Housing and Roads: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann notes the inability of local authorities to discharge their functions in the provision of housing and the maintenance of roads and deplores the Government policy that has led to this situation.

I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate Deputy Connolly on his appointment as Minister of State and to wish him very well in his office.

The motion I moved on behalf of other members of my party refers to the inability of the local authorities to discharge their functions in the provision of housing and the maintenance of roads. It deplores the Government's policy which has led to this situation and which was brought about solely because of a lack of finance. It is not hard to know why local authorities are short of money. One thinks of the Fianna Fáil manifesto prior to the general election, the document they put before the electorate and which the electorate accepted and endorsed. It promised the abolition of rates on dwelling houses, car tax and wealth tax. The fact that money is not being made available to local authorities from the Department of the Environment is causing the whole problem.

I have known the Minister of State since I came into this House and I am hopeful that he will do something in the Department to ensure that more money is made available to local authorities from the Central Fund. There are cutbacks in the Departments of the Environment, Health, Education, Agriculture and several other places. These are causing great problems. I do not think there is any problem as great as that created for the local authorities. They are asked to provide sanitary services, housing, fire services, local improvement schemes, maintenance and reconstruction of roads. With the limited amount of money made available to them they cannot provide all those services. A grant was introduced by the Government known as the environment grant amenity scheme for public parks, and so on. Of 60 per cent of the people employed under this scheme, one in four must be under 25 years of age. Money is well spent on public parks. I am not taking anything from them. The amenity grant scheme is probably money well spent. At the same time, it is far more necessary to spend money on the roads because of the condition they are in. The capital allocation available for housing, sanitary services, fire services and local improvement schemes is very limited. Money will have to be provided because they are all essential services.

It is understandable that the Department of the Environment should have control over local authorities. Local authorities themselves, as they will point out, have very little say at the moment. The Exchequer is now bearing the cost since the removal of rates on private dwelling houses, secondary schools and community halls. The local authorities will receive the amount of money they spent some three years ago, plus 10 per cent. A figure of 10 per cent, or thereabouts, is a very small increase when one thinks how inflation is now drifting. Some people are talking about 20 per cent by the end of the year. Some people are talking about an inflation rate of 21 per cent or 22 per cent. Having regard to the increase in wages and salaries, and in the price of materials in the order of 25 per cent to 30 per cent, and in the case of some materials much higher, automatically this means much less work is being done. I am afraid people will get up in arms about this, and it is understandable.

The Minister says it is a matter for local authorities to determine the priorities of services in their yearly programme. Local authorities are quite capable of determining priorities, but they have no means of getting money. Money is not provided and, where money is urgently needed they cannot find it, because they are limited to 10 per cent. At the same time, they have increases in staff costs, increased demands from agricultural committees, increased demands from vocational committees, increased demands from health boards, and increased demands from the Office of Public Works for drainage work. I think it was in 1978 that we got an increased demand for drainage work as high as 58 per cent. At the same time, the increase we were getting over the previous year's figure is 10 per cent. When that happens it is impossible for local authorities to carry on.

Members of local authorities are becoming very dissatisfied with the whole situation. The public are demanding better service for maintenance and improvement of public roads, footpaths, piped water supply, rubbish dumps, provision and maintenance of houses for tenants, fire services and amenities schemes. You go into an ordinary local authority estimate meeting and meet the manager and his staff who have prepared the estimate for the coming year. The manager prepares his estimate on figures given to him by members of the local authority over the year showing what they want money for. When money is provided for roads maintenance you cannot get anything to maintain a footpath, and so on. All the money is used for roads which are run down. Roads have been deteriorating over the past three years. In some local authority areas, and even here in the city, there does not seem to be money available to repair potholes. Local authorities concern themselves solely with trying to keep the roads up to a certain standard. There is very heavy traffic using our roads now. Road tax was taken off cars but not off lorries, and lorry costs are increasing substantially because of the increased cost of fuel, and so on. The tax on some of these lorries is £600 or £800 per year, and surely they are entitled to a good roads service.

If local authorities are to be limited to an increase of 10 per cent, the same limit will apply across the board to the Office of Public Works and the health boards. A figure of 10 per cent is not enough to meet the demands on local authorities for wages and materials. The demand from the Office of Public Works could be between 10 per cent and 40 per cent. The local authorities have no right to ask these people what they did with the money last year, what they will do with it next year, or how it will be spent. It is all spent on drainage areas, areas that have been undergoing arterial drainage work, and county councils are obliged to take them over or make a contribution towards the full cost of maintenance. They have no say in the formulation of drainage policy.

If the 10 per cent applies to local authorities, it also applies to the health boards. The local authority of which I am a member are unable to meet the substantial demands made by the health boards for supplementary welfare services, the services of the staff of the county medical officer and community welfare officers. I have not the figure for that percentage, but it is much higher than 10 per cent. It could be 15 per cent or 20 per cent. At the same time, the local authority are limited to 10 per cent.

Local authorities have to provide new services under the Water Pollution Act and modern fire services and so on. They are being asked by the people they represent to provide water supplies to rural houses, to build more houses, to improve and maintain the roads. There is no way that this can be done. The responsible Minister will have to take a serious look at what can be done about this.

Sanitary services are a big problem in rural Ireland. My local authority prepared a new five-year development plan. Last year we submitted it to the Department of the Environment. The estimated cost was £4,369,000. This year we got an allocation of £77,000. This is not being sensible. I hope the Minister will consider how more substantial moneys can be provided. The Minister issued a circular to each local authority about charging for services and suggested that local authorities should charge people who have water supplies. If that charge happens, we will be taking money from people who are already paying rates. Perhaps the motive behind the circular is to bring back rates in a mild form. I saw recently in a paper that some consideration is being given by the Department of the Environment to charging everybody a water rate. There is not much difference in paying a water rate and paying rates on a house.

Every local authority in rural Ireland was hoping that money would have been provided this year for maintaining, reconstruction and repair of bog roads because everything should be done to encourage people to cut turf due to the cost of other energy sources such as oil and coal. Some people almost cannot afford to buy either oil or coal. Numbers of people from built-up areas come to my county and neighbouring counties to cut turf. The roads leading into these bogs are hardly passable, and money should have been provided for them.

With regard to housing, according to a public announcement from the Department or the Minister for the Environment, house repairs and improvement grants have been terminated except grants for mentally handicapped persons, and the amount of grant available to them is £2,400 or two-thirds of the cost whichever is the lower. Grants are still available for essential repairs and for group water and sewerage schemes. Grants for water supplies or water and sewerage to houses have been cut out completely from 1 February last, as have repairs or improvement grants, reconstruction grants, bathroom and toilet grants, grants for septic tanks and the provision of water to private houses. Some local authorities who have a number of houses without water and sewerage were hoping that the Department of the Environment would make grants available to them. These houses were built years ago, and it is essential that these services should be in every house.

In a number of local authority houses built six or seven years ago there is now overcrowding. I know of a case where originally three people were living in a three-bedroomed house. Now there are nine people living in the house and there is no means whereby money can be got to add a few rooms to that house. It is a desperate situation. A number of houses were built without chimneys, and the people in them will now not get a grant for chimneys. In 1978 25,000 grants were given for reconstruction and 18,000 for water and sewerage, and these did a tremendous amount of good in rural areas. They also gave part-time employment to small farmers who reconstructed houses and put in water and sewerage. In 1973 11,000 houses were reconstructed and in 1978 the figure was 25,000. It is a pity that reconstruction grants and water and sewerage grants have been withdrawn. The Minister for Education has reconsidered the decision on the school buses. The Minister here should have another look at this.

The number of local authority houses being built now has dropped. There were 8,794 local authority houses built in 1975. In 1977 the number was 6,333, in 1978 it was 6,073 and in 1979, it was 6,214. Money allocated so far this year to my local authority shows that there is going to be a reduction in the number of houses built this year. It seems that that trend is going to continue, and one must keep in mind that the withdrawal of reconstruction and water and sewerage grants will mean more people going to their local authorities looking for houses. It will cost the Department of the Environment more to rehouse these people than to give them the £600 maximum grant for reconstruction.

It is easy for the Minister for the Environment to say that he is now making money available in loans instead of grants, but there is a difference between a loan and a grant. A grant is an incentive, a loan is a burden. Grants will have to be brought back or else housing will become a major problem. In 1976 the average cost of a house was £12,258 and in 1979 the cost of the same house was £23,688. What will it cost in 1980 with costs still rising? Cement has doubled in price since this time last year. The maximum local authority loan is £10,000. The repayment on that is £1,500 a year for the maximum number of years, £128.38 per month or £29 per week. The income of a person who would qualify for a loan from a local authority is £5,500 and the poor law valuation for farmers is £44. That loan is subsidised and anybody who would have to borrow money outside of the local authority would have repayments much higher than that. Reconstruction loans are available up to £4,000 provided that the person applying for the loan has adequate security.

I do not know what is meant by "adequate security". Maybe it is the deeds of the house so that the local authority would have first charge on it. If it is the deeds of the house you would find the deeds of that house lodged against the original loan, and the only unsecured loan the borrower can get then is £1,000 and God knows £1,000 will not do very much in reconstructing a house nowadays. Very few people, if any, will have adequate security if I am right in my thinking of what is meant by "adequate security". People cannot afford to provide their own houses. Even people in the higher income group, who are prepared to borrow from a building society or a bank, will find that the money is not there. A bank will give them a very short period, roughly 10 to 12 years, to repay it, and the amount of repayment there is going to be prohibitive. The building business at the moment is on the way to folding up. I know that because I happen to be closely associated with this business. People cannot afford to buy and they cannot afford to pay people to do the jobs. It is a serious situation.

The position confronting local authorities is that with the cost of wages, materials and so on having risen by something of the order of 30 per cent they have to meet the responsibilities with an increase of 10 per cent in revenue. That puts them into a next to impossible position. To be fair in assessing the problem confronting the authorities, the circular from the Department to county councils at the time of the Estimates meeting indicated that new valuations would bring in on an average an increase of 3.8 per cent and that in fact the 10 per cent increase would be almost 14 per cent. However, there are counties where the increase for new valuations does not measure up to 3.8 per cent. There are some where this increase does not measure up to 2 per cent. These counties and areas are at a disadvantage, taking the question in the context of the circular from the Department. Some county councils drew the Minister's attention to this and asked as a concession that the shortfall in their cases would be increased by way of supplementary grant to bring them up to the region of 14 per cent increase. These requests, as far as I know, were turned down, and certainly they have not been granted yet.

The system of basing the amount of money allocated to a county council on poor law valuation in that county results in a continuing difficulty in areas of low valuation. This is a big problem that will have to be examined sometime in the near future. The system of basing revenue on the poor law valuation of the county means that right from the outset some areas are at a disadvantage and will not have any hope of being able to provide the services that are available in other parts of the country, with the resultant growing discontent in these particular areas and in some cases a desire to migrate from them.

I should have said at the outset that I join with Senator Reynolds in congratulating the Minister of State on his appointment and wishing him good luck.

The point I want the Minister and his officials to look into is that at the time when railway services and branch lines were cut down and some areas of the country—in some cases whole counties—were left without any rail service whatever, an undertaking was given that areas left in that situation would get special consideration regarding the amount of money to be allocated to those areas under the Road Fund. County Cavan is a county with no rail service whatever except through the town of Kingscourt, which is on the border of Cavan and Meath. It is the considered and unanimous view of members of Cavan County Council that the industrial development of our county is retarded for want of a proper road structure in substitution for a rail service. As recently as the last meeting of the county council in Cavan a week or so ago, attention was drawn to this and executives were asked by the council to get in touch with the Department and point out this grievance in the hope that the Minister would honour the undertaking given some years back when the rail branch lines were cut off. The position with regard to the roads is difficult, and not just for the reason I gave already, that 30 per cent increase in costs has to be met with a 10 per cent, 12 per cent or in some cases 14 per cent increase in revenue. It goes back a bit further than that. The winter of 1978-79 was the most severe probably in a century. That had a very serious effect on the road structure in this country.

Damage caused to the roads during that severe winter has not yet been made good because the funds have not been available. Another point is that for a long period roads in most parts of the country were ice-bound and a considerable amount of county council money was spent on gritting the roads to make them negotiable during the frost. The result was that the councils did not have adequate money to carry out the maintenance programme last year. There is a carry-over of these bad conditions into this year when again the money is inadequate and the roads in many parts of the country are in a very bad state. The councils and the executives of the councils are at their wits' end to know what can be done with the restricted money available to make conditions even tolerably good. That is the position that county engineers, county managers and county councils find themselves in. Now it has been stated openly by county engineers that the most they can hope to do in this current year is to fill the potholes. There is no hope whatever of dangerous bends being removed. There are dangerous hillocks which restrict the vision of motorists and there is no hope of them being removed. The full force of the county council will be directed to the filling of potholes. We are in the year of the potholes.

It is desirable to keep the county council roadmen employed so that at least they can have enough days' work to qualify for superannuation in respect of this year. The policy forced on county engineers is to dispense as far as possible with the use of machinery, and where machinery could do a more effective job at a lower cost than manpower the machinery will not be used because of the desire, laudable in itself but unsound economically, to keep the men at work. When that is imposed on local authorities there is a great deal of frustration and taxpayers and ratepayers see that public funds are being spent unwisely. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to that and to examine the results if it is allowed to continue.

The inadequacy of road structures in parts of the country means that industrial and tourist development is retarded. In parts of Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim, Mayo and other sections of the country there is no rail service and the road structure is so inadequate that industrial development is held up, to put it mildly. In our part of the country, in the lakeland district, tourism has a great potential but the access roads to places of tourist attraction is wholly inadequate. Some such places have no roads at all leading into them and you must get in across the green fields if the farmer allows you. In other places what passes for a road is little better than a dirt track. That is a serious drawback to the people in our area who believe there is a good future for the tourist industry in that rich coarse fishing area.

Another point of great concern is the cutback in real terms of the money allocated under the local improvements scheme to develop laneways, or boreens as they are known in some parts of the country. In County Cavan if a number of people are served by a laneway or a boreen and they make application to have it done under the local improvements scheme, up to now the waiting time was five years. Because of the shortage of money this year it is likely that at the end of this year and the beginning of 1981 it will be seen that the waiting time will be longer than five years. In County Monaghan, I am told, the waiting period is seven years and in County Leitrim it is something of that order too.

It cannot be held that all citizens of the State are treated equally if there are in 1980 large numbers of people who have not a decent roadway into their place of abode. There are areas where milk tankers coming in to serve farmers living along these long laneways cannot negotiate them and farmers have to wheel cans of milk out to the public road so that the milk can be filled on to the tankers there. Large lorries from delivery firms, carrying animal feed or builders' supplies, cannot negotiate many of the laneways or boreens that lead into the houses where the people live, and that is not a satisfactory state of affairs coming towards the end of the 20th century. A reasonable person must agree that if there is a shortage of money there must be some cutback, but cutbacks of this nature inflict undue hardship on some sections of the community and some areas of the country. I would hope that the day is not far distant when it will be found possible to increase these funds adequately for road maintenance and especially for local improvement schemes so that the people can have the basic amenity of a tolerable road into their homes.

I join with Senator Reynolds in deploring the elimination of housing reconstruction grants. That was one of the most unwise decisions made by any Government Department in this State, because those grants encouraged people to keep their houses in repair. If they are not able to keep their houses in repair it is only a matter of time until these people are forced to go on the queue for housing by the local authority. I hope that that unwise decision will be revoked at the earliest possible time.

At a recent meeting of Cavan Urban District Council we were told that the allocation for house repairs in Cavan Urban District is £32,000. To keep the men at work, which is the policy of the council and, as I said already, laudable, £25,000 will be required for wages and the materials will cost £7,000. Therefore, the ratio of wages to material is 3.5 wages to 1 material. That is not a sensible balance. It means that men are being kept at work without having the wherewithal to get the work done. Recently at a cross-Border conference between representatives of Louth County Council and County Down the indications from the Minister in the Northern Authority were that £10 million was available for the construction of a Newry by-pass, but if that is constructed without another development at Dundalk it will lead to a bottleneck at Dundalk. The representatives from this part of the country were not in the position to say they had one single penny devoted towards developing this from the Border as far as Dundalk. That is the position we are in.

I do not propose to say very much about roads on this motion except that I feel very sorry indeed for my rural colleagues who must face with foreboding their drives to and from Dublin over the kind of roads we have to put up with, which are getting worse by the day. I would like to talk for a few minutes about the housing situation which is of extreme urgency and getting much worse in the Dublin area. On the present trends of population shifts the majority of the increase in our young adult population will be looking for housing in Dublin and the Dublin area. I have heard of the figure of 30,000 people a year looking for housing accommodation in the Dublin area.

The trend towards coming to Dublin is a very strong one and it is not being met by any serious attempt to decentralise. It seems to me that we have given up on decentralisation and you have this vast flocking of people from all over Ireland into the already over-strained housing situation in Dublin. The pressure is such that people do not even need any more to advertise that they might have a flat or house for sale or rent particularly except at the very top of the market. I remember ten or 12 years ago students or young people or childless couples looking for flats, and in each Dublin evening newspaper there were about at least one-and-a-half pages of "small ads" about accommodation available. Now if you look at the evening papers you will see about three-quarters of a column of "ads" for accommodation and the queues and fighting that go on to get that pitiful amount of accommodation are frightening.

I think there is an approaching crisis in the accommodation of young people. We should consider a couple of aspects of this but, first, I would like to say that I believe that when we talk about the right to housing, the right of the people to have houses, we should be quite clear that we have an obligation to see that our people have a right to decent, adequate shelter. Everybody has a right to decent, adequate shelter. I do not believe that that means free shelter; I do not believe that it means owning the house they live in, but I do believe that we certainly do not meet the criterion of decent, adequate shelter at the moment.

If I could speak for a moment about the extraordinary emphasis there is in Ireland, unique in Europe, on home-owning as opposed to renting accommodation, I should point out that in 1979, 75 per cent of people in Ireland owned their own homes. To look at the very prosperous, comfortable well-off country of West Germany, 39 per cent of the people own the places in which they live, and across the water 54 per cent of people in the UK own the homes they live in. There is an extraordinarily strong emphasis in Ireland on home-owning; an emphasis which I believe we should be trying to discourage and not to go along with. It is a very emotional thing with people in this country who want to own their own home. There are various sociological factors which influence this desire to own the home one lives in. I believe that one of them is that because we have had a very chaotic policy for a long time on housing and a rather unregulated laissez-faire type of free enterprise in the property market, there has been a great fear of insecurity. People want to own their own homes because of fear of finding themselves out on the side of the road if they do not. It is an extraordinary thing that in West Germany people apparently have no such fears. In a well-regulated society, there should be no need for such fears.

Having said that, I believe that under the very restricted financing and the very restricted terms of reference that Dublin Corporation have they are doing a very fine job in the circumstances. The fact that they have to have this points system, which is a very strict one imposed upon them by lack of finance, means that they cannot ever, for example, include young single people or childless couples on their list of people to get accommodation. In fact, it is an extraordinary situation as has been said to me quite often that people are having children to gain the points to get a house. It is absolutely tragic to think of people approaching their whole life in this manner. The restriction on the corporation because of their lack of financing places this burden on many people, and you find people desperate to have a roof over their heads; they know that the only way they can get it is by producing children. It is a crazy sort of thing that results from the kind of system we have.

In order to cope with what I see as a housing crisis we must not restrict ourselves to blaming people or talking about cut-backs in finances; we must begin to be imaginative about new ideas for increasing the housing stock in the city. The low-rise, high-density development with mixed housing units for different categories of people in the city must be the way forward in Dublin. The sprawling, low-density kind of development on which we are proceeding by the day as we take more land further and further out on all sides of the city, is creating a sort of Los Angeles, and anybody who knows that part of the world will know what I refer to, this huge, flat, sprawling city where it is so extraordinarily energy-wasteful that it cannot possibly have a future. We must stop absolutely and consider what we are doing.

We are told that a unit of housing, a dwelling unit in the city area, costs much more than a dwelling unit out somewhere like Tallaght, or Celbridge, but does that calculation include the extraordinary energy cost of shifting enormous numbers of people over long distances I wonder does the calculation include that.

I would very much like to hear what has happened to the Kenny Report and all its recommendations on designated land, on controlling land values. I believe that we must de-emphasise acquiring land out on all sides of the city and we must involve ourselves more in the city. I heard recently about the very successful work of the national housing cooperative associations, these cooperatives which are in existence and which at the moment are adding 500 houses per year to the housing stock, groups of people who get together, buy their land, employ a solicitor, employ the builder, cut the costs and build themselves a small mixture of housing. It seems to me that that kind of association, carried on more cheaply and more helpfully, more co-operatively, could be very much encouraged by the Government as one of the imaginative ways of dealing with the housing crisis. We must find out just how much rented accommodation there is available in this city. We should seriously consider the use——

I must remind the Senator that this motion relates principally to local authority housing. It is not an occasion for general discussion on housing.

But I think we should, in order to investigate needs and to guide local authorities, in the census form have a question asking if people are renting accommodation and if they are how much they are paying. When the Minister, Deputy Barrett, was asked the other day on television what his view was of the housing situation which this motion discusses—cutbacks for housing—he said that he was having an inquiry made with local authorities all over the country on what the housing situation was. The Minister has been in office for three years. We should have had a report about the housing situation and we should be doing something about it.

I do not wish to take up the time of the House much longer but I believe that we have an impending housing crisis, particularly affecting young people. The problem is going to be exacerbated very much. It may be very much exacerbated by an impending Supreme Court decision and I would hope the Minister might be able to tell us what the 40,000 people living in rent-controlled accommodation are going to do when that decision comes about.

I am concerned also about the housing of citizens of this city and indeed the housing problem in general, as I am concerned about roadways development. I share with other people the view that proper road development is an important and essential factor in a community such as ours. The motion notes the inability of local authorities to discharge their functions but the matter does not end there. I want to put on record the problem that has developed here in this city in the not-too-distant past. I want to deplore the action of certain public representatives and their failure to allow the proper development of the city; the action of public representatives in not allowing to take place the development that has been planned on the best possible technical advice. We have here in Dublin a serious situation: the social and economic life of the city is being destroyed by traffic congestion.

This is an established fact that each and every Member is aware of, a situation that was forecast ten years ago by the Dublin Transportation Study which described the eastern by-pass as the most critical single link in the road network proposed. Even then it was seen that this was necessary and this was the type of development that was ruthlessly rejected last Monday night at the Dublin Corporation meeting by people, some well-meaning, but some who I feel are out to destroy this city and bring it to a halt for one motive or another not in keeping with the common good.

The development plan of the eighties was published by the Minister for the Environment with the approval of the Government last year. It identified work necessary to cater for present and future needs and it listed projects for the improvement of the main access routes to Dublin, including the eastern by-pass. The Government last year indicated the necessity for proper roadways, a roadways development that would cost in the region of £40 million. The Transport Consultative Commission in their report published last month concluded that the port freight activity affecting road traffic was likely to increase at an unprecedented rate in the north port area. For example, it indicated it could mean an extra 800 heavy trucks, articulated vehicles, operating each day in the next few years.

The commission said that it was essential in their view that Dublin have a road network which will divert through-traffic from the city centre and provide adequate access to ports and industrial areas. The implementation of the road investment plan for the Dublin region which is incorporated in the road development plan for the eighties would in time result in such a road network. So, it can be said that the Government are not at fault here in Dublin where they see the necessity for a major development which to my mind has been sabotaged for political reasons by a small element within our city.

Apart from these considerations altogether, the corporation in numerous surveys have indicated the commonsense of this type of approach. We know that there are many well-meaning people who are concerned about the disruption to community life, about the movement of people from certain areas where road development would take place but at the same time they are not concerned about the same people living in an area which is highly polluted by articulated vehicles which are proceeding through it day in and day out; destroying the life of the community in this highly polluted atmosphere and causing traffic hazards to many people because of their "rat-runs" through these populated centres. This calls for major road development in our cities.

It is the policy of our party to ensure that the necessary road development takes place to meet this need. It would bring with it a large amount of employment and would stimulate the port area. It is necessary that the port area be developed because the port is the lifeline of the industrial development areas of our city and indeed the area surrounding the city. If the city is brought to a standstill—as it will be—by people who are not concerned, then it is a sorry day for the democratic set-up as we know it when a handful of people can achieve that result. I would call on the Minister for the Environment to take immediate action to ensure that this city is provided with the type of motorways or link-ways that are necessary to meet the developing technical progress of transportation and to meet the ever-increasing volume of traffic.

Community life has been disrupted not by the local authority demolishing houses here and there in order to meet genuine needs but by pollution of a very severe order. The high incidence of chest disease in this city can be traced to the high rate of petrol pollution in our streets. This is undeniable because surveys carried out by the authorities show the position in this area. Traffic that is highly pollutant moves through our streets at times at a rate of six miles per hour, spitting out these deadly fumes which we have to inhale as we walk through many of what are now called canyon streets in this city. They are highly polluted, well above the level that the medical personnel indicate as safe. These "rat-runs" through every residential estate now, short-cuts here and there for the articulated trucks, not alone are a cause of pollution but also a cause of a high accident rate because they are using roadways that were not built to accommodate them.

Some years ago one could expect bacon and eggs for breakfast but now one is lucky if one does not have a juggernaut in the room as has happened on many occasions when juggernauts left the roads and crashed into the homes of people. Nightly we see pictures appearing on one paper or another showing overturned juggernauts, using roadways that were never intended for such use. Because of the weight factor and the technical development of motors such vehicles are completely unsuitable on these roads and are causing a hazard far greater than would be caused by dislodging a number of people in order to meet the need for the further development of the city in order to ensure that people may live in areas developed for community living, safely removed from the hazards and the problems of development.

Again, I say it is a sad state of affairs that a group of people would come together to try to sabotage this well worthwhile, worthy development that had been examined on so many occasions by so many technical personnel who come to the same conclusion in its favour. Life is intolerable in many cases in many areas because of the development of road transport runs that are now taking place. Unless this situation is eased, we are putting the communities in many other areas at risk because the drivers of heavy vehicles will find their way into many other residential areas and will pollute them and will, at the same time, put them at risk to the same degree as in other areas. The eastern bypass and the tangent roads are a necessity to this city and again I would call on the Minister to take some steps to ensure that some sanity is injected into some local authorities in order to ensure that justice is done to the community as a whole.

Some people have no concern for the future and this has been indicated by their deliberate action in the sabotaging of the road networks proposal. One must consider the job opportunities, quite apart from the other opportunities, that exist in the development of this £40 million project together with the fact that moneys might have been available or could be available from the EEC to finance a major portion of it. Are they concerned about the work force? Are they concerned about people in more industrial areas being able to have commuter type transport moving freely with materials and services so that our lifestyle can be changed in a worthwhile way? Are we to stifle the development of the industrial areas by bringing traffic to a halt? We all know the traffic chaos existing in Dublin.

As I said, this particular scheme would qualify for an EEC grant. Perhaps some people feel Dublin should not have the benefit of this development or should not have the benefit of the moneys that are available. I do not suggest that any Member of this House is irresponsible, but from what I have heard here, many people have given their view in relation to their own small problem but in this capital city we have a very definite problem. It is not a question of the Government denying the local authority the moneys. It is not a question of the Government not saying "Go ahead". They have given the green light and now we find that the whole scheme has been torpedoed. Much has been said on this particular road development and I just want to add my voice to say that the Government have indicated in connection with this development plan, which was published by the Minister for the Environment and approved by the Government last year, that there is no question of money not being available. There is no question of the development being held up because of the lack of finance.

So much for the road works. To get back to the question of housing, I listened to Senator Hussey speak of the Dublin situation and I can say that she is grossly misled in relation to the contribution she made. I do not know whether it was a deliberate attempt to mislead the people or mislead this House or whether, in fact, she is being misled. She indicated that 30,000 people were in need of housing accommodation and I want to say that on the Dublin Corporation housing list there is a total of 4,500 people. Under construction at the moment in Dublin there are 2,061 houses and 119 senior citizens' dwellings which is a total of 2,180. Site development work has been completed on 486 sites. Site development work is in progress or about to commence on 2,444 sites, which gives a total of 5,168. At the planning stage are 3,500 additional sites. In addition to that, acquired or listed for acquisition are a further 7,000 sites. This makes 10,500, and to indicate then that the Dublin Corporation are not concerned or that they are being impeded in any way is a deliberate effort to mislead this House. Quite apart from all that the number of small dwelling loans which were made available last year was 523 and 201 low-rise mortgage loans. Repair or improvement grants numbered 695.

I do not know where Senator Hussey got her information but if she has been misled then the record has been corrected. If she has not been misled and if this is a deliberate attempt to mislead others, then I think that she has done a bad day's work. I am just as concerned as other people about road development and housing development and in this case one can see clearly that the factual situation in relation to roads and houses in Dublin is not as has been portrayed by those who have spoken in support of the motion.

I would like to begin with further words of congratulation to the Minister on this occasion here. I wish him well in his appointment. I welcome the opportunity of contributing to the debate on this motion which says that Seanad Éireann notes the inability of local authorities to discharge their function in the provision of housing, in the maintenance of roads and deplores Government policy which has led to this situation. As a member of a local authority I am acutely conscious of the fact that the finance that would appear to be available to local authorities, and certainly to my local authority, in the coming months and in the present year would be of an extent that would retard the objectives and the planning programme of that local authority in fulfilling their target of house construction and improvement of roads.

Most people will agree that the provision of housing and the maintenance and improvement of roads are the two principal functions that local authorities have to discharge. I am not suggesting that the rate should be reintroduced but I simply make the point that the removal of rates from private housing has removed a substantial source of funds from local authorities. When we considered our estimates for 1980, the guidelines given to us were that a 10 per cent increase was allowable. There was a suggestion that because of new valuations and so on the additional income arising from these would result in a few additional percentage points in the amount that would be available for expenditure in the counties. In the local authority that I represent that means very little. In reality we are working on a budget that is just 10 per cent more in 1980 than in 1979.

We are told that inflation this year is likely to reach 20 per cent. The increase in wages and materials needed, especially where road making is concerned—and I have been told that the cost increase of tarmacadam and road making materials over 1979 is about 40 per cent—is an extremely substantial increase. When one takes these increases in cost and relates them to the 10 per cent increase in additional spending there is, without question, a serious cutback in real terms. The fact that local authorities are now so restricted in their ability to raise money for the projects within their responsibility represents a further weakening and a further erosion of the powers that local authorities have enjoyed over the years. To a degree I deplore that in its own right.

In addition to the restrictions which we are faced with through increased overheads and increased costs as against a reduced income in real terms we have to contend with pressure from the public, who are continually calling for improved services of one kind or another. The position of local representatives or councillors is becoming more and more difficult. They are more and more occupied with explaining that certain services that the general public believe are theirs as a right cannot be provided for some time to come because the finance is simply not there.

I want to turn to the question of housing. Of the two items we are discussing here, road improvements and housing, housing is of greater importance. The fact that we will have to contend with a reduced output of local authority houses is something that I deplore for a number of reasons. I certainly do not share the views of the Senator who spoke earlier this evening and who seemed to imply that it was not desirable that people should aim to own their own houses. The Senator felt that we were unique in that a very high proportion of our people own their own homes as against Germany, Great Britain and continental countries. The motive, the expectation and indeed the ambition of a young couple to own their own homes and to have pride in them are laudable, worthwhile and to be encouraged.

The cost of housing has undoubtedly increased very rapidly in recent years and figures were mentioned here earlier this evening which indicated that a house that cost about £13,000 to erect in 1976, three years later, cost about £23,000, almost a doubling of the cost. The effect of this rapid increase in housing costs has meant that more and more people are moving into the bracket where their hope of providing a house from their own resources is becoming more and more remote. As a result the pressure on local authorities to provide local authority homes for them is becoming greater. I am also concerned in that it would appear, from the figures that are available to us, that there is a downward trend in the output of local authority houses. I understand that about 8,000 local authority houses were built in 1976 and that this figure has tended to slide downwards to about 6,000 or slightly more in 1979.

If we are to accommodate what I regard as the laudable ambition of young people in our community to own their own homes and to take pride in them, and if we measure with that the fact that the cost of housing, the cost of providing one's own home, has grown so sharply over the past few years, then it simply means that more houses will have to be provided by the local authorities to meet the needs of these young people. I would be interested in the Minister's comment on this downward trend in the output of local authority houses from a peak of about 8,000 in 1976, because it is a matter for concern.

A private semi-detached house now costs about £23,000. We need to recognise that the loan of £12,000 that is available to a person from a local authority for the construction of that house is inadequate. This is a real problem and it will have to be looked at again in the near future in the light of the spiralling cost of providing private houses.

I regret the decision of the Government to withdraw house improvement and reconstruction grants. The grant that was paid to an individual was only a reducing part of the cost of doing the improvement or the reconstruction, but nonetheless while it existed it was an incentive to carry out the improvement or reconstruction. There is a great deal of merit in ensuring that improvements and reconstructions are carried out on existing housing stock. From the nation's point of view it would be a bad thing. With little investment the houses that we have today could be brought up to a satisfactory and suitable standard as homes for people. It would mean that we would preserve these and for every one of them that we would preserve we would eliminate the need for the replacement that would be necessary if they are allowed to fall into disrepair and decay.

I apply the same reservations and criticisms to the removal of the water and sewerage grants. I do not propose to pursue that point much further except to register my regret that these grants are no longer a fact of life for many people who need them.

In relation to roads, the reality, as all of us who are members of local authorities know, is that the amount of finance that will be available to county councils and to other local authorities is only sufficient to carry out the bare necessary repairs on the roads in question. Necessary work such as the removal of dangerous bends, the improvement of sight distance, road realignment and so on are not objectives that can be aimed at in this current year. We are down now to a situation where all we can do with the money that is available to us is just carry out, maybe in some cases, a skimpy maintenance programme on many of our roads. There is no doubt that if that maintenance programme is not adequate—and I do not believe it will be adequate—then obviously we will pay the price in further deterioration on our roads and we will be faced with a heavier cost in the years ahead.

I would like the Minister to indicate what we can expect will be the progress or the targets in relation to the road development plan for the eighties. It is only a matter of months since this programme was introduced. It attracted a lot of favourable comment and a lot of favourable publicity at the time. I want to know if the targets and the dates in relation to that are being revised and what is the timetable in relation to it now? Has it changed?

I recognise that money is scarce and there must be cutbacks of some kind or another. But there are priorities and I regard housing as an urgent social need. While roads are also very important, the restriction that local authorities are facing now in the provision of houses for people who are in need of housing is something that the Government should have a very serious rethink on. It should be afforded a greater priority than the Government appear to be affording it. I would urge that upon the Minister.

I would like to thank the Members for the good wishes they extended to me on my appointment. For my part I look forward to a constructive and harmonious relationship with all here, not just on the present occasion but in a general way. This is my first time to speak in this House. Perhaps the Chair would let me know how long I have.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

There is no time limit. The overall time is until ten minutes past seven.

Housing is one of the basic human needs, second only to food and clothing. As such it can be an emotive issue—one concerning which people can hold and express strong opinions not least on a political level. This is a healthy situation and the essence of democracy. Basically everyone agrees that the national objective should be to ensure a proper standard of housing for every family.

This principle was first specifically enunciated in Fianna Fáil's White Paper, Housing in the Seventies, published 11 years ago and, despite changes in Government, it has never since been questioned. It was accepted by the National Coalition Government while they were in office between 1973 and 1977. The difference in approach between the parties has largely been one of the relative emphasis to be placed on the measure of support to be given on the public and private sectors respectively.

I appreciate that in their comments on the motion the Senators who moved and seconded the motion sincerely wish to see progress made with the solution of our housing problems. In turn I would hope that in discussing the motion Senators generally will accept that all parties have much in common and that they will avoid the obvious temptation to score on political points which can do very little to ease the problems of the persons in need of housing.

I feel that it is desirable to make the position in this regard clear at the outset because the housing situation is an entity. All sectors are inter-related and overlap and it would be counter productive for the Seanad to concentrate its attention on only one of the three sectors and to ignore the effects of policies and the achievement in others. For that reason, therefore, I suggest that the provision of local authority housing cannot, and should not, be considered in isolation from other important facets of housing policy. I ask the House to bear with me while I refer briefly to the general housing situation, deal more specifically with local authority housing and then I will touch on some other important and related housing issues.

Straight away, let me put it on the record that there has been no diminution in the Government's basic aim of ensuring that, as far as the resources of the economy permit, every household can obtain for their own occupation a house of good standard, located in an acceptable environment and at a price or rent they can afford.

As an earnest of our commitment to this global objective, let me cite some relevant statistics. The number of houses completed in 1979 was 26,500—an increase of 1,100 over 1978. The number of private houses completed was 20,300—an all-time record for this country. Annual housing completions have been increasing steadily since 1976 when 24,000 dwellings were completed. Nineteen seventy nine was a record year in many ways so far as housing was concerned. The main lending agencies in the private sector advanced £293 million in respect of a record 24,700 new and previously occupied houses in 1979, compared with £172 million for 22,000 houses in 1977. Building societies again were the main source of mortgage finance in 1979 when they provided £200 million, or 68 per cent of the total. Local authorities paid a record total of £50 million to 6,900 house purchasers, including those eligible under the low-rise mortgage scheme. House purchase loans of record numbers and value were approved by the lending agencies in 1979. The amount involved was £374 million and the number of loans approved was 30,100 of which a record 15,833 were in respect of new houses. That demonstrates the Government's practical support for the housing programme mainly through the public capital programme. The capital allocation for housing in 1980 is £182 million and this compared with an outturn of just £100 million under the 1977 programme. The public purse is not limitless. There is an end to the purse. I would love to have a lot more money but I have not. That is life. It is like housekeeping. One gets an allowance and tries to make the best of it. One uses the money to the best of one's ability. That is what I am trying to do in relation to the responsibilities that have been designated to me by the Minister. In this context it is significant that in this year's public capital programme allocations, housing got the second highest allocation of all sectors, the highest allocation naturally being in respect of industry and of course this went into providing employment. Any fair-minded person must agree that the extent of the capital assigned to housing this year by the Government is a clear reflection of their resolve to maintain housing construction as a priority area in the national economy.

The desire to own one's own home is strong in our community. Recognising that trait, the Government's aim has been to encourage maximum output in the private sector in order to cater for a person who can look after his own needs. I will develop this aspect later on.

The public housing programme is intended to meet the needs of people who lack the resources to provide satisfactory accommodation for themselves and their families. To this end, the local authority housing programme, has been maintained at a steady level, giving about 6,000 new house completions each year. Combined with casual vacancies in existing local authority housing estates, this has allowed for the rehousing annually of between 8,000 and 9,000 of approved applicants off the waiting list. In effect, this indicates a three-year turnover of all approved applicants on the waiting lists—at present in the region of 27,000 for the whole country. It is relevant in this context to say that on 30 September 1979, two-thirds of all approved applicants on the waiting list were families of three persons or fewer.

I have mentioned a programme of 6,000 new local authority houses each year. The actual figure in 1979 was 6,214, compared with 6,073 in 1978 and 6,333 in 1977. Because there was a very high number of completions late in 1979, work in progress at the end of that month fell below 8,000 dwellings. However, I am glad to say that by the end of February, the level had been restored to 8,718, a total well above the average monthly figures for 1977, 1978 and 1979.

Employment on local authority housing programmes at the end of February 1980 was 6,524, which compares favourably with the figures for the previous three years and was substantially higher than the monthly average of 5,635 in 1976.

This year, as in previous years, the Government's aim is to maintain stability in the local authority housing programme with a further 6,000 new house completions. However, because of the continued high rate of increases in building costs we appreciate that this will not be achieved without some difficulty. Recent tender prices show that a cost of £20,000 for the average three-bedroomed local authority house is not unusual. Indeed, in the Dublin inner city area, the estimated cost of a single housing unit is around £40,000. That is very alarming. Every fair-minded person in this House must admit that. I realise that Dublin's inner city is a special case, but I mention this just to put into perspective the enormous demands being placed on the capital available for local authority houses. I believe that the general high level of tender prices for housing is not unrelated to the overheating which was evident in some areas in the house building industry in 1978 and 1979.

I would hope that, because of the general stabilisation in the construction industry this year, keener competition will slow down the pace of increases in housing costs.

The motion which is before the Seanad reflects the dissatisfaction of some Members with the capital made available for local authority housing. I am not content or complacent about this matter. As long as I am aware that any family is living in overcrowded accommodation and has to wait indefinitely for rehousing, I will not be happy. I am realistic enough to know that there are very many urgent demands on public funds and that I can serve those in need by applying the capital available in the best possible manner. It is a luxury reserved to public representatives not involved in government to deplore the lack of certain public funds without having to shoulder the responsibility of deciding which areas are to be deprived to make good deficiencies in other sectors.

My concern is that the local authority housing programme for this year, involving expenditure of about £100 million, is well managed. Expenditure is under the control of 87 authorities, and a large part of the expenditure is on developed schemes which are not subject to detailed control by my Department.

While I am totally in agreement with the principle of devolution, without the fullest co-operation between central and local administration it can run into problems. I have sufficient experience of local authority affairs to know how easy it is to be frustrated by lack of action at central level. Now that I am on the other side of the fence, as it were, and can see things from both angles, I have a better understanding of the situation. I am less tolerant when I hear such expressions as "the inability of local authorities to discharge their functions" because of Government policy. If a local authority find themselves unable to discharge their functions they should ask themselves in the first place what can be done to improve the situation. Let us not enter into a situation similar to that in some areas in Great Britain where local and central government are at complete loggerheads. The real sufferers, in such cases, are the people who find they do not get the services they deserve and, indeed, which they are paying for. I will deal more fully with this general issue later.

I must refer to the local authority housing situation in Dublin which naturally, because of its relative size, attracts much publicity. Over the years I have heard misgivings expressed about the inability of Deputies from rural areas to understand what some people regard as a largely urban problem. One of my first actions on being appointed to my Department was to get a full briefing on the housing situation in Dublin.

In a nutshell, what I found was that, while the situation is bad, it has been improving steadily. In saying so, I have no intention of appearing to be complacent about the position. But with all the cries of "crisis" and "housing emergency" in recent months, one could be forgiven for believing there have been new and disastrous developments in the Dublin area. However, the most recent survey of housing needs carried out by Dublin Corporation showed there were 5,463 approved applicants on the waiting list at the end of last year, as against 7,098 at the end of 1978.

I know there are pressures in the Dublin area which aggravate the situation and that statistics alone cannot give a genuine picture of the problem. For this reason, Dublin gets special consideration when it comes to the allocation of capital. This year's allocation for Dublin Corporation represents about one-third of the allocation for the whole country whereas the number of approved applicants represents less than a quarter of the total.

I have already outlined the vast amounts of money provided each year from the Public Capital Programme for the provision of local authority housing. The houses being provided are of good quality, and I should like to reiterate that we must ensure that they go to those families who are really in need of rehousing and who cannot provide housing accommodation for themselves from their own resources. The provision of local authority housing is costly, not only because of the initial capital outlay, but also the necessity to subsidise current expenditure on the houses.

The system of housing subsidy in operation since 1 January 1977 results in the Exchequer bearing the full cost of the loan charges incurred by local authorities on their borrowings for the provision of houses for renting. Local authorities retain the rental income which, together with a percentage of the proceeds from the sales of their houses to tenants, is applied towards the cost of maintenance and management. The cost to the public funds of subsidising local authority housing has risen dramatically from £16 million in 1973-74 to £70 million in 1980. The total value to the tenant of the subsidy on a house today is equivalent to £30 per week. If I had that £70 million to put into other houses, I would do a lot of work. I am not against that. I do not want anybody to take me out of context. This is what we are doing.

The situation must be put clearly on the record.

Talking of local authority housing subsidy brings me to another form of subsidy which was introduced recently. Following recent increases in interest rates, the Irish Building Societies' Association informed me that they intended to recommend to their members that the societies' investment rates should be increased from 9 per cent to 10.75 per cent, tax paid. As Senators know, this would have necessitated an increase in home loan interest rates from 14.15 per cent to 16.5 per cent.

The Taoiseach, accompanied by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Environment, met representatives of the Irish Building Societies' Association on 22 April 1980 and had a wide-ranging discussion on the matter. Following this meeting, a working group was established to examine, as a matter of urgency, the number of means which had been suggested to reduce or avoid the necessary increase in mortgage rates. The working group presented their report on 28 April 1980. The Government are satisfied that an immediate increase in building society investment rates was necessary to restore the competitiveness which the societies had lost due to increases in other interest rates so as to enable the societies to retain their existing funds, to generate new funds and to meet the mortgage finance needs of the private sector.

The Government were concerned about the consequences which a mortgage rate of 16.5 per cent would have on house purchasers generally and first-time purchasers in particular, and on employment in the house building industry. It was decided, therefore, to introduce a temporary direct subsidy at a cost of about £1.5 million a month which would eliminate the need for the societies to increase their home loan rates. The payment of this subsidy will be kept under review and it is to be hoped that the present record level of interest rates generally is of a temporary nature only. This subsidy is a practical example of the Government's encouragement of owner-occupation.

Another important way in which people can acquire their own housing accommodation is by availing of the local authority house purchase loan scheme. That the scheme is worth while is evident from the fact that £45 million was paid out in loans last year in respect of 6,200 new and previously occupied houses, compared with £17 million in respect of 4,800 houses in 1977.

The secret of success of this loans scheme has been the maintenance by the Government of realistic loan and income eligibility levels. When we resumed office, we found the maximum income for qualification for a local authority house purchase loan was £2,350 and the maximum loan at £4,500 had remained unchanged since the National Coalition Government took office. We took immediate action. When I came to the Department of the Environment I made a recommendation to the Minister on this matter and we increased the maximum loan to £12,000 and the maximum yearly income to £5,500. I have heard nobody complain about that. Everyone was very pleased about the eligibility limit. Recent applications show that it was a step in the right direction. In addition to this record amounts of payments and approvals under the loan scheme last year, local authorities had a total of £89.5 million worth of applications on hand, which indicates the attraction of the scheme to persons in the middle and lower income groups. The SDA scheme enables local authorities to provide houses indirectly in their areas.

The Government's overall housing policy must reflect the housing requirements of the time. In so far as the assessment of the adequacy of existing policy is concerned, up-to-date data must be available to the Government on the need for housing throughout our land. To be in a position to brief the Government comprehensively on housing needs, the Minister recently asked housing authorities to carry out an assessment of the nature and extent of the need for housing in their areas and to assess the adequacy of the supply and the prospective demand for housing. In order to assess more accurately the condition of the existing housing stock, the Minister has asked housing authorities to carry out sample surveys of the houses in their areas. This will ensure that up-to-date, comprehensive and reliable data on the extent of unfitness and overcrowding in our young stock will be available. The whole exercise will facilitate the formulation of a broadly-based Government housing policy for the eighties.

Housing, as I said at the outset, is an emotive issue because it impinges directly on the individual and his family. On the other hand, the second part of the motion we are discussing in relation to road maintenance concerns the community generally. I should not like to see local authorities taking people out of the country and putting them into the major towns. That is a matter for the council members. There are villages where we could put up a scheme of houses, provided planning is in line with development. That is a matter for our councillors, and I am alluding to councillors from all parties. They should see that people are not whipped out of their own environment and put into the major towns. There was an old slogan years ago. When Mary got married the slogan was: "Head for the town and get your caravan, and you will get a house." I do not want to see that happening. It is a matter for our councillors to look into that. As a man from the midlands, I want to see rural Ireland maintained. I want to see its schools remaining open. I would like councillors to draw up plans to ensure that rural Ireland will be well looked after.

The increasing demands placed on the road system in recent years—and, in particular, the national routes which carry almost half of the total traffic—have emphasised the need to ensure, first, the preservation of the system up to a generally satisfactory level of service and, secondly, that essential and urgent improvements to eliminate deficiencies are undertaken at the earliest opportunity. This Government's commitment to the proper maintenance and improvement of the network is illustrated by the level of road grants made available to road authorities since we took office.

I am happy to recall that the grant allocations this year total over £53 million, which is double the amount allocated by the Coalition when they were leaving office in 1977. By way of further comparison, this Government, in the three years since taking office, have allocated road grants totalling £139 million, whereas the Coalition Government in the three year period from 1975 to 1977 allocated grant totalling £68 million. Furthermore, the sum of £139 million does not include grants totalling £5 million allocated by the present Government immediately on taking office to supplement the 1977 grants made by the previous Government. Even when account is taken of inflation, it must be recognised that the Government's performance leaves little room for criticism by the Opposition.

Are we getting value for money now? Are county councils getting value for money? Is machinery hired by councils lying idle for half a day? Is it lying idle for an hour at a time? This should be looked into. This is a matter for county councils. I have referred to that on a number of occasions. I would hope that county councils and corporations will ensure that hired plant is used to the maximum capacity. Money is scarce now. We must see to it that we are getting value for money, and that is open to question at the moment.

As a further indication of our determination to improve the standard of the road network, the road development plan for the eighties was published last year. The twin aims of the plan can be summarised as the satisfactory preservation of the network and the elimination of deficiencies by necessary improvements, particularly on the national routes. The plan will provide a positive basis for action by the road authorities in the decade ahead and thereby effect a significant improvement in the country's transport infrastructure.

Legal responsibility for public roads is vested in the road authorities, and it is their statutory duty to maintain and improve the roads for which they are responsible, so as to keep them fit for the traffic that uses them. While my Department reimburse a large proportion of the expenditure incurred on road works by way of annual road grants——

It is very hard to hear what the Minister is saying with the public meeting going on on the far side of the House. I wonder could we have less action on the far side until the Minister finishes his speech?

I just whispered once to Senator Molony.

It is not the only caucus.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister should be allowed to continue.

It is estimated that the total expenditure on road works last year amounted to £96.29 millions, of which the local authority expended more than 50 per cent from their own resources. Since the vast bulk of their investment is made up in maintenance works, the condition of the public roads outside the national road network, for which full cost maintenance grants are made by my Department, is dependent largely on the level of funds made available by them, including the amount of their own resources which they apportion to road works.

The Minister, as he has indicated on previous occasions, is very concerned about the recent deterioration in the standard of road maintenance. In conjunction with the notification of the 1980 grants, the attention of each city and county manager was drawn specially to the need for immediate and sustained remedial action, particularly in relation to the principal routes, which are those most used by the public. They have been asked to give priority to adequate provision for maintenance of roads out of moneys available to them. I am glad to say that the managers, as a whole, while stressing the problems that exist, have responded in a positive and constructive way and have undertaken that everything possible will be done to improve the situation in their respective areas.

For the maintenance of national roads, grants totalling £9.336 million have been allocated for work this year, which represents a generous contribution in the context of the present financial situation. In 1977, the corresponding grants amounted to £5,266 million. As regards other roads, the funds available this year to road authorities should enable them to carry out a reasonably satisfactory programme of road upkeep.

Road authorities have been reminded of the serious consequences of neglecting road upkeep—death and injury to road users, damage to vehicles, fuel wastage, loss of previous investments in road networks—and they have been asked to consider the need for regular inspection and immediate identification and treatment of surface failures.

We are all aware that there are problems. A high volume of heavy vehicles can cause exceptional damage to particular roads. The problem becomes greater where overloading of heavy goods vehicles occurs. Again, money is not unlimited, although we would all like to be able to spend more on the roads. Accepting such factors, I have no doubt that much can be done to improve matters, by giving priority in the application of available resources to the most urgent cases and operations and by seeking greater efficiency. I dealt with that in earlier comments on greater efficiency. I am asking for that from all of the local authorities.

Finally, I want to refer briefly to criticism expressed in some quarters of the 10 per cent limit on increases in rate poundages. I have met many ratepayers throughout the country who were very glad this rates curb, if you like to call it that, was placed on local authorities. They were of the opinion that the local authorities might decide to raise the rates by up to 20 per cent. We had to look into this situation and we had to take account of it. I am in favour of putting a limit on the councils because I would fear that a council then might might decide to put a very high rate. They could do it. There is nothing to stop a council putting on a 20 per cent rate and then saying "Oh well, we want a road and we want this." We all know we want the roads but there is a limit to the purse. Although final figures for 1980 rates estimates have not yet been received from all local authorities it is possible at this stage to estimate fairly accurately what the picture for 1980 will be. Local authorities have been able to provide in their 1980 estimates for gross expenditure of nearly 17 per cent more than in last year's estimates. To put this another way, local authorities were able to budget for a total expenditure of £437 million on non-capital services last year. In 1980 they have been able to budget for an extra £73 million, or a total of £510 million, for non-capital services.

In dealing with this, maybe I went on longer than I should. If so I hope the Leas-Chathaoirleach will forgive me. This is my first time in this House and I am not too sure of the procedures. I am trying to give an overall picture of the position, but I am reasonably happy that in regard to housing we will be able to keep that moving along as we did. I am satisfied with the road network that we will be able to do the best we can with the money that is made avilable to us. I am not happy with the money that the Government are making available to me, and every other Minister in every Department is not happy with the allocation. But, once again, there is a limit on the purse. There was always a limit on the purse and I do not doubt there will be a limit in the future. In conclusion, in regard to local authority housing and road networks, I want to see the best value got for the money we have to spend this year, and I ask all members of local authorities throughout the country irrespective of party or political affiliation, to ensure it is brought about.

I welcome the Minister to the House. It is his first time here and I want to congratulate him for a very in-depth speech on how he sees the housing and the road problem. He put a fair amount of effort into it and I wish him well in his new position. That is not to say that I agree with what he said. Far from it. Before I go away from what Senator Dowling said a few minutes ago, I hope he is at present having his tea and that he never had a bite of a juggernaut in his front room. I did not think that the position in Dublin was so serious that every second hour of the day a juggernaut goes into somebody's front room.

I was amazed at the Minister when he mentioned early in his speech that he thought that at a crisis situation such as we are in now all parties had much in common vis-a-vis the problems. I did not hear too much about the common ground that we had coming up to the 1977 election, and I certainly did not hear too much about the common ground that was in the famous manifesto. At this stage when one considers that things are beginning to get out of hand for Fianna Fáil it would appear now they are beginning to say “Well, of course we will all have those problems and you will have them as well”. It is only fair to preface the few remarks that I have this evening by saying that as far as this Government are concerned, and I am talking about the later part of the Government's term, there is certainly a change of emphasis. There is a big difference between the emphasis that has been placed on the budget for environment generally now and what was being placed on it this time last year. There was great optimism around here in the last year or two that not alone would the services be maintained but they would be increased generally. One would wonder, with all the economic planning and all the white papers that this Government produced in the first two and a half years of their term in office, what has gone wrong. Who has been fooled? If we were to take the Minister of State at his word, and he would appear to have a very good grasp of what he is talking about, it would appear that we are in for a very, very tough time. While he says that he is fairly happy with what is happening and that he travels around a fair bit, I have not met many people in local authorities either as local authority members or staff, or members of the public who could say that they were happy. Worse than that, we have seen only the tip of the iceberg, because the real bite, in so far as the restrictions of the budget are concerned, will not be felt until later this year. I have no doubt we will arrive at a situation in relation to roads and housing where the cutback will be so bad that it will be unparalleled in recent history.

I agree entirely with what the Minister had to say about ensuring that as many people as possible are housed in small rural areas. We in Galway County Council have four or five clusters of ten, eight, six and five houses in places like Portumna, Loughrea, Kilconnell and Tuam and as a local authority we have to say, "We are very sorry. We cannot proceed with the building", because the Department in question will not tell Galway County Council exactly how much money they are entitled to get this year. We were told the initial amount a month ago, about two months late, and if we do not get a supplementary allowance very quickly even the builders who used to build for us will have to be let off.

There is a conflict between what I am saying and what the Minister has said. Last year in County Galway we built roughly 97 rural cottages, and if we are to go on by the estimate that has been given to us we will be able to build only about 25 houses this year. I will admit that all the services might not be curtailed as badly as that one, but we are heading for 25 rural houses in all of County Galway this year. I can go on record as saying that I met two very small builders who would be building only two of those houses at a time, the builder and two helpers doing the work. They were told last week by a senior official in Galway County Council that they had better stop working, that they could not be guaranteed that they would be paid for the work they are doing. If anyone wants to check that out it can be done quite easily at local authority level.

Judging by the Minister's remarks that he is going to ensure that this kind of thing will not happen, I assume that there is a supplementary budget on the way. I thought that the Minister might refer to that, but to my knowledge he did not refer to it as such. Most of the local authorities around the country are awaiting news from this motion here today. If there is to be no more money coming than has already been sanctioned to us and if all local authorities are in the same position as Galway County Council I can assure all people in this country who are awaiting a county council or local authority house that they had better think about another year.

The Minister made reference to the fact that we should not place all our eggs in the one basket in so far as local authority housing is concerned. It would be fair to say that you should always have a balance between the number of houses that the Government, through local authority housing, will provide and the number of houses that can be provided for people to build themselves through local authority loans and so on. But is the House aware that there is not anywhere else, other than the building societies, that a prospective house builder can now go for a loan to build his house?

The Minister made reference to the fact that because of his intervention the limit was raised to £12,000, and that it was sufficient as evidenced by the number of applications at local authority level. That is quite right, as any public representative will know, but where else could most of those people go? Also, we always need to bear in mind the cost of this thing, and let it be on the record of the House that a £12,000 loan will cost roughly £32.50 a week for every week of 30 years. If the average wage earner takes £80, £90 or £100 a week and pays more than one-third for the repayment on the loan, one could not call him a happy man, particularly if he is married with a young family. This is a tremendous burden. I was the first to accept that it was important to raise the income limit to £5,500 and the loan itself from £9,000 to £12,000. Nevertheless, that is not a particularly good answer, because a certain section of people earning from £70 to £80 could not repay that. In the past people who qualified for local authority houses were the poorer section of the community, and I do not have to tell this House that we have a new poor at the moment. Certain sections are caught by circumstances beyond their control; they are not poor enough to be desolate and on the other hand they are not rich enough to be able to take out a loan and build a house for themselves.

It would appear from the figures the Minister has given and from the way I see local authority building programmes shaping up this year, that we are on a down-spiral. It might be all right for the Minister to say that the policy might be to do it that way. That policy is wrong. Considering the problem we have with the value of money and inflation, now is the time to inject more money into local authority housing to ensure that we will have reasonable housing and reasonable comfortable conditions for people who are unable to afford anything else. The people in that category now are a far cry from the people who got local authority houses in the past.

Another thing I would ask the Minister in the context of this motion would cut across all political parties: is there any way he can put the boot into the banks to ensure that a man who has got the OK from a local authority to get the loan can get the bridging finance? Great hardship is caused because a man would have been allocated the loan and yet he would not be able to get bridging finance from the bank. I do not know whose responsibility it is, but many people around the country today would be delighted if somebody could do something about that. Another thing I would ask the Minister to turn his attention to is that in the event of the banks not agreeing to this bridging finance, serious consideration should be given to paying the loan in four parts. Somebody who is entitled to the loan will not get any of it until he has a roof on his house. It is only reasonable, because of the tightness of credit with the stores and the builders and so on, to take that extra bit of hardship off by providing that the loan can be paid in four instalments and the first instalment paid fairly quickly after the foundations are in.

Galway County Council have a shortfall of about £1 million in so far as their building programme is concerned. There is no way that we as an authority can give anything like the type of service and development that we gave last year unless the Supplementary Estimate is on its way.

To compound matters altogether, a couple of months ago the Department of the Environment saw fit to give a real stab in the back to the owners of thousands of sub-standard dwellings, mostly in the possession of the lower income group, when they decided to take away the reconstruction grant. The decision to withdraw that grant baffles me. When £600, which was the grant, would put windows and doors in most houses, why was it decided to withdraw it?

There is a tremendous problem. I wish the Minister well. I believe him to be a very sincere man. I hope that he will get the programme through as he says, but the figures do not stand up. If something is not done fairly soon with the roads, 1980 will be known as "pothole year" and 1981 will see the advent of the super-pothole.

Firstly, I welcome the Minister to the House and wish him well in his new position. The terms of the motion here are an admission by the Opposition that at all the county council meetings throughout the country this year they have failed to put their case across to the county councils and to the public, because at every county council meeting throughout the country it has been proven that extra money has been allotted. They tried to make a lot of capital out of the fact that only 10 per cent was available for an increase in expenditure on housing and roads this year, but as we have found in Kilkenny as I am sure a lot of other councillors found in their own counties, over the past number of years the present Government have pumped a lot of money into housing and industry and the local authorities have the benefit of the rateable increase within their own counties.

I would like to comment on a couple of points Senator Connaughton made. He mentioned the fact that it costs £32.50 per week to service the ordinary loan, but what he did not say was that that was a gross figure. He did not mention the fact that there is a tax element within that £32.50 and that that is allowable against the weekly charge. He also said that it is a pity the county councils do not allow payment to be made in stages. He must not be a very observant member of his own local authority if he does not know that a circular came from the Department not so long ago stating that at the time of the pouring in of the foundations a percentage of the loan could be paid, that when the house was ready for roofing a certain percentage could be paid, and that when the house was finished the rest of the money could be paid. He should go back and have a look at the situation as has been enunciated by the Department to the county councils earlier this year.

I do not think that anybody would deny that there is a problem providing houses for all our people. We have a growing population of young people who are getting married younger and younger and their expectations are a lot higher than those of years ago. They expect to be housed as soon as they are married; they make no provision for housing themselves and they expect the taxpayer to provide houses for them immediately after they get married. That is not a reasonable expectation from anybody in any day or age. If people are going to get married they should prepare financially, emotionally and in every other way for what they are entering into. At present in every area we see kids getting married; they move in with their parents and their in-laws and there is an immediate cause of friction. It is not reasonable to expect the Government or the taxpayers to house these people immediately. They should make an effort to provide for their own housing.

The standard of housing in local authorities has been mentioned. The standard of housing in the local authority areas over the past number of years has been far superior to what is being provided in the private sector of the building industry. The housing programme that was embarked upon by the present Government when they came back into power is one of which this Government and the country in general should be proud. The members of the Government are not satisfied with what has been done, but we are doing as much as can be done within the limits that the community places upon us, and those are financial to a large degree. If I buy a bar of chocolate I like to eat the whole bar of chocolate, but if somebody else wants a bit of it I give him a bit of it and if somebody else wants another bit I give him a little bit and I divide up that bar of chocolate into a number of segments which will provide a little bit for each person. The little bit might not be enough, but you have got to do the best you can with that bar of chocolate or that cake.

Previous speakers on the Opposition benches have complained about the allocations that have been made for both public and private housing. One of the big boasts of the Coalition Government was the fact that they built 25,000 houses. We were saying at that stage that it was not a boast, that they were just doing something that they had to do and that 25,000 was the maximum they could do from the cake as it existed at that stage. Fortunately, the cake has got a little bit bigger so there is more available for everyone. We do not boast about 26,000 houses; we do not boast about 27,000 houses per annum. We just get on and build them. There are a number of schemes under which people can provide their own houses and all of the schemes are not availed of as they should be.

The low rise mortgage scheme is not taken up to the extent to which people should take it up. People in local authority houses, irrespective of their income, can take up a low rise mortgage. They take a county council loan and build their own house, thereby adding to the local authority housing pattern. We have it in country areas; we have it in County Kilkenny. In the city of Kilkenny, in my own parish, St. Patrick's, the local parish curate is at present finishing off four houses for elderly people and two houses which will be used for small families or single-parent families, and starting on a scheme of maisonettes which will be used by either single parents or small families. That effort in that parish is sustained purely and simply from the resources of the parish and is an indication as to what can be done by the community, not depending on the Government to provide for the needs of an area. That should be embarked upon more and more in any place in Ireland. In Kilmoganny, a small village, a community group got together and built 11 houses on a community basis for sale to people within that community. The houses cost the people who have gone into them £7,500 and they could be put on the open market at present for at least £20,000.

In Clare Father Harry Bohan and his people have built houses in the smaller community areas that the Minister mentioned. What has happened in the small community areas is that because the houses were there industries followed and villages which had been dead came back to life. We must place more emphasis on that type of co-operation. We cannot allow the situation to develop where people expect the Government to provide all the houses that are necessary in this country. We must have community involvement in the building programme. We must divide up the cake in a fair and equitable manner.

Roads and the condition of them were mentioned. It is amazing how a concerted effort has been made by the Opposition within the last five or six months to prove that the roads have deteriorated because the Government are not putting enough money into the maintenance of these roads. The Government have provided enough money to maintain the roads in this country but a lot of factors militate against the situation on the roads. There is an enormous growth in heavy traffic. Juggernauts have been mentioned. Anybody can see the damage that can be caused on a country road by bulk tankers of all descriptions. Naturally, the fact that these bulk tankers and bulk carriers are on our roads makes the maintenance of roads more difficult. Also, for the past two winters we had very extreme conditions of weather and this has meant that roads have deteriorated faster than they would normally. But, having said this, we have not heard at county council meetings for the last two months any mention made of the enormous progress in road maintenance over that period. At the time the estimates were going through our county councils we had rain pouring down and, at the same time, we had councillors complaining about the roads not being repaired and anybody who would try to lay tarmac under wet conditions would be totally irresponsible.

The Government have put an enormous amount of effort into their road improvement schemes. The county council of which I am a member are not satisfied but we are never satisfied because we want our county to progress and no matter what the Minister gave us we still would not be satisfied. That is a warning to the Minister that we will not be satisfied but we will take what we get and we will use it to the best advantage of the people in the areas which we are elected to represent.

The people deserve good roads and good housing. The Government would like to provide a 100 per cent increase in the number of houses being built. We cannot, as has been said by the Minister, increase our rates to an enormous degree because, irrespective of the fact that rates have been abolished on private dwellings the rates that have to be paid by small businesses at present are a big burden on them and I would not like to see the rates go up any more than 10 per cent. I think that this option is not one that should be accepted by the House and I sincerely hope that the Minister, with the funds available to him, will continue with the good work that the Government have been doing for years on housing and on road improvements.

I want to inform the Senator that at 6.55 p.m. according to Standing Orders, Senator Reynolds will get in to reply to the debate.

I would also like to join with other Senators in congratulating the Minister and in welcoming him here to this House. Listening to the many statements that have been made here today, from county to county, we are well aware that when the estimates were being prepared a few months ago by the managers in all the counties they were at their wits' end to know what they were going to do with this 10 per cent. In a reply to a Dáil question a few weeks ago we were informed that we got 10 per cent; Kerry got 5.8 per cent; one county in the midlands got 1.4 per cent. So, it is far away from the 10 per cent as promised, with inflation at the moment over 22 per cent. Figures I received from the Kerry County Council a few weeks ago show that the increase in tar price was 30 per cent, in diesel oil 100 per cent, in materials 25 per cent and in wages 20 per cent.

May I interrupt the Senator for one moment? The Chair has been notified that Senator Reynolds will be willing to give you five minutes so that you can continue speaking until 7 o'clock.

With this in mind I can see that all county councils at the moment who have many jobs under consideration will have to postpone all these jobs. These are the facts as we find them from county to county at the moment. At the Kerry County Council meeting last Monday I found myself in a position where the Minister's own party controlled the council and they wanted a special meeting held within the next two weeks to deal with finance. It went to a vote. We opposed it because we informed them we had nothing to discuss. They went even further than that. The Fianna Fáil councillors wanted it held in committee and we challenged them as to why they had to hold it behind closed doors. I wonder what is wrong at the moment. I would welcome the Minister any time, perhaps in the near future, to meet the Kerry County Council to discuss our many problems because I assure him, if he does not come to Kerry they will be up to meet him in his office.

We also find that where we had private lorry owners working for the Kerry County Council down the years—we had up to 21 trucks in 1979: up to four years ago there were six employed by the Kerry County Council—last Monday four extra were called on. Here, again, we see that we have unemployment, people who are completely out of work. They have trucks purchased on hire-purchase. How do those people find themselves at the moment?

We also find ourselves reduced in regard to local improvements schemes. In Kerry alone we had a cut of £85,000. I would also like the Minister to bear in mind that in this year when we are told to spare energy if at all possible no money was made available for bog roads. Thanks be to God we had an amount of fine weather in the last few weeks and where turf was cut, it was saved and people were able to bring it out of the bogs because the weather was dry. What position would we be in if circumstances had been the same as they were 12 months ago? Unless we can get more money in the near future all our county managers have warned us that there will be redundancies.

Regarding local authoriy houses, any money we have got in Kerry so far was to complete the houses started in 1979. Not one penny have we got to start one house in 1980. That is information I received from the county council office last Monday morning. We find ourselves in Kerry at the moment bringing forward over 80 houses unfinished in 1979. We would like the Minister to send some money into Kerry because we have everything in order. The plots of ground are there; all the transfers have taken place; the builders are waiting but we have no cash.

We also have land made available in Tralee Urban Council area where people can build their own homes. These are farming co-operatives. We have 22 in a co-operative in Tralee at the moment who are about to start building their own homes. These are important but unless we can get more cash we will find young married people paying excessively high prices for flats. Some people are at present living in completely overcrowded houses and also in caravans.

Tarbert, where there is an ESB station, may be in dire straits in the next few months if we cannot supply it with fresh water. A contract went from Kerry County Council to the Department over six months ago and we have not heard one word about it since then. I would like the Minister to help us out in this matter. Anything that can be made available at the moment to the county council will be very, very welcome indeed.

Senator Lanigan and the Minister himself conveyed that we on this side of the House wanted permission from the Department of the Environment to increase rates above 10 per cent on the existing ratepayers in local authority areas. Nobody said that. At no stage did anybody on this side of the House say that. What we did say was that the 10 per cent that we are getting from the Central Fund is not sufficient to carry on the work that has to be done. I said it earlier, and I will say it again, that out of that 10 per cent local authorities have statutory commitments, commitments to vocational committees. agricultural committees, drainage boards and the demands from these subsidiary bodies are much higher than 10 per cent. This means that the income to the local authority concerned is reduced below 10 per cent.

In 1979 the local authority that I happened to be a member of had to contribute 58 per cent of an increase to one drainage district and I said earlier today and I say it again now, that drainage is not and should not be the responsibility of a local authority, particularly now when the income that we have it so much controlled. There was no question of anybody saying from this side of the House that the local authorities should get permission to go above 10 per cent.

There is not a human being in this House who realises the problem of the small businessman as much as I do because I happen to be one. I know his commitments the whole way. I know the way every charge has substantially increased and some of them substantially increased since the present Government came into office—postal and telephone charges, ESB charges. It is a very difficult situation for these people trying to meet the demands on them. I certainly think that was most unfair.

Senator Dowling came in here and attacked everybody about the eastern by-pass and he inferred that there were some people trying to sabotage Dublin county. I do not know if the Senator is a member of the Dublin Corporation but four people of his party voted against this development. You would think it was the Fine Gael or the Labour Party who were the cause of this. Far from it, on top of that, 23 people voted for the amendment and 15 people voted against it. That is democracy. I cannot see anything wrong with it. I cannot see his point unless he was encouraging the Minister to do what happened before under a Fianna Fáil Government, abolish the Dublin Corporation in order to put the by-pass through. I do not know if that was in his mind. That is how I see it.

I was looking through the Fianna Fáil manifesto as the debate was going on and on page 27, paragraph 6 clearly states:

Fianna Fáil will introduce a new scheme for house improvement grants.

When they came into office they increased the improvement grants; they increased the grants for water and sewerage; they increased the grants for reconstruction; they increased other grants such as those for septic tanks but, suddenly all these grants have been withdrawn. I have read through this manifesto and I cannot find anywhere in it that they said they were going to withdraw the grants. Nowhere is that said in the manifesto.

Senator Lanigan again made the statement that Fianna Fáil do not "blow" or talk about what they do. I would suggest to Senator Lanigan that he take an hour or an hour and a half off and read through this manifesto and see what was promised and what has been fulfilled. If we look at the next paragraph on the same page, it says that Fianna Fáil recognise the importance of encouraging people to remain in rural Ireland and will provide adequate funds for local improvement and amenity schemes. Not alone that, but in my own constituency they prepared a very glamorous leaflet that I am sure a number of people read. It says that the necessary funds will be made available for local improvement schemes. The necessary funds that have been made available, as Senator O'Brien said earlier, are such that in Cavan if you apply for a local improvement grant it takes five years; in Monaghan he said it was six years; in my own County Leitrim it is eight to nine years. Anybody applying for a local improvement scheme there will have to wait eight to nine years for it despite the promise that was clearly given in the manifesto. If that is not "blowing" about what you are going to do I do not know what it is.

We look now at page 28 of the manifesto where we find it stated that Fianna Fáil recognise local authority structures so that everyone can better participate in decisions affecting his own community and play his part in the development of local initiatives. Let us look at that. Since they came into office all power has been swept away from the local authorities. A number of people here are members of local authorities. You go to the estimates meeting of the local authority; the manager has sent out his estimate prepared by himself, his accountant and his engineers. You go through the figures and you want to get a corner taken off, you want a simple footpath on something else done and you are confronted immediately by the manager and his staff. They say: "If you are going to do that footpath you will have to take out something else in the estimate; that is the estimate that I think is necessary; that is the estimate that I prepared on the instructions of the county council over the past 12 months. If you want to get a corner taken off, if you want to get a footpath done, if you want to get a house reconstructed, you will have to show me within that estimate what you are taking out."

There is no point in anybody saying to us that the local authorities are getting sufficient money to carry on—they are not. If people like Senator Lanigan who has said that the roads are improving are so blind that they do not want to see them, if they can sit in their own cars and drive all around the place and not drive in and out of potholes, I would like them to tell me what roads they travel on.

The last quotation I want to make from the Fianna Fáil manifesto is on page 6, paragraph 5. It says:

Abolishing annual road tax on all cars up to and including 16 hp from August 1977.

They were abolished all right for a very short period and the next thing we found what is known now as a registration charge.

The Chair does not feel that the abolition of the car tax is actually relevant to this motion.

It is because I want to make this point—I am always prepared to accept the ruling of the Chair—that that is the shortfall in the revenue that is causing the problem: the local authorities have not sufficient money coming direct from the Department of the Environment. That is very much tied up with the motion, but if you rule it out of order, I accept your ruling but I do not think it is a fair decision because that was——

So long as the Senator relates what he says to the motion he is in order.

Thank you very much. For a few months we had it free, and next there was this registration charge of £5. This year it was increased by another £5 and it is now £10. Money is going to be tighter next year, no doubt, and their will be another increase of £5. Then Senator Lanigan tells us that the Fianna Fáil Party do not "blow" about what they do.

The Minister spent a long time telling us about the amount of loans, and how this was increased. I said earlier and I still say it—a grant is an incentive to people building a house, and if the Government are serious about getting houses built then they will have to substantially increase the £1,000 grant. House prices have doubled in the past three years and surely it is not unreasonable to expect the Department of the Environment or the Government today to increase the £1,000 grant to at least £3,000 so to encourage people to build their own houses.

It seems to be private house building that the Senator is discussing.

Everybody discussed private housing today. It was mentioned several times. The Minister dealt with it at length, in fairness to him, and got away with it, and I feel that I am entitled to the same privilege within this House as the Minister. That is the situation, but if the Chair says it cannot be discussed that is fair enough.

Local authority housing is specifically mentioned in this motion.

Agreed. There is a question of competition, keeping down the cost of local authority housing. The Minister said that the average price for a local authority house, as quoted by contractors for the country, was £20,000 —perhaps I misunderstood the figure—for a three-roomed house and £40,000 in Dublin city for the same type of house.

I am quoting what the Minister said. I said I was not too sure but he has nodded indicating to me that that is right.

For the inner city.

Sorry. I cannot see competition bring down the price because the people who are in the building business, contractors, builders' providers—I know this from my own business—find all their costs are increasing substantially. As Senator Dowling said today the cost of lorries and the cost of running lorries and keeping lorries is enormous. There is not a bit of hope of keen competition keeping the cost down because there are fewer people in this type of business. The receivers are moving into a tremendous amount of builders' providers businesses and I am sure everybody realises that we are finding it very hard at the moment to keep floating.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 23.

  • Blennerhassett, John.
  • Butler, Pierce.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Cooney, Patrick Mark.
  • FitzGerald, Alexis.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Harte, John.
  • Howard, Michael.
  • Hussey, Gemma.
  • Keating, Justin.
  • Kilbride, Thomas.
  • McDonald, Charles.
  • Markey, Bernard.
  • Molony, David.
  • O'Brien, Andy.
  • Reynolds, Patrick Joseph.
  • Staunton, Myles.

Níl

  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Brugha, Ruairí.
  • Cassidy, Eileen.
  • Cranitch, Mícheál.
  • de Brún, Séamus.
  • Donnelly, Michael Patrick.
  • Doolan, Jim.
  • Dowling, Joseph.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Goulding, Lady.
  • Hanafin, Des.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Herbert, Anthony.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jago, R. Valentine.
  • Lambert, C. Gordon.
  • Lanigan, Michael.
  • McGlinchey, Bernard.
  • Mulcahy, Noel William.
  • O'Toole, Martin J.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Ryan, William.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Butler and Harte; Níl, Senators W. Ryan and S. Brennan.
Question declared lost.