I shall deal with that in a moment. Deputy Sheldon's amendment, and the suggestion which has been made by Deputy de Valera, apparently emanate from a concern for the position of the property owner. In fact, I think Deputy de Valera used the phrase "the unfortunate property owner". I know that at the present moment in the City of Dublin there are many people who are drawing a net four figure income out of one house, the total outgoings upon which do not amount to perhaps more than £200 a year. I do not think there is anything very unfortunate in that position, and I do not think that we are imposing any undue hardship on such persons. At least we are imposing no greater hardship on them than we impose on the 130,000 or 140,000 individuals who have to apply for a wireless licence every year and pay for it. I do not know how many publicans there are in this city, but there are some thousands who have to apply for wine, spirit and beer licences every year and pay very substantially for them. Nor do we inflict any undue hardship on those who hold a tobacco licence, an entertainment licence, a hackney licence or even an ordinary private vehicle licence. They all have to apply every year and they all have to pay substantial sums to secure them. Probably not more than a few of those who apply for a taxi licence, a tobacco dealer's licence or a hackney licence, draw as substantial an income as the majority of property owners draw from the property which they possess in the City of Dublin.
I think that we should not adopt these sections at all unless we are prepared to make them, to some extent, a reality. One of the first things which we ought to do to ensure a periodic inspection is to ensure by statute that the position of these premises will be brought periodically under the notice of the municipal authorities. When we have taken that first step, we can in the ordinary course of supervision by the municipal administration, endeavour to ensure that the premises are adequately inspected periodically. That is primarily the responsibility of the municipal authority, and it is the municipality which has asked and pressed for this and has been endeavouring to get it since 1890.
Remember, there is a very long history behind these sections to which I did not think it necessary to refer while discussing Section 11 or to deal with on the Second Stage of the Bill. We must remember that the first endeavour to secure a system of control over the Dublin tenements was introduced in 1890. In 1906, and subsequently in 1914, attempts were made to tighten up the system of nominal control then instituted. Private Bills have been promoted to try to do that. A commission was set up to inquire into the housing of the working classes in Dublin in 1914 and recommended that some such system as this should be introduced. Our own Commission of Inquiry, which was set up in 1939 and which sat until 1943, made a similar recommendation, and it is as a result of the consideration of these recommendations and the whole history of the matter that we put these proposals into the Bill. On every occasion on which it was endeavoured to make them effective the same criticism as we had to-night in regard to red tape and the hardship on property owners was raised.
I am afraid that we have lost sight of the major problem that we have here in this city, that is, that so many families are living in one room in tenements and that a state of affairs is developing which, if it were left unchecked and uncontrolled, would create tenements in residental districts now regarded as very desirable. For one reason or another, but particularly for the reason that a large number of houses, without the knowledge of the corporation, have been converted into what are euphemistically described as flats, these highly desirable residential areas are now speedily deteriorating until they are only one or two stages removed from ordinary tenements and ordinary slums. That is the problem, and let us face up to it and let us not be unduly concerned with the hardship which is going to be imposed.
Naturally, if the provisions are going to be made effective, machinery will have to be set up under the Corporation of the City of Dublin and the other municipalities concerned, in order to ensure the effective operation of these provisions. We probably will have to recruit a number of inspectors and we will certainly have to set up a register and employ a staff to maintain that register and, if we are going to make the provision a reality, we will have to provide for the periodic inspection of premises. But the cost of that is surely not going to deter us from adopting the provisions if we think that the circumstances of the present-day warrant them. The cost, in any case, is not going to be very heavy.
There are about 6,000 tenemented houses in the City of Dublin. I do not know how many inspectors would be required, but I assume that one inspector could deal with perhaps ten such houses in a day and two or, at most, three inspectors would be able to inspect all the tenemented houses at least once a year. We may assume that they would get £500 or £600 a year. That would be £1,800 roughly, and allowing another £600 or £700 for clerical and other administrative expenses, the whole thing would cost less than £2,500 in a year, that is, less than a farthing in the £ on the rates of the City of Dublin in order to check the abuses already existing and to prevent them from being aggravated and increased.
As I have said, I think that, first of all, from the point of view of the owner himself, it would be much better that he should know that permission had been given to him for a definite period and that he should know that before that permission was renewed his property would probably be inspected. The onus should be put on him, as it is on every other licence holder in the State, to apply to the corporation for permission to continue to utilise his property in a tenemented way. I do not see any great objection to that, but I will say that, if it is going to satisfy those who think that the permission should be given for a period longer than 12 months, I am prepared to consider the proposal made by Deputy O'Connor. It seems to go a long way to meet any criticisms which have been made and gives the property owner a longer period than 12 months if his property, when he applies for permission, is in such a condition that the corporation would be warranted in assuming that the property would not deteriorate too far over a longer period than 12 months.
On the other hand, if the property, at the time when the permission is granted, is not in such condition, it would be desirable that the permission should be given only for a comparatively short period, sufficient to enable the owner to carry out the reconstruction necessary to put the house in a fit condition to be occupied by more than one family. I am not so certain, however, as Deputy O'Connor is, that the three-year period proposed would not be excessive. However, if it would, on the whole, meet the point of view of those who have criticisms of this kind to offer, I would be prepared to accept three years as the maximum period during which permission may be given by the housing authorities.