Committee on Finance. - Housing Bill, 1965: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 21 July 1965

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 217 No. 11

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  On a point of order, Sir. Before the Minister replies, I want to clarify the position that our motion will carry on.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The motion will carry on.

Mr. P. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  May I ask the Minister a question? I understand we have agreed to give him the Second Stage, and we will do so. The only [2079] thing I want to clarify is this. I understand the reason the Minister wanted it is that local authorities, through their county managers, may implement the Bill in an anticipation of its passing.

Minister for Local Government (Mr. Blaney): Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Some parts of it in regard to the supplementary grants.

Mr. P. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  If the Minister finds they are not acting in this way, will he agree to advise the Taoiseach to recall the Dáil for the purpose of going through all Stages of the Bill so that these increases will not be held up?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  I will not give any such undertaking. A big housing programme has to be undertaken. We are finishing this Second Stage at short notice.

Mr. P. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  We will assist the Minister.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  I know you will, like the assistance I have got up to the present.

Mr. P. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  That is not our fault.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  It is certainly not my fault.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I wish to ask the Minister one question in connection with the Bill.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  It is usual to put questions to the Minister when he has concluded.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  Very well; I shall wait until he concludes.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  To attempt to go over all the ground covered in this debate, which went on for a considerable time, would be impossible in the short time available to me. However, I shall deal with some of the important points made. Deputies Clinton, Tully, Treacy, Esmonde, Hogan and O'Leary all referred to low output or failure to deal with the housing problem. They also said that the housing slow-down was the result of deliberate policy.

[2080] They attempted to interpret what is in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion as indicating that it was the intention of the Government to cut down expenditure on housing. If that is the interpretation these people have put on the Second Programme, it is rather strange to read that, when that Programme was published, housing output was something over 7,000 houses a year, whereas the Programme indicates a rise of 100 per cent to approximately 14,000 houses per year. If that can be interpreted as saying that the Second Programme shows we are cutting down on housing, either I should be locked up or those who put that interpretation on it should be locked up forthwith.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  But when are you going to reach it?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  As far as the total amount of money is concerned, I want to make it quite clear that this year the amount of money being provided for housing is over £19½ million. This is a higher figure than the amount provided at any time in any year by any Government.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister might be allowed to conclude.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Furthermore, the total number of houses built by private individuals with State aid exceeded last year the figures of houses built by any Government in any year. The Deputies in the Opposition know that that is so. In the last full year of operation, the total number of private houses built exceeds the number any Government built in any year since the foundation of this State.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Side by side with that, we are reconstructing, enlarging and improving houses at the rate of about 10,000 a year additional to the numbers I have already given to the House. Over and above that, we have provided water and sewerage services for no less than 5,600 houses, over two and a half times more than was provided two [2081] years ago and 22 times more than was provided in the last year of the Coalition Government to which these Deputies belonged.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  That is wrong.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  That is perhaps an understatement. Deputy L'Estrange can check it for himself.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  On a point of order, Sir. The Minister made a statement accusing a number of Deputies, including some on these Benches, of saying a certain thing on the Second Reading. I want to say we did not make any such statement in regard to the Second Programme. It is the Minister who has made an untruthful statement.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That is not a point of order.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  If the Deputy has been in some way misquoted, I apologise to him; but I do not think I am misquoting others in regard to their intentions when they made these statements. They are coming from Fine Gael in ever-increasing numbers with little regard to the facts——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  ——in an effort to try to bring about in 1965 the situation they brought about in 1956. They are not going to succeed in doing that, and they know it. They are beginning to get sore as they sit listening to the figures day after day. They are beginning to realise that housing is going to go ahead, that the building industry is not going to be allowed to collapse as it was in 1956, that no local authority has been refused money, has been refused sanction or has been refused loans as they were in 1956.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister should be allowed to speak.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  The Deputies opposite should get wise to themselves and stop scaremongering throughout the country, trying to bring about a crisis [2082] that does not exist as far as the building industry is concerned.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy L'Estrange should behave himself.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  To those people in local authorities who are criticising and saying that houses are not being built, I want to say that they should turn the searchlight on themselves and ask themselves what they as members of these local authorities have been doing during those years in which there has been ample money and every encouragement given. Yet they are not building houses and they are trying to blame the Minister for Local Government. Look at the figures; look at the money provided; look at the facts for yourselves. Then hang your heads in shame, as you are entitled to do. Do not come back here and blame the Government for lack of activity for which you yourselves, as members of local authorities, have been responsible. Will one Deputy in the Opposition show me in any local authority of which he is a member that I have prevented them building houses? Will they show me that they themselves are not responsible? Are they not aware that they are responsible and that they must pull up their socks to get on with the job?

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  What about Milford?

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  What has happened in Milford is that I, through the National Building Agency, am now about to build the houses you and your council failed to build for the past three years. We are now on the job and we are doing the job you spent five years doing nothing about.

Let Deputies also recall that in so far as building is concerned, in this city of Dublin——

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The houses are falling down.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  ——the Minister for Local Government has had to take the unprecedented step of going in and doing the job in Ballymun as to 3,000 houses. Is this an indication that the [2083] Government are not trying to get houses built? Is this an indication that we will not build the houses? Is it not quite true that, in 1956, we did not have the money?

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  You had the houses.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  We had the houses but we had no people to live in them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy Harte should restrain himself.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  In 1956, we did not have the people to live in the houses. Today we are building houses. Today we are providing the money and the people are there in greater numbers than they were in those years and we are tackling the problem and Deputy L'Estrange knows very well that that is the truth.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  That what you are saying is wrong.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Deputy L'Estrange knows that that is the truth. The truth hurts.

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  You have lost your head and you know it.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  The Fine Gael Deputies are hurt when they are being told the truth. I should like the Deputies to realise that in this approach to the matter of housing, we have made improvements in grants, we have removed the obstacles said to be in the way of local authorities.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  No, you have not.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Remember the procedure under which you built for the past 30 years. Those obstacles were there. I have now removed them and yet you are still not building houses. Will the Deputies across there deny that in their estimates meetings of last year, that is, for the current year's expenditure, it was a noted fact that the Fine Gael people in every council in the country tried to push up the estimates in order that the rates would be more heavy?

[2084]Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  That is a scandalous lie.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  If the truth hurts the Deputies I cannot help it.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The county managers prepare the estimates. It is a scandalous lie. You should be ashamed to call yourself a Minister.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  They cannot take their medicine. They will not be quite.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  A lie, a scandalous lie, and you know it.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  It is the literal truth and the Deputy knows it. Is it not known that this was Fine Gael policy throughout the country? Was it not a fact that this is what you did?

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  A scandalous lie. County managers, your own officials, prepare the estimates and there is no county council that can increase the manager's estimate, and you know that.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  You did nothing to reduce them, and you know that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy L'Estrange will withdraw the remark he made: “That is a scandalous lie”. That is completely out of order in this House.

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  It is no more out of order than the speech of the Minister for Local Government.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  In deference to your wishes I withdraw it, but it is an untruth.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  It is ridiculous for the Minister to say that the council members increased the rates.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Why do not you take your medicine? You have been fiddling around all day and do not want to hear the truth.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  It is ridiculous. The Minister should be ashamed to come in and make such statements.

Mr. Boland: Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  You are afraid to listen to the truth.

[2085]Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  You could not listen to that.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  You know what to do.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  This is a lot of scurrility of the worst type.

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  On a point of order. The Minister for Local Government stated that we did not wish to give him this Bill. He should be made to withdraw that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That is not a point of order.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  You did not want to take the Bill, I said.

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  We said we would cooperate with the Minister.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  We have been waiting 12 months for the Bill. That is the fact.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Two years I have waited.

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  He cannot make any use of it.

Mr. Blaney: Information on Neil T.C. Blaney  Zoom on Neil T.C. Blaney  Deputy Treacy has made the allegation that there is nothing in the Bill to benefit anyone but farmers. I want to list, for the information of the House, various classes who will benefit. It will benefit (1) persons buying houses built on sites developed with the aid of the new site subsidy; (2) elderly persons for whom two-thirds subsidy can now be paid to local authorities; (3) persons with incomes up to £1,445 and dependants, to whom local authorities can now make supplementary grants; (4) persons seeking rented accommodation or accommodation near their work in central city areas, the provision of which the new grants for flats will encourage; (5) persons seeking rented accommodation the provision of which the new subsidy for approved bodies will encourage; (6) persons reconstructing their houses who can now get loans of up to £200 from the local authority, without formal security; (7) persons building houses to whom local authorities will be enabled to advance money [2086] on second mortgage; (8) persons building serviced houses of up to 1,500 square feet who will now qualify for grants they did not heretofore get; (9) local authority tenants who will benefit by improvement grants for their homes and by the cheaper and better houses which the new methods of investigating needs and organising demand will bring; (10) industrialists seeking houses for their workers to expand output or set up new factories who will benefit through the new arrangements for subsidising approved bodies, including the National Building Agency, Ltd.

To summarise—almost anyone buying, building or reconstructing a house may well benefit in one way or another under the Bill.

Deputies are also asking why we did not increase the grants generally. I would quote Deputy Larkin and hope that I will not be charged with misquoting. Deputy Larkin said, as reported in the Official Report, Volume 215, Column 166:

I am afraid experience of those purchasing houses with the assistance of local authority supplemental grants has been that when those grants were increased there was an automatic overnight increase in the price of the house.

This, however, is not my reason for not increasing the amount. The operations under all the grants that I have mentioned tonight show that for new grant houses the number being produced is a record all high figure, that in the last year, up to the end of March, the overall operations in respect of reconstruction are running at about 10,000 a year; water and sewerage grants are running at 5,600 a year. Taking all in all, these are surely figures that indicate that the assistance being given by the Government is being availed of to a large extent by the public who appreciate that these things are being done for their benefit.

It was also mentioned here that newly-weds are not being catered for. All I can say in this regard is that under the Bill, section 60 can take care of that in that the local authorities will determine the priorities in the [2087] letting of their houses. If it is their wish to make provision for some newlyweds in their schemes, this will be a matter that they will have to consider against the demands of others who may have a higher priority rating.

Then there was the suggestion that high building is something that should not be allowed. All I can say is that in Dublin city and other cities the spread of building cannot just go on indiscriminately into the future. The greater utilisation of the centre city areas can be a great advantage by providing high residential flats there for many workers who would wish to be near their work and to be in the centre of the city. There will be a demand for a number of these.

I should like also to say that the space conserved as a result of building up rather than out will have many demands upon it. That is also the consideration of traffic and traffic regulations in future. These few things are in themselves sufficient to justify extra encouragement being given where the circumstances warrant high building being carried out by way of residential flats.

I should also like to say that in regard to building and building costs, we have, I believe, got to the stage where, by the adoption of new methods and new techniques, both industrialised and on-site operations, the cost of housing can be and is, in fact, at the moment being, brought down and this can be followed to give us a better house at less money; in other words to get better value than we may have been getting in the past.

If anybody is inclined to suggest that any particular group is responsible for the high pricing of housing, I would say that all those who have any hand, act or part in building, whether in government, local authorities, builders, [2088] individuals, purchasers or otherwise, have all added their own quota and that there has been too little capacity in the building trade devoted to housing. There has been an unprecedented upward swing in the demand for housing. There have been too many people for too long with too much money available bidding for the few houses available. All of us have been adding coals to the fire by making it easier for that situation to exist. If we are now getting to the stage where by these new techniques and developments, we can get better value and give our people a better house for the same money or less money, this is something which it has been well worth while to bring about and more can be done in that direction, I have no doubt.

The final thing I want to say is in regard to rents. Much representation has been made in regard to my statement as to the policy on rents in future. The total public contribution towards subsidisation of housing is now running at the rate of about £6 million per year, of which the local authorities pay half. The contributions by Dublin Corporation from the rates towards the cost of providing houses have increased from £350,000 in 1952 to over £900,000 in the last year for which figures are available. If we are to continue to build houses for our people through local authorities, then we must either add substantially to our rates and taxes or we must take the inside course, that is, to look after the poor and make those who are better off and who can afford it pay more. That is the responsibility of the local authority, not mine.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 20th October, 1965.

The Dáil adjourned at 12.30 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 20th October, 1965.


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