Committee on Finance. - Vote 26: Local Government.

Tairgim:

Go ndeonófar suim nach mó ná £15,575,000 chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1973, le haghaidh tuarastail agus costais Oifig an Aire Rialtais Áitiúil, a chuimsíonn deontais do na húdaráis áitiúla, deontais agus costais eile i dtaca le tithíocht, agus scéimeanna agus deontais ilghnéitheacha, lena n-áirítear deontas-i-gcabhair.

Cuimhneoidh Teachtaí gurb é an tsuim bhunaidh iomlán a vótáladh don bhliain 1971-72 ná £13,762,000. Bhí dhá mheastachán fhoirlíontach ann i gcaitheamh na bliana 1971-72. De bharr na meastachán foirlíontach sin cuireadh breis iomlán de £2,263,000 leis an Vóta sa chaoi gurb é £16,025,000 an meastachán iomlán don bhliain 1971-72, tar éis Leithris-igCabhair a chur san áireamh.

Léiríonn an meastachán do 1972-73 laghdú glan de £450,000 ar an méid a vótáladh anuraidh. Is é an laghdú ar an soláthar le haghaidh deontais tithíochta agus an laghdú ar an soláthar le haghaidh scéimeanna feabhsúchán áitiúla, is cúis leis an laghdú seo ar an mheastachán. Chuaigh £700,000 chun tairbhe do dheontais tithíochta ón Vóta Foirlíontach ar glacadh leis i rith na bliana seo caite. Vótáladh an soláthar breise do scéimeanna feabhsúchán áitiúla chun fostaíocht i gceantair tuaithe a spreagadh, agus mar chuidiú chun laghdú a thabhairt ar an líon ró-mhór iarratas ar dheontais a bhí fós ar lámha na gcomhairlí contae. Nuair a chuirtear an meastachán i gcóimheas le 1971-72, cuireann na soláthairtí méaduithe atá faoi na fo-mhirchinn eile go léir nach mór, na laghduithe sin ar cheal don chuid is mó.

Léiríonn na deontais do thithíocht phríobháideach — seirbhís chaipitil vótáilte atá ann—méadú de £200,000 ar an soláthar a rinneadh anuraidh. Chuimsigh an soláthar sin suim fhoirlíontach de £600,000 a vótáladh i rith na bliana. Is léir ó na figiúirí go bhfuil tógáil tithe phríobháideacha ag dul ar aghaidh thar mar a bhí riamh cheana. Léiríonn an soláthar le haghaidh deontais do scéimeanna seirbhísí sláintíochta méadú de £285,000 thar an soláthar a rinneadh do 1971-72 agus méadaíodh an meastachán i leith ranníocaíochtaí ar chostais iasachtaí a bhaineann le linnte snámha ó £20,000 go £40,000. Méadaíodh na deontais agus an cúnamh airgid ar scéimeanna príobháideacha uisce agus séarachais ó £750,000 go £920,000 le linn na bliana agus meastar go dtógfaidh éilimh ar dheontais a thiocfaidh chun críche i gcaitheamh na bliana reatha £780,000.

Tabharfaidh Teachtaí faoi ndeara go bhfuil an teideal atá ar an bhfomhircheann faoi G athruithe chun béim níos treise a leagan ar oibreacha ar áiseanna. Tá méadú de £179,500 déanta ar an soláthar don bhfomhircheann seo thar mar a bhí i bhfigiúir £120,500 na bliana 1971-72. Pléifidh mé mionshonraí na bhomhirchinn éagsúla i mo ráiteas ar ball.

Is follasach ó réimse leathan an Mheastacháin do Rialtais Áitiúil, mórthábhacht na seirbhísí a chuireann mo Roinn-se agus na hudaráis áitiúla ar fáil, do shaol an phobail. Tugann na húdaráis áitiúla fostaíocht go díreach do thart ar 28,000 duine, ar a bhfuil foireann riaracháin, foireann theicniúil, foireann chléireachais, oibrithe bóthar agus oibrithe eile. Tá an fhostaíocht seo á thabhairt ar fud na tíre ar fad, agus ann féin, tá sé sontasach go leor i saol geilleagrach agus sóisialta na gceantar.

Tá caiteachas na n-údarás áitiúil ar sheirbhísí an-mhór. Ón lá a ceapadh mé mar Aire Rialtais Áitiúil táim buartha faoina dheacra atá sé pictiúr níos soiléire a fháil ar an gcaiteachas iomlán, áitiúil agus lárnach, ar sheirbhísí rialtais áitiúil agus faoin treo a bhfuil cúrsaí ag dul. Léireoidh mé an rud atá i gceist agam trí thagairt a dhéanamh don Mheastachán atá á phlé againn inniu ina bhfuil ollshuim de £16 milliún, sula ndealaítear Leithrisi-gCabhair. B'fhéidir go gceapfaidh roinnt daoine gurb é seo an caiteachas iomlán atá i gceist do mo Roinn-se agus do na hudaráis áitiúla. Le fanacht i mbun na bhfírinne, beidh a chúig oiread de chaiteachas iomlán ann, nó suim iomlán de thart ar £80 milliún i rith an bhliain airgeadais reatha—cuid de ag teacht ón Vóta, cuid de ó Chiste na nIasachtaí Áitiúla, cuid de ón Ród-Chiste agus ó fhoinsí áirithe eile. Má áirítear caiteachas na n-údarás áitiúil a dhéanfar le h-airgead ó rátaí agus ó iasachtaí ó fhoinsí seachas ón gCiste Iasachtaí Áitiúla, beidh caiteachas iomlán na bliana 1972-73 níos mó ná an £200 milliún ag tógáil ranníocaíochtaí d'údaráis sláinte agus d'áisíneachtaí eile san áireamh.

Suimeanna móra airgid iad seo i gcomhthéacs ar bith. Is ionann iad nach mór agus 12 faoin gcéad den olltáirgeadh náisiúnta agus tá tionchar ag an mbealach a gcaitear iad ar an saol a chaithimíd go léir. Tá sé riachtanach mar sin, d'éifeacht na seirbhísí a chuirtear ar fáil leis an airgead seo—agus luíonn sé le leas an phobail ina theannta sin—go saineofaí aidhmeanna agus cuspóirí an chaiteachais agus go ndéanfaí meastachán fiúntach den mbealach in a dtiocfaidh forbairt sna blianta atá romhainn. Cad iad go díreach na rudaí ar mian linn tosaíocht a thabhairt dóibh? Cad tá á bhaint amach againn leis an airgead atá á chaitheamh againn? An bhfuil an caiteachas seo ag teacht le bunpholasaithe sóisialta agus eacnamaíochta an Rialtais maidir le tionsclaíocht, talmhaíocht, turasóireacht, oideachas, scíth, srl? An bhfuil bealaí eile lenár n-aidhmeanna a bhaint amach? Cad iad na h-impleachtaí, ní amháin do riaradh na Roinne, ach do riaradh na n-údarás áitiúil agus an chórais frí chéile, atá ag gréasa áirithe caiteachais agus ag ranna sainithe riachtanais? Is iad a leithéid seo de cheisteanna a ritheann liom láithreach nuair a thagann ceist chun cinn faoi dháileadh airgid d'aon seirbhís ar leith. D'fhonn teacht ar fhreagraí, dá éigcinnte nó dá thriailí iad do na ceisteanna seo is ea a bheartaigh mé boiséadú cláreagrach a thionscnamh sa Roinn.

Is é atá i gceist sa chóras seo go dtabharfaí miontuairisc ar aidhmeanna agus ar chuspóirí cláir, agus ar an gcaiteachas, agus ar a bhfuil á bhaint amach ag an gcaiteachas sin thar tréimhse is faide ná an bhliain amháin a bhíodh i gceist i meastacháin le fada. Baineadh feidhm as an gcóras seo tar éis é a shimpliú i mo Roinn-se i bpleanáil roinnt mhaith de na seirbhísí as a bhfuil an Roinn freagrach. Tá sé i gceist agam an córas seo a fhorbairt agus é a chur i bhfeidhm oiread agus is féidir ar ghníomhaíochtaí uile mo Roinne. Tógfaidh sé tamall de bhlianta sula mbeidh an córas seo i lánúsáid mar go bhfuil suimeanna airgid an-mhóra i gceist—mar go bhfuil castacht ag baint leis na seirbhísí go háirithe nuair a bhítear ag iarraidh táirgeadh a thomhas agus cruinnbheartaíocht a dhéanamh, agus mar gur féidir fadhbanna a bheith ag baint le idirghníomhú na Roinne seo agamsa leis na húdaráis áitiúla.

Thagair mé cheana do chaiteachas iomlán de £80 milliún sa bhliain airgeadais reatha a chlúdófar leis an Vóta Rialtais Áitiúil, Ciste na nIasachtaí Áitiúla, An Ród-Chiste agus foinsí áirithe eile.

Nuair a déantar briseadh síos ar an iomlán seo faoi na príomhtheidil as a bhfuil an Roinn seo agamsa agus na húdaráis áitiúla freagrach is léir go gcaitear an chuid is mó i bhfad den chaiteachas iomlán ar thithíocht agus ar fhoirgníocht—i.e. breis agus £48 milliún. Is é an dara ghné is mó caiteachas ná iompar bóthar agus sábháilteacht, ar a gcaitear breis agus £17 milliún. Caitear £8 milliún nach mór ar shláinte agus ar shábháilteacht timpeallachta. Faoin teideal scíth, áiseanna, agus caitheamh aimsire atá an chéad ghné tábhacht eile. Is lú go mór an caiteachas ar an ngné seo den obair ná an caiteachas a ndearna mé tagairt dó cheana féin ach creidim féin go dtiocfaidh béim i bhfad níos mó ar an ngíomhaíocht a dhéanfar faoin teideal seo chun áiseanna a sholáthar, mar ghléas chun an bheatha atá againn a fheabhsú agus chun an timpeallacht inar féidir le gníomhaíochtaí tionsclaíochta agus geilleagracha forbairt a dhéanamh a chothú.

Mar is eol do no Teachtaí, tá glactha ag an Rialtais le tairiscintí chun rialtas áitiúil sa Ghaeltacht a atheagrú. Tá reachtaíocht á hullmhú faoi láthair leis na tairiscintí sin a chur i ngníomh agus comh luath agus a bheidh sí reidh tabharfar an cheist os chomhair na Dála. Cuimhneofar go bhfuil dhá thairiscint ann go bunúsach. Sa chéad áit tá sé molta go mbunófaí coiste Gaeltachta i ngach Contae Gaeltachta. Is iad na comhairleoirí do thoghlimistéir nua-chumtha Gaeltachta a bheidh ar na coistí seo. Beidh feidhmeanna comhairleacha ag na coistí seo agus feidhmeanna eile a thiomnófar dóibh. Beidh de chumhacht ag an Aire Rialtais Áitiúil, i gcomhairle le h-Aire na Gaeltachta, iachall a chur ar chomhairlí contae feidhmeanna cinnte a thiomnú do na coistí. Go ginearálta, beidh sé mar aidhm go mbeadh a oifig féin agus a fhoireann féin ag gach coiste laistigh den Ghaeltacht agus go bhfeidhmeodh sé mar ghníomhaire don chomhairle contae.

Is é atá sa dara thairiscint go mbunófaí comhairle láir thar ceann na dtoghlimistéar Gaeltachta go léir. Beidh feidhm chomhairleach ghinearálta maidir leis an nGaeltacht ag an gcomhairle seo. Féadfaidh an tAire Rialtais Áitiúil, tar éis dó dul i gcomhairle le h-Aire na Gaeltachta agus dreamanna feiliúnacha, feidhmeanna eile a leagan uirthi.

None of the many problems which face me as Minister for Local Government is more pressing than the achievement of the Government's primary housing objective of providing every family in Ireland with proper living accommodation at a rent or price they can afford.

Adequate shelter and a suitable place to make a home are basic human needs. The Government's White Paper, Housing in the Seventies, set a target of between 15,000 and 17,000 houses a year by the mid-1970s to cater for growing needs. This level of output means that capital expenditure on housing must increase. In fact, it has risen. Total capital expenditure on the building or substantial reconstruction of houses amounted to about £87 million in 1971-72, compared with £65 million in 1970-71. Approximately £39 million of this £87 million was provided through the public capital programme with the balance coming from private sources, particularly building societies. The public capital programme for 1972-73 contains provision for expenditure of £43 million on housing and the total capital expenditure from all sources this year is likely to be approximately £100 million.

I think it well to give the Dáil an idea of the kind of money which is involved in our housing programme so that Deputies can better appreciate the crucial problem which the Government have to tackle when faced with competing and rapidly growing demands for capital to finance other critical programmes—schools, hospitals, industrial development grants and so on. The resources available are not unlimited and increases in them depend, to a large degree, on improvement in the national economy. In this situation, the Government has to make difficult decisions about the allocation of the available resources as between housing, industrial development, schools, hospitals and the other desirable forms of economic and social investment.

The achievements of recent years provide the best possible indication of the high priority which the Government gives to housing. A decade ago only 6,000 houses were being built annually. Last year an all-time record of almost 16,000 new houses were completed. This was nearly 2,000 more than the greatest number built in any previous year and it exceeds the minimum target of 15,000 houses set for the mid-seventies in the 1969 White Paper. Of the total number of houses built last year, approximately 11,000 were provided by private enterprise and semi-State bodies and 5,000 by local authorities. The statistics of local authority housing starts and of grants allocated for private houses indicate that a further increase in completions may be expected in 1972-73 and, on present trends, I am optimistic that the upper level of 17,000 dwellings a year in the White Paper will be achieved in advance of the target year. It is worth emphasising that our annual housing output is now running at almost three times the level of the early 1960s. Advance land acquisition is also satisfactory and local authorities have sites available for 47,732 dwellings and are negotiating for a further 26,765 sites.

I am far from complacent about our progress in housing, but the size of the present programme and the way in which it has been built up on a planned basis, with due regard both to needs and to the availability of the resources without which expansion cannot take place, is an achievement which must be acknowledged. The most satisfactory aspect of our housing progress is, perhaps, that the expansion in activity is taking place both in the local authority and the private building sectors.

The local authority housing programme made a welcome recovery last year from the restricting effects of the 1970-71 cement strike and dwellings completed totalled 5,106 as against 3,875 in the previous year. With output now above the 5,000 mark and with practically 8,000 dwellings under construction, we are well set to surpass the 1969 White Paper target for the mid-seventies of 5,500 completions.

Dwellings in progress at 31st March, 1972, or then at tender stage totalled 12,811 as compared to 11,449 a year earlier. Plans were being prepared for further schemes comprising some 13,484 dwellings and sites had been acquired or were in course of acquisition for another 55,865 dwellings. The programme is, therefore, going well and I am looking forward to another substantial increase in the number of new house completions in the current year.

The scale of the housing problem undoubtedly is greatest in Dublin city. It is good, therefore, to record that Dublin Corporation rehoused 2,463 families in 1971-72, including 232 of their existing tenants who were provided with "purchase" houses. New dwellings provided in the year totalled 1,472, of which 91 purchase type houses were allocated to persons who had applied to Dublin County Council for housing.

Last year the corporation completed 978 ordinary tenancy dwellings, as compared to 812 in 1970-71. At 31st March, 1972, in their weekly tenancy programme, they had 2,977 dwellings either being built or on which work was about to commence and had plans ready or in hands for another 4,190. Additional sites had been purchased or were being acquired for 12,612 houses, flats or private sites. Their on-going programme, therefore, provides for close on 20,000 dwellings or private sites. I might mention that the corporation had made available up to 31st March last 1,454 sites to private builders under the programme for which a special extra allocation of £3 million was provided and further sites will be released according as development and servicing are completed. In addition substantial blocks of land have been made available to builders mainly in the Tallaght area.

An important new development in the Dublin city programme is the substantial participation of the corporation in the guaranteed order project. They have allocated sites in the Tolka Valley area of Finglas for about 1,700 houses to be built by the National Building Agency under the project and the first two stages of this major new housing area, comprising 642 houses, are already under construction. The additional professional and contracting resources provided by this development will give a quick and much needed boost to the corporation's programme. I welcome the corporation's decision to make maximum use of the services of the agency, which has already contributed so effectively in the Ballymun and Tallaght schemes to their efforts to deal with the city's serious housing backlog. The corporation's programme in recent years has only succeeded in containing the numbers on the approved waiting list at around the 5,000 mark. We cannot be satisfied that enough is being done until we see that figure of needs being steadily reduced.

I have previously mentioned to the Dáil my particular concern for small families, especially in the Dublin area, some of whom have been years on the approved list but who have little real prospect of being rehoused. The corporation is examining my request to undertake a special programme to provide small dwellings—if necessary, even temporary dwellings—to give a genuine hope of early rehousing to these small families. I have informed the corporation that I regard this work as being sufficiently important to warrant a special additional allocation of capital to finance it.

The corporation have now selected a number of suitable sites throughout the city and are preparing plans for groups of specially designed small houses on each site. Prototypes of a prefabricated dwelling which has been specially designed by the National Building Agency for small families have been built in Bray with the co-operation of the local housing authority. I am most anxious that these and other special measures to help the smaller families should be pressed forward. Indeed, I would like to avail of this opportunity to urge all other housing authorities in whose areas a similar problem exists to allocate a part of their building programme—even 10 per cent—to this special need so that no family in need of proper accommodation will be left without hope just because the family is small in numbers.

Capital expenditure on local authority housing increased substantially last year—a total of £21.6 million being spent, against £16.75 million in 1970-71. The original Budget allocation of £19.5 million was supplemented from the capital moneys provided by the Government last autumn to help towards the relief of unemployment. In consequence, local authorities did not find it necessary to avail of the Government's special authorisation to draw on the 1972-73 capital allocation before the end of March and the full amount of that allocation —approximately £23.9 million—will be available in the present year.

While on the subject of local authority housing capital, I would like to mention a recent important step in the process of devolution to housing authorities of increased responsibility for their housing projects. Under the new arrangement local authorities have been given a general power to plan and accept tenders for schemes of up to six houses and for all rural cottages, demountable dwellings and so on. In future, housing authorities undertaking such projects will be subject only to the capital allocation made for the execution of their programmes and no submissions of plans or tenders to my Department will be necessary. If this measure of devolution is successful, I intend to enlarge the extent of local discretion progressively in future years. In particular, I hope that I can rely on the full co-operation of local authorities in maintaining vital controls over the level of prices and overall expenditure.

The expansion of the local authority programme and the prospect of a greater number of completions in the current year is due in large measure to the successful development of the guaranteed order project. With the ready co-operation of housing authorities and the building industry and professions generally, a programme of approximately 5,000 dwellings has been developed in the relatively short time since I inaugurated the project in the autumn of 1970. Work on the first scheme—in Galway—was commenced last July and already 150 houses have been completed under the project. A total of 1,788 dwellings is now being built and proposals are being developed and plans prepared for another 24 schemes, comprising in all 2,770 houses. In all, 17 different firms— some big and some small—are actually building houses under the project.

Direct advantages have been achieved in lower prices, a remarkable shortening of the period between the initiation of a scheme and its projected completion and a consequential reduction in the impact of the prices variation clause on the contract. There has, too, been a noticeable quickening of competition outside the project since its inauguration and this has helped to hold down local authority housing prices generally. In dealing with the project I have constantly stressed its open nature. At all times I will be willing to consider any fresh promising proposals from any source and for the use of new designs, materials or building methods which offer prospects of economies in cost combined with structural acceptability.

The National Building Agency built 1,400 dwellings last year, bringing the total completions by the agency since it was established about 11 years ago to almost 9,000 dwellings. Completions during the year included the major scheme of 1,812 houses and flats provided for Cork Corporation and the scheme of 860 dwellings for Limerick Corporation. Both of these projects were started in 1968.

At the end of March last a further 2,313 dwellings were under construction, including 1,563 being provided for local authorities under the guaranteed order project, and approximately 3,000 dwellings were at planning stage.

The current constructional programme comprises major schemes being undertaken on behalf of Dublin Corporation, Dublin County Council, Galway Corporation and other local authorities as well as houses being provided at the request of the Industrial Development Authority and of individual industrial concerns.

The value of the building work undertaken by the agency during the year 1971-72 amounted to £6.25 million approximately.

I mentioned earlier that the total number of new houses completed in 1971-72 was an all-time record. A feature of housing output in recent years has been the spectacular growth in private grant-aided houses. Last year, 9,677 new house grants were finally paid by my Department and 14,373 were approved. This compares with 4,046 completions and 4,821 approvals ten years earlier. The high rate of approvals in 1970-71 and last year gives good ground for hopes that the number of grant-aided completions will for the first time exceed 10,000 in the current year. The increase in output reflects the recasting of the grants system in recent years and an encouraging aspect is that the expansion in private housing has not been confined to the Dublin area. Many of our provincial towns and their environs have shared in the growth.

Deputies are no doubt aware that system-built houses are making a valuable contribution in the private housing grant sector. So far, my Department has accepted for grant purposes proposals submitted by 32 firms for more than 70 different system-built house types.

The grants system is flexible and enables assistance to be channelled towards persons and categories which merit special help. It is good, therefore, to see encouraging signs that we, as a community, are beginning—even in a very modest way—to give practical evidence of concern for the housing needs of elderly persons. The number of the special grants paid by my Department for houses for the elderly increased from 80 in 1970-71 to 135 last year. The philanthropic bodies providing these houses deserve every encouragement, and I sincerely hope that the rate at which activity under this particular scheme of grants has increased in recent years will be maintained.

A special rate of new house grant is payable also to farmers and to certain other deserving categories and about 8 per cent of private houses built last year qualified for these grants.

Expenditure on house purchase loans and supplementary grants increased to over £11 million last year by comparison with £9.3 million spent in the previous year. New applications to local authorities for house purchase loans increased by two-thirds over the last year or so.

In talking about housing output, the general tendency is to concentrate on new houses. However, it would be unwise to overlook the importance of conserving and improving the existing housing stock. Much has been done in this respect and during the past ten years, 84,491 houses have been reconstructed with the aid of grants from my Department.

In the context of measures to secure the conservation of the national housing stock, I should like to remind Deputies that although we build an impressive total of new dwellings each year, it is the condition of the total stock that determines the level of our overall housing conditions. There is a need, therefore, for policies to secure the best use and to promote the maintenance and modernisation of the housing stock. It is desirable to get more reliable information on the structural condition of the housing stock and on such matters as the relationship between age and structural condition and between the lack of essential facilities and structural condition.

I have asked An Foras Forbartha to carry out a comprehensive sample survey of the stock with a view to providing the information that we lack at present and I expect this survey, combined with the statistical information about housing, culled from last year's census, to provide the basis for the formulation of a planned policy for the modernisation and maintenance of the stock—a policy which, undoubtedly, could affect our future approach to the reconstruction grants scheme. A provision of £10,000 has been included in subhead B of the Estimates for the survey.

In anticipation of any other developments which my review and the survey may show to be desirable, I decided some months ago to introduce a special grant for housing physically disabled persons. This new grant applies to work started on or after 1st February, 1972, where an extra room or other structural work is necessary for the proper accommodation of such a person in an existing house. Many Deputies will have come across cases where the building of an extra room or the provision of a bathroom and toilet facilities at ground floor level is essential for suitable living conditions for a physically disabled person and his family. The financial aids for such work have heretofore been inadequate but I hope that the new scheme will rectify that shortcoming. I have in mind that necessary works could include such structural adjustments as the provision of ramps, the widening of door opes, lowering of door handles, light switches, et cetera.

In the case of work on a non-vested local authority house or flat, a local authority may pay a grant of up to the approved cost of the work. In other cases, the authority may pay a grant of up to two-thirds of the cost of the work. My Department will recoup half of the cost incurred by the authority, subject to a recoupment limit of £400 in any case.

I am anxious that this new scheme of grants will be operated in a flexible manner and as liberally as possible. I hope that Deputies will help to promote it in their areas so that this deserving category of persons can get the type of housing accommodation they need.

I would like now to say a few words about the general administration of the grant system. While there has not as a rule been undue delay in dealing with grant applications, I realise that there has been some increase over the past few months in the average time taken to pay in individual cases. This has been due directly to the sharp upward trend in the numbers of grants being approved and paid. To improve the quality of the service provided, I secured the agreement of the Minister for Finance to the commissioning of a firm of consultants to advise on the introduction of a system of management known as "management by objectives" in the housing grants section of my Department. As a result of this exercise, the existing procedures for dealing with the approval and payment of most types of grant are being modified and generally streamlined. The changes are expected to yield a worthwhile reduction in the cost of administration and, at the same time, to enable grants to be approved and paid more quickly.

The amount provided in Subhead E. 1 of the Estimates for 1972-73 to subsidise the rents of local authority dwellings is £5,285,000. This compares with the original estimate of £5,192,000 for 1971-72. Loan charges on other forms of State assistance given in the past for the same purpose is costing a further £.4 million approximately.

Deputies will recall that a Supplementary Estimate brought before the House on 16th March last included a sum of £.7 million to meet arrears of subsidy liabilities which had accumulated from a more rapid submission and processing of claims for subsidy and from the expanded local authority programme of recent years. Because of this £.7 million payment in March last, the provision for housing subsidy this year is somewhat less than the aggregate amount provided last year.

In addition to the State subsidy, contributions this year from the rates to keep rents low will cost a further £6.2 million approximately. My policy is to ensure that these huge subsidies are distributed equitably on the basis of need and that no one has to be refused housing because of inability to pay rent. In pursuance of this policy, local authorities must let all new dwellings at differential rents. The rents range from a nominal minimum to the full cost of providing and maintaining the dwelling and—after certain allowances have been deducted—are generally equivalent to above one-seventh of the income of the family rehoused.

Income-related rents are generally accepted as the fairest way of assisting people who otherwise could not pay for housing. However, the year 1971-72 was marked by rent disputes in a small number of local authority areas and affecting a tiny fraction of all local tenants. The main demand of the tenants involved in the disputes was that rents should be assessed on the basic income of the tenant only and that overtime, bonus and shift payments and all other household income should be disregarded. Conceding these demands would lead to substantial increases in the already high subsidies paid by the general body of ratepayers and the purpose of the differential renting systems would be defeated inasmuch as the principle of ability to pay would be undermined and better-off tenants would benefit at the expense of poorer tenants and other ratepayers. Because of this, the demands have had to be resisted by the local authorities concerned. Following detailed discussions between representatives of the local authorities and the tenants concerned, the disputes were resolved in a number of areas and negotiations at local level are being pursued in the other areas concerned.

Tenants of local authority dwellings have the option of buying new private houses with the aid of loans from local authorities of up to 99 per cent of the price, subject to the maximum limit applicable to local authority house purchase loans. This concession applies even where the tenant's income exceeds the normal qualifying limit of £1,500 a year.

Local authorities may also provide houses for sale as distinct from letting. Such houses attract the full range of private housing aids. One local authority recently introduced a novel scheme whereby persons on their approved list were given the option, when being notified of the allocation of their house, of either renting it on a differential rent basis or buying it on a tenant purchase basis. The response so far has been most encouraging and I intend to let all local authorities have details of the scheme and to suggest that they consider the introduction of similar arrangements in their own areas.

In addition, many tenants are being given the option of buying their houses under the terms of sale schemes made by local authorities under section 90 of the Housing Act, 1966. This provides that a tenant can buy his house at the current market or replacement value, less a discount based on length of tenancy of up to 30 per cent in built-up areas and up to 45 per cent in other areas. Some 70 local authorities have already made schemes under the Act covering over 60,000 houses, or two-thirds of the total remaining stock of rented dwellings, and at the end of the year 1971-72 well over 10,000 tenants had purchased or were in the process of purchasing their houses.

A highly significant feature of housing in recent years has been the rapid expansion in the operations of building societies. In the mid-1960s, the societies were advancing about £6 million a year in loans for new and existing houses. In contrast, they lent an estimated total of £31 million last year. In the short space of three years, the number of loans approved annually by the societies rose from less than 4,000 to about 9,500 in 1971-72. For new houses alone, the societies have quadrupled the numbers of loans paid and it appears that they are now financing more than half of all the new private houses built in the Dublin area. One of the primary policy objectives set out in Housing in the Seventies was to encourage the flow of private capital to housing. The expansion which has since taken place in the societies' activities is, therefore, particularly welcome.

During the past year, I had discussions with the member societies of the Building Societies Association about the scope for extending arrangements for the guaranteeing by local authorities of loans made by the societies. This type of arrangement was first introduced in the Dublin area to enable building society and assurance company loans to be provided for persons who were purchasing houses provided on a package deal basis by the Dublin local authorities and it worked so well there that I decided to explore the scope for extending the scheme to other parts of the country and to other kinds of housing. With the agreement of the societies, I circularised all local authorities in January last asking them to make guarantee schemes on the lines of the scheme which had been drawn up for the Dublin area.

The guarantee arrangements can help to fill gaps which might otherwise exist in the range of available house purchase facilities. For example, they can enable persons who live in areas in which building societies or other commercial lending agencies do not normally operate to obtain house purchase loans; and they can also help other persons in the lower and middle income groups to obtain the bigger loans that they require but would not otherwise be qualified to obtain. The circular letter which I have sent to local authorities envisages that they may guarantee loans of up to 25 per cent above the maximum loan available from the local authority concerned.

Life insurance companies too have been an important source of housing finance in recent years. While it would not have been realistic to expect the assurance companies to expand their investment in housing at the rate achieved by the building societies, nevertheless it is a matter of some regret that the number of house purchase loans approved by the companies has been falling in the last few years—from 2,352 in 1969-70 to 1,740 in 1971-72. I know that these figures do not take account of direct investment in the building of flats by some individual companies or loans advanced by them to local authorities, some of which money promotes housing by facilitating land acquisition. At the same time I feel that there is scope for an increase in the companies' investment in house purchase loans to ensure, at a minimum, that the amount involved does not decline in the real terms.

A development over recent years which I have specially endeavoured to encourage has been the emergence of co-operative methods of providing houses for owner-occupation. Self-help housing can be an important means of mobilising skills and savings for housing and of stabilising the level of house prices by achieving better organisation of demand. Experience in other countries shows clearly that co-operative housing can make a significant contribution to national housing output by getting people to take the initiative in solving their own housing problems.

Up to now, there have been about 50 co-operative groups in operation throughout the country and the number of houses which they have built or are building comes to about 900. These figures may not, at first sight, appear significant but, related to the short time over which the movement has been developing, they indicate the potential which co-operative housing has and which, given the necessary encouragement and assistance, it can realise more fully in the future.

I have been anxious to see that co-operative groups are facilitated as much as possible and I have advised local authorities on a few occasions of possible ways in which they can assist. These specific suggestions are, as far as I am aware, being implemented by local authorities generally. The most important requirement at this stage, however, is for a genuinely positive and helpful attitude by individual authorities to the problems and difficulties that co-operative groups for one reason or another tend to encounter.

The costs of the elements that go into the building of a house have increased rapidly and it would be unrealistic in these circumstances to expect prices to remain stable. For, example, labour costs rose by about 50 per cent between March, 1968, and March, 1971: materials prices also rose in the same period though not by as large a percentage as wages. Site costs too have risen. In the ultimate, of course, price stability on a sound basis depends on the building of enough houses to bring supply and demand into better balance and it is in this way I would aim to achieve stability.

The Committee on Building Land Prices which I established in January, 1971, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Kenny, to examine all aspects of the problem of building land prices met on several occasions during the past year and I understand that they have received submissions from several bodies and individuals on matters coming within the scope of their terms of reference. I expect to receive the committee's report in the autumn, and I hope that the report will point the way to some reasonable and workable solution to this most difficult problem.

Measures for the encouragement of greater efficiency in the building industry are continuing. These include the conversion of the industry to the metric system, modular co-ordination, rationalisation of building components, the preparation of new building regulations and the technical assistance grants scheme. There has been steady progress towards the realisation of the programme for the changeover to metric. The value of constructional work designed in metric is now some £62 million in the public sector and £27 million in the private sector.

An Foras Forbartha, in conjunction with my Department, continues to work on the steps necessary for the implementation of a modular programme for the standardisation of dimensions in building. An Foras has issued a series of 15 draft modular guides to keep the industry informed of developments and to enable it to comment on the proposed code. Comments received are at present under consideration by An Foras, which is also pressing ahead with work on the rationalisation of the design of individual building components.

The preparation in a form suitable for administration purposes of a draft set of building regulations based upon the technical specifications and recommendations prepared by the working party of An Foras Forbartha is proceeding in my Department. The final draft will be advertised for public comment and comments received will be considered before the regulations are made. Owing to the complex nature of the building controls involved, it is likely to be some time yet before the final draft is issued for public comment.

The technical assistance grants scheme provides for grants towards attendances at training courses by managerial, supervisory or technical personnel engaged in the building industry as well as by certain trade union officials and representatives. Grants are also available for visits abroad by representatives of management and labour to study specific aspects of the industry and for the engagement of consultants to provide advice on matters directed to the improvement of efficiency. The amount paid by way of these grants last year was £20,000 and £25,000 has been provided this year in subhead L for the purpose.

Entry to the EEC will have certain implications for local authorities and for the building industry. A Community directive deals with the co-ordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts. This directive provides that all public works contracts valued at over $1,000,000 must be advertised in the Official Journal of the Communities and tenders invited from all qualified persons, irrespective of nationality.

It has been ascertained that water schemes do not come within the scope of this directive and that a special contract award procedure may be applied in the case of housing under the guaranteed order project. The implications of this directive, the extent of its application and the procedural changes that may be necessary are being studied by this Department in conjunction with other Departments concerned with public works contracts. The housing construction section of the Department is co-ordinating this study and will consult local authorities in the matter in due course. A period of six months from the date of accession has been allowed in order to make the necessary procedural adjustments.

The council has set up a consultative committee for public works contracts, the function of which is to supervise the implementation of directives on public works contracts and to investigate complaints of non-compliance. Member states appoint one regular member and one deputy member to this committee. Ireland will have a representative on the committee.

I now come to a group of subjects which should be looked at together. I refer to the work done by the planning, sanitary services and environment services sections of my Department, now grouped in an environment division.

While the activities of my Department generally and of bodies such as An Foras Forbartha and the National Building Agency are related to assisting, guiding and stimulating the local authorities in their overall task of developing to the full the potential of their areas, the environment division is specially concerned with this aspect. The sanitary services are the immediate key to development, including development for housing and industry. It is the function of planning to facilitate this development and, indeed, to foster it. By development we mean not merely economic advancement, but a concurrent improvement in the quality of life. The two processes are interrelated.

The better its environment, the more attractive a place becomes for industry and for tourism. Growing economic standards mean more income, more leisure, and so a demand for better conditions in which to live and work. The quality of the environment can be both preserved and enhanced. Preservation, or rather conservation of our national heritage, thus acquires a double value. At the same time, we should be providing throughout the country better facilities for community activity and for leisure activities. I shall deal in more detail with the various services and schemes which my Department operates to these ends, but I should make it clear that the role of my Department is basically a support role for the local authorities.

We are fortunate in having a comprehensive system of local planning and development, which enables the planning authorities to take a full view of the potential and needs of their areas and to take all considerations, including economic, social and environmental ones, into account, in framing their development plans. They have a specific obligation under the Planning and Development Act to preserve and extend the amenities of their areas. Many other interests are also concerned in preserving and improving amenities such as Bord Fáilte through their resort development schemes and Tidy Towns competitions, the Industrial Development Authority through its policy of promoting a high standard of factory design and landscaping, voluntary bodies such as An Taisce, and the many excellent local development groups who are contributing in no small way to developing a concern for a better environment.

I dealt in some detail in presenting last year's Estimates with the subject of regional planning and described the work of the regional development organisations and the Regional Development Committee. This work took on a fresh urgency during the year with the progress of the EEC negotiations and the desire of the Government to formulate an overall regional strategy. All regional organisations completed their reports and presented them to my Department in connection with the review of regional planning policy carried out with the aid of the Regional Development Committee. I believe that the regional examination of the social and economic problems of the nine planning regions and the analysis of development potential was an extremely valuable exercise. The reports drew up broad aims for each of the regions and set out population objectives designed to reduce emigration and to stabilise or increase the population in the various regions. The reports, too, supplied valuable information on infrastructural facilities such as roads, housing, communications, and availability of land for development. The report on the mid-west region, comprising Counties Limerick, Clare, Tipperary (NR), took on the special form of a land use and transportation study which compared the implications of different development strategies. I take the opportunity at this point to pay tribute to the regional organisations for the work they have done. Their role as an advisory and co-ordinating body is still evolving but they have shown that it can be a useful one and it is my intention that they should continue to receive assistance and advice from my Department.

The inter-Department Regional Development Committee reported to me its conclusions as a result of the review of regional policy it was requested to carry out. This review included consideration of the regional reports I have referred to and other relevant material, including the regional industrial plans for the period 1973-1977 prepared by the Industrial Development Authority. The Government have considered the whole question of regional policy and, as indicated in the recent statement issued by the Government Information Bureau, have decided to adopt an overall regional strategy as the basis for action over the next 20 years or so.

The strategy is designed, not merely to seek the attainment of required national growth rates, but also to provide for the maximum spread of development, through all regions, giving an increased and wider range of economic and social opportunities and so minimising population dislocation. It provides for the development of Dublin to accommodate the natural increase of its existing population and for expansion at Cork, Limerick-Shannon-Ennis and other named centres, and the development of other large towns of strategic importance in each region, including relatively large expansion of towns in areas remote from existing major towns. It also envisages substantial growth in other towns generally and, of course, provides for the continuation of special measures for the development of the Gaeltacht. So as to provide guidance for physical planning programmes and infrastructure, population ranges for the larger cities and towns have been indicated in the strategy.

These projections do not constitute targets as such for town sizes but indicate the potential scale of development within which planning can proceed. The strategy must be flexible in time and detail as the rate of implementation will depend on the resources available at any particular time—including such aids as may be available to us after accession to the EEC from the European Investment Bank and other Community sources. Progress will accordingly have to be reviewed periodically and adjustments made if circumstances so require but, in the light of the strategy, the public capital programme and Departmental policies can be co-ordinated and phased so as to get the best results.

The implementation of the new strategy will place special responsibilities on the local authorities. Local development plans will be the main instrument for the implementation at local authority level. This points up the necessity for good realistic local plans which take cognisance of the potential of their areas. Regional organisations which have performed well in their first assignment will have the job at regional level of co-ordinating local endeavours. In this they will work in close liaison with the Industrial Development Authority and other agencies.

The distribution of public capital to services such as water and sewerage and other infrastructure will demand careful consideration by my Department and the local authorities. The final responsibility for the co-ordination of local development plans and objectives falls on my Department and this role gains new importance with the formulation of the overall strategy. The evolution of regional policy measures in the EEC will also require careful attention.

Only a couple of planning authorities had not completed the formal making of statutory development plans under the Planning and Development Act before the end of the year. Progress on these indicates that this will be done during this year. Indeed, in most areas the five year statutory review of the first development plans is now under way. This entails, for each planning authority involved, an examination of the operation of the provisions of their plan in the light of any changed circumstances, the availability of up-to-date studies on planning problems affecting the objectives and in the light of their practical experience of the implementation of the plan. The procedure for making variations in development plans is generally similar to the making of the plan. Advice on this procedure was issued by my Department during the year to facilitate planning authorities.

Returns from planning authorities in respect of the number of applications for planning permissions for new development received and dealt with by them in the year ended 31st March, 1972, are not yet complete; the returns so far received, however, indicate that the upward trend in the volume of applications has continued and it is estimated that the total number of new proposals received by the planning authorities in that year was in the region of 32,000, compared with just over 29,500 in 1970-71. It is estimated that the number of applications refused in the year 1971-72 was about 4,500 compared with about 3,900 in the previous year. The heaviest concentration of applications and refusals continued to be in areas where development pressures are at their greatest. An increase in the number of applications to planning authorities and in the number of refusals by them appears to be automatically accompanied by an increase in the number of appeals received by me. In 1971-72, a total of 2,779 new appeals was received, compared with 2,491 appeals in 1970-71 and 2,279 in 1969-70.

Despite the increase in the intake of appeals in 1971-72, however, I am glad to say that the overall appeals position improved during the year because of the more rapid clearance of appeals. Although 2,779 new appeals were received, a total of 3,190 appeals were disposed of, so that the number of appeals on hands was reduced from 1,956 on 1st April, 1971, to 1,545 on 31st March, 1972. This welcome reduction was achieved by the clearance of 841 more appeals in the year 1971-72 than in the preceding year and over 1,400 more than the clearance rate achieved in 1969-70. The position about oral hearings of appeals has also improved substantially; requests for oral hearings received during the year totalled 508, but the number of hearings disposed of increased to 625, and the number of requests for oral hearings on hands was reduced from 313 at the beginning of the year to 196 at the end of it.

I am gratified to be able to record this improvement in the appeals position and I hope it will be possible to maintain it and to reduce the time taken to deal with individual appeals to the irreducible minimum. Deputies will recall that measures designed to change the appeals system are contained in the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, 1969, which is still on the Order Paper. As I have already informed the House, the Parliamentary Secretary and I have been examining this Bill in the light of our experience in dealing with appeals and I hope to bring my proposals before the Government shortly.

A sum of £2,074,000 is being provided this year as State contributions to loan charges incurred by local authorities on sanitary services works. This is an increase of £291,325 over the subsidy paid in 1971-72. In addition, a sum of £210,000 is being provided to recoup county councils the amounts of supplementary grants paid by them in respect of domestic water supply installations to farmers who would have been eligible under the scheme of domestic grants formerly operated by the Department of Agriculture.

I am glad to be able to inform the House that the capital provided by the public capital programme for the financing of water and sewerage schemes in 1972-73 again shows an increase on that provided in the previous year. This annual increase in the capital provision for sanitary services, which has been a feature of the programmes since 1966-67, is, I feel, sufficient evidence of my awareness of the importance of the programme and my anxiety to ensure that its pace will continue at a level which will ensure that all essential needs will be met as early as practicable. Adequate water and sewerage services are vital parts of the infrastructure necessary for economic expansion. Without them the industrial, agricultural, tourist and housing programmes would be seriously impeded. It is therefore my policy to provide water and sewerage systems in all areas sufficient to enable each area to develop to its maximum. At the same time, it must be recognised that, having regard to all the competing demands on available capital resources, it would not be possible to provide unlimited capital for sanitary services in any year. It is, therefore, essential, that local authorities who have not done so should place the water and sewerage projects which they have in planning in an order of priority so that the most urgent will have first call on available capital.

Again, since the water and sewerage needs of any area are not static it is desirable that local authorities review their priority lists from time to time and make any adjustments which local developments may call for. In this regard, local authorities will no doubt take account of the regional industrial plans, 1973-1977, recently announced by the Industrial Development Authority. I may say that the great majority of local authorities are co-operating with my Department in this matter, and I would ask the few who are not to come into line. I can assure local authorities that they can continue to plan their priority works in the full knowledge that money will be available to pay for their construction in due course. Overall, of course, my Department and the local authorities will have to be guided by the Government's regional strategy in framing longer term programmes.

The amount of capital originally available for the financing of the sanitary services programmes in 1971-72 was £5.35 million. I am glad to say that in November last, in view of the good progress that was being made with the programmes including the completion of the planning of a number of major priority schemes, I decided, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, to allocate a further £.9 million to the programmes making the total capital provision for 1971-72 £6.25 million.

The programmes got a further substantial boost in January last when the Government decided to make additional capital available for their financing in 1972-73. The amount allocated for this year is £6.64 million. Since 31st March, 1968, approximately £30 million worth of priority water and sewerage schemes were released for commencement. It is estimated that as at the 31st March, 1972, works to the value of £17 million were still in construction or had been released for early commencement. In my opinion this must be regarded as substantial progress. I am well aware at the same time that much remains to be done and that it is of prime importance that we continue to press ahead with the programmes to the stage that all areas will be provided with a proper standard of services.

In the Dublin area considerable progress has been made with the two major schemes which are being provided to ensure that sufficient serviced land will be available to meet all needs:

(a) The Dodder Valley sewer which will provide some 6,300 acres of serviced land in the Tallaght and adjoining areas is now coming within sight of completion. Two of the four contracts into which the main trunk sewer is divided and which will take the sewage from Tallaght to a new treatment works which will be built at the Pigeon House, have been completed; the third is nearing completion and work has started on the final section.

(b) The Greater Dublin drainage scheme is designed to service some 11,000 acres of new land in the Blanchardstown, Clonsilla, Clondalkin, Lucan, Palmerstown and adjoining areas. Here again considerable progress has been made. One of the key sections of the scheme is the tunnel section which will run from Herberton Bridge to Maquay Bridge. I have recently approved the proposal of the corporation to accept a tender for the construction of this section. The cost of the section will be in the region of £4 million. The total cost of the Greater Dublin drainage scheme is currently estimated at about £6 million.

(c) Apart from providing such a large bank of additional serviced land in the Dublin area these two schemes will make a major contribution towards the elimination of pollution in several Dublin rivers, namely the Liffey, Dodder and Camac. A further major project which is closely associated with these schemes is the scheme for the provision of new treatment works at Ringsend where the flows from both the sewers mentioned will ultimately be treated in a modern treatment works. Tenders for the construction of the first major stage of the treatment works have already been invited by the corporation. This section alone is estimated to cost about £2.2 million.

The planning of the remaining section of the overall treatment works scheme is proceeding. The total cost of the new treatment works is estimated at £5.5 million. The construction of these three projects and of the other lesser schemes which are also in construction or advanced planning in the Dublin area will undoubtedly result in a rapid and significant improvement in the condition of Dublin Bay and the rivers mentioned.

(d) The provision of extra water to meet the industrial and domestic needs of the newly developed areas is, of course, as important as the provision of sewers. Since 1960 the Dublin County Council has had in construction different contracts of an overall water improvement scheme designed to give an adequate supply of piped water to all areas in the county. All the main sections of this scheme are now almost complete and the total cost will be approximately £2.3 million. Further water supply schemes are in construction or in planning by the corporation and the county council to ensure that the water supply in the Dublin area will be adequate to meet all needs. These schemes are, in total, designed to increase the supply for the area from 47 million gallons per day to 76 million gallons per day and will cost an estimated £5.5 million.

In the Cork area several major sewerage schemes to service new land have also been undertaken. Schemes completed since 1966 or in progress will provide 10,000 new sites in the city area and about 21,000 sites in the county area adjoining the city. These works are costing £1 million. A major water supply scheme which is designed to meet the needs of the Little Island area was approved during the year and tenders have now been received for this work. The planning of a further major water scheme which will ensure an adequate supply for the city and environs to meet all foreseeable industrial and housing needs is continuing.

In Waterford city a new dam has been built which will impound 274 million gallons of water and provide for a daily draw off of 2¼ million gallons. This project together with ancillary works cost approximately £900,000. It will ensure that the water needs of the city are secured for very many years ahead. A main drainage scheme to provide the city with an up-to-date sewerage system is being planned.

In Limerick city the first section of a major scheme to augment the city's water supply is in construction and further sections are being planned. The cost of these works will be approximately £1.4m.

In other major urban areas such as Galway, Sligo, Dundalk, Drogheda and Athlone substantial schemes have been approved since 1968. Many of these have now been provided and are helping to ensure that water supply and sewerage facilities will be available to enable them to develop to their maximum potential. In many other towns, big and small, schemes have also been provided or are in the course of construction. However, I fully realise that in many of these areas what has been done to date represents only a first instalment and that much more remains to be accomplished. It will be my concern to continue with these programmes as rapidly as practicable.

While the emphasis in the programme continues to be on the provision of services in built-up areas, with special regard to the needs of areas where rapid development is creating unprecedented pressures on existing water and sewerage systems, the needs of rural areas are not being neglected. A number of the schemes approved during the year were designed specially to provide sources for group scheme development.

Over the past ten years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of water and sewerage grants paid by my Department. In 1961-62, 2,030 grants were paid. Last year, the number paid was 12,594. Taking last year's figure, water was installed in 11,207 houses and sewerage in 4,790 houses with the aid of grants from my Department.

Last year, I approved proposals for providing headworks and trunk mains in a number of public water supply schemes and also proposals for augmenting such schemes with the intention that group schemes will infill many of the adjoining areas. The volume of this type of activity has continued to increase steadily and schemes catering for 200-300 houses and many miles of pipeline are replacing the smaller projects of the past. There is still much valuable work to be done by the small genuinely localised groups. In the last few years, however, the cost of group schemes rose considerably due to the fact that areas of low density housing are now being catered for, and schemes in many western areas are expensive because of difficult terrain. Because of these rising costs, I increased the maximum combined grants from my Department and the local authority from £120 to £200 per house, where group schemes started on or after 1st February, 1972.

Of the 11,207 houses in which water supplies were installed with the aid of grants last year 5,391 were served by group schemes. This compares with 3,768 grants for group schemes paid in 1970-71. Up to the 31st March last, 748 schemes, catering for 8,766 houses were completed and there were 1,811 proposals at other stages.

In group schemes, we have a very good example of local community efforts integrating with the plan and programmes of local authorities. The organisers of these schemes are making a significant and positive contribution to solving the needs of their areas, and at the same time, co-operating closely with the local authority in this activity. I am only too well aware of the trials and tribulations of organisers of group schemes and am pleased to take this opportunity of thanking them for their dedication and self-sacrificing work. I would also like to pay a tribute to the close co-operation received from local authorities at all times and in particular to those who have, with my approval, appointed or are in process of appointing staff to assist groups by designing schemes at a nominal charge and by supervising work in progress.

Public interest in conservation and pollution is growing rapidly. This is a world wide phenomenon. There is concern everywhere about the impact of economic development on the environment. In this connection I attended as head of the Irish delegation at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm between 5th and 16th June. The conference was designed to focus world attention on the urgency of environmental problems, to provide guidelines for national action and to consider arrangements for more effective international action in the case of environmental problems which are of wider concern.

The conference was concerned in the first instance with environmental problems of an international character. The conference considered these problems under a number of heads, including urban settlements, natural resources, pollutants of special international concern, educational and social aspects and the connection between the environment and the development process.

The conference adopted over 100 recommendations for international action in these matters, including recommendations for the setting up of a global system for monitoring pollution and for research and exchange of information, particularly in regard to national activities which could affect the environment of other countries. It is envisaged that these recommendations will constitute an action plan for the future. Agreement was reached on the establishment within the UN of a governing council for environmental programmes to promote international co-operation and to provide policy guidance on UN environmental programmes.

It was also recommended that a voluntary fund should be set up to provide additional financing for appropriate programmes, especially those of regional or global interest. Those recommendations of the conference will fall to be considered in due course by the General Assembly of the UN. An aspect of special interest to the Irish delegation was the close consideration given by the conference to the problems of marine pollution. As I informed the conference it is the intention that Ireland should sign and ratify the Oslo Convention controlling dumping in portion of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The conference urged the use of conventions of this kind and that further work towards international agreements on the prevention of ocean pollution, which is at present in progress and to which this country is a party, should be pressed ahead urgently.

The conference also made many recommendations to Governments under the various headings which I have described above. These will be considered and any appropriate action taken. I can say that the formal and informal discussions which the delegation had with delegates from other countries have served to confirm that our environmental problems here are comparatively limited and that our approach to dealing with them in such areas as regional and physical, including amenity, planning and resource management stand well in comparison with what is being done elsewhere.

On the other hand, I am more than ever convinced of the importance of maintaining our environmental programme, and in some respects of strengthening it as development accelerates, if we are to avoid serious adverse side effects in the course of national economic expansion. This applies particularly to water pollution and underlines the importance of the work undertaken by the interdepart-mental working group on air and water pollution which I refer to later. This group was represented in the delegation.

I may also mention that we are keeping ourselves fully informed on developments in relation to environmental policy at the EEC. Here, I may say how important it is that any new international standards that may be adopted should take account of the development needs of the less industrialised countries, and of the relatively unpolluted conditions of their natural resources. If the development process, or rather the manner in which development has been pursued, has led to great environmental problems in some countries, we must remember that it is to the same process basically that we must look for resources not alone to increase employment and exports but also to deal with our own environmental problems and to make the heavy financial investments that will be needed to preserve high environmental standards in the future. We must ensure that we do not suffer the deterioration in quality that the more industrialised countries have suffered, but we must not take so un-balanced a view as to inhibit the development of our economy.

Under the planning code, the local authorities can ensure that development is such and has such safeguards attached to it that it adds to rather than detracts from the environment. They themselves are responsible for much development and in their activities, such as housing, roads and sanitary services, local authorities should bear fully in mind their responsibility to future generations as well as the present.

As Minister, my immediate concern is to see what is necessary to deal with the pollution we have and to provide for the greater pressures that must be expected as national development accelerates.

It was in this context that I set up the inter-departmental working group on air and water pollution, with representatives of the Departments mainly concerned with those problems. This group was asked to report on the nature and extent of the air and water pollution problems; on the different approaches that might be made to remedying these problems; on the costs associated with these approaches and how the costs might be shared between the parties concerned; and on the need for reviewing or strengthening existing legislation. I have recently received a progress report from the working group and an undertaking to let me have an interim report, dealing with the water pollution aspects, in the near future.

The inter-departmental group has had to collect a great deal of information before they could begin to come to conclusions. In the past much of the discussion about water pollution has been on a subjective basis and it was necessary to try to establish the real facts. A number of special studies and surveys were undertaken. These include a survey of local authority sewage systems which will help to identify those which are causing trouble. Another survey is being made of polluting industries and of the way in which planning conditions which are imposed with the aim of preventing water pollution work out in practice.

I refer elsewhere to the Foras Forbartha national survey of rivers, a report which was published recently. The report covers the main water systems in the country—121 rivers to a total length of nearly 3,000 kilometres. Seven hundred and sixty-five sampling stations were used for chemical and biological examination of the condition of the rivers. The report gives us for the first time a clear picture of the problem we are up against. The basic facts are simple— about 7 per cent of the total length of rivers surveyed are seriously polluted; about 10 per cent give cause for concern; the rest—over 80 per cent— are free of significant pollution. These figures relate, of course, to the surveved rivers. The percentage of the total length of main river channel seriously polluted would be much less than 7 per cent.

It is clear there has been some grossly exaggerated, and alarmist, talk about the extent of water pollution in our rivers. That is not to suggest that I am satisfied with the position indicated by the report. I am not satisfied: indeed. I would not be satisfied to think that pollution existed on any stretch of river. It will be my concern, therefore, to work towards eliminating pollution where it exists, as well as ensuring that we are properly equipped to deal with future problems.

I gave the House a fairly full account of the various steps which are being taken to control and improve the position in regard to water pollution, pending completion of the current review of organisational and legislative arrangements, in the debate in Private Members' Time on the Waters Preservation Bill, 1972, on the 18th April. Here I will confine myself to a brief reference to these matters again, while emphasising that the whole position will be re-examined in the light of the working group's report.

In the case of existing water pollution problems, I have urged that local authorities will make full use of their existing powers. These include their powers under the Planning and Development Act to enforce conditions attached to planning permissions, and powers under older legislation in other cases. The question of extending the existing powers under the Planning and Development Act, which are on the whole more effective than the older powers, is being examined.

In regard to new development, planning permission is required for all significant development and conditions, including conditions to avoid water pollution, may be attached to such permission, and are enforceable in law.

Some of the most difficult water pollution problems, and potential problems, relate to agricultural activities. These include the use of modern fertilisers, silage making and, most of all, the effect of certain intensive agricultural operations such as large scale piggeries and poultry units which can, without safeguards, create exceptional pollution problems. The arrangement by which intensive agricultural units of this kind are exempted from planning control is at present being examined; it may be time to extend planning control to at least the large projects of this kind. I have also advised local planning authorities, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, of a new approach to enlisting the co-operation of the farming community generally in measures to prevent water pollution, in their own interests as well as the interests of the community generally. The idea is that full use should be made of the agriculture advisory services to get abuses remedied by agreed action.

This is likely to be more effective towards abating pollution than crude compulsion in cases where it is difficult to prove an offence or where the offender may not realise the consequences of what he is doing. Of course, where persuasion does not work, the powers of compulsion can and should be used. I am hopeful that this initiative, and the projected amendment of the exempted development regulations will go a long way towards reducing water pollution from agriculture, but here, again, the position will be further examined more comprehensively as part of the general review of arrangements which is in hands and which I have already described.

The working group, to which I have referred, is also looking into the air pollution problem, and they will report on this separately and as soon as possible. In the meantime I am ensuring that a constant check will be kept on the level of air pollution, particularly in the larger urban areas. Certain interim measures are being taken to deal with particular problems.

With regard to monitoring of air pollution, measurements are taken at recording stations in six of the larger urban areas. It is my intention to increase the number and coverage of monitoring stations and I have requested sanitary authorities to arrange, in consultation with my Department, for the setting up of more adequate monitoring arrangements in towns with populations over 15,000. Arrangements with the local authorities in the Dublin area are nearing completion for the setting up of additional measuring instruments in suitable locations in the city and adjoining areas. Similar arrangements are also under way in some of the other larger urban areas, including Cork. I intend that the extended monitoring programme will become operative in these areas with the minimum delay.

The responsibility for introducing arrangements for the clearance of oil pollution has been assigned to my Department and steps are in hands to make both interim and longer term arrangements to deal with this problem. Basically, the local authorities concerned will be responsible at local level. I have already asked them to make whatever arrangements they can as an immediate step. I expect to be in touch with them again in the near future with advice on arrangements and organisation and on the preparation of a contingency plan. The question of legislation to give expression to the local authority responsibility will be considered but I do not regard this as an immediate priority. Powers exist in the nuisance provisions of the sanitary services code and under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963, to enable local authorities to deal with oil pollution in their areas. I will expect all local authorities concerned to make reasonable arrangements to put themselves in a position to deal with this new problem having regard, in particular, to their general concern as planning authorities to ensure the preservation and development of amenities.

Arrangements for dealing with oil pollution at sea where coasts are threatened present special difficulties and will call for the co-operation and assistance of a number of agencies. Inter-departmental discussions have already taken place and I envisage the setting up of a standing liaison committee to organise the framing and running of a system which will enable us to make the best possible use of the resources available in dealing with oil slicks or spillages at sea which pose a threat to our coasts. In view of the urgency of the matter I have asked that these arrangements be pressed forward as quickly as possible.

There is provision in subhead G for a new scheme of amenity grants. The provision is £300,000, compared with one of £120,500 for 1971-72 for the old scheme of amenity and derelict site grants.

In reshaping the old scheme, I have aimed at concerntrating the funds on the works of more positive value to the community. I have notified the grant allocations to the various local authorities. Taking account of commitments on last year's schemes and of the fact that the local authorities having more independent action under the new scheme, are likely to spend all or the greater part of their allocation in the financial year, I have allocated in all approximately £250,000, which with local contributions will give a volume of expenditure of about £500,000 on new schemes.

The volume of applications for grants both from local authorities and voluntary organisations has been very substantial and covers a wide range of projects. With so many schemes seeking to share in the allocations permissible under the grants provision it is clear that a selectivity policy is essential. I have examined lists of the schemes submitted from each area and I believe that the best value can be got from the grants by giving priority to schemes which provides leisure and recreational facilities and promote community activities. There are pressing social arguments for encouraging projects which will give people, particularly younger people, an opportunity to develop leisure interests. This is relevant to rural areas as cogently as to larger centres of population. Prominent in this respect are certain schemes of the type I have noted amongst those submitted for grants—community centres, pitch and put courses, basket-ball courts, tennis courts, equipped playgrounds and playing pitches of various types and schemes designed to facilitate boating and other water-sports.

Accordingly, in making allocations for 1972-73 to local authorities who have submitted accepatable proposals for amenity grants, I have asked that preference should be given to schemes designed to promote leisure activities and develop community interest. There is a very considerable devolution of responsibility to the local authorities for the selection, design and execution of the schemes. I trust that they will justify the responsibility I am placing in them, show sense in their judgement, taste in design and efficiency in execution. In this way they will confirm the case for more and more devolution to them.

My Department's swimming pool programme is a further important element in this policy of improving the quality of life in our community which must go hand in hand with economic development.

A swimming pool is an amenity, in my view a very special kind, for which separate financial arrangements are available. The programme for the provision of pools continues at a reasonably satisfactory pace and definite progress has been made throughout the country, especially in built-up areas.

Since 1967, 45 local authority and local authority-assisted pool projects have been approved. Thirty-five of these were approved since June, 1970. Sixteen of the 45 are in use, ten are under construction and the remaining 19 are at various stages of planning. At least three of the ten under construction are expected to be opened this year, during which work will commence on other pools. Of major interest is that tenders for three new pools for Dublin city, at Ballyfermot, Ballymun and Finglas, were approved last March. Thus in about two years the corporation will have six modern pools.

A review is being undertaken to see to what extent further proposals can be approved, in the light of the available capital for which, needless, to say, there are pressing demands for a number of services.

A new guideline specification for swimming pools has been prepared and circulated to local authorities. The specification is available free of charge to any persons or bodies interested and there has been a good demand for copies.

As I have said, I regard a swimming pool as a very special kind of amenity. For young people it gives the opportunity to learn how to manage themselves in water and opens up to them a new kind of enjoyable experience. Because of it some of them will eventually save themselves or others from death through drowning. But one does not have to be a youngster to enjoy swimming and a pool provides opportunities for enjoyment for all ages. It also provides a focal point for healthy social and recreational activity of a kind which is sadly lacking in many towns. It is my intention that the swimming pool programme will be pushed forward as quickly as possible within the financial constraints that have to be observed, and, indeed, that the programme should be gradually expanded as additional resources become available.

I am very pleased with the progress achieved by the Irish Water Safety Association—An Comhlachas Snámha is Tarrthála—which I set up in April, 1971, to teach basic swimming and life-saving in all parts of the country. The assocation also trains water safety instructors, awards certificates and badges and promotes water safety publicity.

County committees of the association, on which local water safety and swimming interests and sanitary authorities are represented, have been set up in each county to plan and implement local programmes of instruction.

During the summer of last year over 200 classes of instruction in basic swimming and life-saving were held throughout the country as a result of which over 2,000 persons qualified for life-saving awards and over 4,000 received instruction in basic swimming. Senior and junior life-saving championships were held at county, regional and national level.

The association prepared a memorandum for guidance of sanitary authorities in regard to water safety measures and also arranged for the testing of about 100 applicants for posts as beachguards.

During last winter the association held 60 classes at various venues throughout the country at which more than 500 persons qualified for life-saving awards. The increased number of heated indoor pools made these classes possible. In pursuance of the policy of making swimming and life-saving instruction available in all parts of the country, the association provided subsidised transport on a limited scale from outlying areas to places which have pools.

To cope with the huge demand for instruction, residential courses for 70 potential instructors were held. There are now 150 instructors and 40 examiners giving voluntary services. I should like to stress the fact that the association is an entirely voluntary organisation and the enthusiasm and dedication of all its instructors, examiners and members is most heartening.

The association provides films on swimming and water safety free of charge to county committees and film shows and demonstrations of artificial respiration are given to organised groups.

The association is financed by contributions from sanitary authorities, its own fund-raising activities and a grant from my Department. During the year ended last March sanitary authorities contributed £6,685, the association collected £3,421 through its fund-raising activities and my Department made a grant of £10,000. The figure for contributions from sanitary authorities includes very generous contributions from a number of them and I trust that all sanitary authorities will continue or increase their support of the association. There is provision in this year's Estimate for a grant of £15,000 from my Department.

The loss of life and the destruction of property resulting from fire must be a cause of deep concern to everybody. No doubt, these losses would be many times greater but for the splendid work being done by fire brigades to preserve life and property, for which the country owes them a huge debt of gratitude.

Recent tragedies have highlighted the necessity of ensuring that the fire service is itself adequately geared to minimising loss when fire does occur and that everyone, factory and business managers and staffs and householders, should be fully aware of the all too common fire hazards and of the simple precautions which it is imperative to take to prevent them.

The fire service is provided and maintained by local authorities pursuant to the Fire Brigades Act, 1940 and is organised on a county and county borough basis with most urban brigades merged into the county organisation. The growing awareness by these authorities of the importance of the service can be gauged from the fact that the amount of money provided from their resources towards the operation of the service has increased fourfold in the last decade. In addition, much progress has been made in the erection of new fire stations and the acquistion of modern fire-fighting equipment to help bring local brigades up to desirable standards. The capital cost of the provision of stations and equipment amounted to approximately £1 million in the past ten years. While there are some gaps yet to be filled, I am satisfied that for most areas the stage is being reached where premises and equipment are up to reasonable standards.

In order to derive the maximum benefit from this modern and expensive equipment and to ensure that the training of fire brigade personnel would be brought to a high uniform standard throughout the country, my Department has stepped up the training programme initiated some years ago and this coupled with the instructional films which have been made available to local authorities for training purposes should go a long way towards achieving the goal of a highly efficient and fully operational service.

The building up of an adequate fire prevention system—to stop the fires before they start—is a matter of immediate concern to me. The out-break and spread of fire in buildings and particularly the risk to life and property can be appreciably lessened by ensuring that adequate structural fire precautions and the provision of proper means of escape are incorporated in buildings at the planning stage. As I have already said, a new code of building regulations is being drafted and these will cover the fire aspect. It will be some time yet before these complex regulations are finalised. In the meantime fire protection standards, recommended by my Department, are widely used by fire officers.

The expense of establishing effective fire prevention machinery, supported at national level by educational and publicity campaigns, would be repaid many times over by reduced fire losses. The first priority in building up such machinery is the extension of the fire prevention activities of local fire brigades. This is being actively pursued by my Department whose objective is to make arrangements at an early date towards securing that every brigade will have improved preventive services. The proposals include the establishment of a special training course in fire preventions techniques and allied technical subjects and the selection of suitable fire brigade personnel to undergo this training course.

The position of the fire service in the general Local Government structure is also being examined in the context of the proposals contained in the While Paper on Local Government Reorganisation and of the recommendations of the McKinsey group. The McKinsey consultants, at my request, gave special attention in their examination of the staffing and grading of local authorities to the position of the fire service. In order to speed up the examination of the McKinsey recommendations consultations have been held by my Department with the managers and the staff representatives involved and it is proposed to set up a working party which will consider the McKinsey report and examine also the question of co-ordination of the various interests in regard to fire prevention and legislation.

Elsewhere in my speech I refer to various activities of An Foras Forbartha. Here I wish to make a more general reference to it. There is provision under subhead I for a grant-in-aid of £281,750 to An Foras. This grant-in-aid relates to the activities of An Foras in urban and regional planning, environmental planning and conservation, building and construction and water resources. An Foras also receives a grant from the Road Fund as the national centre for road research.

An Foras Forbartha is now entirely financed from Irish funds, the initial assistance from the United Nations valued in all at $750,000 having ended during the last financial year. I should like, again, to thank the United Nations for this valuable aid. The establishment of a national environmental research institute has put us in a position to cope with the many pressing environmental research needs of a growing economy and population. Other countries are now increasingly beginning to realise the need for environmental research to improve the quality of life; we are fortunate that we took timely steps in this regard.

An Foras is mainly concerned with applied research to solve key issues in public environmental policy. It is now increasingly accepted that the main objective of public investment in research should be to serve the research needs of public policy. Much of the work undertaken by An Foras has followed requests from me in respect of issues arising in the operations of my Department which require independent research by specialists.

For instance, An Foras has undertaken from the outset major research projects to assist the development of regional planning policy. The Buchanan report was part of the work done under the arrangements with the United Nations. In the past year, An Foras completed and published planning reports on the Cork sub-region, on the Connemara Gaeltacht and on the Gaeltacht areas generally. These three studies have provided the necessary valuable information and proposals on which planning policy decisions in relation to these areas may be based. A series of workshops for planning staffs have been initiated with special relevance for regional planning, dealing with such planning techniques as population projections, statistical methods, industrial locations, urban development costs, et cetera.

A major development during the last year has been the inauguration, with financial support from county councils, by An Foras of a conservation advisory service which provides specialist advice to county councils in ecology, botany, zoology, geology, archaeology and on items of architectural and historic interest. The effect of this service will be to assist greatly the work of planning authorities in conserving our national heritage. The Carnegie Trust has assisted this work by a special grant to support the establishment of a biological records centre.

Our coastline is one of our great recreational and tourist resources. At the joint request of the Minister for Transport and Power and myself, An Foras and Bord Fáilte jointly undertook a study of our entire coastline which gives detailed advice on how we might best develop each stretch of our coastline without destroying its natural amenities, as has happened in other countries. This study has now been completed and will shortly be published.

I have asked An Foras to undertake a number of important and urgent tasks in building and construction, some of which I mentioned already when dealing with housing. These include the provision, with the aid of an advisory committee representative of the building industry, of the necessary documentation and guidance to enable the industry to convert to full metric working, and the production of guidelines for the conversion of building design and components to a system of co-ordinated modular dimensions. The conversion of our building industry to metric co-ordinated dimensions is a major step in creating a more efficient and, therefore, lower-cost building industry.

Special studies of house-building productivity have been carried out by An Foras in co-operation with the National Building Agency and house-building firms. I understand that it is hoped to publish the result shortly and that they will indicate the management measures house-building firms could take to improve productivity significantly and thus lower housing coasts. The construction management courses of An Foras are strongly supported by the Construction Industry Federation and its members and in these courses the research findings on productivity, project planning, financial management, et cetera, are imparted to about 500 construction managers annually. An Foras also provided during the year courses and seminars for about 300 professional members of the construction industry.

In collaboration with the Central Statistics Office and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, An Forass has now succeeded in establishing an agreed methodology for a regular building price index which it is hoped to publish as from 1st January next. This will be a valuable contribution to better management of our building resources.

Builders have frequently complained that requirements for roads and services for the development of residential areas vary from local authority to local authority. Unnecessary variations of this kind are not helpful for efficient operation. I have, therefore, asked An Foras to draft standard housing development specifications and this work is currently in hands. Our new residential areas represent very costly permanent investments which should meet the human and social needs of the families as fully as possible. I have, therefore, asked An Foras to prepare recommendations on planning standards for residentail areas under such headings as community facilities, pedestrian and car circulation, recreational facilities, landscaping and open space and density of development. These recommendations should help in achieving essential minimum standards for new residential areas.

The water resources division of An Foras Forbartha became fully operative during the past year with the completion of its laboratories and the recruitment of its highly-skilled staff. It has very efficiently completed its first major task, to survey water quality in all seasons in our major river systems. Apart from providing a scientific basis for policy decisions to combat pollution this survey is also of considerable value to the Industrial Development Authority in the siting of industry and the survey was assisted by a special grant from the IDA. An Foras has also completed special regional surveys for the IDA on the availability of water for large water-consuming industries. Water resources survey are now being undertaken by An Foras for reginal development organisations which will enable the regions concerned to have a long-term development plan for their water resources to match their development proposals.

I should like once again to express my thanks for the contribution to the work of An Foras Forbartha made by so many persons involved professionally or vacationally in environmental matters. This includes members of the board of directors, of the consultative panel and of the many advisory committees and working parties who help to guide the various research projects and give expert and specialisat advice on them.

I have spoken many times on the integration of itinerants into the community; I know that an amount of constructive and rewarding work has been done on this programme by local authorities and by voluntary groups but I am not yet satisfied with the rate of progress in provision of sites and houses. Indeed, I will not be satisfied until a suitable opportunity of settlement has been given to all families in their areas by local authorities, that is, either a dwelling unit on an individual or group site, or a local authority house, according to the degree of development of the family or in the light of the local housing possibilities. It has been shown that some families can be encouraged to buy their own houses under local authority loan schemes. The circumstances in each case will determine the best solution.

We all know the immense difficulties associated with the itinerant problem. We know that there are some families who many not wish to settle and we expect that a certain percentage of those who try to settle may fail in the first attempt for one reason or another. Nevertheless, in the few years since the programme began to be implemented, we have concrete evidence not only of the desire of itinerants generally to settle but proof of their ability to adapt themselves to take their place in society. Those close to the problem have seen the excellent respose of most of these families when they have a home of their own to take pride in, when the womenfolk have facilities to wash and clean and cook and when it becomes a practical possibility to keep their children regularly at school. Those actively helping in rehabilitation see a growing selfrespect and sense of responsibility; a gradual change, especially in the children and in young adults. Some few are attaining secondary school education and there is no reason why some may not go further. Speaking generally one can say that the rate of adaptation has been greater than even the most optimistic hoped for.

To date well over 600 families have been provided with accommodation, about half on camping sites and the remainder in normal houses. I would like here to pay tribute to the local authorities and voluntary groups who had the courage and perseverance to overcome the local opposition, which occurred in most cases, and to tackle the problem. I want to say a special word of thanks to the dedicated voluntary workers who continue in the face of many difficulties and frustrations to help the families to adopt to their new way of life, to find suitable employment and to assist in the pursuance of educational arrangements. There is no denying that local official and voluntary bodiess taking constructive action in this difficult field have had attendant problems to a lesser or a greater degree, but in most cases the response from the itinerant families brings its own reward. If the local authorities wish to help the voluntary bodies with their organisational expenses I think they should be free to do so and I have conveyed this to the managers already.

In this regard I would like to point to the advantages of employment by the local authority of a whole-time social worker. I cannot emphasise too much the part such an officer can play in easing problems and hastening progress, and in paving the way for acceptance of settled itinerants in a community. The cost to local authorities will be minimal because 90 per cent of the salary and incidental expenses will be recouped by my Department, so far as the social worker is engaged on itinerant work. A social worker can of course render valuable assistance with many other facets of local authority work.

Local authorities have prospects of accommodating a further 200 families or so, but as yet the rehabilitation process has started or is soon to start, for perhaps only half, of the itinerant population and this is just not good enough. Local authority attitudes range from those who have faced up to their local problem fully to those who have been relatively inactive or have abandoned proposals on account of the opposition of individuals. In particular some are slow to make the effiective, decision to provide sites, although it is well known that many families need some time in the environment of a group site before moving into conventional housing schemes. A defeatist policy, or a policy of inaction, will do nothing to remedy the local problem; with neglect, the local problem is likely to get worse.

Furthermore if opponents of settlement succeed in blocking progress in one area, this can make things even more difficult for other areas where the local authorities have made a real effort to deal with their own programme. There must be a combined drive on the part of all authorities to solve this problem. I appeal to all authorities who have not yet met the needs of their local situation to reexamine their position and carry the necessary proposals through to completion during the next six months, so that the next school year may be a starting point for those young enough to benefit from education and so that next winter many more itinerant families will be spared the hardships of the roadside.

When I replied to the Debate on my Department's Estimate in October last year, I discussed the White Paper on Local Government Reorganisation in some detail, particularly those sections of it which had been the source of some controversy, both in the debates in this House and in the country generally. I do not propose therefore to go over these matters again. At present, legislative proposals arising out of the White Paper are being considered, taking account, of course, of all the views and comments submitted to me. I hope to be able to introduce legislation on this matter in the not too distant future. The House will then have an opportunity of debating the proposals fully.

The overall structure of local government is not the only problem: the question of more efficient staffing and procedures also arises. At the request of the local authority staff representatives and managers, I undertook to carry out a review of the existing position and to assist in the review, I engaged a firm of consultants to study and make a report and recommendations on the staff structure and processes of the local authorities. The consultants have completed their report and copies of it have been laid before the House. I have made arrangements to have the report printed and published in full and for the widest possible consultations with local authorities, staff associations and other interested persons.

Pending the completion of these consultations, it would not be appropriate for me to go into the merits or demerits of the report. However, I can say that it covers a very wide field embracing such matters as the introduction of programme budgeting to local authorities, the provision of computer services and staff training and development. In summary the recommendations in the report are designed to achieve four objectives: to ensure that all authorities are viable units, by matching staff resources to the responsibilities of the authorities; to outline a staff structure that will enable each authority to carry out its functions effectively; to strengthen the management processes that assist local authorities and the Department to plan and control the provision of services and to ensure a balanced allocation of resources across the country; and to improve the management of the staff resources of local authorities by strengthening the policies relating to recruitment, training and career development.

Many important recommendations are made affecting the administration of local authority services; for example, the report proposes that in local authority staff structures the emphasis should be on programme or service areas rather than on separate administrative and professional groupings. The report goes on to recommend that as county staff structure develops and becomes more self-sufficient, the Department should be able to delegate more functions to local authorities, reducing to a minimum the controls which have been exercised over individual local authority projects. When the report has been circulated to all interested persons, it is my intention to arrange a number of explanation sessions for those who wish to question or discuss the many recommendations in the report.

Finally on this subject I should add that I have already put on record that I do not accept the view advanced in the report that a population figure of 12,000 should be the requirement for the retention of urban districts and I wish also to reaffirm that it is the Government's intention to retain the county as the basic unit.

With regard to local finance and rates in particular, I would reiterate the fact that the whole system is being fully examined. The Government have made known their intention to publish a separate White Paper dealing comprehensively with local finance and taxation. Consideration of the proposed White Paper is at an advanced stage and I am making every effort to have it prepared for publication at the earliest date.

In my speech last year I referred to some of the interim steps which had been taken to ease the burden on ratepayers. I mentioned the introduction of schemes for the payment of rates in instalments spread over ten months of the year and for the waiving of rates by local authorities in the case of necessitous persons; I referred to the termination of the rates concessions available in the case of newly erected or improved office blocks, supermarkets, luxury houses, et cetera, and also to the contribution being made by the State towards the expenditure of local authorities in the form of grants and subsidies.

In the year ended 31st March last the total amount of State grants towards local authority expenditure, including the health grant, was approximately £90 million; in the current financial year the comparable figure for the total of State grants will be approximately £108 million. The amounts so contributed by the State cover half of all local authority revenue expenditure and are by far the most important single element in the protection of ratepayers from the full impact of increasing costs of local services.

With regard to the rates waiver schemes the position is that in 1970-71 48 local authorities operated schemes which gave full or partial relief to over 11,600 persons. This represented a big improvement on the preceding year when 45 authorities operated schemes from which just over 6,400 persons benefited. Last year 51 local authorities adopted rates waiver schemes; detailed statistics in regard to the numbers of persons afforded relief are not yet available but it is certain that the number who have benefited will show a further substantial increase.

Under the combined purchasing system, local authorities made purchases in the 12-months period ended 30th June, 1971, to an estimated total of £7 million. The bulk of these purchases were commodities manufactured or processed in this country. In the nature of this scheme, it is necessary to review each year in consultation with local authorities and suppliers the commodities which it embraces, the standards for these, the units in which supplied, et cetera, in order to ensure that the scheme keeps closely in line with the true requirements of the bodies it serves. In addition, the entire structure of the system has recently been reviewed and I shall shortly be considering in the light of this review how far and how best the system should be reshaped, so that it may continue to serve the needs of local authorities for a further period.

Another service provided by this Department is local government audit. The cost of this service in 1972-73 is estimated to be about £105,000 including salaries and travelling expenses, of which an estimated £42,000 is recoverable by way of audit fees charged to the local authorities and other bodies whose accounts are audited. This is a continuing service which needs no special comment, except to emphasise the importance in a democratic state of maintaining a high standard of public accountability for the large funds passing through the hands of local authorities and other public bodies.

The Department is conscious of the potential of modern concepts of financial management with special emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness. Local government audit must likewise carry these concepts into the field of public accountability.

During the past year the question of reducing the voting age to 18 has been raised in the House on a number of occasions. As Deputies are aware, reduction of the voting age for Dáil and Presidential elections and referenda requires an amendment of the Constitution which can only be affected by a constitutional referendum. The voting age for local elections, however, can be changed by ordinary legislation. On 22nd March last I announced in the Dáil the Government's decision to hold a referendum on the voting age in the autumn. The intention is that the necessary Bill to amend the Constitution will be introduced shortly.

If the people approve of the reduction of the voting age at the autumn referendum, legislation to effect a similar reduction for local elections will be introduced immediately afterwards. In accordance with this programme it will be possible to have persons aged 18 and upwards on the register of electors which will come into force on 15th April, 1973, and these young people will have the right to vote at the next Presidential election which is due in the period April to June, 1973 and at the next local elections.

Under existing legislation, local elections, are due to be held in June of this year. On the 15th March I indicated that the Government had decided to seek leave to introduce legislation providing for the postponement of these elections for a period of one year. The Government's decision was based on two considerations. In the first place legislative proposals relating to changes in the structure of local government arising from the White Paper on Local Government Reorganisation are being prepared. It would not have been possible to have this legislation dealt with before June. The other consideration was that it would not be desirable that nationwide elections and the referendum on accession to the European Communities should be held so close to one another. The necessary Bill in this matter is at present before the Oireachtas.

On the subject of roads administration, I am carrying forward the development of policy on planning and construction, traffic management and accident prevention in a way which I hope will not merely match, but will anticipate, the demands of the foreseeable future. It is of increasing importance that roads policy be viewed in an international context and that it should seek the closer harmonisation of the interests of public and private transport. The planning and research measures taken in recent years and those now being pursued are designed to further these objectives. Their orderly implementation will be governed by whatever investment policy we adopt.

The reclassification of roads has established the network of national primary and national secondary routes. Classification of the regional roads is advanced and urban roads will follow. This process provides a practical basis on which to plan, measure and distribute investment in roads. The principle is illustrated in the spread of grants allocated from the Road Fund for this year. The total allocated is £14.4 million, an increase of £2 million over the amount allocated last year. Every county has got an overall increase in the amount of grants allocated last year, the current amount being related to the priority of works and the principle of preserving local employment. An outline scheme of planned programme budgeting has been drawn up by my Department and when this principle is finally adopted, it will provide a measurable basis for all future roads operations.

Historic and social factors made it necessary in the past that we expended relatively large amounts of annual revenues on the rural roads. We now have an enviable record in the proportion of rural roads which are dust free, considering our very high mileage of roads to population by international standards. The black-topping programme is being pressed to its conclusion and I have again allocated £1.87 million for county roads in the current year. Allocations to main roads this year have been increased by £583,000 to £4,683,000. For county borough and urban roads, an additional £337,000 has been provided, bringing the allocation for this purpose to £2.395 million. The annual allocation of £400,000 for Tourist roads has been repeated and I am considering for the future how the principle of this grant can best be fitted into an overall plan for the national and regional routes. The current pace of developments in transportation oblige us to quicken the rate of costly investments in improving the primary roads which, although they comprise only 1,600 miles out of a total of 54,000 miles, carry 30 per cent of all traffic. I have accordingly increased the grant allocation for national primary roads by £1.08 million for 1972-73. As the House is aware, the full financial responsibility for the national primary network now falls on the Road Fund, without requiring any contribution from local rates. It is the intention that the national secondary network will similarly be financed directly, without charge to local rates, when this becomes practicable.

Within the overall allocation grants for traffic management schemes have been increased this year by £200,000 to £667,000. It is not sufficient, however, to plan for the elimination of deficiencies in the capacity of existing roads. The continuing growth in traffic is already creating a future pattern of deficiencies where none now exist. Efficient road communications are essential not only to private and public transport but are a critical element in agricultural and commercial development.

The comprehensive studies of capacity, safety and pavement conditions on rural sections of the national primary routes, completed during the year by An Foras Forbartha in co-operation with the Department, have provided a scientific basis for the development of a multi-year programme for the improvement of these important routes. The studies have indicated that out of the 1,400 miles of rural sections of the system 140 miles are in very poor condition, 114 miles are in poor condition and 348 miles are in fair condition. To achieve maximum efficiency—something that is absolutely essential in a country having such a high mileage of roads relative to population as Ireland— we must make full use of the most up-to-date techniques in road construction and maintenance. The road materials laboratory which I opened last year provides the testing facilities so necessary nowadays to ensure better quality road pavements.

We have therefore to press ahead with current planning and construction of improvements, including the provision of dual carriageways, and we must as soon as practicable initiate a motorways programme and planning for this has already commenced. The Government have authorised me to prepare the new legislation necessary for the provision of motorways and I will not delay in bringing my proposals before the House.

The Government have also authorised me to prepare new legislation to enable local authorities to establish a traffic warden service in their areas. The drafting of proposals is well advanced. This legislation would formalise the present administrative arrangement whereby the traffic wardens in Dublin city are under the control and direction of the corporation and the experience which the corporation have gained in the operation of this service will be available to other authorities. This does not imply, of course, that other local authorities need adopt the parking meter as a form of parking control. There are other means available adequate to local circumstances. A warden service can be seen as a complementary measure to the provision of car parks which are currently being financed out of Road Fund moneys.

Research projects have provided us with a sound framework on which programming is going ahead in many aspects of traffic management. The study report Transportation in Dublin presented to me and to the road and transport authorities for the greater Dublin area, in November last, defined the transportation problems to be faced over the next 20 years. It pin-points the desirability of co-ordinating the interests of public and private transport. It also recommends possible courses of action for the solution of these problems. The report and its recommendations are being examined in detail by the road authorities concerned and by my Department in the light of the financial resources likely to be available for roads and road transport in the future.

Good progress has already been made on detailing some of the major projects involved, such as the outer ring to circle the city from Santry in the north, by Castleknock, Clondalkin and Sandyford to Booterstown in the south. I have arranged to bring forward an engineering survey which will enable the national primary route from the west of Ireland through County Kildare and County Meath to be linked directly with the plans for the Dublin area. I expect work will proceed this year on the Tallaght roads, Dublin-Bray road, and other major schemes. Good progress is being made with the Finglas bye-pass and the Naas Road.

Dublin Corporation is engaged in a study, to be completed during this year, of traffic management in the central city area. To meet the special problems of Dublin city and county I increased the Road Fund allocation to the city by £430,000 to a total of £1,969,730 and by £216,000 to £961,000 for the county. I have also arranged that selected suburban roads in Dublin county will be financed on the same basis as corresponding city roads for which the Road Fund pays 100 per cent of cost.

The research work being carried out on road safety is contributing greatly to our knowledge and understanding of this very complex problem. Indeed, it is now becoming increasingly apparent that there is no single field of activity on which we can concentrate in our efforts to stem and reverse the unfortunate trend in road casualties; rather we must pursue the problem vigorously on a broad front. Scientific evidence is increasingly pointing the finger at alcohol as the largest single factor contributing to traffic accidents. The legislation to deal with this problem will not achieve its full potential until the public develop a far more responsible attitude to drunken driving. In the meantime, we must pursue road safety with all the other resources at our disposal. Scientific knowledge as to how these resources may be applied most effectively is vital if we are to make worthwhile progress.

Many other countries throughout Europe and the western world have experienced similar trends in road traffic and road accidents as Ireland has in recent years. This has led to increasing international co-operation in the pursuit of solutions to the problem. The OECD international cooperative road research programme, initiated in 1968 in which An Foras participates, is now feeding back much valuable scientific and technological information to assist governments in decision making on urgent road and transport problems. One of the problems which has been the subject of such research during the past two years is that of speed limits on rural roads. The OECD report, to be published shortly, supports the conclusion that where speeds have been reduced by speed limits there has been an accompaying overall reduction in the frequency and severity of traffic accidents; also where limits were removed speed and accidents subsequently increased. However, the study also shows that not enough is known in detail on the statistical significance and scientific validity of the accident reductions, or of the adverse affects of speed limits and that it is unlikely that those questions could be answered by isolated experiments in individual countries.

The report recommends that an international co-ordinated experiment be carried out to determine scientifically the relation between changes in speed limit policies and changes in accidents. The carrying out of this experiment is under consideration by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport at present. Pending the conclusion of such an experiment it would be manifestly unwise to change the general limit in Ireland.

After taking a long look at the effectiveness of our annual expenditure on road safety promotional activities, I came to the conclusion that we should attempt a new approach. I am now devising a national programme of accident prevention which would offer the opportunity of practical participation to a wide range of groups and organisations. The outlines of the programme have been prepared and detailing will now proceed. The continuing rate of increase in road deaths, personal injuries and property damage should not be looked on as an inevitable consequence of the machine age. It is a truism that many accidents can be avoided but it should be recognised that no amount of rules and regulations and paper can ensure that the individual driver will change his behaviour. That is why I would like to see the direct participation of motoring organisations, insurance companies, the motor trade, professional and social organisations and other groups in a co-ordinated programme. Road users must get the direct message that road accidents are costing them £10 million a year in insurance, not to mention the unquantifiable cost of personal tragedy and suffering. They must accept that there is something they can do about it individually and collectively. I think it is worthwhile trying this approach instead of relying on general enforcement levels and penalties as the whole counter to individual carelessness or irresponsibility.

For my own part, I have several projects which I will initiate directly. I propose to apply the results of research by An Foras Forbartha on accident black spot locations, by selecting priorities and paying local authorities 100 per cent of the cost of remedial works. I have notified local authorities that the full cost of providing improved public lighting on main traffic routes through towns may in future be charged to their Road Fund grants. Expert staff has been recruited and equipment has been purchased to enable the first phase of the proposed scheme of vehicle inspection to be launched. This will complement the existing driving test operations which are now running efficiently.

I have arranged to extend on a firmer basis the experimental scheme of road-side warnings which I started last year and which commenced with the slogan "No Road Deaths This Month Please". The co-operation of the local authorities in the new scheme has already been sought, with a view to its initiation this summer. It is a fact that while last summer's scheme operated, there was a distinct drop in monthly road deaths, although I am not claiming that the poster campaign was the sole reason for the drop. The overall programme of road accident prevention which is being organised by my Department will be published when it is in final form. Its effects will be assessed relative to the trend of accidents in each of their horrifying categories. This is not a short-term concept but one the effectiveness of which can only be assessed according as it progresses.

The Road Fund accounts show that apart from the payment of grants to local authorities for road works, there are other charges to be ment to the extent of approximately £2 million. The cost to local authorities through local registration offices, of operations such as the issue of driving licences, the collection of road tax, issue of tax discs, registration of ownership and changes of ownership, are recouped to the local authorities from the Road Fund. They will get about £450,000 on this score in the current year. I hope, incidentally that a great deal of this work can at some future stage be computerised.

By law, the Road Fund contributes annually to the expenses of the Garda in administering the Road Traffic Acts. Last year the payment was £690,000 and the Book of Estimates shows that the Department of Justice anticipates a contribution of £720,000 this year This payment, incidentally, includes the cost of pay and equipment of traffic wardens, which is at present borne by the Minister for Justice through the Garda Vote. The cost of road safety campaigns and films, on which £86,000 was spent last year as well as the expenses of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety amounting to about £40,000, also came out of Road Fund overheads. I hope to increase expenditure on road safety this year, including expenditure on signposting. The Foras Forbartha gets its annual grants for its roads, road traffic and road safety division from the Road Fund also. The amount of grant this year will probably be about £180,000. I hope that this summary disposes of the interpretation floated out recently that the £2 million a year in overheads charged to the Road Fund goes in remuneration of the Minister and his officials in the Department.

The international aspects of roads policies are probably not seen by the House in the perspective in which they effect the formulation and implementation of policy. We participate in the functioning of such bodies as the International Roads Federation, the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, to which we contribute the conclusions arrived at through the legislative policies adopted by this House and from which we derive the benefits of experience elsewhere as an aid to domestic policy formulation. We are guided by or subscribe to international conventions such as those on road signs and on international circulation. On entry into the EEC we will take this process further, for example by adopting into our Vehicle (Construction, Equipment and Use) Regulations certain safety aspects of directives and where appropriate by participating in rationalising further international aspects of road and road traffic administration.

In so far as the Commission's directives on the type approval of vehicle components have implications for my Department's functions under the Road Traffic Acts, I am examining the extent to which it will be desirable to incorporate in our vehicle construction, equipment and use regulations the standards which are set by the Commission for the purpose of eliminating barriers to trade.

A further example of the implications for our roads policy of present Community thinking arises from the international regulation of the weights and dimensions of vehicles. Whereas France appears to favour a higher axle weight than Germany, I find our position closer to that of the UK, having regard to the standards of our roads. I am making my views known to the Community that our existing 10 ton limit is the most suitable to Irish conditions. I am hopeful that when Community law is being finalised, the balance of opinion will tend towards our view.

In the meantime, I have received the report to which I referred in presenting the Local Government Estimates last year, of a committee established to review our present system of permits for vehicles which exceed the standard weights and dimensions. I hope to announce shortly some amendments to the present permit system, which will in particular facilitate the construction industry in the movement of their modern machinery.

The international harmonisation of weights and dimensions of vehicles is associated with the prospect of harmonising the related tax rates, in the interests of trade. This is a subject on which my Department has been engaged on the home front. Statistics show that transport economics tend to favour a trend from lighter to heavier commercial vehicles. It would seem reasonable in the circumstances that a rationalisation of our tax structure for commercial vehicles generally should be undertaken to facilitate this trend and I am looking into this.

Since third party insurance is compulsory under our Road Traffic Acts, an agreement exists with the insurance companies for the purpose of seeing that no one is refused cover, unless it is in the public interest to do so, or is not offered cover at a price which is tantamount to refusal. Control of the rates of premiums is not, of course, a function for my Department. Another body, the Motor Insurance Bureau, considers claims made where death or personal injuries result in the case, for example, of hit-and-run accidents, or non-insured drivers. Furthermore, for the purposes of international traffic, the Irish Visiting Motorists Bureau issues green cards to Irish owners for travel abroad and handles claims where a visiting motorist is involved in an accident in this country. The whole system has worked well in the circumstances in which it was developed. When the report of the insurance industry committee which was established by the Minister for Industry and Commerce becomes available, I will consider whether changes should be proposed in the circumstances of today. For example, the EEC proposes that the domestic insurance policy should give communitywide cover for third party risks so as to free the movement of vehicles within the Community. This would probably require amendment of our laws if it is adopted.

During 1970, I reviewed the code of regulations which govern the licensing and operations of small public service vehicles, better known as taxis and hackneys. I undertook at that time to review within two years the effects of the series of revised regulations which I subsequently made. I satisfied myself that a better and continuous means of communication was necessary between all the interests concerned with the taxi business—the owners, The Garda, the local authority, Bord Fáilte, CIE and my Department. In response to my suggestion, the Dublin City Manager was good enough to set up such a continuing committee and from the reports I have seen of its meetings, this is a useful body. It is concerning itself with the practical effects of statutory regulations for licensing, fares, the location of and order at taxi ranks, adequacy of services, the display of fare cards for passengers, and so on. I am hopeful that this experiment will prove a useful guide to the establishment of similar local committees in Cork and other taxi meter areas in the future.

I have no doubt that the brief review of roads activities which I have given the House illustrates the range of activities with which my Department is concerned in transportation policy and points to further increases in the costs of roads, traffic management and accident prevention. For the current year alone, the increase in grant allocation is £2 million bringing the total allocation to £14.4 million. Against this total, the net amount available to me on the current basis of Road Fund revenue would be marginally above £12 million. The sources from which to fill this gap are confined. I am urgently considering what financial measures would be appropriate in these circumstances to fulfil our commitments for this year and hopefully to provide a base for future expansion.

A provision of £500,000 has been included under subhead K Local Improvements Scheme, which is administered in association with grants from the Road Fund. This sum has been allocated to county councils in proportion to the relative demand for grants in each county as reflected in the numbers of applications and in the extent to which grants have been taken up by the various councils in past years. It will be recalled that the provision made in 1970-71 was also £500,000 and that last year, substantial supplementary provisions were voted for the scheme. The supplementary provisions helped to reduce a backlog of desirable projects and to provide increased opportunities for employment in the counties concerned in the absence of increased Road Fund grants. In the current year, notwithstanding that Road Fund grants to local authorities have been increased by £2 million and, the increase in amenity grants I have arranged to repeat the provision of £500,000 for the Local Improvements Scheme.

(Cavan): I move:

That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.

In moving the Estimate for £15,575,000 for his Department, the Minister spoke for approximately 2½ hours and covered a very wide field. I am not saying that by way of complaint. His is a Department which is involved with many aspects of the life of this nation. Very few people live very long without, in one way or another, coming into contact with some of the activities of the Department of Local Government. It covers housing, planning permission and planning appeals, roads, valuation, the environment—and that is a new one—regional policy, local development planning, sanitary services, water schemes, amenity grants, swimming pools, fire services, An Foras Forbartha, itinerants, franchise, and I am sure I have left out a few.

The first question it strikes me to ask in considering this Estimate is: has the Department of Local Government too much on its plate? Is it humanly possible for one Minister adequately to discharge in a personal way all the duties which the Oireachtas impose on him? Are we asking the Minister for Local Government to discharge obligations which might properly be dealt with by some other Department of State? For example, it has occurred to me that perhaps rehousing of the itinerants might be a matter more properly dealt with by the Minister for Social Welfare than by the Minister for Local Government. Swimming pools might fall into the category of sport or entertainment which is usually looked after, I understand, by the Minister for Education through his Parliamentary Secretary. The question has been posed whether we should have a Minister for environmental control and the prevention of pollution. On top of all this the Minister for Local Government has taken on himself the task of dealing with planning appeals. His predecessor in this House boasted that he dealt with planning permission personally. These planning appeals run into something like 2,700 or 2,800, which would seem to me to be nearly a full-time job in itself. The Minister also has to deal with compulsory acquisition orders. The time has come therefore when we certainly must consider either appointing an extra Minister or splitting up the work between himself and his Parliamentary Secretary because I do not believe it can be discharged in a personal way by the Minister for Local Government. I concede that if he were to be satisfied to act in the capacity of a rubber stamp, he could dispose of much of the work that way.

I am not criticising unfairly the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government—he is probably one of the most competent Parliamentary Secretaries in the House—but in the past Parliamentary Secretaries have not been taken too seriously. They are not regarded as junior Ministers. They are regarded more as political beings to further the interests of the Fianna Fáil Party than as persons to discharge the real functions of junior Minister. If the functions of the Minister for Local Goverernment are to be discharged as parliamentary democracy supposes they should be discharged, that is, by the Minister making the decisions that have to be made, serious consideration has to be given to relieving him of some of the duties and obligations that have come to be regarded as part of his business.

I mentioned itinerants—I know it is only a small matter—swimming pools, pollution and the environment. I picked out the duty of preventing pollution and protecting the environment because this is a major task that will take up considerable time in future and will, as I shall mention later, have to be faced on a national basis as something that is the concern of the nation as a whole, not a matter to be dealt with in isolation and in piecemeal fashion.

I take it that the road grants do not come into this £15 million because they are taken out of the Road Fund but this £15 million covers housing grants, private and public; it covers the expenses of the Minister and his civil servants and a variety of things.

My next remarks may indicate an unusual approach. The figure we are voting. £15,575,000 would suggest that we are merely scratching the surface of what has to be done and that it will take a very long time to do all the things the Minister is attempting to do. Under the subhead for amenity schemes for the entire nation the amount is £300,000. Such a sum could only cause frustration because two counties, without being extravagant, could propose schemes that would gobble up the entire amount. I make these remarks as a preliminary to my speech on the Estimate.

At the commencement of his speech the Minister dealt with housing, public and private. I agree with the Minister that housing is of the utmost importance, that adequate shelter and a suitable place to make a home are basic human needs. The Minister outlined the progress which had been made and, as is usual in the debates on the Estimate for Local Government, the city of Dublin is taken as a yardstick of the progress the nation as a whole is making in the matter of housing. Being from the country, I would have regard to what is happening in every county. I do know that in past years the city of Dublin has been taken as the yardstick.

It has not been taken as the yardstick by me.

(Cavan): In debates here it is usually taken as the yardstick. I did not interrupt the Minister. In debates here on housing, the city of Dublin usually looms large. If we see what has to be done, not so much what has been done or the amount of money that has been spent, we will get more accurate picture as to how we as a nation have discharged our obligations to the weaker sections of the community. That is what I propose to show.

In the city of Dublin at the present time a family will not be considered for housing, except in emergency circumstances, unless there are three children in the family. That reflects a very serious state of affairs. It means that married people are on the waiting list for housing for at least five years before there is any chance of their getting a house. That is something of which we as a nation cannot be proud. I can tell the Minister that the waiting list in the city of Dublin is not an accurate yardstick as to the number of persons requiring housing. As I have said, except in emergency circumstances, a family with fewer than three children will not get a house. This means that many people do not register. Newly-weds take part in a draw and the last draw for newly-weds, according to my information, took place in May, 1971, when about 200 lettings were made.

We have, therefore, a long way to go before the needs of persons seeking houses in the city of Dublin are satisfied. It is a fact that many married couples are living with in-laws, that two families have to live in the same house for a considerable time. Many young married couples start off their married life by sharing a dwelling with their in-laws. The social problems which arise must be obvious. It is difficult enough sometimes for couples to start off married life and to make a success of it when they live on their own. It must be extremely difficult where they are sharing a house with their in-laws. One sort of problem that would arise would be bad relations between the wife's people and the husband's people, which is not desirable and should be avoided if possible.

There are other complaints about Dublin. I shall deal with the country afterwards. There are complaints about the city centre becoming depopulated and being taken over for industry or for office blocks. Even within a few hundred yards of this building one can see the entire area being encircled by expensive office blocks, which would lead on one the conclusion that there was no housing problem in the city or, indeed, in Ireland. The concentration at the moment seems to be on the provision of office blocks. This business of allowing the centre of the city to become depopulated and of housing people, in so far as they are being housed, miles away from their work, in multi-storey buildings has led to a number of problems. First of all, the people do not want to live there. They certainly do not want to live in multi-storey buildings. They have to get in and out to their work and this imposes on them undue cost in fares and so on. I believe it would be better—and I understand An Foras Forbartha agree with me— to house people in, say, three-storey buildings in the city convenient to their work rather than housing them in multi-storey buildings further out.

There are also complaints that housing estates are often left without community facilities for years after they are built. If an estate is left without facilities such as a hall, a playground, shops and so on for years, it means that the children growing up there do not have the benefit of these facilities and much damage is done to that generation of children before the facilities are provided. If large housing estates are to be continued, housing some thousands of people, all these facilities should be part and parcel of them and should be ready for use at the same time as the dwellings.

Another serious problem in regard to housing is the dissatisfaction over the renting system. The Minister dealt with the differential renting system and sought to justify it. I do not say that people who can reasonably afford rent for a house should not pay it, but there is certainly grave dissatisfaction over the system of operating the differential renting system at the moment, as the Minister has admitted in his speech. I believe the Minister should consult and co-operate with the people involved here. They are represented by an organisation known as NATO—the tenants' organisation. The Minister has refused to meet these people—at least he has not met them yet. The result is that there are strikes and protests. In so far as the tenants of Dublin city are concerned, it is more essential than ever that the Minister should meet them at present because his predecessor dissolved Dublin Corporation and there are now no elected representatives to come between the establishment and the tenants. Therefore, I find it very difficult to understand the Minister's refusal or reluctance to meet representatives of these people and discuss their problems with them.

I do not come out as being against the system of differential rents but I am against the system of operating it at present. There should be more generous allowances for the tenant and his wife and young children. That is one of the complaints. The next complaint is that overtime is charged, charged to the full and charged in arrears, maybe long after the overtime has been earned and spent. Another bone of contention is that members of the family who are earning are automatically levied at a certain rate, whether they are contributing that amount to the household or not. I think if there was consultation and full and free discussion between the Minister or the local authorities and the tenants' representatives these things could be ironed out in a way that might give satisfaction to everybody.

The question of dangerous or unsuitable buildings in or around Dublin city is another problem that led to a lot of publicity in the past and indeed became a scandal a few years ago. I should like the Minister to tell the House what action is being taken now in the Dublin Corporation area regarding dangerous or unsuitable buildings. Are these buildings being inspected? Are they being condemned? Are the people being got out of them, or when people leave them are they being reoccupied? My information is that no inquiry in regard to this type of building has been held in the city for some time. Now that the Minister is virtually operating the corporation himself, or discharging the functions of the corporation through his commissioner, it is highly important that he should see that these matters are attended to.

I believe there are delays in the Department in sanctioning housing schemes throughout the country. I know the Minister has told us in his speech that for some time past schemes of six houses need not come to him at all, that all that is necessary is sanction for payment and that he need not see the plans or anything else. I think he will agree with me that a scheme of six houses is a very small scheme. When you come to 30, 40, or 50 houses there are undue delays. It would be much better for the Department of Local Government to say: "That scheme will not be sanctioned until 1st January, 1973" or whatever it is, instead of playing cat and mouse with the local authority, having plans sent up and sent down and delaying in that way.

I have dealt with the shortage of houses in the city of Dublin. I think we are in arrears now in practically every town in Ireland, that there are people living in unsuitable dwellings, that subletting or sharing of dwellings is commonplace. The Government, notwithstanding what the Minister says, are not doing enough. This is something that should get top priority. As the Minister says it is a basic right, a basic necessity. He said in his speech that it is a basic human need to have adequate shelter and a suitable place to make a home. I emphasise the word "home" because suitable shelter is not enough. A man and his wife are entitled to a suitable place to make a home and bring up their children. Without giving figures, I know that the records of the Minister's Department must show that in recent years there is a demand for housing in every urban area and that there is a backlog of housing which cannot be justified. If we were to get our priorities right the first thing people are entitled to is a place to live.

There is another type of housing requirement which is not being dealt with properly, that is the isolated person in rural Ireland who cannot provide himself with a house and who is entitled to have a house provided for him. The delay there is intolerable. To get a cottage built on an isolated farm takes up to three years from the time the application goes in until it is sanctioned. That is commonplace. The tenders go up and are sent back because they are too high and it is really frustrating in the extreme. It is something we all have a personal knowledge of.

I do not know what the policy is at the moment in regard to prefabricated dwellings for old people. The Department seems to have had second thoughts about it and are not inclined to encourage the provision of these buildings, in rural Ireland anyway, and in my constituency when they are provided, they are provided without electric light and the people living in them are obliged to do with the old-fashioned type of oil lamp or candle. There are heavy delays in urban schemes and heavy delays in single cottages or farmers' cottages. I believe that schemes of houses being built now by local authorities should have central heating installed. It is out of date now to provide a scheme of houses without making provision for central heating. In addition, such houses should be centrally heated in such a way that each house will have control over the volume of heat to be turned on. At present the Department sanctions without question the provision of houses without central heating and I am of the opinion that such houses will be, in ten or 12 years time, as obsolete as houses without flush lavatories are at present.

There are also complaints from tenants in regard to purchase schemes. I know it is not easy to satisfy everybody on the price he is asked to pay for a property, but these houses are being valued on the present sale price basis and having regard to the fact that they have been occupied by the tenants for a great number of years, the allowance of 2 per cent per annum, or whatever it is, is not sufficient, and, indeed, I think local authorities would be well rid of many of these houses. It would be in the interests of the local authorities as well as the tenants that the tenants should purchase them and become owners because, as the Minister knows, the question of repairs is a major problem for local authorities. Money is being voted year after year and it is impossible to get value for that money because workmen are obliged to flit about from one house to another doing urgent repairs at any particular time. Indeed, it might be a good thing if the Minister were to initiate some research into how repairs to local houses could be carried out efficiently and how value could be got for money because under the present system, when at the annual meeting the local representatives have to raise money for repairs, in an effort to keep down the rates they naturally try to raise as little as they can, but even while being fairly generous, it is impossible to keep local authority housing schemes properly in repair.

There is also complaint, and particularly in Dublin, about the tendency towards establishing in some places ghetto-type estates in that if the corporation have problem tenants, they seem to put them all together. That is a mistake. They should try within reason to mix tenants, tenants of different incomes, and try to get communities together.

Before going on to deal with the private sector, I want to say that the place where congratulations should be handed out is the private sector, the moderate incomes sector who are providing their own houses. I would hate to think what sort of a country this would be and what housing conditions would be like if we had not courageous young people who are prepared to shoulder a burden which many people would think is beyond them in building and providing their own houses. I think that over the years they deserve the height of credit and congratulations. They have their problems, many problems, which are not diminishing. They are increasing and they are increasing because the gap between the loans available from the local authorities and the cost of purchasing a house or having a house built is increasing and increasing dramatically. The maximum local authority loan is £3,300 and I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that a person will be lucky if he can get a house for about £5,300 which is the minimum in Dublin city. Admittedly, the grant comes somewhat to his relief but it means that house purchasers must find about £1,500. That is too much to expect young married people to have available. In addition, most of them have to furnish the houses and these loans should be increased substantially. I think it is a good investment and if these young people could get loans, they would be well advised to take them because if inflation goes on the way it is going, £X per week now will not be at all so severe in a few years time.

So far as finance for building houses in the private sector is concerned, the Minister and the Government should come further to the aid of these young people by increasing the grant and the loan. In other words, the gap between the finance at present available and the cost of building a house must be closed. Building societies accept applicants and then keep the applicants on a string for months and months. That is not good enough. If people are to be helped they will have to be helped by the Government coming to their aid with higher grants or more loans. It is nearly impossible for a person to qualify for a grant higher than £300 because, if he satisfies the lending agency that he can repay a loan of £3,000, he certainly will not satisfy the same agency that he is entitled to a supplementary grant or to a grant of more than £300. Farmers and other special cases in rural areas can get up to £900. A grant of £300 in urban areas is just not enough. Housing is an investment. It is the best investment the State can invest in.

The policy now is to keep people from building houses on national primary roads and on the next category of roads. We have reached the stage at which they will not be allowed to build at all on a major road. The planning authorities' negative powers are being used very effectively to prevent people building here, there or elsewhere. The servicing of sites in rural areas is very bad. Serviced sites around towns of 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 population upwards are non-existent. The people are driven off the main roads along which there may be water and they are then told, when they go elsewhere, that they may not have a septic tank; the county MOH will not give permission for a septic tank because there are too many septic tanks. The Government should give more assistance to the servicing of sites. The cost of pumping sewerage from one level to another should be provided by the Government. That would be worthwhile assistance in the development of sites. Where levels are not correct, pumps could be provided to pump the sewerage into the main system. Sites should be serviced at public expense.

In anticipation of this debate the Minister announced last night that reconstruction grants were being increased from £140 to £200. This is not before its time. We have been calling for an increase for years. There has been no increase in these grants since 1958. During that period the cost of reconstructing a house has trebled. The Minister should have gone further. There are many people, particularly in rural areas, who, if they had proper assistance, could make a reasonably good job of the dwellings in which they are living. The life of these dwellings would be extended if these people were helped with reconstructing them. I always found it very difficult to understand the reluctance on the part of the Government to increase this particular grant. The extra £60 is welcome. I understand the number of rooms will not be taken into account. The tenant of a three bedroomed house, provided he pays one-third of the cost, will qualify for the £200 grant.

I got the impression earlier that the Minister did not entirely agree that an applicant for a house in Dublin, unless he was an emergency case, had to have three children before he would be considered. In the Minister's opening speech he referred to small families who have little real prospect of being housed even if they are years on the list. Those were the people about whom I was talking. It is shocking that we should be so far behind in meeting housing needs in Dublin city.

The Minister appears to be in intimate touch with the group water schemes section of his Department. He said in his opening speech that we all know the frustrations and delays experienced by people planning these schemes. All manner of obstruction is put in the way of people planning group water schemes. There is one delay after another. I would not mind fault being found with a plan if, after the fault had been rectified, there were not further delays in dealing with the matter. It takes years to get these schemes through, schemes that should be encouraged because they evidence the desire of people to get together and do something for themselves.

With regard to the private sector, the Minister should ensure that schemes are properly developed. There are many good builders but there are also builders who leave schemes unfinished and, because they are unfinished, the local authority refuses to take over the roads or to maintain them. Many of these schemes are developed with the assistance of grants and loans. The payment of these should be made more difficult unless the builder develops the amenities so essential in any modern housing estate. There are builders who conveniently try to forget about these. I also think that in giving planning permission for private housing schemes of 40 or 50 or perhaps far more houses care should be taken to see that there are sufficient open spaces provided. Local authority schemes are not the worst offenders here. This is something that should be attended to when planning permission is granted in the first instance.

I should like to leave housing on this note: we cannot be complacent about it and I agree with that part of the Minister's remarks. There is no use in looking at what has been done; the test is what has to be done until the problem is solved and until everybody, in the Minister's words, has shelter and a home to live in. If we go on at the present rate it will be many years before that happens and houses becoming obsolete will catch up at the present rate of building.

The Minister is responsible for planning appeals and through his Department he is also responsible for the supervision of planning applications. There are many complaints throughout the country about delay in dealing with planning applications at local level. Under the Act, these must be dealt with within two months of being received but that has been got over by asking for further information and the process seems to go on and on and people are held up for nearly 12 months not knowing whether they will get permission or not.

Planning authorities are operating the Act rigidly on the direction of the Minister. It does not cost any money to say: "You cannot build here or there." In operating the scheme in this way, if it is decided that we must keep up with the times and with world thinking in regard to planning, we immediately assume another obligation: to provide serviced sites in suitable places. That is not being done in rural Ireland nor sufficiently in Dublin city with the result that people find it very difficult to get sites and when they do get them they are very expensive. Even in the past 12 months or so the cost of building sites has increased dramatically. I know a piece of land bought about three years ago for £1,000, about 1 acre; today it would cost £3,000. That is why I say we assume a very serious obligation to provide people with sites. If we say: "You cannot build on main roads because it is in the national interest that traffic should have as few openings as possible on to national primary roads", that may be in the national interest, but it implies the responsibility to provide alternative building sites or assist in providing them elsewhere. If there is one thing more than another causing the price of building sites to go up in rural Ireland it is the difficulty of getting serviced sites and planning permission.

In regard to planning appeals I want to call a spade a spade. Since the passing of the Planning and Development Act, 1963, there has been the height of dissatisfaction about the way in which planning appeals are dealt with. Speaking on another Bill a few weeks ago at short notice, the Bill to postpone the holding of a general election, I availed of the opportunity to give reasons why——

It was the Local Elections Bill.

We are looking for the general election.

You have general election on the brain.

(Cavan): You would postpone that too if you could. I was giving as a reason why the local elections should not be postponed the volume of complaints, one of which was in regard to planning appeals. I said that when it came to planning appeals it bordered on corruption and the Parliamentary Secretary in replying was very annoyed——

And rightly so.

(Cavan): I shall come to that. He was indignant that this suggestion should be made. I say the people believe that planning appeals are operated and decided on a political basis.

The people are not so stupid.

(Cavan): That is what they believe and I believe they are right.

That is what you tell them.

(Cavan): I do not believe that it is necessary for anybody to offer the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary £100 and for either of them to accept it to constitute corruption, but I say that if A can get a planning appeal decided in his favour because he can get some cumann chairman or somebody else to talk to the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary that is every bit as corrupt and is as unfair to the people as if the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary were to accept bribes, which I do not for a moment suggest they would do.

I talk about political influence and I say that it is wrong that a man in the position of a Minister, subject to political pressure and having to stand for election, should be a person entitled to make or mar or increase the value of land 100 per cent or perhaps 10,000 per cent by giving planning permission. That is wrong. We have always said so. We advocated the setting up of an independent board to hear these appeals. I brought in the Planning Appeals Bill in 1967 which got an agreed Second Reading on 31st January, 1968, and it was debated in this House on 14 days subsequently for over 20 hours.

The then Minister for Local Government gave me an assurance that he intended to introduce a Bill to deal with this problem. He did not admit that planning appeals were not being properly dealt with. In fact, he went to considerable lengths to try to ensure that they were. We brought in a Bill during 1969 which fell with the general election of that year. He reintroduced a Bill on 16th July, 1969, and it has not got a Second Reading yet, notwithstanding the fact that there is a demand for it throughout the country. It is not nearly as good as my Bill because it has a safety valve in it as far as the Minister is concerned. He is not prepared to take his political claws completely off planning appeals. In the Bill as it stands in certain circumstances he can reach over the head of the board and decide the matter himself.

(Cavan): The Minister. The proposal in this Bill was to set up a board to be known as An Bord Athchomhair Bleanála, the Planning Appeals Board. Section 4 of that Bill was to set up that board. It provided that there would be a chairman and a deputy chairman of that Board. The urgency of the board was fully appreciated by the then Minister for Local Government, because when I refer to the Estimate for the Department of Local Government for 1971-72 I see that a sum of £6,000 is provided for remuneration to the chairman and the deputy chairman of Bord Athchomhair Bleanála. Although this Bill has not got a Second Reading the then Minister for Local Government apparently wanted to rid himself of as many of the appeals as he could. He got this House to vote £6,000 to pay the chairman and the vice-chairman of this board which it was proposed to set up by this Bill which was introduced in 1969. I have many times asked the Taoiseach to say when this Bill will be dealt with. In his speech today the Minister said that the Parliamentary Secretary and himself are thinking about this.

This Bill should be given a Second Reading. I was so frustrated by the delay in seeing this bit of Fine Gael policy being implemented that I put down another Private Member's Bill. If the Minister is not prepared to go on with his Bill will he let me go on with mine? When he is replying I want him to explain how the item of £6,000 for the chairman and vice-chairman of the Planning Appeals Board, which was never set up, got into the Estimates. There is great need for this Bill at a time when land is becoming very valuable.

The Minister for Local Government is responsible for the rates and he dealt with them at some length in his speech. I now want to deal with the effect of malicious injury awards on the rates. The malicious injuries code is essentially a nineteenth century code and it was passed for the purpose of trying to make one section of the Irish nation act as peace officers for another section of the Irish nation. It is in fact legislation which was based on seven-teenth and eighteenth century legislation.

In 1695 there was an Act in operation here which was something similar to the malicious injuries code. It stipulated if damage was done and if the offenders were reputed to be Catholics then only Catholic inhabitants would be chargeable. If the offenders were reputed to be Protestant then only Protestant inhabitants would be chargeable with the damage. Another Act was passed in 1765 which stated if damage was done and someone was prosecuted for it at the assizes next following a malicious injuries application would not lie but if someone were not prosecuted for it the public in general would have to pay up. That piece of legislation encouraged people to get a prosecution one way or the other.

I would like to quote one paragraph from two very short judgments which will show exactly what is behind this malicious injuries code. In a case of Ballymagauran Cooperative Agricultural and Dairy Society v. the County Councils of Cavan and Leitrim in 1915 Chief Baron Palles, C.B., said:

The liability of the barony or county here had for its basis the old liability of the hundred for negligence by reason of their remission to arrest felons upon hue and cry. The hundred or barony is placed in the stead of the wrongdoer, and bound to answer for his default by reason of its presumed negligence in permitting the wrongdoer to escape without arrest upon the hue and cry.

That is because if the people of the community did not set themselves up as detectors or guardians of the law to ferret out the fellow who did the damage they would have to pay for it. In another case, that of Worthington v. County Tipperary County Council in 1920 O'Connor, Master of the Rolls, referred to the jurisdiction to make awards against two counties in the case of an offence committed near a county boundary, and said:

The meaning of this is not that the inhabitants of the district are criminally or even morally responsible for the offence, but it does mean that they are people who may be able by alertness and discouragement of crime to repress the commission of outrages in the surrounding district.

And in Noblett v Leitrim Co. Council (29) Sir James Campbell, C., said that the court's decision might “afford as a statute intended, a salutary stimulus to the ratepayers' efforts for the prevention of crime and for the protection and for the detection of offenders.” (30).

Would the Deputy give the source of the quotation?

(Cavan): Page 226 of The Irish Jurist, volume IV, part 2, winter 1969, University College, Dublin.

It is under the Department of Justice.

(Cavan): I think the article is by Senator John Kelly. I am not sure. In one way it comes under the Department of Justice, but it does affect the rates. I shall not delay on this beyond saying that it is obvious that the thinking behind the code is now outdated and that the code should be scrapped, particularly in the conditions prevailing here it is outrageous that people should come from 100 miles away and decide to burn some old mansion or commit some other stupid act in the name of patriotism and that the whole thing should be levelled on the ratepayers of that district. That should be done away with immediately. Failing that it should be made a national charge and not a county-at-large charge or a charge on a particular area of a county.

It does not take legislation to restore Dublin Corporation and the Urban District Council of Bray. I believe that the Minister should take steps immediately to restore the City Council here and Bray Council. It was never so important that the public should have an opportunity of discussions with the establishment. This is an age of protest and if people do not have the opportunity of talking to the establishment, of talking to the heads of Departments——

The Deputy's party and the Labour Party refused to accept their responsibilities.

(Cavan):——of talking to those——

They reneged.

The Deputy will have an opportunity of speaking later.

(Cavan): No doubt we shall have an opportunity of hearing Deputy Timmons at great length on this Estimate within the next two weeks.

The situation arose out of a decision on the part of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

A coalition effort.

(Cavan): I can understand the Parliamentary Secretary being afraid of a coalition.

The Opposition parties were responsible——

It was the conscious act of an arrogant Minister.

——therefore, how can they expect——

We cannot proceed by way of interruption.

——to have responsibility restored.

(Cavan): If the Deputy will let me make my speech I shall deal with that. The Dublin Corporation was abolished because the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party combined to protest against an arrogant Minister who would not listen to anybody.

He was not an arrogant Minister.

(Cavan): I think he has since proved that, that he had a one-track mind, that he was not open to reason.

The Deputy cannot say here——

The Deputy must cease interrupting.

(Cavan): He would not listen to reason. He said the Cabinet were all out of line but him, and that is the very thing he was saying to Fine Gael and Labour in Dublin Corporation.

It was they who put Dublin Corporation out of line.

(Cavan): I am coming to that, but the Taoiseach put him out of line. We tried to get the then Minister for Local Government to discuss this matter, to transfer more of the health charges from the corporation rate onto the general taxpayer. That has been done to some extent since, but he would not do it then. He would not have any discussions with anyone and, as I say, it was not very long after that he would not even listen to the Taoiseach. Anyway for the purpose of this argument, how the Dublin Corporation came to cease to exist is not relevant.

But it is important.

(Cavan): The fact is that it was abolished by the then Minister for Local Government.

The members of the Deputy's party——

Would the Deputy like to make his speech now?

(Cavan): It was abolished under the sealed order of the Minister for Local Government.

The reasons which led——

Deputy Timmons will have to cease interrupting.

Deputy Fitzpatrick (Cavan) represents Cavan and Deputy Treacy represents Tipperary, and they are very concerned.

If Deputy Timmons does not cease interrupting——

Deputy Timmons has no right to be interrupting in such a crude fashion.

(Interruptions.)

(Cavan): If the Deputy wants to be personal, I never had the opportunity of seeing the Deputy operating as Lord Mayor, but I am sure he was a very colourful one. Anyway the corporation was abolished under the seal of the Minister for Local Government, and I want to repeat that if the Minister for Local Government believes in democracy he should take the earliest opportunity to restore the franchise to the people of the city of Dublin, especially when we are living in an age of protest, when, if people are not given a safety valve, if they are not given their democratic rights, they will take to the streets.

How can the Deputy suggest——

Deputy Timmons may speak at a later stage if he wishes.

It is because his party ran away from their obligations that this situation came about.

The Deputy will resume his seat. The Chair has repeatedly said we cannot have interruptions. Deputy Timmons will have an opportunity of speaking later.

I shall speak later.

(Cavan): In normal circumstances a local authorrity which is abolished is restored at the next ensuing local election, but here the Government are postponing the local elections and refusing to restore Dublin Corporation.

It cannot be restored without elections.

(Cavan): I know, but let them hold elections. That is what I am asking them to do. As I say, it is essential at this time of unrest, at this time of protest, that the people of Dublin should be given back their city council, that the people of Bray should be given back their urban council.

The Minister dealt at some length with the road problem. The number of motor cars is on the increase day after day. Nearly every citizen is a motorist. The motorist is a very heavy taxpayer. He pays tax on petrol and he pays motor taxation. He is one of the most harassed people in the country at the present time. He is chased from pillar to post. He is not allowed to park where he likes. He usually ends up with a summons for parking in a restricted area.

I should like the Minister to tell us what is the long term policy on roads. I understand that about 50 per cent of the roads are inadequate for the purpose they are supposed to serve. The Minister told us today about a report which he got in 1962 from Mr. Schaectherle. The same Mr. Schaectherle furnished another report in 1969 in which he said that that report, dealing with bus transportation in Dublin, was not worth the paper it was written on unless the recommendations in his report of 1962 were implemented. An Foras Forbartha also furnished a report in 1971 which the Minister says he is considering.

Motorists are entitled to a great deal more consideration than they are getting from the Government. There should be a long term policy on the movement of traffic. On a previous occasion I said that there seemed to be concentration on getting as many cars as possible into the city of Dublin. Have we not got any other idea? I suggested then and I suggest now that we never think of a railway system. Would an underground railway system be any more expensive or nearly as expensive as the £90 million circular road that is spoken of? We are entitled to have a long term policy on roads and there does not seem to be one.

A long term policy will take some time to implement. In the meantime, the traffic position in the city of Dublin is intolerable. Is there no short term policy? Can anything be done to relieve the traffic congestion? Has any consideration been given to the staggering of peak hours, of encouraging such staggering? Could any one section of the population work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. instead of from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? Has any thought been given to that idea?

The long term programme, whether it involves the construction of flyovers or underground railways, will take years to implement. In the meantime, what will the traffic situation in Dublin be like? It will be intolerable. One has only to listen to the radio programmes. "Morning Airs" or "Traffic on the Move," to know what traffic jams occur in the city every day. Sometimes traffic moves at the rate of ten yards in ten minutes. Remedial action should be taken immediately.

The Government have added to the problem by doing what I complained of earlier, that is, taking the population out of the city into housing schemes outside the city, compelling people to travel to and from their work at considerable cost in bus fares. I tell the Minister now that the traffic situation in Dublin must be dealt with immediately. The problem is so serious that it cannot await a long term solution.

Deputy Timmons spoke about Cavan. I want to talk about Cavan for a few minutes. In a 73 page speech the Minister left until page 73 the local improvements scheme. He announced on page 73 that he was providing £500,000 for the current year. That is a reduction of £600,000 on last year. The Estimate last year provided for £500,000 but then, in some mysterious way, before the Budget was discussed, a Supplementary Estimate for £600,000 was introduced, increasing the provision to £1,100,000. The Minister told me on several occasions in the House that that £600,000 had nothing to do with the dole scandal, that it was introduced in order to get rid of a backlog of work that had accumulated and he said today that it was because the road grants had been cut. For whatever cause it was introduced, it was welcomed in County Cavan. The Cavan grant was increased last year from £30,000-£40,000 to £77,000. This year it has been cut back to £37,000. I want to protest against that in the strongest possible manner because that cut is a direct attack on the weaker people in my constituency, the people living along boreens or lanes some distance from the main road, many of whom cannot out of their own resources repair these lanes and make them passable.

I want to tell the Minister that the grant last year did not clear up the backlog in Cavan and as evidence of that I shall read and put on the record of the House a letter I received from the county engineer in Cavan, dated 12th June, 1972:

Dear Mr. Fitzpatrick,

I wish to acknowledge your letter of 8th instant in which you made representations on behalf of Mrs. P. Galligan, Pallakeel, Carrickaboy, and to inform you that correspondence dated 14th May, 1968, is being treated as a request for a local improvements scheme grant.

Due, however, to the number of earlier applications still awaiting attention, it will be some time yet before this application is reached.

I want to go on record as saying that in my opinion it is a public scandal that a grant scheme that is supposed to be in operation is so far in arrears that applications which came in in 1968 will not be dealt with for some years. In the light of that, the Minister for Local Government has the neck to cut this grant from £77,000 to £37,000. At the same time he announces in this House that although the main roads grants and the national primary road grants have been increased, the county road grants remain the same as last year and the local improvements scheme grant in County Cavan is cut from £77,000 to £37,000. What sort of social thinking is that? What sort of approach is that to the weaker section of the community? I want to tell the Minister that it is the weaker section. There are people living on lanes a mile long or longer. I should like the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to visit some of them and see for themselves. I do not know whether there are any such places in Donegal. There must be because Donegal is getting £55,000 this year. Cavan is getting £37,000 and Galway is getting £65,000. Dublin is getting nothing. They have no lanes.

Yet the Deputy condemns the dissolution of the city council.

The Deputy is afraid of his life it will be restored.

(Cavan): Maybe if they had a corporation they would get something. I want to go on record as making an appeal to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary to have second thoughts about this and to see to it that this grant is substantially increased. Half a million pounds for the whole country is a paltry amount. This is a cut that should never have been made.

I want to deal with another aspect of the scheme. The scheme operates to enable a number of people living on a private boreen or lane to have it repaired and then it is usually taken over by the county council. Sometimes there is one person, living near the road, who will not co-operate and the scheme cannot proceed. I put down a Parliamentary question a couple of times asking the Minister to take compulsory powers to deal with such a case. It is done to spite a neighbour. That is invariably the cause of it, pure undiluted cussedness. He will not satisfy his neighbour. He is usually the lad who is living beside the road and he does not mind. I had a case within the last few months where a grant was offered for three or four people on such a lane and one individual, who did not even live on it, he lived on the main road, would not sign the necessary consent.

The council can take the laneway in charge.

(Cavan): In most counties they only take it in charge when it is done.

That is so.

(Cavan): This joker would not let it be done.

It is possible to get it——

(Cavan): It cannot be done without consent under the local improvement scheme. I am satisfied that this is not understood in the Department. I have been trying to get it into the Minister's head for 12 months. My information is that if there are four people owning land on a lane and a grant is offered under the local improvement scheme and that some little work has to be done, the grant will not be confirmed until each person signs that he is agreeable to the work being done. I have a couple of cases every year where one person who has fallen out with his neighbours refuses to consent so as to prevent the work being done because he would not satisfy his neighbours. That is the highest motive that can be attributed to him. In this case I asked these people whether they would see the local priest or see anybody about this. They said there was no use, that this man would not move. I put down a question here asking the Minister to take compulsory powers and he told me that experience showed that such compulsory powers were not necessary. If ten of these cases crop up in Cavan every year, or even five, there must be a similar number in Donegal, in Galway and in every other county where the scheme operates.

My recommendation to the Minister is to put a section into an Act of Parliament giving the Minister for Local Government power to make an order authorising the work to be done without the consent of the person who refuses and giving that person a consent to appeal to the District Court, and to the District Court only, if he wants to appeal. It is too bad that the lives of two or three people should be made unbearable because one gentleman happens to be unfriendly with one of them. There were three people involved here and the person who refused to consent said that in so far as two of them were concerned he would do it and welcome but he would not satisfy the other one. I have no time for people like that and I do not believe this House should have any time for them. I appeal to the Minister now to check on the records and, if necessary, make inquiries from the authorities operating this scheme. I believe he will find that there are sufficient cases to warrant the amendment in the law that I propose. I shall leave this matter by again appealing to the Minister to increase the grant for County Cavan on the grounds that they are still only dealing with applications which were sent in before 1968 and that the grant has been reduced this year from £77,000 to £37,000.

The Minister dealt at some length with reorganisation of local government. He told us that his White Paper had been published and is being studied and that he hopes to bring in legislation in the near future. I do not believe there is any hope at all of such legislation being brought in in time to hold the local elections next year. I do not accept that. In fairness to the Parliamentary Secretary when I posed that question on the Bill he very fairly told me, I thought rather guardedly, that the intention is to hold the local elections in June next year. I think he knows as well as I do——

When the Bill is passed it will be legally binding to do so.

(Cavan): I think the Minister realises as well as I do that there is no hope whatever of the legislation to reorganise local government being passed before then.

I do not accept that.

(Cavan): Fan go bhfeicfidh tú. I did not think much of the Minister's White Paper. I believe it was a document which gave very little information. That became quite clear when, before it was a few months old, another publication had to be sent out for the purpose of explaining the White Paper. I do not believe the White Paper on local government could serve any useful purpose at the time at which it is published. In publishing this White Paper the Minister put the cart before the horse. He should have published his White Paper on local finance first because I could not tell the Minister or advise him as to whether I think a particular local authority should be abolished or should be maintained until I knew how it was going to be financed. I believe the local authorities should be retained. I believe it would be wrong to abolish urban councils. I believe that town commissioners have their part to play in local administration. I am certainly not in favour of substituting for any of that some sort of pressure groups, of community councils, who are not responsible to anybody, who will not have to get democratically elected but who will act as pressure groups to county councils. I do not think they are desirable.

Are the Fine Gael Party opposed to community councils?

(Cavan): I am opposed to a type of body that will not have to be elected any place and that will act as a pressure group.

Fine Gael are against community councils. It is nice to know where you stand.

(Cavan): The Minister calls these community councils. I should like to have it spelled out so that I will know exactly what they are, how they get elected and to whom they are to be responsible, but I repeat that until such time as I know how local administration is to be financed, I am not in a position to discuss the reorganisation of local government.

The Minister dealt with rates at some length. The rating system we have at present cannot be justified and it is time the Minister and the Government realised that and did something about it. It is a system of local finance which was introduced as far back as 1601 and came into general operation in 1850. It is common case for years back now that the system is unjust, unfair and, indeed, immoral. The Report on Valuation for Rating Purposes at paragraph 26 is short. It says:

The principle behind rateable valuations is that the ratepayer's estate in a rating authority's area should provide a measure of his ability to contribute towards the cost of local services in that area. The valuation system should secure that occupiers of similar premises pay rates on similar valuations. This our valuation system fails to do. Where a system intended to distribute taxes fairly breaks down or becomes distorted, public confidence in the system is lost and some degree of hardships results. The Committee is satisfied that a widespread irrelativity among valuations exists and that this defeats the objective of equitable distribution of the rates assessed on them. This would not matter so much if rates brought in relatively small sums of money but as rates are likely to continue to bring in larger sums, it is essential that the hereditaments be revalued. The lack of public confidence in the present valuation system is indicated by recurring criticisms in the press, in local authority resolutions and in questions and comments in Dáil and Senate.

That is the Inter-departmental Committee on Local Finance and Taxation: Report on Valuation for Rating Purposes at page 15, paragraph 26 and if that was true in 1965 when this publication came out, how much more true is it now? I do not concede that even if the defect highlighted there were remedied, the system would still be just, because if like properties or buildings bore like valuations, they still would not provide a measure of the ratepayer's ability to pay because they would not have regard to the income of the ratepayer and the man living in one house could have an income of £2,000 a year and the man in the other might have £350 a year and still have to pay the same. That is why it is wrong.

The same report, or one of these reports, strongly recommended that some relief be given to the lower income group and I do not believe that any worthwhile relief has been given to that group. The Minister referred to the rates relief scheme which is operated now by about 40 local authorities. I do not know how many there are but that cannot be more than about half. It is not operated by the others because the cost of it is not defrayed by the Minister or by the Exchequer. It is defrayed by the other ratepayers in the locality within the local authority area and I think that is wrong. If this scheme is to be worthwhile, it should be operated and paid for by the Exchequer, just as social welfare benefits in the form of old age pensions, blind pensions, unemployment assistance or disabled persons allowances are paid. It is wrong that such a scheme should be introduced and put on the local authorities. It is not a compulsory scheme either—some local authorities have adopted it and some have not.

This is nothing new. Such a scheme as this operates in England and I should like to put on the records of this House a leaflet which I have obtained. It is prepared by the Department of the Environment, Welsh Office in London. It is entitled "You may be entitled to a rate rebate" and it goes on:

Who qualifies? Any tenant or owner-occupier in England and Wales whose income is small and whose rates are not already fully covered by supplementary benefit. This includes tenants who pay rates in with their rent and if you are a tenant, the rebate application and payment is handled entirely between you and the council.

What are the new income limits? You qualify for a full rates rebate if (1) your rates are not already fully covered by supplementary benefit and (2) your recent average gross income averaged no more than £12 a week if you are single, widowed, separated or divorced or £14.75 a week if you are married, plus £2.50 per week in either case for each dependent child, so that the income limits for families are, for example, £17.25 a week for a married couple plus one child, £19.75 per week for a married couple plus two children, £22.25 per week for a married couple plus three children, and so on.

That is the sort of scheme that is operated across the water and I think it is high time we introduced such a scheme here which would operate until such time as we abolished the wretched system altogether.

It has been acknowledged by the Government on several occasions that relief is needed. The farming community, or a big proportion of them, have been relieved from rates and relief is given to industry. A Bill was introduced here by the Minister for Industry and Commerce some time ago extending to new factories and that sort of thing the scheme already in operation. The one person who gets no rates relief here is the private individual living on a small income in a private house and certainly that is not good enough. It is high time such a scheme was introduced. As I say, until such time as I know how local administration is to be financed in future, it is a waste of time to talk about reorganisation, White Papers and that sort of thing.

I am glad that the Minister has at last agreed to give the vote to those who have attained the age of 18 years. We have been campaigning for that for quite some time and it is a pity he did not grant this to these people in local elections long before this. He could have done that without a referendum. Perhaps he would avail of this opportunity to give a postal vote to people like commercial travellers. They have been campaigning for this for a long time. Recently I received a communication — I am sure the Minister did too — from the Irish Wheelchair Association. I will read the copy of the resolution passed by the Ballinasloe and district branch.

That the Ballinasloe and district branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association urge the Minister for Local Government, that provision be made in the Electoral Laws, whereby a person, who is suffering prolonged and substantial physical disability and who normally finds it difficult or impossible to cast his vote either by reason of his disability or of his local polling station being inaccessible to him, may, on application to his local Electoral Registration Authority, be entitled to have his name entered on the Register of Electors, for the place where he normally resides, as a person with a postal vote at all elections and referenda. And, moreover, that such a provision in the Electoral Laws should contain the necessary safeguards against electoral abuse.

I recommend this proposal to the Minister. I know one individual who is unable to enter a polling station. On some occasions the presiding officer violated the regulations and brought the ballot paper out to this voter. This request is a reasonable one and perhaps the Minister would think about it.

The prevention of fire and the extinguishing of fire is most important. So is the saving of life when fires occur. Buildings in which large numbers are employed, especially above ground-floor level, should be inspected. It should be compulsory on all employers to have fire escapes and so forth. I am sure it is compulsory under the Factories Act but the Act needs to be enforced more stringently.

I should like to take this opportunity of complimenting part-time firemen. They are doing an excellent job. Not all towns can afford a full-time fire service. The speed with which these men get to the scene of a fire always amazes me. However, they have a grievance. I do not know if anything can be done about it. They believe their salary as part-time firemen should not be subjected to income tax. The Minister has no direct control here but, in consultation with his colleague, the Minister for Finance, it may be possible to find a solution by amending the law.

A considerable amount has been done in housing itinerants and getting them in as a part of a settled community. I am not now referring to the Minister's own experience in Galway but, in selecting sites for the housing of itinerants, the local inhabitants should be consulted. I believe that, if they are consulted, they will agree and difficulties will be overcome initially. In a number of places local authorities decided to build houses for itinerants without consultation and difficulties arose; these were overcome only by very delicate handling of the situation. Many towns have done their share and assurances were given in some cases that itinerants who had not been settled would not be allowed to make nuisances of themselves in these particular localities. That assurance has not been honoured. The Garda, I think, feel that they are not permitted to make these unsettled itinerants obey the law. I know a man who had to have six or seven stitches in his face because he had words with an itinerant to whom he refused to give money. I am all in favour of settling these people, but they should all of them be made to obey the law.

I am in complete agreement with the Minister's words of encouragement to local authorities to provide social workers for itinerants. It is quite a few years since I, at local level, made the same proposal. It is useless housing these people if there is no trained social worker to take an interest in them and get them into a settled way of life. I am glad the Department will contribute 90 per cent of the cost of employing these social workers. This should be compulsory on every local authority and, if there is not sufficient work for the particular social worker in one county, then two counties could share the services of this officer.

The county road grant will be the same as last year. The Minister has reduced the local improvement scheme grant to £37,000, a reduction of £40,000. I ask him to restore this grant to its former level.

The amenity grant for the entire country is £300,000; with a contribution from the local authorities it may go to £500,000. It is difficult to see what worthwhile county schemes can be done with that sort of money. It may be a move in the right direction but, divided over the entire country, it can only lead to false hopes.

Could the Minister tell us what proposals Dublin County Council have in regard to the Navan-Dublin road with particular reference to the road from Clones to Dublin? It is entirely unsuitable for the volume of traffic it is expected to carry. If one happens to get behind a slow-moving lorry or tractor one may have to travel at 10 mph for 10 or 12 miles. Absolutely nothing has been done with this road for the past 25 or 30 years. It is in the same condition now as it was then. Probably the explanation is that there is some high-falutin scheme to build a satellite town and construct major roads. I do not know where we shall all be when that is done. This road carries traffic from places as far away and as important as Donegal, Northern Ireland, as well as from Cavan and Meath. I suggest the Minister should travel over it a few times himself so as to see its capacity.

That is all I have to say on the Estimate. I hope the Minister will have regard to the points I have made and to the many other points which I am sure will be made before the debate concludes.

The Minister spoke for two and threequarter hours. He read from a brief comprising 73 pages. I listened very carefully but to me it was a very tedious, disappointing and disillusioning experience. I am satisfied that the Minister deliberately evaded the real issues involved in many aspects of his Department which are actuating people's minds at present, issues in respect of rents and rates, building costs, land speculation, interest charges and particularly the elimination of slums, squalor and privation which are, unfortunately, still an ugly feature of Irish life.

Obtaining a suitable home at a cost one can afford is still an excruciating and tedious experience for the vast majority of the people needing houses. The hopes of many are dashed when the cost is reckoned. It is true, and the figures the Minister produced are proof of it in respect of private building, that many are forced to take a plunge, so to speak, in desperation because their local authority is unable or unwilling to rehouse them. We know that many people who have embarked on housing themselves have taken on a tremendous financial commitment. They have placed a financial halter around their necks which strangles all the joys of life for them for many years. In many cases the essentials of life have to be curtailed because of the crippling financial burden of loan repayments. To my personal knowledge in many new homes the financial commitment is so great that the standard of living is dragged down to subsistence level.

To depend on local authorities alone for rehousing means, therefore, being condemned to living in straitened circumstances for many years involving a long purgatory of waiting. It is the norm in this country that one is expected to suffer for a number of years until a family arrives before one can be housed. This is surely the greatest indictment of our housing policy. It has been said in respect of Dublin city where there are upwards of 10,000 families in need of rehousing——

That is not correct at all.

——and that would not be a true figure. The Deputy will get his opportunity. I resent very much the vulgar interruptions of the Deputy. He seems to imply that we as spokesmen for our respective parties have no right to refer to Dublin. He should have better knowledge, as a Deputy of long experience in this House, that it is our prerogative to speak——

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Timmons will get an opportunity of making his own statement.

I offer no apology for having to advert to the scandal of housing in this city which the Deputy and his Government failed to remedy.

There are not 10,000 families looking for houses.

The Deputy will get an opportunity of making his own speech.

He does not want to solve the problem and does not want the city council re-established.

Is it in order for a Tipperary Deputy to say that there are 10,000 families in Dublin looking for houses today? That is a deliberate lie.

I shall continue in my remarks on this subject. I have mentioned briefly the position in Dublin and that one must have a family before one is even considered——

The Deputy should leave Dublin to solve its own problems.

If it depends on the likes of the Deputy, God help them. No wonder they are looking for houses as they are today.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Treacy is entitled to make his speech and the Deputy will get an opportunity of refuting it.

In depending on the various local authorities——

The Deputy should not come here and say that there are 10,000 families in need of houses——

I shall say what I want to say in this House and the Deputy has no right to dictate to me.

I am only suggesting the Deputy should confine his remarks to his own county.

I am an elected Deputy of the House and I can say what I like here provided the Ceann Comhairle permits me. How dare you dictate to me?

The arrogance of Deputy Treacy.

That twit.

Confine yourself to your own county.

I was referring to the difficulty of securing a home of one's own from a local authority and I was pointing to the sufferings that this involves to the newly weds. They clearly have to suffer hardship, privation, sickness, domestic trouble and in many instances tragedy ending in separation for many of them, resort to drink and even mental breakdown. In most of the EEC countries, which to all intents and purposes we have now joined, there is a housing policy of instant rehousing. All who are in need are given the opportunity of obtaining new homes. All the facilities are there for rehousing average families and newly weds.

Here the norm is to suffer from five, ten and even 15 years before a person secures the basic essential of shelter. The homeless of this country are exploited by our Government. Prior to being rehoused these unfortunate people are subjected to grave exploitation. Rackmanism is rife in this city and in the country as a whole in respect of the rent charged for flats and other types of accommodation, mostly of an inferior type. There are no effective controls of the amount of money these unfortunate people have to pay. It is dreadful to have to pay £5 or £6 a week for accommodation which in my opinion is unfit for pigs never mind human beings. It seems that we will not see the breakthrough in housing, which we are all anxious to see, under our present regime.

I should like the Minister to indicate when replying what he can do to bring relief to the people who are so exploited in regard to rents charged for flats and other accommodation. I should like to know what curbs he proposes to apply to those who charge excessive rents for inadequate accommodation or what redress, if any, those unfortunate people have.

The Deputy should address that question to the Minister for Justice, not to me.

I am sorry if it is the wrong Department but it seems very relevant to the Minister's Department. This is essentially a matter of housing and I assume it is the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government. Perhaps the Minister might convey my views of this matter to his colleague, the Minister for Justice, to see if he can come up with a solution. The joy of having a home of one's own is quickly dampened when the differential rent is announced. The exploitation seems to continue here by the State and its subsidiary authorities. The concept of the differential rent policy was a very noble ideal but it has now been dragged into disrepute by its mal-administration and by the manner in which the Minister's policy is being interpreted. There is widespread opposition to the differential rent policy. I was quite amused to hear the Minister remark that the dispute going on at the present time is confined to a very small area and to very few tenants in the country. Anybody who reads our papers and listens to the media knows that this is not in accordance with the facts. There is widespread resentment of the differential rents system, there is widespread indignation and a sense of outrage in certain places as a result of the manner in which it is being administered.

That is on the very big assumption that the newspapers are presenting the facts.

I intend to elaborate on this. We have witnessed over a number of years an unrelenting battle between the tenants and their respective associations and the Minister and his Department. This dispute has been highlighted by rent restrictions, protestations, marches, summonses, court proceedings and now we have evictions to contend with. The Minister, instead of grappling with the situation and meeting the reasonable demands of the tenants and their associations, has adopted the very same arrogant posture as his predecessor. He is now applying all the rigours of the law to ensure that he will have his way. He has refused to listen to reasonable demands and he has now resorted to the old ill-famed method of the British landlord, the sheriff, the bailiff and the battering ram in order to evict tenants. I never thought, as a public representative, that I would see the day when an Irish Minister of State would condone such outrageous action as was witnessed in a recent eviction in Dublin when Mr. and Mrs. John Leonard and their four young children were evicted from a corporation house at Cromcastle Court, Coolock on Friday the 16th June. Evictions to the Irish people conjure up memories of the past, of evil days and an oppressive regime. This was an outrageous act especially in regard to the brutal manner in which it was carried out. I am also deeply sorry that the Garda was used in such a violent attack upon an Irish family.

That is a matter for another Minister.

Very good, Sir, I shall not emphasise that, but, to my mind, the manner in which the whole affair was carried out was reprehensible, barbarous and unChristian. I personally rejoice that there were Irish men and women on that occasion who refused to stand idly by and witness the home of an Irish family being violated in such a brutal fashion—shades of Captain Boycott, the sheriff and his bailiffs with their battering ram now being wielded by a new rackrenter in the person of the Minister for Local Government.

I should like to correct the Deputy. I am not responsible for the administration of local authority housing estates. It is a matter for the local authorities themselves.

It seems to be a matter for the Dublin Corporation and not the Minister.

I made a speech which was published in the daily papers on Monday, 10th May, 1971. I quote from The Irish Independent of that day in which the speech is reported under the headline “The Iron Fist of Bobby Molloy”. I did not conjure up that headline. I said in that speech that I believed this was the manner in which the Minister was dealing with the tenants and their association.

The Deputy is quoting the oracle now.

I shall also quote from The Irish Press, “Pravda”, the truth in the news. I referred to mismanagement and to the blind bureaucracy under which the Minister and his Department operated, and I admonished him that he could not repress people with an iron fist. The Minister took exception to that speech of mine and replied to it the following day. However, I think events have proved that I was correct in my assessment of the Minister's approach. Personally, I respect him very much. I was pleased to see a young Minister take over the mantle of Local Government. I expected that he would prove progressive, and it is a matter of deep regret to me that he has come under the influence of bureaucratic control within his Department.

The family concerned is merely one of the thousands of families in this country at the present time who are concerned and who are labouring under a genuine grivance in respect of the differential rents system. They have received no proper consideration from the Minister and obviously have received no redress. This is a national issue. It may well be that events have gone too far, because I am afraid the Minister may have lost credibility as regards dealing with the issue fairly. What we require most urgently is the establishment of an impartial committee to examine the differential rents system and make suggestions for eliminating speedily the grievance so often outlined by us.

I appeal, therefore, to the Minister and, over his head, to the Government for the establishment of such a committee to investigate the grievance of the tenants and their association and to bring back a report with the least possible delay in respect of the demands of the tenants. We all know what these demands are but it may be necessary to enumerate them again.

I said earlier that the joy of securing a council house or corporation house has been quickly dampened by the announcement of the differential rent. Again I have been accused by the Minister of speaking with two voices on this issue. I am proud of the system. I know where it originated. It was the late Big Jim Larkin who conceived the idea of graded or differential rents in his desire to rid this city of its slums in the early part of the century. It was noble in its concept, but it is the manner in which it is being administered that has caused the backlash. It is regarded by some as a blessing but by the majority as a curse.

The Minister must appreciate that there is something fundamentally wrong with the administration of a scheme which causes such widespread unrest and indignation. People rightly resent the intrusion into family life involved in the administration of the differential rents system, the means test applied to all the family income, the prying and the probing into private affairs. Inroads are clearly made into family privacy in the demand for the submission of wage statements from all the earners in the household, wage statements which are demanded periodically and must be certified by the employers of all the wage earners in that household. The violation of family privacy in this way cannot be tolerated indefinitely. It was never intended to apply indefinitely. The calculation of the rent is on the gross earnings of the breadwinner. A high percentage of the income of the other earners of the household is also taken into account. There is deep resentment that overtime earnings, shift work earnings or incentive bonuses should be reckoned. No regard at all is had to the outgoings in respect of social welfare, income tax, superannuation schemes and the like. There are also the penal clauses inherent in the scheme governing differential rents which give to the local manager the right to apply the minimum or the maximum rent at his discretion. Refusal to comply with all the regulations laid down automatically means the application of the maximum differential rent; so it will continue, and the arears accrue until the tenant conforms.

I believe, too—and the Minister can refute this if he likes and I should be grateful for an explanation when he is replying—that in many instances the maximum differential rent applied is not merely the economic rent of the house but is in excess of the economic rent. It is also alleged that when fixing the maximum rent the State subsidy is taken away in order to enforce exceptionally high rents which are in excess of the economic rent. People are not fools. If this is happening it is disgraceful. Is it any wonder that there has been a rash of tenant strikes, protests, court preceedings and, now, evictions, which have highlighted this matter? That is why I sincerely call for an impartial examination of the system.

It seems to us in the Labour Party, who are very perturbed about the present position, that a completely new approach to the problem is required. I regret to say that I have lost confidence in the ability of the Minister and his Department to bring about an amelioration of the problem. We now suggest, apart from the inquiry I have already referred to that there should be a scheme for house ownership on a co-operative basis.

I was genuinely pleased at the reference in the Minister's speech to one local authority who, when building a new scheme of houses, offer the successful applicants the houses on the basis of differential rent or purchase. This is a very laudable policy and I would be glad if the Minister would furnish me with further information on the matter.

We suggest that in connection with every housing estate there should be a policy of house ownership on a co-operative basis. In most instances the tenants' association of long experience might be regarded as the co-operative. First, the purchase scheme at present in vogue throughout local authorities must be scrapped. It is simply not being availed of. The prices are exorbitant.

That is not true.

I have the figures. The people who have availed of the purchase scheme have done so out of compulsion in a desperate effort to extricate themselves——

(Interruptions.)

Order. Deputy Treacy is in possession. Deputy Timmons will be allowed an opportunity of replying.

The Deputy's party campaigned when the tenant purchase scheme was introduced and advised the people not to buy their houses.

May I be allowed to proceed?

Deputy Treacy is in possession.

The Deputy's party advised the people not to buy their houses.

That is right.

The result is that those who did not buy their houses at that time had to pay up to £1,000 more.

Who is in possession?

Will the Deputy please resume his seat and allow Deputy Treacy to make his speech?

I cannot sit here and listen to this kind of thing.

If the Deputy cannot sit there and listen, he has the opportunity of going outside. Deputy Treacy.

I must repeat what I have said. I am sorry. I will not be intimidated by anybody in this House, least of all by the Deputy.

I just want to put the facts right.

The Deputy can tell me nothing.

When the tenant purchase system was introduced, you advised the people not to buy, that they would get better terms.

I do not want to be personal but the Deputy should not provoke me. The existing purchase schemes must be scrapped because they are not being availed of to the extent to which they should be availed of in a society which favours ownership of property. The prices charged are related to the present value of the houses or their replacement value. This is patently unfair to tenants of council property. A house that was built pre-war for some £300, without amenities such as bathroom and indoor toilet facilities or the modern amenities that go with a house today, is offered for sale to the existing tenant at present value, which could be £1,000, £1,500, perhaps £2,000, depending on the area. This is simply not on. That kind of purchase scheme is doomed to failure.

I suggest the transfer of ownership of these housing estates from the local authority, to, say, the tenant association or a co-operative. The houses would then become a co-operative and would be effectively managed by the co-operative. The local authority would charge a basic amount in respect of the sale of a house. The tenants would run their own estate and would be responsible for maintenance and repairs. The co-operative would own the scheme but each tenant would have his lease.

The local authority need not necessarily lose complete control over its housing stock. In the event of houses becoming vacant there could be an agreement whereby persons on the waiting list of the local authority would get first preference. Approved applicants should get high priority in respect of vacant houses. This would ensure the retention of the housing stock for the benefit of the lower or middle income groups, or the working classes as they are known.

I put up this proposal as a solution to the present dilemma. I trust the Minister and his Department will treat it seriously. It is merely an extension of the principle of house ownership, on realistic terms. The schemes would be run on a co-operative basis, thereby ensuring adequate maintenance and repairs and civic spirit. In the event of hardship the community spirit would come to the rescue of those in need who might not be able in times of difficulty to meet their financial commitment.

The House will agree with me that thousands of tenants cannot be bludgeoned into submission. They are reasonable people. All they ask is for social justice. What happened in the Coolock eviction must not be allowed to happen again. That had all the ingredients of high drama, all the tragedy of the evictions of old. It is an indication of the attitude of the people on that occasion that they recited the Rosary.

Is the Deputy supporting the rent strike? I should like to know where the Deputy stands.

The local priest intervened and sought to secure a settlement of this dispute. He did so with some success because the bailiff, his sheriff and officers vacated the scene of the eviction for some time. Then a truly astonishing thing happened.

You are backing the subversives?

The gardaí attacked. Some 60 to 70 gardaí were present and forced entry into this flat by breaking down the doors and the windows with crowbars.

Who will suffer if the rent strike persists? The poor people— not the wealthy people, the NATO people.

Contain yourself, Parliamentary Secretary. I believe that the man who gave the order to the gardaí to attack the house in such brutal fashion has a lot to answer for. In my opinion it was uncalled for, it was unjustified, especially as a move was made to achieve a compromise in this tragic situation.

Is the Deputy allowed to read his script?

The Deputy is allowed to look at his notes.

I always understood that the Garda were regarded as a peaceful force.

This is a matter for another Minister as I pointed out before and the Deputy has already dealt with this particular point. The Deputy is now repetitious.

We will end up with people in substandard buildings because they are being misled by the subversives.

You will not get away with evictions.

Eviction is being brought upon them by subversives.

Rubbish.

If you want to support them you do it and you will find yourself looking for a Seanad seat.

Is Matt Larkin a subversive? Matt Larkin is one of the finest men in this city, a man of integrity and honour.

That will be proved in time.

How dare you reflect upon him and his colleagues in NATO?

I do, indeed. He is misleading the people of Dublin.

If anyone is misleading them it is you.

And intimidating them, indeed. Intimidation. Rent strike by intimidation.

It was an unfortunate affair. I hope there will not be a recurrence.

Matt Larkin will make sure there will be.

It was all due to the bungling bureaucracy which Deputy Lemass is trying to bolster up.

That is a lot of non-sense and you know it. You are putting yourself in a very dangerous situation.

I am putting myself in the right.

You are putting yourself out of this House.

You try it. You tried it many a time.

I have not tried it before. I have never been personal in my life.

Do your best. Matt Larkin and his colleagues in NATO are peace-loving, dedicated men.

Do you believe that?

I want to repudiate any reflection on their character or integrity as mouthed by the Parliamentary Secretary. They should be listened to and their views should be acted upon. I ask the Minister to call a truce. Let us have talks. Let us have a better understanding in this whole matter. Let us stop the summonses and prosecutions and the evictions.

And stop building houses because there is no money.

If that is done, I believe the rent strike will stop. Let us also stop the misuse and abuse of the Garda in matters of this kind——

Rent strike by intimidation.

——if we want to retain the Garda as a force which should be respected by the people and which we should be careful to ensure will not be alienated by the people in matters of this kind.

Even in Ballyfermot the elected representatives are not consulted. Intimidation all the way.

Deputy Treacy.

It was understandable that the Minister would seek to blow his own trumpet in respect of housing and other matters appertaining to local government. It is gratifying to see an increase in the number of houses being built, the figure for last year being 17,000 odd, but I contend that this increase in the number of houses built has been brought about in the main by the initiative of the people and in spite of rather than with the support of the Minister and his Department.

It has also been accelerated by the new methods of construction which make for speedier erection of houses. This progress has been made by the initiative of the 12,000 people who built their own homes. Only 5,000 of the families concerned were housed by local authorities. In a situation such as we have to contend with there is no room for boasting or backslapping. Evidently there has been no serious endeavour to grapple effectively with the situation. It is as difficult as ever to secure a new home. It takes as long as ever to secure one.

The House should realise that prices soared by 15 per cent last year. The worst hit area was the Minister's own area of Galway. House prices there increased by over 24 per cent last year. The cost of the average house has gone up by over £1,000 in the past year alone. In the past three years the cost of local authority housing in particular has increased by 30 per cent and nothing effective has been done to stem this rampant inflation and exploitation. The house which cost £2,500 a year ago is costing over £5,000 today. We know that the major cost of the increase is in respect of land or serviced land. The Minister mentioned that the cost of housing in recent years had increased by 50 per cent in respect of labour costs, by a lesser amount in respect of materials and he mentioned, by the way, an increase in the cost of sites. He did not apply a percentage in respect of the cost of sites but we all know that it was not labour costs, it was not material costs. The increase was due in the main to the increase in the price of land and the interest charges for the capital repayment. The high cost of land and of loan repayment at 10 per cent are the contributory factors to high prices. If we take away from the number of houses built in the past year the numbers built by private house owners, we will find that two out of every three were built by private initiative. It seems to me to be a bit audacious of the Minister to claim credit for all the houses being built at present. In Dublin prices of houses rose by 14 per cent to £6,409; prices in Cork rose by 10 per cent in the past year and in Limerick, which was a little better off, by 5 per cent. Prices in other areas went up by an average of 19 per cent. When we talk of the price of land and the cost of money, we must not forget that it is those unfortunate people who are subjected to differential rent schemes and loan repayments who are the real sufferers.

I want to differentiate between houses built by local authorities and by private builders. The 12,000 houses of the 17,000 were built by building agencies, co-operatives and private persons and nobody can gainsay that. I know that the housebuilding record of our local authorities is a dismal one and much to be deplored but this is not the fault of the local authorities as such. We know full well that the dead hand of the Department leans very heavily upon them and all kinds of means are adopted to stifle progress and initiative in housebuilding by our local authorities. Instead of being helped, all the evidence is that they are being hindered in the acceleration of the housing drive. We also appreciate, of course, that money determines the speed of building, that money determines the speed with which a housing authority can operate. The Minister is restricted by the amount of money he receives from his Minister for Finance and is thereby obliged to cut his cloth according to his measure in allocating the money to our various authorities and the brakes are applied in proportion to the amount of money available to these authorities, so that basically one comes back to capital again.

I daresay that if there were many millions of pounds provided in this Estimate over and above the £15 million odd provided, the red tape could be safely cast aside, the shuttlecock service of submitting plans ten times over to the Minister set aside and all the strangling, stultifying and impeding could be forgotten and houses built very quickly indeed. There is very little initiative left to local authorrities to get on with the job; they are still being held in a vice-like grip by the Minister and his Department. We are told by the Minister that our local authorities now have the discretion to build upwards of six houses without going through all the usual formalities. Six houses is a ridiculously low number and I would like to see that figure increased out of all proportion. If you can take off the brakes in respect of six houses, if you can set aside the red tape in respect of six houses, can you not do so in respect of a much greater number and give back to these authorities some enterprise and independence of action? I would love to see the day come when this whole sorry exercise of having to submit everything to the Minister's Department is done away with.

It must not be forgotten that a local authority cannot proceed unless it gets approval for the acquisition of the site, then gets approval for the layout plan of that site, then the house plan and then the specifications. It must get sanction for the submission of tenders for erection and then comes the crunch: the authority must get approval for the proper loan to proceed with the building. In my opinion, there is no justification whatever for such a stranglehold being placed on our authorities. It is purely a calculated delaying device, understandable in that the Minister is limited in the amount of money available. I look forward to the day when our local authorities will be given greater independence of action and initiative in matters of this kind whereby they can make their own decisions in this important matter of housing without the continuous over-bearing attitude of bureaucratic control and we see signs that the dead hand of the Department will be removed from our local authorities so that progress can be made on so many fronts, and not merely in the matter of housing but so many other activities which we so urgently require in terms of sewerage schemes, water supplies, dealing with pollution, roadmaking and all these things.

I think it fair to say in all the circumstances that the Government have allowed land prices, interest charges and rents and rates to spiral to shocking proportions. They have consistently refused to recognise housing as an essential service for our people, ranking in importance with education, health or any of the social services. By this conservative policy of pandering to speculators, extortioners and exploiters, they have condemned thousands of our people to live in shocking circumstances over a long number of years before they are rehoused. We deplore this continued exploitation of our people and it is my function and duty to discountenance it from these benches. We have to reassert the value of service before private gain and the welfare of our people before profit. The get-richquick element must be removed from this whole sphere of housing. They have got away with too much for far too long. They have done too much damage to our society and to our people and they have blighted the lives of too many thousands of our people. Those of us who call for remedial action are justified in doing so on grounds of morality just as much as on grounds of social justice.

In respect of the various things which go to increase costs our pleas here from these benches for some curbs on land prices have fallen upon deaf ears. I am aware that the Minister has set up a committee to examine into land prices and this committee is expected to put forward suggestions to enable local authorities to build up land banks. It is expected to do much more. I understand that Mr. Justice Kenny is the chairman of the committee. It has been sitting now since the early part of last year; subject to correction, I think it was established in January or February of last year. When, I wonder, will this committee report? I understand there is a constitutional difficulty involved in that anyone is entitled to sell his property at the highest price he can get for it. One must, however, have regard to the social consequences involved in unbridled speculation in land, a speculation which has gone on now for some time. I understand, too, that there may be difficulty in finding an acceptable definition of a land speculator. These speculators are there. We all know they are there. There are many people who have become enormously wealthy very quickly by buying land cheaply and selling it very dearly. They got planning permission and land they bought at £1,000 an acre was sold afterwards at £1,000 per site of one-eighth of an acre. This is indeed a lucrative business. It is the unfortunate houseowner who pays the piper. I urge that this committee report as quickly as possible on this vital issue of conserving sufficient land to enable a social policy for housing to be implemented and that speculation cease forthwith.

It would be remiss of me if I did not avail of this opportunity of adverting to the conservation and preservation of all those things that are good and beautiful. It is true to say that our country is still unspoiled but there is growing evidence that our scenic beauty, our cultural heritage and our natural amenities are coming more and more under attack because of change in the industrial, technological and scientific spheres. The tragedy is that nothing effective is being done to stem this sorry trend. Even the speech made by our Minister for Local Government in Stockholm recently has caused some disquiet. There have been rejoinders in the Press because of the complacent approach of our Minister to the serious threat that exists from pollution and spoliation of various kinds.

Many of our lakes and rivers and a large part of our coastline have already become polluted to a pretty serious extent. In Dublin the rivers and the coastline are so bad that they have been described as cesspools of filth and stench. I trust the Minister will not now include me with the exaggerators and the alarmists to whom he referred in his opening speech today. The pollution and the spoliation are there for all to see. Fish life has been seriously threatened in our rivers and lakes. I know places in which fish life has been wiped out. The air we breathe is becoming more and more contaminated. Bird life and wild life generally are being destroyed by pollution and by irresponsible interference with their natural habitat. I am sorry to say that in this regard some of our State bodies are culpable. Here I am referring in particular to the Board of Works, the Forestry section of the Land Commission, and to the drainage and irrigation works of various kinds which have been carried out throughout the country. These have interfered seriously with the natural habitat of birds and wild life generally. It is disconcerting to see State bodies acting in such an irresponsible manner. The very food we eat is becoming more and more contaminated because of the growing use of insecticides and pesticides. These leave dangerous residues in food. We prided ourselves on the high quality and the purity of our food and on the quality of our milk and vegetables in particular. These are becoming more and more contaminated because of the overuse of insecticides and pesticides. Our ancient monuments and places of artistic beauty are being destroyed in the process of change. Many beautiful landscapes have been ruined in the interests of progress. All these things are greatly to be deplored.

I know that our environment is changing rapidly, unfortunately for the worst. The Government are not facing up to the reality of the situation. There seems to be no positive environmental policy. There are clearly no adequate funds. That is evident from the niggardly amount of money provided for that excellent body, An Foras Forbartha. We rely on the experts in An Foras Forbartha to guide and advise us on all these issues. There is no effective legislation to deal with pollution.

Of course there is.

On the contrary, the position is that responsibility is spread over at least seven Departments of State, for the information of the Parliamentary Secretary, who, I think, made an interjection. There are at least seven Departments involved and clearly what is needed is one Department and one comprehensive piece of legislation to deal with the matter effectively. I hope this cumbersome and ineffective state of affairs will end quickly. We have been accused of seeking to emulate the British when we mention the desirability of a Ministry of the Environment, but the problems of contamination in respect of our coastline and our island generally more and more bring home to us that a separate Ministry is required with the legislation and necessary money to cope effectively with the problem. I think there is no legislation at present to prevent air and water pollution by industries set up before 1963.

Much emphasis has been placed by the Minister on the duties and responsibilities of local authorities in respect of pollution. I know how anxious many local authorities are to grapple effectively with the problem but one of the things most often required is the treatment of raw sewage before it enters rivers and streams. This is a very costly process and, without State aid, many local authorities will not be able to deal adequately with the problem. Special grants are urgently needed to assist local authorities in dealing with raw sewage, with industrial and agricultural effluents, thousands of gallons of which are poured out daily and the volume of which is daily increasing. It is not sufficient to tell local authorities that they have a job to do; they must get the wherewithal to do it and money is essential. Likewise, local authorities must be backed up with the necessary legislation so that they can avoid the pollution to which I have referred.

The greatest threat in respect of pollution and the environment comes from apathy and indifference. We need a sustained campaign of publicity and education which would begin in our schools. We lack civic spirit in facing the problem of pollution and attacks on our environment: sufficient has not been done in that field. This is not the Estimate for Education but I hope the Minister will have regard to the need for publicity in this matter and that he will agree that the schools are the place to begin.

Planning has been mentioned in the Minister's speech and Deputy Fitzpatrick dealt with its defects at some length. He referred to the various pieces of alternative legislation which we ought to have introduced here but our attempts were stymied by various Ministers for Local Government. It is disconcerting to realise that legislation is drafted to provide for better planning and the involvement of our people in planning and that we cannot get the Government to introduce and enact it here. It is difficult to understand the undue delay. We want a better planning system. We want the people more involved in planning which is now being done by a select few, and executives of the local authorities and of the Minister's Department.

Deputy Fitzpatrick was pretty trenchant in his attack in regard to planning appeals and he explicitly used the word corruption, an ugly word which I do not like using, but there may well be grounds for it in this instance. I shall not develop that point except to say that the greatest worry one has is in respect of the lack of a credible or logical or effective appeal.

On an Estimate, as the Deputy is aware, he may not advocate legislation or criticise it.

This was mentioned at great length by my predecessors all day and I felt I also, should be entitled to comment on this vital and important matter of planning.

For the Deputy's information, he may criticise the administration of legislation but not the legislation itself.

A very fine point. Until such time as we have a more effective appeal we cannot get confidence in the whole area of planning. The bureaucrats who made the plan should not be the people to decide the appeal. They should not adjudicate on their own plan.

It is the local authority's elected members——

I am talking about appeals.

That is a very small percentage. The bulk of applications are dealt with by the local authority on a county borough or town development plan drawn up by the elected members of the authority.

Have the members of the local authority access to the files in the planning office of the local authority?

I am not sure. I do not know, but they can object——

Have I a right as a member of a local authority to go in and inspect plans?

Yes. Any plan lodged with the local authority is advertised and open for inspection for one month and any member of the public can go in and examine the application.

Deputy Treacy should be allowed to develop his argument.

People are reluctant to avail of their right to appeal first because the appeal lies to the Minister for Local Government and the Minister is too much part of the establishment to be able to give what people would regard as a fair hearing. These decisions are decided on by the officials in the Department under the Minister. It is wrong that the bureaucrats who made the plans, who have an obligation to support the planning authority in its stand should decide the appeal.

Which people? It is the Minister who decides the appeals, not the officials.

It is wrong that the people who drew up the plan should adjudicate on it. I hope we will have some kind of impartial committee or board to deal with appeals in the future and set aside the feelings of suspicion and distrust which surround this. There seems to be justification for it in some instances because too many people have got very rich very quickly by buying land cheap and selling it dearly by the device of getting planning permission.

I want to refer to air pollution. It is alleged that the air in this city is twice as dirty as that in London before the introduction of smokeless zones there, that the emission of noxious fumes and gases especially from factories and motor vehicles is going on unabated and that nothing effective is being done in that regard. This is to be regretted when one considers that this country, unlike London and other cities in Britain, escaped the industrial revolution. I do not suggest that the Minister is complacent in this matter, despite the feeling one got from his contribution at Stockholm. But to anyone who is complacent about this matter I wish to quote an eminent authority on pollution, Mr. Stewart Lee Udell of the USA who, having looked at the Irish situation said:

Ireland is moving into a dangerous era, attracting industry which can contribute to a classical pattern of pollution and despoliation of the countryside.

Can we have the reference?

It is a note of mine but I can give it to the Minister. It is quite authentic.

All that the Deputy need give is the author of the quotation.

I have given the author.

Perhaps the Deputy would repeat it for the benefit of the Minister.

Has the Minister not heard of it?

Indeed, I have. I thought the Deputy was quoting from some article.

I want to refer to the type of houses we are building in this country. I hope we will get away from the traditional pattern of little boxes. Some of the houses are bereft of any plan or any design and are soul destroying in appearance. I hope the Minister will exercise a little more control in ensuring that we have more variety in the type of houses we build and the kind of layout we conform to in the future. We should plan for communities, not merely for families. We should plan for the aged and the children as well as for the newly weds and families. There should be planning amenities simultaneously with that of housing. Playing fields, community halls, and shopping centres are of vital importance. In our desire to build our houses as cheaply as possible we tend to forget about these essentials especially playing fields for children and adults. These things should be regarded as an essential feature of a good housing scheme. Children should have a place to play and adults should have an opportunity for recreation and sporting pursuits away from traffic hazards.

We all subscribe to this very laudable idea but one comes up against the cost involved. I hope the Department can come to our rescue with regard to providing these amenities and not have people crying out for them later on. An investment of money in this regard would bring great reward to this society. It would do much to remove the instance of delinquency from our young people. Many of them get into trouble with the police because they have no proper recreation facilities.

The members of local authorities, potential house purchasers and house tenants should be given a greater say in the kind of houses they want and the kind of amenities they want. This is all the more important now by reason of the change in the method of construction of houses when we are seemingly going away from the traditional type of houses and where there is such variety of industrial unit construction methods or the prefabricated type of house in vogue, it is very desirable that we should have a closer look at what exactly we are getting in terms of a site development plan and a house plan, because afterwards we hear criticism of various aspects of these houses which, if the plans had been gone into carefully beforehand could so easily have been avoided. I appreciate that we as laymen are not able to assimilate very clearly what is involved in a plan until we see it in graphic from before us. Therefore, even we have to go to the cost of drawing up a miniature plan of the house, its interior, the general layout, site amenities and so on, this should be done. This is only fair to the people who will have to live in these houses for the rest of their lives, especially as they will be paying and paying dearly for them. This is something one can avail of if one is buying one's own house. There is unfortunately a tendency to treat with a certain amount of disdain and disregard the rights of the ordinary local authority applicant for housing. The feeling of the bureaucrats is that if you are in need of a house: "You will take it where we like, when we like. If you are badly off enough for a house you should be prepared to take anything anywhere." That is not good enough. People have the fundamental right to a say in the type of home that is being provided for them. I should like to see a more humane and a more understanding approach in the matter of providing housing in the years to come.

I know that the cost of providing amenities is a staggering one. It is with a certain amount of trepidation that one mentions Dublin when Deputy Timmons is here—I see he has left— but assuming the population of Dublin will increase by 20,000 persons per year, as is envisaged this means not merely the provision of 20,000 houses every year but, in fact, the building of a new town every year the size of Galway, and providing all the amenities that go with that kind of situation. It is desirable to plan in advance for this, and I sincerely hope this will be done. The idea of a new town, such as we have seen in North East Ulster, may well have to be considered.

The Minister referred to the matter of low cost housing, and I must admit that I still have a lot to learn in respect of this new policy. It is difficult to get detailed information on the matter and I should be grateful if the Minister would elaborate on this new venture when he is replying. The local authorities are kept very much in the dark in respect of the low cost housing system. It is difficult to find out the price of these houses. I see a serious defect here because of the disappearance of the old contract system which operated whereby advertising for tenders for erection and the laid-down procedure for the opening of tenders ensured fairness and impartiality and avoided any tendency to malpractice or corruption. Now the costing of these houses seemingly is known only to the Minister himself. When one asks the owners of these system-built houses what the price of a house is there is a marked reluctance to indicate the price, and they will fob you off by saying: "It depends on the development cost of the site." There is too much information being kept from the members of local authorities and from the Members of this House. We must have a fairer system, one we can understand and appreciate more fully.

Of course the Minister has quite slickly got away from the mention of the low cost housing scheme, because it has quickly transpired that "low cost" is a misnomer and the relative prices we have been able to secure indicate that these system-built, prefabricated houses will be far dearer than the traditional type of house. Therefore the words "low cost" were an embarrassment to the Department and a term they would wish to get rid of very quickly.

It is very difficult for me to sit here and listen to the many inaccuracies in the Deputy's speech. I cannot let him go on about the socalled low cost housing scheme, which is referred to as a guaranteed order project, implying that it only includes prefabricated or system-built houses. I do not know how often I have to explain to the Deputy that the bulk of houses available under the guaranteed order project are constructed by traditional methods and in a rationalised way, and that we have achieved substantial saving in the cost. I do not think Deputy Treacy is genuinely interested——

I do not think the Minister is entitled to interrupt me. He is entitled to give me information but he is not entitled to usurp my time by making another speech. I listened to the Minister in silence.

It is a terrible waste of time to be listening to all the rubbish the Deputy is coming up with.

Let the Minister clarify this whole matter when he is replying.

I have explained it to Deputy Treacy on several occasions, but I might as well be talking to the wall.

Rubbish. Let the Minister spell out the cost of these various houses to us. He has given us the list of the contractors and the types of houses. I am making a reasonable request. I want the Minister to price them for me and for the local authorities. This is something that we cannot get from the Minister.

I do not think the Deputy understands the basic facts relating to the costing of houses. First of all, you must know where the houses are being built. It may be a flat, even site, easy to develop, or it may be a hilly site.

Set aside the development cost; give us the basic cost of the house and let us work out the development cost. There is too great an element of secrecy about this matter, a lack of information which makes one very suspicious. I knew the Minister was bound to get irked when I referred to low cost housing projects.

Especialy when the Deputy referred to these as being system built or prefabricated houses, which is not true.

It transpired that it was a very costly affair.

Anybody would be irked who did not hear the truth being spoken.

We have the information the Minister refers to. The list of contractors. The old system as we knew it seems to be gone, where members of local authorities saw the design by their own architect, knew the layout plan, saw the tenders and were in a position to compare them. We knew we were getting a fair price. A great deal of this important work is now being carried out in the Department and members of the local authorities are bewildered as to what is going on until such time as they get the actual statement of price. This is not good enough. Better liaison must be developed between the local authorities and the Department.

I should like to make a special appeal for a more serious effort to deal with the problems of newly-weds. In Dublin city and in some other local authorities a certain percentage of new houses is set aside for newly-weds. If the Minister were to recommend or admonish local authorities to give a percentage of the houses in all new schemes to newly-weds the prospect of that suggestion being adopted would be enhanced. Because of the small number of houses they are able to build, most local authorities have not yet adopted that idea and newly-weds are forgotten. The adoption of this idea would help to improve our marriage rate. Newly-weds would have some hope of getting a home of their own. We have the lowest marriage rate in western Europe—five per 1,000 population. This is one-third the western European rate. I do not think those already on the waiting list for houses would begrudge this provision being made for newly-weds. It would be desirable if it were a feature of housing policy. Such a recommendation by the Minister would help.

I was gratified by the reference in the Minister's speech to an improvement in the number of houses provided for the aged. It is not desirable that houses for the aged should be built in terraces or schemes apart from the housing estates proper. Our desire is that in every scheme there would be a number of small houses provided for the aged rather than that the aged should be housed separately in special terraces. The aged could be absorbed in the housing estate proper where they could be amongst friends or relations in a community atmosphere and where they could be cared for and protected. This is what I had in mind when I referred to variety in housing schemes. Instead of rows of boxes, we would look forward to housing estates which would include provision for newly-weds, for families, large and small, and for the aged, where they could all enjoy happy community living. This is not impossible. Neither is it impossible to include a variety of house types in schemes, such as bungalows, two-storey, three-storey and even five-storey houses. Variety should be provided and provision should be made for the various sections of the community. I appreciate that the largest families have the greatest problems and should have first claim on rehousing.

There must be a change in the policy of building three bedroom houses. It should be a relatively easy matter in designing a scheme to include fourbedroom, two-bedroom and five-bed-room houses in order to cater adequately for individual requirements. We are coming around to that idea gradually but the Minister can do a great deal to encourage this type of enterprise on the part of housing authorities.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 21st June, 1972.