When I was opening this debate I asked the Minister to withdraw a statement he made last night that Kerry County Council had £200,000 or £300,000 that they could not spend last year.
Private Members' Business. - Building and Construction Industry: Motion (Resumed).
I would like at the start to say that, in case there is a misunderstanding, the amount was £300,000 under-spent but in fact they drew all but £38,000. Deputy O'Leary is quite correct to bring this to my notice. The amount returned was £38,000.
In other words the Minister is saying that Kerry County Council wrote out a cheque for £38,000 in respect of their house construction programme last year and sent it back to the Department of Local Government.
It was £38,000 more than they were able to spend last year.
I refute the allegation made by the Minister.
It is not an allegation, it is a statement.
It is a very serious allegation. My information is that there was a deficit of £166,000 on the county council's house building programme account on 31st December last and that the county council spent money out of overdraft accommodation at the request of the Minister in providing houses last year, despite the fact that the Coalition Government deliberately failed to spend the total amount provided for housing in their capital budget programme for 1976. I cannot understand how a council with a serious housing problem was allowed to go into a deficit of £166,000 having been asked by the Minister to provide houses out of overdraft accommodation. I believe that the failure to spend this money is due to the fact that the Government could not raise it. The failure of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to control the price of building and construction materials has aggravated the situation. The building industry, which has such great potential to relieve the serious unemployment situation as well as the lack of housing for our young population, would be in better condition if the Government had spent this money on the provision of houses, schools, and on the maintenance and improvement of harbours, piers, roads and so on. Most of our roads cannot carry heavy traffic and certainly they will not be in a position to do so within the next year or two. If the money had been spent on all these things the country would be better off. This situation is difficult to understand and I believe the reason the money was not spent was that the Government could not come up with the money.
Far more money will be required now, because apart from inflation more money must be invested in the building industry. About 50 per cent of our population is under 25 years of age and 40 per cent under 21 years of age. This means that the need for houses is increasing and will be substantial in a few years. There has been no real economic or physical planning in respect of the provision of schools, roads, piers, harbours and factories. There is no overall economic plan to aid the building and construction industry. More money should be provided for the industry. The kernel of the whole problem is the Government's failure to cut the cost of building materials. Rising costs are of great concern to those engaged in the construction industry and to builders providers. It is virtually impossible to quote for any worth while project because unless the materials are put aside at the time of quotation, the quotation could be out by anything between 10 and 30 per cent when the materials are delivered a few months hence. Last night I quoted examples of price increases. Nails have gone from 10p to 25p a pound and door knockers from £1.25 to £5 each. It is impossible for builders and for those supplying builders to make provision to meet these increases.
In relation to the situation within the Kerry County Council, I am not satisfied with the position and I do not accept for one moment that the Kerry County Council wrote out a cheque for £38,000 and sent it back to the Department of Local Government. My information is that there was a deficit, and I stand over that. It was unfair of the Minister last night, even if he was speaking off the record to say that Kerry County Council had not spent £200,000 or £300,000 last year.
I am more than amazed to see this motion on the Order Paper. It has appeared a couple of times. Obviously the Opposition are in poor shape and they have not much to criticise this Government for when they have to be repetitive by bringing up the same motion, despite the fact that they get their answer from the Minister every time. They seem to be like a punch drunk boxer hitting the ropes and coming back for more punishment. No doubt they will get the punishment they richly deserve when the Minister replies.
When this Government came into office they undertook a housing programme of 25,000 houses a year. The Government have concentrated their efforts in the local authority sector in particular, that area of greatest need. As a member of the Dublin local authority I can say that we have got more than our share, as the figures prove. Only a little more than four years ago, in 1972, the allocation was £6.5 million, whereas this year we will receive £26 million. This, in itself, is a clear indication of how seriously the Government regard the question of housing and of the building industry as a whole. We have not followed the policy of our predecessors in regard to the guaranteed housing programme which was another name for inferior type houses, houses on which in the years ahead vast sums of money will have to be spent in order to maintain them. When we provide homes we provide good houses. For years our predecessors talked of centre city development but they refused time after time to sign the plan put forward by the corporation.
On assuming office the present Minister appointed a housing co-ordinator for Dublin city and county and for the Dún Laoghaire area with the purpose of having houses built in the centre city area. The result is that there are new houses in some central city areas and there are plans in this regard for Clanbrassil Street, City Quay and the cattle market area, to name a few. It would have been expedient politically for the Government to say that it would be too expensive to build houses in these areas, that the building should take place out in the country, but we were committed to the preservation of the city centre. We did not indulge in the type of vague promises that emanated from the Opposition in this regard.
Fianna Fáil talk of employment but let me remind them that during the halcyon days of the sixties when there was so much talk of great economic miracles, there were created 12,000 grant-aided jobs per year, whereas during a period of international economic recession we have succeeded in providing 21,000 grant-aided jobs. Let us compare this figure with the alleged economic miracles of the sixties. There is no point in the Opposition endeavouring to tell us that we are falling down in so far as employment is concerned. Admittedly, there have been job losses but these were in protected industries and, as a result of the blast of free trade it was inevitable that some of those jobs would go to the wall. However, the Government in their budgetary policy have been taking steps to correct the situation.
There is more capital available now for schools, factories and for general development. During the past number of months there has been a significant upturn in the construction industry. There has been forward planning in regard to factories and, as a result of the various tax concessions, new businesses are opening while existing ones are expanding. In the months ahead the futility of the Fianna Fáil motion will become more evident.
Now that we are on the threshold of the recovery that we all knew would come about, there is nothing to stop this Government from getting on with the job of expanding the economy. There has been a cutback in office development and in major industrial development and, basically, this is the reason for any cutback there may be in the construction industry but the Government are not responsible for that situation because they have been pouring money into local authority houses, into schools development and for such projects as roads and water and sewerage schemes. The outlook for 1977-78 is good. The people will not be fooled by the motion that has been tabled by Fianna Fáil. At the next general election the electorate, having regard to our record in housing and in the various other areas, will undoubtedly give us the mandate to continue with our programme for a further five years. The Minister for Local Government has proved himself to be the most able Minister ever to hold this portfolio. His initiative, his drive and his foresight have enhanced his reputation. He has the ability to get on with the job despite such an obstacle as an economic recession.
Having regard to the fact that we are embarking again on industrial development and taking into consideration our housing programme, there must be great confidence for the future of the building industry. In tabling this motion the Opposition are having a last grasp at the straw in an effort to gain some political advantage but there is no such advantage for them in this. They are failing miserably in the various motions they are tabling. The effect of these motions is merely to enhance the Government's standing.
We, on this side of the House, are looking forward to a general election so that we may embark again on a four or five year planned programme of good housing and that we may be enabled to put new heart into the city. As a member of the corporation I am proud of the development in this area and I compliment the Minister on his achievements in this regard.
Last evening we heard Deputies Faulkner and O'Leary deal comprehensively with the housing problem in so far as the national scene is concerned. There is not much time at my disposal this evening but I shall devote that time to a review of the Dublin situation and to reiterating what I said before in regard to the Government's housing policy. Their policy must be one of the greatest disasters in the history of the city because it is a policy based on a misconception of how the problems should be solved within the city. The two requirements were, first, the provision of many new dwellings, and of course many new dwellings have been built. The second was the preservation of existing housing stocks and this is where the Government are falling down because they cut back on repair grants which makes it more difficult for a person in the city to keep a house in good order.
At present, Dublin Corporation have over 2,000 dwellings under construction and about 19 different schemes, but most of these are in the outer suburban areas. If we could finish those 2,000 dwellings in a year it would be a major contribution towards solving the housing problem but one must remember that we lose about 1,000 dwellings every year through obsolescence, street widening, bad planning decisions and this reduces the total number of houses provided but it also leaves the inner city almost denuded of houses because the houses lost are naturally in the older part of the city. We always lost some houses; some had to be demolished because they became too old but I state emphatically that the present Government policy on housing will lead to a major disaster insofar as the rebuilding of the centre of the city is concerned.
The Minister has said time and again that he wanted to rebuild the centre of Dublin, and it is the ambition of many to see this happen, but I think that a close look at the present situation will show that while local authority dwellings are being built in the Dublin area by Dublin Corporation very few are being built in the inner city area and therefore we will see a lopsided housing policy of suburban expansion and suburban sprawl, but the older parts of the city are not being renewed and therefore you will have the social problem arising from an ill conceived housing policy. You will have disruption and uprooting of families who want to live in the old city areas. They do not want to move, as they have lived there for all, or the greater part of their lives. This social upheaval will result because the Government are not carrying out the two essential requirements of a successful housing drive—building new flats and houses and also preserving as far as possible existing housing stocks.
We are awaiting a report from the Minister on the condition of the existing housing stock. So far we have not seen it but any Deputy or member of a Dublin local authority is very well aware of the pressures on the existing housing stock and the number of houses becoming obsolescent due to the fact that in many cases people cannot afford to keep them in proper condition. These houses fall into decay and must be demolished eventually either for safety reasons or because the families have fled from that district. We then see applications for office blocks or other types of development. What we are witnessing is the decay of housing in the inner city areas. It would be correct to say that there are thousands of unemployed building workers in the city but what I want to deal with essentially tonight is the fact that because of Government policy in cutting back on housing grants they are contributing to the further decay of centre city areas of Dublin. That is a very wrong policy both from a planning and aesthetic point of view, but mostly from the social point of view in that we are allowing the city centre to decay further and families to move to the suburbs.
This can have tremendous ill effects on people who have lived in the older areas such as Inchicore. Ringsend or inner city areas. The local authority house in the city now cost about £15,000. I would not cavil at money spent on flats or houses in the inner city area; indeed I would support the provision of more money for more houses in that area, but this is not happening. Therefore we will see a greater social problem created for families in this city than will be solved by the housing progress—if you like to call it that—in the outer suburbs. If we lose 1,000 dwellings per year we are compensated to some extent by the number of casual vacancies occurring through families dying out, emigrating or moving to other areas of their own accord. But the point is: by how much are we reducing the housing waiting list by our present operation? I ask the Minister to deal specifically with this. Are we reducing the total to any appreciable extent? We are certainly housing some families in better conditions but, while awaiting the latest figures which will be available next month, I am concerned about the actual waiting list which stood at about 5,000 applications.
I feel that in the present housing operation we are not cutting into that waiting list. Therefore, we have young people getting married who may never be able to buy their own houses because the Minister has not increased the SDA loans for a considerable time. He may well say that the new, low mortgage scheme exists but that is very restrictive in its application or as regards those who qualify. A young couple wanting to get married cannot avail of the scheme nor can they avail of the SDA loan scheme because the maximum there is £4,500 and the income limit is £40 per week. As I pointed out before, if one qualified under this scheme one could not afford to buy a house and if you could afford to buy the house you would not qualify. To all intents and purposes the SDA loan scheme is dead. I do not know why this should be, why the Government did not put more money into it. In fact, the Minister said here that he had withdrawn money from that scheme and put it—I think—into sanitary services. The money put into sanitary services was put to good use, but the point is we are not reducing the housing waiting list in this city.
It may be the fault of economics or the fault of the system, or it may be historical reasons which drive people into the bigger cities. We will always have migration into the cities and, whether we like it or not, we have to cater for those people. At present we are not doing that. We are facing a real crisis. Young couples have little hope of obtaining a dwelling at a rent they can afford. Therefore they become the victims of landlords of Flatland who will not even apply for planning permission to convert their houses into separate apartments. If they did that, they would be entitled to a grant even beyond the limits laid down recently by the Minister. Because of our laws and because of the colossal demand for housing, landlords are creating flats in their houses without planning permission, not proper flats, not self-contained flats. What are young people to do who want to get married and settle down and who cannot live with their in-laws? This burden is becoming intolerable for many of our young people. What are we offering them? We are not offering them any hope whatsoever.
The Minister may say he can justify his claims in relation to housing, but I say if he devotes his time to dealing with the housing problem in this city he will find we are offering very little towards the solution of the housing problem. Most Deputies want to see the housing problem reduced to minimum proportions. The Government's policy is so disastrous that they are doing more harm than good in the centre city areas of Dublin. The houses we are losing through obsolescence are not being replaced in the centre city areas. Many houses are now boarded up because the cost of maintaining them is too great. The local authorities have to act in the interests of the health of the people. Very often they have to put a closing order on those houses and say they are unfit for human habitation. Having done that, very often they find it very difficult to offer accommodation to families affected by that order.
Time and again we on this side of the House have called for a massive investment towards the rebuilding of the centre city area. There is little sign that this is being done. About three major schemes are under way. One of these schemes in my own area was planned as far back as eight years ago.
That is not true, of course. Deputy Moore should not tell untruths in this House.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I must draw your attention to the Minister's statement that I am telling untruths. I am not telling untruths. I will name the scheme.
The land was acquired only three years ago.
I said it was planned eight years ago. If this hurts the Minister I cannot help it. The scheme I am referring to is in the Dublin south-east area at Pigeon House Road. Naturally it took some time to acquire the land. We planned it eight years ago and therefore we take credit for the scheme.
The NBA prepared the plan slightly over three years ago. That is a fact.
The Minister should relax and not get upset. He should listen and learn something. He is making a desperate hames of Dublin city housing.
The Deputy has a hard neck to talk about Dublin city housing in this House.
Were it not for the foresight of the Fianna Fáil Government the Minister would not have some of his schemes under way today. No matter what information the Minister has been given, the scheme I am talking about was planned eight years ago. There are probably other schemes in the same category. This was planned during the term of the previous Government because we saw the great need for housing in the inner suburbs. I speak the truth and not an untruth when I state that. I defy contradiction on it.
The Deputy has been contradicted.
I defy responsible contradiction. When we criticise the Minister about housing he gets rather petulant and will not listen to criticism. Anything I say here tonight is said in the hope that he may learn something.
I would not learn from Fianna Fáil preaching to me.
We are not preaching. We have a right to speak here on housing. If the Minister is touchy on the subject of housing, that cannot be helped. Unless the Minister changes his policy, unless he puts more money into the rebuilding of the centre city area, it will be further denuded of houses. I do not say it is anybody's fault that we lose houses through obsolescence or street widening, but the point is we should be replacing them as near as possible to where they have been lost. Sociologists tell us that to uproot people from traditional housing areas and send them out into the newer surburbs is not the best social policy.
I realise we must have some outer suburban development. We cannot build all the houses in the city. We want a planned programme and a planned policy from the Government so that, with the development of the new suburbs and the dormitory towns, there will be urban renewal. This city is going through many changes at the moment. It is up to us in Parliament to ensure that in rebuilding the city we have a balanced housing programme. As I say, we have to build in the outer suburban area. This is inevitable because the population is increasing. Very shortly we will have over one million people in the greater Dublin area and therefore we have to build outside the city boundary.
The Minister should remember the local authority are the only body in Dublin city who can provide housing in the inner city area, because there is very little land left for private development. We see very few private houses being built because the land is not there. A small number of luxury type flats are being built and I suppose they contribute something to the general housing programme. The onus is on Dublin Corporation to redevelop and renew the centre city areas. The Government must back up the efforts of Dublin Corporation to achieve the revitalisation of the centre parts of this old city and real urban renewal.
This would not only solve the social problem bad housing creates, but it would also give a much-needed fillip to the employment in this city. Last night Deputy B. Desmond read advertisements for employment in the building trade. I was glad to see such advertisements, but if every job advertised last night had been filled this morning to what extent would the unemployment figures have been cut? By very little indeed.
The older part of Dublin, the inner city, needs houses. Housing statistics may look impressive, but unless we make efforts to maintain existing houses we are defeating our own ends. If you built houses only in the outer suburbs, houses in the inner city area may fall into decay and be converted into office blocks. When we are in Government we will have an imaginative housing policy. We will make sure that the people who want to live in the city will be rehoused within the confines of the inner suburbs. Any Government which has the will can prepare such a policy.
If we house our families in the outer suburbs we will be making the same mistake made in many crosschannel cities where they allowed houses to be replaced by office blocks and showrooms. In those cities from 5 o'clock on Friday evening until 9 o'clock on Monday morning the city centres are dead because people no longer come in. If we are to have a living city, people must live in the inner suburbs. I realise the Minister is pursuing a policy which is providing many more much-needed new dwellings, but unless he preserves existing houses, he is defeating his own ends.
The Minister might consider increasing the SDA loans so that it would be possible for people to purchase houses in the city. This would ensure that these houses would not fall into decay. At the moment any house in the city area, no matter how small, is sold for a fantastic price. The smallest house could cost £7,000 or £8,000. If one qualified for an SDA loan on such a house, it would amount to £4,500. Where would a young couple find the rest of the money needed to meet the legal costs, furnish the house as well as the deposit? Might I suggest that the Minister give attention to the renewal of the heart of this city? When that is done we can boast of the progress we have made on housing.
It must be remembered that there is more to a housing policy than bricks and mortar; there is also a social policy. One of our greatest social aims should be to fulfil the housing needs of our people. I would go even further and suggest that if we could end the housing shortage in this city we would get rid of many of the problems besetting a number of young married couples, and older couples too. The basis of a real social policy is good housing. We have the workers to build these houses. We have the building sites in the inner city. What we need now is the wisdom to map out a programme of a balanced drive on the housing front so that we will have suburban development being carried out, probably to a greater extent than development in the inner city areas; but we must have both together because, if not, we will have a lopsided policy. Many people living in the older city areas do not want to live in areas many miles outside the city. Anybody who represents such an area can tell of the heartbreak suffered by these people when they are being moved to the County Dublin area.
There is no reason for rancour in a housing drive. We should be uniting our efforts to ensure that we have the best possible housing for this city. I am speaking only about this city because Deputies Faulkner and J. O'Leary dealt with this problem as it affected other areas. I feel very strongly about housing in the inner city. My remarks this evening were put forward not to score points off the Minister, because there is no sense in that, but to direct his attention to what needs to be done in the centre city areas.
A long time ago Homer posed the question: and what so tedious as a twice told tale? I could tell him that a tale told four times is twice as tedious. For the fourth time in a very short period we have had a sterile debate on housing. This time the same group of Fianna Fáil speakers switched to the building industry and made the same tedious arguments with a type of half-truth which is very difficult to refute.
I am amazed at the abysmal ignorance of some of the people who spoke last night and tonight. When I was in Opposition I learned that the first thing to do when going into a debate with a Minister, because he would have the benefit of official statistics, was to get the facts, use them, and, without rancour, have these matters dealt with. That is not Fianna Fáil's way. They come into this House and from the word go heap as much derision as they can summon by twisting and slanting their own type of statistics to give the impression that they are stating facts. Nothing could be further from the truth. The last person I thought I would see in this House tonight attempting to make a case about lack of money in housing or failure to do the best for housing in this city and county was any Deputy from Dublin. I did not dream that Deputy Seán Moore would have the temerity to come in here again and make a case about housing in Dublin because he represents the constituency of Dublin South-East which at the time of the 1971 census had a population, largely working class, of 56,588. During the last 16 years of Fianna Fáil rule the magnificent total of six council houses was built by Dublin Corporation in Irishtown/Ringsend; six houses in 16 years.
That is not true, of course.
I am giving facts and Deputy Moore can check them in the corporation if he finds that he does not agree with them. One hundred and fifty seven houses are now being built at Pigeon House Road on a site acquired by the gentleman who was appointed housing co-ordinator about three years ago, Mr. Molloy, and for which plans were prepared by the NBA in 1975. There was a statement here tonight that there were plans drawn up eight years ago.
So there were.
There were not; their is absolutely no truth in that. There might have been a suggestion that houses should be built there. Fianna Fáil could never find any money to deal with the working class people of this city; the place for them was way out, as far out as they could bring them. Deputy Moore has been talking about taking people out of——
Check the town planning.
——the area in which they had been used to living and what a terrible thing that was. Of course it was a terrible thing but it was the solution Fianna Fáil had for the working classes of Dublin—bring them out to the edge of the city. They went out to places like Ballyfermot, which was out in the country at the time, and they made a fine area out of it. But the distances such people had to travel in and out of the city were too much; the second and third generation are now getting used to it.
To hear somebody like Deputy Moore, who should know better, saying that we were preventing people from living in the area in which they would like to live because all their friends and relatives had lived there is utter nonsense. I am surprised that somebody with the experience he should have should talk like that.
Let us come to the question of what way money is being spent in Dublin. In the year 1969-70 the amount of capital made available to Dublin Corporation from the Local Loans Fund was £6.669 million; 1970-71 £5.077 million; 1971-72 £5.200 million and 1972-73 £6.500 million, a total of £23,446 million for those years. Then the National Coalition took over. In 1973-74, our first year in office, the figure was £8.560 million; in the nine months of 1974 £8.500 million; 1975 £11.350 million and 1976 £21.350 million—a total of £49.760 million in the three years and nine months of the National Coalition. This year Dublin Corporation will have almost £26 million compared with the miserly £6 million given when we took over. Would Deputy Moore get a ball-frame and start counting because obviously he is unable to count the figures when he sees them. Otherwise he would not be making such a damned fool of himself here this evening.
What about inflation?
You can have inflation anywhere you like. Can the Deputy show me how with inflation in a period of four years £23.446 million is equal, in a period of less than four years, to almost £50 million? I would like to know where Deputy Moore feels there has been an unfair allocation with regard to inflation and Dublin County Council.
We might briefly deal with that because I am sure we will be hearing the sweet voice of Deputy Raphael Burke before the night is out. In 1969-70 Dublin County got £.806 million; in 1970-71 £.676 million; in 1971-72 £1.537 million and in 1972-73 £3.348 million, making a total of £6.367 million for those four years. In 1973-74 the figure was £2.584 million; in the nine months of 1974 £4.003 million; in 1975 £8.510 million and in 1976 £8.173 million, a total of £23.270 million. And the figure has gone up again this year. Therefore, Dublin County Council, like Dublin Corporation, have got at least their share and a little more. As a matter of fact, the Dublin area got 42 per cent of the entire country allocation last year and I am not apologising to anybody for having given it. But I do resent people like Deputy Moore, who represents portion of Dublin city, coming in here trying to decry it instead of standing up and saying, as a Dublin man, that he was happy such consideration was being given to Dublin.
To take Dún Laoghaire, the figure for 1969-70 was £.175 million; in 1970-71 £.939 million; in 1971-72 £.180 million; in 1972-73 £.397 million; in 1973-74 £.295 million; in 1974, in nine months, £.938 million; in 1975 £1.420 million and in 1976 £1.290 million. Therefore, it has risen from the last four years of Fianna Fáil administration from £1.691 million to £3.943 million in the first three years and nine months of the national Coalition. Anybody who says that Dublin city, Dublin County or Dún Laoghaire are not getting a fair share just does not know what he is talking about.
Deputy Moore talks about the failure to do the right thing with the city centre. He kept hopping from one foot to the other, like a hen on a hot griddle, asking were we going to do the wrong thing. He was not quite sure whether the right thing to do was to rebuild the city centre; should be leave it the way it was or should we bring— he was cute enough not to use the word—private houses in there, or was there any way in which there would be too many corporation houses built? Was that what he was coming at? I can tell Deputy Moore that the local authority houses being built now in Dublin and elsewhere are houses in which anybody would be proud to live. They are not substandard by any yardstick.
The Minister is very angry tonight.
They are houses in which anybody would be glad to live. The ones being built in the city centre will be a monument to the National Coalition Government because they are well built, well planned, well placed and, indeed, they have chimneys. I might point out to Deputy Moore that it is only a very short time since I signed a number of CPOs for city centre areas. I was horrified to find then that one of my predecessors, a Fianna Fáil Minister, in 1968 refused to sign a CPO for an area Deputy Moore represents. Had he signed it it is possible that houses could have been built then in the city centre in the swinging sixties when, according to Fianna Fáil, there was money for everything. They did not seem to spend it on housing the working class anyway.
Deputy John O'Leary very rightly pointed out that what I said last evening appeared to suggest that Kerry County Council had returned £300,000 last year. In fact there was a difference involved of £38,000. The money which Kerry County Council did not use—"saved" I think is the word they used —was occasioned by the fact that they got an authorised £1,710,000 and the actual money spent, taking overdraft into account, was £1,672,000, leaving a difference of £38,000. If Deputy O'Leary checks that with Kerry County Council he will find it to be correct. I am sorry that what I said last night could appear as if I was saying that they had in fact returned £300,000 to the Exchequer. The figure which they did not, and could have, spent was £38,000.
A number of figures given referred to the amount of money which Deputies said should be expended on SDA loans, and Deputy Faulkner spoke repeatedly of the £30 million which Fianna Fáil would put into the Exchequer in the sweet by-and-by when they got into power. I would remind them that the figure required to raise the loan and income limits to £7,500 and £4,000 would be £30 million. That swallows up the £30 million straight away, although we have not been told where the £30 million would come from, whether it would come from income tax. I do not accept the fairy tale that in some way, by playing the two ends against the middle, it is possible to create it out of nothing.
Deputy Faulkner ignored completely the job creation package in this year's budget which includes an extra £20 million for the construction of schools, other public buildings, roads and factories. The Deputy should also remember that in January the banks announced that they would make available a further £20 million for house purchase loans. I suggest, therefore, that Fianna Fáil should bring their September, 1976, document up to date because it seems to be getting very much out of date.
Listening to Deputy Faulkner last night one would get the impression that the economic difficulties—from which, fortunately, we are emerging—can be attributed entirely to the National Coalition Government and that if Fianna Fáil were in power these things would not have happened. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Fianna Fáil were here I would be pitying the ordinary people of the country because I have lived through successive Fianna Fáil Governments in hard times. I do not know if any of the Deputies who have been talking has had experience of working on a building site during a recession period. I did, and I know what Fianna Fáil do when the chill winds of economic recession hit. Fianna Fáil decide to do their bookkeeping at the expense of the people at the bottom of the pile. There are more of those in the country, and a little bit taken from each of them can amount to a big lot at the end. That is what they have always done and what they will do again if they get the chance.
Across the Irish Sea, in the UK, output in the construction industry fell by about 2 per cent in 1976 when work levels dropped by 6 per cent compared with 1975. In 1974, output fell there by 10 per cent. According to a recent article in the Financial Times, industrial leaders there believe that there is no hope of an end to the worst postwar recession before 1980. In the nine EEC countries, increases in housing completions in 1973-75 per 1,000 of the population were recorded only in Ireland and in France.
Fianna Fáil have been doing a lot of blowing inside and outside the House about what their housing policy would be. Let us get the facts straight. We must keep repeating this until it is understood by those who made the statements. In the 16 years of Fianna Fáil administration ended March, 1973, a total of 167,136 new houses were completed, an average of 10,446 a year. In the past four years the National Coalition Government completed more than 100,000 houses, an average of 25,000 a year. The extraordinary thing is that Fianna Fáil now try to give the impression that it was their policy to build at least 25,000 houses per year. The position is that a statement made in the autumn of 1971, by Deputy Molloy when he was Minister for Local Government, indicated that the number of houses which would be built would be 15,000 to 17,000 per year in the mid seventies "subject to the resources we can generate for the purpose".
Did he say they would be substandard, that they would be gerry built.
We have now passed the mid-seventies and we have been building 25,000 houses plus. More than 14,000 houses were completed in only three of the 35 years of Fianna Fáil administration. In their best year, 1972, fewer houses were built than in any of the four years of the present Government's administration. In regard to the 1972 figures, I repeat that the figure of less than 22,000 houses which Deputy Faulkner mentioned last night would not have been so high were it not that there was no money to pay the housing grants at the end of the previous year and that 2,000 houses were held over because the grants could not be paid for them. The real figures were 17,000 odd and 19,000 odd. We will give them the benefit of the 2,000 which they had built in the previous year and carried forward, but if they want to claim almost 22,000 houses they are still over 3,000 houses fewer than our average for each of the four years we have been in office.
I should like to repeat, because it was challenged last night as on several previous occasions, the exact statement of Deputy Lynch in 1975. First of all, our International rating in dwellings completed per 1,000 population in 1969/73—average 4.0 per 1,000 —was the worst of 23 OECD countries. Yet Deputy Jack Lynch contended that "There was no necessity whatsoever for a crash housing programme". We are now well up with the leaders in OECD, with 7.7 houses per 1,000 in 1976.
Speaking in the Dáil on 17th December, 1975, Deputy Lynch said:
We undertook in our housing programme, published in the late sixties and early seventies, that by 1972-73 we would have reached 25,000 houses output, which was reached. There was no necessity whatever for a crash programme as the Minister for Local Government announced. What has gone wrong is that there are too many local authority houses being built...
From October, 1973, in the last quarter of 1974 and right through to the last quarter of 1976, we had howling by the spokesmen for Local Government in Fianna Fáil, first Deputy Molloy and later Deputy Faulkner, and by Deputy John O'Leary on one or two occasions, that we were not building anything like the number of houses that were needed and that we could not possibly reach 25,000 in any of those years. They got a certain amount of support at that time from spokesmen for the CIF.
Eventually we had a working party set up which investigated the way in which the number of houses was calculated, and the extraordinary thing is that we were doing it in the same way as Fianna Fáil had done it in the previous 12 years. Of course, there was nothing wrong with it when they were doing it. The working party reported they were satisfied that the figures for 1975 were correct subject to a 3-month time lag for grant cases. Recently, because of the change in the grants system, it became necessary to seek an alteration. In consultations with the ESB and the CIF it was agreed that the houses connected by the ESB, who would certify they were connected and finished by certain dates, would be taken in future for statistical purposes. I was surprised to hear some of the CIF people being doubtful about this and saying afterwards that they did not think it was the right way. In fact, they were a party to the arrangement. We cannot have it both ways when it comes to these things.
With regard to the question of the amount of money available for housing I should like to repeat that last year we gave out 3,000 more loans under the SDA than were given out in the last year Fianna Fáil were in office. Fianna Fáil should remember that. The figure is 6,732 as against 3,781.
They suffer from a loss of memory.
In addition to that shortly after the National Coalition took office the amount of money available from building societies was very small, less than £40 million in 1974, but building societies last year produced £100 million and since they have exceeded £21 million of net inflow in the first three months of this year we can expect a higher amount available this year. In addition, one set of banks put up £20 million. I know that one, in particular, without publicising the fact, are making money available to customers who need it. In addition, we have assurance companies and various other ways by which money is made available. The question of whether or not the SDA loans have been wiped out has been mentioned. I should like to state that local authorities have 10,000 applications on hands for SDA loans this year and we also have the necessary money coming from building societies available to build houses. The suggestion that there is no money available is a lot of "hooey". Fianna Fáil would like to make a song and dance about it but the facts are that they are, as usual, talking through their hats.
The Minister described this debate as a sterile one and I have no doubt that it is but through no fault of ours. The fact is that to all intents and purposes we have had the same speech from the Minister as we had in previous debates on this topic.
One cannot repeat a good thing often enough.
The Minister continues to close his eyes to the problems involved and, therefore, any hope we had of an improvement in the situation while this Government are in office has been killed. The usual effort has been made to put the best possible complexion on a series of financial provisions none of which carries any credibility. The one noticeable thread throughout the Minister's speech was that he was finding it more difficult to defend his position in regard to the condition of this great industry. The fact is that 25,000 building and construction workers are unemployed and that 4,000 fewer houses were built in 1976 compared with 1975. The fact is that there was a drop of 58 per cent in the number of houses built in January this year compared with January last year.
I am not surprised that the Minister endeavoured to stick to particular instances rather than debate the general problems which face this industry. In relation to the money available for housing, in a year when we are told that money is being made available to create job opportunities and in a year when there is such shocking unemployment, the amount being made available is a scandal. The figures in the public capital programme show that in 1975, £115.14 million was available and in 1976 the figure was £105.7 million while the amount allocated for 1977 is £102.13 million. In current terms therefore there is a severe drop of £13 million between 1975 and 1977 or 11 per cent. If we are to take the figures in real terms we find that the amount allocated for housing in 1975 was £151.14 million, in 1976, £87.1 million and this year it is £74.3 million, a drop of £40 million between 1975 and 1977, or 35 per cent. That is taking place at a time when employment has fallen catastrophically and when there are long queues of building and construction workers outside employment exchanges.
I should now like to deal with the money allocated towards road improvements and maintenance in real terms because it is only when we take that money in real terms, that is allowing for inflation, that we get a true picture. We find that £46.4 million was allocated in 1975, £42.9 million in 1976 and £43.6 million in 1977, a drop of £2.8 million between 1975 and 1977, or 6 per cent. There are 1,000 fewer road workers employed than there were three or four years ago. Is it any wonder that our roads are deteriorating or that complaints about the condition of roads are so loud wherever one goes. These complaints are made not only by motorists but also by the business community who recognise the need for top class roads if they are to compete in the industrial and commercial world of today.
It should be remembered that the public capital programme as far as the building and construction industry is concerned this year is supposed to contain extra money to improve a job situation which has been deteriorating so rapidly over the past two years. In that context it is worthwhile considering the figures available. In 1975, £268.75 million was spent and in 1976 the figure was £292.81 million while allocated for 1977 is a figure of £350 million. This means an increase of £8.2 million between 1975 and 1977 or 31 per cent on current prices. I should like again to look at the situation in real terms, allowing for inflation. For 1975 £268.85 million was spent and in 1976 the figure was £244 million while the amount allocated for 1977 is £255 million, a reduction of £13.6 million or a fall of 5 per cent between 1975 and 1977.
The Deputy should go back to the 1972 and 1973 figures.
We are talking about a situation where the general unemployment situation is the worst ever and not only in the building and construction industry. The most recent figures available to us are up in spite of the fact that the Minister for Finance in his budget statement in January stated that the underlying trends as far as unemployment was concerned was in the right direction. We are now in April and we have a worse figure than we had at this time last year.
We are a long way off the figure when Fianna Fáil were in office.
It is small wonder that the Minister was unable to attempt to amend our motion. Deputy Barry Desmond, in the face of 25,000 unemployed in the building and construction industry, endeavoured to make a case for the present deplorable situation. However, he missed the whole point of the argument made by us because we are not only disturbed by the high unemployment figure in the industry but we are particularly perturbed because we know that this industry, if properly financed, is capable of providing new jobs quickly. It is disturbing that far from producing these jobs the industry is losing jobs at an unprecedented rate. Deputy Barry Desmond referred to advertisements which building firms insert in the newspapers looking for workers but, as Deputy Moore pointed out, the total number is very small. The fact is that there are approximately 5,000 firms in the business it would be strange if some advertisements were not inserted seeking employees. The inroads these advertisements make on an unemployment situation of 25,000 is very small.
The main point made by the Minister to bolster up his case is that over the last four years the Government have built 100,000 houses. In our final years in office there was a consistent increase in the number of houses completed from more than 13,000 in 1970-71 to more than 15,000 in 1971-72 and more than 22,000 in 1972-73. Plans had been made for further expansion. Land had been acquired and houses were at the planning, the tender and the construction stages before the National Coalition took office. Had it not been for all this careful preparation made by a Fianna Fáil Government the number of houses completed in the term of the National Coalition could not have been built. From the earliest stage of a housing scheme to its completion takes a number of years. On an average it takes about three years. I know of schemes in my constituency one of which is near completion and was begun in 1971 while plans for another scheme which is about to commence were prepared in 1969. The simple fact is that for their first three years in office the National Coalition housing operations were made possible by plans which had been prepared by Fianna Fáil when in office.
That is a lot of nonsense and the Deputy knows it.
Any member of a local authority knows well that it is not possible to build houses immediately, without years of preparation.
The Deputy was not a member of a local authority; I was.
Were they not the Taca brigade?
What happened when the National Coalition were left to their own devices? There was a considerable fall in the number of houses completed in 1976 in the public and private sector and even more disturbing is the fact that there has been a serious drop in the number of houses at the planning stage, the tender stage and in the course of construction. That bodes ill for the future.
The Deputy has those figures wrong like a lot of other figures.
The failure of the Government to provide even one penny extra for house building in the budget is an acknowledgment that the Government have no intention of doing anything to overcome the grave problems facing that industry. We have advocated many ways to improve the situation.
Why did the Deputy's party not do something about the situation when they were in office?
I have pointed out the amount of extra money we would make available for an immediate injection into the building and construction industry. That has to do with increasing the maximum amount of loans.
Where will it come from?
There has been such a severe cut in the amount of money made available this year for housing that there can be nothing else but a downward trend. We have tried to get acceptance of this by the Minister but there is no hope.
Because the Deputy is not correct in his statements; he has not his facts right.
The Minister, and Deputy Barry Desmond, made a charge that the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Lynch, said that too many local authority houses were being built. The Minister made that charge on a number of occasions but the Minister and the Deputy should consult the record. According to the Official Report, volume 286, column 1788, the Minister and the Deputy have taken the statement by Deputy Lynch out of context. The Leader of the Opposition was referring to the deliberate phasing out by the Government and the Minister of the SDA loans scheme.
The Deputy should read the quotation for the House.
That scheme was designed to meet the needs of the lower income group. He forecast accurately what would happen as a result of the Government's policy when numerous young people of courage and initiative anxious to build or purchase their own homes would no longer be able to do so. Those people were forced on to local authority housing lists. The Minister claims he built extra local authority houses but——
The Minister did not allude to the fact that he put a much greater number of young people, who would normally build or purchase their own houses, on to the local authority lists with the result that their position is worse than it was.
The Minister stopped the Taca brigade and worse, and more power to him for doing that.
The building and construction unions have decided to take strike action on 5th May and I should like to take this opportunity to appeal to all concerned, employers, unions and, particularly, the Government to make every possible effort in the intervening period to reach a solution to the problems involved.
Fianna Fáil appealing to the workers of the country is good. They did not show much concern in years gone by.
The summer months are the most important ones for the industry and, in the course of this debate, we have shown clearly that the industry is now in a critical condition. It is clear, apart from the serious effect on the industry and the workers employed in it, that failure to settle the dispute would have severe repercussions throughout the economy. We call on the Government to approach the matter in a positive and realistic manner.
If Fianna Fáil would keep their fingers out of this, too, we would be a lot better off. When they interfered where the workers were concerned we know what happened.
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- Connolly, Gerard.
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