Tuesday, 4 June 1957
Dáil Éireann Debate
 That a sum not exceeding £2,863,700 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1958, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Minister for Local Government, including grants to local authorities, grants and other expenses in connection with housing, and miscellaneous grants.—(Minister for Local Government.)
Mr. N. Lemass: When the former Minister was speaking on this Estimate, he said that the £500,000 allocated by the Dublin Corporation for S.D.A. activities should have been allocated a lot sooner. He should know that towards the end of the first year that the arrangement for making this money available from the Local Loans Fund was made, it was necessary for the corporation to negotiate an overdraft with their bankers in order to keep continuity in their building programme and that in fact permission to borrow this £500,000 from the Local Loans Fund was granted only in the middle of last month or early last month.
Mr. N. Lemass: I pointed out earlier that this money would not have been available at all but for the policy of obstruction and delay adopted by the previous Government and, as a result of the way that Dublin Corporation was forced to slow up its building programme,  the money became available and was made available to S.D.A. loans.
I am anxious to hear the Minister's views on the building of tenant purchase houses. To my mind, it is an excellent thing to give the people an opportunity of purchasing their own houses with this small rate of deposit and at the lowest possible rate of interest. I should like the Minister, when he is replying, to give his views on the matter of tenant purchase houses. The scheme should be utilised to the maximum because there is a great saving in the rates because of the reduced maintenance cost.
It is very regrettable that the provision of libraries in the city area has been held up, principally through lack of money. In Ballyfermot, which is a town bigger than Waterford, the only library is run by the De La Salle Order in a room in their schools. It is a dreadful state of affairs that places like Ballyfermot, Kimmage, Crumlin, Drimnagh have no libraries. The Minister should examine the possibility of including library building under the Special Works Grants.
That also applies to recreational and community halls. Residential associations, cultural and political bodies, and so on, have no facilities whatsoever to hold meetings. The activities of such local associations, even the political groups, are influential in creating a good civic spirit amongst the tenants of corporation schemes. These halls could be incorporated in all municipal buildings which are erected, such as libraries and vocational schools.
Probably the biggest disgrace in Dublin City, comparing it with any other capital city in Europe, is the complete failure to provide proper swimming facilities. I do not believe that the Tara Street Baths are anything that we can boast about. The Iveagh Baths are very small. I understand that in the year 1955, 99,000  people used Tara Street Baths and 30,000 people used the Iveagh Baths and, in addition, some 85 clubs used them. There are other clubs who, to my knowledge, have been seeking time in which they can use the baths and cannot be allocated any time.
Members of the Red Cross and the Irish Amateur Swimming Association give their free time in giving courses of life saving in the water. It is very commendable that so many of our citizens have sufficient civic spirit to go to the baths to learn this art. A site was purchased 28 years ago in Rathmines for the provision of a baths and nothing has been done about it. The matter has been postponed from one year to another and every time the question is mooted the estimated cost has increased. This site has been taken over by the Housing Section of the Dublin Corporation, which means that there is not even a site reserved in Dublin City for the provision of proper swimming facilities. There were plans to extend Tara Street Baths and these plans were also rejected.
It is very important that we get the children out of our city waterways. I understand that swimming in canals and quarries contributes very largely to the spread of polio and, from the point of both local government and health, some provision should be made as soon as possible for increasing bathing facilities in Dublin City. In the capital city of a country seeking tourists, it is a complete disgrace that we have not got at least one proper baths which could be used for international competitions and by visitors to the city in general.
The Corporation of Dublin from time to time has been accused of being inefficient. Efficiency experts were appointed last year and have reported. It is agreed by all the councillors, all the officials of the corporation and by the efficiency experts that there will not be a really efficient corporation while its offices are spreadeagled all over the city. It is absolutely essential to centralise the corporation offices as soon as possible. The activities of the corporation have expanded so very rapidly that temporary offices are being  acquired every few months. Every one of these temporary offices needs its own staff and its own machines, which adds tremendously to the cost of administration.
Deputy Lindsay said that he thought all these local authorities were overstaffed, but that is not true in Dublin at present. Less staff would be required, certainly, if central offices could be proceeded with. It must be very frustrating for a senior officer in any Department to try to control the people under him. Some of them may be six miles away from him in one direction and others three or four miles in the other direction and if he wants to speak to one of the officers, he picks up the telephone and tells him that there is a matter about which he wishes to speak to him and the officer concerned has to travel by bus or car and arrives for the interview half an hour or 20 minutes later. The subject is then discussed and, possibly, before the officer is back in his own office, the senior officer will want to talk to him again. The officer has to spend his day driving in order to get directions from the senior officer.
The site for the municipal offices is available. It is proposed that they should be built near Christ Church Cathedral. The plans have been prepared and the model was exhibited in the City Hall for some time. Progress is held up, again through the shortage of capital money, a legacy which it will probably take a little while to clear up. I would ask the Minister to examine this matter very carefully and to do everything in his power to enable Dublin Corporation to proceed with the provision of these civic offices in order to make Dublin Corporation a more efficient body. I anxiously await the Minister's views on some of the points I have raised.
Mr. Sweetman: Deputy Noel Lemass is a young Deputy in this House. Any young Deputy, before making charges of the sort he made against the former Minister for Local Government, should take care that the charges are accurate before he makes them. When he bears a name such as the Deputy bears, he should take double care.  When he is, as the Deputy is, and has been for the past period of years, a member of Dublin Corporation, one is inclined to think that there can be only two reasons why ill-conceived, untrue and entirely irreconcilable allegations should be made by him: either he is too negligent and careless to ascertain the facts or he makes his speech deliberately misplacing them.
Deputy Noel Lemass was one of the members of Dublin Corporation last year who was responsible, more than anybody else, with the present Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Briscoe, for ensuring that there could not be at this time an adequate flow of building into private hands under the Small Dwellings Acts. I went over this at great length in this House on 6th December last and I did not intend to raise it again but for the most mischievous speech that was made at the end of last week and again today by Deputy Noel Lemass. The fact is, and it is absolutely unrebuttable, that it was the Dublin Corporation, by deliberately attempting to push to other purposes moneys that were given to them by the last Government for the specific purpose, inter alia, of Small Dwellings Act loans, that made it impossible for people to move ahead with Small Dwellings Act building in the early part of this year.
I am not a member of Dublin Corporation and therefore I will accept Deputy Lemass's denial, if he denies it, but I am positive from the information given to me that Deputy Lemass was one of the leaders of the move in Dublin Corporation to refuse to include Small Dwellings Acquisition loans in the purposes to which the £4,000,000 which I made available to Dublin Corporation about this time last year was allocated. Dublin Corporation, or a group of its members, led by Deputies Briscoe and Lemass, deliberately tried to use the moneys given to Dublin Corporation for various purposes, including Small Dwellings Act loans, for any purpose other than these loans, and it was because of their deliberate move at that time, which I exposed in the House here on 6th December, that we had the difficulties that arose in that respect.
 As I say, that is past and gone and I would not have bothered to raise it again if it had not been for the impudent and irresponsible speech which we heard from Deputy Lemass to-day and on the last occasion on which he spoke. If the Deputy wants to ascertain the facts, he can look up Dáil Volume 160, No. 14, where he will find the facts set out in such a manner that even the spokesman for his Party, speaking from exactly where I am speaking now, had then to admit that they were correct.
Mr. Sweetman: The Small Dwellings Act money was not allocated by Dublin Corporation until I told them that if they did not do the job they were given to do, no money would be given to them. It was not allocated until I told them that if they did not honourably carry out their side of the bargain, other means would have to be taken, and Deputies Lemass and Briscoe were the two people——
Mr. Sweetman: £4,000,000 out of the Local Loans Fund for Dublin Corporation and not merely for one year but for a second year to ensure a proper flow—£4,000,000 that had never been given or allocated by any Government or any Minister for Local Government before, or by any Minister for Finance. If the Deputy wishes to speak about these things he should, first of all, have a private word with the present holder of the office, the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Smith, and he will find out what I am talking about are facts, not the kind of fantasy in which the Deputy has indulged in this House.
I must confess I have some considerable sympathy with the Minister in dealing with this Estimate. He has a problem to face and it is a problem which must be accepted, as such, by Parties on all sides of the House. We see it day after day, every time housing schemes become vacant, every time  one picks up the Book of Estimates. Year after year, we have the same problem of building new houses, and, in that building, having to meet the difference between the economic cost and what the tenants are prepared to pay, by subventions both from rates and the central Exchequer. The additional amount included for that purpose in the present Vote is £170,000, a substantial amount, and that particular subhead is one that will continue to grow year after year, so long as we continue our existing policy. It is a problem that every Minister who sits over there will find considerable difficulty in dealing with and one which needs serious consideration, especially now when we are approaching the end of what might be described as the first phase of post-emergency building activity.
In the same way, the Estimate includes an additional £80,000 for interest on sanitary service works so that we must find an extra £250,000 a year in interest charges to meet the difference between the economic cost of the housing and sanitary service works and what can be borne locally, whether by the local tenants, the water users, or the local authorities. It will be a rather frightening situation if that goes on year after year and it is particularly bad when one looks at the other side of the picture, the fact that productivity in house-building has been far from improving.
I am sure the Minister has the figures to hand. I had them and, candidly, I must confess that I have mislaid them for the time being, but the figures, as regards productivity in housing since between 1938 and the last year for which they are available, make sorry reading. With the improvement there has been in machinery, with the new types of design, with all the modern progress that has been made, one would have expected that house building could be completed now with substantially less man-hours per house. Instead of that, it now takes more man-hours per house to build a house of the same dimensions, and it certainly means that very fact must raise queries in our minds as to the efficiency, and as to where we are  going, when we remember the vast difference between the economic cost and the amount the tenants feel themselves able to pay.
I do not know whether the Minister has any schemes in that respect in prospect or not, but it would be interesting to hear from him whether he can see any prospect of even getting back to the 1938 productivity, much less of being able to improve it and thereby cheapen house-building costs as a whole.
The Minister, in an interjection the other day, implied that he was going to ensure that the Local Loans Fund would be in such a position that he would know exactly where he was going in respect of it. I welcome that, if it is so, but I would like to remind the Minister that if he does succeed in getting that position to his satisfaction, it will be a change from the position he left in that Department between 1951 and 1954. The fact is that until I took rigorous measures last year to ascertain the exact position in relation to local authority capital commitments, there was no system whatsoever in the Department of Local Government, nor in the Custom House, by virtue of which it was possible to make any projection with any degree of accuracy for the year ahead, or the period ahead, in regard to the capital that would be needed.
The situation had been carried on in the previous year and during the Minister's period in office from 1951 to 1954 on the basis that, when local authorities wanted capital, they asked for it and there was no control of any sort or description by virtue of which a proper estimate could be made at the beginning of any year as to exactly what capital would be required during that year.
I think it is not unfair to state that the method by which the Department of Local Government under various Ministers had carried on up to that time was one in which they merely demanded the money they wanted as and when they wanted it, and gave no real forecast to the Ministers for Finance of earlier years as to what would be their capital requirements.  That chaotic state should never have been allowed to continue and I am delighted to hear that as a result of the measures I started last year, the Minister is satisfied that he will know what his position will be in the future.
I have never been able to make an accurate distinction between the responsibilities of the Department of Local Government and the Department of Justice in relation to road safely. Roughly speaking, I suppose it is the Department of Justice that is responsible for the enforcement of regulations made by the Minister for Local Government. The Minister for Local Government is, I think, the framing authority for the regulations in a broad general way. I want to suggest to him that one of the things which must be done, and I freely admit that it is very difficult to see how it is to be done, is to inculcate into people who drive motor cars the ordinary good manners that they show when they are walking along the street. People who would no more dream of barging or shouldering anybody walking down the street think, when they sit behind the steering wheel of a car, that they have obtained a licence to behave without any ordinary courtesy. They cut in amongst other traffic and they move out without giving any signal of their intentions and generally behave in a manner that would appal them, if it were carried on when walking along the street.
I believe that more accidents are caused on the main roads by people failing to give adequate notice of what they intend to do than anything else. People seem to have no idea that the proper place to drive is on the left-hand side of the road and they think that if they drive on the left centre of the road, that they are doing a marvellous job. One of the reasons for making roads as wide as they are is that people drive on the left centre and it means that there is a vast space wasted on the left-hand side. It may be that one of the ways in which the Minister will have to improve that situation is by making experimental traffic lines and he will equally have to ensure that when motorists move from  one line to another, they will give fair, adequate and courteous warning of their intentions to the people travelling behind them.
It so happened that yesterday I was driving along the Naas Road and the traffic was fairly heavy. I was travelling behind a motor car driven by a lady, and it is one of the instances that belies the suggestion that ladies are bad drivers, because I was behind the car for about 15 miles and the driver of the car never once passed out traffic without signalling that she was about to change out of her line of traffic. The difference between driving behind a person who is thoughtful and courteous and driving behind a person who goes out into the middle of the road without signalling and who has no idea of what it may do to other people is quite enormous.
The Minister also in this Estimate has been fit to delete entirely, except in so far as the paying off of existing commitments is concerned, sub-head K. He made the case that he had commitments carried over from 31st March and he deducted those from the total amount. I do not think that that was at all the straightforward way of explaining the matter. What he should have done was taken the normal commitments carried over on every 31st March and added this figure so as to show the total amount he would have had available. The Fianna Fáil Party have always been opposed to the Local Authorities (Works) Act because it was not an Act introduced by them. There has been a great deal of good work done under that Act and I freely admit that there has been some bad work. I think it is regrettable that the Minister did not carry on the appropriations under sub-head K of this Vote for that type of work for the current year. If properly carried out, I would suggest that it is far more productive than road work.
Incidentally, in regard to road work, rumour hath it that the Minister has allocated substantially more money for main road improvements this year than had been intended previously. I understood that the position as we left it was that all further moneys that were  to be utilised from the Road Fund in relation to roads were to be utilised for the purpose, first, of bringing county roads up to a requisite standard. I have not got the figures in relation to the recent allocation made by the Minister, but I understand that he has allocated substantial sums for the improvement of main roads.
I wonder is he allocating those sums in continuance of the policy of making arterial trunk roads dead straight? If he is, I suggest that it is an entirely erroneous policy. Throughout the Continent at present, bends are being deliberately put in roads for the purpose of ensuring that night driving will be safe. Anyone who has driven along a substantial stretch of straight road at night knows there is nothing more nerve racking and nothing more dangerous. To have arterial trunk roads straight from end to end is very pleasant during the day time, but when it comes to night time and driving against oncoming lights, they become, I would suggest, far more dangerous than the roads for which they are substitutes.
If we could afford to have dual carriageways, dead straight all along, it would be very pleasant, but I do not think that in the foreseeable future we can afford that. I do not think that in the foreseeable future the country is going to be able to afford the luxury of that kind of autobahn. Therefore, if we are to have single carriageway roads, carrying traffic in both directions, we should concentrate on making them reasonably safe, rather than concentrating, as we have been doing, in relation to our long arterial roads, on making them safe for very fast traffic in the day time and really dangerous when it comes to lighting-up time.
Mr. Manley: This is a rather important Estimate in so far as it very materially affects the people in the country. They are the people who largely have to pay for the administration of local government and they are naturally anxious to see that the money is spent in the best possible way. The intensification of the services under local government in recent  years has thrown very heavy responsibility on local authorities and on the officials administering local government. They are at their wits' end on occasion as to how to meet their obligations because of the limited sums provided for them and the incessant and growing demands for further services.
The local administration services which we have in this country are really very near the ideal system and members of local authorities are to be congratulated on the fine spirit of public service they show, the assistance they give and the time they spend in the service of the people. They are too often maligned and criticised and this misinformed criticism will have no other result than that people will be deterred from taking their place on local councils because of the indifference and criticism they receive from the public in general.
It is unfortunate—and I am one who has always held this view—that elections for local authorities are held on the Party ticket. It is a great pity that is so. Our local administration preserves the essence of democratic government. It is an edifying experience to attend a local authority meeting, to listen to the deliberations of members, to see the people looking after their own affairs in an honest and painstaking manner, safeguarding the interests of those whom they represent.
I know there are many people who have been elected to local authorities on the Party ticket who believe in the principle that local elections should not be held on the Party ticket. It is a pity these people would not use whatever influence they have to bring about an understanding between the Parties so that people would go into local councils without political labels and that we would have greater objectivity in our local administration.
It is true that many people graduate from local councils into this House. I concede that those people deserve to be complimented, but I suggest that once those people are elected to this House they should resign their places in local  councils because the large number of Deputies at present sitting on local bodies throughout the country make more marked the Party alignments and, at the same time, keep others out who are well qualified but who would not seek election because of the present political set-up.
If there is one criticism more than any other to be levelled at the Department of Local Government it is in regard to administrative slowness in arriving at decisions. When local councils submit schemes for approval, even when they have the backing of the manager, or when the manager, with the backing of his council, presents schemes for approval, they meet with annoying delays and sometimes with refusal to sanction. I do not know why that should be.
It is the belief among many that the same examination should apply for entrance to the Civil Service and to local bodies, particularly in reference to lower grade civil servants. In Cork the personnel for the county council staff is recruited on the Leaving Certificate or on an examination equivalent to that for the Leaving Certificate in secondary schools. It would be just as well that the one examination would do for all officers so that there would be an interchange between the local authorities and the Department of Local Government, as far as clerical officers are concerned at any rate. Such a system would result in the appointment to headquarters in Dublin of fertile, fresh minds which have become familarised with all the ramifications of local administration.
Local councils are responsible for the surfacing and maintenance of the roads in their respective areas. It would be regrettable if the impetus given by the previous Minister were to be allowed to lapse under the present administration. The former Minister gave great encouragement to the more widespread surfacing of the by-roads throughout the country. I was dismayed to hear from Deputy Sweetman that it is rumoured there is to be a reversion to the old policy of creating autobahns. I think the people will resent that. In Cork there was a greater mileage of by-roads resurfaced last  year than in any previous year. We were highly gratified at that. The county engineer must be congratulated on the expedition with which he went ahead with the new policy. A reversion to the old system would, therefore, be disappointing not only to the members of the public concerned but to local engineers as well. I hope the Minister will think twice before deciding to readopt the old system because there are still thousands of miles of link roads and county roads throughout the country that need resurfacing.
The argument is frequently used that priority must be given to the more widely used roads. While there may be some substance in that argument, we must remember that there is no lessening in the rates for people who live near by-roads as compared with those who live along main roads. People living along by-roads feel aggrieved because they do not get the road surfaces to which their rates entitle them. In many cases people living on by-roads pay rates that are comparatively higher than those who live along the highways. Very valuable employment could be given on the roads for many years to come if a comprehensive and productive policy were adopted in relation to the improvement of by-roads.
Another source of great potential employment would be the construction of water works on a regional basis. The idea of regional water supply schemes is, I am glad to say, becoming much more acceptable to the authorities. It is much more economical than the old system of providing many schemes for smaller communities. The greatest possible number of people benefit through regional schemes.
Each succeeding year, local authorities suffer the agonising experience of going through rates estimates at numerous meetings. In spite of their best efforts, they are not able to keep the estimates within the limits they would like. I would suggest to the Minister in all seriousness—it is extraordinary it has not been done already in this small country where each county has its own administrative unit—that he would amend the law so that it would be possible for local authorities  to fix a rate for a period of three years or five years. I believe such a system would help to give greater stability in local administration. It would also help the local planners and engineers to plan ahead. They could do so in the knowledge that they had a certain amount of revenue available for a fixed period. I believe it would be for the good of local administration since it would result in the saving of considerable sums of money. Every year local estimates are gone through with meticulous care; days and weeks are spent in trying to come to decisions. All this involves the employment of extra staff for the sending out of demand notes, etc.
There is another anomaly about which I should like to speak. Local councils fix a rate for a certain dwelling. That rate is later pared down by grants and reliefs—specific allowances given for employees. If, in the first instance, the rate was reduced in proportion to the reliefs available it would obviate the necessity for all the work inherent in our present system. There is great disquiet in several parts of the country at the moment about the activities of the Valuation Office. I read in the Cork Examiner last Saturday a report to the effect that there were six or seven appeals from new valuations before a court in Cork the previous day. All the appeals were partially successful but the fact that people find it necessary to lodge appeals gives cause for annoyance and costs a great deal of money.
Mr. Sweetman: No valuation is varied except at the request of the local authority. Once the request for a variation has been made the matter then comes within the purview of the Minister for Finance. The granting of the request is within the purview of the Minister for Local Government.
Mr. Manley: It is poor encouragement to anybody, whether he lives in a farm house or in an ordinary dwelling, to improve his house or holding if, at a later stage, he is faced with an increased rate because of the intervention of the Valuation Office. I think that is a retrograde step. It does a good deal of harm and is killing initiative very much in the country.
We have a system of rate collection in this country that is costly, outmoded and out-dated. I do not know why we maintain that system. There is no reason why we should in modern times. Our people have been disciplined into paying their E.S.B. bills six times a year at some central office and very few rate collectors go round the country collecting rates. The rates are taken to their offices or homes. A modern system on the lines of the E.S.B. system should be put into operation.
I do not wish to disturb the existing rate collectors but many of the older ones could be superannuated; the younger collectors could be sent to other services and those with shorter service could be retired with a gratuity. Considerable sums of money could be saved if that system were adopted.
It was stated during the period of the last Government that a Bill was due for the revision of constituencies and I should like to know whether the Minister contemplates bringing in a Bill during his term of office. When there was no transport in the country a big number of extra polling booths was provided some of which are now entirely unnecessary. That was done at the time to convenience people so that they would be within easy walking distance of their respective polling booth areas. I think the need no longer exists for them and the number of polling booths could be reduced greatly.
Mr. Manley: I would suggest also that the Minister should go into the whole question of the Electoral Act in this country. My experience is that this high pressure transport cuts at the very root of democracy and at the very essence of the secret ballot. The time may come when the practice of hauling voters under high pressure in cars labelled with the Party slogan could be very dangerous. It is a reflection upon ourselves that on polling day we have this kind of activity.
Mr. O'Malley: When I came into the House to-day, I did not realise that the Estimate for Local Government was being discussed because neither Deputy Sweetman nor the other speakers in my hearing referred to housing in any shape or form.
Mr. O'Malley: In regard to the last Coalition Government, we had to listen, month after month, for two years and four months to answers to questions in this House and to some statements of county and city managers that there was no money available for housing. It was tantamount to saying that. The former Minister for Local Government, Deputy O'Donnell, chose to contradict Deputy Sweetman, then Minister for Finance, on every possible occasion and stated there were unlimited sums available for housing in this country and that it was only Deputies like Deputy Briscoe, Deputy O'Malley and a few more hotheads who were sabotaging the industry and holding things up. Finally, the people got an opportunity on March 20th.
One of the contributory factors to the defeat of the last Coalition Government was the complete mess they made of the house-building industry, both private building and the housing of the working classes. I am very glad to say that after a few short weeks in office the present Minister for Local Government has expeditiously informed the public, through the public Press and by letters to every local authority, that not alone will all the commitments and debts left behind by Deputy Sweetman and his cohorts——
Mr. O'Malley: Thank you, Sir. After a few short weeks in office, the Minister for Local Government—I do not know what happens in these places —sent for his officials in the Customs House. He must have found out that the building industry, as was prophesied, was in an appalling state. Every local authority, county council, city council and private builder found that the industry had been brought to a full stop. In his introductory speech the Minister pointed out that he was meeting all the commitments of the former Coalition Government and was making funds available in order that new schemes as well would be started —in other words, that the wheels of the building industry would again turn. Let Deputy Murphy read that instead of slagging all the time. Give credit where credit is due. If the Coalition had done their job there would be no unemployed in the building industry in Dublin or anywhere else.
Mr. O'Malley: The Minister for Local Government has done more in the short while he has been in office than was done as a result of any other decision arrived at. We have the second highest employment content in the building industry as such. We have speakers, particularly on the other side of the House, whose policy is the policy of Fine Gael, stating that we should not solve the housing crisis too quickly because if we do there will be no work for building operatives and those interested in the building industry. If Fine Gael had their way, there would be very little work here now or in the future for those interested in this industry.
If local authorities are put into the position of knowing that the commitments which they enter into will be met, that they can plan ahead for the future and that the funds will be available, there is no reason, good bad or indifferent, why there should be any complaint with regard to progress, barring a few minor points and a few knots which can be untied. The administration of  housing appears to be about to run on smooth wheels. However, there are some points which the Minister might deal with. I do not know whether in his reply he will find it more appropriate to answer them on this Estimate or on the Small Dwellings Acquisition (Amendment) Bill which he is introducing. Anyway, they deal with housing.
The first point deals with private housing. As we all know, the Government grant of £275 may vary down to £225, depending upon whether there is water and piped sewerage. That Government grant of £275 is irrespective of the means of the individual, which means that if a house comes within the maximum statutory number of square feet, 1,400 square feet, a four or five bedroomed house— possibly a small five bedroomed house, but certainly a very substantial four bedroomed house—can be erected, and the person erecting it, even if it costs £3,500 or £4,000 is entitled to the £275 State grant. I am against the payment of that grant to these types of people who can well afford to erect their houses without depending on grants or loans. Besides they also enjoy the two-thirds remission of rates for seven years.
I suggest to the Minister that this State grant of £275 be paid only to those people who have incomes up to and under the present limits which he has decided upon for those who can qualify for S.D.A. loans. In other words, I suggest that only a man with £16 a week or under would qualify for the State grant. I do not say that everyone is going to avail of the S.D.A. loans. I am saying that whether a man avails of loans through an insurance company, a building society, a local authority or pays for it himself as long as his means are £823 a year or less, he should get the State grant of £275. If he has more, he should be knocked.
It is quite true that the saving would not be of a very substantial nature but it should be borne in mind that one of the greatest complaints nowadays is the fact that there is no stabilisation in the rate of interest charged for housing loans. For instance,  when we left office in 1954 the new Government was able to borrow at the very low rate of, I think, 4¼ per cent. The deficit in the balance of payments was then only £5,500,000, but afterwards the rate of borrowing increased and, naturally, those who built their own houses and borrowed from the S.D.A. fund found they had to pay more 5/- or 6/- a week more. We had the unfortunate position of a man living in No. so-and-so, such-and-such avenue, paying one rate and the man living beside him paying 5/- or 6/- more.
I have suggested scrapping the £275 loan except to those earning up to £823, or less. I say the saving would not be substantial, but there would be sufficient saving to establish a stabilisation fund. With the amount of money saved from the Government grant, it could be used to work out with the Local Loans Fund in order that a fixed rate of interest would be established in the State for a fixed number of years.
When an applicant applies for a loan at the present time, he gets a letter back from the local authority that, in reference to his application, the corporation or county council will be prepared to grant him a loan of £x but at a rate of interest one half per cent. more than the rate at which the local authority could itself borrow the money. In other words, the unfortunate purchaser enters blindly into a commitment to erect a house without knowing exactly what his repayments will be. It might be said that he is damned lucky to get the loan, not to talk about quibbling over the rate of interest or what his repayments will be. That is all very well, but 4/- or 5/- a week, particularly to the majority of these people who are newly married, or even 3/- or 2/6 a week, is quite an amount. They have to buy furniture and in most cases they have to enter into commitments for that and, therefore, if they knew the rate would be 6½ per cent. 7 per cent. or 7½ per cent., they would know how they stood.
I should have qualified my statement that a local authority writes to an applicant seeking a loan and says they can lend him the money at a rate one  half per cent. more than the rate at which the local authority can borrow from the Local Loans Fund. There is no statutory obligation on a local authority to charge that half per cent. The majority of them do add one quarter per cent. for administrative charges, but I would impress upon the members of this House to bear in mind, in respect of their own local authorities, that they are entitled to lend the money at the rate at which the authority borrows it from the Local Loans Fund, but it is usual to add a quarter per cent. nowadays. It was a half per cent. before this, but that is the practice nowadays. It could not be more than a half per cent. That is one of the greatest criticisms of private individuals who erect houses to-day. I have shown fairly clearly to the Minister, in a well reasoned argument, I submit, without patting myself on my back, that without having to find extra money or anything like that, he can do a good service to that type of person.
Some of us had a letter from an organisation calling themselves the Irish Housebuilders' Association. I think that association sent a letter to each member of this House. They mostly concentrate their activities in Dublin and I do not know them at all, but they have a few points in the letter. The Minister has made it very clear to local authorities that they will have access to the Local Loans Fund for borrowing for the supplementary grant —£137 10s., or whatever proportion of the relevant State grant they may decide to give.
These people, among others, complain that some local authorities have not made it clear as yet to what category they intend to confine payments of the supplementary grant. It would be as well if these people, the members of this House and the general public realised that there is no obligation on the Minister for Local Government and that, in fact, he has not the powers to inform any local authority of what they can or cannot do with regard to the supplementary grant because this is permissive legislation. A local authority can adopt or reject, in part or in whole,  the payment of supplementary grants. I agree that it is time that every local authority, within the next two or three weeks, made up their minds as to whether or not they intend to continue the supplementary grant system.
It is quite true to say that some local authorities will have no truck with the payment of supplementary grants but quite a number of local authorities have found that the payment of the supplementary grant has encouraged people to take a responsibility off the local authority and carry out the work which the local authority would normally have to execute to serve their housing needs. The point I want to stress is that the members of this House, many of whom are members of local authorities, should get their local authority to make a clear-cut statement about the supplementary grant and, where necessary, submit their application to the Minister for recommendation to borrow from the Local Loans Fund.
I again compliment the Minister for Local Government on the expeditious manner in which he has dealt with this dormant industry. Twelve months will see many people put back in employment in the building trade——
Mr. O'Malley: Not at all. As a matter of fact, where I come from it is a term of endearment, in a way. One thing, particularly, that appealed to me in relation to the Minister's prompt action was—and it should be borne in mind—the resultant saving to the State and to the ratepayers. I may be out one or two pounds but here are some approximate figures. Suppose a house is £1,400 or £1,500, that is, a house of the type built under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts. The annual charge on the rates for that house is approximately £10 and the annual charge to be met by the State is in the region of £22 or £23. On the other hand, when a person builds his own house, the annual charge on the rates and the annual charge on the State are scrapped. The only charges to be met by the local authority are the loan charges on the borrowing from the Local Loans Fund to pay the S.D.A. loan—and the borrower pays that himself plus the administrative charges. The main charge is the Government grant of £275, or pro rata, and the repayment of the £137 10s. for the supplementary grant.
Therefore, members of this House, local authorities and the public generally should appreciate that people should be encouraged to erect their own houses, particularly the type of person who, in the ordinary course of events, would have to be housed by the local authority, in due course. It is a well-known fact that some people who have been housed by local authorities throughout the State were in a position to erect their own houses—the result being that other people in need of houses had to suffer.
The maximum repayment period at the present time for borrowers under the S.D.A. Acts is 35 years. I think that at one time the period was the same in relation to the Housing of the Working Classes Acts. A local authority is now entitled to get a loan in respect of the Housing of the Working Classes Acts spread over 50 years whereas in the past it was 35 years. I should like an explanation from the Minister in that regard. On one occasion I suggested, in relation to S.D.A. Acts loan repayments, that a  person should have the power to spread the period over 50 years. At present he can spread it over 10, 20, 30 or 35 years. I cannot see why that period could not be spread over 50 years because, to the ordinary purchaser, the 35 years' repayment period is a lifetime, anyway. The fact that the payments would be spread over 50 years would save a couple of shillings a week. I only say that a person should be entitled to repay over 50 years; he can stay at the 35 year period, if he likes, but he should have the option in relation to the 50-year period. It would save him a few shillings a week.
I am trying to put before the Minister what I deem to be fairly intelligent suggestions to keep housing within reasonable limits because the day is coming, and is not too far distant, when possibly it will be cheaper to rent a house in this country than to own one—that is, unless rates stay more or less within their present levels. It might possibly be cheaper now, or in a few years' time, to rent a house and never to own it. There are two schools of thought. With rates climbing steadily every year, the full cost of his house will only become apparent to a purchaser when he gets the blow of the full rates levied on him.
As everyone knows, the purchaser of a new house pays only one-third rates for the first seven years. All of a sudden, the other two-thirds are levied on him, and then he realises for the first time just what his repayments are. I respectfully submit to the Minister that some action will have to be taken in order to bring down the rates of repayment, to ensure they will not climb any further and be a deterrent to a person wishing to erect his own house.
I come now to housing of the working classes. There again we heard the Minister in his magnificent statement introducing this Estimate— I am very glad my friend, Deputy McQuillan has come in because the Minister included Roscommon— announce that all the commitments entered into by Deputy Sweetman when Minister for Finance would now  be met by this unfortunate Government. We are a great Government and a great Party——
Mr. O'Malley: ——because this is the second time in the history of the State that we have had to come along and clean up a mess. Having come into office in 1951 and having a deficit in the balance of payments of £61,500,000——
Mr. O'Malley: If you bear with me, Sir, I think you will agree that I can relate my remarks to the Estimate. I was about to say that in 1951 the housing mess was not quite as bad, but then there was a balance of payments deficit of £61.5 million. Having cleared up that mess and having cleared up the housing mess as far as possible, we went out in 1954 leaving an ordinary, manageable deficit of £5.5 million. The Coalition got back again, brought industry to a standstill, brought housing of the working classes, private building and road work to a standstill; in fact, brought to a standstill every conceivable work of the Department of Local Government and left us with all their debts to pay all over again——
Mr. O'Malley: ——because, fortunately, there will never be a Coalition again. That is one satisfaction. We will probably have cliques and all the rest of it, disloyal independents trying to gather around them——
Mr. O'Malley: I was on the question of the housing of the working classes. I do not know whether it would be appropriate for the Minister on this occasion or not, but a clear-cut statement at departmental level is needed on an important point concerning cases in which the workers of this country have been exploited. We all know that in these very large housing contracts throughout the State a form of contract is agreed between the Federation of Builders and the local authorities, as such. Among the various clauses, one states (a) that the contractors shall not sublet without the consent of the employer, which is the local authority; and (b) that the rates of wages paid shall be in accordance with the usual trade union rates operable in the area where the scheme is being erected.
The point to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention is that there are unscrupulous contractors in this country to-day who are exploiting unfortunate tradesmen and getting them to give bulk prices for their respective traders, particularly masonry and plastering. The result is that, on an average, they are getting only one-third of what they are entitled to. I would have no objection where an arrangement is made to give, say, a payment of £80 or £85 in respect of the block work on a house, but there are contractors—and they are not two miles from this House—here in Dublin exploiting the unfortunate workers. They are also down the country. They give the workers about £27 or £30 to carry out piece work on block work or masonry work. The result is that the workmanship is suffering and the maintenance charges afterwards are felt by the ratepayers.
 Having been made aware of that— and it is a wholesale practice in this country to-day among the big builders —the Minister should consider taking action to stop tradesmen being exploited in this manner. It is contrary to all the instructions and policy of the Department of Local Government and it is contrary to the principles of trade unionism. I agree that someone could say to me that the trade unions are quite capable of looking after their own members, but this is a very difficult thing to pin-point. It is one of the most serious examples to-day of the exploitation of the workers.
I just glanced at the Cork Examiner to-day and I saw a heading about cottage repairs. I did not go into it in detail. I should like to tell the Minister that he should send a few inspectors around the country to see how the money loaned in the past, from the Local Loans Fund or any other source, was spent. I know that in certain cases the manner in which cottage repairs were carried out was a downright disgrace. We might just as well have thrown the money down the drain. I admit there are other local authorities which carried out their business in an efficient and first class manner, but there are certain places where a stop should immediately be put to the methods adopted. The inspector should report back to the Minister and something should be done about this serious waste of public money.
I complimented the Minister on the expeditious manner in which he came to all these decisions, but I have one complaint to make; I receive many complaints from constituents who state that their applications to have cottages erected have been either before the county council or the Department of Local Government for periods ranging from two and a half years to three years. Now two and a half years would bring it to about the Coalition period, if they were still in office. In every constituency, people are waiting for the local authority to proceed with the erection of cottages. What are we to tell these people? I know the money is there. Does the fault he with the Department of Local  Government? Does the fault lie with the local authority? When we ask county managers, we get the stereotyped reply that the plans are with the Department of Local Government. Half the time I do not believe the plans are there at all, but, if they are there, then there should be a showdown now.
This is a matter of vital importance to people in the rural areas, areas in which the unemployment problem is acute. I do not say that the rehousing of our people is being neglected, but somebody should get a move on. People who sent in applications years ago are still waiting for cottages. In some cases, they have been told that the contractor's price is too high. That was the kind of talk we had from the Coalition. That Coalition Government is no longer in office, so let us hear now what the position is. Why should the Department of Local Government say that a contract is either too dear or too cheap, or too anything else? Surely such delaying tactics will not be tolerated by the present Minister. From my experience of the Minister, I know that, once an injustice is brought to his attention, he does all in his power to right it.
There is one matter I have raised here every year since 1954. I refer to this farce of town planning. How long more is this farce to continue? I am in thorough agreement with the principle of town planning. When the Town Planning Act was enacted in 1934, everyone was of the opinion that it would confer immeasurable benefits since building would thenceforward be controlled. Last year, I referred to the honky-tonks springing up overnight in Grafton Street and O'Connell Street. I am aware that in the past 12 months even worse has happened in the City of Dublin. Beautiful cities like Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway should not be despoiled in this manner. It is a crime to see the main thoroughfares of these beautiful cities degraded——
Mr. O'Malley: I will explain. Deputy T. Lynch is an archaeologist and he  will appreciate this: certain types of Georgian houses are being defaced with vitreolite fronts and nickelodeons inside the windows. My local authority is paying a town planner £500 per annum. I am not objecting to the fact, but we did not see him for two years; he still gets his £500 per annum. Talk about absentce landlords! The Minister should bring his mind to bear on this problem at some stage. All local authorities have adopted a town planning scheme but the only local authority which has given effect to such a plan is Dublin Corporation, and that under duress, under Order of the court.
Mr. O'Malley: Do people realise that some town planners have schemes prepared the implementation of which will cost the ratepayers a quite fantastic sum? We woke up one fine day down in Limerick and found we had a road by-passing the city. It is 150 feet wide and there have been more accidents on it than there have been on narrower roads. It consists of a footpath, a service road, an island, another service road, another island, another service road and a footpath. That resulted from the efforts of the town planners. The members of the local authority were too busy, of course, to study the plans. The contractors carried out the scheme because they were being paid for it. The members of the local authority had enough to do without bothering their heads about these things and the result is they are walked into these things. Members of local authorities are quite capable of seeing that the ratepayer's money is not wasted. Nevertheless, they will all agree with me that some very peculiar things have happened.
 I am not now advocating legislation, but I want to know from the Minister whether he intends bringing in any improvements on existing legislation to control certain types of building. Everyone knows the monstrosities that are being erected outside city entrances. It would be bad enough if these things were hidden from the public gaze but it is a disgrace that they should be allowed to despoil the approaches to our cities. A clear-cut statement is needed on town planning because of the failure down through the years, right since 1934, on the part of local authorities to do anything constructive in the way of adopting town planning as a permanent feature of local government.
Many cities at the moment have a serious problem in relation to the housing of the working classes. Many local authorities have built outside the city proper on virgin sites. The tenements from which the people have been removed have been left derelict. Local authorities are anxious to build on these derelict sites, but they are faced with the position that in many cases the head landlord or ground landlord is in New Zealand, Canada, England, Australia or anywhere else under the sun, and to establish title would, according to the experts, take anything from seven to 12 years. With all this drive for tourism, are we to endure these eyesores and seek further virgin sites in the suburbs of cities, thereby putting up the transport costs of the unfortunate worker, as if they were not high enough at the present time.
What is the remedy? Is it intended to give a local authority statutory powers of such a nature that these sites can be acquired in the quickest possible manner? It is no use for anyone to tell us that a local authority has such powers. It has not. It might seem that it has, but when it goes to exercise them, it is a different matter. It is one thing to have powers in this House and it is another thing to listen to the interpretation of them by a circuit court judge or a High Court judge. This is a question of considering the giving of proper powers to a local authority to acquire such sites in the shortest possible manner so that  these people over in New Zealand, or wherever these absentee landlords are, will know that a letter by registered post will do, instead of the rigmarole to find out who owns the fee simple, and so on. Surely there should be some method whereby it can all be decided on a simple basis.
To go back to the cost of private building, the Minister is well aware that at the present time law charges in local authorities for the purchase of a private house vary considerably. The mortgage charges can be anything from £3 in one local authority to £96 in another local authority for a house costing £1,500. Is it not extraordinary that in Limerick on a house costing £1,500 the law charges to the purchaser are £3 3s. but if you go across the Shannon to Clare, the charge is £84?
Mr. O'Malley: With respect, I submit that this is the very Minister who has the power, first of all to make representations to the Incorporated Law Society. That has been done in the past. Negotiations, I was told by the last Minister, Deputy O'Donnell, were proceeding with the Incorporated Law Society in order that the charges levied on the purchaser would be brought to a reasonable level. A Bill has been introduced recently to amend the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act of 1899 and Section 19(b) of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1956, whereby the system of the market value is changed and the cost arrived at in no uncertain manner. This means that a person buying a house will have to put down only a reasonable amount of £80 or £90. When the previous Government were in power, notwithstanding the representations in this House of Deputy Mrs. Lynch and others in this regard, they did not accede to our request. This Bill is introduced in order to ensure that there will be no doubt whatever——
Mr. O'Malley: I am simply saying that the purpose of the Bill is to show that it is the cost of the house that will matter and not the market value assessed by some intelligent person, who knows nothing about building, hidden away in an alcove in the City Hall. The Minister, having achieved his purpose in bringing down the deposit to normal proportions, can still find that the deposit is added to because the legal charges that will have to be met by an unfortunate purchaser are as much as the deposit in certain areas. As I say, there are two bills for the same house: one solicitor charges £84 and the other charges £3 3s.
I know the Minister will say to me that the care for all this is for every local authority to appoint its law agent full time. I agree with him thoroughly. There are law agents of local authorities, and particularly country councils, at the present time who are drawing on a taxed costs basis £8,000 to £10,000 a year. That is not an exaggeration, and I think it is too much for any of these professional men. Not alone are they on a taxed costs basis with the local authority as law agent, but they are also entitled to engage in their own private practice. If we as a House of the Oireachtas let them get away with it and take no steps to stop it, more power to them.
Surely it must occur to someone that, as the result of these people being on a taxed costs basis with the local authority and being allowed to engage in private practice, the poor unfortunate applicant for a loan for his house or the poor unfortunate man who wants his cottage vested or a cottage built, is suffering. I have often discussed this point with members of local authorities who are on both sides of the House and it is one on which they wax eloquent. I do not blame them because it is a public scandal that unfortunate people have to come along to us as members of the local authority to ask us if we can do anything to expedite the building of their cottage or house, and we have to listen to the story from the county manager or the county secretary that the law agent is working on it. I agree with  the Minister it would solve the problem if every local authority appointed its own law agent, full time.
Limerick Corporation are appointing a full-time law agent. Our present efficient law agent is on a salary. He cannot charge an applicant for a loan any fee except the stamp duty or outlay which is only a matter of £2 or £3. The new law agent will be on a full-time salary basis and will devote his time exclusively to Limerick Corporation and look after title to derelict sites and see that the 101 things that should occupy him are done in an efficient and expeditious manner, a manner which will give employment in rehousing the people and speed the wheels of industry.
Two years ago I raised the question of the respective costs of concrete and tarmacadam roads. In reply to a question I was given the cost of a concrete road of a certain thickness and the cost of a tarmacadam road. I do not flatter myself, but a certain technical journal published in this country had a leading article dealing with my suggestion and pointed out in detail that my suggestion was a proper solution for the problem of the very high annual repair charges involved in maintaining these roads. Let no one get it into his head that I am in favour of laying off road workers or suggesting something that might deprive these people of employment. We all know that there are many, many years of work to be done on the roads. Most of the roads are in a deplorable state. I admit that tremendous work has been done, but a great deal remains to be done.
Every year roads have to be repaired at very heavy cost to the ratepayers. It would be a good thing if the Minister and his officials correlated the capital charge involved in laying a concrete road with the capital charge of laying down tarmacadam roads. Naturally, the concrete road costs three times what the tarmacadam road costs but the Minister's actuaries or experts can tell him that the annual maintenance charge on a proper concrete road is negligible and that the saving to the  ratepayers would be fantastic in any year.
I have seen in two newspapers recently letters to the editor from interested parties. This is a purely technical matter and may not be of interest to many people but I would ask the Minister for some enlightenment on it. When a local authority receives an intimation from the Minister for Local Government that a loan of, say, £100,000 will be made available from the Local Loans Fund, pending the arrival of that money, say, in 12 months time, the local authority can go to the bank and, on the letter of the Minister, will get the money. It is a matter for which we ought to be thankful that a local authority can now go to the bank and get the money on the letter from the present Minister.
There is a school of thought which believes that, if the local authority raises a loan of £100,000 and pays interest for six or 12 months, that is of benefit to the local authority, because possibly they will be getting the money at a lower rate of interest. Personally, I think that that is thrash, but I have heard a city manager and a county manager making two diametrically opposed statements, one saying that it is good business for the local authority to borrow from the bank and for the loan to be as long as possible in arriving, which seems fantastic, and the other saying the opposite. Is it a fact that the rates of interest which the local authority has paid pending receipt of the loan is in fact paid through the Department of Local Government by the Department of Finance through the Local Loans Fund?
Mr. McQuillan: There are a couple of points to which I should like to direct the Minister's attention. One of them has been covered very clearly by Deputy O'Malley, namely, delay in sanctioning contracts for the construction of rural cottages. I thought Deputy O'Malley was inclined to take the view that the delay was not due to any fault of the Department but that blame for the delay could be laid at the door of the local authority. I can clear the Deputy's mind as far as one local authority is concerned, that  is, Roscommon County Council. That local authority has experienced a good deal of exasperation due to the fact that the Department on numerous occasions have sent back to the local authority plans which have been forwarded, suggesting that certain alterations be made.
The whole purpose of this playacting, of sending communications between Departments, was simply and solely to delay sanction, in other words, to delay expenditure of money. It is a mean way of doing things because the unfortunate people who are waiting for the houses are living in hope all the time. It would be much better to tell them straight out that the money will not be available for the next 12 months and that nothing can be done for them. Instead of that, these people make representations every fortnight to their local councillor asking him to expedite sanction in some way or other and when the councillor goes to the county council he is told that the delay is in the Department. I followed up a number of these cases and I have always found that the delay did take place in the Department. I hope there will be some simpler method adopted by which sanction can be expedited.
There is a section of the community who are not catered for at all in regard to housing. I do not know whether or not it affects constituencies outside the western area but it certainly affects counties on the western seaboard and, indeed, counties that are included in the congested areas. That is the section of the community which is not able to stand the cost of erecting their own houses and who, at the same time, cannot be brought within any of the Housing Acts and therefore be housed by the local council.
These people in western areas have a rateable valuation of £4 or£5, or something below the £10 mark. It will be appreciated that they are really congests and for years they have been awaiting attention by the local authority to solve their problem of congestion. They are all beginning to believe, now at any rate, that there is little hope of that problem being solved. That means these people will be condemned to stay on in those very  badly constructed houses they have. Some of them are in a very poor condition in my constituency, but those people are not in a position to build new houses for themselves. At the same time, the local authority cannot undertake the responsibility of constructing new houses for them. I do not think it would be fair that the local authorities should be saddled with that burden and thus allow free another Department of State from accepting its responsibility, namely, the Department of Lands.
I do not know whether the Minister has given thought to the problem which faces these people, but I hope some move will be made in the near future to deal with their problem. To a great extent, some of the people in the Gaeltacht areas are served already by the Gaeltacht housing grants, but those in the congested areas which are not Gaeltacht areas are left there as if they were nobody's responsibility at all. I can give the Minister offhand certain areas where maybe from 50 to 150 houses are involved and there is no hope of these people being able to erect new houses at any time in the foreseeable future.
It is out of these houses there is large scale emigration. It might be uncharitable for me to suggest that various Governments can hope that these people will all clear out and thereby solve the problem themselves. At any rate, over the past 30 years, the people themselves have begun to believe that is the only solution various Governments have to offer. I should like to ask the present Minister, who is a man very familiar with rural problems, to address himself to this point and see exactly what can be done to help that section of our people.
The only other point I wish to mention is in connection with drainage work. I suppose it has been raised here already, but I have not been listening to the other speakers during the course of this debate. I feel sufficient attention has not been focused in this House on the decision this year to suspend the Local Authorities (Works) Act. I was very surprised when I heard there was no money available this year for that Act and I am surprised  that Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party from rural Ireland did not insist at Party meetings that funds be made available for this very excellent scheme.
There is not a Deputy who does not subscribe to the oft-repeated statement that if we have not an increased output from agriculture, from the land, this country will not pull itself up from the depths in which it is at the moment, that it is absolutely essential to have a tremendous increase in agricultural output if we are to hold on to the measure of freedom we have. In its own way, the Local Authorities (Works) Act was playing a very important part in securing that increased output from agriculture. I challenge contradiction on that; and over the years in my own constituency I am positive that the operation of the Act has meant an increased tillage output. County Roscommon was never a noted county for tillage, but the opesations of this Act showed in certain areas that the people who had a tillage outlook were only too anxious to utilise the land drained under the Act for the growing of crops.
Several first-class schemes have been done to date. I know, of course, that people are inclined to say that a good deal of money was wasted. That, I admit—I agree with that—but I think that was due to the fact that there was delay in the sanctioning of schemes and that many of them were carried out at the wrong time of the year, in the winter months, when streams and small rivers were in a flooded state and consequently the best type of work could not be done. Is that to say now that, because money was wasted on those schemes through inefficient planning or delay in sanction, the whole scheme is to be held up or indirectly condemned to death? The fact of no money being made available this year means, in my opinion, that there is no intention of making it available next year, unless there is a strong outery on the part of those Deputies who support the Government.
This is not a Party political matter at all. There are many farmers in Ireland to-day who subscribe to the  Fianna Fáil policy in many ways, but very few of them subscribe to the action of the Government in suspending the operation of the Local Authorities (Works) Act. Very few Fianna Fáil supporters would agree with that in rural Ireland. I would ask the Minister, if he finds it impossible this year to restore the grants under that Act, to give us a promise that next year he will make provision within the Estimate to carry out drainage work under it.
I have heard here, over the years, criticism by members of local authorities, of the fact that whenever a new scheme comes into operation or is initiated by this House for the benefit of the country, it always carried a little sting for them, the argument being that whether it was a Health Act or something else, 40 or 50 per cent. of the cost had to be borne locally. The making of roads is another example of something done on a percentage basis. The local authority has had to bear its burden of the cost of various Government schemes. The Local Authorities (Works) Act was unique in that regard, in that no expenditure was involved from the rates, except on compensation for damage done, or perhaps the payment of engineers in the normal course of their duties. It was, as such, an easy scheme for local authorities to administer. Perhaps the engineers were not too anxious for the extra work imposed on them, but I do not think our engineers, any more than any other section, were overworked in the implementation of the Act.
I will say no more on this point, but I ask the Minister, if he finds it impossible to restore the funds necessary for carrying out the Act, to tell us that next year he will put his foot down with the Minister for Finance and ensure that the necessary financial accommodation is made available so that this excellent work can be continued. In County Roscommon, certain allocations were made each year, over a number of years, for drainage works and it was intended in the coming year to utilise more of the money, if made available, to finish some of those schemes. Now it means that, half-way through certain schemes, there is a hold up and possibly a lot of the money  already spent will not give a full return, due to the fact that the schemes have not been concluded. On that basis I would ask the Minister to ensure that too much time is not allowed to elapse and that the good work done up to the present is not wasted.
Captain Giles: This is a very important Estimate because funds from the Department of Local Government generate activity all over the country. Were it not for the financial stringency over the past year or two, we would not have the problem of employment that we have to-day. I hope with the easing of that financial stringency local government authorities will begin working particularly on housing because house building as far as I know gives more employment than any other form of activity. I hope the housing of our people will be the major activity of the Department of Local Government for a number of years. Good work was done in this respect by Governments in the past over a long number of years and whether Governments changed or not, so far as the country's finances permitted it, housing went ahead.
While we have a creditable housing record for the last 25 or 30 years I am not satisfied the kernel of the problem has yet been reached because we have a type of people who are still not able to avail of the housing schemes. They are the small farmers with £20-£25 valuations whom we still find in old thatched hovels and who are unable to get new houses built because the repayment charges would be too much for them. As the present Minister comes from a county where there is a large number of small farmers and thatched cabins, such as we have in Cavan and in North Meath, I would remind him that this is a matter which urgently needs his attention. I believe that he is keenly aware of the situation and will do all he can, but I would ask earnestly that something should be done for the type of people who are unable to pay back a couple of pounds a week.
Instead of asking for new legislation, is there any hope that those small  farmers I have mentioned will be given a chance of getting houses? We on the local authorities do our best for these people but we cannot go beyond £20 valuation, much as we would like to go up to £30, if we could. We see them looking at farmers in better circumstances getting new houses, often farmers who are not as badly off as they themselves are, trying to rear young families in poor holdings, people who are poor, and always will be poor.
I would suggest that the only way to get the thatched cabins wiped out and provide reasonable homes for these people is to give them, say, 60 years to pay back their loans. I would make a special appeal to the present Minister who comes from an area where this problem is acute to have something done to ease the situation no matter how he does it, and give these people a chance of getting decent homes of their own. I think that would be sound national work because from those small holdings our best people have sprung. These smallholders are generally people with big families who have a hard life all the time. They came from poverty, they live in poverty, and they will be poor in the future because their holdings are not sufficient to maintain them. They have to spend their time each year propping up the old cabin into which they cannot even put a wooden floor because it would rot with dampness.
I agree with Deputy McQuillan's plea in connection with the Local Authorities (Works) Act. This was a good Act for providing work in country areas. I know that at present there is a fair amount of unemployment all over the country and that this problem is acute in the midlands. If money were available good work could be done under that Act because drainage, and all such schemes of work for unemployed men, help the farmers. I agree that some of the money may have been badly spent, but in any case it was spent in country areas where it is needed and where it is circulated through the local shops. I would, therefore, make a special plea that the Act be put into operation anywhere there is an unemployment  problem, and we have that problem in many areas at present.
I think a great deal more could be done in connection with the removal of eye-sores in the smaller country villages. Are we making sufficient effort to get rid of these old tumbledown buildings on the outskirts and in the middle of such villages? I believe that much more could be done as regards the removal of these old shacks and the provision of decent houses. In this way we would be doing something that would be a credit to us if the buildings were brought up to standard requirements.
I would suggest that instead of building cottages in the country areas we could instead build up the villages by having compact water schemes, sewerage and light provided for those villages thus allowing proper living space and accommodation. I would ask the Minister to see that attention is given to the improvement of such villages where life is very dull. Much could be done if the houses were provided. Public halls would spring up and there would be general activity which would result in a good public spirit and village life, instead of finding, as we do now, the few tumbledown houses, where one sees a man standing at the door of his shop more or less hoping that somebody will come along to buy provisions.
I want to refer to a hardy annual that I have raised year after year, the removal of the dangerous bridge at Enfield on the Kildare-Meath border. That is one of the most dangerous bridges between here and Galway. People ask: why does Meath County Council not get that bridge removed? Meath County Council are anxious to get it removed, but there is some holdup. It is three years since the last person was killed there, but only three months ago another person was almost killed, and he is still in hospital. There have been three or four accidents at that bridge in the past few years and I would ask the Department of Local Government, the local authorities, Meath County Council and C.I.E. to put their heads together and get something done about it.
 Would it not be a terrible misfortune if this haggling is allowed to continue and some breadwinner of a family of eight or ten children is killed? I hold his death could be laid at our doors; it would be almost as bad as murder. There is a projection on that bridge which in the dusk of evening or when there is fog about, cannot be seen even in the lights of a car until one smashes right into it, as many people have done in the past ten years. One unfortunate man, the breadwinner of a family, was killed, and the family have been mourning since. I would ask the local authority, which is my own, to contact C.I.E. and bring this matter to a head by getting a proper scheme and taking away this menace. This is the third year I have made this request. It is a case of who is responsible. The three bodies are responsible—the Meath County Council, the local authority and C.I.E. They should do something about it before another life is lost.
Being a county councillor myself, I am satisfied that we are criticised for many things, principally for the increase in rates year after year. In that regard, criticism is only right. Rates are going up far too high and something will have to be done to curb the yearly increase. Those of us who are county councillors are responsible in our own way. I believe that there is too much politics in local government. When we do get away from politics, certainly in the Meath County Council, we can work well and all pull together. Unless we can get away from politics, our rates will continue to go up and up. I do not mind rates going up if we get a return for them, but this State is not getting a return for them. Increasing rates are one cause of emigration. Small farmers are being squeezed out because they cannot pay the increasing overheads and their families have to emigrate.
I would ask the local authorities to put a full stop to this matter of increasing employment for any new scheme which they start. If a new scheme is brought in, a flood of new officials follows it and we are sick and tired of that. I think if we had more work done in all the offices, both in  Dublin and in the country, we would get somewhere and the people would be satisfied. The people at present are not satisfied.
When I started in the Meath County Council about 25 years ago, it was run by a few people but now there are hundreds and hundreds of them. They are well paid and have pensionable jobs. Every young farmer in the area is watching to see if he can get one of these young ladies with big fortunes in the county council offices. I think it is time we got away from that and got down to solid work. We could run the county councils with half the staff, even if it meant giving some of the work over to the parish councils. There is a lot to be said for parish councils and the local authorities should make some effort to hand over some of their work to parish councils or bodies like Muintir na Tíre. It would do an enormous amount of good if they could give back to the people some of their own responsibility and more solid work would be done. It would mean that people would take a greater interest in their own towns and villages and in the countryside and it would cut down the overheads in county councils by 50 per cent. Give the people half the work which the local authorities are doing and they would be quite glad to do it. Organisations such as Muintir na Tíre and Macra na Feirme are only too anxious to get such work.
Mr. Griffin: It appears that this debate is coming to a conclusion and, as a member of a local body, I should like to say a few words on this Estimate, principally on the matter of roads. In my opinion and in the opinion of the public generally, money spent on roads is not money spent wisely and to the best advantage. Every Deputy will agree that over the last number of years an enormous amount of money has been spent on roads, some of it wisely but some unwisely. A number of crooked roads have been made straight at a huge expenditure. In my opinion much of that money could have been better spent on other roads. Of course, all those grants must be spent on the main roads, or whatever roads are  scheduled, and I know of various places where less money could be spent by merely removing the ditch and putting up a fence, without having to go through lands for the building of a new road. That costs a tremendous amount by way of compensation and the making of the road costs a further enormous sum.
In County Meath, thousands and thousands of pounds have been absolutely buried, but the county council had no alternative but to spend that money on the main roads. I do not know what system is adopted in the Department for allocations from the Road Fund, but I feel that the allocations are not just and that some counties get more than others. I do not know if the allocation is made on the basis of the amount of roads under the supervision of the local authority, or on a percentage of the money which is paid into the Road Fund, or whether it is according to the valuation of the county. I have no idea. but I think the allocation is unfair and I would suggest to the Minister that he should appoint a roads advisory body, which, I am informed, is in existence in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and on the Continent. The purpose of this body would be to advise the Minister on all matters relating to road policy.
To my mind, the existing road classification is outdated and a new one should be made, having regard to the enormous increase in road traffic. The old system which prevails existed, I suppose, for many years and with the change in traffic, I think a new system should be devised. I would recommend that to the Minister. We should temporarily forget about the social problems connected with road expenditure and spend the moneys available, in order to complete, in as short a time as possible, the roads which carry the maximum amount of traffic and thus afford some measure of safety to the motorists. After all, it is the motorists who contribute most to the Road Fund and they are the people who should derive the most benefit from that fund. The road problem will no doubt be more accentuated than ever as C.I.E. will probably be transferring more goods and passenger traffic from their own system.
 The advisory body I have recommended could be composed of county engineers, C.I.E. representatives and other bodies interested in road traffic and in the making of roads. I would suggest that the Minister would consult with the county engineers in order to get a clear outline of the problem because, after all, the county engineers are the officers most closely associated with the problem of our roads.
I wonder if all the taxes derived from petrol and oils are paid into the Road Fund in addition to revenue from motor-car taxation. In my County of Meath there was a reduction in grant moneys last year of £23,500. Such a reduction occurred at a time when contributions from rates had been increasing steadily. It seems unfair that subventions from State moneys should be reduced at a time when rates revenue is increasing. Surely there should be a proportionate increase in grant allocations to local authorities.
Last year, in order to close the gap caused by the reduction in grant allocations, the Meath County Council borrowed £13,000 in order to extend accommodation roads to facilitate a big proportion of the county's ratepayers. Apart from the constructive work done in this way, the money provided good employment. In order to obviate the necessity of the county council taking such action, I think the county should get its share of the grants available for the construction and maintenance of tourist roads. Meath, in a sense, attracts as many tourists as some of the counties which get big grants for the construction of tourist roads. We have Tara, Boyne Valley, Oldcastle, Athboy and other such places and I think it is unreasonable and unfair that the county does not qualify for such grants. I suggest that this money is not being equitably distributed at the moment.
The construction of county roads has been a major problem for local authorities during the past few years. At the same time, the rates in County Meath have reached alarming heights. In many cases county roads have been  sadly neglected and in this matter I would say that county councils themselves have been a lot to blame. The Land Commission create still another problem. In County Meath in recent years they have taken over huge tracts of land and have consequently added a considerable mileage of roads. Appeals have been made by ratepayers to the county council that these roads should be taken over and maintained. In most cases the roads have been handed over by the Land Commission in a very poor state of repair and this has added still another burden to the county rates. I would therefore suggest that Land Commission representatives would be put on the advisory body I have recommended.
A good deal has been said during this debate on the erection of cottages. I agree with much of what Deputy Giles had to say on the problem. It would be well if the Minister examined the advisability of having new houses erected around existing villages. If that were done the tenants would avail of existing amenities such as water and sewerage. In most villages at the moment there are sites which would serve admirably for cottage schemes. If these sites were built on it would serve to beautify our villages, and would, at the same time, enable us to avail of existing amenities. There are exceptional cases where it might be advisable to build single cottages in isolated places, but in general I think it would be advisable to have our cottages built around existing villages. As well as being able to avail of public amenities, the tenants would also have easy access to schools and halls.
I would ask the Minister to try to expedite the carrying out of a number of County Meath housing schemes which have been lying in his Department over the past 12 months. Some of these proposed schemes returned to the local authority were hardly recognisable and were far from satisfactory as far as the council were concerned. If these schemes were expedited, considerable employment would be created and we would be helping to provide badly needed living accommodation.
Most local authorities, particularly Meath County Council, are confronted  with the difficult problem of cottage repairs. At the moment I have no suggestion to offer. I know it will be difficult to hammer out a satisfactory scheme. In Meath we have been spending between £40,000 and £50,000 each year in an effort to catch up on arrears of cottage repairs. Our last loan for this purpose was permitted only after great pressure had been brought to bear, because the then Minister could not see the advisability of borrowing money for cottage repairs. The Minister and his advisers may be able to ease this difficulty for local authorities.
I know it will be a very serious problem for them. Expenditure on administration in local bodies has become alarming. I suppose the councils themselves may be a good deal to blame in that direction, but since the advent of the managerial system it has been intensified. I think a great deal of money could be saved in the administration of local affairs. I suppose there is no use dwelling upon that subject. I feel that we ourselves are to blame to some extent in that respect.
I should like the Minister to take steps to alleviate the grievances of the engineering staffs of local authorities. I believe they are of long duration. I know this has been a grievance with them, and I would ask the Minister to take steps to remedy that. Perhaps, he might show his appreciation of the work they are doing generally, in carrying out extensive works by direct labour and affording great employment, by restoring the Road Fund bonus which, I understand, was taken from them some years ago. I respectfully ask the Minister to take note of that.
In conclusion, I should like to compliment the Minister on being able to allocate the same amount of money from the Road Fund to local bodies as last year. The fact that the same amount will be available for the coming year has probably eliminated a lot of gossip and talk.
Mr. Beirne: There are just a few points to which I want to draw the Minister's attention and, accordingly,  I shall be very brief. I complain now, and I complained before, in regard to certain delays in connection with the payment of grants. We in Roscommon have had experience of long delays. No effort was made so far as I know to speed up these matters in the Custom House. We know of cases of delay where tenders were sent to the Department—this applies not only to the years during which Fianna Fáil were in office but also to years when other Governments were in office— for sanction for the erection of rural, unserviced houses. The ceiling in the Department at that time was £1,050. I contend that it would not be economical for a contractor to erect such houses as the council had in mind for such a price. I believe that the price was improved. I hope that delays in future in regard to these grants will not be so frequent or so persistent as in the past.
Over the years there has also been considerable delay in dealing with inspections in connection with the erection and reconstruction of houses, particularly in Roscommon. These delays are attributable to many factors. We in our county have to deal with two other counties, Westmeath and Longford. We have a very efficient engineering inspector. I would urge the Minister to give this man an assistant or assistants. This man is, indeed, a willing worker; he works all hours of the night and is most efficient and courteous. I think he is overpowered with work and I would ask that additional assistance be given him to help him to expedite the work. As the dark clouds disappear, I hope the grants will be provided more expeditiously than they have been in the past.
As chairman of the council in Roscommon, I, together with the other councillors, have had headaches in regard to supplementary housing grants. There was a temporary suspension of the payment of those grants. A couple of months ago sanction was given to the Roscommon County Council to provide themselves with the money but the money has not yet arrived. There is a time lag between the time the money is sanctioned and  the time it is received by the local authorities. I see no justification for it.
In connection with housing I also wish to mention another matter which I consider is an irregularity and which imposes a penalty on people seeking grants for new houses. You have in all areas a man who in the first instance inspects the site and produces a plan of the house. In most cases he charges a fee of two guineas. I have no objection to that. It is perhaps well earned money because the inspector has to travel 30 or 40 miles. That is quite all right. I would not mind if he got three guineas or four guineas but to my mind there is something approaching a bit of a racket in regard to the payment for the plan. As far as I know, one of these original plans may be drawn by hand. You can have those plans printed by the thousand at a maximum of 1/- per hundred. Generally speaking, one of these plans is presented to the applicant. In many cases a sum of £10 has been extracted from an applicant for the plan.
I do not know whether the Department has any direct control over the official concerned. There may be a contract between the applicant and the housing inspector and the official may not be acting under the jurisdiction of the Department when he is furnishing the plan. I object to any unfortunate man, embarking on the erection of a house, having to pay this £10. I know that plans can be produced at a very nominal charge and that there are plans in the Government Publications Office which can be obtained at a moderate charge. These plans, however, are completely outdated but if they were brought up to or made more in line with modern requirements, and covered a bungalow type house, I would say that a man intending to build a house would have an alternative. Now he has to go to the housing officer, as he is called in some local authorities, and he is at the mercy of this housing officer. A fee of £10 is demanded for a plan which, I suggest, could be made available if printed, at a cost of only 5/- per 100. I think that is a bit of racketeering and I object to  penalising a poor man who has to go to that expense.
I do not want the reply given to me that there are plans in the Government Publications Office. There are three or four plans for different types of houses there but those plans are entirely out of date. I do not object to a two or three guinea fee being paid to the appointed officer, but I most vehemently object to a fee of £10 being charged for such a plan by a housing officer.
I sincerely regret, and I am sure quite a lot of Deputies on the other side of the House regret, that there has been a suspension of the Local Authorities (Works) Act. I expect the Minister will regret that himself. Coming from a rural constituency such as Cavan, which is similar in contour to Roscommon, he must be kicking up about it. He must feel it personally as much as I do. I think it was a disaster and a calamity to suspend this Act. I am not upholding this Act just because it was passed by the inter-Party Government. I think that Deputies from rural constituencies know that the Act was a godsend to the country. Though economies must be effected, I appeal to the Minister, to the Government and to the Deputies behind the Minister who represent rural Ireland to demand that the operation of this Act be not suspended.
Apart from politics or anything else, it is an Act which gave immense employment in the country. It increased production in this country and changed the whole aspect of rural Ireland. What is wrong that an Act, which has given such benefit to people in rural areas, should be scrapped? I vigorously object to its being scrapped and I am sure that protest will be supported by Deputies from rural districts now on the Government side of the House.
I make a special appeal to the Minister to reconsider the matter and to put the Act in full and better operation than in the past. In connection with its operation by the previous Government, grants which we should have received in the month of May or June were held up until September or  October. The intention of the Act was to bring large areas under production but, due to the fact that grants were not notified to local authorities earlier in the year, the works carried out under the Act were put in hand at the most inappropriate time of the year. It was undoubtedly a God-send as far as employment was concerned. When Roscommon County Council were approaching the end of a financial year, they found they could give employment in other directions under that Act. I do not think it should be used as a relief grant, but for the production of more food and grass in this country. I make a final appeal to the Minister and to Deputies on the Fianna Fáil side of the House to protest now if that Act is being suspended.
I am not speaking from a political angle; let no Deputy here think that I am. It should have as great an interest for any Deputy from rural Ireland as it has for me. I think it was one of the greatest Acts ever passed in this House. I have read in the Official Debates statements from some people on these benches that Fianna Fáil voted against the Act on eight different occasions. I am not prepared to say that that is right. I do not believe Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches were so prejudiced as to vote against it purely because it was introduced by the inter-Party Government. I saw in Dublin Opinion recently a statement suggesting that if a Bill was passed by an inter-Party Minister, his successor must inevitably scrap that Bill because it must be wrong. I do not think such a mentality exists over there. We are all concerned for the general good though our technique and approach may be a little different.
Even though it has been alleged that Fianna Fáil voted against the Act on eight different occasions, perhaps they had some solid objections to it, but in practice, the Act has proved itself a success and, if there were prejudices, I think they have gone with the wind. The Fianna Fáil Party I think found there were no grounds for such prejudices.
Quite a lot of money has been spent on relief schemes in this country. I  would say the biggest sum has been spent in removing corners and other obstacles on the roads. I think we could ease up a little bit in these matters. The Roscommon County Council have decided that they will limit very considerably improvement schemes on county and public roads this year. We hope to be followed in that good example by the Government, by their being more economical in the spending of money on these things. Every other day I pass a town, in a different constituency, where a bridge is in process of removal. The work has been in progress for four years and a colossal amount of money has been spent on it. It is a bridge in Longford and I think a huge amount of money has been spent on it. I heard Deputy Giles talk about Enfield Bridge. I agree the Enfield Bridge is a menace and a danger but, if Deputy Giles would come down into Tarmonbarry, in my constituency, and see some of the bridges there, he would say they were a bigger menace than the Enfield Bridge. I oppose extravagant expenditure but I believe there are bridges that should be improved.
I know that in talking to the Minister I am talking to a man who comes from rural Ireland. I know his sympathies must be with rural Ireland and in regard to the Local Authorities (Works) Act in particular I expect to get sympathy from the Minister. I hope I shall be able to compliment him next year—perhaps it would be a little premature on my part to do so now, in view of the short time he has been in office—if we are all alive and well, in this House, on implementing some of the things I have suggested to him to-day.
Mr. MacCarthy: This is undoubtedly one of the most important Estimates and I hope the results of our discussion of it will be fruitful. The Estimate makes financial provision for the building, the upkeep and the repair of the dwelling-places of our people and for the highways, if not the by-ways, over which they travel. Consequently, it has a great deal to do with the general welfare of our people.
In the discussion of this Estimate,  reference is frequently made to “the local authority ” but I think the word “local” has become a misnomer. I agree that there must be some central control. The Department of Local Government makes provision in the Estimates for the various branches of activity it administers and, therefore, it should have control over programmes and policy, but I feel that far too many details have to be submitted to the Department and are frequently delayed there for what I should call very flimsy reasons.
Very often, when the day is over, after a county council meeting, and one looks back on the results of the deliberations, one is forced to conclude that we are very largely debating societies with no power whatever to make and implement decisions, even though very well-paid and highly qualified people are engaged to carry out the work of the local councils. We have seen how work on the erection of rural cottages, for example, is held up because the Department of Local Government thinks the tender is too high. We have a local inspection by a sites committee, accompanied by the architect, and subsequently by the district or deputy county engineer and by the medical officer of health. The matter is then sent up to the Department and we must then have another inspection and another delay, and very often when the tender is submitted, we are told it is too high. Everybody knows that every rural cottage stands on its own. Sometimes it may be difficult to decide on a site and the development may be a little more expensive than it might otherwise be. Sand, gravel, and other materials are required for the erection of the cottage and they may have to be transported quite a distance which adds further to the cost. I would ask, however, who would be better acquainted with all these facts than the men engaged locally—the architects, and so on? Nevertheless, the Department say that the tender is too high for one reason or another. The result, as Deputy O'Malley said, is that a man may be waiting for four years before he gets his cottage.
 I submit that these matters should be left to the decision of the local people. Why are we engaging and paying highly qualified men, if that is not so? Why all the supervision if they know their job? They have to go before the Local Appointments Commissioners when presenting themselves for these posts and surely the Department should have some confidence in the ability of these local people. Far too much detail is submitted to the Department in matters of that kind, and valuable time is wasted.
Another matter which has been mentioned is the question of purchase. A local authority decide, from their knowledge of applicants, that a purchase scheme would be desirable. There are certain people who would like to purchase their own houses while others prefer to rent them. The local authority decide that one of their schemes will be a purchase scheme. The matter is referred to the central office and we are then informed that we cannot have a purchase scheme. That happened during the lifetime of the last Government, to my great surprise, as I thought that the then Minister would be very interested in such matters. However, when it came down to practical performance, it was quite another thing.
We in the South have had various purchase schemes and they are a credit to the city and to the tenants. Nevertheless, we have been informed that we could not have a purchase scheme. It is most undesirable that local authorities should become big housing landlords with vast housing estates. These things will ultimately have a boomerang effect on the local authorities. If houses are sold to tenants who wish to buy them, then the tenants will be interested in their own property and in maintaining and improving it. That can be said for a very big proportion of the tenants. They will not spend their days grousing about high rents, if they know they are building up a family asset. Sometimes people grouse and complain about high rents when they realise that they will never own a stone of the property they are renting, but, if they are purchase tenants, they are  happy in the knowledge that their money is being invested in something which will be of benefit to themselves and their families. I again appeal to the Minister to encourage the building of purchase schemes in urban areas.
I appeal to the Minister to promote the purchase of existing houses in rural areas—at any rate, in certain schemes —that would be suitable for that purpose, where a certain proportion of the tenants wish it, and also rural cottages. We are all aware of the difficulties that have arisen about repairs, and so on. In the past, perhaps some of those houses had not the same care and attention that housing is getting to-day. We have to take a house as it is and try to make it habitable until better can be provided. If a house is structurally sound, I believe in repairing it for tenancy by a suitable family. You could not put every family into some of these reconstructed houses, but very often they are suitable for small families who can afford to pay only a small rent.
Undoubtedly rents are mounting as the years go by. If the doctor states that a house is not worth reconstructing and the engineer agrees with him, it is only waste of time to preserve houses not up to a reasonable standard. If we are to have any progress, we should have proper amenities in our houses. If the local authority informs the Department that a farm worker's house is near a village and it would be well to have it a semi-serviced or serviced house, the Department will say: “It is too near the village; you cannot have it there at all. It must be a village type house.” They say that, even though the man is a rural worker and is entitled to a labourer's house. If the local authority recommends it and the doctor and everybody else agrees, these minor details should be left to the local authority who know the local circumstances.
The question of rebuilding derelict sites has been mentioned. I think Deputy O'Malley is quite right when he refers to the long time it takes to get authority over these sites. Schools and churches are available to the new tenants but they are scattered and the result is that new schools and churches  have to be built. That was all right when a clearance had to be made in the first instance so that these old tenements could be demolished and the sites rebuilt on. I also agree with some of the speakers on the opposite side who said that when houses in our villages to-day become unfit for habitation, they should be demolished and that the owners should not be allowed make old shacks of them, disfiguring the appearance of our towns and villages.
As far as roads are concerned, I think the time has come when the allocation from the Road Fund should be extended to the county roads. The Minister will say, and rightly so, that there is only a certain amount of money in the fund and that it will be allocated to the counties proportionately. He will say that the central authority has only one pool. I am suggesting that that be extended to the county roads. In these days of modern transport, when we have motor-cars, lorries and agricultural machinery travelling over these byroads, their standard must be improved considerably. If a man is paying a road tax on his car or on a lorry to bring his milk to the creamery, he does not want to have his springs broken over rough roads.
Mr. MacCarthy: Undoubtedly the easing of dangerous bends should be carried out, but where we have such short days in spring, late autumn and winter, the binding lights of motor cars on straight roads are simply dazzling people and are responsible for many accidents. The easing of bends, instead of these big schemes, would be of far greater advantage, would result in greater safety for the travelling public and would be far less expensive for the public purse. Our road policy should be revised at this stage. Some of our towns and villages have narrow streets but I believe that is a great blessing because the motorists, if they have any judgment at all, must slow down and not fly  through these places to the danger of the citizens. It is a mistake to try to by-pass such places and make new roads at great expense, such as has been done in this county and in other counties.
Those are just a few of the points that strike me. The Minister has wide experience of these matters. I am very glad he is making this provision in regard to the Small Dwellings Acts. If a man gets facilities to build his own house, to take his house out of the subsidy class, it is less expensive all round. Housebuilding is one of the most beneficial activities we can undertake. In the first place, it helps the health of the community. In the next place, it gives people an inducement to remain, because of good housing and modern amenities. In addition to that, it provides employment for people in different walks of life—the block maker, the concrete worker, the tradesman, even the man making the passage into the place and preparing the site. When all the work is done, the money provided for it comes back again. It does not cause inflation, as in the case of unproductive work. Every cent must be repaid with heavy interest over a period of years. As well as that, you have the rates of the house going to the local authority for the provision of local amenities.
I was glad to see that the Minister intends to go ahead as far as possible with sewerage and water schemes. If we provide for our people in that way and if they see that an interest is being taken in their welfare, then they will be healthy and contented citizens and we will feel that our efforts on behalf of the community are not in vain.
Mr. Jones: I should like to agree with the previous speaker that this Department is one of the most important so far as the lives of the people are concerned. It touches the people generally, more intimately than quite a few of the others. For that reason, I think local administration is something that should be kept local. There is a good deal of talk about decentralisation and this is one of the ways  in which local affairs can be dealt with at a local level.
Housing remains one of our greatest needs. A good deal has been done to re-house our people and people generally should appreciate the fact that over the years a great deal has been done to provide housing for them. Such housing adds considerably to the social and economic life of our people. Not enough attention is paid to the location of cottages in the rural areas for rural workers. The cottage on the farm, that hitherto attractive feature of Irish life, is fast disappearing. The tendency nowadays is to go in more and more for grouping houses together and for putting the rural workers nearer to the villages and towns. Where there are derelict sites in villages and towns, I am in favour of houses being erected on those sites; but I do not want rural workers to be brought into too close proximity with the villages where housing is concerned because, if that policy is adopted, then the rural workers will be brought farther and farther away from their work. I do not regard that as a wise policy at all.
There is a section of our community in need of more assistance and more attention. I refer to the farmer with the small valuation. He does not qualify, as the labourer does, for the erection of a cottage. Very often, he is not able to build a cottage for himself. It would greatly benefit Irish rural life if local authorities would extend the facilities given to others to the small farmer to enable him to build a home for himself, even though that might mean—and I do not suggest that it does—charging him a higher rent than that charged to the labourer.
Too much money is being spent on removing bends on main roads; too much money is being spent on pushing back fences and erecting expensive walls and boundaries. I should like to see more money being allocated to secondary roads and link roads. These are the roads over which the country people travel. To-day, the rural areas are as mechanised as are the urban areas and, while the rural community does not want speedways, they are certainly entitled to decently surfaced roads.
 With regard to road construction, we are adopting a policy of too much centralisation. Through such centralisation, we are doing away with local labour employed in local quarries. The local quarry provided work for a certain length of time in each year. The tendency now seems to be to centralise the quarry and you have the spectacle of heavy transport speeding over the roads carrying gravel and stone. Sometimes these vehicles travel 16, 18 or 20 miles. Formerly, such stone was quarried locally and local people had a certain amount of local employment, which employment benefited the locality generally.
We could do a great deal more where sanitary services and water services are concerned, and local authorities should be encouraged to speed up this work. Because of progress, water has become even more of a necessity nowadays. For years, people in rural areas have been calling for the provision of pumps. The local authorities make an allocation; perhaps it works out at one to each councillor's area. That means that this problem will remain with us for quite some time to come, unless an effort is made to speed up the provision of water within a reasonable time.
Local authorities, with county managers and a highly technical staff available, ought to be able to eliminate the delays which seem to occur when schemes are submitted for approval. The technical staff should be available to the local authority so as to enable schemes which have been approved to be pushed forward for execution.
A good deal of delay occurs in relation to the inspection of houses. It would be invidious to recommend the appointment of extra staff to deal with this matter, but I would suggest that, when an inspector visits an area, he should be notified of all the houses in that area requiring inspection. At the moment the system is that he inspects certain houses and comes back again at a later date to inspect certain other houses, of which he was evidently not aware on his first visitation.
The face of the country has changed because of local administration. Our  people are living in better houses. They are enjoying more amenities than their forebears enjoyed. Naturally, there will be some grouses but nobody wants expenditure to go up. In the matter of roads, it has to be remembered, as has been pointed out in other spheres, that money nowadays has not the same purchasing power. People, therefore, should appreciate the fact that, if they seek more amenities, the same principle applies. More money must be raised and therefore the rates will go up.
Very often the local authority itself introduces schemes. If they are put into operation they will cost money. Nowadays the value of money has declined in most spheres; it has equally declined as far as rates are concerned. Recently we were given, in answer to a question in the House, the present money value of the £. It would be illuminating to see how the average rate of a county compares with the present money value of the £.
In conclusion, I should like to feel that the local council, which deals so much with the lives of the people and touches them far more closely than central administration, has the confidence of the people and that, therefore, when a housing scheme or a sewerage scheme is passed by the local authority, no undue timelag will occur to prevent the execution of the work.
Mr. P.J. Burke: I suppose I had better start off by welcoming the change of front by the present Minister in trying to settle up the housing mess in County Dublin. When he left office three years ago he had the position well in hand and under his administration we were very pleased. During the last few years in County Dublin we had nothing but frustration and I hope the Minister will do everything he can to see that the people who have entered into contracts, the applicants, the builders, the builders' providers and all others concerned, will even at this late stage—I have made this appeal on numerous occasions—obtain some satisfaction. The present Minister for Local Government did a great deal of good work during his last administration.  I must compliment him on his latest statement that he is introducing legislation to amend the 1956 Act.
Mr. P.J. Burke: Under Section 19 (b) of that Act a number of people were left high and dry. There was a different system of valuation for them. The people who had already made commitments had to put down more money than previously. At the time this section was going through I became so annoyed that I said it was a complete fraud and that it was better to tell the people that they would not get the money at all than to implement this provision.
Hundreds of applicants in County Dublin did very badly under that section of the Act. Prior to that Act being introduced the cost of a house was made up as follows, taking a hypothetical figure of £1,909. The market value of the house was £1,700. The loan was 90 per cent. of the market value, that is, £1,530. There was £275 State grant and £104 deposit, which brought the total to £1,909. Under Section 19 (b) of the 1956 Act the cost of the house was £1,909, market value, £1,700, State grant £275 and the net market value—this is the point I want to discuss here—under this new amending Act——
An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot allow the Deputy to proceed on that line. There is a Bill on the Order Paper, every section of which will come up for discussion here. The Deputy will have a full opportunity of discussing what he wants to discuss then. He may not anticipate discussion of a Bill on an Estimate.
An Ceann Comhairle: I do not want to interfere with the Deputy at all or to restrict his privileges in any way. I am sure the Deputy is very well aware that he may not anticipate discussion of a Bill on an Estimate. As I say, the Deputy will have a full  opportunity of discussing whatever he wants to discuss on the Second Reading of the Bill in question.
An Ceann Comhairle: There is a Bill on the Order Paper to remedy all that. The Deputy may put his point of view to the Minister and to the House then. I cannot allow the Deputy to go beyond the discussion of administration on this Estimate.
Mr. P.J. Burke: On the Estimate, I want to deal with one of the most burning questions in my constituency, that is, the large number of people who were let down in a most callous manner under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act loans, the builders who have been put into Stubbs, the builders who were very nearly being in Stubbs, the number of them who are not able to carry on and those who have left the country. That is the record with which we have been faced in County Dublin.
There was lip service paid from Ministerial Benches when I was on the other side of the House that so-and-so would not be let down. I have here—I will not delay the House in this connection—hundreds of letters from applicants in County Dublin, from building contractors and from many others who made commitments in good faith. I am not saying that the present Minister for Local Government will be able to cure all these ills by a wave of the wand. We cannot take money out of the Exchequer that is not there but at least I want to compliment him on his honest approach to a very ugly problem.
I want to compliment him also on not trying to introduce legislation to deprive people of privileges which they already had under a previous Act. I hope that these people will now get some justice and consideration. In  County Dublin we have been treated to legislation by this House, to decisions made by managers and county councillors without due consideration for the commitments made by applicants, contractors and others concerned. I maintain now, as I did then, that this House has an obligation to individuals who made contracts in good faith and that it is our duty to see that justice is done in so far as the resources of the State can afford. That should be done and it is our duty to see that it will be done.
In County Dublin, a number of applicants have gone into houses. In that connection I want to refer to valuation under Section 19 (b) of the 1956 Act. I shall not quote it extensively. I had almost finished when you, Sir, intervened. Under Section 19 (b) of the 1956 Act, there are various methods of computing net valuations. I have here a letter from a contractor in whose case there were differences of £100 and £200 in the valuations of houses in the same row.
All this unjust type of legislation, as I describe it, was introduced to deprive people. It would have been a decent thing, as I often said to the previous Minister, to discontinue the Small Dwellings Act and to look after those who had already entered into commitments, pending the availability of the necessary capital to deal with all cases. If that were done, we would get somewhere and the people would have some respect for us. County Dublin was more adversely affected than any other constituency because more loans were granted in Dublin than in any other county.
Certain by-laws were introduced by the manager and Dublin County Council. Up to six weeks ago, a man could purchase a house under the Act at a cost exceeding £2,000. Under a bylaw introduced by the Dublin County Council, a limit of £2,000 was imposed, notwithstanding that the persons concerned had already entered into commitments and that the contractor had built the house. That bylaw was introduced to deprive people of their rights and I maintain that this House is wrong in upholding unjust by-laws of that kind made by any county council or manager.
 When I made inquiries about this matter, I was told that they were instructed to do these things. I have discussed this matter on many occasions when I was on the other side of the House, but I now merely wish to point out on this Estimate the very large number of injustices that were perpetrated by way of by-laws and amending Acts on people in County Dublin who had entered into commitments in good faith.
I have known people who entered into commitments knowing the position. That is their own lookout. It is a different matter in the case of people who entered into commitments in good faith, under the Act as it stood, and who were then told that their rights could be taken away by a special meeting of the Dublin County Council.
I am very pleased that the Minister has decided to review all applications that were made in good faith and where the price of the house exceeded £2,000. I thank the Minister for approaching this matter in an honest way. That is very good news for a number of people, some of whom were anxious to emigrate when they found themselves in a predicament, having put all the money they had into deposits on their houses, furniture and so on. Some people have emigrated over-night and a number of houses are vacant as a result.
Mr. P.J. Burke: No, Sir. I am merely pointing out the injustices that were perpetrated on a number of my constituents. I cannot stress the matter too strongly. I am not discussing future legislation; I am discussing past acts of injustice. I want to point out that the deposit of £104 was increased to approximately £280 and in some cases over £300. The supplementary grant was cut out, to make matters worse. In fairness to all the people who have entered into contracts  in anticipation of a supplementary grant, these cases should be seriously considered. They committed themselves to the extent of a few hundred pounds to contractors and they committed themselves to other things, and then they were told that all these cuts were being made. I maintain that that is morally wrong and I express my condemnation of such action in the strongest possible way. If the people were told that there was no money and that the operation of the Act was being deferred, pending completion of cases where commitments had been entered into, everybody would agree that that was an honest procedure.
The present Minister has a tough job to do. The situation could not have been worse for any Minister. No Minister likes to be placed in the position of having to try to rectify the situation caused by his predecessor's mismanagement. This should never have occurred, no matter how scarce money was. I often said, and I will say it again, that people who made commitments should not be let down by the Oireachtas, for supplementary grants, S.D.A. loans or anything else. If the financial position was very bad, they could be told that in a year or two money would come to hand and an effort would be made to help them. Instead of that, we throw them callously to the wind, no matter what way the breeze blows. Some of the contractors have been smashed and some of the applicants with commitments have cleared out of the country. We did that callously and gave them no encouragement. Even if the banks had been encouraged to lay off the contractors and not force them out of existence, it would have been different; but they have been put into Stubbs from time to time and some of them have gone bankrupt as a result of this action. I will leave that point now, but I wish the Minister luck with the dirty job of work he has to do in this line.
I am delighted also that the Minister intends to concentrate more on water and sewerage schemes. There are some seaside resorts in County Dublin where thousands of people come on fine Saturdays and Sundays and in the  holiday time; and we have still no water for them, except the village pump. There are areas in the county, about which I have been making representations for years, in an effort to get water and sewerage extended to them; and as far as I can see, according to the progress made, my great-grand-children will be dead before anything is done about it. I hope the Minister will expedite the provision of such schemes in the seaside areas in the county, where there is a crying need for such amenities and where we have been promised for years that certain work will be carried out. I am delighted the Minister intends to give a lead on these schemes, water and sewerage, because there is nothing so badly needed as good water, while the lack of sewerage is causing a lot of trouble in many areas.
In regard to county council cottages, a slowing up in building has been very obvious over a period. Whenever such a cottage becomes vacant in the county, there are many applicants, and I have had experience of one case where there were 36 looking for a cottage. I would like the Minister to make inquiries and find out the housing needs in the county. We have a number of very bad houses still, in various areas in County Dublin. It is very little use giving our people first-class treatment in sanatoria and hospitals, if we cannot get rid of the cancer, the bad housing conditions.
While I am dealing with this, I should like to deal with another matter I have come up against and which I am sure has been brought to the notice of other rural Deputies. The young married couple in County Dublin have no chance of getting a house unless they can afford to buy it or are lucky enough to rent one, which is almost impossible. They are not considered at all for a house. Could the Minister send out some direction on that point? Of course, if they can get a room in which to live for four or five years and if then they have a family, they have a chance of getting a house—if the room they are in is about to fall down. Many houses have been built in previous years, but we have had an influx of population —or, I might say, a number of people did not leave the district but are settling down there—and they are anxious to get houses and are unable to purchase them. We have not catered for married people in the county. In the Dublin Corporation area in the county, and in the area of another local authority I have to deal with in another part of my constituency, some effort is being made to house the young married couple; but we have done nothing like that in County Dublin.
I heard my colleague Deputy MacCarthy and a few others speak against the making of straight roads —they wanted the turns left and they said the taking off of the turns was responsible for a certain number of accidents. I want to deny categorically that assertion. The majority of places where I know serious accidents have occurred are those where there are bad corners. As a matter of fact, Deputy Giles spoke of the Enfield Bridge here some time ago and did so because there was a dangerous corner there. If we are to develop the tourist industry and try to compete with other civilised countries in Europe, if we are to encourage people to come here and if we are told it is worth while, that the tourist industry is worth over £30,000,000 a year, surely we must get away from the parish pump attitude that it is necessary to have a turn on the road for safety?
There is one turn in a road in my constituency—at least my old constituency from 1944 to 1948—at Shankill in County Dublin. There is a dual purpose road there, but there is also a turn which has been responsible for a number of accidents and some people are in their graves because of that turn in the road. Even if we have to put up with the inconvenience of oncoming lights at night when driving a car, it would be better than coming up against a bad turn and trying to avoid an accident. I would prefer to see a car coming than have to negotiate a corner, not knowing what I might meet around it.
It is a fallacy to say we are spending too much on roads. I do not think we are. It is a national asset to us to  encourage people to come here and we badly need the money collected through our tourist industry. We will not improve on that condition by trying to have narrow streets through villages so that cars must slow down. I cannot understand that mentality because it is against progress and I cannot agree with anything which is against progress. The reasonable way is to provide better roads wherever possible. In any county where the engineer and the council have taken an intelligent view of road improvement, everyone speaks highly of the work done—whether they be strangers coming into the county or visitors passing through it. It is an asset to the county as well. We should hear no more of this idea that turns in the roads will prevent accidents. Too many bad accidents have occurred on bad turns and on narrow roads in towns and villages.
There is another vexed question I want to discuss here, that of differential rents. In the Dublin Corporation area it seems to be a greater problem than in the county council area. In the county council area no tenant has much of an excuse, because he can purchase his house if he wishes. In the Dublin Corporation area there is not that privilege and, while some people have benefited by the differential rents system, I have always been an opponent of differential rents because a number of the tenants feel that the houses are not their own at all. The inspectors come round and ask questions. They want to know if the children went to work during the summer with Johnny Jones or Paddy Burke or somebody else, or why did they not make a return of the money coming into the house? The result of the differential rent scheme is that you have neighbours spying on each other, one making statements about the other, and this creates unrest in these areas.
I know that the scheme is established, and that it would be just as hard to get rid of it now as when it first started, but I feel that, no matter what the consequences are for the people in almost any housing estate, we should try to have some means  whereby the tenants would be asked to pay only a reasonable rent and would not be subjected to visitations from inspectors, getting big bills for back rent in the case where a man works overtime and does not report it. Such a man may do a few hours overtime when he gets the opportunity and that has to be reported. All these objections are there. People who are in favour of the differential rent scheme might say: “If such a man was idle his rent would go down.” I admit that, but meantime the amount of unrest the scheme is causing on housing estates makes me wonder if it is worth while.
I should like the Minister to obtain a report on the differential rent scheme at some time. It is operating not alone in County Dublin but all over the country. I feel if some other scheme could be introduced to eliminate these inspectors' visits, the neighbours spying on each other and such undesirable features, it would be a great achievement. Complaints about the scheme are constantly being made to me and I am sure to every other Deputy who has to deal with these areas in the county and city of Dublin.
I think that anything further I have to say on this matter may be left for another occasion. I wish the Minister luck in carrying out the job he has undertaken and I compliment him on standing by the people who made commitments regarding small dwellings in good faith, the contractors and the applicants for housing loans.
Mr. Rooney: The present system of local government appears to be very cumbersome especially since it affects so many aspects of public life. It affects the public life to such an extent that the ratepayers are becoming alarmed by the high level of rates for which they are now liable. They are liable for these high rates because there are so many services to which they contribute. In many cases, and particularly in the case of ratepayers living in rural areas, they contribute heavy rates towards amenities and services which are of no benefit  to them, such as sewerage, water supplies and public lighting in towns and villages. While there is no sewerage or water supply or public lighting in these rural areas the agricultural community is obliged to pay a certain rate towards these amenities for the villages and towns.
The system of local government, as we know it, affects ratepayers in almost every aspect of their lives and the proof of it is the large number of sub-committees which operate under the management of the county councils. I think it would be quite safe to say that there might be anything from seven to 15 sub-committees operating directly under any county manager in the country. Each of those sub-committees is operating a service, whether it be a housing committee of a county council, a planning committee, a finance committee, a scholarships committee, or a vocational education committee. Local Government has a hand in all these services and operates through the county councils and the question arises whether in fact it would be better if the responsibility rested on the local authority for the administration of a number of these services instead of operating from the Department through the county councils, and eventually down to the persons who get the services.
Mr. Rooney: I was just mentioning that the system of local government appears to be cumbersome and that that is the reason for the very high level of rates existing particularly in the City and County of Dublin, but I think the same applies in other parts of the country. The Department of Local Government is an immense machine. I am sure it is the second or third Department in magnitude in the State. It has the job of channelling finance through the county councils for the making and maintenance of public roads, the building of local authority houses, the provision of finance for small dwelling loans in the case of people building their own houses, the  provision of finance for water and sewerage schemes and other public amenities provided by the local authorities. We can appreciate that it is an immense machine and it is possible for that reason that there is a considerable amount of duplication which ought to be avoided as far as possible.
At the present time I think our system of road-making and maintenance is completely out-dated and we do not get the results that we ought to get for the amount of money spent. I think it is right to say that in the last 30 years we have spent over £20,000,000 on road construction and maintenance and yet, apart from the main roads, the network of roads in every county is still very much below the standard we desire. I feel that is because we have an out-dated outlook and out-dated methods in relation to the making and maintenance of these roads.
One of the previous speakers mentioned the removal of bends on roads. In many cases, it is not necessary to remove a bend on a road if the fence is cut down so that traffic coming in either direction can be aware of the approach of other traffic. Very often, the bend is taken away and good land is wasted, and very little advantage accrues, whereas the original purpose of taking the bend away was to make the road safe which might have been possible if the fence or hedge had been cut down properly to give proper vision to the traffic using the road. We still have the old system of hedge trimming in operation instead of using the modern system which we frequently see being used by business firms in relation to hedges and fences along their own properties.
I listened to Deputy Burke criticising the position in relation to housing. Let us remember that we have spent over £100,000,000 since the first inter-Party Government came into this House in 1948. That money was spent on the provision of houses for all classes of people. We have spent approximately £70,000,000 in providing cottages and over £30,000,000 in providing dwellings in which white collar workers and others reside. That is something to boast about. It is an achievement and at least we have all the houses for which that £100,000,000 was provided.
 In this small country, it is natural that there is a limited amount of finance available for the building of houses and other capital projects especially within a limited period. When we look back to 1948 and see that we spent over £100,000,000 on the provision of houses, we can ask ourselves if there is another £100,000,000 which we can spend in the next ten years. I doubt it. There is a limit to our resources and we have at least vigorously pursued a policy of the provision of a very large number of houses and that policy has brought great advantages to the country and was a good investment.
The system of housing grants raises the question of whether it might have been better, at the outset, to make the grant for building houses available to the actual builder instead of to the person for whom the house is built. In theory, of course, this grant eventually went to the building contractor as part of the cost of building the dwelling house. I feel that if the grant were originally made available to the builder instead of to the person for whom the house was being built, we might have had more competitive terms, so far as the cost of these houses was concerned. Certainly we would have had less confusion regarding the financing of the building of houses.
I should like to mention also the cumbersome system which exists regarding the provision of cottages by county councils, or indeed, for that matter, regarding the provision of water and sewerage schemes, so far as the Department of Local Government is concerned. For instance, if a county council decides to build a cottage, the first thing they must do is to send a map to the Department of Local Government and ask them if they approve of the site. One would imagine that the county council engineer should be in a position to decide whether, in fact, the site is suitable or not. A site plan is then sent up for approval. A plan of the cottage which is to be built on the site is sent up for approval, all the time through the county council, to the Department of Local Government. Then a plan showing the position which the cottage is to occupy on  the site is sent up. One would imagine that it would be sufficient to say that a certain type of cottage is to be built and if that was indicated, it should not be necessary to draw up separate plans for separate cottages. It is an example of the care taken by the State in the expenditure of public money. However, it seems to be a cumbersome system and I suggest that the Department should leave as much discretion as possible to the county council, which is in charge of the provision of the cottage concerned, on the question of the site and on the other matters.
I believe that the Department are now sending back inquiries to the county councils saying: “You have asked for approval for six cottages; we require a report now regarding the class of families who are to be put into these cottages.” These inquiries are now coming down from the Department and they show the amount of interference there is by the Department, instead of leaving the onus on the county council and the county manager to ensure that everything will be done properly. The county councils can be relied on to do things properly, instead of having to send up these plans and suggestions to the Department and then find such inquiries coming back.
I can say that county councils are very careful in deciding on the number of cottages to be built in any area and an example of it is that usually where a scheme is completed, it is found, in fact, that not enough cottages have been built in relation to the number of qualified families who are living under conditions which would enable them to secure tenancy of a cottage. The reason for that good care is that a medical officer has a duty to carry out inspections and count the number of families who, in his opinion, would be entitled to tenancies of council cottages. However, it is just an example of the duplication of work that could be avoided.
Accidents on our roads are increasing. The number of fatal accidents in the past couple of years is such as to make one wonder whether the Local  Government Department, through the county councils, could take some action which would cut down the number of these accidents. The roads are being used carelessly and indiscriminately by cyclists, jay walkers and motorists. Everybody is entitled to use a public road but each person is entitled only to his fair share of the road. Apparently many people on public roads are selfish; they are not prepared to share the roads fairly with other users.
That brings me to the Road Traffic Act of 1933, which is still in force. No effort has been made to bring it into line with modern conditions. The 1933 Act was designed to meet a system of traffic very different from that with which we are obliged to deal to-day. Consequently, it is not very effective to deal with modern traffic problems. Many of the accidents on our roads to-day are due to the absence of modern legislation.
One of the previous speakers mentioned the desirability of having more money spent on county roads and less on the main roads. An examination of recent records will show that the inter-Party Government last year diverted £500,000 towards county roads as against main roads because they were in favour of having county roads improved at the expense of postponing improvement and development of main roads. In County Dublin, road grant allocations are comparatively small. Because the mileage is low, the grant obtained in County Dublin is one of the lowest in Ireland.
I consider that the system of road grant allocations based on mileage is unfair as far as Dublin County is concerned because traffic is coming into Dublin continuously from the other 25 counties. Despite this, the road grant allocations to County Dublin are on the same scale as for the most deserted parts of the country. That is an unfair system and I hope the Minister will study the matter and will decide to increase the proportion of road grants available to County Dublin. It is annoying for County Dublin ratepayers to see their roads carrying such heavy traffic from all parts of the country and it is a definite hardship on them that they are not allowed a  higher percentage of State funds for the upkeep of these roads.
The volume of traffic passing through County Dublin in various directions has been counted frequently by meters. I hope the Minister will consider the figures these meters provide and will allocate more moneys towards the upkeep of the roads in this county.
Mr. Rooney: The Minister can get the money on tick if he likes. Perhaps he might be able to get it from Deputy Corry who is always talking in millions. Another matter I should like to mention is the system of preparing the register of electors. I believe this comes under the Department of Local Government. It has been obvious in nearly every general election that the system by which the register is prepared is not satisfactory. Very often a person who has been able to vote during the previous 25 years goes into a booth and finds his name is not on the register. People over the age of 21 who have been continuosly resident in an area often find that their names are not on the register. I should like to know from the Minister just how much control he has over the activities of returning officers.
Mr. Rooney: I shall leave that for the moment. I wanted to bring up a few points on the matter but since the Minister says he has no responsibility I must try to find some Minister who has. Another problem about which I want to speak is the traffic confusion that exists in Dublin City, in spite of the best efforts of the Garda. We are lucky to have such a competent force of men to deal with such a complex traffic system as exists in Dublin. There are comparatively long stops at busy times instead of a free flow of traffic.
That is mainly due to the use of the streets by the various classes of traffic all at the one time, from the jay walker and the cyclists to the lorries, the buses and the cars. I was wondering, in view of the confusion that exists in Dublin City, whether the Minister would be able to take a practical part in devising a traffic scheme for Dublin which would make the streets easier to use by the various classes of people.
For instance, regular crossing places are most important. Anybody who takes the trouble of climbing Nelson Pillar along with Deputy Corry and looking down on the street will see hundreds of people crossing O'Connell Street at various places instead of crossing at specified places, which would avoid the confusion in the city centre. I hope the regulations in relation to specified crossing places will be implemented because I believe that if there was less traffic crossing the streets in various places there would be a free flow of vehicular traffic, of bicycles, cars, lorries, buses and, of course, horse drays. All this adds up to the confusion which we have in the city centre at the present time.
Mr. Rooney: Our system at the moment of building dwelling-houses and making loans available for the building of dwelling-houses in towns and cities rather than in rural areas encourages people to leave the land. It would be better if we had a system which would ensure that cottages, even of the council type, could be provided on the smaller farms in various parts of the country. That would encourage people to live and work in the country. Many people leave the country because of the dreary conditions under which they are compelled to live, possibly in dilapidated dwelling-houses with no electricity and very probably with no running water or any of the amenities available to them if they move into the cities and towns. I feel that a move by the Department of Local Government in that direction would encourage people to live and work in the rural areas instead of moving towards the bright lights of the cities and towns. With regard to Dublin County Council, I should like to know from the Minister whether he has received an application for finance to be made available for Small Dwellings Acts loans there. At the present time, we are accepting applications for these loans and we are obliged to say that the loans will be approved when the finance is available. I should like the Minister to examine the record and notify Dublin County Council as soon as possible regarding the availability of finance in order that approval could be given to a number of applications for these loans. It would get the building trade going if it is to be got going. The building contractors and the persons interested in the houses cannot move until they are sure that the loan will be made available to them. The county council are not prepared to give approval until they have an assurance from the Department that the finance will be made available in respect of these houses.
Mr. O. Flanagan: I had not intended making any contribution to this debate. Usually, when such a wide field covering roads, housing, water works and sewerage schemes is spoken  of, it is very difficult for the Minister to pick out any particular problem upon which a Deputy would like to speak with emphasis. Therefore, I rise for the purpose of speaking on one point and one point alone.
I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that in cases where local authorities institute legal proceedings against citizens, the county manager and the law agent do so in the name of the local authority concerned. That has led to a good deal of confusion, misunderstanding and misrepresentation in so far as members of the local authorities are concerned and I feel that a good deal of that misunderstanding could be clarified, if, instead of the legal proceedings being instituted in the name of the local authority, they were taken in the name of the county manager.
I have known many cases in which legal proceedings were instituted by the officers of local authorities against the wishes of members of the local authority. I feel that where we have such instances there should at least be some right of appeal to the Minister for Local Government before any such proceedings are taken in the name of the council. Again, we have had many cases in which the county law agent instituted legal proceedings, again in the name of the local authority, where members of the local authority knew that these proceedings would not, in popular language, hold any water whatever, and where the cases were thrown out by Circuit Court judges and district justices and the decrees and expenses went against the local authority; whereas if the advice of the elected representatives on the local authority had been taken there would have been no legal proceedings.
I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to this matter because I feel that the legal people in the Custom House, or whoever is responsible, should endeavour to have this position cleared up. I have seen in the Press comments by members of local authorities in many parts of the country from time to time. I think it is wrong that legal proceedings should be taken by officials or officers of a local authority in the name of members  of the local authority, when the members of such local authority are entirely opposed to such legal action. It is distasteful to members of local authorities. There is no encouragement for members of local authorities to have any real interest in the very important functions which they are expected to take on.
I feel it is a point which has caused inconvenience and worry to members of local authorities. If anything could be done in the event of such legal proceedings being taken, to have the proceedings taken in the name of the executive officer, rather than in the name of the local authority, it would be of great convenience to members and would clear up any misunderstanding that exists in relation to such proceedings.
Minister for Local Government (Mr. Smith): The discussion on this Estimate has dragged on for a long time. That, I expect, was the result of the intervention of the Budget discussion. I suppose it would have been a fairly long discussion anyhow because of the general interest in the matters with which the Department deals, the interest it has for so many Deputies and for the people outside. I thought, that because of the way in which the Estimates preceding this one had gone through so quickly, we would not be delaying long here, but, anyhow, it is coming to an end now.
There was one young Deputy in this House who asked me to deal with the particular problem that has existed here, I think since 1953-54, to the present time. It is the problem of the attitude of the engineers' organisation towards the salaries arranged by me in 1953-54, the salaries of county engineers. When the matter was raised here—I think by Deputy Griffin—the thought occurred to my mind of a visit I had immediately on coming back to office from one of the members of that organisation who happens to be a personal friend of mine. He called to see me with a view to seeking my assistence in having this matter settled. To tell the truth, I did not know but it had been settled long ago and, when he mentioned it to me, I smiled at him and said: “Surely I was the person who arranged these salaries  in 1953-54.” They were arranged at that time by me after consultation with representatives of the engineers' organisation and the county engineers. I said: “I expect you were not satisfied at the time with the rates then fixed. I thought they were fair but, having arranged them away back in 1953-54 and, having been succeeded by a Minister of an inter-Party Government, since you have not been able to induce them, with all the powers you would be able to exercise over a Government of that kind, to improve on the rates I arranged, how could you expect me to do it?”
Mr. Smith: I know the technique. They did not send a friend of mine to my predecessor. I know the engineers as I know the members of every other organisation and I am sure they are good tacticians. I have not experience of inter-Party Government, but I would think if there was one chance in the world for them to secure an improvement in the standards that were set by me, they would have it there. I said: “For goodness' sake, forget about it because you cannot hope to have the same opportunities here.”
Having said that much, let me say this: I know how hard it is for an organisation like this. When they take up a stand such as the one they have taken, when they allow it to drift along and let the years pass by and, when nothing is done, the more time that passes, the more difficult it is for them to alter their course. They have adopted the attitude of refusing permission to any of their members to apply for any vacancies advertised for county engineers, with the result that there must be five or six and maybe more vacancies, and if I am not misinformed, there are likely to be eight or nine vacancies before too long. The attitude, as I said, they have taken up in regard to these vacancies is not to give permission to their members to apply for them.
I do not want to comment harshly  upon that as a course of action, but it does not seem to make a great deal of sense to me. I know how difficult it is to go back and accept without having achieved anything. I do not want to blame anybody; I do not want to blame them for that stand. I suppose it was a decision that was made, maybe without too much thought and without having any regard to the length of time this whole wrangle would go on, but I would appeal to them now to reconsider the whole position.
They want me to give them some assurance of one kind or another, but I am not in a position to give them any assurance, other than that the last review was conducted in my time, that it was conducted conscientiously, that naturally I did not expect the results of that review to be wholly acceptable to the members of that organisation, because you never get that, but there must have been on their part substantial agreement as to the just way in which they were met. If that has been the case, as I am entitled to claim it has, if these results have been reviewed by my successor and if I, standing here again as Minister for Local Government, say it was I reviewed these three or four years ago, and that they have been vetted many times since, then they still stand. If a case can be shown for a review in the future, we will be just as approachable in six months', 12 months', 18 months' or two years' time, or whatever time it may appear to any of us that a further review is called for and they can always have access to us.
We may appear to them to be rigid and firm, but we will not be rigid and firm until we satisfy ourselves that we are entitled to be rigid and firm. I did not intend to deal with this matter if it had not been mentioned by a Deputy, and I think it was mentioned by some other Deputy also in the course of the debate. I appeal to that organisation to reconsider the whole position now. I do not like to accuse a body of responsible people like this of childishness, but that is as it appears to me. I would ask them to review this whole matter and try to  reach a decision that will enable us to go ahead and have existing and future vacancies filled.
I do not suppose that, in the course of a discussion like this, Deputies who raise all the 101 points about different matters of local administration really expect a Minister to deal with each one of them. If one were to apply himself to that task, it could be done all right, but I do not think it is necessary and I do not think it is expected by those who make these points. I should prefer to deal with just a few matters—more or less policy questions.
The first of these, to which a number of references have been made by Deputies from all parts, concerns the suspension of the Local Authorities (Works) Act provision. Some Deputies even went so far as to suggest that that was because of some hostility which we had to this Act. Some of these Deputies who did not want to misrepresent us were apparently unable to say whether or not we voted against the Bill before it became an Act. It should not have been a too troublesome task for a Deputy who was a member of the House at the time to find out, if he did not remember. I do not think that that sort of contribution to a debate serves any useful purpose except a very small silly purpose.
I am sure that there has never been an Act of Parliament which was designed to deal with any particular problem that did not result in some good. I am prepared to admit that that applies fairly to this Act too. However, I must repudiate some of the claims that have been made for it here from my own personal knowledge of the operation of the Act. I do not claim to know and see every scheme and to have seen every scheme or even a considerable percentage of them that was carried out under this Act down through the years. However, I travel a fair share, just like other Deputies, and I try to be and I am observant of what I see around me. Like other Deputies, I know my county fairly well. I see the work that has been done under this Act. I see the results and the cost. What I have to say now is not being said altogether because this  was a year of difficulty, a year in which it was necessary to look around for every penny in order to simplify the problems that confronted the Minister for Finance and the Government as a whole.
Since the Local Authorities (Works) Act came into operation we have spent something in the neighbourhood of £8,000,000. I have heard men talk about the assets that have been created for our people as a result of such expenditure and I have seen the expenditure under this Act actually added on the side of the national assets. I am not going to talk about percentages because I do not know them but I do know a very substantial number of schemes on which money was spent in my county—and spent as wisely as it would have been spent in any other county—and, without any maintainance provision whatever being associated with this Act, much of that work on which large sums of money were expended has proved unsuccessful and the land has gone back into the condition in which it was originally.
It does not rile me, because I know it is what you have to expect in a deliberative Assembly, but when I hear Deputies start off this old rigmarole of trying to pin something on you about your alleged hostility to an Act of Parliament just because you happened to be in Opposition at the time the Bill was going through the House and just because you behaved as an Opposition should behave, that is, to be inquisitive, to look for explanations, to seek weaknesses, to try to amend the Bill, which is exactly what we did, I am not amazed but certainly I am not impressed. If you look up the records you will find that a number of amendments were accepted by the then Minister. Nevertheless, a Deputy parades out this cant as good political stuff instead of looking at this as a national matter and saying to himself: “There, since 1949, we have spent £8,000,000 of the people's money in one form or another. Did we get good value for it?” In my opinion we did not. That is not to say that good work was not done but I contend that the percentage of good work was not as high as it should have been. I also contend that, because there was no  maintenance provision, it could not have the continuing results one would require for an expenditure of that size. I also contend that the type of survey carried out in order to obtain approval for schemes under that Act was not, of itself, unfailingly adequate to ensure that the right sort of job would be done.
With all their technical skill and knowledge, engineers could not possibly be expected to do the work in advance of the schemes that would be necessary, in my opinion as a layman, before you could hope to get the right results. These grants were 100 per cent. grants. I do not want to say anything to the members of local bodies who, as some Deputies have said, do such magnificent work and give so much of their time free, and so on. However, do we not all know—and many of us were members of local bodies ourselves—that a local body would not be comprised of human beings if they did not grasp anything coming, 100 per cent., from the State?
They would not be human beings if they did not spend, without being too critical whether or not it was yielding the results they would like if they were providing that money from some other source. What happened this year is not the final word on the Local Authorities (Works) Act. Even with all my suspicions as to the good results which might come from it, in certain conditions I might be tempted to look for an allocation for it. In a matter of this kind we have room enough for political discussion without bringing it down to this plane.
Roads are another matter of importtance. I have been listening here for a very long time to all these questions—main roads, county roads, the wisdom of removing bends, the wisdom of a policy pursued by some particular Government or Minister in diverting moneys from the Road Fund to county roads as against main roads, and so on. All that, I suppose, is legitimate enough for the purpose of general discussion. It is not a bad issue either if you want to make an appeal to a special class from a political point of view and get the ear of a substantial section of the community.
I was really amazed at some of the  statements made in the speeches here. The allocation from the Road Fund this year is the same as last year. It came to be so because the Minister for Finance went to the rescue of the Road Fund and I was able to make the same allocation as last year. I made it on exactly the same basis, although the former Minister for Finance did not seem to know that. I made it on the same basis, main road and county road, as did my predecessor last March twelve months. We heard a word “tripe” being used here. I would not use it if it had not been used already. You could always get another word to serve the purpose just as well. There was a good deal of tripe spoken about suspicious that I would depart from my predecessor's policy in that regard.
What do Deputies think tempted my predecessor to depart in September from the policy he announced last March 12 months? Would it not be better if we had no talk about that kind of thing, rather than try to pretend that this was a matter of policy? It was a matter of trying to save £250,000, if they could get away with it. I am not blaming them for that, if they were in need of it. If you are in need of money and if there is only one place to get it, you go there. What I am blaming them for is to have the effrontery to come up here and tell me that this was done as a matter of policy. This matter of main roads as against county roads and the injustice of treating the motorist so well and neglecting the man at the back of the hill is as old as Methuselah's cat. Maybe, in a political sense, it is very good stuff.
We have been discussing these questions so long that when a Minister for Local Government decides in the month of March, 1956, on the allocation for main and county roads, he should know his mind. The allocation he made at that time was the same as I made in recent weeks. But he changed his mind in September by abandoning the main road allocation. Members of local bodies of the same political persuasion as the then Minister tried to say that that was the right thing to do. It was not done as a matter of  policy; it was done for the purpose of saving £250,000. I have no objection, if those people come along and say: “We did it and that was the reason we did it”.
On many occasions I found myself in violent disagreement on the question of the allocation for main roads and the policies pursued by county engineers. When I was in this office before I never failed, when driving along the roads with my officials, sometimes with the chief engineer of my Department, to draw their attention to something being done which I thought was extravagant. I tried to get them to understand what my attitude was. Deputy Giles and Deputy Griffin spoke here. I remember discussing these same matters with the county engineer in Meath. It was in connection with the removal of corners, the amount of land being acquired for that purpose and the cost of the work. He said to me: “Are you long going that road to Dublin?” I said: “I am for 35 or 40 years.” He told me that if the men who had made those bends previously could have seen what would be required in the future, they would have made them to such a scale that a second approach would not have been necessary and enormous expenditure would thus have been saved.
Naturally, when engineers are dealing with the main arteries of the country, they want to do a good job and leave behind them a job likely to last a considerable time. There are some magnificent roads in different parts of the country but people forget there are main roads in the country that have yet to be tarred. Some of them are in my own county. It is only natural that having concentrated for 25 or 30 years in bringing main roads up to a reasonable standard, a time would come when we would have to devote attention and provide moneys from the Road Fund for the improvement of county roads. That time is with us now. It has been with us for a number of years and substantial provision has been made in each year of the last seven or eight years for the improvement of county roads. We have still a tremendous distance to go in some counties especially, and these include my own county, in order to  bring the roads up to a reasonable standard.
I have heard some Deputies complain of the experiments carried out by some county engineers in an effort to find some inexpensive method of surfacing our county roads. As far as I can see, there is no real ground for these complaints. If they are based upon the idea that such a policy will affect the labour content, then that is an entirely wrong conclusion to draw. If we can reach the stage of being able to provide a reasonable surface on our county roads at a cost of £500, £600 or £700 per mile, that will mean that we shall eventually be able to do twice the mileage that we could do at the rate of £1,000, £1,100 or £1,200 per mile. Naturally, the more mileage we do, the greater will be the employment content. Knowing the condition of county roads in my own county and in neighbouring counties, though I do not include Meath in this, I know that there is work to be done. Meath may have some fairly bad roads but most of the roads there are not comparable at all.
Mr. Smith: When one sees the condition of some of the county roads in Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim, Donegal and so on, it is only then that one realises how useful it is to have county engineers who are prepared to experiment and use their wits and ingenuity to devise a means of enabling us to get these roads surfaced for the benefit of the man who used to be described as the back-of-the-hill man who now has his tractor, his motor-car and his van. He is just as anxious now to have these roads surfaced as the motorist was to have the main roads surfaced 25 and 30 years ago. I not only approve of the county engineers experimenting but I congratulate and encourage them. These men are applying themselves to the task and the magnificent thing is that, to whatever extent they succeed, that success will have no detrimental effect upon the amount of employment that will result.
I was anxious to obtain, and I have been very pleased to secure, the  approval of the Government to a number of matters dealing with housing, water, sewerage and other employment-giving works, before the conclusion of this Estimate. I thought I would announce these decisions in the course of my concluding speech but, as I have already said, this discussion dragged on so long and the subject of these decisions was so important that I thought the public should be made aware of them as early as possible and it is for that reason that I informed the public in the way I did.
I have no desire to talk about what has happened in the past, about what this Minister or that Government did. That has never been my inclination. It is not my inclination now. Anything I say now is not for the purpose of dealing with this whole business in retrospect but rather for the purpose of looking to the future and seeing the effects these decisions will have in rehabilitating public confidence and in conveying to local authorities a firmness of purpose as to what they may expect, an expectation that will be helpful from many points of view. There has been a lot of unemployment of one kind or another. It has been caused by one thing or another. There is nothing so depressing, there is nothing so discouraging as a continuance of that situation.
I do not say that many of the things that were done by our predecessors may or may not have been necessary. I do not say whether they may or may not have been wise. They may have been done in haste. Things may have been allowed to develop to the point where decisions taken had to be too drastic in character. Since I came back into office I will say that I found that county managers and city managers other than those in Cork and Dublin, which are in a somewhat different position, seemed to have no confidence that they could go ahead with any job. They were simply asking for nothing and pressing for nothing.
I was anxious to secure, at the earliest possible time, the approval of my colleagues in the Government— and I was very glad I was able to secure that at such an early stage— to make these announcements so as to restore public confidence and gradually get back to building whatever houses we may require and carry on with schemes of public works such as water supplies and sewerage. There was a large amount of sanitary services work done since 1932, and I knew there was not such a vast amount of it to be done, but there was a considerable amount to be done in every county, in small towns and villages which, because of their population, had to be put back to the last and which are now looking at their neighbours having got these facilities, while they were thrown on their uppers and left as if there was no hope for them in the immediate future. The employment which will result when these works have been undertaken will have a steadying effect and will provide amenities that are being sought in every town and village that has not already got them.
On the matter of private housing, I have been asked by a number of people to make a statement urging local bodies to continue where they had suspended operations under the Housing Acts, by way of supplementary housing grants. I do not want to make a statement on that matter. I have done all that I think I should do. On 27th November last year, these grants were suspended. Some of the councils continued to take applications after that date, but fixed a date beyond which they would not pay supplementary grants. I do not know what decision other councils made because we do not appear to have any record of their having made any.
In discussing these matters with the Government I had in mind, of course, that the sections under which these grants were made are permissive sections. Some Deputies here have been talking about the size of the county rates, the growing difficulty of ratepayers, and the adoption by these county councils and public bodies of these sections of the Housing Acts for the provision of supplementary housing grants. There is no doubt that the provision of supplementary housing grants is a tremendous financial strain.  Where these supplementary grants have been paid, they have resulted in increasing enormously the number of houses that were provided by the sort of people to whom Deputy Giles referred in his speech.
I have before me the figures for the different counties showing the numbers of new houses erected and houses reconstructed in the different counties. I have the figures for the only two counties in which payment of these supplementary grants was not made. These two counties were Clare and Wexford. You can see at a glance that the effect of the payment of these supplementary grants has been almost to double the housing effort of many of the counties in which they were made as against the counties in which they were not made.
That has been, I suppose, at great expense to the ratepayers, and, although urged by a number of people to plead with the local authorities to take up this task again and pay supplementary grants, and so on, I do not feel I should do that. I do not feel I should do more than I have done, and that is to say to them: “Should you decide to pay these grants in the future, then, as far as borrowing is concerned, you can have recourse to the Local Loans Fund, and I leave it to yourself as to what you think is right and proper.”
What I am discussing now takes my mind back to the debate we had in the House on the Housing Bill of 1952. I remember the accusations that were made against me because of what was described as my “little farmer conservatism”. I had not the broad, spacious mind that, when permissive sections are being provided in a Housing Bill, would allow local bodies to run riot and give grants to everybody. There is not one in this House who was in it at that time who does not remember the battle royal I had defending the course I took on Sections 9, 10 and 11 when I set out the valuation ceiling for the payment of these grants and the wage earning ceiling as well.
I did not claim to be full of wisdom, but I knew the task that the local bodies had undertaken under Section  7 of the Act of 1950 when they were given freedom to pay grants in whatever fashion they should decide— and most of them decided on a free-for-all. I knew well they could not continue that and in my heart I felt that even the provisions of Sections 9, 10 and 11 in the Bill of 1952, which ultimately became an Act, were a bit too onerous. Time has not found me too wrong in my view. Therefore, even if I have encouraged the Government to arrive at this decision to which I have referred, I have in mind the difficulties of these bodies, the burden of the rate, and however much I would like to see them pay these grants for many more years if they could, I know it would be a difficult task. If they could manage it at all, it would be a tremendous advantage. Much good work has been done in counties like Mayo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and, I am sure, Kerry and Galway, and all those counties of the small farmers, even though, as I say it has been expensive. I am not urging them to do so, but I would love to think they would feel themselves able to face the heavy burden that such a decision will undoubtedly impose upon them.
Sometimes when money is scarce and Ministers are trying to break the news gently, they start off by warning local authorities as to the danger of over-building, and so on. I could never see myself falling for making that kind of speech because I would know full well that immediately I would make it the members of local bodies would say: “This is just a means that he has of telling us that we are not to build houses because money is scarce.” I am making no such approach. When we in the Department of Local Government ask local bodies to go into the whole matter of housing needs, perhaps housing needs that were established six, seven or eight years ago, and to vet them again and to see how the position stands, I do not want them to regard that as an attempt on our part to make the world believe that we have met our problems if they are not met.
The community has been accepting housing as a challenge for a long time  and every Government acting in the name of the community has endeavoured as best it could to meet that challenge. We will keep on doing that, please God, until we have mastered the major problem that exists as far as housing is concerned. There will always be some housing required even after the back of that problem has been broken. People should not try to misinterpret any request that may issue from my Department for an examination of housing needs that were determined in any particular local authority perhaps nine or ten years ago.
Some Deputies have referred to the delay—perhaps there was some truth in it—that occurs when local bodies apply to have some particular number of sites acquired or submit a proposal for the building of a number of houses or cottages, and so on. In times such as those through which the Government have been passing, I suppose they did feel it necessary to delay, to parry and to sit down upon these proposals so as to relieve the pressure on the Local Loans Fund and on State finances as a whole but I think that is a mistake. I always thought that such an approach was a mistake and expressed that view when moving a certain motion last December. As a Minister, I can say now that on that occasion I was very reluctant to move that motion at all until I satisfied myself that there was need for it, in the sense that there was not frankness on the part of those who should have been frank.
If, in the course of this discussion, I have heard the accusation made by Deputies that many of the queries that go out from Departments at times, such as the times through which the country and the Government have been passing for the last six or ten months, were designed to stall the various proposals being made by local bodies, I do not blame Deputies for having those suspicions because it would have been better if we had had more frankness then and as far as I am concerned, while I am in this office, I think I can give a guarantee that if at any time I should find a situation like that approaching, I would have no hesitation in telling the people  quite frankly and boldly what the situation was and what we would have to do to meet it.
Deputy Casey, the Lord Mayor of Cork, was one of the first speakers in the debate on this Estimate. He devoted most of his speech to myself and to the lack of courtesy displayed by me as Minister to Cork Corporation and to himself as Lord Mayor. I was not discourteous to either the Lord Mayor of Cork or to Cork Corporation nor will I, I hope, be discourteous to any member of a local body, corporation, county council or otherwise. I will tell the House what I will not do as Minister to the Lord Mayor of Cork or anybody else if I receive a request to meet a deputation, especially if it is a formidable deputation, not a deputation composed, say, of Deputies of all Parties who may want to come down to my room to see me about a housing scheme in Cork or the finances of the housing authority in Cork and so on.
I was asked to receive a deputation from Cork Corporation a few weeks after I came into office, when I knew that I had nothing to give them along the lines that they wanted, when I knew that no argument that they could advance could induce me, because I had not the wherewithal. I tried to convey that fact to them by letter. I think it was in Holy Week that I received the request from them. Three or four days elapsed before the letter was dealt with and it was about seven days in all before the reply would have reached the Cork Corporation. Because it did not reach them by return post an attack was launched upon the Department and myself alleging lack of courtesy to that body.
I think it is foolish for any Minister to allow a deputation to come from Cork City or elsewhere when he knows, and when it has been made abundantly clear, that he has nothing to concede and when there is no point in their wasting their time, money and energy in coming to see the Minister or in his inviting them to come. If he invites them to come, naturally, it is regarded as half the battle. If they come into the Minister's office and he treats them very nicely and they go  home thinking they have achieved something and then if an official letter issues telling them that their request cannot be granted, they are more disappointed and demoralised than ever. That is why I did not receive that formidable deputation from Cork. But, if the Cork Deputies had made any effort to see me in this House, or if any other group of Deputies wanted to see me on any other matter, of course, I dare not refuse them, whether it was feasible or not.
Mr. Smith: That is really all I have to say to the Lord Mayor of Cork and Deputy Barrett who supported him in this matter. Nothing was further from my mind or heart than to offer an insult to him or to any other local representative. That is the practice I have followed, not only now in the Department of Local Government, but ever since I became a Minister in any Department. In any case where I was pressed to receive a deputation, I always directed that a letter should issue to the effect: “If you insist on coming to see me, I will see you, of course, but I have explained to you that you are not likely to achieve anything further than what has already been notified to you.” That was my position in regard to the deputation which I was pressed from Cork City to see. It was an area which had been given what I regarded as a fairly  reasonable amount of money on which to plan their activities.
I thought I had far more pressing problems to deal with, problems of other local bodies outside of Dublin and themselves, problems of those local bodies with almost £1,000,000 worth of building schemes held up in my Department, problems of 30 different water and sewerage schemes costing, roughly, about another £1,000,000, also awaiting the provision of money to get them going; and the problems of clearing away the whole confusion which existed then in the office of every county council in regard to the supplementary housing grants, in respect of which there had been no payments made for many months previously. These were problems which were pressing me when Cork, with £750,000 already allocated for the area, were pressing me to receive a deputation in order that I might make more money available to them, when all the other local bodies in the country were held up for want of cash, as I told them, for many months past.
I am very glad that in regard to a number of these matters—private housing, housing by local bodies, sanitary works, water and sewerage—we are in a position now to tell local authorities they can proceed with those works. What the decision will be in relation to the payment of the supplementary grants for private housing I do not know. While I feel sympathy for them because of the problem which presents itself to them through rising rates, I hope they will make a courageous effort to face this problem themselves, because of the amount of useful work which can be done, the amount of employment which can be given and, more especially, because of the need there still is for the provision of houses all through the country for small farmers and working-class people.
Mr. T. Lynch: I would be greatful to the Minister if he would explain one point. I paid him the compliment of coming here to listen to him. I had hoped he would explain how the allotments are made to the various counties for tourist road grants and for the road grants from the Road Fund.
Mr. Smith: To tell the truth, I explained to the House at the outset of my reply, that in the case of the 101 different questions which are asked in the course of a long debate like this, it is not really possible—it would be possible but it would be terribly monotonous—to dig up all the information which would be required; and, therefore, I relied on dealing with the broad aspect of Local Government matters. There are dozens of other Deputies who asked questions. It is not that I did not want to give the information, but it is rather troublesome. I treated the Deputy the same as the rest and I suppose he cannot have anything to say to me about that.
Mr. T. Lynch: I will bear with the Minister, as it is a good while since I spoke here on this Estimate. However, I would ask the Minister would he let me have some idea as to how these amounts are arrived at—the road grants and the tourist road grants?
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