Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 12 Jul 1962

Vol. 196 No. 13

Housing (Loans and Grants) Bill, 1962 — Second Stage (Resumed).

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

The giving of extra facilities to people who come together to build group schemes of houses is a matter which the Minister should consider and if he could increase the amount of the grant to something more substantial, I believe it would encourage group development. If he could also do something similar where employers, owners of industries, are anxious to build or assist in the building of houses for their employees, it would stimulate building in the country districts.

There is another matter to which the Minister should devote attention, that is, the acquiring of sites for group schemes. I am not quite clear but I think under the Labourers Act the local authorities are entitled to acquire land for building. That power should be made as wide as possible so that where people are anxious to have houses built, and where sites are not being procured too quickly, he might possibly give the local authority power to acquire such land and thereby stimulate building. In Laytown, where I live, the Meath County Council were far-sighted enough some years ago to acquire quite a sizable piece of land. They have developed it themselves and have encouraged local building on it. In the village, there are a number of sites which, for one reason or another, do not seem to be coming on the market and perhaps the Minister might arrange that the sites should be acquired and, it necessary, have a system of arbitration to decide the price which should be paid for them. I am not suggesting that they should be grabbed or taken over without compensation.

The amount of loan is to be increased at the discretion of the Minister. While it is desirable to increase the amount of loan to people who want to build their own houses, I fear that one of the snags which will prevent it from being availed of to any great extent is the fact that the repayment over 35 years is usually too high. There are two alternatives. One I suggested earlier to the Minister. If he is not disposed to give a higher grant, he might consider subsidising the interest on the loan and thereby reduce the repayments. If he is not prepared to do that, perhaps he would consider extending the loan period to 50 years.

I know that people who want to be smart can always say that this involves a greater amount of money and they are able to tell the people about all that they will have to pay back. But it is preferable that they should have the longer period rather than attempt the impossible and try to pay the large amount over a short period even though the amount would be less. Perhaps the Minister would have a look at that and consider whether it would be possible to extend the law. I am sure he will have representations from more than myself on this matter.

There is another section the amendment of which I would like the Minister to consider. This is something on which I would ask the indulgence of the Ceann Comhairle because I would not like to step outside the bounds of order. There are certain people living in the country who are tenants of good houses but have no security of tenure. Generally it arises when two young people wish to get married. They say that all the world loves a lover and for that reason, when these young people get married, some neighbour will let them into a house, on condition that they will get another as soon as possible. However, the other house does not turn up and their family begins to grow. They are there as unwilling tenants because they do not want to be there and the landlord does not want them.

The local authority is not entitled to build a house for them as they would get only one-third of the grant and I would like to ask if there is any way in which the Minister could add a section to the Bill to cover these people. They are usually people living on a week's wages who cannot afford to put down a sum of money for a house. Somebody referred last night to a farmer who can have a cottage built on his own land and pay the rent for it and the suggestion was made that the rent should be put into his annuity. Something similar might be tried in the case of the people to whom I refer. I admit that I have no ready solution for the problem but my suggestion would be the giving of a two-thirds subsidy to the local authority. That is not possible at present and perhaps the Minister would think of some way of assisting them. There are not many of them but they are not in a position to build houses for themselves and they cannot qualify for a local authority house. If they get a tent and go out and live on the side of the road, they do qualify. Most of them would be able to acquire sites fairly easily and perhaps the Minister could do something to help them out.

There was a suggestion that one of the biggest snags in doing reconstruction or repair work was getting contractors. That is partially true but the reason for it is fairly obvious. The amount of money available in the local authority grant is so small that the normal contractor does not want to be bothered with it. While trade union rates must usually be paid, that seldom applies to reconstruction work. The building of houses is a different matter. In that case, trade union wages must be paid but in the case of reconstruction, many people try to get the cheapest contractor they can to do the work. These people do not pay trade union rates and the big contractor who does cannot compete against their prices. The present grants for the reconstruction and repair of houses are unreal in the circumstances of 1962. The amount given is unreal and the Minister should have a good look at it as it is one of the matters that must be attended to.

I am very glad the Minister has included in the Bill the section which will allow a local authority to make money available to a qualified person who wants to purchase a vested council cottage. I congratulate the Minister on having that done. Four or five weeks ago, he did not think it could be done and I am glad that when he found it could be done, he included it in the Bill. I would suggest to him that he advise local authorities to do these things with a minimum of red tape. If there is one thing that discourages people in this matter, it is the horde of inspectors who come to them and the long list of queries they have to answer. The ordinary man in the street likes to be able to do his business with a minimum amount of trouble and in the shortest possible time.

Would the Minister also remember that when somebody in a country district starts to build a house with the aid of a grant, he is generally a person who must look to the local supplier to give him credit? Where a big number of people begin to look for that credit, the local supplier is put in an awkward position because he has to ask for some of his money pretty quickly. I would ask the Minister to ensure that payments to be made on foot of the building of a house will be made with the minimum of delay. It is very disappointing to go around the country and see houses half built and left there because some small technical hitch is holding up the payment of the money.

I am aware that the inspectors whom the Department have been sending around the country are working as hard as they possibly can and I am offering no criticism of them when I say that the job is not being done quickly enough. The Department must provide more inspectors.

Surely this is a matter of administration.

There is no point in passing the Bill, unless some provision is made for its operation.

The debate on the Estimate would be the proper occasion for a discussion of such matters.

Unfortunately, by next October, I might have forgotten the matter. I would ask that the number of inspectors be increased so that these matters will be dealt with as quickly as possible. There is also provision in the Bill for the building of houses for people of advanced age. I do not know what is meant by that and perhaps the Minister would state the age. If somebody seeks State employment as a labourer and is 45 years of age, he is regarded as of advanced age and will not get the job if anybody else is available. I am sure the Minister will not take 45 years as an advanced age in relation to the building of houses. Encouragement should be given to certain societies to build houses for elderly people.

However, I would warn the Minister that there is a grave danger that two things may happen. Take a two-roomed house which is built in a country district to house two old people. After they die, it is there as a monument for ever. It is no use to anybody else and the money spent on it has been wasted. Will the Minister see that these houses are such that they can be used by other people after the old people for whom they were built have passed on? There is a danger also that certain smart people will attempt to take advantage of the Bill to build one-roomed houses with very little accommodation in an effort to make £300, £400, £500 or £600 by building places into which one would not be inclined to put animals. The Minister should be careful that does not happen.

The necessity for houses for newlyweds has been raised. While I agree with Deputy Corish, who said houses for newlyweds were a big problem at present, my own opinion is that it would be much better if the newlyweds could get permanent residences. It is not right that they should be put into a house for a short period and eventually moved into another house. We all like to have a home of our own, and when children come along, they like to have the security of knowing they belong to an area and have their own home. It is wrong that these people should be put into a small house on probation and eventually moved into some other area. It is wrong for the children and not good for the parents. If we made more houses available for them immediately, it would be a much better idea.

The question of subtenants referred to by other Deputies is not such a problem with us because in Meath, if there are conditions of overcrowding, subtenants are considered for the tenancy of houses. Unfortunately, you very often find two or three families in a local authority house but because there are only a couple of old people there with the young people, the local authority may consider there is not overcrowding. I believe that if more than one family is living in a house, no matter how small the family is, it is not right. The Minister should make every effort to see to it in such cases that if they cannot be housed in a local authority scheme, sites be made available to them and they be given every possible grant and loan to provide houses of their own.

I should like to compliment the Minister on bringing in this Bill. One aspect of it which will go down extremely well in the country is the fact that people can now obtain loans for the repair and reconstruction of vested cottages. These people have not been able to get the money to do necessary repairs, but now they will be able to do so. This will give them a pride in the ownership of their home. Where the home is good, there is always a definite improvement in the standard of living all round. Another step forward is the provision of loans to buy vested cottages for sale. There are quite a number of idle vested cottages in my area. People will be encouraged now to put them up for sale when there is a ready market for them.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

A large number of reconstruction grants have been held up because of the fact that the applicants have not been able to pay their own one-third contribution. The Minister told me in reply to a question yesterday that in Kildare there were 115 reconstruction grants allocated last year, 275 in Meath and 102 in Westmeath. With the introduction of this Bill, those figures will be doubled, if not more. There is a growing demand for good houses and it should be met. This Bill will go a long way towards doing so.

I am glad the Minister has made it easier to pay the grant to the next-of-kin in the case of the death of an applicant, and I am glad also that, under Section 14, the stamp duty has been greatly reduced. In regard to grants for new houses, I am pleased the Minister has given power to local authorities to give a full grant up to £50 valuation. Previously, the grants were on a graded system. In Meath, people up to £20 valuation were able to get a full grant, but those between £20 valuation and £50 could not and great hardship was imposed on them. I hope that when this Bill comes into force, the local authority will give a full grant to all farmers up to £50 valuation.

I am also pleased that the amount of the loan has been increased but I should have liked to have seen the Minister introducing some method of repayment that would correspond roughly with the amount of rent the tenant of a council house has to pay at present. Many young married people have a long time to wait before the council builds a house for them. Often there is a delay of six to eight years. They have to go through all the machinery of having the site approved and deciding whether the cottage will be isolated or one of a group. I feel all this takes too long. It would be of benefit to the people, therefore, if they could be enabled to build their own homes at roughly the same rent and it would be a way out of the problem. They would have the same conditions. That would have the added advantage of providing variety. Under the Government plan, there are, at least, 11 different types of houses. It would be grand for people to have a choice, because everyone likes to have a choice. There would be more freedom of choice.

With regard to newlyweds, they have as a rule to live in rather bad accommodation for a few years before they succeed in getting the local authority to house them. If the Minister would provide in the Bill for a very reasonable repayment system, these people would be able to build their homes before they get married. They would then start off in a very good house. That would enable them, too, to go on living in the same locality instead of having to move miles away, maybe, from their friends. It would be more in keeping with our Christian way of life here if people were enabled to provide themselves with their own homes before getting married instead of waiting for the local authority to do it. I know the Minister will consider the idea I put forward.

I was glad to see that the period in relation to the second grant is reduced from 15 to 10 years where reroofing is concerned. I have had experience of a number of cases where the grant was held up while people were waiting for the 15 years to elapse. They got a reconstruction grant ten years ago and had the house done up, but they did not do essential repairs because they had not got the money. The house deteriorated further, and would deteriorate even more, naturally, before the 15 year period was up. Now for reroofing the period is reduced to ten years. That is a step in the right direction.

A completely new provision, and one on which the Minister is to be complimented, is that dealing with the building of homes for old people. There was a good deal of debate here suggesting that the Minister should mention an age. I think that would be a great mistake. It would definitely put up a barrier straightaway. We all know there are people who grow old before their time. Very often people living on pensions or in receipt of disability allowances are physically much older than their years. They cannot possibly build homes for themselves. They are living in very bad housing conditions. They may not be up to 70 but they are much more infirm and in much greater need of a home than a healthy person of 70. I think the Minister should adhere to his present idea and not prescribe any age. It should be left to the local authority, or to whoever will implement the provision, to determine who is eligible.

Another matter upon which the Minister deserves to be complimented is the giving of the grants of £600. After a few years, there should be no elderly or aged people living in bad homes because this will provide the incentive for the local authority to go ahead and provide homes for these people. There will be no trouble in keeping these homes occupied because there will be a fairly rapid change tenancy.

There is another aspect of housing I should like to bring to the Minister's attention. Under the exisiting regulations, there is a minimum of 500 square feet and a maximum of 1,400 square feet. I think the inspectors should not adhere too closely to the letter of the regulation. The grant should not be withheld if it goes a little over the 1,400; there should be some slight reduction in the grant, if necessary. Anyone who has the initiative to build a house for himself, and who goes a little over the specification, should not be penalised. At some stage the Minister may possibly be able to introduce some provision giving these people a way out instead of penalising them.

I compliment the Minister on the provision of loans for those who want to reconstruct their vested houses. There is great need for such loans. Again, I would appeal to him to do something in relation to the repayments on new homes. I suggest they should be more or less equal to the rent of a council house. This Bill is a step in the right direction. The giving of the grants to provide new houses for old people is an excellent idea. I ask the Minister not to mention any particular age. I see a great future for this Bill.

Deputy Crinion says he sees a great future for this Bill. It all depends on the way one looks at it whether or not one sees a great future for it. I do not see much of a future in it, but I welcome the Bill. I welcome any Bill designed to help people to improve or reconstruct their homes giving them better housing conditions. It is essential that a married man should have a decent house in which to rear his family. From that point of view, therefore, I welcome this measure.

There was a great deal of talk about this Bill. I remember the Taoiseach telling us here several times, when questions arose as to what business would come before the House before the recess, that we would have the Housing Bill. We all thought the Bill would be an elaborate one designed to help in the provision of houses. I thought we would have a great improvement in the amount of grants given. In the explanatory memorandum issued with the Bill, the Minister states that the grants are preserved at their existing level.

The previous Housing Bill was introduced in 1958 — three or four years ago. Since then, there have been three rounds of wage increases, and the eighth round was the most substantial of all. There is nothing in this Bill to meet these increases. I welcome Section 4 because it provides a second grant to deal with storm damage. One will no longer have to wait 15 or ten years. One will get a grant immediately if one's house is damaged by storm. That is very welcome. I have had trouble often putting up a case for a second grant.

The provision for the relief of overcrowding is very welcome. The £50 will be a help. When families grow, it is a great advantage to be able to add a room or two in order to provide extra accommodation.

Section 6 providing grants of £300 from both the Department and the local authority for the housing of elderly people is very welcome. Some of these elderly people might free fairly large local authority houses. They will be able to go into a new house provided under this section at a much cheaper rate. Would the Minister not think of giving local authorities grants of £300 to reconstruct and convert small dwellings for elderly people? The Department could give £300 and the local authority £300 to anybody who would prefer to reconstruct or convert an old house. If there is an old dilapidated house in a street, it makes the whole street look dilapidated. If the local authority could get that grant of £300 from the Department, such a house could be reconstructed and made suitable for old people.

Section 11 provides for the abolition of the statutory limit of £1,600 on loans under the Small Dwellings Acts. I wonder has the Minister under this Bill extended the income limit, or will he extend it to enable people to get these loans? I know a number of people who are in the £1,000 or £1,100 income group, and with a family, they cannot afford to build their own house or to raise money at the bank. They are debarred from getting money under the Small Dwellings Acts. The Minister should examine the possibility of enabling these people to raise the money. They would have 35 years to repay it. Banks prefer to give loans over a few years or months. They are not anxious to give long-term loans. If the Minister increased the income limit considerably, these people would be encouraged to build their own houses.

Section 10 provides for loans for reconstruction, repairs and improvement of houses. I have had some trouble recently about people who wanted a loan to reconstruct their house. The local authority stated they could give only a 75 per cent. loan on the value of the house before reconstruction. That house was valued by the local authority engineers at only £200 before reconstruction. The person was prepared to spend anything from £600 to £700 so that the house when completed would be worth up to £1,000. Section 13 (2) of the Housing (Amendment) Act provides:

An advance under this section in respect of a house shall not exceed seventy-five per cent. of the amount which in the opinion of the housing authority, the house if sold in the open market.

—and this is the vital part—

at the date on which the advance is authorised by the housing authority, might reasonably be expected to realise.

If that were to read: "...at the date on which the reconstruction is completed" it would be more reasonable, so that the person who borrows money could borrow it on the value of the house after reconstruction rather than on its value before reconstruction. I know one person who could not carry out reconstruction because that provision was there.

I need hardly tell the Minister the local authorities are very disappointed with this Bill. I received the Bill on Monday and brought it to the corporation meeting that night. The members to whom I showed it were very disappointed. I believe the municipal authorities raised with the Minister several times this matter of raising the ceiling for local authority houses. At present the local authorities will get only a two-thirds subsidy up to a maximum of £1,600 but the house may cost anything from £1,900 to £2,000, which increases the rent very substantially for the normal tenant. I was hoping, and I think all members of local authorities were hoping, that this was one of the provisions that would be included in this Bill and, that the limit would be increased at least to £1,900. Being a former member of a local authority the Minister is conversant with their problems. One would have thought that from all the representations he received, not from one political Party but from every Party, he would have recognised the necessity for dealing with this matter.

Deputy Tully mentioned that the subtenants were not much of a problem in County Meath. Subtenants in corporation houses may not be much of a problem in County Meath but anywhere corporations have built a very large number of houses, sub-tenants are a great problem. Take, for instance, my own city. The corporation own most of the working class houses and are practically the main landlords in the town. For people who get married, the natural thing is for them to go in with their mother and father. Unless they were married before 1952, they are not entitled to the two-thirds subsidy and to go into a house without the two-thirds subsidy is almost impossible for any working man because the two-thirds subsidy means a rent of 25/-a week and the one-third subsidy means a rent of 42/- per week.

We have cleared almost all the condemned houses in our area. The ones not clear are those owned by elderly people who, for the sake of sentiment and a very low rent, perhaps 2/- a week, are not prepared to take a new corporation house. Anyone who is in a condemned dwelling house in Kilkenny is able to get a new corporation house but we have the terrible problem of two and three families in corporation houses and we cannot house them at the present time. They do not want to put the burden of exorbitant rents on themselves by taking other houses.

It appears from Section 4 the Minister realises the problem of overcrowding. He realises it in the case of a person who owns a house and is prepared to give him a grant of £50 for one room or £100 for two rooms, but he does not recognise this problem at all in corporation houses where it is much worse. Deputy Flanagan mentioned the question of overcrowding and Deputy MacCarthy interjected that a lot of it was due to local authorities not doing their duty. I can assure the House that in my area the local authority has done its duty and still the overcrowding is there. In fact, Deputy Gallagher was shocked to think that there was such overcrowding. Apparently the Minister is not shocked and is to a large extent responsible for overcrowding in corporation houses. I would ask him to look into that.

We are told this problem has been dealt with in Donegal. Donegal is far away from my county and the people in Donegal, having the Minister for Local Government as a former member of the local authority, are possibly in a privileged position. Our officials are not going to leave themselves open to anything like that. They have to act according to the letter of the law and have found their hands very much tied.

The last matter I wish to raise is in relation to inspection. The Minister has not increased the ceiling because this involves more money and he would be unable to get it from the Minister for Finance. I suppose the Minister for Finance is a bit tough in these matters and will not allow the Minister to increase grants for local authority houses.

There was very serious delay in inspection of grant works about which I wrote to the Secretary of the Department last December. I do not know if it was because of shortage of money. Since that time, matters have improved considerably. I had to write to the Department because people were coming to me every day and I had to tell them the file was with the inspector. A month would elapse and I would again have to tell them the file was with the inspector. Apparently there was no hope of getting the file from the inspector. I am glad to say that since I wrote to the Secretary of the Department, matters have improved.

The Minister might consider the question of getting the local engineers to do the work. They are more efficient and would know more about the city and the town in general. I would ask him to get local engineers to make inspections, in view of the fact that apparently they cannot get enough inspetcors.

I would repeat my request to the Minister to increase the ceiling for local authority houses. In Kilkenny, where practically all condemned houses have been cleared, it is a terrible state of affairs that a married man should have to stay on in his parents' house for many years and to have a situation in which there may be two or three families living in one house. Such conditions are driving people to England, even if they were inclined to stay at home. I ask the Minister to look into this matter and to make the necessary altertaions in the legislation.

I listened yesterday to the debate. Deputies dragged in all aspects of housing, whereas the Bill has to do with grants to encourage people to buy their own dwellings with a view to relieving the local authority of the obligation of housing them.

I am speaking from a little experience of Dublin. I have been on the Housing Committee of Dublin Corporation for seven years. I am particularly interested in the Minister's proposal in Section 6 to grant certain bodies £300 with power in the local authority to give the same amount to encourage the building and letting of dwellings to old people. There is a problem in Dublin to the extent of 7,500 houses but the real problem from the medical standpoint is about 4,500. There are 3,000 people on our list who will not get accommodation from Dublin Corporation for a long time. They are the people the Minister had in mind when he brought in Section 6. It will take the best part of four or five years to solve the problem of housing in Dublin. There is no chance of these persons being housed by Dublin Corporation, with the exception of those living in condemned houses. It is only right that some of these elderly persons should get a chance of being housed. The local authority cannot house them for a long time and some of them are living in deplorable conditions. Their dwellings are not bad enough to be condemned but they are hovels and nothing more.

Section 6 provides for a grant of £300 and empowers the local authority to give the same amount to bodies to build houses. According to the Bill, the house will consist of three rooms. Deputy Leneghan yesterday referred to the question of three rooms. Is it necessary that an old person should have three rooms? A three-roomed house often means four or five rooms. For instance, we build one-roomed flats for elderly persons living in condemned dwellings, but there is a small kitchenette and a bathroom. If the house the Minister has in mind must have three rooms, I assume that, in addition, there will be a small kitchenette and a bathroom. Would an old person need all that accommodation? Would it not be costly to build that sort of accommodation and would the rents not be too high for the people to pay?

Grants should be made available for the building of, say, two room accommodation for elderly persons. There should not be an obligation to build three rooms which would mean that the class of people to whom the rooms would be let would be old persons with means whereas I am interested in old persons without means. If there is insistence on three rooms, the rent will probably be 30/- a week. The old people I have in mind cannot pay that rent.

I would ask the Minister to reconsider the matter. If he wants to encourage building of dwellings by outside bodies for elderly persons in order to relieve the local authority and to help the old people, there is no need to insist that the dwelling should comprise three rooms. The Minister should be prepared to help in the provision of one-room accommodation. That would not necessarily mean one room. It would include a small bathroom.

I am considering the economics. I can imagine outside bodies building such accommodation. I do not want it to be accommodation which will be let at a fabulous rent. I want them to be let at a cheap rent.

I have to contradict certain statements made here yesterday to the effect that the Minister was responsible for the shortage of dwellings. I am a member of the Housing Committee of Dublin Corporation, the chairman of which is Mr. Denis Larkin, a former Deputy, a Labour man. At a committee at which I was present in 1958 or 1959, it was decided to build no more houses, to build flats only because at that time no one would take a house. At that time, people were emigrating to Britain so fast that the vacancy rate was becoming very high. In 1958, the vacancy figure was 2,000 dwellings. There would have been no sense in building houses when there were 2,000 vacancies and 50 per cent. of those being offered these houses were refusing them. No committee of sensible men would continue to build houses under those conditions. It was decided to concentrate on building flats. For two or three years, that was the position and then the situation changed. The rate of emigration declined and people started to come back from Britain. We have on our list 200 families who have returned from Britain in the past year or two.

We examined the position and came to the conclusion that there was a demand for houses and decided to start building houses. Houses cannot be built overnight. It takes a year or two to build. Now we are building 1,000 dwellings. We hope next year to build 1,500.

The point I wish to make is that in the period 1958-59, the fact that very few houses were being built was not due to any act of the Government. I made that statement long before I voted for the Government at all, because it is the truth as far as Dublin is concerned and perhaps that was the position in the rest of the country also. Speaking for Dublin, I assert that the demand did not exist in 1958 and 1959.

We have in Dublin about 2,000 dwellings which have no modern amenities. They are known as sub-standard dwellings. We use them to house people who are evicted through no fault of their own, through the misfortune of owing rent. In Dublin, we do not put people out on the street: we offer them these sub-standard, non-subsidised dwellings and I would now ask the Minister if he would not think it advisable to encourage other local authorities to purchase sub-standard houses and if he would not think it wise to help them financially to do so. It would mean that people in the category I mentioned would have somewhere to go. Recently I had the problem of trying to get ten families housed who had been living in a night shelter.

The Deputy is enlarging the scope of the Bill. He admonished his colleague at the outset for having enlarged the discussion.

Yesterday they all went to town on everything. All I want to do——

The Deputy must not follow suit.

I want to help the people in County Dublin who have no sub-standard accommodation.

Would the Deputy remember that the Minister cannot put anything into this Bill to remedy the situation he is talking about?

There were lots of things said which had nothing to do with the Bill.

There were, I agree.

I protest against the lack of such accommodation for that class of people outside Dublin. In Dublin, we are often abused but at least we have a heart. We are unjustly abused. Getting back to the Bill, the point was made that we have a big sub-tenant problem in Dublin. That is true. We have 2,000 sub-tenants— 2,000 families living in already tenanted corporation houses. What can we do about it? We felt like getting tough at one time but when we realised the problem was so big, we turned a blind eye on it. Those people are already penalised by a cut in subsidy because they live in sub-let corporation dwellings. The corporation will not house these sub-tenants because of the cut in subsidy if houses are built for them. In hundreds of cases, there are as many as 20 persons living in three-roomed dwellings.

What can we do about them? Some mother's girl gets married; she and her husband cannot get accommodation and they move in with their relatives. A young family come back from England and they move in with their parents. I am asking the Minister to consider the hardship these people are suffering, to reconsider the matter of subsidy in these cases. The subsidy is cut to one-third in cases where there is sub-letting. We want that re-examined because otherwise, we will not be able to relieve this problem for years. Of course the corporation give priority to cases in respect of which the two-third subsidy is payable.

I want to ask the Minister a number of questions. In the first place, I would ask him to clarify Section 6 which deals with the type of person who may receive a grant of £300 from the State and a similar amount from the local authority. It seems to be restricted to aged people. I do not know where Deputy Sherwin got his information about the size of the house such people will be allowed to build because I cannot find it in the section.

I regard this as a very useful section but I suggest it should be broadened so that, for instance, voluntary hospitals and other such institutions would be enabled to make an effort to provide housing for their staffs. If these grants were available to them, if they were not confined to old people, voluntary hospitals, and industrialists in many parts of the country, would be prepared to provide houses for their employees and it would relieve the local authorities of considerable unnecessary expense. I should like the Minister to say in his reply if it would be possible to extend the provisions of this section to cover such people.

I now come to the question of sub-tenants. I have taken this matter up with the Minister before and he must be well aware that we have in Dublin at the moment a pressing problem. Unlike Deputy Sherwin, I want to say that at no stage in County Dublin recently have we not had to complain of the Department's refusal to sanction housing schemes. I have been associated with the local authority there for about seven years. I was chairman of the county council and of the housing committee for periods during that time and I know that repeatedly our housing plans have been returned to us by the Department on all sorts of frivolous grounds. We have been prevented from providing houses for our people and, as a result, these people had to crowd into already tenanted houses.

If they got married, they went in with their own relatives because they had to go somewhere. We have an enormous backlog in our housing programme. Does the Minister expect these people to be provided with houses completely out of the rates? It is an enormous problem in Dublin and in nearly every urban area in the country. People have been leaving many parts of the country. Many of them have gone to England but many more have come to us and is it fair that the Dublin ratepayers should have to bear the extra burden of housing them? Is it fair either that they should be left without houses simply because at one time they were sub-tenants of their own relatives? It is a deplorable and pressing problem, one which should have been covered in this piece of legislation.

This Bill has been heralded for a long time and we in County Dublin had hoped that the Minister would have tackled the problem seriously, particularly in County Dublin. The Minister will be aware that a resolution was passed by Dublin County Council expressing disappointment with the contents of the Bill.

Another thorn in reference to the housing problem I should like to refer to is the difficulty people have in building their own houses. In Dublin, many more people would do so through grants and loans, if they were in a position to get sites at reasonable prices. When they approach land-owners for sites, they are asked for prices out of all proportion to the fair value of the land. This Bill should contain some provision to encourage and assist local authorities to purchase sites en bloc, to develop them for S.D.A. houses as well as other local authority building programmes.

In making a few observations on this Bill, I should like to say at the outset that those of us who are members of local authorities had looked forward with a certain amount of hope to the introduction of this Bill. We had thought it would give new hope to the countless numbers of people living in overcrowded, dilapidated, insanitary dwellings. We thought it would make it easier for people to build their own houses and thereby reduce the responsibility on the local authority.

In that regard may I say that we have been very disappointed that the Minister showed a great lack of progress and foresight, and showed no desire to grapple properly with the problem of housing, when it became evident that he did not think fit to increase the grants for repair or reconstruction, and that he did not think fit to increase the grants for new house building.

Those are the two salient points in this Housing Bill, or indeed in any Housing Bill. The grants, aids and stimulants are the things which people depend upon to get on with the business of housing. It is a sorry reflection on the Government that despite the number of years which have passed since these grants were first given, despite the steep increase in the cost of materials and labour, the fall in the value of money, the Minister did not think fit to increase the essential grants for the repair and reconstruction of houses or for the erection of new houses.

The concessions in the Bill are welcomed by us, but the Bill is particularly noticeable for what it does not contain. I commend the Minister for the policy of continuing grants for repair and reconstruction of old houses and for new houses, but I deplore the fact that he did not think fit to increase them. We realise the intrinsic value of grants for repair and reconstruction. Old buildings would become eyesores in many of our towns and cities and there would be dilapidated homes and unsuitable buildings, were it not for the repair and reconstruction grants which are available to our people.

We cannot give enough publicity to the grants which are available for the repair of our people's homes. They have been of inestimable value to families in improving their living conditions and they took from the local authorities the responsibility of the cost of providing new homes for countless thousands of people in the land. Many of the streets in many of the towns with which I am familiar would look more like bombed sites, were it not for the fact that the people residing therein have available to them these repair and reconstruction grants which are used to great advantage.

My only concern in this regard, apart from the fact that the grants were not increased, is the difficulty of availing of these grants. We are pleased to note in the Bill that the Minister has now agreed with the Labour Party Bill of very recent origin to make it possible for people to borrow money from the local authorities to repair their homes and especially in relation to the purchase and repair of vested cottages. We commend the Minister for his wisdom in that regard. I am sure that is one part of the Bill which will be very much availed of.

Only those with a certain amount of initial capital can avail of the repair and reconstruction grants. The Minister will realise that it entails the expenditure of a certain amount of money to engage a contractor and have the work commenced. There are many people who have not the wherewithal to commence the job. I think it is true to say that you will not get the State grant until at least half the amount of repairs are carried out and, in some instances, the job must be completed before the State grant is paid. It is only when the State grant has been paid that the local authority will consider paying their portion of the grant.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

I want to emphasise the desirability of very many worthwhile amendments which have been made in relation to repair and reconstruction grants. Originally, it is true to say, only the landlord or the owner of the property could avail of the grants. A concession is now being made to make them available to the tenant. Above all, we should see to it that every person who wants to repair his property is afforded the opportunity and the financial aid to do so.

Loans should be made readily available by the local authorities to assist people in the repair and reconstruction of their houses. The Minister might say that that is so at present in the case of most local authorities, but in reply, I would say that many of the people I speak for belong to the poorer section of the community who would normally be regarded as a bad risk, or a shaky risk, to say the least of it, by the local authorities. I think loans should be granted on the property rather than on the person concerned. The local authorities and the Minister have the law on their side to ensure that they are recouped for any money they spend on such repair and reconstruction.

I want to refer to Sections 19 and 20 of the Housing Act under which if a landlord fails to carry out repairs to his property, or is either unwilling or unable to carry out such repairs, the local authority can do those repairs. I have seen evidence of that kind of work reasonably well done by the local authority. They then collect the rent from the tenant to recoup themselves for the amount spent but the law is defective inasmuch as the local authority are prohibited from carrying out any further repairs to those houses.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

The point I wish to make in this regard is that where the local authority does carry out repairs or improvements to homes where the landlord has defaulted, so to speak, or is unable or unwilling to do so, I regard it as a virtual waste of money. I suggest the local authority are not empowered to continue to maintain these houses in proper condition. It seems ridiculous that we should spend State and ratepayers' money on such homes. We have no responsibility afterwards for their proper maintenance. I have seen money spent under this section on very many houses, only to find later that the houses were left to deteriorate to the extent that the local authority were obliged to condemn them ultimately and rehouse the people.

I think the provision in the Bill in relation to house design to which the Minister has adverted is commendable. In this regard, too many of our local authority houses, in particular, are designed on too lavish a scale altogether. The average person in need of re-housing does not require the kinds of extraneous things put into our homes. Our people are entitled to houses with the most modern amenities, by all means, but terrazzo floors, built-in presses, and so on, are things which we could possibly do without for the time being and leave it to the tenant to install them in his own good time.

It is desirable to have all these kinds of things, provided the tenant can pay for them. My experience is that one of the most important facts when one gets a house in this country is whether one can afford the rent stipulated. I feel that much can be done to cut down on the folderols to which I have referred and thereby reduce the over-all rent. I hope a design will be forthcoming which will give modern amenities to all our people and cut down waste of any kind.

It seems that preferential treatment is being meted out to one section of the community as against another. It is evident, indeed, in very many measures emanating from this House. I see that in relation to the second grant which the Minister may give for repairing and improving a house, farmers can now get two-thirds of the cost of the work involved while the rest of the community will get only one-third.

It is nice to see the farmers of a certain valuation getting two-thirds of the cost of any work they may be obliged to embark upon as a result of storm damage or some other factor beyond their control, but I know of no reason why the rest of the community should be confined to one-third. I think it is true that the town dweller undergoes the same hardship, inconvenience and suffering. Many town-dwellers are certainly as badly off and some much more worse off than the community on which we are conferring this preferential treatment. I would ask the Minister to consider again giving equality in this regard. This giving of two-thirds of the cost to one section of the community, as against one-third of the cost to another section of the community, is inequitable. The two-thirds should apply, in my opinion, to all.

The Minister will have a lot of explaining to do on the section relating to the building of houses for aged people. It seems that voluntary societies, charitable bodies, and so on, are expected under this Bill to embark upon the building of houses for the aged. It is not stipulated as to what the term "aged" means or when a person becomes aged. However, the grants are very liberal. One can get £300 from the State and, it is hoped, a further £300 from the local authority for each separate dwelling built under this section.

We should like to advise the Minister of our concern in relation to this section. It is open to serious abuse. First of all, does the Minister know of those voluntary bodies who will embark upon this very desirable scheme for the aged and, secondly, would it be true to say that some such body could embark upon the building of houses for the aged by taking over, say, a tenement house, putting a number of rooms into it and domiciling an aged person in each room and qualifying, at the same time, for £600 in respect of each of these allegedly separate dwellings?

We think this section could very seriously be abused. I would ask the Minister to ensure that those humanitarian and charitable societies who embark upon the building of houses for the aged, of which we approve, will do so in good faith. Nobody should be allowed to create what we consider would be a racket under this section.

In relation to the repair of cottages and houses generally, I would ask the Minister to ensure that he exercises more strict control over the kind of repairs carried out. Our feeling in the matter is that much of the money spent on repairs is spent on work badly done. Bad workmanship is involved. We need to have greater supervision in that regard.

In relation to the loans and grants made available by the local authority, the Minister will realise that however liberal his grants may be, however generous his ceiling for permission to get grants for new house-building, urban authorities and housing authorities generally are inclined to be rather niggardly in this regard. If the Minister were to tell me the number of housing authorities in this country who pay, £ for £, with State grants, the number would be found to be very small. There are very few local authorities paying, pro rata, with the State grants.

Many of them apply a rigorous means test and it is very difficult to get a local authority grant in many counties that I know. The Minister will agree that this is deplorable. If the Minister provides in the Bill that he will give £x reconstruction grant or new housing grant, the local authority is expected to play its full part by way of contribution also. I appreciate that many local authorities are concerned about the impact of these grants on the rates and about their ability to provide the necessary money but this is money which we regard as the best-spent money in the country, money for re-housing of people. We regard that as our primary task and we advise the Minister to admonish all local authorities to be as generous as they can in making money available for reconstruction and repair grants and for the building of new houses.

The Minister should look at those counties where the means test applied is particularly keen and hinders the expeditious carrying out of this work and see what he can do by advice or admonition to local authorities from the county manager down.

There are some very worthwhile features in the Bill but it must be judged by the fact that its most important aspect, the amount of grants for new houses and repairs, is unchanged. In that respect the Bill shows evidence of a lack of foresight and progress in dealing with the problem of rehousing.

Like other speakers, I wish to congratulate the Minister on the improvements he has made by this Bill. We heard many complaints, especially from the speaker who preceded me, that reconstruction grants and new housing grants have not been increased. I, also, am exceedingly sorry that the grants have not been increased but from there on, I part company with the other speakers. When I go to the top of the stairs, I turn left and vote money for these grants but they go to the right and refuse money for these grants. They confine themselves to complaining but when the Minister asks for the money, it is not forthcoming. Nobody would be more delighted than the Minister to increase the grants, if this House provided the money.

I heard many figures given yesterday about the number of houses built in different years. I have been a member of Sligo County Council for many years and it was only in 1956 that that council had to suspend payment of supplementary grants because there was not a penny available for them. Local authorities had to meet those grants and the money was not being paid by the Department for them, with the result that tradesmen cleared out of the country and the people lost faith. It has taken years to get them back to build houses again. No matter what figures are given, the fact remains that in 1956 no money was available to pay the grants. That is a fact.

I cannot understand members painting lurid pictures of hovels all over the country. No later than last Monday I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend who returned from the US. He had been there 35 years and he told me how pleased he was to see the change that had taken place in our housing conditions since he left Ireland. He is a man who has travelled a large part of the world and he said our housing compared more than favourably with that of any country. I admit there is still something to be done. We in Sligo have started a scheme of specific instance housing for people not able to avail of these grants. The council will build houses for them as they have no means of their own.

Those who come here and are members of public bodies and blame the Minister would be doing a better day's work if they went back to their local bodies and tried to get the houses built. The Minister has done his work. When he came into office in 1957, the first thing he had to do was bring in a Supplementary Estimate to pay outstanding loans for years when he was out of office. He has provided the machinery and it is up to the local authorities to get the houses built instead of grousing and complaining. It is not the duty of the Minister to build houses. It is his duty to provide the machinery and the money. He has done that and those who come in here complaining are condemning themselves and their colleagues on local authorities for not doing this work.

The Minister has done a good day's work in bringing in a Bill containing these improvements. It is up to the local authorities to carry on that work and I hope that at the end of the Minister's term, the same story will not be told as was told in 1956 — no money to pay for the work.

The more you repeat it, the better you will believe it yourself.

I am sure of it. I took part in it.

The Deputy did take part in the ramp; I know that.

I wish to make a few points which I think will be of interest to the Minister in connection with SDA houses and loans. When our local authority give loans, we get the money from the Local Loans Fund and give it on loan to the people who are buying new houses. We find that a ground rent is put on these houses, notwithstanding that we have a commission inquiring into the matter of ground rents. No matter what is said at the council meeting or the housing meeting, the assistant city manager puts on the ground rent. Recently, I believe, in some cases where SDA loans were given, a ground rent of £15 was fixed.

The question of ground rents does not arise.

I only mention it in connection with SDA loans given to deserving citizens trying to build their houses. Notwithstanding that the money they get is lent to them at 6¼ per cent. notwithstanding that they must have a couple of hundred pounds themselves, notwithstanding that they get £275 from the Government and in certain conditions, £137 10s. 0d. from the local authority this ground rent is fixed. If they get a loan of £1,800 at 6¼ per cent. over 35 years, they are paying roughly £2 per week interest without taking a penny off the capital sum. The Minister should consider that matter when people are trying to build their own houses. Money should be made available at a lower rate of interest than six per cent.

Deputy Sherwin, speaking about housing in Dublin, mentioned that at one period it was decided to stop building houses on the outskirts of the city, or rather, that a decision was taken that available space in the city would be devoted to building flats. It had been found that people, owing to high rents and bus fares, who were housed on the outskirts of the city remained there for only a very short time and then came back to rooms in the city. Therefore it was decided to build flats in the centre of the city. With regard to the subsidy, under certain conditions, grossly overcrowded conditions and in compulsory areas and in condemned areas, there is a two-third subsidy and in all other cases, it is one-third. In Dublin, we have the position that there may be 14 people in a three-roomed house.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

Reference was made to housing single people and childless couples. In the city of Dublin, there are a number of small houses owned by certain bodies and it would be a good thing if the Corporation bought those houses, thereby saving the big capital cost involved in housing these people. That should be done. Another matter to which I should like to refer is the matter of landlords in this city. Recently I had occasion to be called to a house in which the rain had destroyed every article of furniture, including the bed clothes and the bed. I understand that the landlord instead of getting a tradesman or a contractor to mend the roof, got a man to do what we in Dublin call a "nixer" and the job was left half done. In such cases the Minister should grant power to the local authorities that where the landlord fails to carry out necessary repairs, especially to the roof, they would be able to do the repairs and recoup the charge by collecting rents until they had obtained their money.

There are a couple of matters in this Bill to which I should like to refer. One is the position regarding grants for new houses. I note that there is now a limit of £832 per annum for all areas and an increase to £50 in the present maximum valuation limit of £35 for farmers. For a long time, I have been protesting against that particular idea because in my constituency, or large portions of it, a £50 valuation involves 25 statute acres. That is a very small holding and we should either have a revaluation of the land or change that provision. It is ridiculous from another point of view, that is, that you have here side by side two sections, one putting this limit on new houses and another with no limit on the reconstruction side. The whole thing is ridiculous and a millionaire could come in here and buy a castle and apply to the Department of Local Government for a reconstruction grant for the castle and he would be entitled to it. If an ordinary farmer wants to build a new house, he is cut down by the limits of the supplementary grant.

I should also like to deal with the changes that have occurred in my constituency because of the advent of industries. We have people who have to travel from 17 to 20 miles each day to their work. I discussed this matter with the Minister before and at that time he said that one of the qualifications for rehousing was the distance from employment. Unfortunately, I cannot get the powers that be, the managers and assistant managers of Cork county, to understand that and I suggest it is high time the Minister informed them and informed them in no unqualified language. The Minister very wisely decided that where a man was living a distance from his employment, he was entitled to rehousing, even though he was living in a local authority house, convenient to his place of employment.

Suppose he lived in another county?

It does not matter where he lives. The Deputy thinks no man should get work except in the parish in which he lives. That is the attitude. Those people are entitled to employment and if we are lucky enough to get industries and they get employment in them, they are entitled at least to a home to go to when their day's work is done, and not to have to travel, as they have to do at present, 17 and 20 miles to and from their work morning and evening. In the Mallow area, you now have the position where the Sugar company have to send buses up to 15 and 20 miles to bring their people to work and take them home again. That condition of affairs should end. Our first job should be to find employment for our people in their own country and then give them a decent home to go into. That is one of the things I am asking the Minister to bring home in no uncertain manner to the county manager and assistant county manager in Cork.

I do not want to be forced, without notice of motion under Section 4, to suspend the manager. If we have to do it, we will do it and then we will know whether the Minister's word is law or not. We have that problem where there are large industries and it is one that will have to be looked into. I suggest that the Minister circularise the local authorities in regard to it.

We have the same problem in Cobh where thousands of people have to come into work each morning. In most of those industries, there is shift work and a man who leaves his work at 12 o'clock at night or 1 o'clock in the morning has a nasty problem to get home, if he has to travel 14 or 15 miles. Those problems can only be met by providing houses near the place of employment. It is becoming a problem with people who are anxious to start industries in the country and there is also the problem of industries leaving certain areas where the managers are not co-operative. It is time we had co-operation in this matter.

I should like to know what are the regulations, if there are regulations, preventing people with £100 valuation on land from getting loans from a local authority. I do not think there should be any such regulation. We have a rather peculiar position as regards this whole matter of valuation and I wonder who is the rule-stick in the Department of Local Government who decides that a farmer with a valuation of £50 has an income equal to that of the worker with a salary of £825. I would like to know where the Minister got the rule-stick. Those are the few matters I should like the Minister to attend to as quickly as possible because the problem of the re-housing of workers in industrial employment is a very urgent one and one that will have to be dealt with.

My colleagues who have already spoken have dealt with this Bill in a comprehensive fashion but there are some points I should like to raise on a few of the sections and I should like the Minister to take note of them and give us some information when he is replying. In Section 2, which deals with grants, there is no indication that the maximum grant from local bodies of £275 is to be increased. Does the Minister not consider that, having regard to the increase in incomes that has taken place and the fall in the value of money, the time has now come to increase that grant of £275? I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to that section.

I notice also in Section 6, which provides a new type of grant for houses for elderly people, that this grant will be made to bodies approved of by the Minister. To me, that is rather vague and I should like the Minister to indicate the type of body he has in mind. He should be careful to ensure that an opportunity is not given to people to make use of elderly people and put them into one-roomed hovels and at the same time get a grant of £300 for each hovel. If we are not careful, a racket could grow up in this matter and I think it would be better for the Minister to be more explicit when he refers to these approved bodies.

Another matter which I think the Minister might reconsider is Section 11 which provides for the abolition of the existing maximum loan of £1,800 in county boroughs. The section goes on to say that regulations may be made. Are we to understand that the Minister will make regulations in this connection?

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

Section 11 provides that the Minister may make regulations and I was asking would the Minister make such regulations. The same case can be made here for an increase in the grants when we take into consideration the increase in incomes and the fall in the value of money. It would be safe to state that a number of people who come within the ambit of the SDA have moved up as regards incomes within the past few years but due to the fall in the value of money, their position has not improved very much. Still, they are outside the scope of the grant.

I also feel that the time is now ripe when the Minister should set about extending the loans and also giving guidance to the recipients of such loans. It has happened in Dublin that potential SDA tenants have got into all sorts of trouble without knowing it. It is not unusual for a young man or woman getting married to go to a builder and commit themselves to all types of things. Few of them read the agreement covering the contract. Could the Minister not make it a condition that the contract is "vetted" by the local authority or the Department? It has often happened that, after the expiration of the trial period when the person was in occupation of the house, all sorts of things were found wrong with the house for which a loan had been given. It is too late then for these people to go back to the builder and they are left holding the bag.

I should like the Minister to explain how he proposes to enforce Section 15, which lays down that a grant may be payable only in respect of work on which trade union wages and conditions were observed. We have heard Deputy Barron talk about the "nixers" and we know that has been going on. Although this section has been there for a long time, it has not always been enforced satisfactorily. Therefore, I should like the Minister to tell us if he has devised some way of enforcing it.

A very wide field has been covered by the Deputies who have spoken on this Bill. Deputies opposite have referred to the housing conditions in their own local authority areas, and I do not doubt that they find there is a need for houses in their areas. However, this Bill will help people to provide their own houses as well as assisting them in the repair and reconstruction of their houses. If this demand for houses exists, and I do not doubt it, the local authorities themselves have definite responsibilities in that regard. If members of local authorities were vocal enough at their council meetings and made an effort to have schemes submitted to the Department for approval, I have no doubt that they would be sanctioned by the Minister. That has been our experience in Wicklow. In recent years, we have submitted a number of small village schemes as well as schemes for isolated cottages. We found greater difficulty getting them through our own officials than through the Department.

Complaints have been made about the delay in the introduction of this Bill. I would be inclined to complain myself but for the fact I was assured by the Minister last May, when the Bill was introduced, that it would have retrospective effect to the 1st April and that people who built after that date would benefit.

The Bill itself has many worthwhile provisions. The main bone of contention seems to be that there is no increase in the grants. Like Deputy Gilhawley, I, too, would like to see an increase in the grants, but I am sure the Minister will explain to us the reason he could not increase them. I suppose the difficulty of getting money was one of the things that influenced him in that regard.

One outstanding feature of the Bill is that local authorities themselves can now decide on a scheme of supplementary grants for new houses. Previously, the scheme was laid down by the Department and the grants were on a graded scale. In my county, very few people at all qualified for a supplementary grant. Certainly, any individual who qualified for a full supplementary grant was not considered a proposition when it came to allocating an S.D.A. loan. I do not think that should be. We should try to facilitate these people by giving them the loan and the grant.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

Local authorities will now be in a position to formulate a scheme for supplementary grants for new houses and will be in a position, if they so desire, to give a supplementary grant to people whose income does not exceed £830 per annum or whose total rateable valuation does not exceed £50. That will be of tremendous benefit to the farming community.

I should like to know from the Minister, however, if there is any way by which these grants could be extended to people in the urban areas. We have three urban areas in my constituency and I know it is not possible for them to finance these supplementary grants themselves. I do not know whether the county council, as the premier body, could provide money to enable the urban authorities to give such grants. I certainly would like to have the Minister's views on the matter. It is unfortunate that so many people in the urban areas cannot benefit while those who live on the fringes of the towns in the rural area can get up to £600 between State and county council grants for new houses.

The same applies to supplementary reconstruction grants. The scheme for supplementary reconstruction grants is one of the best schemes a local authority could undertake. Right from the word "go", we gave 100 per cent. We paid £ for £. We have no regrets for doing so because we are satisfied we were doing a good day's work and we intend to continue in the future as we have been operating in the past.

I am glad that the Minister has made provision to enable loans to be made to occupiers of vested cottages to help them carry out repairs. We had a discussion on this some time ago and I expressed the wish then that such a loan would be made available to help bridge the gap between the cost of the repairs and the grants. I am glad now that the Minister has made provision for that in this measure. I noticed some Deputies, particularly Labour Deputies, referred in the course of the debate to loans being made available for the purchase of vested cottages. I should like the Minister to clarify the position because there does not appear to be any provision in the Bill to cover that situation. Personally, I would be against the idea. I think it would be wrong. I should like the Minister to tell us whether it is a fact that such loans will be made available.

With regard to the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, the ceiling at the moment is £1,040. The eighth round wage and salary increase must have brought a number of people over that figure and I would appeal to the Minister now to raise the ceiling to offset that eighth round increase. This is one of the few ways in which people can get money readily to provide their own houses. I should like the Minister to consider that aspect.

I am glad to note that in future there will be only one form where reconstruction grants are concerned. I hope it will be as simple as possible. I am sure it is the experience of every Deputy that people find it difficult at times to fill in forms. A number of forms are involved. There is the certificate that the house is suitable for repair. There is the certificate with relation to the valuation. When the original application form is submitted to the Department, the Department should get in touch with the local authority and deal with all the matters then, such as suitability and valuation, and not have it coming and going to the applicant. This practice leads to a waste of time. Forms should be as simple as possible.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

I wonder would the Minister consider making some of the grants for repairs and improvements available before the work is completed? There is a good deal of difficulty in getting contractors to do these jobs. People have to employ tradesmen and pay them weekly, and it is not always easy to find the kind of money tradesmen demand today. If some part of the grants was made available when half the work is done, that would facilitate those doing improvements and repairs. It might be possible to arrange that the local authorities would also pay half their supplementary grants. I commend the idea to the Minister for his consideration.

Finally, is there any serious objection to local authorities making loans available at a cheaper rate of interest than that at which they borrow themselves? The rate of interest under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act has come in for a good deal of criticism at times. I cannot understand why the local authority could not make the money available at a lower rate of interest. I should like the Minister to give us his views on the matter.

This Bill will do a great deal of good. The increased facilities will stimulate housebuilding throughout the country.

(South Tipperary): I understand that over the past year or so, the Minister's Department has been making a nation-wide survey of housing needs. I believe some of the returns have come in. I was not surprised to find a fairly high percentage of poor houses in our community. What I was surprised to find was the very uneven distribution of these houses between county and county. It is rather baffling to find such a disparity between, for example, Mayo and North Tipperary. One expects a difference but not the gross disparity that I understand appeared. It makes one wonder whether there was some lack of uniformity in assessment of what was a habitable or a non-habitable house.

Several speakers have expressed disappointment at the fact that the Minister did not raise the building grants. I am equally disappointed, particularly in view of what Deputy Barry said in relation to the steep increase in the cost of building in his area for working class houses under the Cork Corporation. If I am quoting him rightly, he said three years ago the figure was £1,400 and to-day it is £1,900. In view of that, I think the Minister should have been a little more generous as regards the grant. I should like the Minister to let us know when the present figure was fixed. Was it fixed two, four or six years ago and has it increased over the years in relation to the general increase in the cost of building? The grant, taken at its face value, is a help but only a small help to anyone who wants to build any kind of a house at the present day.

If the Minister were considering increasing the grant, I thought he might also consider increasing the maximum ground space to which the grant is applicable. According to the First Schedule to the Bill, it is limited to 1,400 square feet for at least three rooms. There are some people who might try to increase the number of rooms in this maximum ground space and might end up with rather poky rooms. I understand that some people in order to qualify for the grant adopt the subterfuge of having an extension made afterwards when they have safely got the grant. That should not be necessary. If we are to progress and improve living conditions, a more liberal approach as regards ground space should be adopted by the Minister. I do not say a grant should be given for any ground space but the Minister could be a little more liberal about it.

Deputy Sherwin gave his usual dissertation about Dublin Corporation's progress in regard to building in the years 1958 and 1959. Dublin Corporation figures and Cork Corporation figures have been quoted. The total number of houses built has been quoted. I wish to quote figures from the Minister's Department as they appear in the Returns of Local Taxation for the year ended 31st March, 1960. In page 18, Table D of these returns expenditure on housing is given as follows:















There is no question, even in regard to the Department's official returns, that there was a marked decline in expenditure on local authority building, no matter what explanation or apologia Deputy Sherwin may offer.

There were 1,800 corporation tenants leaving the country in 1956 and 1957 during the economic recession of the inter-Party Government. That is the explanation.

Is that not a great interjection?

(South Tipperary): If the Deputy wants to make a speech, I am sure the Chair will be delighted to facilitate him.

I merely want to keep the Deputy right.

(South Tipperary): In regard to the provision of grants for houses, there appears to be some confusion. Under Section 2, there is no ceiling, but under Section 12 in regard to supplementary grants by the local authority for the same purpose, the provision of houses, there is a ceiling of £50 valuation and an income of £832 per annum. I found it hard to understand why there should be a ceiling for the local authorities and no ceiling for the Minister. I may be interpreting it wrongly but perhaps the Minister would be kind enough to explain why there is this apparent discrepancy in the Bill.

For the first time provision is being made here for a loan to people for the reconstruction of vested cottages. Some Deputies have misinterpreted that in that they assume there is something being provided for the purchase of cottages. As far as I can read the Bill, it is only for reconstruction, which is quite a proper limitation. Is there a time limit for the granting of a loan for reconstruction of a vested cottage? There is the odd case where a man vests his cottage and afterwards complains that the repairs are not satisfactory and in some cases they are not satisfactory. I have seen such cases myself. Nevertheless, he is now the legal owner of the cottage and the county council will deny all responsibility in the matter. Therefore, the man has no alternative but to try to do the work himself. I wish to know if such a man, whose cottage has been vested recently and put into a certain state of repair, will be entitled to get a grant. I mention the time limit because there is a time limit as regards the giving of a second grant. Would the repairs done before vesting be regarded in the light of the first grant and therefore preclude him from being eligible for a grant over some specific period from the time of vesting?

Section 6 provides for grants for the building of houses for elderly persons. In principle, of course, we all must welcome a provision of that nature. I should like the Minister to be a little more expansive and to give us some idea as to what he has in mind in regard to the provision of houses for elderly persons. Other Deputies have made a similar request. The section refers to the erection, reconstruction, conversion and purchase of houses. The Minister intends to make regulations governing the section. In particular, does it cover the provision of a block of flats or the reconstruction of an old building?

I would ask the Minister to give us some indication of what he has in mind because it would seem to me that the £300 Government grant and £300 local grant will not go very far to provide what might be called a house if the persons happen to be poor and if you build some kind of two-room dwellings for elderly persons, what will you do with them afterwards? These people, of necessity, have a short life-span and if you build these small houses in rural areas, they will be unsuitable afterwards for family houses. I should like to have the Minister's views on that aspect.

Deputy Desmond mentioned a point which has some interest for me, that is, the question of supplementary grants from poor local bodies. I live in Cashel and, according to the Local Government book here, we are the second poorest local body in Ireland. There is a local body in Mayo which is poorer than we are. Of course, we have never been able to give a supplementary grant. We could not afford it. In the past 20 years, there have been only four or five private houses built in Cashel. I am a member of the urban council there. Naturally, we look forward to any new house being built because it enlarges the town and helps our rates. I would ask the Minister has he ever considered the question of the poor urban body who are unable to give a supplementary grant and who are anxious to encourage expansion of a small town and to encourage people to build out of their own resources in that town to help their rates?

Deputy McQuillan touched on a very important aspect of the question when he said that he did not think the Department of Local Government or local authorities would be able to deal with the question of housing as it exists on a broad community basis. I think he is right. In view of the impost local authorities have to face for health and rural water supplies, I do not think we can reach that section of the community, the lower section of the middle income group, who are really the people who are worst placed at the moment. I have gone around my constituency during election time — all Deputies have done the same in their constituencies and most of them will agree with me — and I am of the opinion that all of what I may call the working classes are now better placed as regards housing than the small farming class up to £10, £15 and maybe £20 valuation. I come from what might be regarded as a fairly wealthy county but even we have a considerable number of farmers — and small farmers, too—living in quite poor dwellings. They seem to be caught between the upper and nether millstones. They seem to be nobody's darlings. There seems to be no possibility of helping them. They represent a large, substantial and important section of the community.

The view we on this side of the House take as regards these people is that some body — the Land Commission or some such body — should be empowered to build houses for them and place the cost of the house on a 50 year annuity basis, just as they are paying their annuities at present. A bold statesmanlike approach to that problem must be adopted in the near future and I would ask the Minister to give us his views on that aspect also.

I do not propose to detain the House very long but there are one or two aspects of this Bill on which I must comment. Ever since I came into this House eleven years ago, I have been badgering and persecuting the local authority and Ministers for Local Government and Health about the problem of elderly persons living in poor houses and also about the problem of the small section of the community who are not able to avail of the existing grants and loans because they are not able to make up the difference between the cost of building and the amount of money they can receive.

I am very happy indeed that the Minister has introduced in this Bill some machinery for helping elderly persons who are incapable of helping themselves. I do not flatter myself that my efforts have been responsible, or even partly responsible, but I did voice my feelings, which are deep, on this matter very many times and it gives me great satisfaction to know that some provision is at last being made to cater for the elderly and helpless.

My principal reason for intervening in this debate is that I intend that my remarks now should be published in the local papers and I hope it is not out of place to use this House as a forum for asking that voluntary bodies should take up the challenge and the invitation offered by the Minister in this Bill. Various criticisms have been made by Deputies, mostly from the Labour Party, with regard to the looseness of the arrangements proposed. I think the arrangements have to be loose. To tie up a system like this would be to render it useless. The Minister is in a position and will be in a position through regulation to control the scheme and to make whatever alterations in the scheme are required from time to time. The main fact is that at long last provision is being made for these people and that is a source of great joy to me.

I earnestly appeal to individuals and bodies in County Mayo to get together immediately to tackle this urgent, grave and sad problem. I understand that Deputy Blowick, who also represents Mayo, made a speech in the course of this debate in which he accused the Minister for Local Government and this Party of having done nothing for the small farmers in County Mayo. Deputy Blowick is a notorious and well-known bluffer. He is a member of the local authority of County Mayo and Deputy Blowick would be better paid to go back to Mayo and ask the local authority why they do not discharge their responsibilities to these poor people by adopting the specific instance system of housing which is in operation in Roscommon and most other counties in Ireland but which is not in operation in Mayo. Deputy Brennan is perfectly right in saying that this is a matter which is the responsibility and will remain the responsibility of the local authority.

Instead of coming in here with his bluff, Deputy Blowick would be better advised to go back and discharge his duty as a member of the local authority. He might choose to go to the county medical officer of health and ask him if he could have a look at the file of letters he has received from me over the past few years. Or he might ask the county manager if he could see the file of letters built up from correspondence from me on the plight of the poor people of Mayo. It is not the responsibility of the Minister or the Government to do more than provide the machinery by way of grant and loan. That is all this or any other Government have done, but Deputy Blowick comes in here looking for this, that and the other. He is the first to go back home looking for a reduced rate. I am sick of that kind of bluff.

The Minister is to be commended for increasing the maximum SDA loan to £2,000. There can be no doubt this will provide the necessary stimulus and will leave the way open to thousands of young people who have for the past year or two found it impossible to contract for the building of houses because they were not able to make up the difference between the cost of the building and the maximum amount available to them in grant and loan. I believe this figure will be sufficient and I am satisfied that it will meet the case of the type of person for which it is intended.

No good purpose could be served by going back on what a number of Deputies have said, but I do wish to say that I do not think it comes too well from members of the Fine Gael Party that they should criticise the Minister for failing to increase the grants for reconstruction. The record proves that where housing is concerned the Fianna Fáil Party can be proud of their achievements. Even some of the most ardent Fine Gael supporters are now in some doubt as to whether the same can be said for their Party.

Arising out of the concluding remarks of Deputy Seán Flanagan in which he suggested that under the Government all was right in respect to housing, I think it is appropriate to say, though I did not intend to refer to it until the Deputy adopted the line he did at the conclusion of his speech, that in respect to the city of Cork, less money was spent each year since the present Government took power than was spent there during the last three years of the inter-Party Government. If Deputy Flanagan does not believe me, I can give him the figures. In 1956, £729,000 was spent on housing in Cork; this year, the figure is £392,000.

Any satisfaction we might feel about the provisions of this Bill, about new enticements and new benefits, must be tempered by the knowledge I have just referred to — that since this Government went back into power, it is an undoubted fact, which can be statistically proved, that less money has been spent on the provision of houses for the working classes than was spent during the last term of the inter-Party Government. It is true, of course, that in some cases saturation point might have been reached in regard to housing needs but that was not so in respect to Dublin or Cork.

We are glad that encouragement is being given to local authorities to cater for the people whom the Minister describes as elderly persons. In a way, it is an indictment of the manner in which local bodies have been carrying out what I consider to be their duty in this respect. This is a belated effort to get somebody to cater for these old men and women with whom every public representative is brought so closely in touch — people left without relatives, without decent accommodation. Certainly the situation in Cork is that these people can rot and fester in the streets for all the local authority care about them. I am not blaming the Minister for it. It is something that has been allowed to go on by the local authorities. I doubt if the provision made by the Minister will alter it: it seems certain the Minister will have to issue some sort of directive or give further inducement to the local authorities to provide housing for those unfortunate people.

I do not see the need for Section 7. Local authorities have their own engineers and architects, the Department have theirs and between them there should be sufficient initiative and specialised knowledge to provide the more suitable type of house for this sort of accommodation. I think there is no need for this section.

In the Bill in general there is a rash of subsections. Nearly every section of the Bill provides a subsection which, in effect, says: "The Minister may make regulations for the purpose of this section." I am totally opposed to handing over these powers to the Minister in an almost casual way, particularly when one finds the delegation of such powers provided for in almost every section. Then we come to read all these subsections in conjunction with Section 23 which says:

The Minister may make regulations prescribing any matter or thing which is referred to in this Act as prescribed or to be prescribed.

Section 6 says:

The Minister may make regulations for the purposes of this section.

but there is nothing in that section which says "to be prescribed". Even from the technical point of view, surely the Minister should do something to clean up that mess before we take the later Stages of the Bill.

I invite the House to oppose strongly all these subsections which give carte blanche to take these powers to himself. He should state in each one of these subsections what type of regulation it is intended to make or what powers he intends to take under the particular sections making provision for these regulations.

As far as the west of Ireland is concerned, this is a most disappointing Bill. I had thought, due to the report issued on the small farms in western counties and congested areas, that some concession would be given in respect to housing in those areas. The Bill has been heralded with a fanfare of trumpets. Consequently quite a lot was expected but very little has been given. To my mind, the Minister did not take into consideration the fact that since the last Housing Bill was introduced, the cost of materials and labour has increased.

I am more interested in reconstruction than erection. In my constituency, there are 1,300 holdings under £20 valuation. Day after day, I get heart-rending letters from mothers of families telling me that their houses have been condemned by the medical officer of health in the county and that illness and the incidence of T.B. have risen due to the conditions of those houses.

Deputy Flanagan and other Deputies said this work is the responsibility of the local authorities. I cannot for a second follow their logic in dealing with this matter. The Deputy said it was the responsibility of the local authority and he mentioned specific instance houses. At the same time he criticised Deputy Blowick for asking the Mayo County Council for a reduction in the rates. Surely, if he or any other Deputy thinks logically on the same lines as I try to think, the local authorities cannot build specific instance houses without a consequent increase in the rates.

It was expected that the Minister would concentrate on the housing of small farmers, especially in the west of Ireland where housing is a tremendous problem, and on houses for people with valuations of from £1 to £20. As I said already, there are 1,300 of those people in my constituency. It has been suggested by various Deputies that it is a function and a responsibility of the local authorities to build houses for small farmers. I think that is entirely wrong. I do not agree with it for one moment.

If the local authorities were to be responsible on a large scale for building houses for small farmers, the tenants would be expected to pay a reasonable rent which would come, of course, from very limited resources. If they did not pay or if they were unable to pay, the local authority would have to subsidise the rent. The rates in my county and generally in the west of Ireland are far too high for any of us to support a motion that the rents of such houses should be subsidised on a large scale by the local authorities. I do not think that would happen.

If again the local authorities decided to enter on a large scale scheme of building houses for small farmers, has anyone considered what the outcome would be? If the tenants refused to pay or failed to pay the rents to the local authorities, there is no worthwhile remedy. If an eviction took place, who would enter into a house from which the owner of the property had been evicted? The land would belong to him. There would be a further complication.

There would be a complication in the sale of the property. The land would belong to the farmer in question and the house would belong to the local authority. It is not a sound proposition to ask the local authorities to build houses for small farmers. It is all very well to say that without offering a solution, but I have a suggestion to offer. I heard one Deputy come very near it but he did not come just to the point of what I should like to see happening.

I believe the Government are responsible for erecting houses for the type of people I am talking about, that is, the small farmers who are unable to erect houses for themselves, even with the assistance of grants. Who would expect us to ask a farmer with an £8 or a £10 valuation — and I know quite a number of them — to erect, shall we say, a five-roomed unserviced house? He would get a grant of £225 and if he went through a building society he would get £10 extra from the Department, and he would get the same from the local authority, but he would still have to look for at least £700 or £800. It may be said that under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act he would get a loan but would he sink himself to that extent?

I do not think that is the solution. My studied opinion of the solution of the problem of building houses for the small farmers in the west of Ireland— and I am speaking about my own area, the one I know most about — is that the Government, through the Land Commission, should build for those people and add on something small to the annual rent over a number of years. That is the only solution I can see. Let it be the responsibility of the Government, working through the Land Commission.

If the contribution now being paid in loan charges to the local authorities — I understand it is two-thirds — were capitalised, it would be far more economic, I think, for the Government then to deal with the problem by outright grant. If you go into the figures— I shall not bother the House by going into them now — as I have gone into them, you will find that there is something in that point which should be examined very carefully and be given some consideration. If they followed that line of thinking, the Government could use the local authorities' administrative machinery to do the work and the full costs of the erection up to, say, a limit of £1,500, could be recouped. The Bill does not meet the requirements in my county or my constituency. It has been very disappointing. As other Deputies have stated here, people held up work for a long time because, due to the increased cost of material and the increased cost of labour, it was expected that there would be a substantial increase in grants.

I should like, even at this late stage, if the Minister could see his way to consider the points about housing small farmers in the west who, even with the help of both grants, are still unable to erect their houses. I should be glad if he would consider the points I have made about making it a Government responsibility and working through the Land Commission and putting something on to their rent.

I could not understand Deputy Gallagher's attitude at all yesterday. I was not sure whether he was more interested in Bray than in County Sligo. He made a statement to the effect that an increase in grants was unnecessary as adequate grants are available. I am not sure whether he was thinking about industry or small farmers in the west at the time. He did not specify that. In my constituency, there are 13,000 people under £20 valuation. Not all of the 13,000 people who still require rehousing are able to erect a new house with the assistance of the grants available and therefore there should be a second thinking about that matter.

I just want to make a short observation on the deplorable habit of Fianna Fáil to believe that, with constant repetition, a falsehood will prevail. I want to read some figures for the edification of the members of the Fianna Fáil Party, some of whom might have been deceived, themselves, into the belief that housing was insufficiently catered for under the previous Government and has been relatively generously provided for under the present Government.

In 1954, 11,179 houses were built in this country with State aid; in 1955, 10,490 houses; in 1956, 9,837 houses; in 1957, 10,696 houses. Then Fianna Fáil came into office. In 1958, 7,480 houses were built in this country with State aid; in 1959, 4,894 houses; in 1960, 5,992 houses; in 1961, 5,798 houses. So, Fianna Fáil ought to wake up to the fact that since they have taken office in 1957 the building of houses with State aid has fallen by 50 per cent. in every year as compared with the years during which the inter-Party Government were in office. Fianna Fáil Deputies should study these figures and educate themselves in the truth. It will be a refreshing experience.

If you want the truth, you must have regard to what Deputy Sweetman admitted yesterday, namely, that it takes approximately three years from the time you start your proposals until you get your house built. So, relate the years of the inter-Party Government to the Fianna Fáil time.

I think the complaint was that money was not available in those years for building. I am pointing out to the Deputy the results of the outlay of money provided by the two Governments. But that is not all to which I wish to direct the attention of the Minister and of Fianna Fáil Deputies. I think they were troubled in their minds that in certain years it was difficult to get money for the purpose of municipal housing. At that time, Deputy N. Lemass was Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Dublin Corporation. Deputies will remember the eloquence with which he bemoaned the difficulties under which he laboured. What are the facts?

In 1959, Dublin Corporation was provided by the Government from the Local Loans Fund with £4,600,000; in 1956, with £4,041,000; in 1957, with £3,625,000. Fianna Fáil arrived on the scene in 1958.

And they are still there, mind you.

Dublin Corporation got £2,165,000. In 1959, Dublin Corporation got £1,847,000. These are figures which I think are eloquent.

The Deputy should have pointed out that previous to the Coalition Government, both Dublin Corporation and Cork Corporation had not access to the Local Loans Fund and had to raise the money on their own initiative.

We deliberately changed that in order that the Dublin Corporation might have much more ready access to money——

That was not the reason.

——without going to the trouble of seeking to raise it on the public market itself. I think it is a better system of financing the municipality that the Treasury should raise the money and advance it to them. Does the Deputy not agree with me? In the rest of the country, in the year 1956-57, no less a sum than £10,998,000 was provided from the Local Loans Fund for housing. In 1958-59, only £6,500,000 was provided.

I should like Fianna Fáil Deputies to steep themselves in these facts. I should like them to measure the housing policy of the two Governments either by the number of houses built or by the physical quantity of money provided by the Government for housing authorities or individuals concerned to build their own houses. Then they will understand, and Deputy Colley especially will understand, how it is that he finds an acute housing problem in Dublin at the present time, whereas, two or three years ago, his colleague, Deputy Sherwin, used to say that Dublin Corporation had a surplus of houses.

Would Deputy Dillon like to give the explanation for that?

The fundamental explanation, surely, is that our Government anticipated the needs of working people for housing and provided it. This Government seem to be more concerned with building insurance offices and 16-storey buildings. I do not deny that there is a very great volume of that building going on at present in Dublin but we are all agreed that there are a great number of people living in condemned houses in Dublin and living in much overcrowded houses because we cannot find houses for them.

Deputy Colley will be familiar with the Latin maxim, res ipsa loquitur. At the end of three years of our Government, there were too many houses; at the end of six years of his Government, there is an acute housing problem. Link these two facts with the figures I have provided and I do not doubt that as penetrating a mind as Deputy Colley's will come to the conclusion that much of the propaganda on which he is fed and has suffered himself to be deceived in recent times is propaganda, whereas those are facts.

Sir, I do not think there is a quorum present.

On a point of order, I submit that Deputy McQuillan is not entitled to call for a quorum under the provisions of Standing Order 38. My submission means that a member may address the Chair only when called upon. If it is contended that there is a conflict between Standing Orders 19 and 38, No. 38 being subsequent, I suggest under ordinary rules of interpretation, should take precedence and that in fact Standing Order 19 under which Deputy McQuillan is acting, if properly interpreted, does not mean that a member may call at any time for a quorum. For instance, if the Ceann Comhairle is addressing the House, surely under the provisions of Standing Order 38, no Deputy could interrupt the Ceann Comhairle under Standing Order 19? That means, I think, that Standing Order 19 does not mean that a Deputy may call for a quorum at any time.

Under what Standing Order is the Deputy addressing me now?

I am not entitled to address you at all.

I think the Deputy has answered himself. Any Deputy is entitled to address the Chair on any matter on which Standing Orders provide that he may address the Chair.

Should he not offer and wait until the Chair asks him to speak? He must first offer; he is then called on and may speak.

That is a lawyer's point.

Very much so.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

I want to support Deputy Gilhawley. The fact is there are thousands of small farmers whose housing conditions have become deplorable. Partly for psychological reasons and partly for economic reasons, schemes of loans and grants which are readily availed of by urban dwellers do not work in the context of small farming. Deputy Gilhawley is perfectly right that the long-standing evil of bad housing on small holdings can be dealt with satisfactorily only through the medium of the Land Commission. The small farmers are accustomed to dealing with the Land Commission and are accustomed to the method of payment by instalment through receivable orders. I can see no reason why the Land Commission should not be authorised to deal with their case and act as their agent in collecting the appropriate housing grant for the type of house it is proposed to erect for them; build the house and then charge a suitable sum on the annuity to purchase the house over the appropriate term of years.

That would have the advantage that it creates no problem if the holding is subsequently sold because the house is available for the incoming tenant and he buys the holding, subject to the annuity and the payment continues. It has the advantage that the Land Commission have skilled technical staff which eliminates the necessity for the individual small farmer to have an architect acting for him. It eliminates the even worse danger of erecting a large number of houses in rural Ireland without the supervision of either an architect or an engineer and it is notorious in those circumstances that much bad building can be done. We ought to have a widespread scheme for the replacement of unsatisfactory houses on small holdings but if we are to embark upon such a scheme, we should ensure that the houses when built are good houses, structurally and aesthetically. That could be very readily done by the Land Commission who are well accustomed to distributing employment amongst the people whom they serve and who would be able to give employment possibly to the farmer himself and to his neighbour in the completion of such works and the collection of the cost would be perfectly simple and entirely effective.

I suggest to the Minister that this is a matter that should be examined again. I should have raised it myself in connection with the Agriculture Estimate which I understand is to be discussed later today but it is probably more appropriate to raise it in connection with this Bill. I am astonished that the scale of grants for houses has not been increased. I do not think any Deputy will disagree that over the past five or six years the cost of building has gone up at least 25 per cent. If we intend to maintain a fair equity among people contemplating building houses in the next five or ten years, surely we ought to be prepared to give them grants commensurate with the cost of building as it is now and as it will be for the next four or five years? The present scale of grants in effect operates to impose a substantial reduction in the percentage of the cost of housing which the grants will in future meet. I can scarcely doubt that very shortly the Minister will have to come back to the House with suggestions for a revision of the rate which I imagine everybody confidently anticipated and the absence of which I think is a great disappointment to everybody concerned for the future of housing.

The other matters relative to this business have been effectively covered by other Deputies and I do not propose to go into any further detail beyond renewing my exhortations to Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party to study the statistical facts about housing from 1954 to date and to learn the truth. I would also urge the Minister for Local Government to consult with the Minister for Lands and the Minister for Agriculture, with a view to determining whether the suggestion by Deputy Gilhawley, which I strongly support, is not a better plan than that which he has in mind to deal with the problem of rural houses and small houses.

One of the first matters I should like to correct, which has been mentioned by several speakers and commented upon adversely, is the criticism that this Bill is very late in the year. Of six such Bills introduced since 1950, four were passed towards the end of July and the 1950 Bill was passed on 1st of August. Those Bills were then anticipated, just as this one might well have been anticipated, since the housing legislation with regard to grants had expired in the previous March. Therefore, there has not been an unusual delay and in fact there has not been as long a delay as there was in a number of cases in the past ten or 12 years.

Furthermore, arising from that criticism, the suggestion was made that a great amount of work has been held up pending the outcome of whatever Bill might come before the House. I presume this suggestion is made in ignorance of the facts. The facts are that when the last Housing Grants Act was coming to an end, I took more than one opportunity of making it publicly known that the grants provisions would be continued. I think the phrase I used on more than one occasion was that people contemplating building, reconstruction or repairs could do so in the knowledge that their position would not be worsened.

The allocations for the past three months, which is an indication of the activity, are very interesting. They show a 25 per cent. increase over the corresponding three months of last year. The total allocations for the three months, April, May and June, 1961, were 5,148 and they have risen to 6,431 for the past three months. This shows that the criticism about the delay in introducing this Bill is ill-founded and that there has been no adverse effect on the progress of housing grant operations. Instead there is a distinct 25 per cent. rise in allocations during these past three months as against the three months a year ago when there was no doubt as to what the law was or any suggestion that it was to be changed one way or the other.

We had a concerted effort by all members of the Opposition who are in Parties to impart the idea that throughout the country there had been disappointment because it was not proposed to increase the grants, that people were disappointed because they expected they would be increased. If there were expectations, those expectations must have been built up by the Opposition throughout the country — not that I heard them saying so—and if they have now been dashed and if there is real disappointment, which I do not believe, it must have been in the minds of the members of the Opposition and they must have generated those expectations which have not now been fulfilled.

The very good reason why grants have not been increased is that if the recorded figures for allocations and payments over recent years have shown a progressive increase month by month, then surely it is clear to everyone that the incentives contained within these grants, and the facilities provided, are more than sufficient. The rising figures of applications and for allocations give the lie to the suggestion that the grants are too small and that people are sadly disappointed and work has been held up. The actual position shows, and will continue to show as months go by, that the grant operations under all heads in the Department of Local Government are going on at an ever increasing rate and reaching higher figures than they ever reached before under this or any other Government.

In addition to that, the suggestion was made that the grants should even yet be increased. As Minister for Local Government, it would of course suit me to say: "Yes, we will increase the grants," but apart from the fact that there does not appear to be any need to give further incentives at present, there is also the point that under the proposed legislation if we gave these grants and the local authorities were to follow the pattern already adopted with regard to supplementary grants, we would not be saving the local authorities money but would be costing them additional money which I am sure all Deputies who advocate greater grants would in turn condemn.

Every county council is free to adopt the giving of grants or not, as they wish.

If Deputy Blowick would bear with me as I did with him and all others who spoke during the last day and a half, I will try to explain the facts to him, if he does not already know them. If we gave greater grants and the local authorities were forced into giving greater grants, then the rates would bear a greater burden. Then Deputy Blowick and others would be screaming about the rates going up. I have faced up to this problem and I will do so again, if necessary, but the record shows and the indications are that with a record number of applications coming into the Department, and with a record number of allocations of grants being made under all heads, there is clearly no reason why the grants should be increased, or grounds for the claim that without these increases, the activities will not continue. The facts and figures disprove that assertion and it is generally on that background that I, as Minister for Local Government, feel it is not necessary to increase grants as a further incentive at this time.

We also had the old cant by members of the Opposition about what they did when they were in office and about what we are not doing since we came into office. Deputy Sweetman quoted figures but the only figures he adverted to were those for new houses. He gave the list of figures for new houses but carefully avoided giving the list of repair grants for the same years and the increased number utilised in recent years. Neither was any mention made of the improved facilities for providing water and sewerage through these grants which have been utilised in recent years at an ever increasing tempo.

I think it was conceded here yesterday by Deputy Sweetman in some cross talk in the House that you cannot take the activities in housing this year as being started or completed this year but that anything completed this year probably started, on an average, three years previously. If we are to accept that, and it was accepted by Deputy Sweetman, it is not an unfair suggestion to make that a three year time lag does exist between the actual planning of a housing scheme, the acquisition of a site, the advertisement for tenders, the building of the houses and the actual turning of the key in the lock.

For local authority houses only.

Let us take it as local authority housing only and see where the figures which Deputy Sweetman gave us yesterday afternoon regarding housing in 1954, 1955 and 1956 lead us. Would it not be true to say that in those three years, those figures, which were quite substantial, show that the initiation of every single one of those houses was the work of Fianna Fáil begun during their previous term of office? If we are to carry that further, it can be truly asked why we in Fianna Fáil have not during the time available to us since we became a Government in 1957 the same output of housing from local authorities' activities that one would expect from what we had done in recent years. It could be truly asked that if we have not the same output of houses since 1957, we must have fallen down on the job.

The answer to that question should not have to be given to the House again but let us have a look at it. The leader of the Opposition, in his remarks a short while ago, made the most telling argument against the case being made by Fine Gael. After giving various figures and after various cross talk in the House, he wound up by saying that there was a surplus of houses available when the Coalition were in office, that the Coalition were so far-sighted that they actually built somewhat more houses than were required and anticipated the need for the future. He said that Fianna Fáil are more concerned with building offices and that we have not got enough houses for the people seeking them. Any examination of that statement will be a damning indictment of the people in the Coalition group from 1954 to 1957 because it is a plain fact that it was not a question of the Coalition building houses for the need that might arise but that the people who should have been occupying these houses had fled the city and fled the country.

The reverse is now happening. Those people are coming back and so there is this shortage of houses under Fianna Fáil but it is a shortage due to the fact that the people are returning to the city and the country. In the deadly days of 1955, 1956 and 1957, they were leaving the country in such numbers that it has been instanced by Deputy Sherwin that there were, in 1956, no fewer than 2,000 vacant houses annually in the Dublin Corporation housing estates alone. That is something from which it has taken us a number of years to recover.

They were going because they were getting £25, £30 and £40 a week in England. That is why they went.

They could not get anything at all here in those years and the Deputy well knows it. Lest this long quotation of figures should have led anybody into believing that everything was well as regards housing at the end of the term of office of the Coalition Government, I should like to give some facts of the position. When we came into office on 10th March, 1957, there were, in the Department of Local Government, deferred tenders and proposals in relation to tenders and site acquisition of not less than £865,000. On the same date, further tenders and site acquisition proposals amounting to no less than £750,000 came in.

Those were for the people who were leaving the country.

These are the figures of the situation at the time. If Deputy Tully wants to join Fine Gael he can take up with them if he likes but the record is one of which Deputy Tully would not like to have any part. If he will bear with me, I will show him that that is not the end of the sad story. There was also outstanding money due for the payment of instalments, money due for payments already made in respect of houses and built by private individuals, money in respect of approved loans and for supplementary grants to the amount of £374,000 and a further sum of £259,000 for SDA purposes. These were loans promised by county councils to people who had built their houses and contracted to pay money which had been promised by the Government to the county councils and which had not been paid. No money had been issued in respect of these claims amounting to £459,000.

A sum of £523,000 was outstanding in respect of local authority housing schemes, again money which had been spent but which was not forthcoming. Builders and contractors were owed that money by the local authorities and the local authorities could not pay them because they had not got the money promised to them by the Government. If you add those five figures I have given, you will find that on 10th March, 1957, when Fianna Fáil came into office, there was no less than £3,000,000 under the various aspects of housing activity held up in the Department. I suppose we will be told that the money was there but that for some obscure reason it was not being paid out.

To follow the pattern and picture of the plight of the local authorities, there was a further £750,000 worth of sanitary service proposals awaiting approval and at the tender stage at that time. Furthermore there was £350,000 which we had to find and send out to local authorities in respect of instalments of loans deferred from 1956-57 and that sum was in addition to the £3,000,000 worth of housing commitments I have already mentioned. With that background and that situation facing us when we took over in March 1957 and with people fleeing the country and leaving corporation houses vacant at the rate of 2,000 per annum in Dublin, it is no wonder that it took quite a long while to get our people and our local authorities back to the point where they recovered their confidence in the Government of the day and where they could believe what they were told and that, when money was promised by the Government, that promise would be kept.

It has taken quite a while to recover from that breach of confidence between local authorities and the central Government. It has also taken quite a while to get these people back to their homes in Dublin, Cork and throughout the country. Building has not slowed down or ceased in Dublin, Cork and elsewhere during the past six years because of any lack of money but due to the fact that we had these broken promises in 1956 and also due to the flight of the people in those days. When they did return in sufficient numbers to require housing, confidence was lacking to undertake further building of this type to any extent. It is only now that the local authorities in Dublin, Cork and other places have gained new confidence and have the heart and mind to undertake building programmes again. It is not right to quote tables, to say: "Those are the facts," and to expect the members of this Party to forget the sorry plight housing and related activities were brought to by the activities or lack of activities of the Coalition Government, the members of which would like to paint rainbows where only clouds existed.

This Bill is not intended to be anything new, sensational or radical. It is a Bill dealing with grants and loans. We have had a number of such Bills in the past every two years. It consolidates some of our housing law and presents it in more readable form. It recognises certain shortcomings that existed in previous legislation. It introduces, or will result in the introduction of, certain new departures in relation to grants. It is not intended and never was intended or promised to be the answer to a problem, the extent of which we do not yet know—the problem of unfit dwellings in rural areas.

While this Bill was being contemplated and drafted, we were still asking the local authorities to send on to us the results of the survey of unfit dwellings in their areas. We still have not got all those returns. When this Bill had reached the stage of being agreed to by the Government, we had only one-third of the returns from all our housing authorities. Even when we get all those returns, we will not then be in a position immediately to say there is a particular problem or to say there is a specific answer to it. There will have to be a detailed investigation of these returns to establish what measures are required, to find out where the difficulty lies, whether all local authorities have been pulling their weight during the past 20 or 30 years. We have to find out whether the lack of uniformity and the discrepancies which appear to arise from the figures already submitted are due to inaccuracies or to a lack of uniformity in the approach to what is an unfit house. Until we find out these things, it is neither fair nor just to draw conclusions from these incomplete figures.

I want to make it quite clear that it is wrong to suggest this Bill falls down on the job of remedying a situation that is alleged to exist, which probably does exist, but the extent of which we do not yet know. I would appeal to Deputies who are members of local authorities to use their good offices with local authorities to ensure that the fullest possible information in these surveys is made available to my Department and that, if additional information is sought, that it will be furnished with somewhat less delay than has been the case so far. This survey is something which the law obliges local authorities to provide each year, but they have not done so for the past two or three generations. Members on every side will agree that, if there is to be a departure in the matter of solving the problem that may exist, we should find out the full extent of the problem before we interfere with the present situation. Any help therefore that members can give in the matter of furnishing this information will be very welcome. Members should interest themselves in their public authorities and have these facts furnished to the Department, if that has not already been done.

Deputies asked a large number of questions and whether it is possible to give detailed answers in regard to all the matters raised is a problem. One matter raised in some detail concerns whether or not Section 6, which deals with the housing of elderly people, may not open up the way for a racket by speculators. All I can say is that, so far as my Department are concerned, we will take very good care if the occasion should arise— and I do not believe it will—to ensure that the bodies we will regard as eligible for these grants will in fact be bona fide philanthropic or charitable organisations with no element of commercialism in them.

Local authorities will not qualify?

As far as local authorities are concerned, I have been thinking that, in fact, every local authority has a pension committee with several subcommittees radiating from it. It might be in the interests of the county council and the pensions committee, as well as the pensioners, where there are no suitable organisations or philanthropic societies, for the county council, through its sub-committees and pension committees, to set themselves up to do this work. They would have the advantage of their contact with the aged, with the pensions committee, many of the members of which would be their colleagues in the local authority, and they could in a positive way help in this problem, a problem which is as dear to their hearts, I am sure, as it is to ours.

How would the Minister define "dwelling" in that section?

There is, in fact, no strict definition. It is a matter we will look into, but I can assure the House that the operative phrase will be "reasonable living accommodation" for the aged. It might be a general livingroom or a bed-sittingroom, with kitchenette and sanitary facilities.

It could be part of a larger building.

It could; it need not necessarily be a new building. There are certain hospital buildings which are being abandoned in different parts of the country and the possibility is that they could be converted to meet the needs of these old people.

Deputy Leneghan deplored the fact that people living in thatched houses are not eligible for grants. Such houses are not debarred. Provided certain standards are met, the grants will be available.

The suggestion was made that plans should be made available by the Department. As Deputies are aware, there is quite a range of plans available through the Government Publications Sales Office at a cost of 1s. and I am sure every Deputy has paid a few shillings for these, and passed them along.

And very seldom got back the 1s.

It is not the usual practice to get it back, but it possibly pays off in other ways. There was a suggestion that newer or better plans should be designed. We are considering that, and they will be made available through the same channels.

Deputy Mrs. Crowley suggested there was a lack of character in housing generally. She instanced the various features of house building in other countries which give the houses a definite national character, as it were. Generally speaking, houses here are somewhat stereotyped and lacking in imagination. Their appearance is often drab. That is an unfortunate situation. Thinking over what Deputy Mrs. Crowley said, it could well be that the really characteristic Irish house is the one with whitewashed walls and a thatched roof. That has disappeared. Some think that is a good thing; others believe it is a pity. That may be the reason why our houses today are generally lacking in character because the type of architecture regarded as typical of the country in the past has disappeared.

There is a gap and it has not yet been filled in. All I can do is add my voice to that of Deputy Mrs. Crowley and hope that our architects will evolve a characteristic Irish house suited to our climate and practical from the point of view of purpose. No Minister for Local Government has had much time to consider that aspect because the real urgency has been to try to provide sound houses for our people. I do not think architectural lay-out or appearance was paramount in the mind of any Minister in the past.

Surely both should have been possible?

We have not yet reached the stage at which it can be made of paramount importance. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that we should have more character and imagination in building design. Putting up purely functional houses is something we should avoid for the future. Deputy T. Lynch said that administrative regulations are slowing down local authority housing progress. There is less administrative procedure attaching to building operations by local authorities now than there was a few years ago. There has been a certain freeing. Local authorities have now more initiative in preparing plans and proposals. These do not come up to us and go down from us like yo-yos, as Deputy Lynch said. Plans that arrive with obvious flaws cannot be ignored. They are returned. Sometimes they come back again with the flaws uncorrected. Naturally, they have to be returned once more.

It is all very well to say nobody knows better than the local councillors, the local engineer and the county manager. Deputy Lynch seems to think that, if everything were left in their hands, they could go ahead and build away; everything would be grand. Deputy Lynch is one who should say least about looking for more freedom in relation to building. He is a native of a city where the local authority met with rather serious difficulties and finally ended up in court for taking liberties which were envisaged neither in the regulations nor in the Acts. In other words, they want a little more freedom but do not advert to the fact that things might not work out as Deputy Lynch would seem to think they would if we gave them that freedom all over the country and said: "You do what you like and we shall provide the money."

Some general control is necessary if large amounts of money by way of subsidy and advances for loans and other purposes are being made available by any Department to local authorities or any other body. It is established practice, which has been insisted upon, and rightly so insisted upon, that Departments disbursing these moneys have ultimate control as to how it is spent. If there were no control in regard to housing by way of the submission of plans or proposals, the Department would not even know what was going on, let alone whether it was going on properly or the money being spent wisely.

Another matter mentioned here by Deputy Corish, I think, was that the standard required for repair grants was too severe. I have some experience of dealing with people in my own county in regard to repair and reconstruction works. I do feel also at times that it would be easier if the person concerned could get away with doing less but there is no doubt that the standards which my Department's officers insist on are not high standards and that any relaxation of those standards could mean not only that the grant moneys paid by the Department of Local Government would be wasted and that the local authorities' supplementary grant would be wasted but the money and the effort of the person doing the job would be wasted. I would be happy at any time to examine any complaints that would prove that the standards are too stringent but until I have been shown otherwise, I am of the opinion that our standards are almost the minimum standards that are in the best interests of the person who is repairing the house, not to mention the question of the spending of public money on this work.

Last night, Deputy Oliver Flanagan gave one of his not unusual performances without adding very much to the discussion or as regards what should be in the Bill. However, he did ask a few questions. One of them was whether the Minister—that, I presume, means myself—ever asked the local authorities what should be done about housing. What the purpose of that question is, I am not quite sure but lest the question has any meaning, I can assure Deputies that we are in constant touch with our local authorities. We are aware, through our contacts with the local authorities, of every single development, of every new aspect of housing and of all the problems that arise in various parts of the country. We take full cognisance—we would be very foolish if we did not—of all the factors involved and all the knowledge we acquire. Naturally, that will continue.

The idea of making a grand tour, of visiting the local councils and talking to them is not one I propose to adopt at the moment. If I find the work in the Department of Local Government becomes so slack that time weighs heavily on my hands, I may make this grand tour of the local authorities, talk to the members and drink tea or coffee or whatever you like with them. However, at the moment I do not think such a tour would serve any useful purpose.

In this Bill, I have laid down that a new type of grant should be made, up to 50 per cent. of the cost of an experimental-type house which ultimately would be of use and value in that it would serve the needs of our people and be built at an economic cost. I was amazed to hear Deputy Barrett of Cork say just a little while ago that he did not think there was any need for this type of grant, that our engineers and the engineers and architects of the local authorities were sufficiently competent to design such houses. Candidly, I cannot agree with him. I am not holding out much hope of getting very many successful applications as a result of this proposal and it is unlikely there will be a deluge of plans for new improved houses at less cost. They will be most welcome if they come, but even if we get one or two that can be generally applied throughout the country, for which grants might in future be paid or which local authorities might adopt for their general scheme, then the 50 per cent. grant would be a very small price to have paid for it because it would be worth many times that 50 per cent.

There has been a suggestion here by many Deputies that the interest on loans should be subsidised. First let me say the interest on loans need not be charged at the full rate by the local authority. Secondly, it might well be considered in local authorities in relation to their supplementary grants scheme how far and by how much they could subsidise the loan for certain classes of people, possibly without adding the supplementary grant; in other words in substitution for it and spread over a long term of years. It might mean some manipulation of the one against the other, but on examination in certain circumstances it might be found to be not only feasible but a helpful addition to certain classes of people in these local authority areas.

It will not improve the overall grant? That is what we are asking.

The overall grant is not being improved. I do not think I need repeat that. What I am saying is that instead of wailing about what is not being done by way of subsidising the interest on SDA loans, Deputies should go back to their local authority and if they feel so strongly about this matter and that this might solve some of the dire cases they have on hands, they should at least give it a trial.

A Deputy

The ratepayers would have to pay for it.

For 12 hours I have listened to this debate. Many Deputies have displayed a complete lack of knowledge not only of what law exists in regard to local authority housing and other housing but do not even seem to know what is contained in the Bill, what was said in the introductory speech or set out in the explanatory memorandum circulated for their information.

We will try it at local level if you get your Party to support it. We know what will happen.

I am saying to Deputy Tully and other Deputies who feel strongly on these matters that there are many ways and means that have not yet been tried within the framework of existing local government housing laws and other loan facilities, and so on by which, if councils put their backs into it, they could solve quite a number of the problems they talk about here. If they put as much energy into doing something about it at local level as they do in talking about them here, the problems would be less than they are now. Even in future if they would utilise the powers, aids and assistance, and a combination of the various helps that are given them, they could solve some of their problems and not just come into this House and unload them here and say that that is a job for somebody else to do.

Deputy Tully also complained about the difficulty in getting private sites. Another Deputy referred to all the towns in the country where there are new buildings, whether factories or houses I cannot say. At any rate the suggestion is that it is difficult to get sites and very costly. Why do not the local authorities concerned get the land—they can take the land if they want it—develop the sites as I have been advocating for the past two or three years, provide them on lease at the full cost if they wish, at less than full cost or for nothing? Why do they not do that and stop mauling around this House and wailing about what they cannot do when in fact the power is there to do it and they will not even see it, never mind utilise it?

They have been doing it but some of the Minister's friends have prevented it from going through.

Stop this cant about friends. The suggestion is that either the Minister is at fault or the Government are at fault and when that beats the Deputy it is the Minister's friends who are at fault. I am directing my remarks not only to Deputy Tully. I am talking about other Deputies, maybe more so than Deputy Tully. I am saying this, not as criticism but as an indication of what local authorities could do. There is more that members of local authorities who are also members of this House could initiate. They do not seem to be interested in doing that so much as in coming in and complaining about what is not being done in their own councils and blaming it on somebody else.

Is the Minister prepared to sanction or provide grants towards the acquisition of sites?

The Deputy knows the answer to that one and if he does not I do not propose to tell him. I have been trying to indicate what he might do, if he feels there is such need for assistance in County Dublin. I know there is and it would be much appreciated but very little is being done about it.

They can appeal to the Minister.

And we get very little assistance from the Minister.

There is another complaint about houses for industrial workers. The people making it must have skipped a couple of years in time and never heard of the provisions available for housing industrial workers. Again, it has to be initiated by the people who have the industry, who wish to have the workers housed near their factories. If they get in touch with my Department, and the building agency therein, they can, as many of them now know to their satisfaction, get houses built for their industrial workers, key personnel or whomever they wish. But they must make the effort. We cannot be expected to go around and say: "Would you like a few houses here? We will put a few there for you just on trial. We will give them to you on probation and will take them away if you do not want them." We want people to wake up to the fact that the Department cannot do everything.

There are facilities being provided, which have been there for many years, and which could have been utilised. They are not an answer to all the problems raised here and that exist in regard to housing but in various ways they can be an answer to quite a number of the problems. It would suit us all very well if the facilities available were utilised so as to solve as much of the problem as possible rather than that people should sit down and cry that somebody must do it for them, that they cannot do anything for themselves.

I thought we were getting away from the depressing state that we seemed to have been in for quite a number of years that if people are to have anything done for their locality or themselves personally, somebody else must do it for them, that even although they may be capable of doing it themselves they have not the heart to start to do it because there is nobody to push them. The necessity to push should have disappeared at this stage and council members in this House should surely not have to be pushed to utilise the powers and assistance now being given and which has been under their control for years to help local authorities in housing people in their areas.

That brings me to Deputy Hogan who talked today about one of the poorest towns in the country. I do not think he meant any reflection on the people living in it but talking of the local authority he described his town as one of the poorest in the country. That, I take it, is Cashel. Shortly afterwards he mentioned that he comes from one of the richest countries. In between he mentioned the fact, as did other Deputies, that the urban council are very desirous of helping private people to build houses but that the impact of the cost of paying supplementary grants meant that they could not afford it. I am quite well aware that that is so. Deputy Hogan's case is typical of the entire situation. The county is rich and the town is poor. It is rich in the sense of a local authority and the urban council is poor in the sense of a local authority.

There is nothing whatever to prevent the county authority paying supplementary grants in the urban authority contained within its own boundaries. There is a great deal to be said for it. In the first place, as I understand, urban councils cannot out of their own resources and without very heavy imposts on their rates afford to set in motion supplementary grants. It is true that within their confines the need for the supplementary grants is very great and there would be a lot of building activity by private people, who are now waiting for the urban council to house them, if supplementary grants were available within the urban boundary. A great many of these people, usually, have drifted in from around the locality of the town but from the county, relieving the county of the obligation of housing them or, indeed, paying supplementary grants to them if they had built in the town or townland from which they came. Over and above that, as every urban councillor and county councillor well knows, a very sizeable part of the total rate taken in every urban council goes to the county council's rate fund each year. If the situation could be discussed with county councils, some scheme might be devised that would not weigh too heavily on the county council, which would do a fair amount for the urban council and would help to solve some of the problems of private builders within the urban district boundary who, due to the fact that they can get only one grant, are not building at all. I would suggest to Deputies who have that problem in their counties, as most Deputies have, that they might consider this approach to their councils on behalf of their urban councils and perhaps something will come of it.

Deputy Crotty referred to delays in inspection. He indicated that delays existed up to some time at the end of last year and suggested that after he had written to the Secretary of my Department the delays seemed to fade away. In view of all the difficulties we have had about delay in inspection for years back, it is a pity Deputy Crotty did not write to the Secretary of the Department two years ago. If he had done so and his letter had the same effect as the one he wrote last year, we would all have been very happy. I do not think it would have had the same effect because the fact is we have had to go to various extremes in order to supplement the inspectorial staff.

The difficulty of getting staff, in addition to the increase in the volume of applications and inspections, and which amounted last year to 21,794 cases, was quite a problem and one with which we got grappling in any sort of proper way only six or eight months ago when we got a new influx of inspectors on what I might call an experimental basis since they were not fully trained experts. Being unable to get expert architects and engineers, we did get a group of people who have proved to be good inspectors, who are doing their jobs well, and I hope that as a result of these efforts, the delays caused 18 months ago will not recur. Without doubt, at one stage we were very far behind and we have a backlog of cases to attend to which were lying there for a considerable number of months.

Deputy Corry asked whether it was a fact that while there was no limit on the valuation of farms in so far as eligibility for Local Government grants is concerned, there was in so far as supplementary grants are concerned. That is true. It is not a new feature of our housing legislation and it is not proposed that it should be changed other than in the manner in which it appears in the Bill. The Deputy also suggested that the distance a worker has to travel to and from his job should be considered in connection with the allocation of tenancies by local authorities. I think Deputy Corry was speaking particularly about Mallow and probably about workers employed by the sugar factory and by other industries in the town.

He instanced the case of a worker who had to travel, day in, day out, 17 miles to his work and said that the local authority will not allow this long distance to rank as a priority for the provision of a new house in Mallow for this man. It is difficult to say clearly whether or not this is a deserving case for a new house. Of course it will be asked as well, in this connection, what would happen to the old house, probably situated in an isolated area, if this man were given a new one in the town. I would say to the sugar company or to any of the industrialists concerned there, that if they have permanent workers coming from as far away as 17 miles each morning, and probably cycling that distance, they should think very seriously of building houses for these workers. It would be a far better method of solving the problem than getting the local authority to do it for them.

I have no doubt it would also be to the benefit of the industrialists concerned, as well as the workers, that they should provide a number of houses for these workers. It would be to their advantage in the long run: it is not to the employers' advantage to have workers travelling long distances and arriving tired for a day's work after travelling for possibly two or three hours from their homes. If provision were made under which they could live nearby, there would be a much better outturn from the workers and the matter of building houses for them should therefore be regarded as a good commercial proposition for the industrialists concerned. Of course Deputy Corry knows his own mind best in matters of this kind and if he feels he must go further in this matter, he is quite capable of going a distance on it with his local councils in County Cork.

There was a suggestion by Deputy Mullen that there is a clause continued in this Bill which has been in operation for many years and has been a feature of most of our housing grant legislation. It is that trade union wages or their equivalent must or should be paid in respect to work done with the aid of grants. The situation there is that the clause has been retained in this Bill, as it has been in all Bills of a similar nature for years past, and the question of its being applied or insisted upon is one which we do not undertake.

However, we do undertake to investigate and take action when complaints are made. We have always held that the onus is on the trade union representatives or somebody on their behalf to bring it to the attention of the Department when proper wages and conditions are not applied. It has been suggested during this debate that the "nixers" are the real cause—that it is in such jobs as these that the contraventions of this clause occur. In these jobs in Dublin and in other parts of the country, the nixers are done by people who are trade unionists and working in other jobs during the day. Whether they are contravening these regulations by working for lower than trade union rates, I do not know. What I do know is that some of the trade union members concerned have other jobs during the day. That may create a problem for the trade unions themselves because they are as well aware, if not better aware, of the facts. The question was probably posed here because the trade unions are having difficulty in bringing these things to our notice and they fondly hoped we will do the job for them. We are not in a position to go out and bring in the information.

So the Minister will not help us solve the problem of the "nixers."

A question which seems to have been misunderstood here is that of loans for repairs to vested cottages. Some people have said we have been allowing loans for the purchase of interests in these cottages. What we did do was to bring in provision for the payment of loans for repairs to vested cottages. In fact, I have been congratulated by a number of Deputies of the Labour Party because that was something they advocated in their Private Members' Bill and which I said I could not do. However, I said I would do it two years ago and I repeated that when the Labour Party's Bill was being discussed. If the Labour Party want to say it is their provision, I am quite happy to let the records of the House take care of that.

The Minister is very glad to eat his own words. Does Section 11 not give power to grant loans to persons who acquire houses?

I was surprised when Deputy Barrett spoke about the clauses in subsections throughout the Bill to make regulations. Deputy Barrett, who is fairly well acquainted with procedure, will realise that in reading these subsections it is necessary there should not be a strict rule on what may or may not be done. It is better that the matter should be regulated by order rather than that it should be spread out in regulations made in this House.

Debate adjourned.