Thursday, 22 July 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
Go ndeonófar suim nach mó ná £13,762,000 chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú de Mhárta, 1972, le haghaidh tuarastail agus costais Oifig an Aire Rialtais Áitiúil, a chuimsíonn deontais do na húdaráis áitiúla, deontais agus costais eile i dtaca le tithíocht, agus scéimeanna agus deontais ilghnéitheacha, lena n-áirítear deontais-i-gcabhair.
Mr. Desmond: I propose to comment on the Minister's Green Paper on Local Government Reorganisation published in February, 1971, the paper which proposed major institutional changes in the Dublin area and relatively minor institutional changes elsewhere. First of all, it should be pointed out that the Green Paper is, of course, silent on local government finance and on local taxation. It does seem that it is not proposed to allow the local authorities to administer their own affairs in future but it is intended, according to the Green Paper, to provide for a general restatement of what are known as the permissive powers of local bodies.
The system of local government has grown like a cabbage on multiple stems and its institutions have developed mainly as agencies for implementing the decisions and policies of national government rather than a system of local autonomy through locally elected democracy.
I want to submit to the House that the Green Paper does not advocate any significant change in local government institutions except in the Dublin area. It appears to be Government policy now to merge the now-dissolved Dublin Corporation—a corporation the members of which so stupidly dissolved themselves—Dublin County Council, Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation and Balbriggan Town Commissioners  into what can only be described as a mini-Dáil and to abolish also town commissioners generally and, perhaps, some of the smaller urban district councils.
I would submit that many of the marginal and functional changes within the Green Paper could, indeed, be implemented without any change in the existing local government code and, therefore, I think the outstanding characteristic of that Green Paper presented to the Oireachtas last February is that it is merely a small, relatively minor list of changes rather than the urgently needed reforms which we should have had before us long before now. No hint is given whatsoever in the Green Paper regarding possible relief for the domestic householder who has to provide for universal community services through an out-dated system of local rates or the possibility, which should be considered, that local authorities, for example, might be allowed to retain a percentage of certain taxes collected in their own areas, such as the road tax or, one might say, a motor fuel tax or, indeed, perhaps, of the proposed added value tax. Such consideration has not even been alluded to in the Green Paper.
Provision has not been made to give local authorities the resources to arrange for future normal standards of public services, amenities, development of facilities generally to meet the growing population pressures in the major urban areas. Certainly, there is very little consolation to the public authorities in the Green Paper in that regard.
I would have hoped that the Green Paper might have made general provision for the review of the system of local government and of government functions generally, or at least would have provided for some effective devolution of local functional autonomy. This does not exist, obviously, in Government thinking. There is no provision for any realistic local financial autonomy or for the opening to local authorities of schemes whereby they could increase their own total incomes.
Above all, quite unfortunately, the Green Paper makes very little provision for effective local democratic control and participation in the formation of  policy at local level by local citizens, by locally elected public representatives, and certainly in the execution of functions the prospect of what we call participatory democracy at local level is almost marginal if not non-existent.
Therefore, I regret to say that one must be critical of the Green Paper. As well as making no positive suggestions for overdue reform of the system of local taxation, the Green Paper proposes that the local government system should continue to function without any real local autonomy and should continue to be dependent on specific governmental grants to provide and administer the local public services. It is significant that it is proposed to modify, but not to abolish, the ultra vires rule and while this rule remains there cannot be any real reform or change in the system of local government or any scope for developing local democracy.
I strongly feel that the local authorities which are now almost moribund in this country should be organised as development, administrative and general services authorities, having fairly substantial plenary powers of themselves and having reasonably extensive financial freedom and general resources. If we wish to be imaginative about local government, I do not think it is possible that local automony in functions and in finance can develop while local authorities are so exclusively dependent on specific Govvernment grants which must be used exclusively as the Government dictate and also while the sole source of revenue for local authorities must be limited to the revenue from rateable property, payable by a relatively small section of the community who are unable without hardship to pay the rate demanded and needed to maintain normal public services.
If one takes County Dublin, the county I am now most familiar with, one finds in a population exceeding 200,000 there are roughly 50,000 ratepayers. The anomaly is immediately apparent of a limited number of persons meeting the total servicing cost of the community. As the local authorities are obliged to provide and administer public services for the population  as a whole it is inherently unreasonable, unfair and out-dated that local taxation should be confined so rigidly to householders and occupiers of buildings and land. There is a demand now from the political parties that there should be votes at 18: one might ask why should not the system of local taxation be extended to the population at large. The national taxation collection system is not so organised as to permit local authorities to impose surcharges on selected items of national taxation. This could be altered through legislation. There is nothing very novel about that. Although I do not favour the American system, I think there should be much more flexibility at local level.
In an attempt to be somewhat more positive in regard to the Green Paper I also suggest that local authorities should be given some plenary power to permit effective local government within their own areas. Local authorities should have power to make local decisions and encourage expenditure for the benefit of the inhabitants and the development of their own areas which are not specifically excluded or prohibited by legislation. These additional powers could be assumed through the adoption of local government statutes and the making of bye-laws which would be subject to annulment in the Oireachtas in the same way as any subordinate legislation. There should not be any distinction, such as unfortunately now exists, in local government between the powers and functions of local authorities in the urban areas and in rural areas. That distinction should be abolished. Functional parity would make most of the small urban authorities redundant; I accept that. These bodies should be replaced by what I would call general district councils operating for urban areas, large urban areas as well as the surrounding rural areas. District committees at local authority level are necessary and would be effective.
I know that it is proposed in the Green Paper to demote in status local authorities at urban district council level. They could be demoted but the functional freedom and functional operation of the whole district could certainly be much more effectively  developed by such district committees as I advocate and which could be effective local government centres. This is essential.
Far too many relatively minor local problems and local projects of minute detail take up extremely valuable time at meetings of the major authorities. These major authorities should essentially devote their time to policy formation and then local district committees could deal with the relatively minor aspects at local levels. I have been appalled when attending meetings of Dublin County Council. I attended a number of meetings because I decided to see what the operation was all about. One would weep for the future of local government on seeing the operation of Dublin County Council. Certainly, I was not impressed by it.
Unfortunately, in the Green Paper the proposed abolition of many of the smaller authorities and the proposed introduction of a general metropolitan authority for Dublin and the rather vague concepts outlined in respect of local community committees, make the Green Paper in that regard a rather poor production. The languages of participation used in the Green Paper does not show any good intention. One section of the Green Paper says:
... to foster responsible and live local government; to create conditions in which there is maximum scope for local discretion and initiative; to encourage to the fullest possible extent involvement and participation in local affairs.
Another criticism that might be made of the Green Paper is that the very crucial role of the Department of Local Government is given very little analysis. There is no general discussion or clarification of the future role of the Department. I have every sympathy for the staff of the Department in regard to preparing any Green Paper, considering the gyrations of the former Minister, Mr. Boland, who, as I understand it, was violently opposed to the setting up of a metropolitan greater Dublin Council. I think it was  only after his exit that the proposal appeared in the draft of the Green Paper.
Apart from the very competent analysis in the Devlin Report regarding the future of the Department of Local Government, the most striking characteristic of the Green Paper is the total absence of any decision within the cabinet on the future role of the Department. I have held that the Department of Local Government are the best of our Departments. They have had the benefit of strong-willed and tough Ministers for the past two decades and it is the most effectively organised Department. The level of expertise and the competence of the staff are to be admired.
However, an unfortunate gap in the Green Paper is the absence of any attempt to integrate the functions of the Department of Local Government with the proposed changes in the structure at local level. It is alarming that this document, which sets out to sketch the future structure of local government, does not contain evidence of any factual study or any field work done at local or departmental level. It does not contain any evidence that there has been research carried out regarding local government or into the future role and development of local community service organisations. The latter is a concept now developing in this country. They are not the kind of local committees envisaged by the Minister but are community councils which have sprung up spontaneously throughout the suburban areas. Their future is not analysed in any detail in the Green Paper.
One would have hoped that there would have been commissioned before now intensive general research under the auspices of the Institute of Public Administration, Foras Forbartha or the ESRI with a view to bringing about a major work with regard to general reform. At this stage it is difficult to comment extensively on the paper. I have no doubt that after the summer recess the Minister will let us know the final intentions of his Department in relation to the reorganisation of the greater Dublin area.
 I have considered the proposal to abolish the Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation. In the light of the information available to us in the Green Paper, I cannot go along with the proposal. I am aware that 70 per cent of local government services are rationalised at central level. Apart from housing allocation, the development of housing proposals at local level, the provision of day-to-day services at local level, and the provision of local amenities, most of the functions of the local authorities in the Dublin area are integrated and rationalised. However, in the absence of any detailed information in regard to a greater Dublin Council, I do not think any responsible public representative could support the proposals to abolish Dublin Corporation, Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation without definite counter-proposals from the Minister.
I do not think citizens appreciate fully the extent to which many local authority services for the greater Dublin area have been integrated. One has but to consider the water supply or sewerage system in Dublin, the general health services, the roadworks system, planning and development controls in the greater Dublin area, or the fire services, to appreciate how extensively the services have been centralised. This is a factor people should bear in mind when they speak about the integration of local authorities.
In relation to Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation, the Minister should urge the appointment of a permanent manager for that area. It is a large local authority with a population of approximately 53,000 to 55,000 people. It is not good enough that local government in the Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation should be run on the basis of the assistant city and county manager coming out for a couple of hours each week to deal with managerial orders and for local discussions. What is needed is an assistant city and county manager who would visit the local authority three or four times weekly in order to enable the authority to work effectively.
 Before any changes are introduced by the Minister for the rationalisation of the system, there should be extensive consultations with the trade union organisations who organise local authority employees. The collective experience and wisdom of such local government employees in resolving problems at local level should be availed of before the Minister goes ahead with his proposals. I am aware of the fact that local authority officials have made proposals to the Minister in relation to the Green Paper and it would be most unfortunate if the Minister were to take any precipitate decisions at departmental level without full consultation.
One of the difficulties we have at local authority level rises in relation to the managerial system. There is need to modify this system extensively so that decisions taken will be subject to some effective local democratic control. This could be achieved if there was provision that all managerial orders should be subject to either modification or annulment by local councils within a specified period in the same way as statutory instruments are subject to annulment by the Oireachtas. This is one reform absent from the proposals in the Green Paper and it is a reform the Minister should consider very carefully.
While trade unionists in local government would neither welcome nor tolerate interference in their own industrial relations or personnel problems, they would welcome the right of public representatives in local authorities to some effective democratic control over local decisions. All local authorities should have statutory conditions of employment in operation. This is essential. I think most local authorities would welcome advice and guidance from the Minister in this respect.
I am grateful to the Minister for the extensive memorandum of 15th January of this year dealing with development, planning reforms and planning control generally. There is urgent need—I stress this because I have had personal experience of this— to give local authorities much more effective power at local level to stop unauthorised development. They should  have power to obtain court orders to stop such development. They should also have power to demolish unauthorised structures, deliberately erected in contravention of planning regulations and planning decisions. In some instances the developer proceeds flagrantly with unauthorised development. Local authorities should have power to remove these structures. I do not want any unduly authoritarian structure of local government, but I have seen developers in County Dublin and in the Borough of Dún Laoghaire driving a coach and four through planning and development orders and through court orders. That is not conducive to democracy and these developers should not be allowed to get away with this kind of development.
I will give an example of what can happen. Recently in the Borough of Dún Laoghaire a particular developer got planning permission to convert a house in Crosthwaite Park into seven flats. Having got the permission he then proceeded to convert the house into 14 flats. He is at the moment charging a rent of £5 to £6 a week for a basement flat and up to £7 and £8 a week for flats on the second and third floors. He is also charging a deposit of £60. He has converted a house of three floors into 14 matchbox flats with 14 tenants and he is getting from £80 to £100 a week in rent. He will make a profit out of the whole exercise, cock a snook at local court orders, avoid paying income tax, and get away with the whole thing long enough to make a handsome profit. A court fine will have little impact because he will have the money. Local authorities should have power to stop that kind of unauthorised development, development which exploits people's need for housing. These developers are prepared to take on the law and meet whatever fines are imposed because of the substantial profits they make from that kind of development. This is a position that should be examined very closely by the Minister.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, Deputy Andrews, was critical, and rightly so, of the system of financing local government and the obsolescence of the present system. I  do not think we can face the future in terms of effective local government unless the Government come to grips immediately with the reform of local financing. One area in which they could come to grips with the matter immediately is in the development of land. There is very urgent need for reform and where there is what one might describe as community created betterment of land such betterment should certainly be heavily taxed and the benefit from such land betterment should accrue to the local authority.
I have one example which would be of interest to the Minister. Recently one of the local authorities in the Greater Dublin area decided to drain a rural village of 100 acres at a cost of £6,000. As a result, the value of land in that village increased 17 times, from £400 an acre to £7,000 an acre. Formerly the value was roughly £70 per site. The net betterment value was £1,120 per site. I would stress that the investment of the landowner was absolutely nothing. This is Ireland in 1971.
In that setting we must put our priorities and our values in perspective. Why should the public pay, or why should any landowner expect to be paid ten times the value of a field to accommodate people instead of cattle, to put it that way? This is what is happening in relation to land which is being used for housing in the local authority areas. The local authorities should have the power to ensure at local level—and the Minister should agree that where land is bettered substantially by virtue of community development with local government money going into the general improvement of that land—no speculator, or no individual or for that matter no landowner, is entitled to get a feed back or a rake off from the taxpayers' investment in that land. This is what is happening.
Why should those who have mineral resources under their property, who bought land for £400, £500 or £600 an acre, by virtue of a fact of life in Ireland today get £5,000, £6,000 or even £20,000 an acre for that land and not even pay tax on it? Why should that type of situation be permitted  to develop and continue? I would propose that there should be an extension of the functions of the Land Commission for land acquisition purposes in relation to land which is zoned or designated by the planning authority for the provision of community facilities. That is one of the reforms needed and I do not think I am going outside what is relevant to this Estimate by making that proposal.
I strongly suggest to the Minister that land which is zoned by the planning authority for non-agricultural purposes, and land for which permission for development has been granted, should automatically cease to be agricultural land for the purpose of the Valuation Acts. It should not be derated. This would be a major improvement in regard to local financing and it would stop the kind of speculation that goes on at the moment. There is no difficulty whatever in assessing the betterment value which accrues to a piece of land. A firm statement can be made of the public funds, either local or national, which are invested in public utility services. One can quite easily estimate the cost of drainage, of road works, and of water supply.
The local authority will have very little difficulty in assessing the actual betterment accruing to an area. This could be a major change. I would also suggest that we fail to use the rating system and that we should use it. We should modify it much more and not use it only as a system of revenue. If we used the rating system effectively we could discourage a great deal of land speculation, a great deal of land hoarding, and the retention of slum sites and slum buildings and derelict sites. We could use the rating system much more effectively to get rid of that kind of thing. This should be brought into public focus.
I am very worried at the moment about the means by which local authority land banks are currently being sold to private builders for resale to house purchasers. I do not think the current system gives grounds for confidence. It should be the subject of review by the Government almost  immediately. I am not satisfied that it is the best system. I have considered a system of licensing builders generally for such development but, frankly, I am worried about the means by which local authority land banks are sold to private builders for resale to house purchasers generally.
I do not think very much of the current system. It should be reviewed by the Government and by the Minister. In that regard I might point out that the problems concerning land betterment, land banks and the situation in Dublin generally cannot be over stressed. The population of the aggregated built-up areas in Dublin county exceeds the combined populations of Cork, Limerick and Waterford together with the populations of a few other large towns thrown in. This is a point that is not appreciated either by our national planners or by Dáil Éireann. At present there are three new towns under construction in Dublin county and each of these will be as large as Cork. Again, this fact is not appreciated either by local authorities or by Deputies. These new towns will cater for the expected growth in population. The existing population probably exceeds 200,000, but there should be a considerable reassessment of the population growth in Dublin county in the light of the explosion that is taking place because at the current rate of development the population of the Dublin area within a period of about 15 years will be in the order of 1,250,000.
The Government's proposal to replace the four local authorities by a greater Dublin council would be the negation of democracy. If we get what we are supposed to get—a superstructure of the local authority which, in 15 years, would be catering for 1,250,000 people, this proposal could be regarded as the strangulation of democracy by bureaucracy. Certainly, that is a possibility.
In this House we are very critical of Northern Ireland, sometimes critical, destructively, of it in terms of their infrastructure but if Members of this House would only go to Northern Ireland and see for themselves the development and the growth centres there and if they could clear their minds of  the horrible sectarian political conflicts of that area, they would have much to learn in terms of local government structure. They are at present reorganising their structure. As we know, they have two Houses of Parliament and in future their local government structure will consist of 26 district councils functioning for 1,500,000 inhabitants. If we contrast that proposal, the legislation for which is well advanced, with the proposal of the Government here to have a greater Dublin council catering for 1,250,000 people in the great greater Dublin area, the anomaly becomes farcical.
Mr. Desmond: One might say that if the citizens of the greater Dublin area were to be given the same kind of autonomy and local government structure as is proposed for Northern Ireland, we would need a kind of Dublin regional Dáil and Seanad in order to be on a comparable basis with Northern Ireland.
Mr. Desmond: Yes, but I think the Parliamentary Secretary would agree that if they are proposing to set up 26 district councils for 1,500,000 people when we are proposing to set up one greater council for the 1,000,000 people that will comprise the population of Dublin within five or six years, the comparison is ludicrous.
I welcome the fact that Dublin Corporation undoubtedly used their powers to make extensive but belated purchases of land within the Dublin area so as to help curb land prices. However, I am dubious about the selling off of this land to private developers who, subsequently, sell to private house purchasers. The system is not working well and it has not curbed prices to the extent that many of us wished. Regarding the Estimate as a whole, I should like to commend the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for the extensive information given to Members of the House. The  Department deserves to be congratulated on this.
There are a couple of points I should like to make. One concerns the aggregated cost to house purchasers of auctioneers' fees, of mortgage fees, of surveyors' fees, of solicitors' fees and of these fees in relation to titles and deeds. This is something of which every commentator on the housing situation is aware. The penal cost imposed on young married couples by way of these fees is disgraceful. By any European standards the costs are alarming. What I have to say about auctioneers' fees would be unprintable. It is time that the Government dealt with these costs.
As we know solicitors' fees are based on the value of a transaction conveying property from A to B and they are on a fixed scale which is approved by the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland. We also know that the fees depend on the price of the property being sold. It is unfortunate, not in the public interest and quite undemocratic that young couples must bear very heavy charges. I can walk out of this House and buy a house and find myself up to my tonsils in solicitors' fees.
Mr. Desmond: I am talking about the general cost of houses. I can buy a new car for a couple of thousand pounds and pay no solicitors' fees; if I buy a new house I will find myself being caught for a substantial amount. This highlights the need for a thorough examination by the Government and by the Minister, in so far as he is responsible, of the whole operation of legal costs in house-buying. This is absolutely essential.
In regard to auctioneering fees one wonders whether so many people would be calling on the services of auctioneers if it was the vendor and not the purchaser who had to pay the auctioneers' fees. If we had that situation it would cure a good many people. A major part of the cost of a house is the accumulation of these fees. Where you have the same costs for a couple of hundred houses on the one estate there should be some standardisation, some averaging, of costs and then we would not have this pernicious problem facing young married couples.
Mr. Desmond: It is in relation to postal voting. We will be facing local elections next year and could be facing a general election at any time and I am very concerned that there does not seem to be adequate protection given to the operation of postal voting.
Mr. Desmond: I have been director of elections at a number of by-elections and from gossip throughout the House it seems, in relation to postal votes, that the political parties, more particularly the Government party, have been in a position to state the number of guards and the number of soldiers in a particular constituency who voted for each party.
Mr. Desmond: I am very worried because I was in a position at the count in the South County Dublin byelection, as director of elections, to receive from tally men, not only of the Labour Party but of all three parties, the actual number of postal votes cast by members of the security forces for each candidate.
Mr. Cunningham: This is because it is only members of the security forces who cast votes in that way. We are talking now about a total of postal votes and the Deputy is not querying the secrecy of the vote?
Mr. Desmond: I am querying it to this extent: In a constituency one could have 200 or 300 postal votes, an aggregate of guards and members of the defence forces who live in that constituency. There is a special register kept of such persons. The postal vote is usually counted the night before the count itself. A candidate can then walk around Garda stations in that constituency or into Army barracks and say: “In the last general election you were a terrible shower. I got 25 votes out of 300.” He does not know whether they were gardaí or soldiers but he does know that 25 members of the security forces in that constituency voted for him. This is a very invidious position in which to place members of the security forces. It is most questionable that one can say that in townland X, out of a total of 200 people, 30 voted for Labour, 60 for Fianna Fáil and 70 voted for Fine Gael. One can stand up and say: “We even know who voted because we checked everybody going in the door. We know that six out of every ten people in the townland voted. We know who the six are. Of that 60 per cent we got 30 votes, you got 20 and somebody else got 40.”
Mr. Desmond: Bigger booths but I think the whole problem could be resolved if there was a regulation issued by the Minister to ensure that where the votes are counted, counting officers are given a firm direction to mix ballot papers from boxes, a general mix. I have no objection to people supervising the count and making sure the papers are properly taken out of the boxes and properly counted but I do object to the practice of boxes from specific polling booths being opened on to tables— which is the practice universally throughout the country—and being counted on a polling booth by polling booth, basis. There are some very interesting studies on this. I would refer the House to Professor Basil Chubb of Trinity College and some of the studies done by his students in the Donegal area where they consulted the local Fianna Fáil councillors and to some extent some Fine Gael people, and they were able to tell who the Protestants and Catholics were in Donegal and how they voted. This was the kind of thing which originally brought it to my attention. This practice has grown up and it is seemingly accepted by all politicians. I became aware of it only in the last general election when I was told that in certain areas I got so many votes and in other areas so many votes and had better carefully nurture those areas for the next three or four years. I wondered what it was all about when that kind of comment was made.
I do not want to belabour the point but I strongly question the practice surrounding postal votes at the moment. These votes should be mixed into the general vote count. In relation to the other system I strongly question the extent to which secrecy is maintained on a general basis. Naturally, I can reassure the House that in relation to individual returns relating to particular electors, in my opinion, it is not possible under the current system to check them out.
 These are some of the points I would make to the Minister on this Estimate. I decided to confine my remarks exclusively almost to the Green Paper on local government. I trust that if we are going to have legislation from the Department it will not be foisted on us like the Forcible Entry Bill has been foisted on us. We are due to have local elections in June 1972. It looks now as if we will have a referendum instead on the EEC. I would ask at this stage that the Minister would state to the House whether, in fact, we will have local elections in 1972. I would be grateful if the Minister would come clean to the House in regard to this matter. Will we have local elections next year or will we have them in 1973? If we are not going to have elections until 1973 we could then more calmly approach the Green Paper. Any consequential legislation could be more effectively put through the House rather than have a repetition of the current disedifying procedure of legislation being rushed through. I hope the. Bill will not be produced towards the end of 1971 in the hope that it will be in time for the local elections in 1972. Equally, the Minister should say precisely what he has in mind for the greater Dublin council. Are we going to have a body of 70 or 65 members? What are the constituencies within that greater council? This information would ease the minds of a great number of aspiring local politicians. They would welcome that kind of information from the Minister and I would strongly urge him to give it to the House immediately.
Mr. Bruton: If there is any theme which will run through what I propose to say here today it is the need on economic as well as social grounds to ensure that in our rush to build new structures, whether in housing, drainage, roads and the other aspects of local government, we do not involve ourselves in what is effectively a net loss to the community by the destruction of existing natural resources, by allowing existing houses or other items of importance to decay through neglect, or by pollution of the environment. It is very important that we should remember that while it may be very impressive politically to be doing  something new, to be putting something there that was not there before, very often it makes much more sense economically and is much less expensive and equally effective, to preserve some good existing facility. I hope to illustrate this theme in the course of what I have to say.
The first item I propose to deal with is fire damage. The Minister for Local Government has overall responsibility for fire protection. In the course of his speech on the Estimate delivered on 27th May, one of the longest speeches we have yet heard from a Minister for Local Government or, indeed, from any Minister, he devoted two small paragraphs to the question of fire damage. This represents culpable unawareness on his part of the very serious situation arising in relation to fire damage.
Mr. Bruton: I should like to quote a few figures. We have the highest loss in the whole of the developed world as a result of fire damage. Taking loss through fire damage in one year as a percentage of the gross national product, the Irish figure is .75 per cent; the next highest is Britain with .32 per cent; the next is Australia with .31; the next Canada, .24; West Germany, .16; Japan, .10. We are almost seven times greater in fire damage than Japan and almost seven times higher than West Germany and twice as high as Britain. This is a situation which has arisen in the past five years. We are getting appreciably worse as the years pass. In the last five years there was a 200 per cent increase in fire damage in this country. In 1970, £10.5 million worth of property was lost as a result of fire damage, whereas only £3.5 million worth was lost in 1967. If that is not an alarming situation I do not know what is. Yet it warrants only two and a half milk—and—water paragraphs in the Minister's speech.
The steps which can be taken to alleviate the situation do not all lie with the Minister. He has not got sole responsibility and I am not going to  burden him with sole responsibility but he has the greatest single responsibility. The problems of the actual initiation of fire as distinct from putting it out have been identified in the following order of seriousness: the most serious is the case of misused and ill-serviced electrical appliances; the second most serious is malicious damage; the third most serious is carelessness with hot ash or with welding equipment or other such materials; the fourth is carelessness in the disposal of waste.
I agree that a serious responsibility for improving the situation lies with those who own or administer the premises in which fire takes place. They have a great responsibility in the matter of prevention. They need a sensible plan to cope not only with extinguishing fires when they take place but also with preventing fires from taking place. They need sprinklers, fire resistant lifts and other such items installed in their premises. It would be good business for them to install these items immediately in that their insurance premiums would fall and also they would not suffer a fire. There is also need for careful planning in the public sphere as regards prevention; I shall come to cure later. It is important to recognise that if industry is dispersed, as is socially desirable, this will lead to locating industries in places where fire-fighting services are likely to to be inadequate. The Industrial Development Authority when encouraging industry into a particular location should bear in mind whether it is within reach of a fire brigade and if there is an adequate water supply to ensure the fire brigade can function properly.
My attention has been drawn to a town in my constituency which is fairly large and has a number of industries. The fire fighting equipment in the county which can reach the town reasonably quickly has a pumping capacity ten or 15 times the capacity of the mains water supply in the area. The fire fighting equipment does not need the capacity since it cannot get the water. So, it is important that we not only supply modern fire fighting equipment but have water in sufficient  quantity and at sufficient pressure to enable the equipment to be effective. Otherwise, we waste money on the fire fighting equipment.
Another disquieting factor in regard to this matter is the languishing of the Fire Protection Association. I understand membership of this organisation which was set up by the Government is falling. It was described colloquially recently as being “as near as dammit non-existent”. It is serious if this national body charged with such responsibility can be so described.
We must look very closely at the fire fighting services from the point of view of prevention. We must ensure there is good morale in the service, that those engaged in what is a very dangerous service are adequately remunerated, that we attract the best people into the service in sufficient numbers and that they are well trained. Starting with the chief fire officers, who are engineers, they are concerned with fire fighting services in their counties. I think it is fair to say that morale among chief fire officers at present is very low; there are vacancies available which the Department cannot get anybody to fill. Every county is supposed to have a chief fire officer to supervise fire fighting services but the following counties have no chief fire officers at present because they cannot get anybody for the job, because the terms are inadequate: Donegal, Monaghan, Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois, Tipperary, Limerick, Kerry and Wexford. Therefore, we must examine the type of employment and conditions we offer chief fire officers. They may be a small group but they are absolutely essential to the fire fighting effort because they are the nub of the service in their counties. If so many counties have no chief fire officers where do we stand?
A major problem is the absence of proper promotional opportunities. There are no promotional opportunities so far as I know beyond chief fire officer in the fire fighting service. A man who once enters that job as an engineer has nowhere to go beyond it. As far as I know, it is the ultimate post in the service for persons with engineering qualifications. There is no  such thing as a free service training course.
Mr. Bruton: That is true but I am talking about promotional opportunities within the fire fighting service. The Parliamentary Secretary will agree that if a man acquires a knowledge of fire fighting while in the fire service it is important that he should be able to use that knowledge in the job to which he is promoted. If he is promoted out of the fire service all that acquired knowledge goes to waste. I am concerned to ensure there will be promotional opportunities within the service.
Mr. Bruton: There should be a system of inspectorship set up by the Department for fire services throughout the country. These officers could be promoted to such jobs. Or, there could be regional co-ordination of the fire fighting services. We are regionalising health and ambulance services. We must realise, if we are doing that, that the ambulance service and the 999 system, the emergency system along with it, will also be regionalised and, therefore, it is necessary to consider whether the fire service which is so closely allied to the emergency and ambulance services should also be regionalised. I am sure the Department will be able to deal more fully with the suggestions I am making.
Another problem is that many people leave the service or retire early because they are demoralised. There is no compensation for the very high risk involved. This applies not only to chief fire officers but all down the line. American figures which I have indicate that per 100,000 people in various jobs there are 96 deaths—in the year I think—in the fire service, whereas there are only eight in trade, 62 in the police, 13 in Government employment and ten in manufacturing. It has the highest death rate of almost any  public service. This should be recognised and compensated for. There is also very high proneness of cardiovascular disease but medical experts would be able to give further instances of the great disadvantages involved in this service for which there must be compensation.
It has been calculated—to return to promotional considerations—that a chief assistant county engineer has four times better promotional opportunities than a chief fire officer. He is of the same grade. To my mind that is a serious situation. Also, to supplement the point I made about the absence of chief fire officers in so many counties, in cases where we have fire officers they often have to do so many other duties that they cannot give the full attention necessary to the fire service. In many cases they are active planning officers, mechanical engineers, or public health engineers, as well as performing their duties as fire officers. Incidentally, they must be available 24 hours a day by phone. They are probably the only local authority employees whose telephone number is published in the directory under the official heading of the county council employing them which means they can be telephoned at any time. That is something for which there is no monetary compensation. Possibly this does not have monetary compensation. In many cases the fire alarm call is received by a child of six or seven years who may be the only person in the home and one can visualise the dangers involved in such a situation. Even though the child may be well instructed, it is quite possible he may make a mistake or may not know what to do and, as a result, lives may be lost. I am not sure whether lives were lost, but an instance such as this occurred. We need an inspectorship to ensure that the fire service in each county is maintained to a proper national standard. At the moment there is no such inspectorship. In addition, there is need to improve the clerical assistance available to fire officers.
We need to improve the training of firemen. I know some courses are in operation but I should like to know  what proportion of firemen have undergone training courses. Not only is in-service training important—this has been introduced recently—but pre-service training is desirable. If a fireman has to go to the scene of a fire shortly after entering the service it is desirable that he should have undergone thorough pre-service training.
There is difficulty at the moment in getting part-time firemen who would be available when needed. In former times possibly people stayed at home more or at least in the vicinity of the fire station but nowadays people are much more mobile. They may be away from home or they may be watching television and may not hear the siren. The old system of sounding the siren in the middle of the town in the hope that the fire officers would hear does not apply to the same degree. The fact that there has not been as much difficulty as there might have been in this regard is a great tribute to the firemen. They make serious sacrifices to ensure that they are on the spot and I know many such firemen who are always available. This availability seriously curbs their social life in a way not applicable to other citizens. We should give extra pay to the firemen who are prepared to stay on call. We need to introduce the pocket-type alerters as introduced in Britain. They can be kept in a pocket and they alert the fireman when he is needed. They operate within a much wider radius than the fire siren.
Low cost housing facilities should be provided for firemen in the vicinity of the stations. If we want the firemen to be in the vicinity of the station, the Department should take special responsibility to provide these houses for the firemen on favourable terms. Another matter which has been raised frequently by the firemen is the necessity for income tax exemption for money received in regard to their activities in extinguishing fires. This should be favourably considered in view of the necessity of improving morale in the fire services. Also, there should be improved water supplies so that the mains water supply will be available in large centres. There should be greater investment in fire  fighting equipment to combat the alarming situation that has arisen. Fire damage has risen out of all proportion in the last five years and it can be stated with statistical backing that in the developed world so far as fire damage is concerned our record is the worst.
I have some doubts about our policy in regard to roads. I realise that Foras Forbartha know what they are talking about when they speak about accident prevention and the necessity for improving our roads. However, it is debatable whether widening the roads prevents accidents. It is possible that a twisting road may encourage people to go slower and may result in less accidents whereas on the wide thoroughfares people have an incentive to speed and this may result in more accidents. It could be that the money spent on roads may be an investment in death.
On the other hand, the case is made that faster road transport is economically desirable in that it reduces the time-lag between production of goods and availability to the purchaser. We should weigh up this matter carefully and not rush helter-skelter into spending more money on roads. I know the Government have pared this expenditure significantly and I should not be too hard on them for doing so. We have more square feet of road per head of the population than any other country in Europe and this situation should be borne in mind before we extend the area.
However, there are certain types of road which are not getting the attention they need. With reference to my own constituency, I have in mind the county roads. They are narrow roads but if they were straight and there was good visibility there would be less likelihood of accidents. Frequently these roads have to bear the traffic of heavy cattle lorries and this is a severe hazard. There is need to improve county roads particularly in County Meath.
There is considerable discrimination against County Meath in regard to county road grants. With the exception of County Dublin, which does not have many county roads, Meath is the only county that does not get  county road grants. County Louth has a population of 69,000 people and in the last four years it received £32,000 from the Department of Local Government in county road grants. Wexford has 83,000 people and it received £320,000 from the Department in the last four years; Westmeath has a population of 52,000 people and it received £220,000 in county road grants. County Meath got nothing and this is not justified. In County Meath there are as many county roads in need of improvement as in any part of Ireland. I am sure that anybody who has travelled through Meath will know that. Yet we are getting no county road grant whatever. That is a serious situation and I hope the Minister will remedy it as soon as possible and not be spending money, very often in counties which do not need it half as badly as Meath does.
On the question of roads, I notice in the Estimate that in the roads section in the Department there are 162 people, whereas in the sanitary services section, which is concerned with all areas of pollution, fire services to which I have referred, water supply and sewerage, there are only 22 people. I think everybody here recognises the importance of the housing drive. Yet, there are 162 people in the roads section and there are only 119 in the housing section of the Department. This shows bad priorities in relation to the allocation of staff to the fields of less urgency, away from the fields of greater urgency.
I also notice that, despite the fact that road grants have been cut significantly this year in effective terms—perhaps in money terms they have not been cut as much as they have been in adjusted terms because of the decrease in the value of money—the number of staff in the roads section has been maintained. I do not want these people put out of their jobs but being qualified men most of them are quite capable of transferring to other Departments. Yet they are kept in the roads section despite the fact that there is less activity this year due to the cuts in expenditure on roads. This seems to me to indicate a very serious situation because many more people are needed in the sanitary services section.
 I should like now to move to water and sewerage. In his Estimate speech the Minister said that the cost of eliminating water pollution would be £35 million. I queried this figure and asked him where he got it, and he said this would be the cost of providing a proper sewerage service to ensure that water pollution did not occur. This is very revealing. He was able to fix on this very specific figure of £35 million but when I asked him at another stage if he had ever carried out a survey of the sewerage facilities in the country and if he knew the type of sewerage facilities which were being used in various parts of the country, he said he had carried out no such survey. He did not know what sewerage facilities were available in the different counties and what the sewerage situation was in relation to various rivers. This seems to me to be the height of illogicality.
It also appears to me to be very wrong that he did not carry out a proper survey of the sewerage facilities, because one of the great delaying factors in the provision of any sewerage scheme is that it has to go to the Department for sanction. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the Department, when these schemes are being processed, to take a note of what is involved and gradually build up what would be effectively a survey or a picture of the sewerage facilities available in various parts of the country. Apparently this has not been done. The Minister is only now, in 1971, getting around to compiling a survey of the type of sewerage facilities available.
It is very important that he should recognise that the sewerage facilities in many counties are quite inadequate. In many cases untreated sewage is being dumped into the rivers. This is the case, as far as I know, in Drogheda. I hope I am not libelling the town but, so far as I know, that is the case. In many other cases the sewage has only undergone primary settlement treatment. As far as I know, this reduces the bacillary oxygen demand by 20 per cent, so that sewage discharged after primary settlement treatment is 80 per cent as bad as it would be if  it were discharged untreated into the river.
I am sure that very many towns are discharging their sewage into the rivers with only primary settlement treatment. This applies possibly to the three major towns in my own constituency. What this is doing to the Boyne, I do not know. We need to know exactly what type of sewage treatment is being carried out. We need to ensure that there is proper filter treatment and proper secondary settlement treatment if we want to eliminate water pollution, as the Minister says he does since he has fixed on an estimate of £35 million.
It is very important that we should evaluate this situation and know exactly the extent of the tolerable level of water pollution, if there is such a thing. I asked the Minister if he had any national standard for a tolerable level of water pollution and he said he had not. Since he has the chief responsibility in relation to water pollution, surely he should have some national standard so that, if we are not to go the whole hog and completely eliminate water pollution, we will at least know exactly what is tolerable and what is not tolerable. The Department have not even laid down that standard. Quite clearly there is a lot of work and a lot of thinking to be done in this field by the Department.
We must evaluate the economic and social effects of water pollution so that we can come to a reasoned judgment as to what is the tolerable level of water pollution, to what extent we want to eliminate it and how much it will really cost. I think this figure of £35 million is purely bogus. Are we prepared to spend that money? These are facts which should be laid before the House and the people so that we can reach a mature and sensible decision. The lack of proper sewerage facilities is the greatest factor in holding back development in the area of County Meath in which I live, the area of Dunboyne, Ashbourne, Clonee and Dunshaughlin. These areas are very near Dublin where massive improvements could be made in improved housing and industrial development. As I understand it, the major factor  holding back this development is the inability of the Tolka River flowing through Dunboyne and Clonee, and the Broadmeadow River flowing through Ashbourne, to accommodate the sewage which would be discharged into them in a relatively untreated form.
I understand that a method of sewage disposal has been developed called the oxidation ditch which can discharge what was sewage into the rivers in almost perfect form. It is completely free of any dangerous material. I understand that this has been proposed for Ashbourne. I suspect, but I may be wrong, that since this is a relatively new idea, the Department are finding it difficult to adjust to it. Possibly they are not giving it the support which it deserves and encouraging people to go ahead with the installation of this method of sewage disposal. As a result of this reticence on the part of the Department, development is being held back in the Dunboyne, Clonee, Dun-shaughlin and Ashbourne areas. I hope this method of sewage disposal will be speedily investigated by the Department to ensure that this development will take place.
The Minister referred to the fact that one of the major problems in the Tolka was the low volume of water at certain times of the year. If this development about which I spoke in the Dublin/Clonee/Dunshaughlin/Ashbourne area involved the discharge of treated and, therefore, unpolluted sewage into the river that would substantially increase the volume of water, improve the flow and get over the problem that arises at certain times of the year. This is something which needs to be looked at much more closely than the Minister would appear to have looked at it so far.
There are other factors in relation to particular rivers and in relation to our methods of measuring water pollution in those rivers. It is very important that we should take cognisance of the fact that the degree of pollution in a particular river may not be uniform throughout the day. At certain times of the day, in the early forenoon, for instance, there may be an intolerable level of pollution as a result of a particularly heavy discharge.  This may continue for an hour or two in the 24-hour period but the mean level for the entire day may not be above what would be considered a tolerable level. The one or two hours during which there would be an intolerable level would be enough to do all the damage. This is something which should be examined closely by the Department.
The Minister at column 452 of the Official Report referred to the setting up of this special air and water pollution study group. The House will need a little more information on the precise terms of reference of this group. Exactly what will it do?
I should like to know precisely what measures the Minister is taking. We should, I think, have a clear indication of the various measures and some information as to how effective they are likely to be.
We have group water supply schemes. Sewage disposal can become as serious a problem for many households as is a water supply. There is the problem that houses cannot be built close enough together because there would be too high a concentration of septic tanks. This very often imposes considerable hardship on people because they have to buy sites elsewhere than where they might be more conveniently and cheaply available. There is a case for investigating the possibility of group sewage disposal schemes to enable houses to be built in rural areas. We should investigate the possibility of this also.
Motor vehicle pollution is an interesting area because there is a certain amount of contradiction in the statements  of Government Ministers on the matter, not a direct contradiction but a contradiction in emphasis. I asked the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Justice some questions. I asked the Minister for Justice about the enforcement of the regulations in relation to motor vehicle air pollution and I asked the Minister for Local Government about the inadequacy of the regulations and the need to revise them. The Minister for Justice said that the number of prosecutions under the regulations had been very small. He said there was difficulty in proving offences because of the terminology in certain of the regulations. He also said that he understood the Minister for Local Government was considering revising them. The Minister for Local Government said that surveys had been carried out which showed that this type of emission from vehicles in no way affected the health of persons. In response to a supplementary question, he indicated that he was not in any great hurry about doing anything to improve the effectiveness of the regulations. He will probably say that the matter is under consideration but it has now been under consideration for decades.
I should like to draw the Minister's specific attention to the kind of pollution that can arise from motor vehicles. There is carbon monoxide pollution, lead pollution, nitrogen oxide pollution and borane pollution. There are probably others. The second major source of borane pollution in the United States of America is the combustion of petroleum fuels which contain borane as an additive. The effect of inhaling borane is irritation and inflammation, but there is no permanent injury. Inhalation of borane can be highly toxic. It produces signs of severe central nervous system damage and, in high concentrations, it can cause death after relatively short exposure. However, it is not the most serious. One which is very serious, indeed, is carbon monoxide. This is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas, about 97 per cent as heavy as air. The major source, 60 per cent of total emissions in 1966, in the  United States was gasoline-powered motor vehicles. The effects are quite terrifying. When this gas enters the blood stream it impairs the functioning of the central nervous system. At high concentrations it kills quickly. At concentrations of 100 parts of carbon monoxide per million parts of air, most people experience dizziness, headache, lassitude and other symptoms of poisoning.
Exposure to 30 ppm for eight hours or 120 ppm for one hour may be a serious risk to the health of sensitive people (those suffering from impaired circulation, heart disease, anemia, asthma or lung impairment). In six US cities where NAPCA measured carbon monoxide inside motor vehicles in traffic, averages ranged from 21 to 39 ppm.
... carbon monoxide exposure is a traffic safety hazard. Exposure to levels of carbon monoxide commonly found in traffic may have effects on the driver similar to those resulting from alcohol or fatigue— reduced alertness and a decrease in the ability to respond properly in a complex situation, with resultant impairment of driving ability.
.... Lead is a cumulative poison. One form of lead poisoning damages the brains of young children and may cause death. Other forms cause severe malfunctioning of the alimentary tract (loss of appetite, constipation, colic), general weakness and malaise and impaired functioning of the nervous system, with resulting weakness, atrophy and sometimes paralysis of the extensor muscles of the forearm. Auto exhaust containing lead was found to increase the concentration of lead in the bones of mice.
Little is known about the direct effects of nitrogen oxides at levels commonly found in polluted air... At 13 ppm, they may cause eye and nose irritation. Animals exposed to 10-20 ppm show damage to lung tissue and increased susceptibility to infection.
This is a matter which deserves close consideration by the Minister. The measures that are being taken in the United States include, in particular, a regulation that from 1973 all new vehicles must be equipped with a device, I think on the exhaust pipe, which eliminates or reduces air pollution of the types referred to. The United States is a very big country with much greater technological resources than we have and with a greater consciousness of the danger of  wasting money and if they have decided to invest in this type of pollution emission control on motor vehicles, surely the Minister for Local Government should exercise more consideration than is evident from his rather dismissive reply to questions I put to him a month or so ago concerning the problem.
I do not claim to have particular expertise in the area of the problem of general air pollution but I would say that one respect in which we are falling down is in the measurements of the level of air pollution. I know that air pollution readings are taken at a number of stations in Dublin but so far as I know such readings are not taken to any appreciable extent outside Dublin and this is something that should be considered. The sites for the air pollution measuring devices are selected at random. So far as I know there is no mechanism in use for measuring the types of air pollution that arise from particular sources. There are regulations in existence which make it an offence, under the Planning Acts, to permit the emission of smoke of a certain density from industrial sites. That refers to visible air pollution but in relation to carbon monoxide which is a colourless and odourless gas, these controls would be ineffective. Apart from being sited at random, my criticism of the measuring devices is that they are not mobile, that they are not sited at places where it is suspected there is a flow of pollution and that they are not nearly comprehensive enough in their coverage of the city. In so far as possible they should be near industrial sites and also in the middle of busy streets. Of course, this would not be immediately practicable but they can be placed fairly near the middle of a busy street for the purpose of measuring motor vehicle air pollution which is not being measured at present. There must be selective siting of measuring devices. I understand the Minister is taking steps in relation to this matter but I hope he will bear in mind what I have said and ensure that the problem does not become too serious. In this whole area it is important that we pay atention to what is being done in the United States. The Minister might rightly say that in some  cases the results of air pollution are not proved. With the information available to him in this country, he can probably say that with some justification. However, he can save a lot of money in the region of research if he keeps in touch with what is happening in this respect in the United States and in the many other countries that are coping with the problem. He should be more conscious of experiments in other countries so that he might save the Exchequer some money in dealing with the problem here.
Another problem which merits a certain amount of consideration is that of noise pollution as it results from heavy noise levels. Again, this is not proven but the Minister should keep a close eye on the problem.
In relation to the Planning Acts, I would make the point that if a planning decision is ignored, it is the responsibility of the local authority to initiate proceedings, criminal or otherwise, against the offender. Very often the local authority concerned do not have the financial resources to undertake what can often be very expensive proceedings. Perhaps the person who has transgressed the planning laws is a person who can employ very expensive counsel to contest the case which the local authority are making. This results in many cases in proceedings against transgressors of the planning law not being taken. An example would be the board of conservators, the body responsible for taking steps against those who pollute particular rivers. Anybody who knows anything about this body knows that their financial resources are likely to be very small. Therefore, they would not be in a position to take the risk of involving themselves in what could be a very expensive prosecution.
Another problem is that planning authorities themselves or Government Departments are, as far as I know, not subject to the Planning Acts so a Government Department could possibly erect something which would be a planning monstrosity and an ordinary member of the public would have no procedure under which he could appeal against that planning monstrosity as he could against the erection of a similar  structure by a private individual. This is the sort of exemption which should not exist. It is possible that public authorities could commit transgressions or what would be effectively transgressions of the Planning Act and yet they are not susceptible to prosecution.
I should like to refer to the problem of refuse disposal. A problem which is causing very serious concern in my constituency is the amount of garbage that is being dumped in rural areas by people coming out from the towns. This is something which has been raised repeatedly at meetings of groups not only concerned with conservation but at meetings of my own party. It is causing widespread concern indeed. The Minister said on 22nd April that the statutes are adequate to enable action to be taken against people who are dumping refuse in rural areas. He also said that enforcement is a matter for the local authority concerned. It is very difficult indeed to catch these people. The local authorities certainly are not in a position to employ a police force to go around catching these people. I think probably the only way we can cope with this problem of dumping in rural areas is by providing more adequate and more dispersed controlled public dumping facilities which these people can use.
The Minister in his circular in relation to the provision of refuse dumps by local authorities stated that he is anxious that they should have centralised refuse dumps. This is something which may be a step in the wrong direction in that refuse dumps will not be as easily accessible as they are at the moment. If the dumps in the various counties are to be centralised people will have to travel much further to get to a publicly controlled refuse dump and therefore they may not bother to travel that journey. The only way we can cope with that is to provide for every house a scavenging service run by the local authority, which would be very expensive. The Minister may be taking a wrong line in encouraging too much concentration of refuse. The refuse dumps we have at present are, perhaps, not adequately controlled. I know of cases where some  people are actually dumping untreated sewage into publicly owned refuse dumps. How they get it there I do not know but I have been told that this happens. These dumps in many cases have become a source of air pollution, with smoke churning up as the refuse burns slowly. They are also rat infested. They have become a great nuisance.
There is need for a very careful look to be taken at the methods which are employed at present for disposing of garbage. In the short term, the cheapest way is to put it into a dump but in view of pollution problems and in view of the fact that there will be difficulty in getting sites for dumps as time goes on, as the population becomes more concentrated, this may be only a short-term solution. In the United States they are developing a method whereby they can recycle the waste, they can put it through a process whereby they can take end products out of it which are valuable thereby minimising the amount of material which is useless and has to be disposed of. At present in the United States 10 per cent of the glass in use is glass which has been recycled; 20 per cent of the zinc in use is recycle zinc; 25 per cent of the paper in use is paper which was dumped and has been recycled; 26 per cent of the steel in use has been recycled and 30 per cent of aluminium. We should bear in mind the amount of these substances which is at present lying useless in dumps when it could be usefully used. There may be enough zinc, paper, steel and glass or the raw materials for these things in existence to last this generation but it is possible that the mines will be exhausted after a certain time and we will find that we have despoiled these resources too fast whereas if we had been a little bit more sensible we would have reused materials of this nature.
I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a number of experiments which have taken place in the United States in regard to turning garbage to useful purposes. I should like to quote from a Mr. Mighdoll, of the National Association of Secondary Material Industries. He says:
I have been with the industry for  three years and it is like going to the Stone Age from modern times. Hardly a day goes by that we do not have an announcement of some new development in the reclamation of waste material.
I wonder to what extent the Minister is aware of these developments. The Ford Motor Company will be recycling half a million tons of cardboard boxes in the next five years. The city of Franklin in Ohio, with 10,000 population, have set up a waste recycling plant, with a machine that burns treated effuent, and a sewage plant. The resultant sort of soup will have material extracted from it by an electro magnet which takes out iron and steel. It will process 50 tons a day and salvage nine tons of reusable paper, three tons of chipped glass, a like amount of ferrous material and 500 lbs of aluminium. Inquiries are coming in from all over the United States for the machinery involved. In another place in Pennsylvania the waste is crushed into pellets and used as fertiliser and as a soil builder. In Menlo Park in California, 40 tons of combustible thrash is sorted out and used to produce power by burning. When this machinery is working at full scale it will produce the power needs of a city of 200,000 people—all by burning thrash. The university in Texas has developed a method of building better roads which are one-fifth cheaper than the roads at present being built, by using ground glass.
These are processes which may involve very high initial capital expenditure but it may be the case that in the long term we would be much better, from the point of view of pollution and preserving our national resources, to engage in reusing what we are dumping rather than leaving it there as a source of pollution and digging up more when we eventually exhaust what we have.
Another problem to which I should like to refer is one which is very closely related to that. One of the greatest problems in waste disposal at the moment is this new development of non-returnable bottles which take up space, which are thrown around the place, causing great annoyance to everybody. They are probably the  biggest single contributory factor to the increased difficulties in disposing of waste and it is a development purely for the convenience of the commercial glass bottle industry. I asked the Minister, Question No. 84 of 17th June, if he had any proposals for the control of the sale of these non-returnable bottles which can cause such great problems in disposal and which clutter up homes and streets and dumps. He said he had none. He was not concerned about the problem at all. This is the line the Government have for home consumption where they are hoping, probably, to get monetary support from the glass bottle industry. However, for export consumption, when they are going to a conference on the environment, the Government want to appear very trendy on this question and to show how up to date they are, and they send the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noel Lemass, who is quoted in the Irish Times on Friday 4th June:
Mr. Lemass suggested that if a levy were imposed at the manufacturer and importer level on the practice of using such materials and containers sufficient to make the practice uneconomic the problem would revert to manageable proportions within a short time.
If I were to quote Deputy Lemass's speech in full, it makes an inestimably better case for control of non-returnable bottles than I could possible make. We have evidence of a severe contradiction in the Government in relation to their approach to this problem. Could I ask, is the Government policy the policy of the Minister for Local Government or the policy of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance? I think the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance is right but I should like to have evidence that he has converted his colleague, the Minister for Local Government.
I should like now to refer to the problem of housing. Any public representative knows that this is a very serious problem. All of us have visited homes where people are living in what  could be described as sub-human housing conditions. It is common knowledge that our record in new house building, while it has improved considerably in the past five or six years, is still well behind that of most European countries. Figures published by the OECD magazine for February, 1971 show that our rate of new house building per head of the population was lower than all the other countries, with the exception of Portugal and Turkey, which are very poor countries indeed. That indicates that despite all the talk, we are not succeeding in providing new houses at the rate needed to cope with the very serious problem of rehousing for young married couples.
There is a need also to ensure that not only do we spend more money on this matter but that we get good value for the money we spend and provide the maximum amount of house space for our people. The Minister referred at column 336 of his speech on 27th May, to the restricted house size for grant purposes. If these refer to a six-person family the new size which is authorised would mean only 200 square feet per person. It is fair to say that many families in Ireland have much more members than that and it is quite possible that this new standard house size may be too small for many of our families. There is a need to take a look at it, particularly with reference to the standards applied in other countries, as to the desirable amount of space per person which should be available in houses being built.
There is another very important matter. Housing provided by local authorities is, generally speaking, provided to a standard house size. This, I suppose, is much cheaper but it possibly does not take account of the needs of people, because families do not come in standard sizes. One of the biggest problems of all is that of the very large family who possibly find that the new house in which they are being rehoused is not adequate in size. Another problem is that of a couple with no children, possibly a middle aged couple. Even though they do not take up all that space, the housing conditions in which they live may be  very bad indeed. Yet, most local authorities make no provision for special small size houses for people in this category. I hope that is something to which the Minister will apply himself. Another category of housing that is neglected is housing for elderly persons.
The question I would like to ask is, are we getting maximum use out of our existing houses or are we encouraging the creation of slum conditions in our existing housing, a development which could have been arrested if steps had been taken in time? It is possible that we are creating slum conditions by neglect and then coming in with a fanfare, purporting to provide new houses, whereas if the necessary steps had been taken to conserve the existing stock, it would have been quite adequate. It would mean that people would be living in the conditions to which they were accustomed and would possibly be happier than by being dragged out to new environments where they would have to make new friends and would find difficulty in that regard. This is borne out by the fact that the reconstruction grants which are grants for improving existing houses are the same now as they were in 1958. How much have building costs increased since them? I have forgotten the exact figure but I think it is something like 50 per cent. Yet we are paying the same grants as in 1958 despite the fact that the inadequate new house grants have increased twice in that period, in 1966 and in 1970. Apparently, the Minister does not think increased building costs also apply to reconstruction work with the result that there is no increase in grants for reconstruction.
The seven year rate remission which previously applied to reconstructed dwellings is now being removed, a further disincentive to people to make their houses habitable and satisfactory to them in a way that is cheaper for the community. In my own experience the regulations laid down by the Department in regard to technical standards of reconstruction and the standard of the existing house which is being reconstructed may be far too stringent. I have not been able to have these examined by a builder who could give a proper opinion but I know of one  case in my own constituency where a person is convinced, and has good authority for saying, that her house will last at least 60 years and yet she has been refused a reconstruction grant for that house because it does not comply with the Department's regulations in regard to the standard of the existing house. Even on the present low grant she was prepared to undertake this work and regarded the grant as sufficient to enable her to do the work of improving the house. Effectively the only option she is offered by the Department is to leave the house and go into a new house which would cost the State an enormously greater amount to provide than would the reconstruction grant. We are not getting value for the money we are spending on housing because of the down-grading of reconstruction work which in many cases—not all—could be quite acceptable.
This is borne out by the figures for the number of houses being reconstructed. In 1970-71 the figure is 8,687; in 1969-70 it was 8,649; in 1966-67 it was 8,329. In 1962-63, 13,668 houses were reconstructed and in 1961-62, 13,701 houses were reconstructed. The number of houses reconstructed per annum has virtually been halved. Those figures should interest the Minister.
Mr. Bruton: My point is that it is fair to assume that the necessity for reconstructing houses is uniform. Houses deteriorate at a uniform rate and therefore the necessity to reconstruct occurs at a uniform rate. It is very instructive to find that the rate at which they are being reconstructed has dropped significantly in this decade. I do not think the Minister could argue that houses are not deteriorating and needing reconstruction now at the same rate as ten years ago. It is, therefore, quite alarming that they are not being reconstructed at the rate which the rate of deterioration would justify. I think that is as a result of the failure of the Minister to increase the rate of grants and his removal, so far as I know, of the seven year rate remission on reconstructed houses and the unduly stringent  regulations applied in regard to technical standards. I hope the Minister will examine that problem which is a very alarming one.
Mr. Molloy: We have reduced the percentage of our unfit dwellings to 5 per cent of the total housing stock. In England it is 11 per cent; in the North of Ireland it is 22 per cent. We have a very good record in respect of reconstruction.
Mr. Bruton: That depends on what you determine to be an unfit dwelling. It is possible the standards are not the same. It is also possible that the houses that are in need of reconstruction and could benefit from it are not all houses which would be determined to be unfit, and that there is a demand for reconstruction work on houses which are not, in the Minister's parlance, “unfit”.
Mr. Bruton: Unfortunately, I have no Civil Service to provide me with figures but I have given adequate figures in regard to the rate of decline in reconstruction work. I have shown that building costs have increased significantly in the past ten years and despite that, reconstruction grants are the same as in 1958. If that is not evidence of financial disincentive to people to reconstruct houses I do not know what is.
The Minister expressed disappointment that people were not taking an interest in the special grants and facilities available for the construction of high rise dwellings. His surprise is surprising in view of reports made available to us recently by Louis Mumford, who is probably the greatest expert on this sort of planning, in the Sunday Independent, and by many other people living in these high rise dwellings, that they are not, in human  terms, acceptable. The Minister should not be surprised. He should be more aware of the difficulties of people living in high rise dwellings. Perhaps he should consider instead of providing high rise dwellings, compromising and providing some medium rise dwellings, perhaps three or four storeys high and which would probably be more humane and would be more economic than one- or two-storey houses and yet would not have the social problems associated with high-rise dwellings. The natural type of housing in this city is dual purpose in many cases with shops on the ground floor and living accommodation on the upper three or four storeys. This should also be considered.
Consideration should be given to the architects who are engaged in the building of local authority houses. I have met people who are not experts on architecture but they have expressed horror at the appearance of some of the local authority housing schemes. Because more money is being provided for the erection of local authority houses than is given for private houses this does not mean that the local authority houses should be ugly. All people like to live in reasonably pleasant surroundings. We should have less uniformity in local authority housing throughout the country.
I should like to refer to the delay in the Department in sanctioning housing proposals. I can understand there would be considerable delay in sanctioning a tender which the county council might wish to accept. I realise there are technical and economic considerations involved in the acceptance of a tender over which the Department might wish to exercise some control and, therefore, they would need to study the matter closely. However, this does not apply to the sanctioning of the loan. Frequently there is a time-lag of two or three months between the sanctioning of a tender and loan for the same housing scheme. I cannot understand why the loan proposals could not be considered at the same time as the tender so that they can be approved at the same time. In this way local authorities would not be obliged to wait for a considerable time for sanction of the loan. I know that the  construction of many houses in my constituency has been held up because of this delay.
In regard to regional planning, the Minister has had the Buchanan Report for a long time but, as yet, no time limit has been set for the taking of a decision in relation to this report. The Minister has said that regional planning is a far-reaching matter affecting every member of the community and a matter on which a decision should not be taken lightly and I agree with him. Therefore, it is surprising that the same Minister should apply such completely different tactics to a matter he concedes is of great concern to all people, namely, local government reform. He provided two or three months for the receipt of submissions in regard to local government reform but he is prepared to dally for three or four years before making a decision on the Buchanan Report.
Mr. Bruton: I may be wrong in regard to the number of years because I have not checked the matter, but the Minister is taking much more time in coming to a decision on the Buchanan Report than has been done in regard to local government reform. Are both matters not important? Surely there is an equal necessity for consultation? I am inclined to think the Minister is prepared to ram through one matter because possibly it bears political dividends for his party, whereas he wants to go slowly on the other matter because it does not bear political dividends for his party, in that certain centres might not be chosen as growth centres. I should like to know how active has been the regional development organisation the Minister has set up to consider the Buchanan Report. I am inclined to think that they have not met very often. This does not reflect the degree of urgency required in the area of regional planning.
In regard to local government reform, I suggest that the Green Paper, in which so much interest has been taken, is merely a kite which is being flown. While this is being considered,  the Department have commissioned the now famous firm of McKinsey to report on the reorganisation of local government. It is possible that the McKinsey report, which is being undertaken without much publicity, will provide the real basis for the Government's decision in this matter. The local government report will be used to soften up people for what the Minister has in mind.
In the terms of reference of the McKinsey Report, the Department said that “the Department's perception of the role and objectives of local government will dictate the kind of local government to be designed”. Evidently the Department's perception already is clear to the firm of McKinsey because, on the dictation of the Department, they are being asked to draw up a scheme for local government in the light of the Department's perception of the role of local government. This appears to short-circuit consideration of the Green Paper and, in reality, it may be a sham.
The most striking characteristic of the Green Paper is its vagueness. We are told about the additional elements at local and regional levels but we are not told anything about what the Department have in mind in regard to the powers of these additional elements and the method of financing them. Therefore, to talk about additional elements, community councils or regional local government is meaningless unless more details are given.
I can only surmise that the Government have in mind details they have passed to the firm of McKinsey in order that the firm may draw up this structure for local government which will provide the basis of what the Government will push through. However, they are not prepared to spell that out at the moment because that would speed up the conditioning process for the emasculation of local government to an extent that would not get the Government's wishes through. I should like more information from the Minister regarding what the firm of McKinsey are supposed to be doing, what they have been told to do, and to what extent it will pre-empt the  discussion currently taking place on this matter.
I should like to refer to malicious damage and compensation for this damage. A number of Deputies suggested that the best method of dealing with this problem is to ensure that the cost of compensation is borne by insurance companies and that the ratepayers should be relieved of the cost. I fully agree that the ratepayers should be relieved. It is altogether wrong that this very heavy burden of paying compensation for malicious damage should be imposed on innocent ratepayers because of the activities of some subversive organisation, the members of which, possibly, have come from outside the county concerned.
I have some doubts whether the best way of transferring this burden is by insurance. This would inevitably mean a very substantial increase in insurance premiums for anybody who has any property which is liable to be maliciously damaged. Nobody knows whether his property is likely to be subject to malicious damage. Therefore, the premiums will be high. The insurance companies will lean particularly heavily on people whose property is in exposed places. For example, farmers whose property is spread over a wide area and cannot be easily supervised with a view to the prevention of malicious damage will have to pay very high insurance premiums. This will be much heavier than the burden of rates in relation to malicious damage which they are at present bearing. Transferring to the insurance company would mean a very serious loss for these people.
It is possible, also, that a person who is engaged in a vocational organisation or in politics may be unpopular locally for one reason or another, or unpopular nationally. He would, therefore, be liable to be subjected to malicious damage by some tiny group of fanatics—all it needs is one or two people. He would also have to pay a specially high insurance premium because of his unpopularity, because he was a bad malicious damage risk. We would need to consider very carefully whether it would be wise to replace  the present system by transferring the whole burden to the insurance companies. I do not think it would be wise because we can be sure that the insurance companies will transfer it back, and doubly so, on to the property owner who is paying the premium, and most property owners are ratepayers.
Even a very small ratepayer could be the subject of malicious damage. A person living in a local authority house could become unpopular for some reason and could therefore be the subject of malicious damage. He would have to pay a high premium. I think the best approach to the problem is that the burden of malicious damage costs should be borne on a national basis by the Exchequer. Law is enforced on a national level and therefore the responsibility for preventing malicious damage is a national problem and a national responsibility. Logically, compensation for malicious damage should also be a national responsibility. That would get me into an area involving another Department and I do not propose to pursue it further.
I want to refer now to a matter which relates to my own constituency and, indeed, to any constituency in which substantial arterial drainage works are being undertaken by the Office of Public Works. The Office have overall responsibility for the provision of swimming facilities. When arterial drainage work takes place usually the result is that most of the traditional swimming places are destroyed. They are swept away. The river is deepened and the current is increased to the extent that safe traditional swimming places are no longer in existence. While the provision of municipal swimming pools is very desirable, this is much more expensive than the free outdoor local swimming places which are being destroyed. Pending the provision of these municipal swimming pools, while arterial drainage works are taking place steps should be taken to preserve these traditional swimming places in the rivers.
I have in mind a very popular traditional swimming place near Trim at a place called Crow Park which was destroyed in the course of the Boyne drainage. I asked the Minister, in consultation with the county council, to  consider replacing it with some simple outdoor swimming pool involving sluice gates so that the water could be let in at one side and let out at the other side. This would be very cheap indeed. Some tiling cement would be needed to make it safe and it would provide adequate swimming facilities quite cheaply. This is something which should be borne in mind. I know that indoor, heated swimming pools are much more desirable, but the money is not there to provide them in the necessary numbers. This cheap method should be considered as an interim measure, particularly when it merely involves preserving a facility which already exists in rivers which are being drained.
The Minister mentioned the introduction of a building code. I welcome this. I think it is a very good development and I should like to know when the Minister expects to publish this building code. There are a few matters to which I should like to refer in relation to the figures in the Estimate. Under subhead D there is a figure for statutory inquiries. I see that £2,000 is to be spent on statutory inquiries this year. Nothing was spent last year. I should like to know exactly what these statutory inquiries are, and why this provision becomes necessary this year when it was not necessary last year.
Subhead I is the grant-in-aid for An Foras Forbartha. The Minister referred to the very valuable work An Foras Forbartha are doing and to his efforts to get more money for them. It is fair to say that the type of research they are engaged in is of a long-term nature and requires money. If this research is to be carried out in a proper and systematic way, there must be a reasonable guarantee in relation to the extent of the funds which will be available to to them over a reasonably long period. It is possible that this accounting method of giving them a little more this year, perhaps nothing extra next year, and a little bit more the following year, is too erratic to fit in with the long-term type of research which is carried out by An Foras Forbartha. Possibly some type of a five-yearly grant would be a more appropriate method of subvention in the light of  the long-term activities in which they are engaged.
Subhead J refers to urban and rural employment schemes. I do not know how much this has been affected by the recent dole withdrawals but it is interesting to note that, in the Estimates published his year for the Department of Local Government, the provision for urban and rural employment schemes was cut from £36,500 last year down to £8,000 this year. If that is not drastic then I do not know what is. Where is the cut being made? Is it being made in schemes which were designed to benefit the weakest sections in our community? I do not think this is good Government accounting. If one wants to pick on people on whom to make cuts surely those benefiting from these schemes are the least appropriate on whom to pick.
It is interesting to note the increase in post office services. In one year costs incurred by the Department of Local Government in this sphere have increased from £45,000 to £77,000, an increase of £31,000. That is a very dramatic increase. I do not know to what extent this is due to increased postal charges but it is only right that we should see the result of the increased charges in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in the round. Obviously the effect is to increase the cost of Government as well as increasing costs where the ordinary individual is concerned.
There was a sum of £5,000 provided for the chairman and deputy chairman of the planning board. I notice that £6,000 is provided this year, but the appointment of these is contingent on the passing of legislation here. I may not be interpreting the figures correctly.
Mr. Coughlan: This is a very important Estimate. The Minister does not seem to be aware of a situation which has been in existence throughout the country for some seven years. The Minister on one occasion boldly stated that no such situation existed. I want now to draw his attention to the differential renting system which has reached the proportions of a national crisis. Rents are being withheld and the figures were published and are being published of the amount withheld. The Minister says there is no crisis. He, above all, should know that there is a crisis. I cannot understand why a national system cannot be evolved. The cost of building does not differ that much from area to area. At the moment the managers apply the system to suit themselves, with scant regard to the capacity of the tenant to pay. We have had trouble in Limerick about this for the past ten years but some sort of settlement was arrived at with the manager. Why there should be differences in the implementation of this differential rent system from one area to another is something I cannot understand. The Minister should draw up a scale to apply all over the Twenty-six Counties. At the moment he is shelving his responsibilities and, the more he does that, the graver the position becomes. The position will worsen unless some action is taken by the Minister.
There is a system of rates waiver. When the system was introduced the Minister said it was designed to help those who were not in a position to pay rates. The system is applied to those on social welfare benefits. People living on miserable pittances, which are not social welfare benefits, cannot benefit. The Minister announced this scheme with a great flourish of trumpets, but the local authorities were left holding the baby. If the scheme is intended to do what it should do then it should be extended to these unfortunate people who are existing on miserable pittances. Again, the local authorities are bearing  the full burden. This waiver should be a national charge and not a local charge.
Group water supply schemes are so roundabout that it is hardly worth people's while going to the trouble of getting in on such schemes. Nothing is more essential than water in any house and there are a great many houses which have not got it.
With regard to reconstruction grants, there is really no such thing as a grant. A certain sum will be given for reconstruction purposes but no sooner is the work carried out than the officials are down on top of the people who have availed of the reconstruction grant, so-called, and up goes the valuation. In that way the grant is recouped with interest. The valuation is increased and so the grant goes back to the Department over a period of time. There is no such thing as a reconstruction grant because, as I have indicated, it is eventually paid back. If the Minister wishes he can say: “We will give you a loan which you will be repaying for the remainder of your life because as valuations increase more money goes back to the Exchequer than was paid out” but he should not try to fool the people of the country. We are not being fooled and I would not like others to be fooled either.
I wish to say a word about the condition of courthouses throughout the country. In most issues of the provincial papers there is to be found some complaint in this respect. If the local authorities had the right to condemn these buildings—if one could call them buildings—they would be condemned without hesitation but, unfortunately, they have no such right. The Minister should consider the reconstruction of these premises so as to render them at least respectable.
Another matter to which I wish to draw the Minister's attention is that of regionalisation of local authorities. This matter is being discussed at present but so far as we in Limerick are concerned, we are opposed to it completely. I cannot see why these town commissions, urban councils and county councils should be regionalised. It is only right that the people of any particular locality should have the  privilege of electing the representatives whom they wish to have representing them. Already we have an example of such regionalisation. That is in regard to the health authorities. As a member of one of these health boards, I can assure the Minister that since the 1st of April we have done nothing other than trying to sort things out and confining ourselves to routine work. The same will apply in relation to local authority regionalisation. When there is a conglomeration of persons from different counties there is bound to be nothing but battle and clatter at every meeting with the result that nothing constructive is done. In Limerick we are opposing this.
Mr. Coughlan: There is no use in these snide remarks. Why did the Minister not reply to the statement I made in relation to differential rents? The Minister said there was no crisis in so far as the differential rent scheme is concerned but the representatives of  the tenants' associations have let him know otherwise.
Mr. Coughlan: I have been in public life for long enough to know what Fianna Fáil can do and to know of the way in which they can misrepresent. If ever there were adepts at misrepresentation, the honours must go to Fianna Fáil. There is a crisis in respect of the differential rents system regardless of what the Minister may say. Having said that, I hope I have convinced the Minister that when we speak we mean business.
Another matter I wish to raise concerns appointments at local authority level. Heretofore, when a vacancy occurred for a staff officer, the man appointed had worked his way along the line and, as a result of a test, was regarded as being suitable for the position. That was all very well but from now on these appointments will be open to all and sundry. Not so long ago when a vacancy arose in the Department of Local Government, it was advertised in the usual way but it was a man from the Department who was appointed. I do not know the man in question but I should like to know what he could have known about public administration. I object to the manner in which these vacancies are now being filled. If a man has spent some time on a local council he knows all about public administration and is the one who would be most suitable for one of these positions. Public representatives are the people of choice; the others are only the people of chance and are only there by chance. It is a retrograde step that the present system should be permitted. Any fair-minded public representative must be opposed to it. A man who has spent his days in the Department doing nothing but answering the telephone and writing letters has not a clue about such a job.
 I hope that I have given the Minister the benefit of my experience. I would like to go into more detail in relation to the running of his Department but, unfortunately, time does not permit. However, there shall be another day.
Dr. Byrne: The first matter to which I should like to refer is the situation regarding the rates in Dublin city and, indeed, throughout the country. The position in many households now regarding the payment of rates has reached crisis stage and many families, as a result, are in grave danger of losing some of their household possessions because of their inability to pay rates. The waiver of rates scheme has resulted in relief for a few but it cannot be claimed to have resulted in relief for all those who are in need of relief from the present rates imposition.
It is very disturbing to see so many people who have had comfortable rented houses for years, in which they have reared their families, having to leave these houses because the rents continue to rise. Many of them are on fixed incomes or ones which increase by very little. It is tragic to see people who have their roots in a particular area having to leave the house which was their choice when they started married life. This is a common occurrence all over Dublin. There is a social stigma attached to it so we do not hear much about it at public level. These people do not go to newspapers or on television or radio to voice their complaints. They would rather move off in privacy to a smaller house which is often below the standard they enjoyed when they were contributing to the State at their maximum wage-earning capacity.
The Department of Local Government should give special consideration to the report which has been presented  to them by the Dublin Ratepayers' Association. The association, through Mr. Manning, produced a very detailed research into an alternative scheme to the present rating system. This has become known as the Manning Report, two copies of which were sent to the Department of Local Government over a year ago. To my knowledge, no reply has been received from the Department in regard to any study made of this report. Mr. Kevin Boland was Minister when these were received and apart from a mere acknowledgment of this report, which was brought out at great expense, no comment has come from the Department of Local Government as to whether any section of the Manning report would be favourably received. There was no comment on it in the White Paper produced by the Department. I would be surprised if the present Minister has not had an opportunity of seeing this very well researched alternative scheme to the present rating system.
Dr. Byrne: To say that there is nothing in this report which could be implemented in the Department and result in a relief from the rapidly rising rates is not right. The first section of the report deals with the transfer of such major sections of local government as roads, the 45 per cent paid for the health services, local authority housing and malicious damage, to the central fund to be financed by the PAYE system. It is a scheme which is not very different from one I proposed here some time ago. I asked the Minister for Finance to investigate the possibilities of relieving rates on private  dwellings in the city, county and Dún Laoghaire areas and transferring these rates over to the PAYE system for the PAYE contributors in the areas. Unfortunately the Minister would not make these figures available despite repeated Parliamentary questions. They would have been of tremendous value to me in making my contribution on this Estimate. It is possible that a very small increase in the amount of income tax paid would not only result in an increased cash flow to local authorities which, in turn, would result in a decrease in the amount of interest paid by local authorities on their loans but it would spread the burden far more equitably over the people who avail of the benefits which accrue from the rates.
The greatest problem in the city of Dublin among private house-dwellers is the fact that rates have gone beyond the ability of many families to meet them. It is a form of double taxation; it is an old form of taxation and it is an unjust form of taxation. It is a form of taxation which, coupled with the income tax which many people have to pay, is crippling many families. The benefits in many a suburban area which one can derive from rates are very limited. There are numerous areas all over the Dublin suburbs where little or no facilities are available apart from bin collections and water supply. People in suburban housing estates who are paying income tax, turnover tax, in some cases wholesale tax, road tax and rates as well, have little to show for it. They have little recreational facilities. At one time people in the north city could fish in the River Tolka. Now they dare not even swim in it. There was a time when people could go for a walk along the north road. This is no longer possible due to the traffic hazards on the roads nowadays.
I am not suggesting that everything in the Manning report on the rates is completely workable. However, one must give them credit. They have researched and they have produced what in their opinion is a realistic alternative. It may not be a realistic alternative in the opinion of this House, but it is an alternative worthy  of study and worthy of debate. Because of the severity of the situation which has been created due to the increase in rates it is a report which is worthy of discussion. I should like to see the Minister giving time to the House to discuss the contents of the ACRA report.
Without going deeply into the second section of the Manning report it is, in my opinion—I speak for myself— a far more equitable system whereby everybody pays in accordance with his means and not as at the moment when widows, old age pensioners, disabled people and people who through no fault of their own have seen their incomes reduced, are forced to vacate their family homes. It is a frightening thing for anybody nowadays to buy a relatively comfortable house to set up a family. The insurance policy which would ensure the purchase of the house outright at their death does not ensure that the family can stay on in that house. One would also have to have some form of income which would cover the ever-increasing rates. This is relative to all families regardless of their income. To anybody attempting to buy a house the waiver of rates scheme at the moment is insufficient. I should like the Minister to investigate and pursue the line that I suggested here before, of a total stoppage being put on any further increase in rates on all private houses in the city of Dublin until such time as an alternative system of collecting the money is investigated fully. It cannot go on. At the moment ACRA are talking of taking to the streets in protest parades, the same as the nurses had to do and as tenants had to do before the Minister would give them any concessions. These are private householders who do not want publicity, the so-called conservative section of our population, who do not want to resort to this action but, from my knowledge, they are being driven to it. They feel they have a just cause and would be fighting a just war.
There is something which the Minister can do to prevent further increases in rates on private houses. Businesses can to a certain extent absorb an increase  in rates. They can put the rates against business expenses. Professional men can put a certain amount of rates against overheads. The private householder cannot even put his rates against income tax.
Now I want to consider the section of our population living in local authority dwellings and to refer particularly to the differential rents scheme. This scheme when it was introduced had the backing of practically everyone concerned. It was very well presented. It was a scheme designed by brilliant minds, using a slide rule to work out to perfection the system of payments. The principle was, the less you earn the less you pay. These brilliant people, however, lacked understanding of human nature and lacked an appreciation of the tenants' attitude to the scheme or of the animosity that the local authority tenant bears towards the local authority. The subjective effect of the differential rents scheme upon local authority house dwellers is, the more you earn the more you pay. This is a classical example of brilliant minds working without any conception of the problem they are attempting to deal with. We have heard successive Ministers for Local Government arguing the point that the differential rents scheme is fair and equitable in that the less the tenant earns, the less he pays but the tenant is convinced that at this stage the scheme means that the more he earns the more he will pay up to a certain limit.
Certain concessions have been made but what I want to point out is that the scheme has added to one of the great problems that have crept into our society through the cancer of inactivity. The man who earns £1 overtime, not being on the maximum differential rent, will have to pay almost 5s extra in income tax and 3s 10p extra in his rent, increased bus fares to go into work on Saturday afternoon or at night, extra expense for the extra meals he has to take with him. We all know that his packed lunch can be quite expensive. There is very little left out of the £1. He would be lucky to have 10s of that £1 left  in his pocket by the time each section has taken its divvy out of it. We know that one's expenditure increases in attempting to increase one's income.
The man who is in a corporation house and who tries to better himself finds that when his income goes over a certain level he loses his eligibility for medical services. There is no incentive left to work extra hours if he is on the B scale. One need only look at the road works in Dublin city and see the length of time equipment is sitting there at the side of the road while workers come and workers go. They will not work while this inequitable system is in operation.
It is true to say that in many cases they are better off by not working: they have the medical card; they have no bus fares; they can supplement their shopping by the items available at the local dispensary on production of a medical card. It is not unusual to see an unemployed married man with three or four children in a better financial position than the man who has worked a 40 hour week who is in trouble with his rent and with medical bills and who has nothing left for himself at the end of the week. It is, perhaps, unfortunately, traditional for the worker in this city to have a couple of pints on Friday and Saturday night. The stage is reached now that that involves somebody else, perhaps the children, doing without, medicines not being bought, or something like that. I have seen housing estates where a flat rent is in operation and there is no problem in meeting the flat rent, where, regardless of the income, the rent is paid. There is happiness in these houses. You do not see such happiness where people are paying differential rents. People are upset by it. It is a great bone of contention with a very large section of the population.
There is a massive section of private householders who are completely dissatisfied with the present rating system and there are all these local authority tenants who have moved into houses with differential rents and who are completely dissatisfied with the differential rents system which theoretically might be an answer but in practice is not. Here we see the  difference between Departments and Ministers in a Government who have contact with the people and know what they are thinking and a Government who are aloof and have lost contact with the workers. The Ballymun housing estate, which has a population almost equal to that of Galway city, has been visited on only one occasion by the Minister for Local Government. It is tragic that should be so and it is tragic that a scheme of that size, just because a number of four-walled rooms have gone up, should be officially classified as finished and handed over to the local authority for them to sort out the headaches. I do not want to say much more about Ballymun: God knows, I have said enough about it. But I am disappointed that the Minister did not accept my invitation to visit Ballymun with me but chose instead to go with one of the Fianna Fáil Deputies who does not even represent the area. It is true to say that Fianna Fáil Deputies from that area are afraid to go into it.
... I was glad, therefore, to be able to approve of a recent proposal by Dublin Corporation to borrow £100,000 towards the cost of providing two further public pools in the city, one in Ballyfermot and the other either in Finglas or in Cabra, as decided by the corporation.
I put down a question to the Minister for Local Government regarding swimming pools in Cabra, Finglas and Ballymun and I received an answer similar to that but added on to the answer was something which the Minister had not got in his speech to the effect that there were no proposals before his Department for the erection of a swimming pool in the Ballymun satellite town. There may not have been any proposals before the Minister's Department but Ballymun satellite town was built by the Department through the National Building Agency at an original cost of £10 million which escalated to over £12.5 million before it was finished and incorporated in the initial plans was a site for a swimming pool. A week after the tabling of my  question a sign in Ballymun town which for the past five years had read: “Site for swimming pool” was changed and overpainted to read: “Site for entertainments centre.” If that is not a confidence trick, if it is not the responsibility of the Department of Local Government who drew up the plans for this town prior to the Minister's inclusion in the Government, if it is not something that was included in what are locally known as Blaney Heights, I do not know what it is. I have a letter from the Ceann Comhairle disallowing a question to the Minister for Local Government.
Dr. Byrne: I am not disputing it. I am merely quoting from the letter which said that the Minister had no official responsibility in the matter of the changing of the sign at Ballymun, Dublin. A swimming pool was planned by the Department of Local Government in a town paid for by that Department out of the taxpayers' pockets. When the sign was changed and the plan dropped we were informed that the Minister had no official responsibility in the matter.
A Deputy recently mentioned that the Minister built Ballymun and then abandoned it. That letter is proof that the Minister is not accepting responsibility for the swimming pool planned for Ballymun town which has a population of about 20,000 people in more than 3,200 dwellings, with a very high percentage of young children. These people have been deprived of a swimming pool. This is a disgrace. There are no votes involved in this for me and therefore I can talk about it as much as I like. As the Minister knows, when Ballymun town was built his predecessor chopped it up into three separate constituencies and it is the only town in Ireland with 12 Deputies representing it.
My area is the smallest with merely 800 electors so that when I mention Ballymun I am well aware that there are very few extra votes involved for me and no political kudos to be gained by doing so. But about 15,000 children  are deprived of a swimming pool, of a facility which was signposted and advertised for them. Their parents before moving into those flats saw the sign in big letters “Site for swimming pool” but one week after I had tried to find out what happened to the swimming pool, the sign was changed as I have described.
I have a pile of letters from the office of the Ceann Comhairle, whose rulings I am not disputing, saying in relation to questions I have put down about Ballymun town—because perhaps more than any other Deputy I am aware of the problems and hazards existing there and much more aware of them than the Minister for Local Government or the Minister for Health —that the Minister has no official responsibility in the matter. The Minister knows well that recently building commenced there on a football pitch, one of the few recreational areas available to the tenants of the 3,200 houses. There is no semblance of adequate recreational facilities in that area where the children have been classified as the second most underprivileged group of children in the British Isles.
Dr. Byrne: At least they went to the trouble of doing research, which neither the Minister for Local Government nor the Minister for Health have bothered to carry out in this country. They carried out research into the health hazards of high-rise dwellings which we have not done. Plans were drafted for a swimming pool but the signs were changed.
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