Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 6 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 4

Housing Bill, 1968: Committee and Final Stages.


I move amendment No. 1:

In subsection (1), page 2, to delete lines 18 to 21 and insert:

"‘habitable house' means a house situate in the functional area of a housing authority other than—

(a) a house in relation to which a housing authority have made a closing order, a demolition order or accepted an undertaking under section 66 (5) of the Act of 1966, or in relation to which a notice under section 3 (1) of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, 1964, has been given, or

(b) a house which in the opinion of such authority is in a ruinous condition;".

This is to bring within the scope of the Bill houses which, although still inhabited, are not in good condition and to do away with the difficulty that under the original definition if a person demolished a house without permission, the housing authority could be faced with the problem of establishing that the house was a habitable house without even having seen it. We are now proposing to define "habitable house" so as to mean any house in the functional area of the housing authority other than a house which in the opinion of the authority is ruinous or in respect of which the local authority have served a dangerous building notice, or made a closing or demolition order, or accepted an undertaking on the grounds that it was a dangerous structure or unfit for human habitation. In the case of a house which is demolished without permission in future, if this amendment is adopted, the local authority will merely have to check their own records to see whether they have taken action under the 1964 or 1966 Acts. If they have not taken such action they will be required to establish whether the house was in a ruinous condition. This was a weakness in the Bill as drafted and this will make it more effective.

(Cavan): There is not much objection to this amendment. As I see it, were it not for this amendment a person who sought to demolish a house for which a closing or demolition order had been made might still have to apply to the council for permission to demolish it. This amendment will do away with the necessity for doing that. In other words, a person who owns a house in respect of which a closing order or a demolition order has been made, or where the owner has given an undertaking not to use it for human habitation, may in future proceed to demolish it without applying to the housing authority for permission to do so. The only matter that appears to need some clarification is in regard to paragraph (b) of the amendment which says: “a house which in the opinion of such authority is in a ruinous condition.” What exactly is meant by the word “ruinous”? Does that mean that it is ready to fall, or that there are no windows in it or there is no roof on it? It appears to me that the word could give rise to some——

It is in the opinion of the local authority.

(Cavan): I agree.

It means that if the local authority is of the opinion that the house is in a ruinous condition, then it will not be necessary to apply for permission.

(Cavan): How would the owner of the house know that the local authority were of the opinion that it was in a ruinous condition? Would they keep a register of such houses or would the owner simply put a preliminary query to the housing authority to ascertain whether or not the house was in a ruinous condition?

The housing authority, of course, will have records of houses that they have decided are in a ruinous condition but this is really to cover a case where somebody has demolished a house without getting permission and if the housing authority decide that such a house was in a ruinous condition, then they can dispense with the need.

(Cavan): I suppose we could have a long argument about this. Section 2 of the Bill says that “Subject to section 9, permission shall be required under this Act in respect of—” paragraphs (a) and (b) which deal with demolition or the change of the use of any habitable house. What we are doing here is defining what we mean by “habitable house”. I clearly understand paragraph (a) of the definition because that deals with houses in respect of which closing orders have been made, or in respect of which demolition orders have been made, or in respect of which an undertaking has been given not to use it for human habitation. Paragraph (b), however, refers to “a house which in the opinion of such authority is in a ruinous condition”. If I am the owner of a house, I will know whether it falls within paragraph (a) of that definition and if it does I know I need not apply under section 3 of the Act and that I can go ahead and knock it down if I want to, or use it for a shop or anything else, but how am I to know whether the house is in a ruinous condition or whether the local authority think it is in a ruinous condition? If the local authority are of the opinion that it is, then I need not apply under section 3 but it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for me to know the mind of the local authority.

Then do not take the chance.

(Cavan): I should like to hear the Minister on this point.

The local authority, of course, must interpret "ruinous" in the ordinary way. If an individual believes that the house is in a ruinous condition, then he can interpret it himself. It may appear perfectly obvious to him that it is in a ruinous condition but personally I think he would be foolish to do that. The more obvious thing to do would be to make the application under section 3 in a case where the local authority had not already made a decision in respect of the house. Any individual will be capable of forming an opinion himself as to the condition of the house and the local authority would be required to interpret the word "ruinous" in the normal way and there could eventualy be an appeal to the court. My own opinion would be that an individual would be foolish to do that and that he should make an application in respect of any house that did not come under subsection (a).

The original drafting was that "habitable house" means a house which in the opinion of the authority is "reasonably fit for human habitation or is capable of being rendered so fit at reasonable expense". If that were to stand and a person did demolish a house without making an application to do so then, although no official of the local authority might have seen the house before it was demolished, in such cases the local authority would have to establish that prior to being demolished the house was reasonably fit for human habitation, and that would be very difficult. The substitution of paragraph (a) is making it more effective.

(Cavan): I agree.

Paragraph (b) provides a way out in a case where a person genuinely thought the house was in a ruinous condition and the local authority agreed with him but had not taken any positive action as indicated in subsection (a). In my opinion a person would be foolish not to make the application.

(Cavan): I certainly think he would be foolish. I have no quarrel at all with paragraph (a) of the definition. That is clear and can be ascertained and the owner of the house knows where he stands in relation to it because registers are kept by the local authority or he will have received notices or will have given an undertaking. But paragraph (b) says:

A house which in the opinion of such authority is in a ruinous condition.

But when I inquire how a person is to know that the council will take the view that the house is in a ruinous condition the Minister tells me that the house-owner will have to take a chance and that he would be foolish to take that chance. I agree with that. I think it is a dangerous and loose sort of definition. If it is to stand at all it should read: "...or a house which is in a ruinous condition". The owner could then say: "This house is in a ruinous condition and I am going to knock it down". If he did that, when the house is knocked down he can still be prosecuted because the council could say: "We were not of opinion that it was in a ruinous condition." I think the Minister should delete the paragraph altogether.

If we did what the Deputy is now suggesting we would really be getting back to the present position. The local authority would, in fact, in every case have to establish positively that a house was not in a ruinous condition. Here, what we are providing is that if a person does knock down a house without making an application because he genuinely thinks it is in a ruinous condition and if the local authority agree, then the authority can allow him away with it. But, as I said, anybody would be foolish to do that because not only must he think it is in a ruinous condition but so must the local authority.

Generally speaking, if the local authority believe the house is in a ruinous condition they will have declared it as such in one of the various ways mentioned under paragraph (a). This provision is to provide that action need not be taken when the local authority knows that, in fact, the house was in a ruinous condition. If we were to put it in the more positive way the Deputy now suggests, then anybody could knock down a house and the local authority would have to prove positively that the house was not in a ruinous condition. They might not have had an opportunity of inspecting it beforehand and they might find it very difficult to establish their case. Here, it says that they must be "of opinion".

As the Minister said here there has to be a second opinion, that of the local authority, to confirm that the house is in a ruinous condition because if we leave it to the opinion of the owner alone, as the Minister says, we merely bring about the anarchic situation which has obtained up to now as a result of the Minister's own regulation in the original Act. We found the situation existing in Dublin where people began to knock down perfectly good houses. Hence, we had perfectly legitimate agitation on the basis of the kind of speculation which arose out of that big loophole in the regulations which permitted the demolition. The regulation, in effect, negatived the whole basis of the Planning Act. I agree with the Minister on this occasion that if we are to correct the regrettable situation which has obtained in which we have seen avenues of perfectly good houses knocked down because of this loophole in the old Act, we must put the local authority in a position to intervene on behalf of the community whether a house, in fact, may be demolished. If we give the sole right to the owner of the house, the situation will be as before.

(Cavan): I do not want to be misunderstood about this. I am in total agreement with this Bill being brought in to prevent demolition of houses that are fit for human habitation. As I said on Second Stage this Party actually introduced a Bill in the Seanad a couple of years ago with exactly this in view, but what I complain about in paragraph (b) of this definition is that the owner of the house will not know where he stands.

That is his worry.

(Cavan): I know, but I would be quite satisfied if it were deleted altogether and if the owner of the house was, with the exception of cases set out in paragraph (a), compelled to apply to the council for permission to demolish the house. But here, in paragraph (b), you have also excepted from clause 3 “a house which in the opinion of such authority is in a ruinous condition.” The question I pose is: how is the owner of a house to know whether or not the local authority thinks that the house is in a ruinous condition?

Can he not ask for the information?

(Cavan): The Minister says he need not. If Deputy Lenihan and some other Deputies would read the Bill before coming into the House, it would be a great help.

I have read the Bill.

(Cavan): Will the Deputy please let me proceed? I should be quite happy if paragraph (b) is deleted. That would then impose an obligation on the owner to get permission in every case other than the cases excepted by paragraph (a). These are ascertainable cases. But here you may have a man who may genuinely believe that a house is in a ruinous condition and he proceeds to demolish it by virtue of subsection (b). He may then find when that is done and the house is not in existence that the local authority says: “That house was not in a ruinous condition.” It would be more in the interests of the owner of a house to have the more stringent condition imposed on him of applying under section 3 for permission. If by “ruinous” is meant a house without a roof or a house without doors or windows or a roof and that sort of thing, everybody would know that was in a ruinous condition but this is the sort of legislation and the sort of section in Acts of Parliament that I disagree with because nobody knows what they mean. The owner of the house here must ask himself the question: “Is this house in the opinion of the local authority in a ruinous condition?” That is an absurd question because he cannot know that unless he asks the local authority.

Yes, and he can ask.

(Cavan): But the section tells him that this is the case in which he need not ask the local authority. If you put into the section: “Having made inquiries from the local authority...” you are inviting him by this subsection not to go near the local authority and to go and demolish the house but at the same time you are providing the local authority with the right to prosecute afterwards. That is unreasonable. The Minister cannot have any argument with me. Far be it from me to give any owner of a house the right to determine whether he should knock it down or not. That is the very thing I am complaining about and about which this Party have been complaining for the past two or three years. That is why we introduced the Bill in the Seanad to amend the Planning Act. I believe that was the measure which gave rise to this one. I have made the case as clear as I can. I also disagree with people who say that if the Bill were to read: “...a house which is in a ruinous condition” it would give the owner the right to say whether or not he should demolish it. In my opinion, he would have to establish that it was in a ruinous condition if he was prosecuted by the local authority.

To whom would he establish it?

(Cavan): To the court before whom he would be prosecuted. This is an exclusion section. It is a subsection which says that he need not apply if the house is in a ruinous condition and in all other cases he must apply. Therefore, if he is prosecuted, in my opinion, that would be a matter of defence for him to bring himself within the exception provided by this paragraph (b). If the Deputies clearly understood the case I am making, they would realise that it is a reasonable case. I do not want an owner of a house to be put in a position where he does not know where he stands. My argument is as simple as that. Here I submit we are saying to the man “If the house is in a ruinous condition you need not go near the council” but then the council can come along afterwards when the house is knocked down and say that the house was not in a ruinous condition. In the meantime the house has been knocked down and no one can say whether it was in a ruinous condition or not.

This is the type of provision that is normal. It is in the Dangerous Buildings Acts; it is in the Planning Acts. There are certain developments classified as being exempted. But there may be cases of doubt and in cases of doubt people sometimes seek planning permission but, at the same time, claim that it is an exempted development. In such cases the local authority will tell the person whether it is exempted or not. There are very few people who would not be able to say whether or not a building was in a ruinous condition and in such cases they could claim that it was not necessary to apply for permission. If this paragraph is dropped, I think local authorities would have to deal with a lot of applications for permission which are really pointless. I agree that it is not all that important but it is a usual type of provision to have in this type of legislation. I think the legislation would be better with it in. However, at the same time, I think the advisable thing for anybody proposing to demolish a house that did not come under category (a) would be, certainly, either to make application or to ask the local authority to confirm his opinion that the house was in a ruinous condition. I should like to retain the paragraph because it is a usual provision. It is in both the Planning Acts and the Dangerous Buildings Acts but the more important things in this amendment are in subparagraph (a).

(Cavan): I can see a certain amount of force in the Minister's argument. Certainly, if a person came in to me in my capacity as a solicitor and said that he wanted to knock down a building and asked if it was necessary to get permission, I would use the telephone and contact the local authority and ask them if they would go out and look at the building and let me know. You would have some cases of an owner making the case that the house was in a ruinous condition and knocking it down without consulting anyone. He is invited to do that under this Bill. That is what I am complaining about.

We will drop it.

Is the amendment withdrawn?

No, but we could delete paragraph (b).

Amendment, as amended by the deletion of paragraph (b), agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In subsection (1), line 30, to delete "or yard" and insert ", yard or garden".

This is a very minor drafting alteration. There was a mistake. The first part of the definition in the Bill refers to "any out offices or yard"; it does not mention "garden". The second part of the definition refers to "such out offices, yard or garden", obviously on the assumption that "garden" has already been mentioned. The amendment proposes merely to remedy the omission in the first part of the definition by inserting "garden".

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill".

(Cavan): Subsection (3) says that any person who contravenes subsection (2) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £100 together with, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding £10 for every day on which the offence is continued or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment. The only query I have there is about continuing offence.

It is easy enough, I suppose, to understand the meaning of continuing offence in reference to change of use but could he be guilty of continuing offence in relation to demolition? Surely, if he demolishes a house, that is the end of it? It is a more serious offence, I agree, to knock down a house than to change the use of a house. I should like to hear the Minister on that.

This deals not only with demolition but with change of use and if the change of use continues, it is a continuing offence.

(Cavan): I can quite understand that but what I want to query is whether a continuing offence can take place in the case of demolition.

If demolition has taken place, that is that.

(Cavan): I imagine that is the sense of it.

Are the fines mentioned here the continuing fines in the old Act? How far do they go? Have the penalties here for breach of the regulation been revised?

These are the maximum penalties that can be imposed on summary conviction. To increase them they would have to be treated as indictable offences.

(Cavan): I just throw out a suggestion which maybe the Minister would consider between now and when the Bill goes to the Seanad. If he were to put in “together with, in the case of a continuing offence, in case of a change of use, a further fine”, it would put the matter beyond doubt. I do not imagine any court would ever think of imposing a fine of £10 for every day a house was flattened out until something was put back in its place. I do not think that is likely but the drafting is rather ambiguous and I suggest that it should be made clear that the continuing offence relates only to change of use.

I will consider if that is necessary or desirable.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In subsection (2) (b), page 3, line 40, to insert "(indicating in particular the nature of the tenancy, if any)" after "house".

This amendment is to make it clear that an applicant should state his interest in a house when making the application thereby saving time both for himself and for the local authority by eliminating the necessity for the local authority to request further particulars later as to the applicant's interest.

(Cavan): The Minister tells me that these words —“indicating in particular the nature of the tenancy, if any”—are intended to make it obligatory on the owner to satisfy the local authority as to his interest in the house. I take it that this only obliges him to disclose details of any tenancies in the house and that it does not oblige him to state his title to the house. Perhaps it is not intended that he should?

(Cavan): The words “indicating in particular the nature of the tenancy, if any” are not very clear. Even to me, as a country lawyer, I should have difficulty——

It is merely to save the local authority time in writing to the applicant for further particulars.

(Cavan): Is it to ask him whether the house is let and, if so, must he give particulars?

He would have to say whether it was on a weekly tenancy or leasehold.

(Cavan): It is still not very clear to me.

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.

(Cavan): I move amendment No. 4:

In subsection (6) (b), page 5, line 56, to delete "(other than subsection (5)".

Section 4 provides the machinery whereby the housing authority shall give a decision on applications made to it for permission to demolish a house or for permission to change the use of a house from a private dwelling to some other purpose. It is very properly set out in subsection (5) of that section that the housing authority shall give a decision on an application made to it within a specified time and the time specified is described in subsection (5) (a) (ii) as "the appropriate period". The appropriate period, in round figures, means five weeks from the date of the application if no inquiries have to be made by the local authority; and if such inquiries have to be made it is five weeks from the date of the supplying of the information required by the local authority.

The object in imposing that time limit is to make sure that the owner of a house who wishes to demolish it will know where he stands within a reasonable time. This sort of provision has always been inserted in the Planning Acts. Indeed, in the old Planning Acts of the 1930s a time limit of, I think, two months was set and it was provided that the local authority had to give a decision within two months of an application being made to it or within two months of the required information being supplied to the local authority.

This is very reasonable because otherwise a person could make an application to the planning authority or the housing authority and he might not get a decision on it for six months, 12 months or even five years. Actually it is provided in all these Planning Acts that, if a decision is not given by the planning authority within two months, the application will be deemed to have been granted and the owner can proceed accordingly. It is very properly provided here in subsection (5) that——

On a point of order, I should like to know if that is correct; that if an application is not granted within two months the applicant can proceed.

(Cavan): I have heard of many points of order but this is the most extraordinary yet. That provision is in the Bill.

I should like to get it from the Minister. We hear a lot of complaints about cases——

(Cavan): The ones we are complaining about are with the Minister. If they are with the local authority they are deemed to have been granted after two months.

There is a difference between an appeal and an application.

(Cavan): For once, the Minister and I are agreeing. In so far as the local planning authority does not give a decision within two months, the application is deemed to have been granted and that is very properly carried into subsection (5).

That means that if the applicant proceeds with the house without having heard from the local authority within the specified time, he cannot be compelled to pull it down.

Réabhlóid in IarChonnacht.

(Cavan): I shall read subsection (5) for Deputy Kitt's benefit. The subsection states that:

(a) Where—

(i) an application is made to a housing authority in accordance with section 3 for a permission under this section, and

(ii) the housing authority do not give notice to the applicant of their decision within the appropriate period.

a decision by the authority to grant the permission shall be regarded as having been given on the last day of that period.

Subsection (6) provides for an appeal to the Minister and the Minister provides in this Bill that the machinery which applies in the case of an application to the housing authority shall apply in the case of an appeal to the Minister, save that there should be no time limit and that the Minister can have as long as he likes to consider the appeal. My views on this method of appeal from the decision of the local authority—in this case, the housing authority—are well known. I do not think that the appeal should be to the Minister. The Minister has, more or less, come round to my way of thinking because he has put another Bill on the Order Paper to amend the Planning Bill of 1963 in relation to appeals. He proposes to set up some sort of an independent tribunal or body to deal with this. That is only by the way. As I say, here we have an appeal to the Minister against the refusal of the housing authority to grant permission to demolish or to change the use of a house or against the granting of such permission subject to conditions. As I say, the procedure in regard to the appeal is to be on all fours with the procedure applying to the original application except the Minister will have as long as he likes to give his decision.

I think some time limit should be imposed on the Minister. I am not speaking of the Minister now as an individual. I am speaking of the holder of the office of the Minister for Local Government. It is only reasonable that a householder should know where he stands and that he should not be kept on the long finger indefinitely. If he is not allowed to demolish this house he may have other plans or he may have to make other plans but as long as the decision is withheld he does not know where he stands.

I know of a case in which an appeal against the decision of the planning authority is going on for about two years. It is not an answer to that to say it is the fault of the applicant because in the case I have in mind the applicant gave all the information he was required to give. The Minister's inspector held an oral inquiry nearly 12 months ago—it is certainly more than 9 months ago—but notwithstanding that the decision on the appeal has not yet been given. It is against that sort of thing I want to provide and I think it would not be unreasonable to write into this measure that the Minister must give his opinion within so many months of getting all the information he requires.

It is all right to say if a person has a grievance, if an applicant appeals and the Minister is not giving his decision within a certain time the applicant can come to this House, through his public representative, and raise the matter here. He might be slow to do that and human nature being what it is it might not be wise to do it. That is the case I am making. I do not think it is unreasonable. If my amendment were accepted in toto, as it is here, it would mean that the Minister would have to give his decision within five weeks of this receipt of the application or within five weeks of the receipt of all the information asked for by the Minister or his Department following the receipt of the application. I can see that five weeks might be too short but this was the handiest way of putting down this amendment to ventilate this grievance. I would be satisfied with a longer time but I would certainly say a period of three months should be ample to decide an appeal and give a decision. As I said, the wisdom and the sound commonsense behind the case I am making now has long since been recognised in so far as the local authorities are concerned.

It has been recognised in the Town and Regional Planning Act of 1934 or 1935, the Town and Regional Planning Act of 1939 and the Planning and Development Act of 1963 and it is recognised again in subsection (5) of section 6 of this Bill. It is thought necessary there to provide that the owner shall know where he stands within a reasonable time. In the Planning Acts it is two months and in this measure it is five weeks. All I am saying is that that should be carried on into the appeals subsection of this section.

I have mentioned a case of which I am personally aware in which the appeal is going on for most of two years. Certainly, the Minister's Department must accept responsibility for almost 12 months of that delay. We could have a case, as, indeed, in the case I am talking about, where a youngish man invested well over £1,000 in buying two public house licences and then applied for planning permission to build a house. The £1,000 is frozen for the time I have mentioned. In the meantime the court order is nearly running out. I am putting those facts on the record to show the necessity for the provision I am now asking.

One would agree about the period for the local authority being five weeks to make up their minds about whether the application can go through or not and to decide whether they will give permission, but one wonders how exactly are the local authorities equipped to perform this service in the five week period mentioned here? I know in the Dublin area if tomorrow morning applications for demolition and alterations coming up under the Bill in which people wish to get rid of sound property or property they wish to demolish for another purpose were received the inspectorate available in Dublin Corporation is, in my opinion, understaffed to cope with the requirements of this measure. Whilst it may be good to say in "less than five weeks" I just wonder how, in fact, local authorities, perhaps, are equipped to carry out this provision under the Bill? I am glad to see the housing authority must have regard to the state of repair and the inadequacy of the housing available in the area. This is extremely important. Here I should like to ask whether the local authority, in considering the housing available in any area, would have regard solely to the amount of municipal housing in the area or all private and municipal housing?

The Chair would remind the Deputy that we are discussing the amendment. At a later stage the section will be dealt with.

I see you are going to stick to the amendment first. I think the same provision would hold in regard to the amendment. I presume the reason is that the Minister feels he is equipped to do this. Does the Minister or his Department feel that they can, in fact, enforce this period of "less than five weeks", which is the period mentioned here for the local authority? Like Deputy Fitzpatrick, we are all aware of the limbo that cases appear to be in when they go to the Custom House. Apparently, it is like "the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns" because nothing has returned from that limbo of forgotten applications in the Custom House. Do the Department feel they are, in fact, equipped to open up the dusty archives in which many of the applications lie seemingly forgotten? If the Minister feels confident that his Department can live up to the challenge of meeting requirements within five weeks fair enough.

I may say from my experience I cannot see any local authority being able to do so. I would support Deputy Fitzpatrick that if this provision is to have any meaning, then there must be a period set to the Minister's examination. We must not allow applications to go through, as they apparently do at the moment, to study on top of Mount Olympus. For many years no Minister does not feel up to meeting the five-week period of determination, I would be prepared to suggest that the Minister merely stipulate a period, not necessarily holding himself to five weeks. I do not reflect personally on the Minister in saying this, but perhaps he has to deal at present with many years backlog of applications. The public impression is that the Custom House must be filled to the roof with forgotten applications.

Possibly I will be out of order because I want to talk on planning as it affects my own county. We had a very interesting meeting last Monday week. We were asked to provide more staff to deal with planning applications but that was turned down.

I must remind the Deputy that this amendment deals purely with the question of time in so far as a decision regarding derelict buildings is concerned.

I will confine myself to time. I am happy to know there are people who can have a decision in two months. I voted against giving extra staff, although Deputy M. O'Leary wants to give more. I am glad I voted against giving them more time in Galway. I am glad I voted against giving them more time for turning down applications. There must be an awful lot of applications in the Minister's Department now.

Again I must remind the Deputy that this amendment deals only with the demolition of buildings. It does not deal with planning as such.

We are trying to put buildings up in Galway.

This amendment deals only with demolition.

I cannot talk about planning or the time limit on that.

This amendment deals purely with demolition.

(Cavan): Come in on the Minister's Estimate, if it is ever reached, and deal with him then.

I certainly will. I have given my opinion on planning before and I will certainly give it again. I will be as helpful as anybody but, so far as planning in Galway is concerned, I can only say it is in a state of chaos at the moment. I am sorry I will not be allowed to go on the lines I had proposed.

I cannot accept this amendment. The effect of the amendment would be that, in the event of the failure of the Minister to determine an appeal within five weeks, the developer would get permission to demolish or change the use of a house by default. This is the case under the Planning Act at present, but the period, of course, is a period of two months. It must be obvious that this would not be a desirable thing to happen. The difference between appeals and original applications should be clearly understood. It is a general principle that there is not a prescribed period laid down for the decision on an appeal. The reasons are obvious, because the ability of a Minister to determine an appeal within a prescribed time may be affected by factors completely outside his control. The Minister may have to get the views of outside bodies who either cannot, do not or will not give their opinions within the time which would enable him to comply with the prescribed time limit and, at the same time, give the appeal adequate examination

It is all right for Deputy T.J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan) to say that the wisdom of the time limit in the case of applications to a local authority has been recognised. This is a completely different thing. An application to a local authority involves only investigation of the proposal by the local authority. It involves only proposals within the local authority area. Appeals against decisions by the local authority involve arguments and counter-arguments as between two parties at least, and they involve also the whole country. As Deputy T.J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan) has mentioned, they often involve members of the legal profession, who are not always as efficient in dealing with matters as Deputy Fitzpatrick says he was in this particular case. We had a case mentioned here before of a long delay in a planning appeal. When I looked it up, I found that a request for additional information to the applicant solicitor had not been dealt with over a period of five months. In many cases delays in appeals were caused by the inertia of professional people of one kind or another, acting on behalf of the applicant himself. Very often an appeal would be delayed in an endeavour to explore to the full the possibility of reaching a decision which would be acceptable to the parties involved and fair to the community.

Deputy Fitzpatrick obviously believes that the insertion of a time limit for dealing with appeals would be a help to applicants. It is obvious it could very well work in the other way, particularly if it did not give time for an adequate examination of the case. If a decision had to be made quickly it might appear that the only feasible thing to do would be to assume that the local authority had been correct and to endorse the decision of the local authority, although a fuller examination of the whole matter might have resulted in the conclusion that the applicant's case was correct. Deputy Fitzpatrick is making a mistake in pressing this type of amendment. Appeals will be dealt with as speedily as possible. It would be foolish not to make it possible to give every appeal adequate investigation. Applicants are entitled to have the assurance that their applications will be thoroughly investigated rather than that they should be dealt with on a hurried basis and in a period of time that might not be sufficient for a thorough investigation of the appeal.

Would the Minister take a six months period?

No. I do not think it is desirable to lay down any definite period because, as I said, the time can be, and often is, drawn out in an endeavour to reach agreement between the parties involved and, at the same time, ensure that the decision will be fair to the community as a whole.

With regard to Deputy M. O'Leary's suggestion that the five-week period allowed by the local authority is too short, I do not think it is. If the House feels that that period should be extended to two months, as in the case of planning applications, I would not oppose it. It is felt that five weeks should be sufficient to deal with this type of application.

Deputy M. O'Leary alleged that there were a large number of forgotten applications in the Custom House. Of my own knowledge, I know that is not so. Apart from anything else, I want to point out to Deputy O'Leary that the Custom House does not deal with applications. It deals with appeals in cases in which decisions have already been given by the planning authority.

That is what I was referring to.

It is a completely different thing and obviously involves a much lengtheir process. Because the views of the planning authority and of the party making the appeal—and possibly also of third parties—have to be ascertained, and because on many occasions these people are represented either by legal people or technical people of one kind or another, delays are inevitable. There are not any forgotten applications. There are some applications which are difficult to decide, that take longer than others; but generally speaking, in view of the large volume of appeals, I do not think the average period taken to deal with them is excessive. I am convinced, therefore, that it would be wrong to impose any time limit in the matter of dealing with these appeals.

(Cavan): I regret I cannot agree with the Minister. In the first place, the Minister seemed to make the case that it should take longer to determine the appeal than the original application. I find it hard to accept that. By the time the appeal stage has been reached, a lot of the spadework has been done: the file has been complied, the premises have been inspected and reported on and the arguments for and against are already available to the Minister. Therefore, one would think it should be easier, or less difficult, to deal with an appeal than with an original application.

The Minister has made the case that sometimes professional people dealing with these appeals are dilatory and slow in furnishing information. That may be so: there are exceptions to every rule. Very often the professional people engaged are not members of the legal profession but engineers and architects. At any rate, my amendment does not seek to impose a restriction on the Minister which would permit the time limit, whatever it is, to be shortened by the failure of the applicant to supply information, because if my amendment is accepted the time would begin to run from the date the Minister has got all the information he requires. That is as clear as ABC. It is clearly provided for in subsection (5), and my aim is to provide that the period of five weeks should run from the date of the application or from the supplying of any additional information the housing authority might require. The time would begin to run only from the date on which the Minister has got all the information he wants.

In moving the amendments, I expressed the opinion that five weeks may be too short, but for goodness' sake, give us a time limit, let it be five weeks, five months or even six months, as Deputy O'Leary suggested. In such circumstances, the applicant could proceed on the understanding that a firm decision would not be delayed longer than six months. He would know he can be held up for six months but no longer.

I do not wish to keep on harping back to the case I am interested in professionally. The oral evidence was taken in that case on 30th June last. It was over and finished with as far as the applicant was concerned: he had done all he could be expected to do—he had subjected himself to examination and had put his cards on the table—and all that poor man could do was to wait for the result. There were all sorts of technicalities hanging on the result. I was pushed about the matter of renewing the publicans' licences which the applicant had purchased, and all I could say was: "Keep quiet for a minute and I hope we will have a decision in time to clarify the position at the annual licensing session of the district court in September." Now, I hope we may be ready by next September.

I point this out only for the purpose of emphasising the necessity for a time limit. I will be satisfied with six months, which is a good long time. Then, a professional person could say to a client: "We will get a decision in two months, three months. Have patience and we will know where we stand in six months at the outside." I do not think that is unreasonable. Courts are sometimes blamed for holding things up. If the Minister has not the necessary staff in his office to enable him to give a decision on appeal within six months, he should provide himself with the necessary staff, especially where the rights of citizens are being interfered with and where it is in the interests of the community as a whole.

I trust the Minister will reconsider his opinion. I realise that probably it would be against Departmental policy to accept a time limit or to impose regulations which would restrict the discretion of Departmental officials. I am not saying that the holding up of these matters is done for the sake of holding them up, but sometimes it is difficult to understand why they are being held up.

I want to say only that it is not correct to state that the arguments for and against are already available to the Minister in an appeal. The appellant submits his case against the decision of the local authority and the ground for the appeal must be submitted to the local authority for their observation. These observations must be made available to the appellant for his comments and it is only after that process has been gone through that the examination of the case can start in the Department. Even at that stage, it may appear that there is very little between the two cases and that there may be some prospect of a solution being worked out acceptable to both parties. Therefore, it would be unjust to the appellant to lay down a definite time limit. It is all right to say that the appellant will know that his case will be decided in a period not longer than six months, but it will be poor consolation to the applicant to realise that the result of that stipulation is that his appeal cannot get adequate consideration.

In many of these appeals, six months is adequate; but in others it is not. Deputy Fitzpatrick should appreciate that. I cannot deal with the case to which he refers because I do not know what the considerations are. There have been many cases, for instance, in which oral hearings had been arranged and in which one of the parties felt unable to go ahead on the date decided and put forward a case for an adjournment.

(Cavan): But this one was completed on 30th June, 1968.

The particular case Deputy Fitzpatrick mentioned may very well have been, I do not know, but I know that this other thing has happened also and that delays can occur. If a decision must be given, in spite of the fact that the case has not been fully examined, then I think that would be unfair to the applicant rather than to the local authority. I can well understand the frustration of people whose appeals take a long time to deal with but some of them are very complicated and I think the suggestion of Deputy Fitzpatrick is not a good one.

Is the Deputy withdrawing his amendment?

Question proposed: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand".
The Committee divi ded: Tá, 52; Níl, 43.

  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Blaney, Neil T.
  • Boland, Kevin.
  • Booth, Lionel.
  • Boylan, Terence.
  • Brady, Philip.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Burke, Patrick J.
  • Calleary, Phelim A.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Carty, Michael.
  • Colley, George.
  • Crinion, Brendan.
  • Cunningham, Liam.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Egan, Nicholas.
  • Fahey, John.
  • Fanning, John.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. (Dublin South Central).
  • Flanagan, Seán.
  • Foley, Desmond.
  • Gallagher, James.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gibbons, James M.
  • Gilbride, Eugene.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Hillery, Patrick J.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Patrick.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Meaney, Tom.
  • Millar, Anthony G.
  • Mooney, Patrick.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Nolan, Thomas.
  • Norton, Patrick.
  • Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Ceallaigh, Seán.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Smith, Patrick.


  • Belton, Luke.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Burke, Joan T.
  • Byrne, Patrick.
  • Connor, Patrick.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Crotty, Patrick J.
  • Dockrell, Henry P.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Seán.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
  • Farrelly, Denis.
  • Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. (Cavan).
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Gilhawley, Eugene.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hogan, Patrick (South Tipperary).
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Lyons, Michael D.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • O'Connell, John F.
  • O'Donnell, Patrick.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Hara, Thomas.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.K.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.
  • Tierney, Patrick.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Tully, James.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Geoghegan and Mrs. Lynch; Níl, Deputies L'Estrange and James Tully.
Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill".
Amendment negatived.

As I remarked, section 4 is highly necessary. A five week period is given to local authorities to decide on applications. I want to raise the question as to whether the local authorities, as they are staffed at present, can cope with this provision. I am all for the provision being instituted and it is then a problem for the local authorities to see whether they can fulfil the demand. Certainly in the city of Dublin I can see difficulties, having regard to the present staffing position, as to how exactly they will be able to comply with this provision. I certainly think a terminal period of five weeks is reasonable.

Before a local authority decide on an application for demolition, regard will be had to the supply of housing available in the area. Will this be restricted purely to municipal housing, or will regard be had to the overall supply of houses in an area? With regard to the provision of alternative accommodation, or contributing to the cost of alternative accommodation, the question is: what cost is reasonable? What cost could compensate someone for a loss of accommodation? The cost of providing alternative accommodation in Dublin could be quite astronomical. There are many people who may have had tenancies for a number of years who would find it very difficult indeed to get alternative accommodation. What would it cost to compensate them for a fresh quest for housing as things stand in Dublin today?

The provision in relation to adjoining buildings is also necessary because we have had cases of almost deliberate sabotage of adjoining houses in demolition work. There were numerous instances of this in Dublin over the past two years. I want to ask what kind of contribution to the cost of providing alternative accommodation is understood here? What would be the criteria of the local authority? It is very hard to see that any financial contribution, in the present conditions in Dublin city, would compensate anyone for a loss of accommodation that takes place as a result of an application like this.

(Cavan): I want to say very briefly, now that this amendment has been rejected and the section stands, that I should like to avail of this opportunity to urge on the Minister to see to it that there will be no undue delays in his Department in dealing with these appeals. I do not expect the Minister to overcome the shortcomings of the applicants or the applicants' advisers, but I am appealing to the Minister to see to it that, in so far as he and his Department are concerned, there will be no delays and that decisions on appeals will be given promptly. It must be conceded that these delays inflict great hardship. This House has given the Minister the Planning Act and is now giving him this measure in the interests of the community as a whole. Having done that, the House is entitled to expect that the interests of individuals will not be interfered with any more than is necessary and that undue hardships will not be imposed on individuals by unreasonable delays.

I have seen certain cases where efforts have been made to have families evicted from places on the pretext that the places are dangerous. Is there any provision to protect families who are living, say, in flats over shops; the landlord requires these for business purposes, has someone come along and declare one wall dangerous and these people are evicted? I do not know whether it comes under this or not, but it is a serious situation that could develop to the detriment of the families concerned. There is one other point. It says here "within five weeks". What happens if the authority does not give permission or does not make a decision within five weeks? Is there some penalty against such an authority?

(Cavan): The permission is deemed to have been granted.

Where, in fact, it should not have been granted.

Where the local authority just falls down on the job what action does the Minister take? It would be serious if a house was demolished and the adjoining houses were damaged in the process. There should be some protection for the people in the adjoining houses. This is happening all over the city. There was a case the other day where a house was declared dangerous and demolished, but the adjoining houses were damaged in the process. The tenants seem to have no redress as yet in matters like this.

With regard to Deputy O'Leary's fears that local authorities may not be able to deal with applications under this Bill within the period laid down, I can only say that I believe and my Department believe that five weeks is an adequate time to deal with these applications. If Deputies feel strongly that the period of five weeks should be extended, I would be prepared to agree to some extension, but five weeks was deliberately put in because it was felt this was sufficient to deal with this type of case.

As Deputy O'Leary says, it is provided that the local authority will take into account the question of the supply of housing available in the area. This does not mean municipal housing only; it means the availability of houses for the people as a whole. The question of the provision of alternative accommodation or the making of a contribution towards the cost of providing alternative accommodation by the housing authority is a matter for decision by the housing authority.

I can assure Deputy Fitzpatrick that there will be no undue delays in the Department, that every effort will be made to streamline the procedure and have appeals dealt with as quickly as possible. It is obviously desirable that appeals should not be decided except on the basis of adequate examination of the whole case both for and against the proposal. If a decision on an application is not given by the housing authority within the period of five weeks, that permission is then available by default. That is the same as the position under the Planning Act, that is, if the decision is not given within two months then the applicant can assume permission by default. The question of the protection of adjoining buildings is dealt with under the Bill.

What happens where a local authority defaults in regard to giving a decision in a case where action is called for against plans to demolish a house? Does it rest there or does the Minister have any scope for action?

The local authority, I think, can be depended upon to make sure that that will not happen. It does not happen, except in very rare cases, under the Planning Act that permission is obtained by default. Local authorities are able so to arrange their affairs as to ensure that these things come up for decision within the statutory period. The only provision that can be made, if a time limit is laid down, is that, if the decision is not given within that time, then that permission may be obtained by default.

We are not making a mountain out of a molehill but we can see a case arising, say, where there was a very valuable site for office development and, through overwork or for some other reason, no decision is given within a five week period. Nobody is responsible, in effect, and nobody can be blamed, and the development goes on.

Somebody is responsible. The local authority are responsible if they do not give a decision within that time.

What happens then?

Permission is given by default.

But we do not want the building demolished.

We are trying to remove loopholes. Legislation has been passed here which appeared to be comprehensive when going through but later it was discovered that a coach and four could be driven through the Minister's own regulations. Are we leaving similar gaps in this Housing Bill so that, because a local authority fails, for one reason or another, to give a decision, development goes through by default? Have we no authority, either under the Minister or elsewhere, to look for penalties in such an event?

What does the Deputy suggest? It can be assumed that the local authorities will arrange a system so that it is practically impossible for it to happen, so that applications will automatically come up for decision before the statutory period has elapsed. There are upwards of 20,000 planning applications dealt with in a year and very few, if any, go by default, because planning authorities arrange their internal organisation so as to ensure that the application will come up for decision before the statutory period has elapsed. You either lay down a statutory period within which applications must be decided or you do not. Deputy O'Leary really seems to be arguing against any limit. I do not see what else can be done.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill".

It appears to me that this section runs parallel to section 19 of the 1931 Act. That section provided that a landlord, who failed to keep a house in repair or allowed it to fall into bad condition, could be served with notice to repair the property and, if he did not comply with the notice, the local authority could enter on the property, carry out the repairs and recover from the landlord. If the landlord refused to pay, the local authority could avail of the ordinary process of the law to get the money by instalments, or to take goods belonging to the landlord or whatever other method appeared appropriate to them. If they failed again they could go to the tenant and repeat the entire process with the tenant. My experience in the Louth County Council and Drogheda Corporation has been that this is a bad section because it has been utilised to cover up the fact that new houses were not being built and it has resulted in the repair of houses which should have been certified as unfit for human habitation. We had the situation in which houses which were not suitable for reconstruction were actually reconstructed and at the end of five or ten years the people had to be rehoused out of those houses. Very often trouble arose because a person in a reconstructed house was not regarded as eligible for a new house since there was a file somewhere saying that the house he occupied was fit for human habitation. I am puzzled as to why this section is included in this Bill.

This section is designed to plug a loophole. It is a tragedy that the Bill is introduced within earshot of the general election and the dissolution of this House.

We have the best part of a year to go.

Is that a tip?

The Minister's regulation turned speculation in houses into an El Dorado for the unscrupulous who have battened on the Minister's grace for the past year and the Minister is only at this late hour plugging the loophole.

If Deputy O'Leary wants to know about speculation he can inquire from one of the Labour candidates in North County Dublin who knows all about speculation.

I acknowledge the Minister's mastery at political baiting. Over the past 12 months perfectly sound property has been knocked down to make way for supermarkets and office blocks. The tenants would be in these houses today had the Minister acted sooner.

(Cavan): If the Minister had accepted our Bill in the Seanad.

The Minister allowed a chaotic situation to develop and it is a tragedy that it is only now, when this House is on the eve of dissolution, with conventions being held all up and down the country, the Minister comes in with a Bill designed to plug the loophole.

Stop bluffing, O'Leary.

(Cavan): Is it in order for a Deputy to refer to another Deputy by his surname?

I think the Deputy has been a little bit fortified.

(Cavan): I think a number of Deputies over there have been fortified.

The biggest office block is the Transport Union block. Stop bluffing.

The most wasteful one.

Deputy Norton's off-licence business may not give him the same viewpoint as I have.

May I protest against these personalities? In all my years in this House I have never yet descended to personalities. I can hit as hard as anyone else and I can take it equally well.

Deputy Donegan is trying to be funny.

I regret my few remarks should get that kind of response from some of the businessmen on the Fianna Fáil benches. I suppose it is a case of bad consciences. It is true that people have deliberately set out to wreck perfectly sound property. This is a very important provision. There have been cases in which the lead has been stripped off the roofs to ensure that the property would deteriorate all the quicker, and that at a time when we have a grave housing shortage. This will be a question of staffing because there will have to be much greater surveillance and more frequent inspection to ensure that property is not allowed to run down so that the speculator can go in and enrich himself at the expense of the unfortunate tenants. There are hundreds of people at the moment living in property which has been described as unfit for human habitation. The local authority have been unable to house these people.

I was rather amused listening to Deputy O'Leary. One would imagine that someone came out with a steamroller and knocked down houses for fun.

For profit, not for fun.

We hear a good deal about these office blocks. In an affluent society it is inevitable that there will be a great number of factories built. If we are to take Deputy O'Leary's contribution literally workers are not to go into any office block at all: they are to work out in the rain. They are not to dare to turn a house into an office block, good, bad or indifferent. They may not even say: "This house is declared dangerous".

We must be reasonable in all things. We had the position here in 1963 that more houses fell down in the area I then represented than had to be taken down by the dangerous buildings section of Dublin Corporation. It is not correct to give the impression that houses were taken down wholesale. With other members of the housing committee of Dublin Corporation, of which Deputy Denis Larkin was Chairman, I was a member of many deputations, and the Minister always received us courteously and listened sympathetically to our representations. As a result, we started the Ballymun housing scheme under which 3,000 families have been housed. There are still some houses which are dangerous.

I want to make it quite clear that I am all in favour of decent accommodation for workers in this country. There are places in Dublin where unfortunate clerical workers are trying to carry on their duties under very unsuitable working conditions and the same can be said of some Government offices also. The conditions are a danger to the health of those people.

We must be fair. We cannot go so far east that we will be west again or south that we will be north again or any other way you like to put it. However, from time to time, people will buy a house. Certainly, that will happen in a democratic society. I should not like to see this going too far. In a completely socialist State, nobody can do anything without the permission of a dictator and anything he demands must be done. This matter in this city has been misrepresented and magnified out of all proportions. Any office blocks built in this city——

All the owners are foreign.

Not at all. Relax, now. Castro has not come yet, friend.

I am delighted with that interruption by Deputy O'Leary. There are people coming——

(Cavan): Deputy Norton must have got a constituency and he is celebrating.

Some of your friends had difficulty.

Hear, hear.

Deputy Burke, without interruption.

I wonder where Deputy Dunne is now.

We have people here coming from the east who are causing a good deal of trouble and interfering with the rights of citizens in this city and encouraging many people to do many things. To anyone who has been dealing with the housing position in this city over the years and who is aware of the demolition that has to take place it is perfectly obvious that the Opposition Parties are now trying to misrepresent that position. We have witnessed a few hoboes and members of the Housing Action Committee shouting and screaming and saying that every house must stand. We are to have no progress in this city at all: let this city melt: let the houses fall down: leave them down: nothing else is to be done—that is the attitude, apparently. I can assure the House and the country that I do not subscribe to that trend of thought. I am very concerned about the housing of our people. In this city of Dublin in which we have the honour to be, over 60,000 families have been housed since this State was founded: I am giving credit to all political Parties for their work in this connection.

(Cavan): On a point of order. Is this in order on section 5?

It is as much in order as the contribution by Deputy O'Leary.

(Cavan): It sounds like a Second Reading speech or as if we were discussing housing on the Estimate for the Minister's Department. Section 5 deals with the right of the housing authority to go in and to reinstate a house which has deliberately been allowed, by the owner, to go into decay. That is all that is in it.

Thanks very much. I am very grateful to the Deputy for his advice——

——but you will not take it.

——but I am afraid that, in this case, I shall not accept it.

(Cavan): I have made my submission to the Chair.

I am dealing with Deputy O'Leary's point. To listen to him, one would imagine that nobody was housed in our city. May I claim the gracious indulgence of the Chair for a moment?

The Deputy will relate this to section 5.

——and relate it to my remarks, too.

The general implication is: "We are the saviours of everybody. If the corporation wish to knock it down, we will keep up the house."

(Cavan): That is what the section says.

Deputy Fitzpatrick should not interrupt. Relax.

(Cavan): Deputy Norton is well relaxed.

Deputy Fitzpatrick is just as venomous as he ever was.

Deputy Fitzpatrick is anxious for a seat in Dublin. He is very welcome to it if he can get a nomination.

I do not know where Deputy Norton is going.

Do not worry. You did not get your nomination back.

Where is Deputy Dunne now?

Where is Deputy Blaney, too—gone home?

He is in Donegal.

I shall conclude by saying that I am anxious to see the workers of Dublin housed in proper offices.

Hear, hear.

I am anxious, also, that bad, old, rotten houses should be taken down and rebuilt for our people.

(Cavan): Deputy Burke is opposing the section which says that houses that have been allowed to go into decay should be reinstated. He is opposing the section in the Bill.

Deputy Burke, without interruption.

I want to assure Deputy O'Leary that Fianna Fáil are deeply concerned about the housing of our people. I have represented the people of part of Dublin city and county for 25 years and I can assure him that, along with my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party, I have contributed quite a good deal in working to further that worthy objective and I shall continue to work towards that objective.

Hear, hear.

I appeal to the Opposition Parties not to misrepresent facts. To Deputy Fitzpatrick I shall merely say: some other time, some other day, we shall have a discussion on this matter.

(Cavan):——when it will be more in order.

I think that this is a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. We are all agreed in our condemnation of the ruthless demolition of houses in this city in the past few years—not just in the past year, as I have heard it stated—for the purpose of serving commercial interests. I remember being told by a dispensary doctor about a house which was being demolished. He was told that the two children who were ill would have to be moved immediately as they were in a dangerous building. He, with his limited knowledge, did not see anything dangerous about it. He called in an architect to inspect the building and was told that there was nothing wrong with the house and that it did not need to be demolished. Of course, when he raised his objection the night marauders were in, stripping the roof of this house and leaving it exposed for this poor family who lived at the top of the house. This is one example of what happened in Dublin over the last few years. The Minister will agree that the reckless demolition of these houses created a housing shortage because everybody who was evicted helped to swell the Dublin Corporation's housing waiting list. Then these houses were repaired for conversion into offices but the people could not return to them. This was very wrong. We see a glaring example of this situation in the pock-marked city which we have. If the Housing authority decide what houses will be demolished——

The Deputy is becoming muddled.

I am not becoming muddled. I should like to see some justice being done. I like to hear Deputy Burke expounding on what he would like to see done for this city and its people. He must not forget that there are some 5,000 families on the housing waiting list in Dublin city, or some 20,000 people. He can say what he likes about the wonderful work being done but we still have that number waiting and that does not include married couples who are not provided for nor——

Is it in order, Sir, to deal with the housing situation in Dublin and in the country, on this section?

The question of housing in Dublin is not relevant.

The Minister is very quick to——

We have had two speeches on it, from Deputy O'Leary and from Deputy O'Connell.

(Cavan): And Deputy Burke.

It is relevant to the situation in Dublin where a housing shortage has been created.

It does not open up a discussion on Dublin housing

We are asking about the demolition of houses and asking that where people do not renovate or repair houses they should be compelled to do so.

(Cavan): The Deputy can advocate that.

I should like to know what experts will the housing authority have to decide what houses should be demolished and what houses need repairs. At present in deciding what houses are dangerous we have not got experts in our housing authorities making these decisions.

We have; that is wrong.

I am telling the Deputy that we have not. This is the great tragedy.

We have architects.

The architects do not visit the houses. We have tradesmen who are not in a position to decide.

We will get doctors to do it.

They might make a better job than some of the people the Minister has doing the job.


I should like to know what staff are employed and how they could possibly cope with the number of cases that come before them at present. I say that we have not got sufficient architects to inspect every case referred to them as a dangerous building. Far from it. Because of this I would like to know the number of architects we have employed for this purpose.

With respect to Deputy O'Leary and to Deputy O'Connell, they are missing the point. I do not want to infringe the rules of order but this is relevant to the section. We must not lose sight of the fact that this section, and indeed the whole Bill, is an emergency measure designed to deal with a particular situation which, when all is said and done, is a temporary emergency and marginal matter, the fundamental problem of housing, which we cannot go into, being a much bigger thing. What I would like to say about this section, to balance what Deputy O'Connell says, is that it is all right where clearly you have a habitable house but there are a lot of old type tenement houses all over the city about which, even if the Minister or the Corporation were to devote an exorbitant amount of money to them, because of age or fundamental structural defect, nothing could be done.

Deputy O'Leary may not have been a Deputy when this occurred but for as long as I can remember there was a problem in the older part of Dublin to the north, ranging from Temple Street, Dorset Street, Queen Street, Blackhall Place and around that area, where there were buildings 200 years old which had been allowed to deteriorate into abominable slums. At one time this city enjoyed the unenviable reputation of having nearly the worst slums in Europe. Those of us who knew that area were confronted not with the problem of keeping the people in the houses but with the problem of the people coming to us and saying: "For God's sake, will you get us out of this?" It was a very interesting social experiment—the Ceann Comhairle will pardon me for referring to this but it is relevant to the question of repairs—to find that when these people were housed properly in new estates, the first being Cabra, they blossomed forth into good citizens. I will not name the precise location for Deputy O'Leary because people have their sensitivities and do not like to be pinpointed, but if the Deputy wants the addresses I will give them to him privately.

The Deputy should know that there are areas still in that constituency where houses are being maintained although uninhabitable and where the best thing that could happen would be for these houses to be cleared out. Any attempt to assist the existing landlord to maintain people in those houses is doing a disservice and keeping people living under sub-standard conditions and defeating the prospect of the people bettering themselves. To come now to a much more recent experience in regard to this, several years ago the situation was brought home forcibly by two tragedies. The first was in our constituency—we have the honour to represent Bolton Street—and that tragedy was followed up by the Holles Street collapse in which two children were killed. From my own knowledge I know that we had the greatest difficulty getting these houses condemned. Deputy O'Leary will know that by now the Queen Street-Blackhall Place area has been demolished, as well as the whole of Dorset Street, but he might be interested to know that representatives both of the Corporation and of this House spent anxious nights personally watching houses in Dorset Street in case they would collapse and so as to see what could be done because the machinery of the public authority was too slow. I remember also one night of crisis in Blackhall Place where, if it had not been for the priests in Halston Street who accommodated the people temporarily in a school, these people would have had to remain on the streets because nothing that could be done would have made those houses habitable. They were unrepairable. If they had been patched up they would still be dangerous and our problem was to see that no temporary patching was done. It is interesting to see this change of attitude in the House because one of the Deputy's colleagues was down there with us at the same time. Our anxiety was to get houses condemned and we had great difficulty in doing it. There are still houses that I believe should be condemned and cleared. This is the background to this section.

More specifically in regard to this section, what I find difficult to see, in its interpretation, is how it can be enforced. Clearly, if there is a case such as Dr. O'Connell is talking about where there is a really habitable house which for purely commercial reasons is being removed, the Deputy will not have to push me very far to be in sympathy with him. But I want to see the other side of the coin and the dangers in this Bill and the danger that we in this House should think that there is a panacea or general remedy, or even a significant contribution to the solution of Dublin's housing problem in this Bill. There may be a peripheral problem to deal with. If the Deputy gives me evidence of that I shall need very little convincing. But let us not enlarge on the problem or be swept away in consideration of another aspect of this matter, just because this other aspect is there.

I wonder if the House would permit me to make what is, strictly speaking, an irrelevant observation although it is still related to this Bill?

Is it relevant to this debate?

It is not irrelevant. It is not this section that is the problem. It is when the houses are cleared what will go up instead?

I hope the Deputy is not widening the scope of the debate.

I cannot let slanderous statements by Dr. O'Connell go unchallenged in the House. I know the architects and engineers associated with the dangerous buildings section of Dublin Corporation and they are decent, honourable men. It is very much against their wishes to condemn any house and I have yet to know of a case where they condemned any house that could be made habitable. For that reason alone I shall defend them here. I have been associated with them for many years and I know that they would not be party to condemning any house that should not be condemned.

On a point of order, is it in order, a Cheann Comhairle, for the Minister to say to you: "Are we going to have an Estimate speech here in order to have Deputy de Valera cut short?

The Minister is in order in asking the Chair if references are or are not in order.

I rather thought it was an authoritative statement rather than a request.

It was a request.

I think the question was whether we would need an Estimate debate also in view of the fact that we were apparently discussing the whole workings of the Department of Local Government.

Surely the Minister's opinion is only an opinion like that of Deputy Dr. O'Connell or myself?

Yes; I asked the Chair if we would have an Estimate debate also.

I think I should get an opportunity to make clear what I said. There is no question of my making slanderous remarks or statements. I merely mentioned the fact that the Dublin Corporation are so much understaffed as regards architects that they cannot possibly inspect every single house or dwelling that may be dangerous. The Minister knows it is a fact that there are not sufficient architects employed in Dublin Corporation because they cannot get them. We have a serious shortage of architects. This is very important: what I said was that we cannot and Dublin Corporation cannot possibly provide architects for every case of a building that is reported to be dangerous.

When the Leas-Cheann Comhairle was in the Chair I referred to the fact that section 19 of the 1931 Act seemed to do everything covered by this section 5 and from that point of view it is possible that there is an element of window-dressing in this Bill, as suggested by Deputy O'Leary. I was amazed to find Deputy de Valera, a man of some sensitivity, talking about the happening in Dorset Street in Dublin and elsewhere and saying that there was no panacea. I say there was a panacea; there is none now. If the Deputy's Party had not cut down the number of houses built in the years 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961 to 50 per cent of what had been built previously, the sad fatalities referred to would not have occurred. That is a matter of finance and general local government law and I do not want to dwell on it in here but I must refer to cross-talk between the Minister and myself. When I said that in my 14 years in this House and the Seanad I had never made a personal remark to any Deputy, the Minister retorted: "Deputy Donegan, indeed! Of course you did." I have vigorously contended in the House with the Minister himself and with everybody else on the opposite side. I have contended with some of my own Party members in the Party-room as hard as I could but I do not think that I have ever gone further than making a humorous remark to another Deputy. Perhaps the Deputy might not consider humorous or perhaps my humour might differ from his but I have never made a personal remark. I have never called anybody a coward and I have never yet tried to hit anybody in the passages. If the Minister wishes to make this charge against me I should like to know if he will now substantiate it and say when I made a deliberately personal and insulting remark to any Member of this House or the other House in the 14 years I have been here.

To clear up a point on section 3 without going into any general discussion, it is a fact that this matter of deliberately bringing property into disrepair and afterwards demolishing it and putting an office block in its place has been a burning question in Dublin and other areas. This section seeks to end that situation and it is very important that it should do so. We regret it has not been done sooner. The idea that by welcoming such a section we are in the same breath condemning people to live in existing bad conditions is of course quite wrong. The rehousing of people depends on the standards we have and I suggest that in all the older parts of the city people must be rehoused. I think that those in the older Corporation housing schemes should also be considered for rehousing because the standards of the 30s are not the standards of 1969. That is by the way. The point we now strive to make is that the immediate priority in Dublin is not office building but the provision of houses, not the provision of better office blocks but the provision of better housing. Any building programme that is to succeed must put its resources to work at the point of greatest need, which is not office blocks but housing. That is a matter of priority. It is exceedingly wrong of Deputies to suggest that we were talking about iron dictatorship when we are merely talking about a system of priority when it comes to buildings. We do not suggest that somebody should not make legitimate profit in certain areas but we see that the profit is being made out of office blocks which we cannot afford at present.

The Deputy will appreciate that there is nothing in section 5 about commercial buildings or office blocks.

No, but we have seen sites that could be of value turned to commercial use. It is regrettable that at the moment there is a quicker return on money put into office blocks and that sort of development than on money put into housing development. We have seen "hot" money pouring into this city from cross-Channel sources for the purpose of building office blocks. I certainly think Dublin has enough office blocks and not enough housing at present.

The decision I have to make is whether I should follow the example of Deputy O'Leary and Deputy O'Connell and deal with the whole question of housing in Dublin, the question of relative progress made in housing under the Coalition Government and the condition in which they left both the finances available for housing and the industry itself and the contrast with the sustained rate of progress under the present Government. Despite the temptation to deal with this subject, my decision is to leave this to the appropriate occasion and, that being so, there really is not much point in my intervening at all because, in fact, in so far as this section of the Bill which we are supposed to be discussing is concerned, the only dispute is between Deputy Donegan on behalf of the Fine Gael Party and every other Deputy in the House. The only argument here is whether or not this provision is required in the Bill. I say that this is vital to the Bill and, as far as I know, every other Deputy, except Deputy Donegan, agrees that it is vital.

Is there anything in that section that is not contained in section 19 of the Act of 1931?

I am going to talk and if Deputy Donegan wants to talk afterwards, he can.

If Deputy Donegan's sole intention is to disrupt the proceedings of the House, he is at liberty to do it as far as I am concerned but I listened to Deputy Donegan speaking twice on this Bill and, as I said, the only dispute I can see in so far as this section is concerned is between Deputy Donegan and the rest of the House. I say this section is vital to the Bill and that the Bill would be pointless without this section.

I may say that as Minister for Local Government I do not know of any case in which demolition of houses took place in the absence of permission for development of the sites. Deputy O'Connell talks of ruthless demolition of houses but no evidence has been produced in the various debates that we have had here of ruthless demolition of houses in the absence of planning permission having been granted for alternative development of the sites and that is why I say that the control that we are seeking to provide under this Bill could not be operated under the Planning Act because in the case of any demolition that we know of, in the City of Dublin at any rate, planning permission had already been obtained for the development of that site. So, it is quite clear that if it was necessary to seek planning permission for demolition, there were not sufficiently strong planning considerations to reject such application. Therefore, that shows, as I have been claiming all along, that it is only under housing legislation that this question of the demolition of habitable houses can be effectively dealt with and that the proposal to deal with it under the Planning Act was just an impractical suggestion and one that would not secure the objective that we have in view of preventing the demolition of habitable house in conditions of a shortage of housing accommodation.

Does the Minister realise that demolition could take place first and planning permission sought then?

I am saying that I do not know of any case in which that happened. What we are trying to provide against in this section is the case of the individual, the speculator as he is referred to, who, in order to circumvent the provisions of this Bill, will deliberately allow a sound, habitable house that is needed to house people to deteriorate into such a condition that it will be no longer habitable. It may be, as has been suggested, that in order to operate this section properly, increased staffing will be necessary. This may or may not be true. It seems to me that if there is to be really adequate inspection this will probably be so and certainly the whole exercise of bringing in this legislation will be futile if there is not adequate inspection and if those people who would deliberately allow, or, indeed, deliberately cause, a house to deteriorate are not discovered in time to operate this provision but this is in my opinion vital to the Bill and I agree, as far as I can see, with the rest of the House, except Deputy Donegan, that that is so.

I want to point out that what I said was—and this has not been dealt with by the Minister—there is nothing in this section that is not contained in section 19 of the Act of 1931 which, in my view, gives the same power which I as a member of a local authority have seen operated by that local authority. I described precisely what could be done: the buildings could be entered; the reconstruction work could be specified; if the landlord did not do it the local authority could enter upon the building, could avail of the grants given and seek the money from the landlord, could take his goods from him if he would not give the money; could then put an instalment order upon him and then repeat the entire process on the tenant, if they wished so to do. I have asked the Minister is there anything in this section that could not be done under the Act of 1931.

Of course there is.

The other question I asked was whether or not the Minister can give an instance when during the shorter period he has been in the House I was personally insulting or provocative to anybody, when I hurled a personal insult at anyone rather than an argument, vigorous or not, against his line of thought.

I would draw to the attention of the other Deputy for my constituency, Deputy de Valera, and the Minister, that they will recall that a whole street disappeared in the last three years. Dorset Row disappeared from the map of Dublin. A public street was closed in at either end and the houses on either side were knocked down. That was under the conditions prevailing up to now. I do not know that it ever received any attention. A public thoroughfare was closed in at either end. The older inhabitants can remember that houses existed on either side. These were definitely sound houses. Probably people could point out other instances around the city. In no sense were these houses bad. They were good houses. They were in the centre of the city. They had many more years of useful life. Their retention could have saved a strain on the municipal housing position. But, because the existing situation allowed a complete open game to those involved in the business, this street was taken over for commercial purposes. I recall the case of Dorset Row, in which a public street was taken over for commercial purposes.

The 1931 Housing Act has of course been replaced by the 1966 Act and part of the provision to which Deputy Donegan refers is of course that these repairs must be possible at reasonable cost. Here we are dealing with a different situation. We are dealing with a situation in which a house is deliberately allowed to fall into disrepair and the question of its restoration at reasonable cost does not enter into the provision in this Bill. As well as that, obviously the section of the Housing Act to which Deputy Donegan refers deals with cases of tenanted houses but this provision deals with habitable houses whether they are inhabited or not. It deals with the case of the habitable house of which vacant possession is obtained and which is deliberately allowed to deteriorate in order to try to circumvent the other provisions in this Bill. There is an obvious difference.

I have not got the complete volumes of the Dáil Debates here which would enable me to look up instances of Deputy Donegan's past conduct in the House. Perhaps, he would go through them himself. I can only rely on my own experience.

By way of explanation, I wish to point out that the context of the statement by the Minister was that when it was suggested that a person who is now known to be a candidate for this House was involved in improper property dealing, I said that Members of the House should not say these things, but I was told that I did it myself. The Minister, having said that, should give the instances during the past 14 years in which I, in this House or the other one, suggested improper dealings in regard to any Member of this House, or instances in which I was insulting or provocative. I am entitled to that and if I do not get it I shall have to take the matter up, either now or later, with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

The Deputy should look up the Dáil Debates.

If I were the Minister, I would certainly have apologised but, perhaps, that would be old-fashioned.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 6 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 9 stand part of the Bill."

(Cavan): Section 9 is a far-reaching section. It is a section that excludes certain buildings from the Bill and in my opinion it could undo everything that the Bill sets out to do. The section reads:

(1) This Act shall not apply to the demolition in whole or in part or the use otherwise than for human habitation of any habitable house where—

(a) a planning authority or the Minister has, before the passing of this Act, decided to grant a permission or approval under section 26 of the Act of 1963 for development involving the demolition or change of use, or

I have no objection to that but I regard subsections (2) and (3) as being dangerous. It is very difficult to follow what exactly subsection (2) means. The subsection reads:

A permission under this Act shall not be required in relation to the use otherwise than for human habitation of part of any habitable house for, but only for, so long as the house is principally used as a dwelling and the change of use does not cause to reside elsewhere a person who, immediately before the change of use, was ordinarily resident in such house.

It is not easy to understand that subsection and while I am doing my best to follow it, I believe it could operate in the following way. A person could have a large house set out in flats and if the halldoor flat became vacant and was vacant for some time, the owner of the house could decide to turn the ground floor of that house into an office and, in my opinion, subsection (2) of section 9 would relieve him of the necessity of applying for permission to change the use of the house because, of course, the ground floor or halldoor flat being vacant, there would be no question of anybody being compelled to reside elsewhere as a result of the change in use. The community could be deprived of this house which was ordinarily used for human habitation.

I know the subsection says that the house shall be excluded from the measure for, but only for, as long as the house is principally used as a dwelling.

I should like the Minister to tell us what he has in mind in relation to subsection (3) which says:

This Act shall not apply in relation to the following, namely—

(a) the demolition of a habitable house in case the demolition is of a class, or complies with conditions, prescribed for the purposes of this subsection,

(b) the use of a habitable house otherwise than for human habitation in case such use is of a class, or complies with conditions so prescribed, and

(c) a habitable house situate in an area which for the time being is so prescribed.

This subsection, in so far as I can see, gives the Minister power to make regulations prescribing certain things which, in effect, exclude whole streets or areas from this subsection. It is a pity that some of the Labour Deputies who spoke at such length on some of the other sections did not remain to try to find out what this particular subsection means. It is my opinion that we are dealing with this measure because the Minister was enabled to make regulations under the Planning and Development Act and when he was making those regulations he decided that demolition was not development and, therefore, demolition was excluded from the Planning and Development Act. In other words, it became unnecessary to get planning permission to knock down a house or to knock down a whole street of houses That is the only reason why the Minister found it necessary to introduce the Bill with which we are now dealing. As I have said, subsections (2) and (3) of section 9 can undo all that the other sections, especially section 3, sets out to do. I shall not say any more at this stage but I should like the Minister to tell me and to tell the House what, precisely, is the meaning of subsection (2) and what he has in mind in subsection (3).

I do not think subsection (2) is so difficult to understand. The type of thing we have in mind is the case of, say, a widow who has lost her husband and decides to utilise a room in the house for the purpose of dressmaking, hairdressing and so on and the change of use obviously does not involve the displacement of any person from living accommodation. In the case Deputy Fitzpatrick put forward, that is the conversion of one flat in a house into an office, that clearly involves the loss of a full unit of accommodation and therefore I think it would be clearly outside subsection (2) as the change of use would entail any person who was resident in the flat getting out.

(Cavan): I do not want to interrupt the Minister. I am not anxious to prolong this thing. Supposing a flat were vacant because the owner bought a house, would this subsection apply?

The flat is a dwelling. What Deputy Fitzpatrick is putting forward would be a change of use of a complete dwelling. If it is a habitable dwelling then permission would have to be obtained under this Bill, when it is passed. Clearly the changing of use of a complete dwelling from a dwelling to an office does involve the displacement of any person residing in it. The mere fact the flat happens to be vacant does not change the issue. I agree that subsection (3) is a subsection which may never be necessary. What is intended is that it may at some later stage appear to be desirable to exempt from the provisions of this Bill some particular class of building. I think many Deputies will see there may be no necessity for this Bill to operate at all in certain parts of the country. That is the idea of subsection (3): to give power to prescribe by regulation either the omission or exemption of certain classes of premises or the exemption of certain areas from the application of the Bill.

It is not definite that this will ever be required. If Deputy Fitzpatrick has any strong objection to this subsection I have no objection to dropping it. It may be desirable to bring an amendment at some stage to insert it into the Bill but I agree there is no obvious need for it at the present time. It was felt it was desirable to have it in in case it was needed. As regards subsection (2) I think it is necessary to have that in and to me it is quite clear that the case of changing the use of a complete flat would be outside that subsection.

I agree with what the Minister says with regard to a complete flat. There are cases, and this is likely to happen in certain areas of the city, where you have a complete house, say a five-roomed house, with two rooms on the ground floor and bedrooms above where, as in the case mentioned by the Minister, a widow is left without her husband and the family may elect to live in the top storey and to let say the two front rooms —what is in effect the ground floor— as an office. How does that fit in with this particular subsection?

If it does not involve the displacement of any person it is all right.

(Cavan): In that case it would come in under subsection (2).

Yes, this would come in under subsection (2).

(Cavan): I am obliged to the Minister in so far as subsection (3) is concerned and I would be glad to accept his proposal to delete it. The Minister quite fairly says that it is not necessary now and I think he goes further to say that it does not appear to be necessary in the foreseeable future. If it becomes necessary an amendment can be brought in to cover this. I do not entirely agree with the Minister about subsection (2). We would all have the greatest sympathy with the poor widow who finds it necessary to turn one or two rooms into a dressmaking business, a hairdressing saloon or even to let portion of her house in order to augment her income. However, we would find, if that subsection is put in to facilitate the poor widow, that wealthy or unscrupulous landlords would come in on the bandwagon to avail of that. I do not agree with the Minister that changing the use of the entire flat, which was occupied but vacant at the moment, would not exclude it from this subsection.

Say the flat is vacant for a month and you change the use of it into a workshop or an office room, this would not cause anybody who is residing in the flat immediately before the change of use to reside elsewhere and that is the text of the subsection. The Minister relies on saying that the flat is a dwelling. Subsection (2) says:

A permission under this Act shall not be required in relation to the use otherwise than for human habitation or part of any habitable house.

Look at the definition of house.

(Cavan): The definition of a house means a building or part of a building which is used as a dwelling. I think the Minister has a point there. A house means a building or a part of a building which is used as a dwelling. I suppose then a flat would be regarded as part of a building. I can only say if that is so my main objection to subsection (2) would then be removed. I can only suggest to the Minister between now and when he brings this Bill to the Seanad that he satisfies himself that that is in fact so and that subsection (2) does not provide a loophole for somebody by degrees to turn a house which was let out in flats to some other industrial or commerical use.

I do not mind having another look at it. I am quite clear that under this Bill the term house includes a flat. In any case I propose the amendment:

To delete subsection (3) of section 9.

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 10 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass".

(Cavan): We on this side of the House welcomed this Bill when it was introduced. We recognised that a coach and four was being driven through the Planning and Development Act, 1963, in so far as the obvious intention of that Act was being evaded. It was being evaded because of regulations made by the Minister which declared that the plastering of the outside of a house and the demolition of a house were one and the same thing. Following those regulations it was possible to demolish one house, two houses, or a whole street of houses. In that way houses which were badly needed as dwellings in a city in which there is an acute housing problem were being either demolished altogether or changed from dwelling houses into office suites, or commercial buildings of one sort or another. We felt so strongly about that position that in 1967 we introduced a Bill into Seanad Éireann to amend the Planning and Development Act in order to ensure that such houses would not be demolished or changed into offices or buildings other than dwelling houses. What is being done in this Bill would have been done equally well in the Bill which we introduced into the Seanad in 1967. The Minister thought otherwise. He thought the Bill we introduced in the Seanad was not as effective as the measure which he introduced here some time ago and with which we are now dealing. The pity is that the Minister did not introduce this Bill into Dáil Éireann sooner.

Having said that, I want to give credit where credit is due. I have often had occasion to complain that the Minister adopted an unreasonable attitude about either legislation proposals or electoral proposals. I want to go on record as saying that the Minister behaved in a most reasonable manner in so far as this Bill was concerned. The only exception was his refusal to impose a time limit on the Minister with regard to appeals.

The Minister is blushing.

I am examining my conscience.

(Cavan): Maybe the Minister has remembered the election.

It is the election.

It is a dangerous mentality to have approaching an election.

(Cavan): I welcome particularly the deletion of subsection (3) of section 9. It is very important. In my opinion, if subsection (3) of section 9 had been allowed to stand part of this Bill, then the Bill might as well never have been introduced. The deletion of subsection (3) of section 9 is a very worthwhile amendment. I wish to thank the Minister for accepting it. The Bill only does what we say should have been done in 1967. The two amendments which I have mentioned are a considerable improvement on it.

Deputy P.J. Burke, in one of his sanctimonious speeches, spoke about the necessity of providing proper office accommodation for workers. I entirely agree with the sentiment, but I say there is only one thing more necessary than proper office accommodation for workers and that is proper housing.

Deputy de Valera referred to this as a temporary measure and as a measure necessary to deal with an emergency. I can only hope that the emergency will soon be cleared up. I can only hope that, until such time as the workers of this city and of the country as a whole are provided with proper living accommodation and dwelling houses, it will not be possible to pull down dwelling houses and convert them into luxurious office blocks whether those office blocks are for the use of the Civil Service or any other workers, whoever they are.

I was not here for most of the debate but, as Deputy Dowling, who is not here now, knows, we have a monitor in the room and can listen to what is going on here—although we did not stay until midnight to listen to him last week.

It was 11 p.m. last week.

I would not know. I was half way home by then. During the debate we had two Dublin Deputies who knew what the conditions in Dublin were like. This Bill applies to the whole country, but mainly refers to Dublin. It was only right to have people who knew the conditions in Dublin speaking on it. The reference which Deputy Burke made to office blocks replacing houses, and that workers needed to go in out of the rain, was, I think, beside the point altogether. So far as the office blocks are concerned, the people working out in the rain do not go into the office blocks except to collect their pay. They are allowed in for that, if their boots are clean. The Minister says that buildings were not knocked down in the city. The buildings in Mountjoy Square have been half-knocked down and left in a dangerous condition for a long period. The Minister might be able to use his influence to have something done about them.

The Bill is a good measure and the only pity is that it was not introduced long before now. A lot of damage was done, perhaps not to as great an extent as has been alleged—we all like to exaggerate at times—by the indiscriminate pulling down of buildings. From time to time many of us were embarrassed when some of our friends or erstwhile friends engaged in this business. Buildings were allowed to go into disrepair so that the unfortunate tenants could be put out and the buildings demolished.

I wish to make one other comment on this matter, because the Minister seemed to be adamant on the question of the type of person who condemned buildings. I have experience of being in a building during the dangerous building scare in this city when one of these people came in. I have no hesitation in saying that he had no qualifications whatever and he admitted this. However, he condemned the building and put the owner to the expense of £1,400 to £1,500, though an architect had said the repairs were not necessary. A person without qualifications said they were necessary and they had to be done. I am sure the Minister is aware that was the situation. Perhaps, there are not enough trained people available and, perhaps, they could be better employed than in inspecting buildings, but where inspection involves expensive repairs being carried out, it should be by somebody other than an ordinary person without qualifications. The Bill will be welcomed because it will undo something which could have been harmful. The Minister said this matter could not have been covered in planning legislation.

I wish to make a few remarks on the Bill. I was glad to hear Deputy Tully welcoming it and I was surprised to see the Labour Party voting against its provisions in the one division which took place.

It was against the Minister's failure to put a time limit on it. Let us be accurate, at least.

Even the Labour Party did not understand the provisions of the Bill. I was surprised to see them going to the other side of the House when the division occurred. The Bill meets public demand and it is a pity it took so long to go through the House. I do not think there will be any serious amendment on Report Stage.

The Report Stage has gone.

The Report Stage is over but the Deputy did not know it.

He has not got an intercom like other Deputies.

He has not got a clue. It is the Housing Bill.

Deputy Tully would not have known if he had not an intercom.

I knew what was going on.

Deputy Lemass on what is in the Bill.

I should like to say that the preservation of buildings, not having them knocked down, to be replaced by office blocks and to give the local authority much greater power in this respect, is desirable. I hope, however, that the Bill is not designed just to give way to some pressure that is being put on by the Georgian Society or the Old Dublin Society or such people. The corporation gave way to pressure by these people and Georgian buildings in Seán McDermott Street were preserved at a cost of £1,000 per room at that time. It would cost £3,000 per room now.

These buildings are nothing more than substandard slums and there is no point in preserving buildings if they are to remain slums. Similar buildings were pulled down and replaced by brick-faced structures and they provide comfortable, modern dwellings sought after by many people who wish to live in the city centre. Those people who demonstrated in Islandbridge should see what is being done to provide modern flats for working class people. Let us ensure that buildings can be pulled down if they are to be replaced by habitable accommodation but do not let us do what is being done in London—pulled down buildings being replaced by office blocks.

Deputy Lemass's remarks have tempted me to repeat a point I made on Second Stage about a danger in this Bill. It is precisely that this Bill might, from the long-term point of view, react on efforts to solve the housing situation. Deputy Lemass said that the experiment to preserve old houses in the north side of the city and, so to speak, to adapt them, was not a success and that it does not compare with properly designed new buildings. The kernel of this Bill is that it gives power to the Minister which is necessary in the present situation. When all is said and done we are dealing with a peripheral problem in the housing situation in Dublin and as Deputy Lemass has said the important thing is to get ahead with the provision of proper housing for the future.

That will involve the demolition of many existing dwellings and the practical problem is to supply the new as quickly as we destroy the old. Deputy Tully spoke of the type of persons carrying out inspections and I can assure him from my personal experience on sites during the crisis of falling houses, in Mountjoy Square, in Dorset Street, in Queen Street, in Blackhall Place, the problem was to get the buildings condemned. It was not a question of people being too willing to condemn and to force repairs. The trouble was that, there being no alternative accommodation available for those people, they were being left too long in dangerous circumstances.

I was speaking of a good part of the city.

I am mentioning only my experience and there are two sides to every story. I speak at this stage only to reinforce what Deputy Lemass has said. If this Bill is looked at coldly in its context, it is not a general remedy for the housing situation. It will not do much to help in the long run. It is a holding operation. If misused—this may be an unpopular thing to say—such a provision could operate in a directly opposite way to that in which we wish it to operate. I should like to say, therefore, on the Fifth Stage of the Bill, that its proper application will be as important as its passage through the House.

This is a housing Bill, not a planning Bill. It has not been brought in, as Deputy Fitzpatrick has said, because a coach and four was being driven through the Planning Act. If the Planning Act had been found to be deficient in any way, it would have been amended. This Bill had nothing whatever to do with it. As I have said, there has been no evidence that the Planning Act was being circumvented in any way.

I do not know of any way in which demolition of houses took place in which permission for some other development was not obtained. This legislation was introduced because it was decided by the Government that in existing circumstances it was desirable to have effective control over the demolition of habitable houses and the matter we desired to be taken into consideration in this connection was the question of the need for housing accommodation in the local authority area concerned. Clearly then it was housing legislation that was required in order to provide this effective control to ensure that housing considerations would be the deciding factor. It must be quite clear that, if planning considerations did not preclude the development proposed on the site of these houses, then planning considerations could not preclude the demolition which was an essential part of the whole proposal and that obviously, since there were cases of habitable houses being demolished, the only way of dealing with it was through housing legislation, through legislation that would promote the taking into consideration of the question that there was a housing shortage and that it was not in the public interest that useful and sound housing accommodation should be removed and replaced by other development which did not conflict with planning considerations.

I refute the suggestion that what we are proposing to do could have been done in any effective way whatever under the Planning Act. The Planning Act could not be utilised for this purpose. There is ample evidence available in this city to show that that is so because, as I said, in every case that I know of where houses were demolished there was in existence already permission for alternative development. That shows that planning considerations could not have secured the retention of those houses.

Question put and agreed to.