Committee on Finance. - Vote 29—Local Government (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
"That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration."
—(Deputy Jones).

When I reported progress last week, I was complaining that Dublin city and county are not being fairly treated in the allocation of grants from the Road Fund. Less than half of the amount contributed by motor vehicle owners in this city and county is being given back for road construction and improvement. In other parts of the country, £3 for every £1 subscribed in the form of motor taxation is given back, in spite of the fact that the traffic density in those counties is negligible compared with the density and weight of traffic carried on the roads in Dublin city and county. The day is past when moneys from the Road Fund should be allocated on the basis of mileage. We consider they should be allocated on the basis of the density, weight and frequency of traffic which the roads must carry.

It is painful for the people of Dublin city and county to see tragic accidents occurring in which people are killed or maimed just because the money they subscribed in the form of motor taxation is not being spent to make the roads safe. Instead, the remainder of the money—it is over £1 million—is being spent in areas over 100 miles from Dublin. The vehicle owners of Dublin city and county will never see the places where their money is being spent. It is being spent on tourist roads in remote places. The Dublin vehicle owners are subscribing heavily towards this programme. That is not appreciated. Priority in this matter should be given to the city and county of Dublin, where so many accidents happen because the road scheme is not sufficiently modern to ensure that the roads are capable of coping with the dense traffic in the area.

If the Government are determined to continue the system of allocating grants from the Road Fund on the basis of mileage, which includes many remote areas, at least they should suspend that operation for a few years until the road scheme in the city and county of Dublin is made capable of dealing with the ever-increasing traffic.

The newspapers make a very valuable contribution to road safety by the publicity given to tragic road accidents which serve as a warning to road users and persons who may be inclined to drive carelessly, recklessly or furiously, without regard for the rights of other persons on the road. But for this publicity, there would be a still more tragic tale to tell so far as the city and county of Dublin are concerned.

The fact must be faced that most of the serious road accidents occur after daylight. The causes of these accidents must be investigated. Wild charges will be made that such accidents are due to drunkenness or to carelessness on the part of people returning from dances. The cause of every accident which occurs after daylight should be investigated. It would then be possible to collate the results and to take measures to reduce the risk of such accidents occurring. In some cases it may be found that accidents are due to road-lighting standards. It may be that a better scheme of road signs is required. The problem should be tackled.

The white guiding lines and cats' eyes make a valuable contribution to the regulation of traffic, reducing the danger of accidents. There always will be roadhogs but such persons are not inclined to ignore the white lines and to hog the road as they are when there are no guiding lines. Every penny spent on white paint for road marking is well spent. The system of road marking should be extended. Wherever these white lines and road signs are used, the danger of accidents is reduced. That is a valuable service to the citizens.

I would be in favour of the provision of an increased number of "stop" signs. The "stop" sign is a most important sign wherever there is a crossroad or junction road coming out onto a main road. In conditions of bad visibility or through lack of familiarity with the road, a person may come out at speed onto a main road and a very serious accident may result. I do hope there will be an extension of the use of these signs so that it may be clear to road users who has right of way.

The statistics collected at various times in regard to traffic conditions should be used by the Department of Local Government so as to ensure that those roads which carry the greatest density of traffic will receive priority in the matter of improvement.

I should like to compliment the Department and the engineers on the decision to remove many of the high banks and hedges on the Dublin-Belfast road. I can assure the persons concerned that they have made a very valuable contribution to road safety on the road from Dublin through Swords, which is regarded as being a very bad stretch of road and on which there have been numerous accidents as a result of passing out when there was not a clear view. The removal of high banks and hedges has enabled very heavy traffic to travel safely. I should say that on the road through Swords approximately 8,000 vehicles travel per day and on Sunday the number is well over 10,000. Therefore, anything that is done to increase safety on that road will be appreciated by the thousands of people who use it daily and at weekends.

The rapid increase in the number of motor vehicles means that the question of having only one-way traffic on trunk roads must be considered. There have been complaints that straight roads represent a danger, particularly at night, as a result of drivers being blinded by approaching headlights. That danger could be avoided by having one-way traffic on trunk roads. With the use of modern machinery, it would not be too difficult to give priority to these roads.

We must face the fact that at present the canals in Dublin are serving no useful purpose. If it is possible to transform them and make use of them, a decision to do so should be taken. It has been suggested, for instance, that the Grand Canal be used to carry a main drainage scheme which is essential for south Dublin. Some people have spoken in favour of keeping the canals open, but those of us who know them must admit they are serving no useful purpose at present. On the contrary, they are death-traps for children playing around them in the summer.

Outside the city boundary, I believe the canals could be kept open and could be developed as a tourist amenity. The Grand Canal could be diverted somewhere outside the city into one of the other city rivers or streams. The usefulness of the Grand Canal for carrying the main drainage schemes could then be examined. That might prove a very good and practical scheme. The canal might also be used as a one-way road to relieve traffic congestion, particularly across the canal bridges. People wishing to sail on the canal would, I believe, gladly sail outside the city boundary and would have no desire to sail inside it. I suggested previously in regard to the closed railway line from Harcourt Street that it be used for the construction of a road to carry through traffic out of the city.

Those who conceived and promoted the Tidy Towns competition deserve our commendation. It certainly has created pride amongst the people in their villages and towns. Various communities have joined together and have done a lot for their towns because of this competition. It struck me that possibly we might be able to devise some kind of tidy streets competition for our cities and towns. I believe such a competition would encourage the residents of streets to become proud of their property and to improve it. All over the city, we have signs urging people to keep the streets clean. I feel that a tidy streets competition would be just as successful as the Tidy Towns competition.

There is still a certain amount of agitation regarding the speed limits. Some people consider a limit of 30 m.p.h. too fast and most drivers consider it too slow, having regard to the fact that a modern motor vehicle is capable of stopping suddenly within its own length, if necessary. I know that next year, when the speed limits have been 12 months in force, Dublin Corporation and the various county councils will be in a position to revise the scheme.

There are streets in Dublin, mainly outside the centre, on which, having regard to the amount of traffic, cars could safely travel at 40 m.p.h. Obviously, that speed would be too fast in the city centre. Car drivers find it difficult to keep modern cars down to 30 m.p.h. Cars do not function properly at that speed, particularly if they are fitted with overdrive. The cruising gear will not keep a car at 30 m.p.h.; you must get into a lower gear. If there is dense traffic, the driver will naturally get into a lower gear; but it is difficult to drive a car in a lower gear when there is no traffic in the immediate vicinity.

I have in mind one particular place, the road in from Finglas. The speed limit of 30 m.p.h. at Finglas continues along the Merville Road and past Glasnevin Cemetery, where there is no traffic except at morning time. A number of road users have suggested that the speed limit should be relaxed between de Courcy Square and the bottom of the hill at Finglas. I think that is a reasonable suggestion, in view of the fact that 40 m.p.h. is permitted between Santry and Griffith Avenue. There is also a 40 mile an hour limit on other roads on which there is much more traffic than on the portion of the road which I have mentioned and which in fact is about two miles long. It is a hardship on vehicle drivers to keep down to the 30 miles an hour limit in a modern vehicle when there is obviously no need to do so.

Some weeks ago, I suggested that the Road Fund should be used to provide car parks here in Dublin city. It would be a service to the motor vehicle owners of Dublin city and county to use some of the money which they contribute to the Road Fund to provide parking accommodation for them. I feel they are entitled to this accommodation and that the cost should be met from the Road Fund. A number of open spaces have already been provided by Dublin Corporation but, very often, the space provided is too far away from the motorist's destination. A walk of three or four minutes from the parking place to his destination is the most that should be expected from a car owner. There are in London, and in other big cities, well organised parking places for a very large number of vehicles and I feel, since so many motor vehicle owners here are trying to park in the city centre, when the city centre is their destination, something should be done to provide such parking space. I believe that just ground floor space, or street level space, is not sufficient to cater for the very large number of cars normally around the city centre at the present time and action will have to be taken to provide parking space, with perhaps one or two floors to which the cars can be lifted, while the owners are doing their business in the city centre.

There is, as everybody knows, a considerable amount of congestion on Butt Bridge at the moment. For vehicle drivers coming from the Sandymount area, or eastern portion of the city, and going to the north side of the city, the nearest crossing point is Butt Bridge. The result is that there are very long delays now in the movement of traffic across Butt Bridge, either from the north or from the south. It is essential to provide as soon as possible another bridge across the Liffey, somewhere below Butt Bridge. Suggestions have been made that a tunnel should be provided under the Liffey, but it might interfere with shipping and perhaps it would be possible to provide a bridge across the Liffey which would relieve the situation so far as Butt Bridge is concerned. It is becoming a hopeless position. If motorists cannot cross Butt Bridge, they have to try to cross O'Connell Bridge and the result is great difficulty for people in crossing either O'Connell Bridge or Butt Bridge at the busy times.

There has been some discussion during this debate regarding driving tests. Most of us are in favour of these driving tests because thereby an awareness will be created amongst motor vehicle drivers that they are only entitled to share the road and that they should not take more of the road than they are entitled to, because the other fellow is also entitled to his share. We have a situation at the present time in which no questions are asked. A person merely goes in with a £1 note and fills up a driving licence application form. He says his eyesight, hearing and limbs are not defective. If he is not under 21 years, he is not asked for the date and year of birth and, having paid the £1, he gets a driving licence, whether he is able to drive a motor vehicle or not.

In these modern times, with such dense traffic, these driving tests should be brought in, particularly for people who previously have not held a licence. It would be a start, and then at a later stage, perhaps, people who are disqualified from driving, or have had their licences withdrawn for one reason or other could be compelled to undergo a driving test before the licence is restored.I am not in favour of the suggestion that persons who are accused of being under the influence of drink when driving should be submitted to a blood test. I feel it is an assault forcibly to take a sample of blood from a person when, in fact, it is merely sought to prove that that person is intoxicated. I am very much in favour of the breath test where a person is compelled to breathe into a container and it is then subjected to a test to decide the measure of intoxication and whether the driver who was under the influence of drink was, in fact, also incapable of driving.

The last point I want to mention is that the new regulations in relation to the lighting of vehicles are very useful and I am glad to see that a regulation has now been made to ensure that the rear lights on bicycles will be visible to motorists. Motorists have the experience that a cyclist cannot be picked out in the dark, even by the headlights of a car, if there is any mud or dust on the reflector of the machine. The result is the cyclist is at a very great disadvantage if he is not noticed by a motorist. The provision of these rear lights will certainly make driving safer for motorists and will also make the position safer for the cyclists themselves. Very strict action should be taken against persons on the road, whether cyclists or vehicle owners, for breaches of the lighting regulations. Only too often do we see groups of cyclists moving nonchalantly through the streets without lights on their bicycles and in some cases without even their hands on the handlebars. If more serious action were taken regarding lights on bicycles, I think it would reduce the number of accidents.

I feel that something will have to be done about the provision of a main traffic line further up from O'Connell Bridge. There seems to be a very urgent need for a traffic line below Butt Bridge in order to ease the situation there. I feel also we shall have to have a good main traffic line above Butt Bridge. The narrow Capel Street is not capable of coping with the heavy volume of traffic going across that bridge. We shall have to make an arrangement whereby traffic will be diverted to cross further up through the city.

I have been in a number of continental cities. What struck me most was the very orderly traffic there. One explanation, as far as I could see, was that there was a very good scheme of one-way traffic. Vehicles were not meeting on the narrower streets when there was one-way traffic. It may be possible in Dublin city to devise a scheme of one-way traffic, particularly in our smaller streets, which will make traffic easier and certainly safer for the people on the footpaths or crossing streets because they will know that the vehicles are coming from only one direction.

The recent Road Traffic Act will make a very valuable contribution towards road safety. However, it will be useless if the regulations are not imposed by the authorities and adhered to by those for whom they were designed.

I want to refer to the repeated flooding in my constituency. We all admit that the recent flooding was exceptional. We were told that nothing could have been done to prevent it. Many of my constituents disagree with that outlook completely. They believe that, with proper planing, a good deal of the flooding could have been prevented and that if the maintenance of the water disposal service was properly carried out a great deal of the damage suffered by citizens could have been avoided.

If we had a better sense of citizenship from those who carelessly add to the difficulty by throwing litter on the road, thereby choking up the gullies, it would help enormously. The gullies and gully traps round my constituency have been very badly neglected over the years. There is no improvement whatever, as far as I can observe, even from what I saw this morning.

It is known by people living in many of these districts that if any heavy rainfall occurs some of the houses will again be flooded. So much is that in the minds of these people that many of them keep a supply of sandbags in order to prevent the water from entering their houses. It is deplorable that these people—the best of citizens—who have invested their life savings in their property should find, after a short period of residence, that the house they purchased is a very bad investment indeed from the point of comfort and health.

The time has come when drastic steps must be taken to deal with the problem of litter. The condition of our roads in Dublin city and county is a national disgrace and it is becoming very much worse. Without question, this year it is worse than it has ever been. A very serious effort must be made to cope with this problem. It is not sufficient to make an ordinary appeal to good citizenship. Legislation will have to be introduced to deal with the problem.

Then, again, we have an antiquated system of refuse collection. If it happens to be a windy day, the litter being delivered from the bins into the refuse cars is blown around the place. Every time the litter is collected the condition of the roads is disgusting. It involves additional hardship also on the men employed on this work. I was glad to see the other day that some kind of a new van is being inspected. That will be a great improvement.

Apart from the refuse lorry, there is the question of the bins themselves. I was standing at a bus stop on the quays not so long ago on a windy day. The procedure was that one man came along and lifted the lids of the bins so as to have them ready for the man who would carry them to the refuse lorry. The moment the lids were lifted the streets were littered with the contents of the bins. This matter should be considered very carefully. I doubt if it is beyond the genius of the men in the various Departments to find a better means of transferring the refuse from houses to the lorries. I appeal to the Minister to bring this matter once more to the notice of the local authorities to get all to make a genuine effort to put an end to this very serious complaint.

Within recent years, I notice the increase in the number of houses being erected on sites below the road level. Why this is tolerated I do not know. I think the town planning authorities should prohibit the building of houses where the entrance is at a serious incline because these houses are the first to be flooded. People who have purchased such houses told me that their condition is so bad that they constantly have to lift the floorboards and in many cases do not nail them back because they know they are going to suffer a recurrence of the flooding. Again, I would ask the Minister to draw the attention of the town planning officers to this problem of houses which are nicely built and very costly but not fit for people to occupy.

Lastly, there is the question of the roads and footpaths around Dublin. I do not know of a single road or a footpath that is in proper condition. Vast sums of moneys are being spent on these services and the concrete is hardly set when the local authority begin to rip it up again. Even in Dún Laoghaire, the gateway to Ireland, complaints have been made to me of beautiful footpaths being made with concrete slabs, which a few months later are ripped up, not taken up. I thought that when footpaths were laid with slabs, we would not have the spectacle of the solid footpaths being ripped up and then being replaced by concrete patchwork or strips of tarred gravel.

In these cases where the concrete slabs are torn up, the footpaths will never be right again. As an instance of this, we need go no further than Kildare Street where, at the present time, those concrete slabs are being ripped up and utterly destroyed. I brought these points to the attention of the Minister before and I would ask him as earnestly as possible to convey them to those responsible in the local authorities so that in future such complaints will not have to be raised in this House.

So much has been discussed and debated here over these past few weeks that it is very difficult, not only to reply to the many points raised, but to remember some of the things said. In some cases it might be a good thing if they were not remembered.The first thing I wish to do is to put myself on record as condemning the attack made by Deputy Hogan on the Secretary of my Department in connection with a charge that should never have been made. If that attack were to be made, it should have been made on me and not on the chief officer of my Department. Mine is the responsibility and it is on my head only that members should thrust their condemnation.

So far as the complaint itself is concerned, I can find no basis for it. I know the Secretary of my Department did not himself receive any such letter personally from Deputy Hogan nor can we find in any of the sections of the Department that normally deal with such matters any record whatever of any such letter, let alone two or three letters. I think Deputy Hogan's conduct in attacking the Secretary of my Department was disorderly in the extreme and that it was impertinent for him to do so. I wish to emphasise very strongly that when Deputy Hogan, or any other Deputy, has a complaint to make, he should refrain from making that complaint by attacking the head of my Department or any of my staff as such. Any such complaint or attack should be directed at me as the running of the Department is my responsibility.

I am completely satisfied that all the charges made against the Secretary of the Department were unfounded and I want to go on record as asserting that that official is one of the finest officers in the Civil Service, and that he has given excellent service not only to me and to this Government but to any other Government with whom he was concerned. I am satisfied that he will continue to do this, despite the disorderly conduct of Deputy Hogan who is probably only a bird of passage through this House and a bird of very short passage at that.

I also want to place on record my regret at omitting, in my rather lengthy introductory speech, any reference to the library service. I am afraid it got knocked out in the welter of other figures and statistics. Let me say now that the Library Council was reconstituted on 1st January last and that so far as I am aware, the newly-constituted Council is doing good work and looks as if it will do a really good job. That is my experience and my hope. Grants are now available for major library improvements and they can also be devoted towards augmenting the book stocks in so far as scientific and industrial works are concerned. The demand under this head is not expected to be very great this year but no doubt there will be a growing demand for assistance by way of the new grants which will be available from my Department, on the recommendation of the Library Council.

Deputy Jones raised the matter of the payments of grants to tenants for repair and reconstruction. These grants are, in fact, payable at present and the only requirement is the consent of the landlord. That is a normal, reasonable requirement. Associated with this is the question of whether or not grants should be available to local authorities in respect of certain works on their own housing. I had already indicated to the National Building Agency some weeks ago that it was my intention to have the necessary action taken to enable such grants to be paid to local authorities in respect of their houses just as in respect of other houses. It is still my intention to do this in the immediate future.

Would the grants be given to the tenants of council houses, if they wanted to do repairs before they were vested?

No. It will apply to councils doing repairs to their houses. We already have made these grants available to vested tenants as if they were ordinary private occupiers of these houses. When vested, that is what they are.

The Minister said that the tenants could qualify for grants in private houses. Will that apply to council houses?

It applies to vested tenants. We fixed that up a couple of years ago. Deputy Tully spoke of some extracts or copies of circulars which should have been made known to members of local authorities but which had not been made known to them. I think one of the circulars in question was dated 10th December, 1962 and in that case the authorities were requested specifically to make the relevant extracts available to their elected members. So far as I am concerned, those extracts were made available but if Deputy Tully or any other Deputy knows of any local authority which did not do so and if he lets me know, I shall take appropriate steps——

The Minister would not consider suspending them?

I think not even Deputy Tully would suggest suspension in this case. Deputy Desmond suggests it is essential to have a housing inspector in every centre and he said that if we had, it would be very convenient for people to call on him and make their cases. No doubt it would be convenient, but on the other hand, we have 14 county areas divided for administrative purposes under the inspectorial scheme. The inspectors, as every Deputy knows, spend by far the greater part of their time travelling from house to house and inspecting the various jobs. They would not normally be available at any fixed address if they were doing the job intended to be done by them and so the suggestion would not work out, as, most often if you went to the address where the inspector should be, you would be unlikely to find him. Also, the volume of work fluctuates from time to time and from district to district.When that happens, it is essential to move an inspector into another area where there is an unusual upswing.This process occurs periodically and frequently. If we had fixed centres, which I do not think are feasible for the reasons stated, the inspectors would be absent at times when they were moved to other areas temporarily.

Deputy Desmond also complains about estimates for reconstruction and repair based on out-of-date prices. There has been a complete overhaul of pricing for reconstruction work and the present list was prepared as recently as May, 1962. As Deputies know, if and when an estimate exceeds £420, it does not matter so far as the grant element is concerned——

I think it is out-of-date grants he was talking about.

No; it was reconstruction estimates. He complained of the method of pricing and arriving at estimates which had an adverse affect on the amount of the grant. He mentioned a job of £400-£500 being priced at £700 but once the total estimated cost goes to £420 or higher, no greater grant can be obtained as the maximum is already earned.

It could affect the loan from the local authority.

Yes, but I do not concede the prices are wrong. I say that on the basis of the arguments made if the example given by Deputy Desmond had any validity, the pricing does not affect the grant, which is what he complained about. In fact, these pricings are as recent as 1962. Prior to that, they were probably operating a list that was to some extent out of date.

Will the Minister have these prices reviewed or will they remain as they now are for as long as the previous ones?

No; unless I grow old where I am at the moment, they will hardly run as far as they did prior to 1962. I take it the Deputy understands what I am conveying.

The Deputy is not satisfied even on the basis that they are as recent as 1962, that the prices are equal to the cost.

I assert they are equal to the cost but I agree that they are far from being contract prices. They are nearer the cost than the contract prices obtainable at the moment.

Deputy Jones referred to the need for investigation and research into methods of roadbuilding. My engineering advisers and those concerned with roads on the technical side constantly keep in touch with all the latest developments and research elsewhere in regard to road construction and related matters. Recently, I am sure the Deputy noted with satisfaction that the question of undertaking a programme of independent Irish road research has become a live issue and that as announced, the Institute for Industrial Research, helped by the very generous offer of the Dunlop Company, supported by Shell and BP, is about to tackle the many problems that we have been aware of for a considerable time. That, together with the normal approach and keeping our eyes and ears open and being fully documented on all developments elsewhere, should ensure that we are kept up-to-date in the matter of roadmaking for the future.

Deputy P. Brennan and others raised the matter of blizzard conditions and what we were proposing to do about them so that we might be better prepared in the future. For a considerable time past, my Department, and the officers of other Departments directly concerned in this matter, have been considering what might be done. They have drawn up certain recommendations and these have been incorporated in a circular letter from my Department to the various local authorities advising them as to what steps they should take and promising them all the guidance and help my Department and other Departments may be able to give them. I trust that information now will allay any fears that we are not prepared, in so far as it is possible to prepare, for unusual conditions. The various steps are outlined and, if the advice is followed, there is no reason why we should not be fairly well prepared. We hope, of course, that the need to use the advice will not arise.

Deputy Desmond and others asked if it is a fact that an inspector reports on matters other than the specific matters complained of in relation to a council house or cottage prior to vesting.The inspector is not debarred from reporting on all matters relevant to the condition of the house. Inspectors have, in fact, reported on many occasions on matters outside of those immediately complained of and, where they have so reported, determinations have been made accordingly, even in regard to matters not mentioned at all by the appellant.

Deputy Meaney stated he was not satisfied with the co-ordination and co-operation between local authorities and groups desirous of implementing group water schemes. He believed such groups should get every possible encouragement from local authorities. I am in entire agreement with that view. So far as my Department is concerned, we will do all we can to smooth out any difficulties which may exist as between a group and its local authority. We shall be only too happy to bend all our energies in that direction and give whatever help we can to bring about the desired co-operation and co-ordination, without which our water programme cannot proceed as expeditiously as we all desire.

As usual, Deputy McQuillan complained, though the grouse was perhaps longer and there was more wailing in it on this occasion, about the county road improvement problem in Roscommon.This problem is not, of course, confined to Roscommon. Deputy McQuillan did not give the full facts when he instanced the amount his county gets by way of grant. He did not state that over the past ten or 12 years a number of additional miles of county road has been taken on annually in the county. He suggested that these roads should rank for an appropriate share of whatever moneys are going. That would be a fair proposition, were it not for the fact that, if this were done, other counties which acted with a certain amount of prudence in relation to the moneys at their disposal would find themselves penalised, while, at the same time, those which had not exercised the same degree of prudence would actually find themselves rewarded.I am not prepared to recommend that what Deputy McQuillan suggested should be done.

Deputy O'Sullivan gloated slightly —he is, of course, quite adept at that, though he does not have much to gloat about—over Deputy Noel Lemass having expressed horror at a six months' delay in 1956. He said that he could cite a good example of an even longer delay in dealing with a CPO in Cork. He misquoted Deputy Lemass in working up this effective gloat. Deputy Lemass was not complaining about a delay in a particular case in 1956. He was horrified at the idea of a nationwide stoppage taking place by order of the then Government in regard to every job on hands at the time. Deputy O'Sullivan will have to strain himself to bursting point to find any similar precedent in regard to the Fianna Fáil Government.

Deputy Rooney described a very moving situation; he said that there are three families comprising 18 persons living in an unserviced rural cottage. They cannot get a house because, he alleged, they will not get the two-thirds subsidy. Now that is just not so. The two-thirds subsidy can be paid on compassionate grounds in certain cases and, if what the Deputy says is true, the case he cited is one that could be regarded as a compassionate case. I do not know of my own knowledge if the facts are as he stated. Perhaps Deputy Rooney would give me further details. If there is anything I can do to remedy the situation, I shall be only too happy to help.

Dangerous quarries were mentioned. I met a deputation from the Dublin County Council in regard to these last June. We were all agreed that something should be done to prevent further loss of life, not only in Dublin but throughout the country. It was agreed that officers of my Department and officers of the county council would get together to see what might be recommended immediately and what might be proposed as a long-term solution. I can now say that the Government have approved, and have authorised me to confirm to this House, the preparation of legislative proposals making it possible for local authorities to enter on and carry out these necessary works of closing up dangerous quarries and sites of quarries.I am also empowered to say that the derelict sites grants scheme may be applied in this direction, that there will not be any charge on the owner of the land on which the quarry is situated in respect of whatever the closing off costs may be, and that we may authorise local councils forthwith to act on the basis that such legislation is in fact forthcoming and that they will be retrospectively covered in respect of any such expenditure.

Deputy Brady mentioned flooding about which, naturally, all of us are concerned, particularly the very severe circumstances which obtained not so very long ago, spoiling property and rendering it less valuable and upsetting the occupiers of newly-built, costly houses. It is not true to say that nothing could have been done about this. Deputy Brady pointed out that better planning, for instance, better maintenance and in the final analysis, better citizenship could have done an amount about it. Dublin Corporation, Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire Borough Council are all concerned to prevent similar occurrences and in so far as my Department and I are concerned, we shall do anything we can to help. At the moment all I can do— and it is not of any great help to the people immediately concerned—is to sympathise with them. Of course I can also say that the local bodies, together with the Department, are anxious to take steps to prevent a recurrence of flood damage.

Another matter that ran through the debate in its earlier weeks—certainly in its earlier days—was the amazing propensity of certain Opposition Deputies who are members of local authorities, as if they were untouchable, to criticise their local authorities roundly and then, illogically, wind up by blaming the Minister for all the ills they had blamed on their own local authorities. By and large, they behaved in a rather childish and illogical way. I was accused of criticising local authorities unduly. I do not mind being criticised because I believe criticism helps to bring out many circumstances that may need ventilation, but I do object to certain members of this House and members of local authorities, as soon as I as Minister for Local Government open my mouth, criticising me for casting aspersions on any local authority. I have a very great deal to do with local authorities, but as soon as I say anything that can be interpreted as casting the slightest aspersion on a local authority, immediately the very same people who criticised that local authority get up on my back and say that I have no right to do it.

I have a perfect right to do it and I shall do it, if and when I see it is called for. In so far as the criticism of me for allegedly criticising local authorities in the recent past is concerned, all I can say to local authorities who feel from the speech I recently made that they have been criticised, is that if the cap fits them, they may wear it but it was not intended for those who do not fit the cap. Any reasonable member of the Opposition, inside or outside the House, who reads what I said will clearly see I was not casting aspersions on all and sundry of our local authorities in regard to any particular matter, but in regard to certain things which do apply to a relative minority of our local authorities, and if they want to squeal about it, they are branding themselves as they could not be branded by any indication of mine.

The greatest dissertation we heard for all time came from Deputy Ryan who made a terrific attack on the Dublin Corporation Housing Committee.It would have sounded very well, were it not for the fact that we were enlightened to a very great degree by the vivid picture given by a colleague of his on that committee who has attended all their meetings and who could point out from the records of that committee that Deputy Ryan was seldom seen at these meetings. Yet he was able here to criticise all they were doing. That is the type of criticism I do not feel deserves any worthwhile, if any, answer. It would be but wasting the time of the House. Deputy Sherwin's references to that matter are far more effective than anything Deputy Ryan had to say.

I do not think Deputy Ryan is a member of the Housing Committee.

I am sorry; it was not that he was a member of the Housing Committee but that he was a member of a Party who had so many members on the committee who never turned up.

They obviously recognised Deputy Sherwin's worth. There was no necessity for anybody else to be there, surely.

We shall leave that on the record. In so far as the general position is concerned, I feel I may have left out points raised by several Deputies, but if they draw my attention to them I shall deal with them. If I have done so, I am sorry. The Fine Gael Party tabled a motion which I submit was purely a political gambit at the beginning of the open season, so to speak, before we came back after the recess. The Special Committee which is sought in that motion is, to my mind, unnecessary for the reason that in fact we are aware in the Department of what the causes of the present housing shortage are.

Furthermore, from our experience over the past months and from the returns of the survey instituted in 1960, we are in a better position more expeditiously to show the way in which houses may be provided more quickly than would be the case if a Special Committee were set up. Such a Committee would take some time to get together, would require quite a lot of documentation and would finally be likely to come up with findings we ourselves in the Department have arrived at already and about which action is being taken. If the Committee were regarded as being desirable and were appointed, the only purpose it could have is to delay the very matters it was set up to expedite. I can see no useful purpose whatsoever it would serve in the circumstances of the moment.

In so far as Deputy Seán Dunne's motion is concerned, in which he seeks a special housing authority which would cover the entire area, I think it is only necessary to point out that the city and county of Dublin at the moment have one administrative head. We can surely expect that with the one administrative head over the two regions, we must get the ultimate in co-operation since it is within the authority, the ambit and the power of this man to ensure that this co-operation is forthcoming. I am sure there is nobody on the staffs of either of the two bodies who does not wish for this co-operation and who will not do everything to ensure that whatever good can come from such co-operation will in fact emerge.

I can see no useful purpose in this motion. Furthermore I do not agree with the sideswiping at the Dublin Corporation Housing Committee for the good reason that the Housing Committee does not require any legislation of this House to wipe it out. It is a subsidiary of the Dublin Corporation and if it were the case that it could be wiped out, then the case would surely have to be made that it is the Corporation that should be wiped out or, alternatively, that the Corporation should be advised and influenced to wipe out their own committee. That can be done without any legislation or any help from us and if Deputy Dunne bends his energy in that direction, no doubt he will succeed in convincing the Dublin Corporation that their committee is as useless as he says it is. Quite candidly, I do not think it is.

Deputy Declan Costello made a very eloquent and flowing speech, beautifully prepared, no doubt, in the way these people in the legal profession are used to in talking to a brief. As I sat here listening to him, I could not but admire the eloquence and the persuasive tone of his talk. I might even have gone out of here in somewhat of a haze, believing what this Fine Gael front bencher, for the time being at any rate, had to say, were it not for the fact that immediately on his heels came Deputy Sherwin who, without any eloquence or persuasiveness, completely and absolutely shattered Deputy Costello's case. In a few abrupt and probably rough sentences, he hit the bull's eye and immediately I was brought back to reality. I was glad because I should hate to be misled to the degree I was being misled by Deputy Costello, and I asked myself the question: How does this whole shattering of the case take place? It is obvious, of course, that Deputy Sherwin knows what he is talking about, has experience of what he was saying, and Deputy Costello knows nothing whatever about it except what he read or heard from somebody else. That is the difference between the two Deputies, and let me hear any time those who know what they are talking about, no matter how they may put it, rather than those who put it well and knew nothing about the subject.

Deputy Costello, who was followed parrotlike by a few others, said the Government were directly responsible for the housing problem which had developed. He quoted from the firstProgramme for Economic Expansion, of November, 1958, which, he said, indicated that spending on these building and sanitary services was to be reduced in the following years and that, in fact, that is what has taken place, that it was the deliberate policy of the Government from as early as 1958 to depress building to the degree that we created a shortage.

Let us look at the figures for 1958-59 which would be the relevant time of the announcement of this firstProgramme for Economic Expansion. In 1958-59, £4.6 million was issued from the Local Loans Fund for housing; in 1962-63 that figure has risen strangely, and despite the assertions of Deputy Costello, to £7.4 million. It should also be noted that public expenditure on all building and construction during the period 1958-59 to 1963-64 has risen from £10.22 million to £21.44 million, again surely giving the lie entirely to the assertion that we depressed spending in line with what might have been foreshadowed in this first Programme for Economic Expansion. Indeed let me say that the success of this Programme for Economic Expansion is probably itself one of the great causes of the upsurge in actual spending, the figures for which I have now quoted, and more of that I will mention in a moment.

Let me refer also to other charges that were made, not necessarily by Deputy Costello. I have been blamed and the Government have been blamed for a slowing down in housing. The charges were made against me that I told the local authorities to slow down and it has even been suggested that some four or five years ago I had been indicating to the public that house building in this country was completed. I want to refute all those charges completely and categorically. Not only that, but I want to say that I never was, and I am not now, of the opinion that house building is finished in this country. In fact, it never will be finished while the country is a living entity. House building will never be finished here unless the country is to be completely abandoned and we all get out and go somewhere else.

As far as I am concerned in this question, my views can be found on record quite a few years back and before any of the wise guys, as Deputy Sherwin called them, came along, as they have in the last couple of years, to start crying about not enough houses being built. If they wish to go back a few years further than that, I can be found on record as saying that house building was not completed and that we had a huge job in regard to rehousing our people in rural Ireland, particularly the small farmers. That was before we got down to eliciting by way of survey what was the actual position as it has now proved to be.

Let us go back and try to find out how the public mind could have been brought to believe that house building was almost at an end. As far back as I can go to where that rumour could have started would be to the days of my predecessor, Deputy O'Donnell, the then Minister for Local Government, and the days of the then Minister for Finance when he found himself up against a financial crisis at the beginning of 1957. If there was a start to this story and to these rumours that house building had almost been completed, that start was made by Deputy O'Donnell, then Minister for Local Government, perpetuated by Deputy Sweetman, then Minister for Finance, and circulated abroad by God knows how many adherents of those Parties who formed the Coalition Government, then about to collapse. I believe that that was the start of the plan to make the public believe they did not need any more houses.

Is it not true that in the last dying days of that Coalition Government, money was not available for house building as it is available today? Is it not true that in those last months and even in the last weeks of that Government, there were sessions held at which local authorities were advised that they would not get sanction for any new schemes of any kind whatever unless they were absolutely necessary and that in so far as their commitments up to date were concerned, only those actually entered into, and from which they could not withdraw, would be financed by the central Government?

It is also true that in the last weeks of that Government, they did not have the money to meet even those limited categories; yet those are the people who come in here and talk about there not being enough houses and about a Government allegedly depressing the building of houses to save themselves and the Exchequer money. I assert what I have asserted on numerous occasions both inside and outside the House, that no housing, no scheme of housing, or no single house that came to me for approval, by way of contract or tenant, has been held up by me, or my Department, or the Government because of lack of funds over the past six and a half years. That is the situation and it can be compared with the situation that had to be met behind the scenes by my predecessors in office in 1956 and in the early weeks of 1957. The allegation in regard to the Government's or my telling local authorities to go slow is completely and absolutely untrue but it is true of our predecessors in office. They did tell them to go slow and in fact told them not to go at all because there was no money to meet what they were doing.

To show that these assertions are not just empty assertions on my part, I can say, in addition to quoting the figures for expenditure on housing from the Local Loans Fund over these relevant years, and also the figures for total expenditure on building and construction, that it is also true that my Department has consistently over the past five or six years been doing everything possible to encourage local authorities to expand their services to the people. We have been making the way easier for them. We have been bringing in new legislation. We have been cutting out old procedures and substituting new ones which are less onerous. All in all, these few matters, which I merely put down for record purposes, may serve to pinpoint what I am saying.

In 1960, for instance, we asked for a housing survey. I had a fair idea of what that survey was going to show. Without the figures, however, I knew it would be impossible for this House or the Government to approve plans to remedy a situation which I thought existed but of which I had no proof. Now we have the proof and shortly there will be a remedy in regard to unfit small farmers' houses throughout the country. You may remember also in 1960 the furore there was about having to come to my Department to justify the need for particular houses. I said to the managers: "You can decide as managers; you take the responsibility and you do not have to come and convince us that this person or that person needs a house."

Might I ask the Minister a question?

I suppose the Deputy will ask it anyway.

It is not an impertinent question.

I do not care whether it is or not.

I think the managers, especially in regard to cottages, are afraid to take that risk because they will not know until the cottage has been built whether or not they will get the two-thirds or the one-third subsidy.

If managers are of the calibre that they do not know from day to day which way their heads are turning, they are not capable of being, and should not be, managers. That is my reasoning.

I did not mean it——

I appreciate what the Deputy has said. I am not taking it in any other sense but I am saying that a manager who does not know——

I was wondering if the Minister could help them in their dilemma.

We all have our dilemmas and we do not always find a Father Christmas to come along and make things easy for us and take responsibility for them. This responsibility was given locally because there was a complaint of undue hold-up in regard to housing schemes. It has been shown during the past few years that it can be and is being dealt with locally and I am not aware in a general way that managers cannot or are afraid to exercise their responsibility or that they are afraid if they do, they will get their heads in a sling with either the council or the Minister. If it can be shown that there is complete stalemate in regard to a particular manager not being able to carry out his responsibilities, then I can consider what it is necessary to do to remedy the situation.

Fair enough.

For the moment, I am not aware of any such situation. Again, in 1961 a request went out to the local authorities to service rural cottages. I do not think anybody really disagrees with the intention behind that. It could not be taken as being indicative of the Government's intention to cut down building. In 1962, we told the public about the new Housing Loans and Grants Act. In December of that year, I addressed the master builders and told them that we were living in new times and facing new problems in their field which demanded new methods. I told them I was looking to them and to people in the same business and with the same interests to set about, in a positive way, doing something about this matter of new methods to meet new problems in the new times in which we were living. Although it is not long ago, I am not really disappointed, but rather sad that so far we have not had any great evidence that there will emanate from within our own shores and from the members of our own building and construction companies and allied traders any worthwhile new solutions to our present day problems. That is not to say that I am despondent or think that they may not yet come forward with some new ideas that will be well worthwhile. Indeed, I am looking forward and hoping that they will do so.

On the side of legislation, in 1958— remember, this is the year in which the firstProgramme for Economic Expansion was published from which Deputy Costello quoted figures which, according to him, would indicate that we were going to depress and did depress building thereafter—the Housing (Amendment) Act was introduced which increased the range of the grant and loan facilities for private housing. Deputies will remember the details. It is not necessary for me to outline them. The fact is that it was a significant year and a significant move, in so far as housing legislation is concerned, to encourage more building rather than less building, as Deputy Costello suggested.

Again on the side of legislation, there was the Housing Loans and Grants Act, 1962, which was a consolidation measure and included, for the first time, grants for the housing of old people, special grants, special prototype grants and grants for the temporary preservation of houses for a limited period. It also took power to revise the SDA loan limits. All of those things surely are an indication of the continuing trend of the Government's policy to expand and to encourage and to create more spending in the building trade because of the fact that we needed those houses both on the private and the local authority side.

The subsidisable limits of local authority houses were raised in 1962, that is, over a year ago, before there were any motions put down by the Fine Gael Party or Deputy Dunne or before any such storm was being kicked up as they have been attempting to kick up during the past month. This raising of the subsidisable limits meant that we increased the limit from £2,000 to £2,500 for a flat; from £1,500 to £1,650 for a serviced cottage and from £1,000 to £1,100 for a nonserviced cottage—in other words, an all-round increase of 10 per cent. This, again, continued the trend, I might say, the happy trend for any Minister for Local Government, of the Government's policy to encourage still further, where feasible and where possible, by these incentives, the building of more houses throughout the country.

During the same period, there was the record which I shall give in regard to sanitary services. Everybody would like to say that he agrees with the expanded programme in this matter. I do not think anybody disagrees with it overall. Some people may have their own detailed small criticisms but by and large they are very few and very odd persons who will disagree with the idea of trying to make available in the widest possible manner piped water and to follow it up with proper sewerage systems for all of our people in whatever part of the country they may live.

In 1956, there were roughly, in round figures, about £1 million worth of schemes under the sanitary services head, both water and sewerage, in progress. Today the amount represented by schemes actually in progress is in excess of £5 million and today also, side by side with that £5 million, as an indication that it is not merely a flash in the pan that will disappear as soon as this work is finished, there is a further £4½ million of work under sanitary services at the tender stage and overall there are 919 new schemes, costing approximately £30 million, being planned and of this £30 million there is £12 million worth of work well advanced.

If that is not a definite and concrete indication of the Government's intention, which is the reverse of what Deputy Costello alleges, then I do not know what is. They are figures which cannot be denied. There is £5 million worth of schemes in progress; £4.5 million worth at the tender stage; £30 million overall being planned, of which £12 million worth is actually well advanced.Side by side with that, of course, we had various other small schemes introduced, all of them intended to improve the environment of our people throughout the country, such as the Derelict Sites Act, on the legislation side, which was followed by the derelict sites grant scheme, to which we welded the amenity scheme. Then there was our encouragement of the provision of swimming pools by local authorities for the benefit of our people and the enjoyment and education of our young people.

These things all came along at the various stages and were introduced, financed, and actually going—with costs being incurred currently under all heads—despite the allegations about a slow-down and instructions to stop going ahead which are made against us by Deputy Costello on behalf of the Fine Gael Party.

We also, of course, had improved borrowing provisions brought in to reduce the difficulties of local authorities in borrowing money for their various needs. The Act was the Local Government (No. 2) Act, 1960. As a result, no mortgages are now required by the Office of Public Works. Local authorities can now get loan instalments direct, as required, which they could not do heretofore. This, overall, has had the effect of streamlining the procedure, making it less onerous on local authorities and less difficult and less time-wasting when they were about to do a job for which they wished to raise money through the borrowing process.

Also—and this is probably the biggest thing of all, although it was not so treated by many local authorities— there is the survey for the continuance and completion of which we have had to make repeated requests since 1960 —a survey of the unfit houses in this country, a survey which would at least once, if not for all time, give us a clear picture as to what the situation is in regard to the entire housing stock. We have been three years plugging that and it has taken continuous plugging to get the local authorities to co-operate.I do not think they fully appreciated the value this survey could have. I think they do not fully appreciate that without a true assessment of the position it would be impossible for any Minister for Local Government or, indeed, any Government to justify the remedies which we in fact will be proposing to the House in the very near future. If they had appreciated it I do not believe they would have been as lax in coming forward with their figures as they have been. Now that they know that these figures are of some real worth to us, as are the early figures from them and the additional information we are getting from the 1961 census, I feel we will get, and I hope we will get, a much quicker reaction to any request for such information in future. Without this information it is not possible to design a proper scheme to meet the needs that may be thrown up and it certainly would not be possible to justify the expenditure envisaged without proof of the need for it.

In regard to these surveys, of course, it is our intention in future that there will not be this start and stop business in so far as building generally and house-building are concerned. We would hope—it is certainly my hope— that from the information we are gaining through these surveys and the census we will be able to indicate to local authorities the method by which they should draw up their immediate building programme, which probably would be a five-year programme, and their long-term programme, which probably would be a 20 year programme.Both such programmes will be necessary if we are to avoid a repetition in any part of the country of the shortage of houses that we are now experiencing in Dublin city. Programming is vitally necessary to avoid this situation. It is vitally necessary to ensure that those engaged in the building trade will be assured of work by a programme for five years ahead, and indeed that they have a long-term programme of 20 years, so they can weigh the prospects for the future.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.