Committee on Finance. - Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1952—Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I was referring last night to the question of Gaeltacht housing and this proposed arrangement, and I asked the Minister to consider the question of making these grants retrospective to August, 1950.

The reason why I did that was because representations were made to us over the past few years by people in the Gaeltacht districts who applied for a reconstruction grant asking us to arrange that the local authority would give them a grant as in the case of people who had erected houses under public utility schemes and under the direction of the Department. I submit there is a good case to be made for the applicants in the Gaeltacht districts who, because the legislation was not amended, were deprived of the concessions enjoyed by their neighbours in other districts. Whilst I am sure that the people of the country, and particularly the people in the Gaeltacht districts, will appreciate the Minister's action in making it possible for the local authorities to give grants now to people in Gaeltacht districts, I appeal to him, if at all possible, to make that provision retrospective to applicants who applied as from August, 1950, and were turned down.

I want to deal now with the grants under local authority housing schemes which were applied for before April last. The applications are being dealt with under Sections 9, 10 and 11 of this Bill. If it is at all possible I ask the Minister to allow the people who got the first instalment before 1st April of this year to qualify. As I understand the section in this Bill only those people who did not get the first instalment until after April will qualify. I submit that that can be a great hardship. The Kerry County Council had their own housing scheme and advertised for applicants under that scheme. They received hundreds of applications. Now it would appear that most of those people, particularly those who received the first instalment before April, will be ruled out under this arrangement. The Minister could allow the word "notified" to stand because the notification would not usually be forwarded within the prescribed period. I hope that that matter will be rectified before this measure becomes law.

The increase in the maximum of the reconstruction grants has been referred to by other speakers in this debate. In congested districts and especially on the mountain side you will usually find the small three-roomed house. A sum of £80 is allowed for the reconstruction of that type of house. I appeal to the Minister to increase that sum to £100 in the case of the three-roomed house as in the case of a four-roomed house. There is a very good case to be made for that increase.

A big improvement in the Bill is the provision reducing the period of 15 years to ten years between the provision of the first and second reconstruction grants, though it applies only to thatched houses. I urge the Minister to broaden that provision so as to bring in people who live in the Gaeltacht and in the congested districts and whose houses have what we call locally a "galvanised roof". There are not many such houses, but there are a few, and I think that they should be given the same concession in regard to the ten-year period as is given in respect of thatched houses in those districts.

I want to refer now to county council schemes. We were anxious to avail of that type of scheme because it provided for the workers and the small farmers in our county. The scheme which the Kerry County Council adopted was a very good scheme, but if this new arrangement will cut across it now it will mean. I think, that we shall have 1,200 applicants. These people will have to be segregated and dealt with under Sections 9, 10 and 11, with different gradings and different valuation. But we had already more or less done the same thing. I submit that there is a possibility that most of these people would be ruled out in that area. Again, I would ask the Minister to see if it is not possible to have the people receive the first instalment before April. That in itself would cater for a large number of the applicants referred to.

Deputy Crotty tried last night to make the case that this Bill was detrimental to the people generally and that it was no improvement. In reply, I claimed that it was a vast improvement and that the people throughout the country appreciate it and realise that it is a big improvement. For the first time in the history of this country local authorities are enabled to give housing grants to people in Gaeltacht districts. The Minister is to be congratulated on the manner in which that was handled because for years and years we had been asking the last Government to get the Ministers for Lands and Local Government to agree so that local authorities could get those grants. We were informed that it would entail legislation and some arrangements by both Departments, but in this measure the Minister has taken steps to meet our requirements.

In conclusion, I should like to express my appreciation to the Minister. All parties in Kerry, anyway, irrespective of politics, paid tribute to the arrangement which is now being put forward by the Minister. I hope the Minister will consider the points I have put forward when making his final arrangement.

In connection with the grant of £50 for water supply and sewerage, I would like to ask the Minister whether it will dovetail into the grant that is already in existence in the Department of Agriculture for the supply of water to houses in rural areas? Will a person availing of this grant be excluded from applying to the Department of Agriculture for a similar grant for a supply of water to his house?

I want to welcome this Bill and to congratulate the Minister for making these generous provisions. I have listened very carefully to the speeches made during this debate. In my opinion, many of the speeches made by representatives of local public bodies here would have been much more appropriate in the local bodies which they represent.

Yesterday, there were complaints from Cork Deputies above all objecting to the local public bodies, whether in Cork City or County, giving grants to institutions for the erection of houses for their employees. Reference was made to the banks applying to the local authority for the grant of £400. I think any local public body would be well advised to meet not only the bank institutions but all other large industrial institutions as well if they undertake to provide the houses for the people.

I am of the opinion that the Minister was quite right in insisting upon those people having their rights even though they are in bank institutions because we must remember that the employees of the banks are citizens just as we are and are equally entitled to their rights.

Cork Deputies do not object to that.

It would be of considerable advantage to local authorities. If such institutions provide homes for their own employees there should be no objection. We, as a matter of fact, 18 months ago, offered a certain industry sites at a rent of £2 per year and were prepared to advance £400 per house and rightly so because, in the long run, there will be a considerable saving to local public bodies if those arrangements can be entered into with those people. I congratulate the Minister upon insisting that those people have rights. Every employee of a bank is a working man and is entitled to those rights just as a builder's labourer is entitled to them.

We did not object to that.

There have been objections.

Not by us.

By Cork Deputies.

One individual.

There have been complaints about the difficulties experienced by agricultural labourers and rural workers being enabled to secure their own homes. Any citizen of this State who owns a piece of property upon which a house could be built is entitled to all the grants available, and no one can deny him them. I think that the Minister was wise in introducing this Bill and making the amendments.

There is one matter to which I feel I must reply—a matter which brings us back to the action of the Minister for Finance in 1948, when he raised the loan charges from 2½ per cent. to 3¼ per cent., thereby putting no less than 15/-per £100 of an impost upon every blackcoat worker who endeavoured to provide his own home. During the term of office of the Coalition Government in not one single case did a Labour Deputy, a Cumann na nGael Deputy, a Clann na Poblachta Deputy or any other Deputy in this House protest against that impost.

Oh, Deputy.

If the Government makes available 2½ per cent. for the benefit of the people whom it is our duty to house there is no reason why that should not have been continued, but what do we find? We find £9 15s. per year of an additional impost on the blackcoat worker who endeavours to provide his own home. That is hardly the way to encourage a young man about to marry and settle down and provide his own home. That is not for one year. That will continue for the next 35 years. These are some of the things which people should keep before their minds.

When any young man or woman decides to marry, settle down and provide a home, it is the duty of the public body who is responsible to provide not only the money but the ground upon which they should have an opportunity to build the home.

It is very refreshing to hear that.

We have done that consistently since 1932 and we can claim to-day that, in proportion to our population and our rateable valuation, we have housed more people under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act than any other public body in the State, including the City of Dublin. I think if public bodies generally would knuckle down to the job of providing houses there would be less complaints. A great deal of the delay can be attributed to the local representatives themselves. The law is there. All we have to do is to avail of it and make sufficient provision to give every citizen who wants it an opportunity of providing himself with his own home. I congratulate the Minister and the House on the reception that has been given to this Bill. I hope that greater results will accrue from it than have accrued from similar Bills in the past.

The housing problem is a national problem and it is desirable that we should discuss it apart altogether from politics. I am glad that the Minister has introduced this Bill. To a large extent it is a continuation of the 1950 Act. I am glad that he has increased the floor area in relation to reconstruction grants. I am glad he has increased the grant. Many of the older farmhouses in the country have a very large floor space and it is only right that they should qualify under the new ceiling provided in this measure.

I am glad the Minister has continued the system of free grants by local authorities. I think more co-operation is desirable in this matter as between the Department and local authorities, with a view to speeding up the payment of these grants. Where partial payment is made, the local authority should be notified of that fact. In County Kerry people make representations to the local authorities in relation to the hold up in the payment of the grants, and the only reply we can give them is that we have received no notification from the Department. I think that immediately sanction is given for either a partial grant or the complete grant the local authority should be notified of that fact. That would enable the local authority to give the applicants money they badly need to pay debts they have incurred either with the contractors or the merchants from whom they secured their materials.

The biggest problem in relation to housing is the question of finance. I think the problem should be solved by the flotation of a national loan. We all know that the rents people are asked to pay to-day are beyond the capacity of most of them. In Tralee rents run as high as 28/- per week for a four-roomed house and 34/8 for a five-roomed house. These houses were built in order to clear slum areas. It is not unusual in these new building sites to find in one house a tenant who holds a very high position in the town while his next-door neighbour may be a carpenter or an ordinary labourer. I think that is a matter that would need to be examined. A loan should be floated to assist local authorities to build houses which could be let at reasonable rents. If people have to pay these high rents to which I have referred, it means that we are, to some extent, depriving them of their daily food or some other amenities. Money may be set aside for provisions during the week, but when the rent collector calls on Monday morning the rent must be paid or the tenant must get out.

There is too great a delay between the Department and local authorities in relation to the sanctioning of sites, of schemes and the approval of tenders. The Department is too slow. I think there should be some person in the Department who would go down and discuss the problem with local authorities. At the moment, there is some difference of opinion in relation to the construction of roads as to whether they are to be of tarmacadam or concrete. I think there should be an inspector who would go down and discuss matters like that and thereby obviate the delay that takes place between the Department and the local authorities. With relation to direct labour schemes, some difficulty has arisen in County Kerry in relation to the laying of sewerage and water to a scheme that is almost completed. The houses will be ready for occupation within the next month or two. When the engineering staff of the local authority was asked to lay the sewerage and water they said they could not do it. It was a matter for the contractor who did the job.

Surely the Deputy is discussing administration now?

This is a matter that concerns the Department.

This is a piece of new legislation. The Deputy is discussing departmental delay and the holding up of a particular scheme.

I am discussing the completion of a housing scheme as quickly as possible.

The Deputy is discussing administration under a previous Act. I allowed him to carry on for quite a time, but he is now discussing a particular case. He can raise the matter on the Estimate.

The delay in the Department is altogether too long. When the county council asked the contractors to do the job on a piece and time basis the Department would not sanction the figures. We then decided to do it by direct labour. It was again turned down by the Department.

That is still administration.

In conclusion, I hope there will in future be better co-operation between the Department and the local authorities in relation to the grants, and that when either the partial or the complete grant has been sanctioned the Department will notify the local authority so that that body will be in a position to pay the grants to the applicants as quickly as possible.

Mr. O'Higgins

There is one matter that I would like to raise in relation to this Housing Bill. It is a matter only of local importance in my constituency. For some time past in a particular portion of Offaly, the Pullough area, there has been considerable concern by reason of existing regulations concerning housing grants. In this area, where over 1,000 people live in 80 houses, there is considerable need for housing. The local people, traditionally, have built their own houses of a very small type. The reason is that the area is a bog area and only houses of a very small type can be built in it. Now, in the last two or three years, applicants for housing grants in the Pullough area have discovered that the kind of house they desire to build, and the only house which can be built there, is too small and does not comply with the housing regulations. That has meant that the people in this entire area cannot avail of the financial provisions contained in the Housing Acts.

Some time ago I submitted a memorandum to the Department dealing with this problem. While I do not want to discuss administration in relation to the Bill, I do suggest that power should be taken in it to enable the Minister to use his discretion in relation to local problems of this kind. It would be quite possible, in this particular area in Offaly, to devise a special type of house which might not be suitable for other parts of the country, but which, nevertheless, would enable the Housing Acts to operate there. I urge on the Minister that the matter should be considered. It may be that other special problems arise in other parts of the country. If the Minister took power in the Bill to provide, by regulation, for particular areas of the country, then these problems would not arise. I would ask the Minister to consider favourably at a later stage of the Bill an amendment dealing with this particular problem.

There was no major point of criticism voiced in the course of this debate on the proposals contained in the Bill. I will, however, endeavour to deal with some few matters of interest to Deputies who have contributed to the debate. I suppose one of the reasons for the sort of unanimity of approach that we have in this House to any proposals dealing with housing is that we have reached the stage now when it is not easy to see what better facilities can be extended both to local bodies and private persons who are interested in and affected by this housing question. There is no doubt about it that if money, and all that it means, were as freely available as Deputy Hickey would like it to be the problem of dealing with housing would be quite a simple one.

It is a bad thing that it is impossible.

I somehow take the view that we are not likely to reach the stage when these difficulties can be disposed of in such a simple and, I might say, in such a frivolous fashion as Deputy Hickey would have us believe that they can.

If you make up your minds to do it it will be done.

I am taking it that a lot of people all over the world, well intentioned people like Deputy Hickey— no better intentioned but equally well intentioned—who have devoted themselves to a study of all these problems have not somehow succeeded in finding that perfect solution.

Because they are allowing the system to control them.

My process of reasoning is influenced by the fact that, since that is undoubtedly the case in so far as our people here and the people in the outside world are concerned, there must be something in it. It just cannot be explained away in the simple fashion that Deputy Hickey would like us to believe.

Because we are carrying on the same system as the countries the Minister is talking about. Money is the boss rather than men, women and children, who should be our first concern.

Deputy Hickey yesterday asked me a question dealing with the effect of the rate of interest on our activities, or the effect that it was likely to have. He asked me to address any remarks that I might wish to make to that subject. I said that all I knew at that moment was that the rate of interest affected my own overdraft. There is no doubt about it, apart altogether from the effect that the cost of money has on the provision of houses and on the rent at which houses may be let to tenants, that, of course, the cost of money also has an effect on quite a number of other very vital matters. It has an effect on the farmer who is handling his business on the basis of an overdraft and so on. I am prepared to admit that, if a situation could be reached where these impediments and difficulties could be brushed aside, this world would be a very simple and a very free and easy place in which to live.

Deputy Walsh a while ago was pointing out his difficulties.

Some Deputies have spoken about the problems which confront incoming tenants in many of the houses that are being erected by local bodies, and I quite realise that, having regard to present-day costs, anyone who moves about through the world at all can easily see the problem it must be for many of these families to pay these rents. When you come to look at it from the other side you will see that, as far as we thought it was reasonable, we have called upon the taxpayer, as I have often stated before, to make a very generous contribution to this problem, and that the local authority itself has done its share in so far as the ratepayers are concerned. In fact, in some cases, they have gone so far as to create a feeling amongst the ratepayers that perhaps they have gone too far. I am not suggesting that that is right, but that is a feeling that is abroad amongst the ratepayers of these local bodies.

The next person to fit into this picture is the tenant who is going to be given the occupancy of the house. Again while one can see that the tenant is the person who will feel the pinch the longest, at the same time, there is no use in creating the impression that the Government or the local body can in some mysterious way ease that burden. It can only be met as far as I can see in the manner in which we have been attempting to meet it in the years gone by, and that is by a joint effort on the part of the people of the State, the ratepayers in the area in which the houses are being built and the tenants who come to occupy them. Even after that co-operation has been secured—and the results are available in many cases, as I say— it does not follow that everybody will be entirely satisfied, but it is the best that we can hope to do.

It is the best we are doing if we are not willing to tackle the problem from its roots, but it is not the best we can do.

Some of the Deputies referred to the proposals that are put forward here to take the place of Section 7 of the Act of 1950. Since the publication of these proposals I have received a number of letters from people who had intentions of one kind or another to build houses for themselves. The line of thought shown in these letters was influenced, naturally, by the way in which these proposals affected the individuals concerned Now I am prepared to admit freely that in the proposals that are outlined here, which are entirely permissive as far as the local authority is concerned, the valuation and wage limits are very low. Some Deputies here have criticised them rather violently and some people outside did likewise because of that fact.

Section 7 of the Act of 1950 was a permissive section also, and many county councils drew up schemes under that section. To tell the truth, I thought the section itself gave too much freedom at the time to these local bodies. I certainly felt, when I saw the section being operated, that that line of thought was entirely justified. It gave the councils freedom to adopt their own scheme, and once the council started to frame their own scheme the difficulty arose that, if they did attempt, as they did in nearly all cases, to impose some kind of limit as to the type of people who would benefit, they were forced, even where they did make such an attempt, by pressure of one kind or another from their own members or from the public outside, to move along, step by step, until, in most cases, they reached the point when it was what was called a free-for-all scheme. Those of them who drew up a scheme under the section have been operating on that basis since then.

There were then other councils who, when they examined the matter closely, decided that they could not face up to the financial burden that the adoption of such a scheme would entail and they had no scheme at all. I felt satisfied that, if some such section were to be continued in our housing laws, there was no use in leaving it to the councils to adopt their own scheme. It was, to my mind, a bit unfair to them in the sense that no member of a council would like to be placed in the position of having to draw a line against any particular individual simply because his valuation was £35 5s. or £35 10s., or because the income limit was over this or that amount. Because of the awkward position in which members of a council were placed, I could see from the trend of events that if Section 7 were to remain as it was, the councils—in fact, some of them had indicated their view on the matter and had made it clear—would not adopt a section so wide as was that section.

Let me say this to those who complain that the valuation limit and the income limit as set out are far too low, that those valuation limits and wage limits are low because of my desire to frame a scheme in the Bill or in the Act itself that councils can freely adopt or reject and that will not impose upon them burdens that might frighten them away from adopting any scheme at all. Where the man who finds himself earning £500 or £600 says to me: "You should raise that a little bit higher so as to enable me to get a grant," my reply to that man is: "I can easily raise both the valuation and the wage limits but in raising them I am perhaps doing something that will prevent the council in the area in which you live adopting a scheme at all, and not only will you fail to get any benefit but those much worse off than you will also be deprived of it, because of that fact."

My attitude therefore to Section 7 and my reasons for substituting this scheme are that in trying out an experiment of this nature, it is always better to start on a conservative basis and if it is found in the course of a couple of years that it is possible to do better, it can be done; it is much easier to become more generous than to become more restrictive.

I am anxious therefore that the councils who have adopted schemes under Section 7 and the councils who have not would adopt this scheme because I believe it will not impose too heavy a financial burden upon them. I am especially anxious in the cases where schemes under Section 7 were adopted that schemes of supplementary grants will be continued and that there will not be the situation where a couple of hundred people who have received these local authority supplementary grants will be able to say to those who mean to build in the future: "We just got away with it when you were out in the cold."

There are many people, I suppose. who might build houses or who have built houses in the last two years and who have obtained grants who will not be covered by the new scheme under Sections 9, 10 and 11. I feel, however. that this new scheme under Sections 9, 10 and 11 will fairly meet the sort of persons that we have in mind-namely, the small farmers of up to £35 valuation. I do not know what percentage of farmers would be represented by a £35 valuation, but I think it would be about 80 per cent. It is a good thing to give a start to those of the lower income group who wish to build houses on the basis set out in this Bill. I am not saying that many of them will be able to build houses, but some of them will, and for those the help provided in Section 11 will, to my mind, be some advance. I hope that all county councils, including those who operated Section 7— many of those did not operate that section at all—will all adopt this scheme. I feel it will help to blot out a great many of the small houses and the houses in a bad state of repair in rural areas owned by people who have not, in the past, been able to get any assistance at all, even the assistance which was provided by the State and which, owing to rising costs, was not sufficient to enable them to get on with the work.

Would the Minister deal with the position of councils who submitted schemes which were sent back for amendment? When will finality be reached in these cases?

There is no reason why finality cannot be reached. I presume the Deputy has the Cork case in mind.

As I understand the position, I do not see why we should not be able to get out of the difficulty.

Might I ask the Minister one question? Is it quite clear that anyone who made due application to the county council before the 29th April —I think that is the correct date—and had commenced building before that date will be allowed to come in under the existing scheme? Since I raised the point the other day the question of the word "notified" has caused some anxiety in Kildare.

That matter has been raised with me on several occasions. While I cannot say clearly what the Bill provides in this regard, I will endeavour to tell the Deputy what is in my own mind as to what the Bill should provide when it becomes an Act.

That is fair enough.

It is not easy for us to make sure when this Bill becomes an Act that it will cover just exactly what we desire. What I would like to see it cover is this: under Section 7 of the 1950 Act, councils prepared schemes that were to continue up to the 31st March, 1951. The council that I have in mind made it quite clear to all those who applied that the work of construction would require to be completed by the 31st March, 1952. I think they also made it a condition that the approval certificate in respect of the erection of a house which issues from the appointed officer would require to have been issued on a certain date. These were the conditions that were attached to the payment of the supplementary grant. In that case there were dozens of applications made which would fully qualify under that general sort of outline. However, it so happened that the councils never actually notified these people that the supplementary grants would be paid to them. Of course, it would be absurd to debar people in these circumstances from obtaining the supplementary grant simply because the local body concerned had not notified the applicant.

I will endeavour under this measure, that any person who applied for a housing grant under the 1950 Housing Act and who received the approval certificate to proceed with the erection of his house, but who, at the same time, applied to the local authority before the 31st March—I would prefer that the 31st March would be the operative date—for a supplementary grant and received no notification, to provide in this measure for the payment of the money to such person.

Only if the house is finished before the 31st March.

I would like to leave county councils a certain amount of discretion in the matter of completion. I would not like to close down entirely on that. I feel there could be no question of allowing people to qualify who might send in their application, say, in the month of March, 1952, have no work at all done and commit the council to the payment of the supplementary grant, simply on the basis that application had been made before that date, although no construction work had been done.

I am referring to the people who had genuinely started the work.

What will be the position in Cork where Section 7 was never adopted?

This is a permissive section; there are other county councils that have not adopted it as well as Cork County Council.

What will be the position of people who have commenced construction work since August, 1950? They are of opinion that they will undoubtedly get a supplementary grant as well as the State grant. In my opinion, they would never have started the construction work but for the supplementary grant.

I would regard them as foolish people if they concluded they would get a supplementary grant. If the council of their area were interested in them, they could have made these grants available in the last two years. That is a form of innocence that I would not associate with most people.

Are those people to be penalised then for the action of the local authorities?

Would you not put it the other way, that the members of the local authority would be penalised because of the actions of these people?

A scheme was submitted.

It is a different case where the scheme was adopted.

I will return to the point made by Deputy Sweetman. I have tried to make myself clear as to what I would like to do under this measure. On the Committee Stage, we must try to make sure that we are achieving that end.

It is the general opinion in Cork that payments will be made retrospective to the 1st April, 1950.

If the members of the Cork County Council are able to make up their minds on a whole lot of these questions, one would be surprised how quickly I could make up my mind.

A scheme was approved and sent back for amendment, and the Minister is prepared to consider it.

Deputy Mrs. Crowley and, I think Deputy Flynn raised the matter of making the payment of the grant under Sections 9, 10 and 11 retrospective to 1st August, 1950. I do not know whether Deputy Flynn and Deputy Mrs. Crowley had in mind the grants as provided under these sections or the grants as provided in the scheme adopted by the council under Section 7 of the 1950 Act. So far as these proposals go, the retrospective effect would relate to the scheme enshrined in the Bill, and if the Deputies had in mind that the benefits of the scheme in existence, the terms of which I cannot remember, should be restrospective rather than what is in the Bill, it raises another issue and, as I have said in another regard, we can discuss it at a later stage.

A number of matters important to the Deputies who raised them were mentioned in the course of the discussion, but I hardly think it necessary to refer to them all. One of these was the reason why local bodies asked an applicant for Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act money to provide sureties. Deputy Murphy and, I think, Deputy Desmond raised a point, as did also somebody on our own side. These local bodies are free to take the security of the building and the site and give the money on that security alone, or to do otherwise. I remember replying to a parliamentary question with regard to Donegal, where the same situation exists as apparently exists in Cork, and I do not think it would be right for a Minister, even if he had the power, to attempt to give directions to local bodies in a matter of that nature. The Cork County Council is composed of all classes of people, as all other councils are, and Deputies will find that they are a fairly sensible body of men.

It is a function of the manager.

It is, but you will find that if the county council were to give him a direction in a matter of that nature, the manager might very easily come to heel and do as they requested. I know that in Donegal the manager did leave this question to the council, and the council, by a majority, decided on the two sureties. It would not be right, even if the Minister could do so, to influence or attempt to influence councils in that regard. They have their own powers of persuasion, and if Deputy Murphy, who is a member of the council, has a good case, I imagine that there are sensible, well-intentioned people who will listen to him. If that is so, he ought to be able to secure a reversal of a previous attitude.

Managers have a lot of power.

The question was brought before a meeting of the Cork County Council within the last 12 months when the vote was 50-50 and the matter was allowed to stand over. Will the Minister not agree with me that it is very difficult for a small farmer or businessman to ask his neighbours, no matter how good friends they are or what his standing is—he may be a man of the highest honour and integrity—to act as sureties for him? When people know that his circumstances are not very good, they will not be inclined to act as surety for a period of 35 years or to commit their families to that obligation. It is very difficult for that type of person to get the sureties and I cannot see why if in one county a mortgage on the house is quite sufficient, the Department should not extend it to the whole country. I cannot see why we should have one law in one county, where a mortgage is accepted and another law in Cork, where sureties are required. There are people who should benefit from the provisions of the Act who are unable to benefit because they cannot get the sureties. The people getting these loans are people who are quite able to build houses, if these loans were never made available, and their main reason for applying for loans is to avoid interfering with their capital or perhaps to secure some advantage in the matter of income-tax.

That is an entirely different question. The awkwardness of going to one's neighbour to ask him to sign a bill for one does not arise here. Here it is a matter of the county council as a body borrowing money which it will lend to ratepayers and others in the county for the provision of houses, and it is for the people who borrow the money in the first instance to stipulate the conditions on which they will lend it out to individual applicants. I do not see in what way the Department can or should enter into that matter. Surely those who act for the community at large and borrow in bulk to lend out to individual applicants should have the right to approach the matter in their own way. Some ask for sureties and some do not, and, no matter what arguments may be advanced to sustain the other case, I still maintain that, if the case is a good one, as the Deputy seems to think it is, it is his fault if he cannot convince his colleagues who would like to see people facilitated just as much as he would that an easier course should be pursued.

Those of us who favour that principle do not believe in advancing money to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

The same applies with regard to the people who should get these loans from local bodies. Some Deputies suggested that certain people should not be allowed to secure a loan under the Small Dwellings Acts at all, but that again is a matter for the local body. There is no hard and fast rule laid down. They make their own arrangements and it would not be a bad idea if they sifted these applications and ensured that only those who require money in a genuine way would be able to get it.

I intended to say a word or two on letting grants. I am providing here that what the then Ministers and legislatures intended by the 1950 and 1948 Acts should be the law will prevail. When this letting grant provision was inserted in Section 19 of the 1948 Act, it was an invitation to those to whom it applied to build houses on the assumption that the facilities which were promised to them would be made available. Apart altogether from whether it was a desirable provision or not—I will come to that later—they were given the assurance they would get these facilities if they erected these houses. At a later stage, when some local bodies saw a flaw in the Act and side-stepped their responsibilities, when in spite of the Minister's ruling to the contrary they still insisted on taking their own line, it became the duty of the Parliament here to make sure that the guarantees given to these people would be carried out. I have been reading some reports of discussions of local bodies where some of these letting grant houses were erected and I notice that it was on a case or two where certain banks provided some houses for their employees that there was most concentration. I was saying to myself that it was not popular in these days to be a banker at all. When I looked up the number of houses that had been provided under the section altogether. I found that the number provided by banks was very, very small. Indeed, the number provided under the section in every shape and form was very small, but the percentage of the total number that the banks erect was scarcely noticeable.

What is wrong with this provision? If Bord na Móna, the sugar company, the banks or any industrial concern here proceed to erect houses for their workers and thereby relieve the local body of the responsibility of doing this, what was wrong with that?

It should be encouraged.

I do not understand why, simply because the Munster and Leinster Bank in Tralee or the Ulster Bank somewhere else builds two or three houses for their employees, one should say: "These houses are not freely available for letting, inasmuch as the people going to get the tenancies are earmarked in advance; that is not fair, and the local rates should not be called upon to contribute in that case." The strange part of it is that, in the case of some of the local bodies who indulge in that talk, when you go down to see their housing schemes, you find they have housed some of those bank officials themselves in their houses, at much heavier expense to the State and the local authority. I have seen them myself and I have seen it happen in local bodies where a few months later they were proceeding to denounce everyone because the bank came along and sought to get what the law promised, £400 per house at £40 per year over ten years, £13 per year of which has to be paid by the local body. Not only is it right that we should make doubly sure that those who are given an assurance that these grants would be available for them would get them, but I think it right that we should encourage it.

I did not give the actual number, but only 500 or 600 houses were built under this section since it was inserted in our housing legislation. Even though the number is small, there is a possibility that it could be a help to many industrial concerns in the future. I would like to see the attitude of some of those who have been critical of this, if an industry were introduced to their own town or constituency. If housing were short there and if the local body were unable to come to the rescue, would it not be a grand thing that a section like this would be there at hand to help and encourage other interests to go about the provision of those houses?

Simply because the banks build 3, 4. 5, or 6 houses, out of 500 or 600, for a few of their employees—they may be blackcoated workers, but, in many cases they are not very well off people at all and in many cases they have been actually included in the list of tenants submitted for the occupancy of houses erected by local bodies—we should not, just because we think that it would ring fairly well in the ears of the public, try to show that the banks should build their own houses for their workers. We should not rely on that sort of misrepresentation to denounce the idea or refuse to work a section that is a very desirable one?

Why not leave discretion to the local authority?

We all want too much discretion.

Would the Minister deal with the question of rent ceilings for these lettings? If the rent is £3 or £3 10s. per week, what worker can pay that, and why should they get £40 on these houses?

We can debate this some time. When there is an appeal to us in any particular case, the rent is vetted. You must remember that in some of these cases the houses erected are fairly expensive ones. I have in mind a case in Cork—I think in Youghal— where I saw houses being erected that looked fairly formidable and fairly expensive. They were being erected to serve a very useful purpose and, even with the payment of a grant over ten years of £40 a year, it should not be expected that these houses could be let to the tenants at the sort of rents that would be chargeable by a local body for a house that was not at all up to that standard.

Is it fair to ask local authorities to contribute to those houses? Are the banks not well enough off to provide houses without any help from the local authorities through the rates?

The Deputy may have his own view about that.

It is the unanimous view of the local authority, which is made up of several classes. Even the Minister's own representatives are on it and they have the same views as I have.

Would the Minister reconsider the question of the Cork Corporation getting benefit under the Local Loans Fund, rather than going to the open market for money?

Of course, there was a time when it was to the advantage of Cork and Dublin to borrow in the open market, and I suppose now the advantage is the other way, and it is only natural that not only a Cork Deputy but a Deputy from any place would try to have it both ways as it suited him.

There are only two exceptions in the country now, Dublin and Cork. A penny in the £ in Cork only brings in £1,000; a penny in Cork County brings in £4,500, and they have access to the Local Loans Fund and Cork Corporation has not. The Minister will appreciate that building in the city area is dearer than in the county area already without having extra interest.

Would the Minister consider some means by which Cork Corporation will be made to build houses for their own people?

They are doing it. That question can be discussed locally. I am raising another point. The Minister knows the restriction on the sites available in the city. I am only raising the general question of the availability of finance. The Minister knows that when we went to the stock market on the last occasion only about one-third of the issue was filled. That is the difficulty we are up against. I know the Government has never let us down, and I am sure they will not do it now. At the same time, if we had straight action taken, we would appreciate it if the Minister would consider it.

I do not think the Minister should consider doing anything to remove the last vestige of excuse those people have for not building houses for their own people.

That is an uncalled for remark.

But it is true.

It is untrue, completely untrue.

I think the Minister has more sense than to get in between two Cork gentlemen.

I would never have any hesitation in giving an assurance that I would consider everything and anything. I would not like Deputies from Cork City to go away with the feeling that the request is likely to be acceded to.

We will await results.

Deputy MacCarthy raised a matter with which we will deal I hope at a later stage, that is, the problem that arises because of the shortage of building sites in the city and the desirability of extending the S.D.A. outside that area. That is another matter to which consideration will be given and I hope we will be able to meet the reasonable requirements of the local authority there.

I have been asked to state my attitude on a number of things, such as direct labour. I have already done so in the House on a number of occasions and I will not go over it now. I have been urged as to the desirability of increasing the grants on houses and questions have been raised about sites that are being leased to individuals by local bodies for the provision of houses. I have been told to take steps to ensure that these sites would not be used by those persons to charge exorbitant rents. We do in fact take action to protect the public in that regard.

I am sure that when I conclude, I will have missed dozens of questions that may seem small to me, but which were important to the Deputies who raised them. We will have to let it go at that. If the Deputies concerned are not satisfied, they can raise them on the Committee Stage, when, I hope, we will be able to clear up a number of matters that may still be in doubt.

Would the Minister consider the allocation of grants for houses where the floor area is less than 500 square feet? I know they are very small, but there are a number of families in my area where there are only one or two members, and where they have not room to extend their premises. They are quite satisfied. The rents are lower in these houses.

Deputy O'Higgins raised that point. I do not see how you could do that. You must have some limit. I do not profess to understand how the special problem arises in the area referred to by Deputy O'Higgins. A house of 500 square feet is a very small house. As to giving the Minister discretion, I suppose the Minister might, in some cases, like to have it, but, in a general sort of way, he would be glad not to have it, and it is better that he should not have it. I do not see how you could reduce the floor space below 500 square feet, and I do not think there is any hope at all of our being able to meet that request. Whatever problems may arise or may exist in any part of the country because of that limit, I do not see how they could be met.

Mr. O'Higgins

The area which I mentioned is a small compact area. There are 1,000 people living in 80 houses. That will give an idea of the overcrowding. In the last two years there has been a considerable amount of interest locally in this problem in Pullough. A number of organisations have made suggestions to the different Deputies as to the possibility of devising some plan for a local house that would meet the requirements there. Would the Minister and his Department, some time in coming weeks, perhaps, get a special report on the situation there? If the Minister thinks the 500 square feet house can be put into operation then, that would meet my objection, but I am told that that is far too big for this particular area.

It is the first occasion on which it was mentioned to me that the actual area or the general conditions there, or the conditions of the soil, foundations, or any of these matters, would make the provision of a house of that size difficult or impossible.

Mr. O'Higgins

I submitted a memorandum to the Minister's Department last April. I have a reply here saying that the matter was being examined.

I must say that I have not seen it. I do not claim to be an expert in the matter, but I have a fairly general idea of what conditions are necessary in certain circumstances, and I could not imagine that that would arise.

Deputy Sweetman asked me to give a number of figures which I will give later when my Estimate comes for discussion.

Will the Minister consider whether there was any justification, in view of increased costs, for increasing the grant of £275? The matter was raised during the debate.

I would love to do it.

Would you not translate your wish into action?

It is not too easy.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 11th June.