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.