Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 5 Feb 1953

Vol. 136 No. 2

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Local Authorities' Cottages.

asked the Minister for Local Government if he will state the conditions under which local authorities are permitted to dispose of cottages built by them, to the tenants of these cottages who may be anxious to purchase these dwellings outright.

Urban authorities are empowered, with the consent of the Minister, to sell or lease their houses subject to such covenants and conditions as they may think fit to impose. The houses must be sold or leased at the best price or for the best rent that can reasonably be obtained, having regard to any condition imposed, and the local authority may agree to the sale price being paid by instalments.

Under the Labourers Acts the tenant of a labourer's cottage may purchase the cottage from the local authority by way of a terminable annuity, provided the cottage is included in a cottage purchase scheme made by the local authority and approved by the Minister. The annuity is normally based on the rent of the cottage, and for as long as it is payable the tenant must observe the statutory conditions as to maintenance, use and disposal of the cottage.

asked the Minister for Local Government if he will furnish a return for each county giving (1) the number of board of health cottages, segregating them into three groups according as they were erected under (a) Labourers (Ireland) Acts, 1883 to 1896, (b) Labourers (Ireland) Acts, 1906 to 1919, and (c) Housing Act, 1932, and subsequent Acts; (2) the total loans borrowed by the local authorities for the erection of each group and the balances of such loans still outstanding; (3) the total loan charges payable for each group, giving in each case the amount payable by the State and that payable by the local authority; (4) the total amount expended in each county out of current account on cottage repairs for each of the last four years for which such returns are available, dividing the total as between cottages erected prior and subsequent to the passage of the 1932 Act, giving the amount of loans (if any) outstanding that were borrowed to cover special repairs to meet arrears of improvement work; (5) the total of rents, including rates, and of rates separately; (6) the total area of land attached to board of health cottages, and (7) the amount of arrears of cottage rents and rates still due for the year 1951 or any previous year.

It would not be possible without a great expenditure of time and effort to compile the information sought in the question.

Surely it is possible to furnish some of the information which relates to the arrears of rates and rents for the past two years?

I am taking this question as it appears on the Order Paper. I am merely saying that it would not be possible, without a great expenditure of time and effort, to compile the information sought in the question. A simple reading of the question will indicate to anybody the amount of work that would be involved in that attempt.

The information is particularly necessary in view of the fact that many county managers throughout the country have embarked upon a campaign of raising the rents of oldcottages which, in most cases, have already been paid for. This information, therefore, is necessary in order to ascertain the reasonableness or otherwise of the demands of county managers in particular cases. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask the Department to furnish that information. God knows it costs enough money to administer the Department which is asked to supply information of this kind.

I have nothing to add to what I have already told the Deputy. If the request for information seemed to me to be reasonable and if it could be procured with a reasonable amount of human energy and expense, I naturally, as Minister, would be obliged to try and procure it for any Deputy. The information sought here is to my mind entirely out of the question from any of these points of view.

This raises an entirely new issue. The Minister is taking up the attitude that he is entitled to decide whether or not it is worth spending time on a question put down by a Leader of a Party in this House. Does the Minister think that it is just for recreation that I wrote this question? I had to look at the matter from all angles in order to frame it. Now I am told that the Minister's Department cannot supply the information. One wonders how a Department is run that cannot supply this information. This information is not asked for in a capricious or frivolous way and the Minister and his Department should make some serious effort to facilitate the Dáil when a responsible Deputy puts down a question of this kind.

If there is any single item included in this list upon which any Deputy requires information it can be had through parliamentary question or otherwise. This blanket cover included in this question asks for information which in many cases would not, in my opinion, be easily obtainable at all and is not reasonable. I do not think it is fair to send a bunch of highly paid officials around the country on a wild goose chase looking forinformation which does not appear to me to be of any great substance.

I wanted to find out the sources from which labourers' cottages were financed, the regulations under which they were financed, how much was spent, how much has been repaid, how much outstanding, what rents and rates are outstanding and the cost of repairs in order that I might get a comprehensive picture. I want to obtain this in the light of the new campaign by county managers to raise the rents of those cottages. The Department says it is too troublesome to supply this information. There ought to be some responsibility to supply information of this kind. I am not in the habit of putting down facetious or frivolous questions. I framed this question at length because I wanted to get information. That is the only reason why information is sought.

I would like to remind the House that, before rents can be increased in respect of the houses which the Deputy has in mind, the matter must be considered and discussed by the local body and if the local body should decide to increase these rents the matter is then subject to the approval of the Minister for Local Government.

In view of these facts, I cannot see why information of this nature should be required at all.

That is a complete misstatement of the functions of local authorities and county managers—and the Minister knows it. May I invite the attention of the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Government to the terms of the question and may I ask him whether it is the policy of the Government to refuse information asked for in this responsible way?

It is not a question of refusing information, but of the difficulty, apparently, of getting information.

The Minister pleaded the trouble——

The cost.

The Minister gave the impression that high officials would have to go around the country. He knows that that is not true. Some of this information has already been supplied in respect of earlier dates in reply to parliamentary questions.

Everybody has reasonable knowledge of what the Deputy wants.

Are we to take it that the Minister will not supply us with the information or make any effort to supply it?

According to the advice given to me, it is very doubtful whether some of this information is obtainable at all. Surely time and cost mean something. Taking all these factors into consideration, I feel I am in conscience bound to say that the result would not be worth the effort and the cost.

A good deal of this information is supplied by local authorities and yet the Minister's Department is too damned lazy——