Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 3 Jul 1968

Vol. 236 No. 2

Tourist Traffic Bill, 1968: Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The purpose of the Bill is firstly, to authorise an increase in the existing statutory limit on the aggregate amount which may be paid to Bord Fáilte for the giving of grants for the development of holiday accommodation, and secondly, to repeal the provision in the Tourist Traffic Act, 1959. which restricted payments to Bord Fáilte for grants for the development of holiday accommodation and major tourist resorts to a period of ten years from the date of the passing of that Act.

Provision was made in the Tourist Traffic Act, 1959, for the payment to Bord Fáilte of such sums not exceeding in the aggregate £500,000, as the Board might require for the giving of grants for the development of holiday accommodation. The limit of £500,000 was raised to £1.5 million by the Tourist Traffic Act, 1963, and to £3 million by the Tourist Traffic Act, 1966. The total amount issued to Bord Fáilte at 31st March, 1968, was £2,630,000 which left a balance of £370,000 in the authorised amount of £3 million. The amount to be voted in the present financial year is £800,000 and amending legislation is necessary to authorise payments in excess of £370,000 in the present financial year and to provide for payments in future years.

From the funds provided for the development of holiday accommodation, Bord Fáilte operate a scheme of grants to encourage the provision of additional holiday accommodation and the improvement of existing accommodation. Although reasonably good progress had been made in the provision of accommodation since the 1959 Act was passed, an investigation of accommodation requirements carried out by Bord Fáilte in 1965 revealed that a much quicker rate of growth was required to cater for the increase in tourist traffic. The board calculated that it would be necessary to provide 2,000 additional bedrooms each year up to and including 1970 of which 1,500 should be provided in registered hotels and guesthouses and 500 in supplementary accommodation.

As it was clear that the required rate of growth could not be achieved on the basis of the existing incentives, I authorised Bord Fáilte in April, 1967, to provide substantially increased incentives for the development of holiday accommodation. Prior to that date the general level of grants was of the order of 20 per cent. Apart from the fact that the level of the grants has been generally increased the scheme has been modified in the light of experience to provide for greater flexibility in the provision of financial assistance. Accordingly, Bord Fáilte are now authorised to determine, within certain specified maxima, the level of grant appropriate to each case taking account of all relevant factors including the location of the premises and the adequacy of existing accommodation in the area, the type of accommodation being provided, the price level, the market demand, the prospects of off-season business, the estimated cost of development and the background of the developer.

The current scheme of grants provides for the payment of up to 35 per cent of the total construction cost of new hotels in the western counties. In other remote areas the maximum grant is 25 per cent of total construction cost. Where the total construction grants do not apply, grants up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the cost of new hotel bedrooms are provided in the western counties and 40 per cent elsewhere. Grants up to 30 per cent are provided for dining areas, kitchens and stores in hotels in the West and 20 per cent elsewhere. There are also grants for hotel staff accommodation and for the provision of recreational facilities for hotel guests. Guesthouses in all areas are eligible for grants up to 20 per cent of the cost of new bedrooms, provided at least five guest bedrooms are available on completion of the project. Caravan and camping sites are eligible for grants up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the cost of site development and amenity works subject to a maximum grant of £20,000 per site. There are grants also for the provision and improvement of youth hostels and for improvement works in colleges and similar institutions providing accommodation for visitors during vacation periods.

The increase in the level of grants has resulted in an increase in the amount which has to be provided each year to Bord Fáilte for the purposes of the scheme. For instance, the amount provided in 1965-66 was £255,000; in 1966-67 it was £500,000; in 1967-68 it was £700,000, and in the present financial year the amount required to finance the scheme is £800,000.

Since the scheme was introduced in 1959 it has stimulated an investment of £15 million by private enterprise in holiday accommodation. The number of bedrooms in registered hotels and guesthouses has increased from 17,200 in 1960 to 24,000 in the present year, an increase of almost 40 per cent. There has also been a significant improvement in the standards of accommodation.

The increased incentives introduced in April, 1967, have had an immediate response from promoters. Figures available for 1st January, 1968, showed that there was a net increase of almost 1,300 bedrooms in hotels and guesthouses in 1967 although the increased grants were available for less than nine months of the year. Continued expansion and improvement of accommodation will be necessary to cater for the increasing number of tourists and there will be a particular need to cater for motoring visitors. The number of passenger-accompanied cars brought directly to ports in the State increased from 10,000 in 1959 to 68,000 in 1967. Bord Fáilte estimate that by 1970 about 150,000 cars will arrive directly and a further 100,000 through Six County ports.

The present range of grants will fall due for review in 1969 but there is no doubt that a continuation of financial assistance will be necessary to secure the required rate of expansion. Already a large number of projects are being planned for the coming years and Bord Fáilte anticipate that the target of 1,500 additional bedrooms in registered hotels and guesthouses will be achieved in each of the next three years.

I am accordingly proposing that the present statutory limit of £3 million for the giving of grants for the development of holiday accommodation should be increased by £2.5 million to £5.5 million. On the basis of information at present available this increase should be sufficient to provide for accommodation grants up to 31st March, 1971. I should explain that the purpose of this provision is to obtain the general approval of the Oireachtas for the financing of the accommodation development scheme. The amount to be provided each year will fall to be voted by the Dáil in the normal way under the Vote for the Department of Transport and Power.

Although there has been a substantial increase in registered hotel and guesthouse accommodation since 1960 —from 17,200 bedrooms in 1960 to 24,000 in the present year—the increase in supplementary accommodation has been more significant. The number of bedrooms in supplementary accommodation included in Bord Fáilte lists increased from 815 in 1960 to 8,400 in the present year. The increase in A* and A hotel bedrooms has been 68 per cent in this period; in other accommodation the increase has amounted to 82 per cent.

In addition to providing for an increase in the statutory limit on the amount to be provided for the development of holiday accommodation the Bill also contains a provision to repeal a restriction contained in the Tourist Traffic Act, 1959, which limited the payment of funds for the development of holiday accommodation and major tourist resorts to a period of ten years from the date of passing of that Act. I consider that the annual debate on the Vote for my Department and the fact that legislation is required every two or three years to authorise an increase in the aggregate amount provides sufficient control over the administration of the scheme without imposing a specific time limit.

The ten-year limitation applies not only to payments for the development of holiday accommodation but also to payments for the development of major tourist resorts. The aggregate amount to be provided for the development of major tourist resorts was increased to £3.25 million by the Tourist Traffic Act, 1966. The total amount issued at the 31st March, 1968, was just over £1.5 million. As the amount being provided in the current financial year is £400,000, it is now clear that there will be a considerable balance remaining in the authorised amount of £3.25 million at the expiration of the ten-year period in August, 1969. It is intended to undertake a second programme for the development of major tourist resorts when the works at present in hands have been completed and, in the circumstances, I have no doubt that Deputies will agree to the removal of the time limitation so that the major resort development scheme can be continued after August, 1969.

The further development of the tourist industry depends to a very great extent on the availability of an adequate supply of holiday accommodation. There are good grounds for believing that the incentive scheme now in operation will achieve the rate of growth required to cater for the anticipated increase in demand. It is equally important that the major resort development scheme should be continued. Bord Fáilte are at present embarking on a policy of promoting year-round tourism and the development of this policy will give rise to an increasing demand for entertainment and recreation facilities.

There is no need for me to remind Deputies of the importance of the tourist industry to the national economy. Since 1959 the income from tourism and travel has risen from £39.4 million to £84.3 million in 1967. During the period of the Second Programme for Economic Expansion tourist income at constant money values rose at a rate of 5.5 per cent a year. I am confident that this rate of growth can be maintained and possibly increased provided the necessary resources and facilities are made available. The purpose of this Bill is to enable these resources to be made available and I accordingly confidently recommend the Bill for the approval of the Dáil.

Naturally we welcome this Bill. We welcome any Bill that provides more money for the development of tourism, be it by way of the development of tourist accommodation or tourist resorts. What worries me very much is the delay in providing the moneys which are voted by this House for the various purposes.

I thought that when Bord Fáilte was set up, when we married the various tourist organisations, when we got new blood with a new outlook, we might have cut the red tape with which the various tourist organisatitons were tied by the Civil Service. Unfortunately that is not so. On the last occasion I spoke on the Minister's Estimate I mentioned the delay in providing grants for guesthouses. The Minister kindly said that if I brought it to the notice of Bord Fáilte, he felt certain that these grants would be paid. I have brought to the notice of Bord Fáilte three separate applications for grants for guesthouses and so far not one of them has been paid.

I cannot understand why Bord Fáilte cannot make payments on account to developers as the development of their premises progresses. If one wishes to repair, improve or extend a guesthouse, one must do it to the standards of Bord Fáilte and to the extent required by Bord Fáilte. One must provide one's own overdraft accommodation from the bank. Bord Fáilte will not assist you in any way in procuring that, but when you have procured it, Bord Fáilte will then undertake to pay the interest rate for a fixed period.

The delay in paying the grants, as distinct from the interest rate on the loans, considerably increases the amount of the interest rate, and there is a delay in discharging the overdraft incurred in developing the property. Strange as it may seem, that relates only to guesthouses and smaller hotels. If one wishes to build a luxury hotel costing anything between £100,000 and £200,000, there appears to be no delay whatsoever in procuring the money. Bord Fáilte may be overdoing the building of luxury hotels at the expense of neglecting the furtherance of guesthouse accommodation.

The Minister has told us that supplementary accommodation has increased from 815 beds in 1960 to 8,400 beds this year. Is the Minister seriously suggesting that Bord Fáilte have provided money for these additional beds? Of course they have not. These beds were always there, but it is only in the last year or so when there was a demand for what is known as B and B, bed and breakfast, that the proprietors of these houses decided to cash in on them. Bord Fáilte have deserved no thanks and should seek no praise for this increase of supplementary accommodation from 815 to 8,400.

I am personally aware that throughout rural Ireland houses are being registered for bed and breakfast, as supplementary accommodation, by people who have received not one penny from Bord Fáilte but who brought their premises up to a fairly high standard by means of grants from Local Government and Roinn na Gaeltachta. Therefore, Bord Fáilte cannot take very much credit for this additional accommodation. For instance, in my own town the supplementary accommodation has increased from zero to something like 40 beds per night, but not one penny has been spent by Bord Fáilte in the town of Dungloe, in the heart of a tourist area. When one hotelier there did make application for a grant, the plans with which it was suggested he should comply were beyond the reach of the normal hotelier in rural Ireland, and he had to drop the project for the time being at least.

The Minister should concentrate more on guesthouses. Many of our guesthouses deserve to be registered as hotels. The standard for hotel registration is far too high, and the Minister should remember that those of the middle or lower class who require guesthouse accommodation should be entitled to the same facilities as the upper class who require and procure hotel accommodation, in that they should be entitled to partake of intoxicating liquor and consequently these premises should be licensed if they have ten or more bedrooms set aside for guests. There is class victimisation here—I do not wish to go into it in detail; some other speakers may —in that licences will not be granted to guesthouses whereas they will be granted to hotels. The difference between a top-class guesthouse and a third-rate hotel is very little indeed. There should not be this discrimination and it should not react against what may be described as the poorer type of tourist.

Bord Fáilte are doing a very good job with the farm guesthouse grants. Sufficient advertisement has not been given to those grants and a sufficient number of them have not been utilised. Much more could be done by bringing to the notice of farmhouse owners the generous grants which are available from Bord Fáilte for the repair of their houses. In so far as this Bill provides money for that, we welcome it.

There may be other aspects of the Bill which require careful consideration in view of some legal matters which have recently arisen in connection with the registration by Bord Fáilte of hotels under the Intoxicating Liquor Act. Some other speakers may deal with that in more detail. We in Fine Gael welcome this Bill. I want to ask the Minister to ensure that when grants are applied for and allocated, they are paid as soon as possible, and that the unfortunate applicant is not left carrying dead weight by way of an overdraft.

I am glad also to notice that tourist resort grants are being increased. God knows it is time. I often wonder what we are doing with the various resort grants that have already been issued under the various Acts passed by this House. I remember the Minister and his predecessor coming to Bundoran and telling the people about the grandiose schemes which were in hand for the development of that magnificent seaside resort, but year in and year out, those promises have remained unfulfilled. It is only quite recently that a beginning has been made on the West End by expanding the promenade and car park there. It is frustrating to developers of seaside resorts to be told that plans have been made for a particular resort, and then find that those plans are not implemented for years and years. Despite the fact that deputations see the Minister, Bord Fáilte, and the local authorities, the buck is passed from one to the other and nothing is done.

Again we welcome that part of the Bill which provides more money for tourist resort grants as we do the portion of the Bill which provides more money for the development of holiday accommodation.

I welcome this Bill for two reasons. One is that it shows an advancement in tourist development and the necessity for the provision of extra money in order to encourage that advancement. The other is that it gives me an opportunity to give voice to a matter which is disturbing me and many people throughout the country— Deputy O'Donnell has touched upon it—in relation to the licensing of guesthouses.

So far as the development of tourism is concerned, I am particularly pleased that the Minister has made special mention of the western areas for the development of tourist resorts and accommodation generally, whether it be hotels, guesthouses, farmhouse accommodation, camping sites or any of the several ways and means whereby this very valuable industry is being cultivated. I want to say straight away that the majority of our people in the hotel business have met the challenge of tourism extremely well, having regard to their limited financial capacity so to do. In addition, I want to say that in my experience Bord Fáilte has come to the assistance of these people with extraordinary rapidity and quite a sympathetic approach.

All over the country there is ample opportunity to develop this industry. If it is going more slowly than we should like, that slowness is due to the fact that the people interested in the promotion of tourism have not got the necessary capital to move as fast as we, or even they, would like to move. On the other hand, this Bill shows the necessity for this. The amounts available by way of help from the national Exchequer through Bord Fáilte have not been sufficient. For that reason I welcome this Bill, as Deputy O'Donnell does, on behalf of my Party.

On the 18th June last, I put down a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Justice asking him if he had any intention of amending section 20 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1960. The reason I did so was that it had come to my notice that the provisions of that section are about to be applied with great stringency at the annual licensing courts next September. I may say in passing that I approached Bord Fáilte officials on this matter, and all they could say to me was that there is a defect in the 1960 Act. If there is a defect in any Act, it is the job of the Government, at the instigation of the responsible Minister, to remedy that defect. I would go further and seek the support of the Minister for Transport and Power to urge upon the Government that they should remedy this defect at least in so far as it applies to the people immediately and directly concerned.

I do not want to have the whole thing thrown open to anyone and everyone to get a licence, but, as the law stands at the moment, as I see it, under the old provisions of the 1902 Act persons in rural areas who have got ten bedrooms set aside separately for the sleeping accommodation of travellers are entitled to get a licence for the sale of intoxicating liquor. In the Tourist Traffic Act, 1952, that definition was continued, but in respect of the county boroughs, the number of rooms was increased from ten to 20. That was provided in sections 40 to 42 of the Tourist Traffic Act, 1952. They have now been repealed by the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1960, but the definition of hotels is still there. Under sections 19 and 21, hotels are defined in exactly the same way in relation to rural Ireland as they are defined under the provisions of the 1902 Act in pursuance of which applications are made for licences.

The functions of Bord Fáilte are defined. Inter alia they include the grading of hotels, guesthouses, camping sites, youth hostels and the like. I do not mind to what extent this grading goes. So far as I am concerned, Bord Fáilte are free to grade them down to Z, but Bord Fáilte are not entitled to alter the statutory definition of an hotel. They can grade them as they wish, but may I repeat that they are not entitled to alter the statutory definition of an hotel? A person who is granted a spirit licence under the 1902 Act is granted it because the premises in respect of which he seeks a licence is an hotel. Bord Fáilte, in my view—and I earnestly hope I will not have to urge this anywhere else— must register these premises as an hotel until such time as this House thinks fit to give another definition to these premises.

From inquiries made, I understand that there are 125 licensed guesthouses, but the official from whom I made the inquiry was not able to segregate them. He was not able to say how many were simply those without a public bar qualifying under the provisions of the Act of 1902 or the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1960, or were the kinds of places that had purchased two licences under other provisions.

I am not concerned with premises that have public bars and are entitled to have them. I am concerned with premises the proprietors of which have been visited by members of the Garda Síochána in the past few months who said that, pursuant to the provisions of section 20 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1960, they will oppose their licence at the next annual licensing court. These premises are all within the category of the definition of "hotel" in all relevant enactments. I do not know how many of the 125 are affected or will be affected, but it is within the Minister's competence to find that out from his officials. I do know, however, that in a part of my constituency in North Mayo, five such premises are affected. Why some of these are not registered by virtue of their own standards, as hotels and, indeed, by virtue of Bord Fáilte standard of "hotel" I do not know. They fall within the spurious category of "guesthouse", the definition of which I cannot find in any tourist traffic enactment. I have the definitions of "hotel" and I have the definitions of "camping site" but I cannot find the other.

Now, when people purchase large premises that might otherwise have to be knocked down, premises that provide ample sleeping accommodation in great luxury—and, mind you, as it occurs to me, I think the Minister knows at least two of the premises to which I refer—they deserve respect, consideration and thanks. One is that of the late Major Paddy Knox-Gore at Coolcronan between Foxford and Ballina on the Moy. It is now owned by a Ballina veterinary surgeon and some other people who have been running it successfully as an hotel under the application they made for a licence but it is classified by Bord Fáilte as a guesthouse. Next September, under existing conditions, that licence will be opposed by the Gardaí and it will no longer be licensed. If that house is not a house into which we could welcome guests not alone from this country but from any country, I do not know what is.

Across the road, a little further down towards Ballina and probably known to the Minister, too, is Major Aldridge's house, Mount Falcon, a wonderful house with wonderful accommodation and licensed—but, next September, certain to lose the licence unless something is done about this.

Enterprising people purchased the former convent at Ballycastle on the North Coast—Whelan's, Ballycastle. It is the only place where it is possible to get a meal and sleeping accommodation between Ballina and Belmullet along the north coast unless one goes to where a young man named Garvin is, at Carrateigue, Ballina. Mr. Garvin earned his money in the Middle East, I think, in conditions of danger, working with oil people. He came back, got the necessary accommodation, satisfied the Circuit Court judge, through his architects and engineers, that he had a premises that fell within the provisions of the 1902 Act and got a licence not for a public bar but for a dispensing business.

There is another lovely house in the town of Ballina which was and still is one of the showhouses of the West— Glencairn, Ballina, the Egan private house. It also is licensed in the same way. I am not so certain whether any places in the Island of Achill are affected. Perhaps Deputy Calleary might know something about this. I do not know whether or not he does but I am sure he does. However, there may be some places in the Island of Achill. From a tourist point of view, it would be extremely serious if anything happened to them. I am not making an appeal for these people on political grounds. Some are against me and some are for me: they are mixed— but they are all enterprising and good people who are helping to run the tourist business in the west of Ireland and who are giving of their very best. This is my view and, as I said, I hope I shall not have to urge it anywhere else.

Taking the word "hotel" as defined in all the enactments I can lay hands on, I consider that these premises fall into the category of and that Bord Fáilte must register them as hotels for the purposes of the Intoxicating Liquor Act and, indeed, for their own purpose because, mind you, their function, as defined, is simply to grade hotels and guesthouses. You can call them hotels Grade X, if you wish, but they must be graded as hotels because hotels they are within the meaning of the provisions pursuant to which they were licensed.

Now, after my question to the Minister for Justice, I received a long letter from him today the contents of which I do not propose to read but it contains in my view specious and spurious arguments as to why this defect cannot be remedied. It would be a very easy matter to confine any amendment to premises affected as of this moment. Not having received any satisfaction in this regard from the Minister for Justice, I am particularly pleased to avail of this opportunity to try to elicit the help of the Minister for Transport and Power in this serious matter concerning isolated areas. I also call upon my colleague, Deputy O'Hara, to assist me in the same regard, as well as Deputy Calleary, because they are nearer to him than they are to me. After my disappointment, on receiving this letter from the Private Secretary to the Minister for Justice, I went in and quickly framed— perhaps imperfectly—a Private Members' Bill to try to remedy this defect. I earnestly urge the Minister to look at it to see if he can assist these people in any way—as I am sure he will.

Let us contemplate the appalling prospect for people who, maybe, have booked fishing or shooting parties next winter or even people who go on professional work, such as archaeological pursuits, and their staff. What will happen to these bookings? What will happen to the furnishings with which they have fitted out these houses? What will happen to the small but important staff? What is to happen to these people if these houses are closed down as tourist amenities in the area? What is to happen to the passing tourist who travels that road and finds that he cannot get anything to eat or drink? Let us make no mistake about it, one's ability to get drink in this country or some other countries—and here and in Great Britain we have most archaic laws— differs from one's ability to get a drink on the continent where they are sensible about this. Their view is that if you have the money you will get the drink and the licensing hours are not confined to any particular hours.

However, that is beside the point. I do not want to enter into any discussion about the liquor laws and whether they are archaic or not. It is important to have these facilities with meals and I am not necessarily referring to wine. The wine of the country is extremely important and if you are having a steak, the best drink to have with it is the pint of stout or the pint of beer. Wine is all right for the cultivated palate but those of us who were brought up in the hard and rough school still like the wine of the country with our food. If that is not made available for the tourist, then forget about it, forget about the west of Ireland and the remote places, forget about it all.

I am sorry that I have had to speak at such length about this and with such feeling, but I feel that if anything were to happen to these premises, it would be a retrograde step for the tourist industry and a blow to members of families who find employment in these places, about which there is not the slightest complaint. Those of them I know are extremely well run and in any of them you can have an excellent meal, an excellent drink and excellent sleeping accommodation. Is that not what we are providing for the tourist? Is that not what we want to provide for the tourist, whether he is from the south of Ireland or the south of France, whether he is merely a holidaymaker lolling around or someone on a hunting or fishing holiday or even whether he is a business man who stays there while he is transacting his business?

I ask the Minister to look into this matter urgently because I understand we are rising next week and something should be done in this House to enable the Seanad to consider it before it rises so that these people can approach the next licensing court without the apprehension they now feel and without the gloom which is almost overpowering them and their business future.

It cannot be done within the ambit of this Bill.

I understand that.

I think it could.

I am trying to enlist the Minister's support in order to impress on his colleague, the Minister for justice, and the Government, the need for doing something in this regard. It is a very urgent problem.

I appreciate the problem.

If the Minister had Bord Fáilte re-grade these places——

I cannot do it in this Bill.

But it has been brought to the Minister's notice.

Could the Minister direct Bord Fáilte to grade these places in certain categories?

We have been looking into it.

September is the last month in which we can look into it.

I want to support what Deputy Lindsay has said. He being an eminent legal man has made what I would describe as a cast-iron case for something to be done in regard to these guesthouses. I want also to stress the importance of having something done. In fairness to the Minister, I think he is the type of far-seeing man who will realise the importance and urgency of taking up this matter and finding a solution.

I welcome this Bill which is a necessary measure and is of particular importance to the west of Ireland. Down through the years in this House and outside it, we have had people emphasising the difficulties, generally speaking, under which people in the west of Ireland live. It is a part of the country from which at all times we have had emigration and migration. Many of the lines in which small-holders previously engaged have disappeared or have become uneconomic, such as the poultry and egg business which once was a great source of income. Very few people on small holdings can now make anything from such lines. Many people in the West are now turning to providing farm holiday accommodation for tourists.

No later than yesterday in Connemara, I noticed with pride and satisfaction that many people in this remote area were availing of the grants for improving accommodation in order to encourage more tourists to come to the area. It would be a tragedy if these people were forced to pack up and get out, as many have had to do. A similar situation applies in Achill, Erris and other places. Indeed, yesterday when I was taking my daughter to the Connemara Gaeltacht, I was delighted to find in one family which I visited three children aged four, six and eight years, a boy and two girls, who could not speak a word of English. It is wonderful in this age that we can find this happy state of affairs, that the language has not died along the western seaboard. If we allow a situation to develop in which the parents have to emigrate, then we can surely say that the language is lost.

One of the problems which confront strangers in my county, and which does not exist for those of us who live there, is the problem of signposting. In many cases roads are badly signposted and on more than one occasion I have seen tourists with an American, a GB or North of Ireland registration, or even a Dublin registration, coming to a crossroads, looking for a signpost and then having to get out and make inquiries as to how they can get to their destination. I would stress the importance of improving signposting. It is true that progress has been made in that direction, but a great deal remains to be done.

In Foxford, an area referred to by Deputy Lindsay, there is some wonderful scenery. There is Pontoon and Lough Conn and Lough Cullen. There are towns like Crossmolina, Ballina and Belmullet. There is some really beautiful scenery around Blacksod Bay, Newport, Achill and Malranny. The scenery is varied. There have been most extraordinary improvements in housing. Deputy Calleary played an important part as engineer in these improvements and he is, in fact, more conversant with them than I because he supervised the work. Considerable progress has been made in housing. In this connection I should like to stress the importance of water supplies and sanitary accommodation. Some people have gone to considerable expense to supply these amenities. In many cases they have gone to the limit of their resources and, in some cases, have gone into debt to provide them. This may be more relevant to another Department, but I would ask the Minister to use his good offices with the appropriate Minister to try to speed up the provision of water and sewerage facilities. These have a bearing on the tourist industry.

We have a grumble in the West with regard to publicity. A relative of mine, whose husband runs an agency in New York, told me recently that very little advertising space is allotted to areas such as Foxford, Pontoon, Achill, Malranny, Crossmolina and Ballina. That is not fair. We all know that centres like Dublin and the east coast generally have the advantage of an airport and shipping facilities and it is only natural, I suppose, that the majority of those who come here on holiday would be inclined to stay in Dublin and along the east coast. I appeal to the Minister to use his influence with tourist organisations to divert more and more tourists to the West. The tourist industry provides a supplement to the meagre incomes the people derive from whatever occupations they have.

I saw people yesterday in Connemara harvesting a little patch of hay and only the Lord knows how they manage, unless they have some income from tourism to help them to live. Some small income to supplement what they have would be of great benefit. Some find casual work with the county council; some are engaged in forestry. Anything we can do to help them is of tremendous importance.

My regret is that the grants are not more generous. The Minister should not be afraid to go to the Minister for Finance and demand more money. We produce the finest food in the world. We have a grand country for tourists. Ours is one of the most peaceful countries in the world today and a great many people are discovering that. The evidence is there in the numbers of cars on our roads bearing foreign registrations. I hope the Minister will try to extract more money from the Minister for Finance to help these people. In the congested areas, the income from tourism is very important.

Many improvements under various Acts have been made in Mayo, which is now one of the best counties in Ireland. Our houses have been improved. The only problem that remains to be solved is the provision of bathrooms and toilets in the houses generally. Grants should be increased substantially to allow this work to be done. We are one of the best tourist areas and we should keep Mayo that way. The best way to do it is to provide facilities. The county council has done great work on the roads. There are few towns in Mayo I have not visited. I know the county pretty well and, comparing the county today with what it was 20 and 30 years ago, I maintain that we are now one of the best counties in the country and there is no reason why our tourist traffic should not be expanded considerably. We are one of the nicest counties. Achill is doing fairly well but areas like Belmullet are not getting the traffic that they should get. There are lovely areas in north Mayo.

In Lacken, there is one of the best strands in Ireland. I do not know why the attractions of that area are not advertised. Lacken has associations with St. Patrick. The remains are there of Micheál MacRuaidhri of whom Pearse wrote:

Slán leat Micheál a mhic

Slán leat Micheál a mhic

Slán leat Micheál a mhic

Micheál ó Conndae Mhuigheó.

Sufficient advertising is not done to attract tourists to these areas. There is a beautiful countryside between Ballycastle and Belmullet on the north coast road. There is not sufficient propaganda about these areas. In north Mayo there are the most beautiful but the least developed areas in Ireland.

There has been progress in the matter of housing. There are very few thatched or derelict houses to be seen there now but I should like to see bigger grants being made available for the provision of water and sewerage in houses. There are very few areas that are as lovely as Mayo, especially north Mayo.

Like my colleagues who have spoken from these benches, I want to welcome this Bill which proposes to increase the amount available for grants for holiday accommodation from £3 million to £5½ million. It is not quite clear from the Minister's statement but I assume that when the Minister says the total amount issued to Bord Fáilte at 31st March, 1968, was £2,630,000, that was for a year.

It is a good sign that the Minister should have to come to the House seeking additional money for grants for holiday accommodation. It is only fair to say that in many parts of the country there is evidence of progress in the provision of additional accommodation in recent years. One must be impressed, driving through parts of the country, seeing so many houses advertising guesthouse accommodation. It may be a mistake to have the two grades described as supplemental accommodation and guesthouse accommodation. People may get the idea that the supplemental accommodation label means poor accommodation. That could be a very mistaken idea. There are many houses providing supplemental accommodation which is first-class. The description is misleading and should be considered in connection with tourist propaganda.

Tourism is one industry in connection with which we are doing a good job at selling. There are many other industries in connection with which we are not selling well. In the case of tourism we are selling faster than we are producing the goods, which indicates that we have not been really trying hard enough to get people to invest in this type of accommodation. A person who expresses interest in providing holiday accommodation of the guesthouse or supplemental type who gets in touch with Bord Fáilte is informed that it may take 12 months before a representative will get out to see the accommodation. This implies shortage of staff. The amount of money involved in this Bill is a small sum having regard to the importance of the industry as a whole, the employment content and the effect of tourism on our balance of payments.

One difficulty is that most people who are interested in providing accommodation of the type I have referred to must find all of the money first. They have to be in a position to invite people into their houses before any loan accommodation is forthcoming. The grant is paid when the work is completed. The provision of guesthouse accommodation involves considerable effort. Only people who hope to make an additional income out of it will venture into this business because it entails extra work. They will not undertake this business unless they see a potential profit. The people who would be interested in providing this type of accommodation are very often people who are short of capital to provide the building, furniture and fittings of a kind that we would be proud to have available. There should be some way whereby these people would get the necessary finance in advance, whether by way of insurance bond or something of that nature. There should be some means of ensuring that people are not prevented from taking part in a worthwhile industry by shortage of capital.

In the case of the provision of a dwelling it is possible to get the greater part of the necessary finance by way of loan or grant. There should be a fund similar to the Local Loans Fund from which money could be made available for such people as I have referred to, so that they would not have to get everything on credit in advance of starting business.

Various parts of the country, mainly the west of Ireland, have been mentioned in this debate, probably because most of the speakers were from the west of Ireland. Nobody denies the necessity to supplement the incomes of the people in these areas. Similar conditions exist in other parts of the country, particularly in places very much nearer to the capital. From time to time mention is made of places like west Wicklow. We have all had a gallop around west Wicklow in the recent past. This is an area that is wide open for development. The people in west Wicklow are no less poor than people in many areas which are getting grants but in west Wicklow the people who engage in this business have to accept smaller grants. West Wicklow is obviously a place that could be an intensive development area. It is within very short distance of the capital and within easy reach of tourists. The scenery would be difficult to surpass. There are many amenities there such as fishing, trekking and other tourist attractions. If we were really in earnest about providing the type of accommodation visualised in the Bill we would be going out and asking people if they were prepared to engage in it and not expecting those who do express an interest to wait for 12 months before anything will be done.

It is no wonder that the shortfall exists. There are good reasons for it. It exists because apparently we have not got the staff to go out and sell this. We should be selling it as people sell insurance. It is a worthwhile industry, one of the few in the country where we have done a better job of selling than producing the goods. We have all the raw materials to produce the goods. We have the scenery. We are an agricultural country producing food as good as it is possible to get in any part of the world. We have people who have a reputation for hospitality and kindness. I think personally that far too little effort and money have gone into this industry. I am glad the Minister has come before us and I hope before very much longer he will be back again looking for more money for the development of this industry.

When the Minister comes before us seeking permission to expend money in the fashion he described, I think we should have a little more information about what is meant by holiday accommodation and in what part of the country it is proposed to expend this money. Some areas of the country can be described as overdeveloped so far as tourism is concerned and others as underdeveloped. We must not lose sight of the fact that, when we provide money for improved holiday accommodation by way of providing extra bedrooms and so on, we must have some understanding about the type of employment envisaged as a result of this expenditure. There was no mention of this in the Minister's speech.

The Minister has asked us to provide this money for Bord Fáilte in respect of holiday accommodation and we must assume the board have made a case to the Minister. Therefore, I believe the Minister should make his case clear. You cannot have extra bedrooms if you do not also have competent extra staff. I should like to know from the Minister if he has had any indication from Bord Fáilte as to how many people they envisage will be employed fulltime if they spend so many thousands for extra accommodation. This is a reasonable and an important question to ask.

The Minister rightly stressed the value of tourism to our economy, but we must not forget that tourism has become a highly competitive business internationally. It is not good enough for us to do the job as well as we have been doing it; we must do it better. The only way is to engage staff, train them well and ensure they will be in permanent and lucrative employment. The Minister may answer by saying there is an organisation in existence for the recruitment and training of catering staff. This is not the answer because this organisation, while it is doing its best in connection with training staff, has only limited funds. At the moment it is at a loss to know where it will obtain more money to further its great effort in staff training. Along with this request for more money, one would expect the Minister to ask for permission to be given to Bord Fáilte to spend more on staff training.

I know from my association with a number of people engaged in this industry that they recognise there is a need for improvement throughout the country, but they also have a fear about overdevelopment in certain areas. For example, it has been stated repeatedly, not only by working people in the catering industry, but by the employers in the industry, that as far as Dublin is concerned, we have almost reached saturation point. This is evident if one looks at the off season, which unfortunately is longer than the season itself. If you keep building more hotels and adding bedrooms in areas such as Dublin and Cork, you will find it will have an effect on the situation of full employment in the industry there at the moment. The more accommodation provided in areas of that kind, the more competition there is for business, but, strangely enough, the less employment is provided. The employers concerned find they have to share their business in the off season. The first indication one gets in regard to the off season is that staff are laid off. This is something we should try to eliminate as far as possible.

We have been in the fortunate position of being able to develop our business. The car ferries have improved business, and the Minister is to be complimented in that regard. At the same time, the location of car ferry services and their utilisation in some cases has not resulted in giving a great deal of extra employment. The introduction of the car ferries has brought about the happy situation that we are now able to encourage British tourists to bring their cars here where previously they went to France. I hold we have not sufficiently concentrated on the British visitor. If that encouragement is to be continued I agree that we must have improved accommodation. While I am not decrying the provision of money for holiday accommodation, we should have some information from the Minister as to the areas in which Bord Fáilte propose to provide this extra accommodation.

As I said, the Minister should also indicate what the effect will be on employment. It is accepted in catering circles in Dublin that for every room added to an hotel an extra member of the staff is engaged. This is what the employers tell us. If this can be taken for granted as part of Bord Fáilte's plans, it is great, particularly if the Board's information shows we are going to have full employment in the cities and a tendency to fuller employment in the rural areas. I do not want to appear to be contending that you cannot have extra accommodation in what are known as holiday resorts if it does not offer full employment. We all know there are certain resorts that are purely seasonal resorts where operatives work for a season and know they cannot expect continuous work because the hotel closes when the season ends. Is that the seasonal accommodation and seasonal employment the Minister talks about when he speaks of holiday accommodation?

Is the Minister absolutely satisfied with the staff accommodation position? In view of the fact that there are funds available for hotels wishing to provide staff accommodation, I am not satisfied that these funds have been fully availed of. Would the Minister take steps to ensure that when applications come from hoteliers for grants for holiday accommodation, these hoteliers should be required to satisfy the Minister that they have ample staff accommodation? Establishments have been improved by grants and it has not resulted in improving staff accommodation but rather in worsening staff accommodation or their accommodation being reduced by more staff being put into a smaller space. It has happened in County Dublin that instead of staying in part of the hotel as formerly, the staff were required to stay in caravans with no permanent sanitary facilities.

These are important things. There is no sense in building extra rooms without staff to work them and you must ensure you will have staff by taking all possible steps to provide them with reasonable accommodation.

I thank the House for the friendly reception they have given the Bill.

Deputy O'Donnell referred to delays in the payment of grants. I understand that in the case of guesthouses, because the volume of work is small, Bord Fáilte wait until work has been actually completed before paying the grants. If the Deputy has any cases in which he thinks, having regard to all the circumstances, there has been excessive delay in paying grants, perhaps he would let me have particulars, if he has not already done so, and I shall look into them.

I am grateful to the Minister.

There was less criticism on this occasion than formerly about the proportion of A and A* hotels to those of the lower price category but arising from what Deputies have said, I should like to emphasise that first of all, there is no such thing in this country as a luxury hotel in the European sense. We have not reached that stage of development.

We have the Intercontinental.

Not in relation to European standards. There is a still higher category.

I understand there is one in Clare.

Taken as a whole, the very first line of hotels in this country does not reach the accepted ultimate luxury class.

What European hotels has the Minister in mind as being superior?

I did not say superior, but offering a degree of luxury that I think it is unnecessary to offer here.

What European hotels offer that degree of luxury?

I suppose the Ritz class of hotels or the converted palaces that can be found in certain countries along the Mediterranean. In any case the number of bedrooms in medium and lower class hotels and guesthouses and in supplementary accommodation rose from 13,000 to 24,000 odd between 1960 and 1967. The increase in the A standard was 68 per cent and increase in the other accommodations has been 82 per cent so that I think we are making progress in providing moderately priced accommodation. The farmhouse grants on which so far £200,000 has been either spent or allocated will further increase this very desirable type of accommodation.

Deputy O'Donnell suggested that possibly the standards imposed by Bord Fáilte may be excessive. This is a very difficult matter to estimate. My belief—and I agree with Bord Fáilte —is that when you prescribe standards or grades for hotels, you must think ten or 15 years ahead. If the incomes of people from Europe who are our customers are constantly increasing and their standards of living improving you must be certain if, extending an hotel or building a new one, that you make available space for still further improvement. In other words, the hotel providing a very small shower instead of providing a bath may find itself without customers if there is no room to put in a bath adjacent to the bedroom ten years from now and the hotel is still operating and in good order. That is a very difficult problem to estimate in toto.

Deputy Mullen quite validly raised the question of the basis of allocation of these grants. The answer is that the level of grant available depends on the necessity for the accommodation. If Bord Fáilte feel that in a particular area there is absolute saturation, they will not give any grant for an hotel. It depends on their analysis of bed occupancy, demand throughout the season and all the other factors relating to market research that they undertake as to the level of grant they will give in a particular area. Development, as Deputies have indicated, varies from area to area. In some areas a great deal of accommodation is required but not provided because of lack of local initiative. In other cases there is far greater development and Bord Fáilte must judge the situation in regard to each application they get and they try to classify the various areas on the basis of need.

Deputy Mullen referred to the necessity to provide all the year round employment. That cannot be found anywhere except in great cities which have all the year round business and enormous functional business. The season is extending in the Irish hotel and guesthouse world and it is one of the supreme objectives of myself and Bord Fáilte continually to extend the season until finally it is continued all the year round except, perhaps, in some very isolated locations. At the same time it is true that here, as elsewhere, there are sections of the community who benefit from summer employment. There are people for whom it is convenient and to whom it brings additional income. Various classes of people benefit, including students and people living in rural areas whose economy in some cases is associated with hotels, which, because of their isolation, in the normal way close in October or November and reopen in the following year in time for Easter, where the additional income to the people living in the district proves helpful and where, on the whole, one can say the people there do not suffer necessarily because the income ceases in October. It is part of the whole rural life of the district.

Deputy Mullen suggested that we ought to be rather careful about the amount of extra accommodation provided in Dublin. Bord Fáilte have that under review, but I might mention the fact that there was hardly a single room available in hotels in Dublin in May because of the existence at the one time of three different congresses or conferences. Therefore we may have need for accommodation in Dublin still. However, I agree with Deputy Mullen that the position in regard to Dublin, taking the whole year round, is fairly satisfactory at the moment. Of course Deputy Mullen will be aware of the fact that tourist employment extends far beyond the hotel industry. It employs about 160,000 people directly or indirectly in the provision of food and drink, the transport of various materials, and the production of goods that are bought by tourists when they are here.

Deputy Mullen asked about staff accommodation. I will do my utmost to encourage Bord Fáilte in this regard. I think they do suggest to hotels the necessity for giving their staff accommodation wherever possible. The staff must be contented; standards of comfort are increasing, and the hotels will not have a contented staff if they have dreadful accommodation where they live in. A good many staff accommodation grants have been provided by Bord Fáilte, and I agree that the attitude of hotel owners should be positive in this connection.

Deputy O'Donnell referred to delays in the development of the facilities at Bundoran. If I remember rightly—I have not got the facts with me—there was considerable delay in this particular case in obtaining suitable conditions for the acquisition of the site. Deputy O'Donnell will remember that there were local difficulties there which were not of Bord Fáilte's devising.

They were always solved immediately before the election.

I honestly think Bord Fáilte were not, in the main, responsible for the delay. As I said, my memory is not very good in relation to that scheme, but, as the Deputy knows, a tremendous number of resort development schemes have been implemented, including access roads, golf club facilities, where there is a tremendous tourist potential, civic centres and so forth. A great deal of work has been done very successfully.

Deputy O'Hara raised the question of signposts. Bord Fáilte have an overall sign posting campaign which they have been carrying out for many years. The regional tourist companies ought to take over this responsibility, and it certainly should have regard to the places where Deputy O'Hara suggests there is an urgent need for a signpost. Water supplies, Deputy O'Hara says, are required in certain areas. There again the regional tourist company should be able to bring influence to bear on the local authority concerned, and in turn, on the Minister for Local Government where a water supply scheme is connected with a priority accommodation development.

Suggestions were made that insufficient publicity was given to the west of Ireland. I could not agree at all about that. I look through all the publicity of Bord Fáilte at regular intervals and I read regularly "Ireland of the Welcomes", and there is a great deal of publicity about the West. The regional tourist companies have now a whole collection of guide books all of which are used in publicising the West in respect of each of these regions. The angling publicity campaign by Bord Fáilte reflects the value of salmon and trout angling in particular in the West. CIE itself offers a great many western coach tours, all of which are advertised in Great Britain and America. The whole of the Shannon development not only relates to the Shannon but also encourages tours up and down the West. Therefore I do not think anybody need fear there is insufficient publicity attaching to that part of the country. Indeed I sympathise with Deputies from the West, because the fact remains that about one-quarter of the total tourist income has been spent in Dublin city; some £20 million out of a total of £80 million is spent by tourists in Dublin. This is not unusual in relation to the capital city of a country. However, we are doing everything we can to encourage accommodation in the West and to develop publicity which will encourage people to visit the West.

I come last of all to the very important question raised by Deputy Lindsay and Deputy O'Donnell in relation to intoxicating liquor licences. This will be a very difficult matter to settle. I think eventually I shall have to take an entirely unconventional attitude towards this. Although I understand that it is very difficult for Bord Fáilte to start altering the registration rules and principles and it would create a very serious precedent, somehow or other, if the Minister for Justice says he cannot do it through the Intoxicating Liquor Acts, Bord Fáilte will have to take some kind of ad hoc or extraordinary action in relation to the registration of these premises, the number of which is not known to me.

The number is not very great.

I shall have to see the Chairman of Bord Fáilte. No matter how much it would involve a fearful twisting of their registration rules, if it was made clear there was a limited number of these cases, then perhaps we could do something about it.

That would suffice.

I will do my best about that.

I am obliged to the Minister.

Deputy Calleary referred to the improvements taking place in his own constituency. There are many beaches that could be developed, and I recommend to Deputy Calleary that he approach the regional tourist company about Lacken, for example, and some of the other tourist areas that have not yet been exploited. Of course, in every case it is desirable to have a local development association working with the regional tourist company if there is anything very definite to be accomplished.

Deputy Clinton referred to the question of separately listing the supplementary accommodation and the registered accommodation. Deputy Clinton was looking rather far forward in that. I do not think we can for ever have two separate lists of accommodation, although they are printed in equally prestigious booklets by Bord Fáilte. The total grants to Bord Fáilte have increased enormously in the past ten years, but the complete registration of all premises which serve tourists would be a very expensive business. Eventually we may have to change the principle of the two classifications of accommodation, but I do not think we need to do it at the moment. As far as I know, these supplementary rooms are being well exploited and the very large number of supplementary bedrooms, nearly 9,000, are getting customers. The whole development is going sufficiently well at the moment, so that we do not need to worry about it.

Deputy Clinton suggested that guesthouses were unable to get financing in certain cases. They get guaranteed loans. They can get loans guaranteed which they are able to raise from banking institutions and insurance companies. I have no evidence that there is a lack of finance for guest house accommodation. If Deputy Clinton knows of a case where he is told that it will take 12 months to inspect the supplementary accommodation before it can be included in the list provided by Bord Fáilte, I should like to have particulars. Bord Fáilte can publish only one list a year of supplementary accommodation. It may be in relation to that that there is no point in rushing the inspection of any particular case. I should like to have the particulars of Deputy Clinton's complaints in this regard.

Deputy Clinton referred to the position in West Wicklow. The remoter parts of West Wicklow can still get grants that would be larger than in the case of hotels in towns or cities in the midlands. West Wicklow is closer to Dublin city and can take advantage of that proximity. We cannot offer any special consideration to West Wicklow as compared with other similar areas adjacent to the city or as compared with those offered in the far West which is far more isolated and where the problems of encouraging employment are more acute.

I think I have answered every question raised and I thank the House again for its encouraging acceptance of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

Would it be possible to take it this evening? It is purely a Money Bill.

We did not intend to give the Minister the Committee Stage this evening, but in view of the Minister's undertaking to the House, we will certainly facilitate him. He has kindly undertaken to remedy before September the position of those unfortunate guesthouse owners who might lose their licences. He can have all Stages now if he wants them.

Agreed to take remaining Stages to-day.