; it is a letter from the Housing Board at the Custom House, Dublin. It is a perfectly harmless letter at first sight, but when one closely studies the contents of that letter one becomes rather suspicious. Take the first two words, "I understand." What I would like to ask the Minister is who gave the members of the Housing Board to understand? From whom was the information got which made the members of the Housing Board understand that Messrs. Gaskin Bros. were not manufacturing these cisterns in their own works in Dundalk, but were importing them? Taking that letter in conjunction with other letters sent out previously, I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that there was sinister influence that prompted the writing of that letter, and that the members of the Housing Board were deceived by propaganda of a very serious and sinister type. Everyone knows—I think the Minister must know—that two or three-gallon cisterns are not things that people could take across the Border in attaché cases or that they could carry in their pockets. If the board were under the impression that this firm in Dundalk were importing these cisterns and not manufacturing them, then the Housing Board should write to the Revenue Commissioners and ask them to put on a watch and see that the firm that were importing them were fined heavily. But that might not suit the object which the people who gave that false information had in mind, with a view to injuring the firm of Messrs. Gaskin Bros. I think there is something very serious about this, and I think it would be the duty of the Minister to make inquiry as to who gave the information to the heads of the Housing Board which led to the writing of that letter to Messrs. Gaskin Bros. If the board were the victims of sinister propaganda one could understand it. On the other hand, if the board wrote that letter out of their own knowledge, it shows rather a want of knowledge on the part of the members of the board in regard to the manufacture of these cisterns.

In The Leader of the 7th April, 1934, two years previous to that letter, there appeared the following:—

"It is not generally known that W.C. cisterns of the latest pattern are now made in Dundalk. Our representative watched the various processes from the moulding to the finishing of cisterns that is daily performed at Messrs. Gaskin Bros.' foundry, Dundalk. Here is a factory conducted on sound business lines and employing all male labour, which only needs the support of the ironmongery trade and the public to be assured of success. We hope the Department of Industry will see that Irish-made cisterns receive a good measure of support in the many new building schemes now on foot by the Government. Messrs. Gaskin Bros. have sufficient space and machinery for the employment of many additional workers. There should be a good output from this Dundalk firm in the future."

I am not making an appeal specially on behalf of this particular firm in Dundalk. All they ask is a fair field and no favour. We want to know whether the issue is that materials manufactured in a particular area in a county, by local people, must be preferred, and whether that policy has the support of the Department. If not, while public bodies, if they so desire, in certain circumstances, may give a preference to articles used in the building of houses in their own area, will the Department see, with a view to having some little competition and with a view to lowering the cost of building, which everybody knows is high enough, that competition from outside is allowed in those particular areas? The cost of building at the present time is higher here than in any European country. It is much higher than it is in Great Britain, as anybody who has any experience of building knows. It is about time we had some little competition. Moreover, it is bad business to have any particular firm—as is, undoubtedly, happening in this case—putting a pistol at the heads of hardware merchants of the city and compelling them to take their products. There are letters from various builders' providers in the City of Dublin to Mr. Gaskin intimating that they were very sorry to have received word from the City Architect that they were not to supply his cistern any longer. My information is—I cannot verify it but, having regard to the source from which it comes, I accept it—that the new cistern was included in the printed specification adopted by the corporation and that there was a letter sent out, after the notice appeared in the Press inviting tenders for these houses, to the effect that they were to substitute the Hammond Lane cistern for the new cistern. All this, taken in conjunction with that letter from the Housing Board, leads me to the conclusion that some persons in Dublin, for reasons best known to themselves, took upon themselves to stab in the back this little firm in Dundalk and get the members of the Housing Board —unconsciously, I am sure, because the members were not aware of the facts—to act on false information. A most cowardly and sinister attack has been made on this firm and I hope the Minister will see to it that such firms get a chance. We want no favour. All we want are equal rights, and I think that as long as an article is manufactured in the Free State the manufacturer should have an opportunity of competing. If his stuff is the best it should be selected. I hope the Minister will satisfy himself as to the reasons that prompted the members of the Housing Board to send out that letter in connection with the manufacture of these cisterns.

There is nother matter to which I should like to refer. That is in connection with the classes of houses that are being erected, especially in the constituency I represent. The people there have a great regard for brick houses. They have great faith in them and they prefer them to houses erected in any other material—concrete or even stone. Unfortunately, bricks are more or less scarce at the present time. It is very hard to get what is known as good facing brick. They are costly and I do not think they are manufactured in many places in the Free State. They may be manufactured in one or two places in the South of Ireland, but I do not know of any. Transport to the northern portion of the country is very expensive, and the result is that it is very difficult to have these nice brick fronts that we were so accustomed to prior to the setting up of the Free State. Owing to our close proximity to the Border, we obtained from that area practically all the brick used in the fronts of houses known as "facing brick." Now, we have only the ordinary stock brick, which is used in the gables, back and inside of houses.

I do not want to import any foreign material, if possible, but, seeing that Dundalk and other towns are great brick towns, I should like to ask the Minister if it would be possible to allow a certain quantity of brick for the fronts of houses to be imported. That is, assuming they cannot be got in the Free State at a price approaching the economic. The cost of bricks is very high. It runs from £6 to £7 per 1,000. The ordinary, common bricks range in price from 70/- to 75/-. It is a pity we have not a brickyard which would manufacture that type of brick for the fronts of houses at a price which people would be tempted to pay in order to have a better class of front. I do not know whether or not the Minister has any view on that question, but I should like if something were done in connection with it. The bricklaying trade is a very old one and there was a danger, with the advent of concrete during the last 20 or 25 years, that the bricklayer, like the old Dublin "cabbie", would be wiped out altogether. One of the things that would be the means of doing that would be the high cost and the want of the good quality bricks that used to come in here. In view of that, it would be well if the Minister, in conjunction with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, could see his way to have some factory erected in the Free State which would meet this need and provide us with good facing brick to be used in the fronts of houses, as distinguished from the bricks used in the backs and insides of houses.

I desire to congratulate the Minister on the work he has been doing and the facilities with which he has provided public bodies in order to enable them to erect houses. I should like to emphasise the point in regard to the giving of powers to the boards of health to erect houses for people who are prepared to pay an economic rent —the people who are living in rural districts but who are working in the towns and cities. Many of them around Dundalk, as I mentioned, are clamouring for houses of that type. It may be said that they could erect them themselves and get a £50 grant by applying to the county council for a loan under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. But everybody knows that the ordinary working man cannot walk out and get a site. Neither can he get credit from the builder until the advance is made to him by the county council. The county council will not make the advance until the house is finished and valued by an engineer. It is not every workman who can get credit from a builder until that stage is reached. That difficulty would be solved if boards of health had the power enjoyed by urban authorities—to build houses for people who are prepared to pay an economic rent, whether they are agricultural labourers or not.

There are a few points to which I wish to call attention on this Estimate. It is very gratifying to hear tributes being paid from all parts of the House to the housing policy of the Minister. I do not wish to say anything more about housing— sufficient has already been said about it—save that, in some instances, it would be well if the payment of grants due for new houses and reconstruction work was expedited.

It is very satisfactory to know that such an advance has been made in the improvement of the public health services during the past few years. There is no county at present in which there is not a county medical officer of health, and in practically all the counties there are schemes for the welfare of the blind and for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. In many counties where sanatoria have not been provided initial steps have been taken by boards of health to provide these institutions in the area. Deputy Dillon was anxious to know if cases of pulmonary tuberculosis were brought to the notice of the county medical officers of health. I am sure the Minister will be able to give him information on that question, but from my experience I believe that all cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, even in the incipient stage, are brought to the notice of the county medical officers in every county. That is a well-recognised rule by doctors practising in rural areas, so that the tuberculosis scheme is availed of to the fullest extent.

I mentioned when dealing with vaccination last year that it was not being carried out generally. Each quarter year a form has to be filled in that I would have no hesitation in describing as useless. It contains a long list of names of children that have not been vaccinated but who according to the law should be vaccinated. The number of defaulters increases from quarter to quarter. Dispensary doctors have to send in lists four times a year, and if they fail to do so they are reminded by the boards of health and by the Department that it is their duty to do so. No steps, however, are taken by the public health authorities or by the Department to enforce vaccination. I said last year that if the conclusion had been reached that vaccination was useless, and if that was the considered opinion of the Department, then the Act should be scrapped, or otherwise enforce vaccination. One thing or the other should be done. The present position is simply a sham, as one-tenth of the children have not been vaccinated. The filling in of these returns involves an amount of clerical work from quarter to quarter and from year to year, yet no increase is recorded in the number of children vaccinated.

As to immunisation of children against diphtheria, the numbers immunised have increased enormously during the last few years. I feel that the numbers by this time would have been further increased if the Department had shown a little more reason when dealing with the dispensary doctors. As no doubt something may be said on this subject, I want at this stage to state that there would be more immunisation but for the attitude adopted towards dispensary doctors and the Medical Association. The position is that the Medical Association did not think the fee offered for such work a suitable one. In fact, the fee offered dispensary doctors amounted to 10d. per injection for the immunisation of children against diphtheria where three injections were used, and, acting on the advice of the Free State Medical Association, I understand the doctors refused to do the work until a proper fee was paid. Despite that, a good deal of immunisation has been done. I know that immunisation has not been neglected because of the squabble about the fee that should be paid by local authorities. As immunisation is so important, and as people are so very careless about having it done until it has to be done, I suggest seriously to the Minister that immunisation should be made compulsory. If parents are so negligent—as practically 60 per cent. of them are negligent—and never think of having children immunised until one of them has to be rushed to a fever hospital, for the safety of the children it would be no harm if negligent parents were compelled to have them immunised. No harm will be done, and the children will be protected from a very serious and often fatal disease. Very often compulsion is the only way to get negligent people to attend to their duty.

A circular, which was more in the form of a recommendation than otherwise, was recently sent out by, the Department of Local Government to local authorities, and it was left to these authorities to adopt the recommendation or otherwise. Many of these authorities have since notified some of the employees of their intention to retire them at 65. I wish to deal with one class, the medical men in the service of the local authorities. Deputies will agree that a medical man at 65, who is active and able to do his work, is mature at that age, and is a much more capable practitioner probably than when he was 35. It is nothing short of a scandal to deprive local authorities and poor people of the benefit of the services of a medical practitioner at 65, just when he is able to bring to his practice ripe experience and to give his patients the full benefit of that experience. Medical men in the service of local authorities are in a different position from other public servants, because some of them entered very late in life through the Local Appointments Commission. Many of these men were over 40 years of age when they entered the service, and they received a small initial salary. As they may also have gone into occupation of dispensary residences, if they have to retire at 65, after perhaps 20 or 25 years' service their pensions will be very small. To add to their burden they will then have to leave these dispensary residences and find other houses in towns so as to continue their private practice, because their pensions alone will not be sufficient to enable them to live in comfort. Then a young man will be given the position and take possession of the residence, so that a vicious circle is created.

The young man will have to live on his salary as dispensary medical officer because the man who has retired will still retain his private practice. If the Department are to insist on medical men retiring at the age of 65, they should first see that sufficient years are added to their service on retirement to give them decent pensions. Secondly, they should see that the salary of the incoming medical officer is sufficient to enable him to live, because he will not have much private practice if the retired medical officer continues to practise in the same town.

Some speakers have already made reference to the building of hospitals. It is an undoubted fact that great delay has taken place in the erection of hospitals in some areas throughout the country. That is not the fault of either the board of health or the Department. In a few instances with which I am conversant the lowest tender received was in the neighbourhood of £10,000 above the estimate for the hospital. That was perhaps due to the fact that there is a ring of builders and that the builders, owing to the housing policy of the Department and the building of hospitals, have got too much work to do at the moment. I hope Deputy Good will not contradict me too severely in this matter.

When you talk of rings, I do not know anything of them.

I am only suggesting they might exist.

Well, I do not know anything of them.

In any event, the lowest tender received for some hospitals has been about £10,000 above the estimate. If builders or contractors cannot be found to put in a tender approaching more closely to the estimates, or at least to put in a tender that will receive the sanction of the Department, I would seriously suggest that the Department should take other steps to erect these hospitals. There are plenty of young engineers with experience in the country. There are plenty of competent artisans out of work and plenty of carpenters, and I think if a system of direct labour were adopted and tried as an experiment in some one instance, very good work could be done. There is no use in holding up the erection of all the hospitals in the country until we get builders in the mood in which they will cut £10,000 off their tenders.

Deputy Dillon mentioned, in speaking of the work of the county boards of health, that a considerable amount of time was taken up in dealing with the reports of the county engineer and the county medical officer of health. Could not the reports of these officers be circulated in advance to the members of the boards of health? That would save a very considerable amount of time. I am quite well aware that the members of the boards of health have a tremendous amount of work to do, a lot of which is routine work, and anything that could be done to expedite the routine work that is brought before them would, I am sure, be appreciated by the boards of health. When Deputy Dillon was speaking he mentioned the fact that no grants were available from the Hospitals' Trust for the improvement of county homes. At the time I was under the impression that such grants were available. I must now apologise to Deputy Dillon for contradicting him on that point and for saying that grants were available for the improvement of county homes. I find out now that they are not available for that purpose, but if I were wrong in that point, I think Deputy Brennan, who is now present, will bear me out in saying that it is quite true that an architect has been actually appointed and is actually working on the plans and specification to improve the county home for the county board of health of which Deputy Dillon and Deputy Brennan are both members. I want to give credit where credit is due. I think it was Deputy Dillon himself moved that a sum approaching £5,000 should be devoted towards the improvement of the Roscommon County Home.

I thoroughly agree with Deputy Dillon that that is the most important work the board of health of any county could undertake, because, after all, the destitute poor and the sick poor find their way to the county home and it is as necessary, if not more necessary, that they should have a decent hospital and county home as it is to have a fully equipped sanatorium or other hospital. Seeing that I was under a misapprehension about this matter, I should now like to join with Deputy Dillon in appealing to the Minister that he should try to have funds made available from the Hospitals' Trust for the improvement of county homes. I think it would be a very essential and important work. The amount required to improve the county homes would not be very large to take in any one year from the Hospitals' Sweepstakes. I join with Deputy Dillon in appealing to the Minister to make these funds available for the improvement of county homes throughout the Saorstát.

I should like to correct Deputy O'Dowd on one point with regard to the improvement of the Roscommon County Home. Deputy Dillon was aware that an architect was appointed, but he was not aware, as apparently the Deputy thinks, that he was appointed to carry out work under the hospitals scheme.

When speaking to the Estimate last year, I directed the Minister's attention to the method of road construction followed in this country, and I pointed out to him that the roads as constructed were exceedingly dangerous to horse traffic. So far as I am aware, no change has been made in that direction since. As a matter of fact, horse traffic on our main and trunk roads is attended with very grave risk. I think the matter is of sufficient importance to be taken up specially by the Minister, and I should be very glad if he would have inquiries made with a view to allowing an adequate untarred margin on each side of the road. That would be of great advantage to farmers and others who have to use these roads, particularly main and trunk roads, to get to fairs and markets. As I said previously, I do not think it would unduly interfere with motor traffic. If that concession is not conceded those who have to depend on horse traffic, then I think the upkeep of main and trunk roads should be borne altogether out of the Central Fund. I think the rural community should not be asked to contribute when they are not deriving any benefit from them.

As regards housing, I should like to say, as regards the new houses, that they are very neat in appearance and very airy, but I understand from the occupants of many of the new houses that they are exceedingly damp and that during rainy periods the roofs of them are leaking very badly. I have inquired as to the cause of that and I have been informed that the impression is that there is not sufficient overlapping of the tiles. In stormy weather the rain is inclined to blow in under the tiles and to stream down the walls, rendering the houses practically uninhabitable. That is a matter which, I think, could be remedied without very much difficulty, because, after all, contractors are getting very decent prices for the building of these houses. If what I complain of is due to defective material or inefficient workmanship, then I think it should be attended to at once.

Passing from that, most Deputies are aware that the sanitary arrangements in rural areas are of a very primitive kind. Now that the Minister is making a serious effort to tackle the housing problem in the country, I think that he ought not to overlook this feature of it. It would be an excellent idea if people could be induced, by grants or otherwise, to instal an up-to-date sanitary system in their homes, and, if possible, to have a bath included. Money spent in that way would, I think, be well spent. The introduction of such a system in the homes of the people in the rural areas would, I believe, have beneficial results on the general health of the community. I do not think that anybody interested in the welfare of the country could object to such expenditure. It is an aspect of the housing problem that has hitherto never received any attention so far as the rural areas are concerned, and for obvious reasons it is a matter that I think should now be remedied.

I have been informed that some time ago, after 17 dairy cows had been seized in the Tramore area in satisfaction of a decree for rates, they were conveyed to Dungarvan Pound, and that when they were offered for sale one of the cows in the lot was about to calve. The buyer, who, I understand, was a Government agent, consulted a farmer who was present as to the desirability or otherwise of having this cow loaded with the other animals in a railway waggon. The farmer said that to do such a thing would be an act of absolute cruelty, but in spite of this the cow was loaded and conveyed by rail over about 100 miles. That beast was loaded in the railway waggon in the presence of the Guards. If the animal had been the property of some private individual, such as a cattle dealer or a farmer, I believe that the Guards would have prosecuted that private individual, and rightly so, for doing an act of that kind.

Can the Deputy inform the Chair as to whether the responsibility for the alleged seizure rested with the Minister or with a local body?

The animal was seized to satisfy a decree for rates.

Can the Deputy say who was responsible for the seizure?

As I have been led to believe that the purchaser of the cattle was a Government agent, I think the Minister should have some responsibility in the matter.

I have asked the Deputy to guide the Chair as to responsibility for the seizure. If it was the local body the Minister has no responsibility, and I believe it was the local body.

So far as that question is concerned, I am not able to assist the Chair. I have directed the Minister's attention to the matter, and I hope that he will take some steps to prevent a recurrence of what took place. I do not intend to pursue the matter further.

I have no responsibility in that matter.

It appears to me that the best tribute that could be paid to the Minister in connection with his conduct of local government affairs is implied in the reply that he himself gave this afternoon to a question on the Order Paper by Deputy McGilligan —a question as to the total amount of bank overdrafts in the case of local bodies. The Minister replied that 16 county councils have no overdrafts, and that 11 county councils at the end of last month had overdrafts amounting to £298,166. That happens to be just a little more than half of what the amount of the overdrafts was at the end of March, 1934. The fact that bank overdrafts in the case of local bodies have been reduced from about £550,000 to £298,166 in two years seems to me to be a great tribute both to the Minister and to the county councils themselves. The further fact that 16 county councils are able to carry on their business and to meet all their expenditure, including debt charges out of revenue, without having to borrow from the banks, indicates a very healthy state of affairs, and is a matter for congratulation to everyone concerned.

I would like to know from the Minister if local bodies are still paying the high interest rates that they were paying a few years ago on loans contracted when money was very much dearer than it is at present? I understand that there are some local bodies paying as much as 6 per cent. on loans obtained either from the Local Loans Fund or from the public. In that connection, it seems to me a pity if the Department is not able to do anything to relieve such a situation. Everybody knows that where a good security is offered, the rate of interest on loans at present is not quite 3½ per cent. Therefore, if a local body is doing its business well, if it has not defaulted in its obligations—in passing, it may be of interest to say that since the passing of the Local Government Act of 1898 no public body in Ireland has ever defaulted in meeting its obligations— it seems to me a regrettable thing that it should be obliged to carry the burden of high interest charges on loans at a time when general interest rates are so low. Particularly is that the case, as I have said, in the case of a local body that is in a healthy position, that is carrying on its business properly and that, apparently, is entitled to very good credit. I would like to hear from the Minister whether he thinks the Department can give any help in that matter.

Only this week there appeared an announcement in an English newspaper to the effect that an English municipality which had been paying 6 per cent. on a loan obtained during the period when money was very dear issued a conversion loan at rather less than 3 per cent. Would it not be possible for the Government to back a loan issued by any credit-worthy local authority to enable it to pay off its debt, and thereby reduce the drain on its resources, due to having to meet high interest charges? This is a question that one hears discussed very often in the country, and therefore I think a statement from the Minister on the subject would be welcomed.

There is a further rather curious fact in connection with borrowing so far as local authorities are concerned and it is this: that the Irish Banks Standing Committee have made it a rule that they will not give money to any local authority at less than 4 per cent. It may be more but there is a minimum of 4 per cent. for all local authorities. The Minister has no direct responsibility for that, but I suggest to him that it is worth his while to consider whether he should not represent to the banks that that is an unreasonable policy. There are plenty of local authorities which are the very best possible security for money at the present time. As I have already said, they have always done their business efficiently; they have always kept clear of debt, and should have the fullest confidence of investors. It seems to me rather a slur upon the authorities that the banks should simply close down competition on the question of loans to local authorities and say: "There will be a minimum rate of 4 per cent. for any money you get from us. No matter what your position is, no matter how you do your business there will be a minimum rate of 4 per cent., no matter what we may be able to get for that money from anybody else." I do not know why that should be, and I suggest to the Minister that it is worth while considering whether he should not represent to the bank that it is a practice which should not be continued.

Deputy Wall raised a point a while ago, which is of course very frequently mentioned in the country too, with regard to the safety of roads for cattle and horse traffic. I am afraid the inducement he held out in the event of the Minister not being able to help him is not a very effective one. He said that farmers should not be expected to pay for expenditure on roads which they could not use for their cattle and horses. I think the amount which falls upon the ratepayers for the maintenance of main roads at the present time is so very small that that factor is not a big one. I think they have very little to do with capital expenditure on main roads, and that with regard to maintaining them their contribution would be a rather small item in most counties seeing that maintenance is largely borne out of the Road Fund. In the same connection, I would remind the Minister that £13,000,000 or £14,000,000 has during the past 12 years or so been spent out of the Road Fund on main and link roads, and we have never had any review from the Department as to the results of that expenditure. We know nothing for instance as to how the experiments on concrete roads compare with the results on tar macadam roads, whether concrete has established itself as the most suitable material for road making, or whether there is only a very small margin between the two. We know nothing either as to what the result of those experiments is in regard to the future—that is, whether capital expenditure is likely to diminish as time goes on in view of the big amounts that have been spent in reconstructing the bulk of these main roads, and whether on that account we can look forward to a part of the Road Fund being diverted to what are called county roads. I suggest it is time that such a review was given, and that the next report of the Department of Local Government might at least give us the information which I am sure is available in the Department on that subject.

In the same connection, Sir, I should like to know from the Minister whether he is satisfied with the working of the Road Traffic Act or whether it is not the case that some very important provisions of that Act are being nullified by the failure of the courts to convict vehicle owners who are found guilty of serious offences. Is it not the case that practically every week a man is brought up for running an untaxed vehicle or a vehicle that is taxed incorrectly, and yet he is either not fined at all or fined some paltry sum? It seems to me that the courts have not treated that Act as if it were seriously intended, especially with regard to a number of its very important provisions. When the Minister is replying I should like him to say whether or not my impression is correct. I think that, generally speaking, the working of the provisions of the Road Traffic Act requires to be very carefully watched. I am one of those people who believed that it was a mistake to take off the speed limit, and I am still very strongly of that opinion. I think, as Deputy Kelly said here a few days ago, that it will be found necessary to restore the speed limit, and probably to correct other provisions of the Act also, but it seems to me that as long as the courts persist in the attitude they are adopting at present no Act will be worth passing. In failing to convict for serious offences, or in failing to impose the penalties which such offences deserve, those justices may seem prejudiced in favour of motorists, but they are really doing a great injustice to 90 per cent. of the motorists, because we all know that there is about 10 per cent. of motorists who do infinite damage to the interests of the other 90 per cent. and who require the attention of every authority in the country.

Would not that be a matter for the Department of Industry and Commerce?

No. The Road Traffic Act, I think, deals with licences for motorists, and such questions as compulsory insurance and so on, to which this question has reference. Those are the only points on which I desire to make any observation.

I should like to say a word or two on the first point raised by Deputy Moore, that is in connection with the matter of old loans which were received from the bank by local authorities. Some time ago a deputation from the Council of Municipal Councils waited on the Minister in connection with this matter. They were received by the Minister with his usual courtesy. I think he saw their viewpoint at the time and promised that in the very near future he would go into the matter. Some arrangement should undoubtedly be made by which some of those old loans could be converted. It would mean a considerable saving to local authorities, and I would urge on the Minister the necessity for his going thoroughly into the matter with a view to helping local authorities, some of whom, say, in the years from 1920 to 1932 raised very considerable loans at a high rate of interest. The question raised by Deputy Moore, as to the amount of interest charged by the banks to local authorities, is a very important one. The arrangement between the banks and the local authorities in the past has been that a local authority could always raise a loan from a bank at a half per cent. below the usual rate, with a minimum of 4 per cent. As far as I know, the bank rate at the moment is 3 per cent., so that we are faced with the position that a private individual perhaps could get a loan at three per cent. while local authorities, which have the whole valuation of the borough or city or county behind them, have to pay 4 per cent. I do suggest to the Minister that that is a matter which requires his immediate attention.

Another matter, in so far as the finances of local authorities are concerned, to which I would direct the attention of the Minister, is the question of the borrowing powers of local authorities. As the Minister and his Department know, the amount that a local authority is permitted to borrow is twice the valuation. That prevailed in pre-War days when the value of money was entirely different from what it is now, and the Minister knows that in recent years, owing to the fact that the Government has been willing to help, and has helped, local authorities by way of grants to enable them to put in proper waterwork systems and sewerage systems, a good deal of money has had to be borrowed, with the result that the borrowing powers of local authorities, in a great many instances, have become very limited. I suggest to him that as the value of money in pre-War days and now is entirely different, the matter should be considered by his Department.

Another matter which was raised at the conference between the Council of Municipal Councils and the Minister was the question of the valuation of houses which have been built recently. I remember distinctly, when Deputy Cosgrave, as Minister for Local Government, gave the grant of £1,000,000 for housing in 1923, he laid it down very definitely that it was to be an instruction from his Department and from the Government generally, that the valuations of houses built at that time would not be any more than those of houses of a similar capacity built prior to that time. Deputy Cosgrave saw, of course, that if the valuation of these houses was to be anything more than the valuation of houses of the same capacity, it would mean a big burden on the tenant and, to a great extent, nullify the efforts of the local authorities to cater for the working-class people. The Minister also promised to go into that, and some of the officials with him there on that occasion expressed themselves as surprised that such a thing was taking place there. I can assure the Minister that the valuation of new houses is far above the valuation of houses of a similar capacity which the working classes have been living in up to now.

Another matter which has engaged the attention of the Council of Municipal Councils recently, and which has been placed before the Minister, is the question of the extension of borough boundaries. At the present moment the machinery at the disposal of urban councils is not sufficient, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Council, to enable them in any speedy way to extend their boundaries. A good many houses have been built in recent years, thanks to the Minister and his Department, and in a very great many boroughs and cities there is very little land left on which to build more houses. There is a big demand for more houses in practically every town and city in the country, and unless the Minister simplifies the position to enable local authorities to extend their boundaries, without having to go through all that has to be gone through under present legislation, I am afraid house building will have to stop. I urge the Minister to ask whatever section of his Department has to deal with this to go into it at once with a view to helping boroughs which are anxious and willing to extend their boundaries so that they can build more very much-needed houses.

Another matter which the deputation raised with the Minister was the question of house rents. I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for his activities in the matter of housing and for the grants he has been giving to local authorities. I know quite well that the grant being paid is, comparatively speaking, very large, but I think the Minister knows that in a great many places where slum people have been transferred to new houses, the problem of arrears is facing local authorities at the moment. We have had cases of people who were brought out of the slum areas, where their rents were anything from 1/6 to 2/- a week, who are now called on to pay 3/-, 3/6, 4/- and 4/6 a week. The Minister or anybody who has anything to do with a local authority knows that a great many of these people are unemployed. They are only too glad sometimes to get into a new house, but after being there a while they find themselves unable to meet the weekly rent. A great many of them have been transferred, against their will, and they feel that they should not be asked to pay rent at all—an unreasonable attitude to take up, I must admit, but, at the same time, the problem is there. I am greatly afraid that a liability will be facing local authorities all over the country in the very near future in this matter.

I suggest that there should be some kind of inquiry throughout the country to ascertain what the effect of the transfer of slum dwellers has been in so far as the payment of rents is concerned. There might be some method devised by which a higher subsidy could be paid to people who have been actually taken out of slum areas. There may be other people who have been changed from rooms into new houses who had been paying, in some cases, 5/- and 10/- a week, and I think that, in those cases, where it is found that people are able to pay, there should be an adjustment of the grant, and a higher grant paid in respect of people who have been paying very small rents and who are unable to pay more. I am prepared to admit that it is a very big problem and that the Minister should be complimented on the way he has faced up to his responsibility in regard to housing, but, at the same time, I request the Minister to have an inquiry made in different towns with a view to finding out if anything can be done. I do not think there is anything else I want to say except that I would like the Minister to say something in his reply about these points and endeavour to remedy them.

There are a few matters in connection with this Estimate to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. We all know the great work the Minister and his Department have been doing all over the country to improve public health. I think the way to improve public health is by good drainage and good water schemes throughout the country, and, as a member of the North Cork Board of Public Health, I should like to put this point to the Minister. He is insisting on our erecting a central fever hospital for the northern area of Cork County. The North Cork Board of Health, on two occasions, and the Cork County Council did not agree with that. They thought that the existing arrangement for the treatment of fever was quite all right. In that board of health we have over 60 water and sewerage schemes prepared and ready to be carried out. Some of those sewerage schemes are for the unurbanised towns of the northern area. We have such places as New market, Glanworth and other towns which are in a deplorable condition at the present time. We have a water scheme in those places, but we have no sewerage scheme, and there is an old saying that prevention is better than cure. I think that if we prevent the disease there will be no necessity for curing it. The two fever hospitals that we have in the area already will be quite sufficient to deal with the fever that will arise from time to time, and we will have far fewer cases of fever if we have better water and sewerage systems. I suggest to the Minister that, instead of insisting on the board erecting a central fever hospital at a cost of £60,000, as we know he is going to give us a grant of £30,000, he should allot that £30,000 to six or seven very urgent sewerage and water schemes for the northern area. If he does that, he will find that there will be no necessity for a central fever hospital for that area, because there will be far less fever—in fact, no fever at all—if we have proper drainage and water in those towns and villages.

In the matter of housing, I think it is three years ago since the seal of the Cork County Board of Health was put on the housing scheme for the labourers of the county. It was, I think, more than a year after that, and after repeated requests had been made to the Minister to send down an inspector, that we did get an inspector, and I think it was over a year after that when the arbitrator was sent along. During all that time the North Cork Board of Health were criticised by members of the Fianna Fáil Party— both members of the county council and ex-members of the board of health —and by the Minister for not carrying out the housing scheme. I want to say here that it was not the fault of the Cork County Board or of the northern committee that the houses for the workers were not built, but all the fault of the Minister and the Department for not sending down an inspector and not having more arbitrators and more inspectors to do the work under the scheme. However, we hope to be building the houses within another month, and we hope also, with the help of the Minister, to be carrying on an unurbanised housing scheme. I would ask the Minister and his Department not to hamper the work of the board in this scheme as they have in connection with the labourers scheme. We have heard a lot of talk about the conditions prevailing in the City of Dublin and the slums there. The condition down the country in my area is just as bad, not in the cities or towns, but in the urban areas, where you have workers living in tin huts. They have no sewers at all there. There is nothing but the want of sewers and the want of proper housing. I know of cases of children dying of fever in those places, and the work of the board is being held up, as I have stated, by the Minister and his Department because of the lack of enough inspectors to carry out the scheme and to help the board in their work.

There is another matter to which I should like to direct the Minister's attention. I think it is a matter of great importance. I have come up against it very often recently. I refer to the case of the mentally-afflicted children through the country. In my own area I have had parents coming to me asking to have those children sent to some institution where they could be cared for and treated. The only way they can be treated is by sending them, through the board of health, to some institution here in Dublin. When I put in a notice of motion to have this done, I found that it costs something between £40 and £50 a year for the treatment of each patient. I would ask the Minister to take this matter up as a national matter and I suggest to him that he should have erected in the country public institutions for the treatment of mentally defective children. I have asked for a report from the county medical officer of health, and he has stated in his report that the association of a mentally deficient child with his brothers and sisters is very bad. He says that it is very bad and dangerous for those little children to be playing and living with a mentally deficient brother or sister. That is a very serious matter, to my mind, and I would ask the Minister to take steps to deal with it immediately. It is very hard on the boards of health where you have, perhaps, 40 or 50 of those cases at a cost of very nearly £50 a year. It is a great burden on the boards to have to pay that amount, and I think it is a matter which the Minister should take up. I feel sure that he would have the support of every member of this House and of the people of the country.

I see a certain sum allotted for the treatment of tuberculosis, and I must say that I should like to see a much greater sum allotted for that scheme. I think that great work is being done and I am sorry that the Minister has not allotted more money for this scheme, because I feel sure that great work can be done under it. Then there is also the immunisation scheme. Great work is being done all over the country by this scheme and it is a great pity that the parents of the children in the country do not avail of it to a greater extent. I know of a case in my own area where there was an epidemic of diphtheria in a parish It started in a school and the children who had been immunised a few months previously escaped the disease. Since then, I am glad to say that the parents of the children in the surrounding parishes have been making application to have their children immunised. There is no doubt that it is a scheme that is doing great good all over the country.

I do not think there is anything more that I have to say, Sir, except to re-echo the hope that the Minister will not delay the work of the board of which I am a member in the erection of houses for the workers and in connection with the unurbanised towns in the area. Before I finish, however, I should like to say a word of praise of the officials of the Department and the great work they have been doing and the very courteous and efficient manner in which they have always treated me and helped me whenever I had occasion to call on them for any help or assistance.

By way of introduction, Sir, I should like to know where Deputy Coburn got his information about housing schemes in Kerry and Clare. When making his point about the types of houses being erected all over the country, he referred to Kerry and stated that the houses in that and certain other counties were a disgrace and that the type of material and workmanship was very questionable. I contradict that, so far as Kerry is concerned. As a matter of fact we had occasion recently to congratulate the board of health, the Minister and his Department, the contractors and everybody concerned on the beautiful housing schemes carried out in Kerry. Indeed, I can say that they are second to none in Ireland. Schemes have been carried out in Killorglin, Tralee and other centres which are certainly a credit to all concerned. I take this opportunity, therefore, of flatly contradicting the suggestion of Deputy Coburn with reference to housing contracts, so far, at any rate, as Kerry is concerned.

Then we have other housing schemes in contemplation. The Kerry Board of Health sent forward two schemes to the Department which have been held up for two years—the Cahirciveen and Castleisland schemes. The Department informed the board that until the labourers' cottage rent collection in Kerry showed an improvement these schemes would be held over. I admit the Department is quite right in its reference to the state of the rent collection in Kerry, particularly in the northern portion of the county. But in the Cahirciveen area the rent collection is very good, and has been so for years. I, therefore, submit to the Minister that it is not fair that such a scheme as that should be held up simply because other parts of the county have not paid up as they should have.

The principal matter with which the Kerry County Council is concerned at the moment is that of road grants. This matter has been agitating them for years. The root cause of the whole trouble, so far as Kerry is concerned, is the basis on which the allocation is made. The grants are allocated on a valuation basis, and that reacts against our county. I am informed that in 1924 or 1925, or whatever year the late Government got through its road scheme, through the system of allocation adopted our county was deprived of a sum of £20,000. I suggest the allocation should be made on a different basis. If a calculation were made as to what rate in the £ the expenditure on the roads represented, then the grants might be made on the basis of whether the expenditure was above or below the standard rate for the whole country. I submit that, so far as Kerry and other counties are concerned, the present basis of allocation is reacting very much against them. I would go further and say that there should be a separate system of allocation for the coastal counties, such as Kerry, Clare, Mayo, Galway and Donegal—that they should be put in a separate category from the more highly-valued counties. The point can be made that County Kerry has a large mileage of roads to maintain. If the Department found it difficult to have a different system of allocation, I would suggest, in any case, that there should be a percentage added to the road grants on account of the tourist traffic in that county and the large number of county roads which have to be maintained.

I would urge upon the Minister to have this question examined further. It is not a matter that has arisen recently. It has been going on for years. For instance, in 1929-30, our county council struck a road rate of 3/5 in the £ while in the County Kildare in that year the rate for the roads was only 1/9. Even so, that county came off very much better in the matter of the road grants than County Kerry did. So far as my information goes, for every £1,000 allocated to counties like Kerry from the road fund, highly-valued counties like Kildare get a little over £2,000 under the present system. I would, therefore, appeal to the Minister to come to the assistance of County Kerry by making some adjustment in the matter of the road grants.

There is only one other matter I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister, and that is in regard to a waterworks scheme for Glenbeigh. Deputy Kelly the other night made a very good case in regard to the Dublin tenements, and pointed out that the people concerned dreaded the coming of the summer months, which brought vermin and other pests. I am making a plea in regard to Glenbeigh, a popular seaside resort in South Kerry, the water scheme for which has been held up for years. Everything is ready for going ahead with that scheme. The plans and specifications have been submitted to the Department. Like the people to whom Deputy Kelly referred the other night, the inhabitants of that district dread the summer months because they have to go several miles to get water. During the coming summer the position will be a very difficult one for them. I would not have mentioned any particular case were it not for the fact that this is an important tourist centre. It is a very thickly populated district, and is deserving of consideration. In general, we are more than satisfied in Kerry with the way the Minister assisted us in regard to overdrafts, housing schemes, etc., but I wish to direct his attention to these two matters which are of great importance to us at the present moment.

The spirit in which this debate has been conducted warns those of us who have yet to speak not to repeat the points already brought forward by other speakers on both sides of the House. I think, if my memory serves me right, that last year when this Vote was being discussed I made reference to local bodies in general. I referred to county councils and urban district councils, and I pointed out that the scope of their duties had become so enlarged and their problems had become so numerous and varied that some day, from the point of view of the good of the country and the efficiency of administration, it would be found necessary to introduce some new scheme for the purpose of enabling them to carry on. I suggested that it would ultimately be found necessary to devise some new form of local administration. It may sound undemocratic and it may not be popular in this country, but it seems to me that eventually some system of managership will have to be instituted everywhere. That does not mean that a county council or an urban district council should be without a certain system of proportional representation, or without their own selected chairmen to guide policy. But it is obvious to me, from my attendance at the meetings of local bodies, that time is unnecessarily spent talking. There is no doubt that a lot of time that should be usefully spent is wasted, and a good deal of the talk could very easily be dispensed with. I have not politics in mind now, and I do not refer to discussions on political matters. I say that trivial matters take up more time than is necessary, and the result is that where you require virile administration on businesslike lines, the chairman is handicapped listening to all sorts of matters that are drawn into the main discussion.

I am quite satisfied that on local bodies in most cases there are too many members. The numbers could easily be cut down and the representation made smaller with advantage. We have in this House the Chairman of the Kildare County Council. He is a member of the Fianna Fáil Party, and I am quite satisfied, even if he does not agree with the manner in which I bring this matter forward, that he realises as chairman that on numerous occasions important county work is held up by lengthy discussions on trivial topics and in that way much useful time is wasted. The system under which local administration has now to be carried out will soon require some form of revision. As it is, local bodies are faced with numerous problems of a highly specialised nature. These are piling up year after year by reason of the advance in social services and the emanation from Government departments of new schemes.

I believe that the Department of Local Government spends a tremendous amount of its time these days trying to bring about a proper sense of discipline in the country. As a matter of fact, they do not get enough time for constructive work. I do not think I am far wrong—I fancy it will be admitted— when I say that most of the time in the Minister's Department is occupied by receiving deputations and trying to get some people out of holes. In a lot of cases I think it would be far better if the county councils and urban councils were put aside so far as matters of discipline are concerned, and if the discipline were controlled directly between the Minister's Department and the individuals involved. There is no doubt that where there is a question of misbehaviour—and here and there in the country there are such cases—or where there is a misdemeanour, it would be far better if the discipline were exercised directly by the Department, and it should not be necessary for politicians or Deputies or local bodies to endeavour to intervene between the individuals and the Minister's Department.

It is obvious to me, having heard these matters discussed in private with the public representatives associated with me, that the time has come when the whole system of local government administration in this country will have to be revised and placed on a different basis, if possible. That does not mean that there will be any radical change or a wiping out of democratic institutions. On the contrary, it may lead to a condition of things which will tend towards an improvement in administrative functions generally, and possibly there may be more direct contact between headquarters and officials throughout the country.

Deputy Goulding should have referred to one matter which was raised later by another speaker—I think it was Deputy Coburn. This matter concerns Deputy Goulding's constituency very much. I refer to the question of the Department withdrawing the opposition which apparently they are exercising from a purely economic point of view in connection with the brickworks in Waterford. The brickworks were closed down and the men were put on to other work. The fortunate position exists that the manager of the brick factory is on another job and he was able to keep the skilled men together in the hope that later on the works would be reopened. If they were not kept together there was a possibility of the skilled men going away. He kept them together awaiting the possibility of orders coming in which will necessitate the reopening of the factory. I understand there are 1,500,000 bricks there still awaiting sale. If it were a question of price one would not mind, but the fact is that the general situation does not lend itself to a more general use of bricks.

So far as housing is concerned, the Minister may accept the sincere congratulations of every Deputy. If any criticisms are to be offered they can be offered without in any way withdrawing those congratulations. I would like to make reference to the formation of utility societies in this country. Apparently there is no such thing as capital required. For the sum of 10/- a group of people can become a utility society and they can sell houses. I have made a personal inspection of some of these houses and I observed that the most shoddy constructions are going up and apparently they pass muster as proper houses for the rural workers. I am aware of cases where the local authority, for some reason or other, has been warned about some of these houses. In some instances the chimneys, which are supposed to exude smoke, simply do not function at all and the windows have to be opened in order to allow the smoke out. Deputies may consider that that is a gross exaggeration, but it is not. We have a Housing Board which is supposed to advise the Minister, if necessary, in regard to the various housing schemes. It is to be hoped that more attention will be devoted in future to the erection of buildings so that houses of the type I have mentioned will not be allowed to be erected. There are houses of the kind I have described in connection with the erection of which local bodies or engineers did somersaults or tricks or manoejoinuvres. The Minister should investigate those cases and see that any irregularities that may have taken place are dealt with in a fearless way and whoever is responsible for them dismissed if necessary.

There is one problem that presents itself in so far as the urban area of Athy is concerned. I refer to the opening of shops on the outskirts of the town. The urban council of Athy, like other urban councils, are well and faithfully building houses under the Slum Clearance Acts. They have erected houses on the outskirts of the town and in some instances shops are being opened in these places to the detriment of some of the town traders. It seems to me that in fairness to the ordinary traders who have been contributing, through the medium of income tax, other taxes and rates to the funds necessary to build these houses, some definite rule should be laid down by the Minister indicating that the indiscriminate opening of small shops in these places will not be tolerated. It is grossly unfair. One may ask: "Why deprive these people of a means of livelihood?" That may be brought forward as a sort of excuse, but let me point out that at a meeting of a body of which I am a member, when a resolution was submitted the other night condemning the opening of these small shops, it was upheld by a two-third majority and they included members of the Fianna Fáil and the Labour Parties.

The next thing I want to talk about is the question of medical dispensaries. I could not help saying "hear, hear" to what Deputy Dr. O'Dowd said on the question of the retirement of medical men. Many of these men by their mature experience, their great efficiency, their popularity and the long time they had been in their job, have won the confidence of their patients to the fullest extent and should not be retired at the age of 65. Years of service and long experience in a variety of cases makes a medical man all the greater in his profession. Years of service count in his case, like good wine which becomes more mellow with age. With long experience a doctor is able to do his job far more consistently, and to display greater skill and ability in his work. He finds out through his long experience a ready method of diagnosis in various diseases and ailments which show themselves in different ways in different patients. I think it would be a great mistake for the Minister to pursue this policy of retirement so far as doctors are concerned, whatever might be said with regard to other officials. I know one doctor who is one of the greatest authorities on mental diseases and psychic cases, and whose name is known throughout Britain and Ireland, and who will have to retire if this scheme is put in force. It would be the greatest tragedy for the particular institution with which he is connected if he is to be retired. It would also mean more expense which would be involved in his pension and in having to provide his successor.

As far as dispensaries are concerned, I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister the condition of many of these institutions. They are badly in need of renovation and improvement. If more money could be obtained from the Hospitals Trust to do this good work it would be a great blessing. These dispensaries should be linked up with hospitals. In a sense they are almost as important as the hospitals themselves. Some dispensaries in the country are very badly in need of improvement, and it would be a great thing if the Minister could obtain further assistance to have them better equipped. Some dispensary buildings are damp and mildewed, and the medical man in charge is not getting all the help that is required. Whether that is due to the action of the board of health or home assistance I do not know, but it seems to me that the medical men in these cases are not getting proper support. Some medical men when they get into these gloomy surroundings fall into a policy of drift, and after a few years find themselves behind the times and not up to date in their work. I do not want to detain the House any further, but I should be glad if the Minister will consider the feasibility of carrying out the few suggestions I have made.

The last speaker made a great protest against the retirement of doctors at the age of 65, but, in his concluding remarks, he pointed out that dispensary doctors after some years get so accustomed to the gloomy surroundings in their dispensaries that they get out of date. That is a contradiction in his speech. Some doctors should be retired at the age of 60. I admit in certain cases, in dispensaries convenient to towns, certain exemption could be made up to the age of 65. I know a certain doctor in charge of a mental hospital who is retired, and the board are determined that he will retire, and give an opportunity to a younger man fully qualified and who should be given employment.

We have had during this debate some criticism of the Local Government Department and of its housing policy. I have been connected with a public board and I believe that board has a very good reputation because of the number of houses we built both for rural workers and urban workers. I would like to give credit where credit is due; and there is one section of the Minister's Department which should receive from the public the tribute it is entitled to. Having built a large number of houses, we found ourselves confronted with a difficulty and had certain serious problems to overcome. The Department officials on every occasion gave us every assistance in solving and overcoming our problems so that satisfactory houses should be provided for the people. We have heard complaints that in some houses built for the workers the walls were bad, but if boards of health would insist on having clerks of works appointed to look after the carrying out of contracts they would find that it was money well spent. Where such complaints, as I have mentioned, occur it is because the boards of health, form consideration of economy, refused to appoint a proper clerk of works.

Deputy Minch pointed out that the Minister's time was taken up in receiving deputations from public men appealing to him to try and save some officials. I am going to make quite a contrary complaint against the Department, and that is that the Department are saving officials that public men and boards of health are satisfied have grossly neglected their work. I believe I can prove to the House that in a recent inquiry held a more callous statement was made than was ever made in this country before. The reason I bring this matter forward here is that I am satisfied that similar treatment was meted out in other parts of the country to what was given in the hospital of which I complain. I believe similar treatment, in other hospitals, in Saorstát Eireann, is continued at the present time. What is the use of boards of health asking for a public inquiry when the practice of the Department, at the present time, is, if the complaint is against the doctor, to send a doctor as inspector to inquire into that complaint? Why should that be so? I do not object to a doctor holding an inquiry. But I say where a layman's life was in danger, or where the lives of the children of a workman were in danger, and an inquiry is ordered, a layman, accompanied by a doctor if necessary, should be sent to make the investigation if there is to be a fair inquiry. I want now to refer to a very serious matter affecting the lives of children in my own constituency. It was a case where a workman had the misfortune to send three of his children into a fever hospital in 1935. It came to the notice of members of the Board of Health that during this period a number of deaths took place in this hospital. This unfortunate man lost two of his little children, and another person lost two more. There was a certain amount of talk going about as to the circumstances. The man sends a letter to the Board of Health asking to have the matter investigated and to ascertain whether his children died by the will of God or through neglect or ill-treatment. The board asked for an inquiry and the inspector objected to holding an inquiry which the public would have the right to attend. He wanted to insist that the inquiry be held in a small room in the hospital. The Board of Health had a lawyer to protect them. The nurses had two lawyers to protect them, but this poor man had no lawyer. The inspector pointed out that he would confine himself to his terms of reference and would not allow any subject to be discussed affecting any children but the two children who had died. After the evidence given, I am surprised at the Minister signing a document such as this, exonerating these nurses. I say that the full facts have not been brought to the Minister's notice, and I shall give to the Minister a copy of the local paper which published a verbatim report of that inquiry. After reading that paper, I am satisfied that he will come to a different opinion from that at which he arrived when he signed that document exonerating these nurses on the report submitted to him by the inspector. That inspector refused to allow a wards-maid to prove what she had taken out of the matron's hands after she had beaten a child although the wards-maid could point out that that child died after the beating. The inspector refused to allow a note to be taken of that because the child concerned was not one of the two children who had died. One of the wardsmaids pointed out that her chief duties were to cook the food for all the children, to attend the patients and to put them to bed when running around the wards.

Has the Minister promulgated a decision as a result of that inquiry?

He has. A second wardsmaid pointed out that she had seen these children running around, that the nurses had taken them out of their warm beds, beaten them and brought them to the black hole. In addition, she stated that her chief duty was to skim the new milk. The inspector would only admit in evidence the statement of one nurse that she purchased a half-pint of milk a day for herself, while out of that alleged half-pint there were various things made for the nurses. Three witnesses proved that the children were taken out of their warm beds, beaten and given skimmed milk, and that, on the night they were dying, three nurses were away at some amusement. The inspector held that a doctor could give that right. I want to point out that under Article 55 of the General Regulations of the Board of Health—the Minister's own Regulations—made in 1924, nurses cannot absent themselves three at a time without first having their hours sanctioned by the Board of Health, and the Board of Health have no power to give this sanction unless with the approval of the Department of Local Government. In this case, when the children were dying, only one nurse was available, although the Board of Health were paying for four nurses. There was only one nurse on duty at the time, and the excuse was that it happened that the nurses had two days off and the doctor said he would arrange to give them two and a half days by two hours each day and to let them away on week-ends when he considered they could go. It was a coincidence that at the particular time the children were dying all the nurses except one should be off duty.

We can picture the state of that unfortunate parent. If he had taken my advice he would not have asked for an inquiry. If I had been in his position I know what I would have done, or what anybody else would have done, with the local people knowing what was going on in the hospital. The Minister sent down a doctor to hold the inquiry whose duty previously it was to go around and see that things were all right. The Minister admits in his findings that the milk was skimmed. There was not a sufficient amount of cream taken off it, because it was there only two hours, according to the Minister's statement, and could not be accurately described as skimmed milk. It was never left, he states, long enough to provide full cream, and the pints of cream referred to by the wards-maid were probably pints of rich milk. The letter states: "While the Minister would entirely disapprove of such division of milk between the officers and the patients, he is satisfied that if it was done in this case"—he does not deny it was done; three witnesses proved that it was their chief duty to skim it—"the cream content of the milk supplied to the patients was not materially affected." We have that statement in regard to dying patients and patients suffering from fever. Did the inspector inform the Minister that, at the time the nurses swore the milk was not interfered with, they had in their possession a report from the county analyst proving that the milk was deficient in fats? That report was suppressed because this poor man had no lawyer to represent him, while there were three lawyers representing the nurses. The excuse given by the nurses was that they were away on holidays and forgot to read the analyst's report. The reason they did not report the matter to the Board of Health was that the man who supplied the milk was prepared to go to court and prove that they had skimmed the milk and taken off the fats. That is the reason they kept the report from the Board of Health. After 28 days the Board of Health could not take proceedings, and the nurses were legally advised. Notwithstanding that evidence, the Minister points out that, even if the poor children under the control of these people were given skimmed milk, it did not materially affect them, although they were suffering from diphtheria and although we are led to believe that diphtheria patients must be kept quiet and free from excitement.

Let us picture to ourselves what happened here. Were the children free from excitement? Did they get the nourishment the ratepayers were paying for? Did they receive the nursing that nurses were paid to give them? Was there not evidence from one of the patients that the inspector relied upon that these little children were in fear and trembling of the matron, and that they cried? Did not that witness admit that a child had been taken out of the bed and brought to the black hole? The matron's story was that he was taken out of the bed because the child wanted to be taken out and brought to the wash house. But there was no wash house in the hospital. There was nothing but a cold cement floor in the place. Even if her story was true a child should not be brought 100 yards from a sick bed to a wash house. What satisfaction is there for boards of health or for public men who are trying to do their duty when such glaring cases of neglect, as was mentioned in the case of these three poor children, could happen? The wardsmaids gave their evidence, after being advised by the clergy to tell the truth. Their evidence was not accepted, but that of the defendants, the two nurses, who were accused was. Evidence was given that the milk was satisfactory, but one of the nurses had in her possession the analyst's report which showed how much reliance could be placed upon her statement. I want to point out to the Minister, apart from everything else, that the inspector held a brief. I suggested that from the beginning, as I was present at the inquiry. It was known on behalf of the nurses that he tried to protect the board of health, because he knew very well that an action was going to be taken against the board by the aggrieved people owing to the death of their children, and he went out of his way——

I do not think statements should be made against public servants in that fashion. Let the Minister bear all the responsibility for what has happened at the inquiry. I do not think any statement should be made respecting a public official who is not in a position to defend himself here.

We have to go on the facts as they actually happened. The Minister was not there. I hold him to account.

The Deputy can tell the facts but he can make no comment on the action or on the intentions of a public officer who held an inquiry.

The public are the best judges of the action of the inspector. A statement was published through the length and breadth of Ireland as regards the skimming of the milk and the ill-treatment of the patients, and that is sufficient justification. I know there is a certain feeling in the Local Government Department against public men. I for one, never got a fair trial in that Department, and it has not changed under the new Minister.

That is a bad charge.

It is no new charge. Because certain public men took up a certain stand a decision was given against them. Is the Minister prepared to take the opinion of 90 per cent. of the people on this matter? Is the prepared to have a new inquiry, is he prepared to send down any lawyer or is he prepared to take what appeared in the local Press, in which can be found a verbatim report of the proceedings? Is he prepared to take the views of public men or is he prepared to ignore his own regulations, according to which nurses cannot absent themselves from hospitals without his consent or the consent of the board of health? The board of health was not aware that there were two half days in the week, two hours off every day, and a week end every third week. The board had no knowledge of that. It was a law made by themselves. I submit that as they changed the hours without the consent or the approval of the board that there was negligence, and that the nurses were out at a time that children were dying. It was proved to the inspector that the wardsmaids were not only cooking food but attending to the patients and supplying them with food.

If the Minister looks at the regulations from No. 7 to No. 14 he will find that that is contrary to regulations. A nurse must be present when food is being administered to any patients in a ward. There was evidence that no nurses were in the ward for hours, and that the wardsmaids had to get the children back to bed. Because the children cried they were beaten and brought to the black hole. No matter what white-washing there may be by the Minister, no matter what case he may make, I am bringing this forward because I have reason to believe that similar cases are happening in other hospitals in the country. If this does nothing else it will show people in charge of the hospitals that although the Department may save and protect them the public will not. You cannot force children, no matter how poor the parents, to go into fever hospitals. What parents are going to send children there when they know the treatment that certain children receive? They are not going to take the risk. It has been suggested that wardsmaids who were telling the truth should be changed to another hospital. That is great encouragement for boards of health or for officials to make statements.

We know that patients in hospitals are afraid to make any complaints about their treatment. I am referring to country hospitals. I am satisfied that either nurses or nuns in hospitals are in complete control. Doctors are only in there for half-an-hour every day, and although legally responsible for the hospitals, they cannot be held accountable for everything that happens during the 24 hours of the day. In this case I certainly say that the doctor did everything humanly possible for the patients during the epidemic. I met him at late hours at night coming from the hospital, but his work was nullified when the children did not receive the attention he ordered. For that reason I am moving that the Estimate be reduced by £100. I may not get any satisfaction from the Department. I never did. I do not expect it now. I will take every opportunity both here and elsewhere to expose what is going on. The nurses could mention before the inquiry that they had their friends from Cavan down as far as Wexford, and that no matter what would be done they would be all right. That came true and the poor man lost his children. It was said that skim milk was good enough for children suffering from diphtheria. Will the Minister say if skim milk is good enough for children? Let him get away from the nonsense, and say if skim milk should be given to children suffering from diphtheria. Let him get away from the humbug, and the circulars sent to public bodies. I heard Deputy Dillon mention that pigs and cattle fed on skim milk were liable to fever. I wonder how the Minister would reconcile the new theory and the new treatment for diphtheria patients with the statement that skim milk does not do them any harm. I hope doctors will not take the advice of the Local Government Department, and will not give skim milk to their patients. Knowing the Department's new treatment for fever patients, I hope public bodies will not follow the policy of giving skim milk instead of tubercle tested milk to poor children.

I hope public bodies will not adopt the new theory of curing diphtheria or fever patients, because Deputy Dillon pointed out that cattle fed on skim milk can develop tuberculosis. In this case the Minister agreed that while the rich fats were taken out of the milk-and the analyst's report was there to prove it was deficient in fats—yet it did not do the children any harm, simply because they did not object to it. We are supposed to be living in an enlightened age. Does the Minister think that poor children can distinguish the difference between skim milk and good wholesome milk? Patients, even in some of the Dublin hospitals, are very loth to make complaints because they know that if they do make a complaint they may be ordered out.

He said that there were no complaints from patients. No complaints from children of 12 to 14 years of age! They did not complain of the milk they were receiving! That is made the excuse for finding, as he said in this report, that the children did not make a complaint. Secondly, he said that, if the milk was skimmed, it was only lying there two hours. There was no evidence of that. The evidence was that the milk that came in the previous evening had been used to make rice pudding and that the milk that came in the morning had been used by the nurses. Now, the board of health pay these nurses a very good salary. They do not supply them with rations but give them an allowance in lieu of rations. We can show that there was no evidence that the nurses purchased milk for themselves, apart from the case of one nurse who said she purchased half a pint. Well, Deputies here know that that amount would not go very far with one individual. Notwithstanding all this evidence we have it stated in the doctor's report that there was no grave neglect. I am putting it to the Minister that it was simply because poor men's children were concerned, he did not think it serious and that he did not think there was any grave neglect on the part of the nurses. If it were some wealthy person that happened to be a patient in the hospital, I suppose the neglect would be considered very grave but when it is the case of a poor man, who had not the privilege of having a lawyer to represent him, it is not considered grave.

I say if no case other than this were submitted here it is a case of which the Department should be ashamed. If the Minister wants to right the wrong, let him send down an independent inspector, free from any influence. Let him take the views, as I said, of 90 per cent. of the people as to what was going on in that particular hospital. He will not be troubled with inquiries any more, but we shall expose publicly, even within the next month, certain abuses that continue to exist, without asking the Minister to do anything. We shall expose what is going on in the very county to which I have referred notwithstanding the fact that there are people there who can say: "We need not worry. The Minister is at our back." You are encouraging them by that attitude, but there is a limit to public endurance. The Minister will be surprised within the next month at certain things that will come up publicly at the next meeting of the board of health. He will be sorry that he put his name to such a document. "No grave neglect!" No grave neglect to beat young children! No grave neglect to walk them 100 yards on a cold cement floor! No grave neglect to give them skimmed milk and no grave neglect to have all the nurses except one absent when the children were dying! These are not grave charges in the eyes of a Department that has cost the country so much, this Department to which we look for fair play and to which the public looks for justice if the doctors and nurses in their service do not give them satisfaction. What hope can we have in future of justice in its administration?

I supported the demand for this inquiry, believing, even at the eleventh hour, the Department might do justice, but never again shall I worry about an inquiry. Were it not that life was at stake and that the children of the poor were affected one could afford to smile at the result of this inquiry, and at the clever way in which the inspector condemns three people who gave evidence and accepts the statements of the two guilty parties. Later on the aggrieved parents will take such proceedings as the law allows them and will expose the hypocrisy of the Department. There will be no wire-pulling from Cavan to Wexford in these cases, and although the man lost his children, I believe he will compel those responsible to compensate him for that loss in spite of the whitewashing report which the Department has submitted. I have brought forward these cases here, not because I believe that I am going to get any satisfaction, but for the reason that I believe it may prevent a recurrence of similar conduct in other parts of the country. It may draw attention to what is happening in other parts of the country. I am in possession of certain facts as to what is happening in other parts of the country from letters that I have received as the result of the action we have taken in this matter. The Department's inspectors, instead of investigating such minor matters as the putting of a latch on a door, should look into these things and we would then get more satisfaction than we are receiving at the present time. I move that the Estimate be reduced by £100.

It is almost impossible in discussing the Vote for Local Government to avoid repetition. That is due to many causes, the chief being that, of course, conditions are similar in many areas, and it naturally follows that the various Deputies representing these areas like to make themselves vocal on the consideration of this Vote. I do not propose to go over any of the grounds covered already except to say that if the charges made by Deputy Everett are true—I have no reason to doubt the truth of his statements, because I regard Deputy Everett as a very serious-minded man who takes a deep interest in everything concerning local government—I would suggest to the Minister that an exhaustive inquiry is certainly needed. If this statement reaches the public Press, as some of it is bound to do, it will cause a good deal of uneasiness amongst the general public and particularly amongst the working-class poor and others who are compelled by economic circumstances to seek the assistance of the hospitals under the control of the boards of health.

I pass from that to a matter which I believe I am about to raise for the third or fourth time. So far, I have received no satisfaction nor, for that matter, have the persons for whom I speak received any reply which would satisfy them that the Minister intends to rectify what I consider to be a very grave injustice and a very grave hardship inflicted on one of the most deserving sections of the community. I refer to the working-class people who, by weekly contributions of relatively small sums, provide for themselves in their declining days a superannuation allowance which is paid weekly. It must be within the knowledge of the Minister, because I have had occasion to draw his attention twice or thrice to it already, and his attention has been also drawn to it by such bodies as the Dublin Trades-Council and bodies of a similar character, that these working men who contribute weekly for the purpose of securing a superannuation allowance are deprived of their full old age pensions. Take the case of a working man who has been contributing 5d. or 6d. a week to a superannuation fund. On reaching the age of 70 he may be entitled to receive the sum of 15/- a week by way of superannuation. All that he will get by way of old age pension from the State is 1/- per week, the reason being that the amount of his superannuation is taken into account when calculating the means test. There must be thousands of men in that position in the country, men who during their lives have been engaged by industrial concerns, by banks or on the railways, or by other bodies with contributory pension schemes. If their superannuation amounts to, say, 11/- per week, all that they receive by way of old age pension from the State is 5/- instead of the full 10/- per week because of the application of the means test which, in passing, I may say does not apply to such people either in England or in Northern Ireland. In both these countries pensions are given at a younger age than they are here, and in some cases men and women can continue in employment and still draw the old age pension. That, of course, is not the case here.

Is not that governed by legislation?

I am urging that the Minister should consider the position of people who, during their lives, have been contributing to a superannuation scheme. I submit to the Minister that they should be entitled on reaching the age of 70 to receive the full amount of the old age pension instead of the 1/-, the 2/- or the 3/- a week which, in most cases, they receive at present due to the application of the means test.

Is not the Minister bound by legislation in that matter?

What I am suggesting is that the Minister should introduce legislation to amend certain provisions in the Old Age Pensions Act.

I think the Deputy should pass from that.

I simply ask that the Minister should take the matter into consideration and have it discussed by the Executive Council. The regulations in operation are certainly not calculated to encourage thrift amongst our people. We frequently read in the newspapers of the efforts of Ministers and their Departments to encourage the promotion of thrift societies, the spread of the savings certificate movement, and so on both amongst the adult population and in the schools. The treatment of old people to which I have referred would certainly not encourage anyone to be thrifty. Therefore, I hope the Minister will do something in the matter.

Reference has been made to the fact that some houses built under schemes which have received Government grants were not up to specification required by the housing Department. It has been my experience that houses, in respect of which grants are payable, are visited frequently during the course of construction by the Department's inspectors, who are extra cautious. That has been my experience in Cork City. I have found that these officials are meticulously careful, and that they have gone so far as to hold up grants in cases where the specification was not being complied with. I think the greatest credit is due to them for doing that. Some cases were referred to this evening of the erection of houses without chimneys and that sort of thing. I am afraid there has been exaggeration as regards some of these cases. I cannot conceive an inspector of the Department passing houses of that kind. I would like to say that my experience of the inspectors in all sections of the Department of Local Government has been that they are not only highly efficient but most courteous. In conclusion, I hope the Minister will consider the suggestion I have made to him in connection with the payment of old age pensions to those in receipt of superannuation allowances.

The Minister in his introductory speech, gave some information regarding the cultivation of allotments. I cannot recollect at the moment the number of people he quoted as having cultivated allotments last year. Having regard to the number of unemployed that, unfortunately, we have in the country, it struck me that the figure given by the Minister was very small. Personally, I am all in favour of an allotment scheme for men who are unemployed. Everything possible should be done to encourage them to cultivate those allotments and to produce some of the food required by themselves and their dependents. Members of public bodies have been circularised by the Department asking them to use whatever influence they have with the unemployed to get them to take advantage of this allotment scheme. But what is the fact? It is that in connection with this scheme we have one Department cutting across and destroying, to a large extent, the efforts made by another Department of State. I have heard people in different parts of the country—I have even heard public men—criticise the unemployed because they have not taken advantage in greater numbers of this particular scheme. I have heard it loosely thrown about that these fellows must be worthless, that they were too lazy to work, and that even when they were provided with free ground, free seeds and with implements to till the ground they were not prepared to produce vegetables for themselves. What was the reason for that? It was this: that when an unemployed man in receipt of unemployment assistance proceeded to cultivate a plot and to take advantage of this scheme, the Department of Industry and Commerce began to operate, and the man's claim for assistance was suspended for investigation until the officials of that Department were able to ascertain the value of the crop which he had produced so that it could be added to his means, and thereby reduce the amount of unemployment assistance that he was to get. I cannot conceive a greater piece of crass stupidity than that—one Department of State cutting completely across another Department which was engaged in doing a very useful work. I should like if the Minister for Local Government and Public Health would have a chat with his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, regarding that matter.

The other matter to which I want to refer is perhaps an even more important one; it is one which affects the whole country. We have heard a great deal of talk during the debate on this Estimate about public health and about the necessity for good housing. We have had praise of the Minister and his Department for their efforts to provide houses in this country. But there is a matter which, in my opinion, is just as important, and without dealing with it you are going only a part of the way towards solving the problem, and that is the position of a great number of large and small towns in this country so far as sewerage is concerned. I do not know whether there has ever been a proper survey of what I might call the sewerage position in this country. I do not know whether the Department is in a position to put its finger on a particular town and say: "There is a sewerage system there which covers the whole town or covers part of the town," or to say to what extent, if any, the sewerage there is effective. I do know that there are towns in this country with a population of 5,000, 6,000, and even in some cases 7,000, where the sewerage scheme, so far as it exists at all, is a very primitive one. There are towns where, so far as there is a sewerage system at all, it is only in existence in what would be called the principal streets of the town.

I want to suggest to the Minister that a great deal of the money which his Department is spending on trying to fight fever, tuberculosis and other diseases, is waste money so long as there is this want of sewerage. I am suggesting that the problem should be tackled in a big way. I suggest that there ought to be a survey of the principal towns in this country and of the districts where there is a population of any great size. The Department ought to see what the problem is, how that problem ought to be tackled, how much it is likely to cost, and how soon it can be solved. Incidentally, apart from the good work which would be done in that way, it would provide a lot of very useful employment. The same may be said, though perhaps to a lesser extent, regarding housing schemes. I realise as well as anybody that the Department of Local Government is a fairly hard-pressed Department; that there is a lot of work on their shoulders, and that they are working perhaps harder than they ever did before, and for longer hours, but I do suggest that a great deal of their work will not be as fully effective as it should be unless there is, side by side with the provision of housing, waterworks and so on, a comprehensive sewerage scheme for the towns throughout the country. There are Deputies in the House who know quite as well as I do, some of them perhaps better, that that is the position.

There is also another matter which I should like to bring to the Minister's notice, and ask him if he would concern himself with it with a view to impressing upon the public bodies concerned the necessity of providing proper fire-fighting appliances, fire-engines, fire-hoses and so on, in small and large towns. Again, those of us who are in a position to know something of the provincial towns and villages know quite well that unfortunately it is only in very few of them that you have effective fire-fighting machinery, and that in many of them where they have a good type of engine the hydrants are too far apart. Very often they have not a sufficient length of hose to make the engine fully effective when a fire occurs. I do not think there is really any reason why any public authority in this country should be without an effective fire-engine and whatever lengths of hose are required to fight any fire that may occur. I understand that one of the things which deter the local authorities from purchasing fire-engines is that there is a fairly high duty put on by the Department of Industry and Commerce. I am not quite sure if that is so, but I have been so informed. If that is the position, and if there are any such restrictions in the way of the local authorities possessing themselves of whatever fire-fighting appliances they may require, then those restrictions ought to be removed as soon as possible.

The rents of new houses have been referred to. Everybody will admit, I think, that the grants given towards the building of new houses were very substantial indeed. I am speaking particularly now of houses built under slum clearance schemes. But there is the problem, and I am afraid it will be a growing one, of collecting the rents which have been fixed for those new houses. I know that, having regard to the cost of the houses, the rents are probably as reasonable as they can be made, but we are faced with the fact that the majority of the people who have to be put into possession of those houses are either unemployed and in receipt of unemployment assistance, or in many cases people who are getting home assistance, and would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to find even the rents which have been fixed by the local authorities. I must confess that I do not know how the Minister can meet the situation, because unfortunately I cannot see any hope of the occupants of those houses being put into sufficiently remunerative employment to enable them to pay those rents, so long as the people on the opposite side remain there. It seems to me that the only way in which you can put those tenants into a position to meet the rents of those houses, is to put them into employment and give them wages which will enable them to pay those rents. You cannot expect tenants who are in receipt of home assistance or unemployment assistance to be able to pay 3/-, 4/- or 4/6 per week out of that very modest sum. That is the position, and I am sure the Minister is quite conversant with that position; I am afraid he will become more conversant with it as time goes on.

There is just one other point which I want to mention. I should like to know what is the position in regard to blind pension appeals. There is always a great deal of delay in deciding those appeals. I agree that a certain amount of that delay is unavoidable, because you simply cannot send a medical inspector to every case all over the country as it arises. I understand that what the Department does is to wait until they have a certain number of cases in a particular area or group of areas, and that a medical inspector, who will report on those cases, is then sent out. I do not know if there is a medical inspector detailed for that particular work in the Department at present. I got a number of complaints, and I think someone informed me that there was not a medical man available for that work at the moment. I should like to know if that is so. If it is so, it is a matter that ought to be remedied and remedied without delay. If there is nobody available for that particular work, then a medical man with the necessary qualifications ought to be provided immediately, because it is nearly always a great hardship on those people to be kept out of their pensions for any considerable time. Those are the only points I have to make in connection with this Estimate, but I should like the Minister to look into the question of the plots provided for the unemployed and to tell us whether his Department have under consideration the sewerage question— whether they are putting any machinery into operation to ascertain what is the position and what the cost would be of providing the necessary sewage systems for the different towns, and whether there is a possibility of this work being undertaken.

It is a great thing to be discussing this Estimate this evening and to have, as the solitary occupant of the Opposition Front Bench, a Deputy who was once the Minister for Local Government. There is nobody in this State at the moment who knows more about local government than Deputy Cosgrave, and looking over the notes I took the other evening, when Deputy Brennan moved that the Estimate be referred back, I thought that now, when Deputy Cosgrave was in the House, would be an opportune time to draw his attention to the main reason which Deputy Brennan gave for asking that the Estimate be referred back. The main reason, so far as I could see, was that there were 41 more officials employed in the Department than there were at this time last year. I was looking over the items that might account for the employment of these officials, and, taking them under their different headings, I find it very difficult to believe that there is one Deputy who would want this Estimate referred back for that reason. There is an increase under the heading of child welfare of £600; there is an increase under the heading of medical treatment of school children of £800; and there is an increase under the heading of tuberculosis of £4,500.

Surely there is not one of these three headings for which any Deputy on the Opposition Benches would want this Estimate referred back, but, above and beyond all other things, the main feature that accounts for the increase in the Estimate is the item of £736,000 under the heading of housing. Last year it was £650,000 and this year it is £736,000, an increase of £86,000. I cannot understand why any Opposition Deputy would want to refer the Estimate back because of that, more particularly when a resolution dealing with housing at the last Ard Fheis of Fine Gael was put on their programme for the next election. I am sure Deputy Cosgrave was there and, as I have said, he was once Minister for Local Government in the Republican Dáil. Here is the resolution moved at that Ard Fheis. It called for the establishment of a Minister of Housing:—

"charged with the task of providing a sufficiency of suitable and sanitary dwelling for the people, with adequate powers and facilities to borrow money, acquire lands and building, purchase, manufacture and transport materials, train labour, clear insanitary areas, let and sell the houses and transfer them to the local authority, deal with hardships arising out of inequalities in rents charged by local authorities and take all the other requisite steps to ensure that the problem of abolishing slums and insanitary dwellings will be met with the same thoroughness and determination as would a direct threat to the lives of the people."

Can anybody in face of that resolution see the slightest difference between the policy of the present Government as epitomised in this Estimate and that of the Opposition? Here we have a certain amount of money and we are asked by Deputy Brennan to refer back this Estimate; in other words, that it should be repudiated by this House, on the ground that 41 more officials will be employed to administer this Estimate than administered previous Estimates. There is the resolution proposed at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis and there is the leader of Fine Gael at the end of the Opposition Front Bench, a former Minister for Local Government. I would think that before that resolution was submitted to the Ard Fheis it had to get the imprimatur of the leader and yet we have all this time wasted here and I use the word "wasted" advisedly—holding up this Estimate and having endless chat about a thing that should go through with very little discussion.

In the last line of that resolution, there is included the abolition of the slums. Deputy Tom Kelly the other night gave a very lurid and a very vivid picture of the state of affairs in slum dwellings in Dublin, and I should like to know if there was one Deputy who was not moved by the description he gave. Is there one Deputy who could conscientiously go into the Division Lobby and vote against this increase of £86,000 in this Vote in view of the speech delivered here by the chairman of the Housing Committee of the Dublin Corporation? Undoubtedly, there are slums in Dublin and there are slums in other towns, and, as Deputy Flynn and some other Deputies have said, there are slums in the country as well as in the towns. I suggest that one of the best things that we could possibly do at present would be to expedite these Votes, let the money out and get rid of all these blots that are marring and jarring the outlook of the civil life of the country.

Deputy Everett made an onslaught on the Minister for Local Government. Everybody knows perfectly well that in all institutions in the country everything cannot go like clockwork at all times, and I should have thought that one of the best ways of getting these things regulated would have been to make a personal complaint to the Department instead of bringing it up here on an Estimate. I know that Labour has got to do these things; I know they have to make these complaints; and I know that Labour Deputies have, in the main, to do things that possibly other Deputies have not to do; but, taking everything into consideration, I should have thought that the best plan Deputy Everett could have adopted in connection with what occurred in Wicklow would have been to make a personal complaint to the Minister and I should think that the Minister would have seen these things were rectified, and rectified immediately.

Deputy Brennan made a long speech here, and one of the things he found most fault with was that in the erection of houses throughout the country some of the houses that were being put up were not of the very best stuff, and some of the material that was being used in the erection of these houses was not of the very best stuff. The only two instances that he gave, however—and I remember well what he said because I took a note of what he said—were that in two houses rain came in through the roof. I do not know whether he was speaking of his own constituency or some other constituency, but out of all the 30,000 houses that have been erected as a result of the activities of the present Government, only two of them had been fault-finding, and rain came in through the roofs of the two. Surely to goodness, that is a rather flimsy excuse to bring up as to why this Estimate should be referred back? There might be other reasons for all that. It does not matter how much stuff anybody may buy, or what grade or what quantity one may buy, it is quite possible that the larger the quantity the greater the chance there is of having some stuff in which there might be flaws. That, however, is no reason at all why, in the main, the big objective should not be pursued.

Deputy Brennan also mentioned, in connection with this Vote, that it was impossible for people to carry on and pay their way as a result, I think he said, of some grants being withheld under the local government administration. Now, I do not think that that holds water at the moment. I was looking over all the lists of the various counties and reading the lists of the rates and annuities that had been paid. One of the biggest cases that was put up in this Dáil, and that was continually being put up here during the last three or four or five months—and I believe Deputy Holohan was present when the case was being put up—was the case of County Cavan. We were told all about the inability of the farmers there to pay their rates or annuities. Well, as I say, I have been reading the newspapers, and I find from the newspapers that the vast majority of the rates there have been paid and that there is nothing at all tangible outstanding as far as annuities are concerned. All the complaints we heard from Deputy McGovern—I am sorry he is not here—as to the woes from which the people are suffering and all the rest of it, seem, as far as I can see, to be so much hogwash. The rates have all been paid. Cavan has a clear sheet. That particular county has a clear sheet, and yet it was in regard to that county, in the main, that we heard the greatest complaints in the last three or four months.

Let me get back to Labour again. I do not want to be too severe in this thing at all. Deputy Everett made a rather scathing reference to the Minister as regards these complaints in the hospital in Wicklow. I read his speech at the meeting of the Wicklow County Council. It was published in the Sunday Independent of about a fortnight ago. On that occassion, Deputy Everett said—I think it was the chairman of that body who reminded him that he was supporting the Government here in this House—that perhaps that was so, and that he was responsible for making certain people Ministers in this House, but never again. He said that he would never make Ministers of the same type again. Well, now, I have read of Warwick, the King-maker, in England. I read of him in history when I was at school.

That was a long time ago.

Yes, I agree with Deputy Burke that it was a long time ago, but I never read of an Everett, the Minister-maker in Wicklow. I do not think Deputy Everett should have gone just so far as that. As I have said already, it would have been quite an easy matter to report all these things—they are trivial to a certain extent, although they are magnified to a certain extent also by the oratory of Deputy Everett—but it would have been easy to report them, and I believe that if we had a report to the Minister or his officials we would have got satisfaction for whatever happened down there. I hold no brief for anybody who may have been responsible for any misdemeanours that may have occurred in that hospital, but I do suggest that it is not quite the thing for a public man, and particularly a member of this House, to say at a public board meeting: "I have been responsible for making a certain gentleman a Minister, but never again." I think we can discount that to-night and let it go for what it is worth.

It is said, Deputy, that never again comes again.

To come back to the housing question, I should like to refer to the programme of Fine Gael for housing. Deputy Tom Kelly told this House here the other night that there are 18,000 families living in apartments of one room each in the City of Dublin. Now, I think that the present Minister and the present Department of Local Government and Public Health are making valiant efforts to get rid of these slums, and I know that there is not one person in this House that will not help the Minister to try to remedy that evil. If we are to get rid of that evil, however, I cannot see for a moment how the referring back of this Estimate will help us to remedy it. I suppose it is more or less in the way of the generality of politics that Deputy Brennan should have moved that this Estimate be referred back, but I should like to hear Deputy Cosgrave, who is probably as good an authority on the housing problem in Dublin as Deputy Tom Kelly is, tell us his view as to the eradication of the slums in Dublin. I should like to hear Deputy Cosgrave give us his views on this matter before the debate is over. If it is of sufficient importance to put it on the Fine Gael programme for the next election that the slums must be cleared up and that housing is a matter that must be settled, and having come to that conclusion, having put it on their programme, I wonder how one could reconcile that with the fact that Deputy Brennan moves that this Estimate be referred back? The only thing that Deputy Brennan had to rely on was that there were 41 more officials employed in the Department than there were last year. When they want this Vote referred back, do they want the increase in the amount for tuberculosis referred back? Do they want child welfare referred back? Do they want the housing scheme referred back? Is there one item under the various headings in this Estimate about which Deputy Cosgrave could conscientiously get up and say that he would ask that it be referred back for further consideration and that it should not be carried through as speedily and as expeditiously as possible?

Labour, of course, must have their say in all these Estimates. I have to refer to Labour again, you see. The extraordinary part about Labour criticism is that, no matter what this Government does and no matter what portion of its policy we might be putting into effect, Labour always takes advantage of whatever policy, or any portion of our policy, we may be putting into effect at the moment. Whether it is agriculture, whether it is housing, whether it is industry—no matter what it is, they will take advantage of our policy as a whole and then, when the Estimate comes up, we will always get plenty of criticism. It is a kind of ambush, as in the olden days—and they are perfectly entitled to do it—but they are always trying to ambush us at some corner where there might be some little flaw or some little thing that may have occurred during the year when the Minister was administering his Department.

It is a sham battle.

It might be. But no, I do not think it is a sham battle. I do not think so. I think that Deputy Morrissey is wrong, because I have been reading the speeches of the Labour Party all over the country, and I understand that they are going to be the Government after the next general election. Deputy Davin says people are leaving Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in thousands and joining up to the flag of Labour—what that is I do not know —and that they will be the next Government after the general election.

We are on the Local Government Estimate now.

That is all right. He says they will be the next Government after the general election. Of course, it must be true, because——

There is no provision for prophecy in this Estimate.

All right, Sir, there will be another day I hope.

They will have to make a bigger bid than you did.

They may be the next Government after the general election. I suppose it is a good thing to practise for being a Government. At any rate, there is one thing that I did not like in the discussion on this Estimate. When Deputy T. Kelly made his speech the other night, as I said before he gave a very vivid and lurid description of the slums of Dublin. He was followed by Deputy Dillon. Of course, Deputy Dillon is nothing if he is not a politician. He calls me a politician, and says I play the tricks of a politician. Deputy Dillon paid a tribute to Deputy Kelly for the magnificent speech he made in describing the slums of Dublin, and he followed that up as a kind of corollary—I do not know whether to Deputy Kelly's speech or his own speech—by saying that we were feeling our consciences being stricken by our votes in this Dáil in giving away money that could have rectified these wrongs. He said: "You have given away £17,000,000 in a futile economic war with which, if you kept it at home, you could have abolished the slums." Sitting beside him was the leader of the Opposition who gave away £45,000,000 in the previous ten years, and it never struck Deputy Dillon even to inquire why that was done. This is one of the main reasons why I should like to hear Deputy Cosgrave. He was Minister for Local Government in the first Dáil ever set up in this country, who took on the task of housing and of the ameliorative measures which should have helped the poor in this country, and I should like to hear him on that.

The Deputy would not be in order, as this Estimate only deals with one year.

Deputy Dillon suggested that money which we gave away last year could have been saved in order to do away with the Dublin slums, and if Deputy Dillon can go back for one year, surely I can go back for ten years. That is why I am anxious to hear Deputy Cosgrave.

It was not my intention to intervene in the debate at all, but the Deputy, who is particularly courteous, has asked for ‘some observations from me on this Estimate. May I direct his attention to the Estimate? On pages 147, 148 and 149 various grants are given which are distributed by the Department of Local Government. The Deputy will find that, with the exception of the amount for housing, the sums of money proposed to be distributed this year are practically the same as last year. But the Deputy will observe that there is an increase of 41 in the number of officials employed this year over last year. Deputies on this side have a right to ask for what reason these additional 41 officials were engaged. Was it to distribute an extra sum of £100,000 in connection with housing? Surely not. It is as easy to write down £200,000 as £100,000. Surely it was not necessary to employ 41 officials to send out cheques in connection with the distribution of that money? The Deputy might have asked the Minister, in the quiet manner which he advised Deputy Everett to adopt, what was the reason for an increase of 10 per cent. in the number of persons employed?

If the Deputy read the newspapers during the last 12 months he would have seen that there was a dispute between one of the members of the Housing Board and the Minister. It did not partake of the character of the interview that the Deputy recommended Deputy Everett to have with the Minister. Remember, there is a difference between them. One of the members of the Housing Board was drawing a salary from this State of £500 a year, I think. He could not resolve his difficulties with the Minister without approaching the newspapers, and ultimately having an inquiry. Therefore, the Deputy's suggestion to Deputy Everett, as far as I can see, goes by the board. It is possible, I admit, but it is not probable.

The Deputy asked for my observations in connection with housing and I will give them to him. During the last 12 months this State floated a conversion loan at £4 per cent.—a higher rate of interest than was paid in Great Britain for money during the last few years. In fact, if the Deputy looks up the British returns, I think he will find that they have actually borrowed a sum of over £200,000,000 at £2 10s. per cent. The Deputy, if he has studied the housing question, will know that the price of money is a vital consideration in connection with that problem. One cannot expect a public body like the Dublin Corporation to have better credit than that of the State. Apparently, they thought that themselves, because they negotiated a fairly successful loan recently at £98, paying £4 per cent. for the money. The Deputy will appreciate that there is a loss of £2 per cent. there. The Dublin Corporation are asked to pay a far higher sum for money than is paid in Great Britain by local authorities for municipal purposes.

Will the Deputy ask himself what is the reason for the State here paying £4 per cent. for money? There is a very good reason for it. The credit of this State, taking the Minister's own valuation of it, is not high, and in order to make up for the drawback in that respect, he has to offer a higher price. What was it that gave rise to the feeling of uneasiness on the part of investors? A few years ago we were on a level with Great Britain. At a matter of fact, for a period our National loan stood at a higher price in the market than the War loan in Great Britain. If municipalities like the Corporation of Dublin or the Corporations of Cork, Limerick, or any of the other boroughs, are expected to provide houses for the people while paying this big price for money, are we not putting upon them a burden that is beyond their capacity to bear?

Deputy Morrissey has mentioned that, notwithstanding the big contributions that have been made by the State towards the cost of housing, nevertheless houses have had to be let at a price beyond the capacity of the people to pay. I believe Deputy Kelly mentioned that in one case recently in the City of Dublin where they had 500 houses just completed and were considering applications, something like 200 of them had to be given to people in occupation of houses at rents that they were unable to pay.

I submit that the price of money is a vital consideration in connection with the solution of the housing problem. If we require 16,000 houses for the City of Dublin and if the price for each house is approximately £250—and that is a very low price—what sum of money would require to be borrowed in order to do that? Would it not be in the neighbourhood of £4,000,000? A sum of £4,000,000 added to the indebtedness of a municipality will have its effect ultimately upon the money market here. This Government were in the happy position of entering into office after a period of careful husbanding of the national resources and they are able to borrow—no thanks to them, because the money was there. Money is cheaper now than it was years ago. There is no comparison between the work that was done in housing some years ago and the work that is being done to-day for the reason that money can be borrowed quite easily now in England at 2½ per cent. and under it. It should be possible to borrow money here at a price as good as in Great Britain because our relative creditor position bears a very striking resemblance to that of Great Britain.

What has occasioned this lack of confidence? Many things, and not the least amongst them is the matter referred to by Deputy Dillon, the dispute which is costing us more money than if it were paid voluntarily. Last year it cost us £400,000—I believe £500,000 would be nearer the mark, perhaps £600,000 or £800,000—more than if it were paid voluntarily. It is costing us, in addition to that, further taxes on the people here following up a higher cost to the people of the things they have to buy. If the State wants to get £500,000 it costs the consumer between £600,000 and £750,000 to get it. That is sheer waste of money. Any money that is in excess of what goes into the coffers of the State is waste money which could be usefully employed in balancing accounts in connection with housing. The first matter that the Party and the Minister will have to consider is how to restore the credit of the State to enable municipalities and the State to borrow money at a reasonable price.

Will the Deputy tell us how he accounted for money employed in housing at a time when he was voluntarily giving away a similar amount to that which the British are extracting now by force?

The circumstances were entirely different. In the first place, the State could afford at that time to pay that much money. It cannot afford it now.

Because the price of agricultural produce has dropped very considerably. If the Deputy will take the trouble of looking it up, he will find in one publication of the Currency Commission the index prices for agricultural produce over the last few years. He will find—I am speaking from recollection now—they were somewhere from 110 per cent. to 120 per cent. in 1931-32, and for the ten months of last year they were down to 81.6. In other words, the farmer who could get for a given quantity of cattle, sheep, pigs and horses £100 in 1914, could get from £100 to £120 in 1931-32, and now he is down to £81 for the period January, 1935, to October, 1935. There is a different situation. There is an international dispute and that affects your credit very considerably.

How does it affect our housing programme?

It affects it to this extent, that the State has paid £4 per cent. per annum for money which can be borrowed in Great Britain at 1½ per cent. under that price. Reference was made to the price of a house, and I should say that the price would probably be £300 all-in. £300 at 4 per cent. means £12 per annum; at 2½ per cent. it would be £7 10s. per annum, a difference of £4 10/—90/- in the year. The Deputy will appreciate that that is very close to 2/- a week. Will the Deputy appreciate that fact? That is ignored when dealing with this problem. When you require such a large number of houses as 16,000 in the City of Dublin in these days of cheap money it is regrettable that a special effort is not being made to get the advantage of that. Remember that those cycles of cheap money do not often occur. The Deputy is a man, I suppose, under 50 years of age. In 1899 money was cheap. From 1900 to 1914 money ranged about 3 per cent. to 3½ per cent. During the War and up to some six months after there was a change of Government here it went to 5 per cent. and first-class paper money on the London money market commanded approximately 2½ per cent. during the last three or four years compared with 3 to 5 per cent. over the preceding twenty. The cycles of cheap money are much shorter than the cycles of dear money. It is therefore the obvious duty of the Government to do what is possible when money is cheap. It is no use trying to do it if you have to pay 1½ per cent. over the price. Has the Deputy got that point?

That is what was meant when the Deputy was reading out the Fine Gael programme. That is the main consideration. The Deputy referred to allies. His allies have learned something. They have learned of big promises getting big votes, and they may outbid the Deputy at the next election. He will have to go to his constituency and talk big; he will have to say: "If the British get it at 2½ per cent. I will get it at 1½ per cent. if I am returned." There will not be time to ask the Deputy how he will do it until the election is over.

I recollect some few years ago an election taking place in the City of Dublin, and one of the arguments put forward by the Deputy's Party at the time was that so inefficient was the then Government's conduct of office that when the Commissioners took over the City of Dublin the indebtedness was, let us say, £3,000,000. It is now £6,000,000. That was the argument against the Commissioners and against the Government at the time. How did the increase arise? Nobody inquired about that. It arose through the cost of housing and the cost of other productive works in respect of which there was value for money. Let me remind the Deputy that he will have an opportunity of addressing his Party, and when he has he should speak to, them on public morality. He is, perhaps, one of the most courteous members of his Party in the House, and he knows, even though he will not admit it on the public platform, quite a number of the difficulties and complexities that affect the administration, not alone of a single Department of State, but of all Government institutions. He is learning now what he did not realise when he was on this side of the House, that it is one thing to talk while in Opposition, but it is another thing to talk as a member of the Government Party. I have had the privilege of speaking in both capacities, and I spoke much the same language in both positions, very much the same. During the period that I was in office money could not be borrowed cheaper than 5 per cent. Is not the situation very different now? That is not due in any circumstance to anything done by the Government. Quite the other way about. If they had followed the normal course pursued by other countries they could borrow money as well and as cheaply as the British.

At what per cent? Is it at £2 10s. per cent.?

You would not get National Loan at £2 10s., but you would be able to get bills, and perhaps, fairly long-term bills, and that is what the British have got. The Deputy referred to very expensive housing schemes. I find in the Estimate here there is provided a sum of £1,000 per annum for a chairman of the Housing Board, and £500 per annum for each of two other members. I understand one of the members of that board resigned. Has another person been appointed? I would like also to know what business the Housing Board transacts. If one were to take an example mentioned, it does not seem to have any definite function. The Minister had the responsibility for appointing that board, and he appointed three men on it. I do not believe any of them ever built a house, or paid for the building of house. One of the members of the board is an engineer and two are politicians. I do not know that they have any experience of building. One man many be a member of a public board; the other was an employee of a public board. The House is entitled to know what duties these men discharge. There are complaints about the housing construction all over the country. If they have any responsibility in that connection, we ought to hear how they discharge that responsibility. Generally, I think, in view of what I have said, and in view of what the Minister said, and that there is no increase except in one item, some explanation is due to the House as to the big increase in the number of officials.

Deputy Dillon, I think, on one item in connection with this Estimate, said that we gave away £14,000,000.

Deputy Dillon was prevented from pursuing that line and the Deputy will not now be allowed to pursue it any further.

Very well. I shall not pursue it any further.

I wish the Deputy had been allowed to pursue it further.

I join very heartily in the congratulations offered to the Minister, from various parts of the House, in regard to what he was able to tell us about the improvement in public health during the past year. It has all along been shown that there is a steady improvement in the various branches of public health work, more rapid in some than in others. If what I intend to say may appear critical in some respects, I say it in the spirit in which the Minister, early in his statement, remarked that while the state of public health is in a satisfactory condition, still considerable improvement can be affected under skilled medical guidance. In making any remarks upon his statement and what we know of the public health of this country I do so in no hostile spirit as to the work carried out by the Minister and his Department. I believe they are thoroughly and sincerely going ahead with very hard work on behalf of public health. It is in the hope of drawing the attention of the House to certain points in the Minister's speech that I make these observations.

In the first instance I cannot but comment on the difficulty in which the House finds itself in considering the Minister's Estimate in not having fresh official information as to the work of his Department. It was only last December that the annual report for the year 1933-34 was laid on the Table of the House. That was a delay of more than 18 months. Now nearly two years has elapsed, that is an additional six months from the time the report was prepared to its being laid on the Table. Twenty-five or 30 years ago the then Local Government Board was able to produce its report five or six months after the close of each year. I do not believe the present delay in giving this stale information is due to any slackness in the Minister's Department, but it is important to know whether it is due to some lack in the number of persons available to do the work. I am quite sure the officials of the Minister's Department are anxious to put their information before the public at the earliest possible moment. Is it due to the under-manning of the Minister's Department in view of the increased work? I noticed in the last Report of the Department that various activities, which to the mind of the Minister would be desirable for his Department to undertake, had to be omitted because of the shortage in his inspectorial staff at the time. I do not know whether that shortage still exists.

Speaking of the inspectorial staff, I should like to suggest to the Minister that, at the present moment, to secure men with proper qualifications for responsible duties the attractions offered are not sufficient. The salaries are small, and what is much more important than salary is the fact that the pension rights are almost negligible. A candidate for a medical inspectorship for the Minister's Department would not be a suitable candidate until he had served several years in his profession. The consequence is that such a man enters the public service late in life as compared with his lay colleague. His pension is calculated arithmetically, on his number of years service; so that a professional man who enters the medical service of the Department at 40 or 45 years of age—and he is not likely to enter it much earlier, if he is to possess himself of the requisite experience— gets a pension very much smaller than that of his lay colleague who entered the service earlier. I do not know whether there is sufficient staff in the Department at the moment, but I am inclined to expect that because there is not sufficient staff some of the work is delayed. Where the conditions of service have any bearing on the delay I speak of, I urge the Minister, in the interest of the public service, that the conditions as to salary and pension of the inspectorial staff should be improved.

I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again after Item No. 7 is disposed of.