Housing Bill, 1970: Committee and Final Stages.

Friday, 24 July 1970

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 68 No. 14

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An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Before we take up consideration of the Committee Stage of this Bill, I should like to indicate that I have ruled amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 19, 20, 22 and 23 in the names of Senators Boland and Reynolds out of order. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are outside the scope of the Bill as read a Second Time and the remaining amendments involve a charge on the public revenue.

The Senators have been notified accordingly.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Of course, I accept the Chair's ruling but for the benefit of the more dense Members of the House, myself included, perhaps you would indicate what exactly is meant by saying that the amendments are outside the scope of the Bill as read a Second Time.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  That matter would be better discussed in private rather than in the House. In general terms, the amendments are not related to the terms of the Bill as read a Second Time. Perhaps if the Senator wishes we could arrange to discuss the matter in private.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  With the way things have been going, there is not much time for discussion.

Sections 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 5 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Perhaps the Minister could let us know what exactly section 5 involves.

[1034]Minister for Local Government (Mr. Molloy): Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Section 44 of the 1966 Act obliges the Minister to contribute towards the loan charges on money borrowed by housing authorities for dwellings subject to capital cost limits. Subsidy at the rate of 66? per cent is paid for dwellings provided, for example, for the accommodation of elderly persons and persons removed from unfit or overcrowded houses. The subsidy is equivalent to about £106 for each house for a period of 50 years. The rate for flats is higher. Subsidy at the rate of 33? per cent is paid for the re-housing of other persons.

Section 5 extends the categories of persons for whom subsidies at higher rates may be paid. It extends it to key workers who are, of necessity, brought into an area where there is a new or an expanding industry. By key workers I mean skilled workers such as electricians, fitters, carpenters and so on. A certificate from the IDA to the effect that a person comes within that category will be accepted for the purposes of subsidies.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I wondered why the Minister had gone to the trouble of including this section in the Bill to amend section 44 of the principle Act so as to allow for key workers and, at the same time, why he did not include the necessary amendment to deal with the problem of subsidies on sites that were actually being developed. He knows that this problem exists and this would have been the obvious place to have inserted the provision.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That may be the Senator's opinion but the purpose of the section is solely to extend payment of the two-thirds subsidy for houses provided for key workers. I appreciate the point the Senator is making but I do not intend to introduce any such amendment to this Bill.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It is obvious that the Minister has no intention of introducing such an amendment but I presume he will agree with me that the problem exists. I hope he will indicate his sympathy in this respect to the local authorities. The Minister considered he was precluded by law from helping [1035] them but this is amazing since he is the one most likely to be in a position to initiate steps to change the law. The law in question is section 44 of the principal Act. Obviously, I cannot put down an amendment to amend section 44 because I would be ruled out of order and the amendment I did put down has already been ruled out of order.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I move amendment No. 1:

Before section 7 to insert the following new section:

“Section 26 (i) (a) of the Housing Act, 1966 is hereby amended by the deletion of `sixty pounds' and the substitution of `seventy-five pounds'.”

The purpose of this amendment is quite clear. On Second Reading I outlined the reason why I considered the figure given for the maximum income under which one must come in order to qualify for a new house supplementary grant to be too low. It is £1,045 with a £100 allowance for each dependant up to four, or in the case of a farmer a valuation of £60. The Minister has indicated in a subsequent amendment that he would like to see a figure of £1,250 as the income limit but he has not increased the valuation limit from £60. It has been at that figure for a number of years. I suggest the valuation figure should be increased to £75 and that the figure for the income limit for a supplementary grant be increased to £1,500. There is a great disparity between the amount of income comparable with a £1 valuation because under the Health Acts a £1 valuation is equated with an income of £20 and the same standard is applied for some of the social welfare benefits. Under the SDA loan scheme a £50 valuation is equated with an income of £1,200. Under this rule the people working on the valuation come out worst. The time has come to increase the valuation figure. The Minister is going to argue that 90 per cent—I presume the figures he [1036] gave last night are correct—of the farmers have a valuation of under £60 and that consequently every farmer who should be covered is covered and there is no reason therefore to increase the figure. That does not appear to me to be the case. Very frequently one comes across farmers by no means well off who have been rendered ineligible for this or one of the other schemes because their valuations are over £60. I am informed by public representatives from more rural areas than my own that this is a frequent occurrence. They are concerned that if the income limit is increased there will be a corresponding increase in the valuation figure.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I support Senator Boland's amendment. Senator Flanagan dealt with this point during the Second Stage debate. He said that the majority of farmers in County Mayo were under that figure but I would point out that valuations vary from county to county. It is unfair even to take the Minister's figure of 90 per cent as correct because his figures are based on people with small holdings and it is doubtful even if they could be classified. It is ridiculous to lump these people together and use them to penalise a small section. A £60 valuation will probably carry a buildings valuation of at least £10 and it is not possible for a farmer to derive any income from these buildings. The present valuation system is over 100 years old and is completely out of date. It is meaningless for a Minister to put in a ceiling limit. I have come across many people not in wealthy circumstances who because of this valuation basis are completely eliminated. I would ask the Minister to increase the valuation limit to £75 if at all possible. It is preferable to give the benefit of the doubt to the people we are trying to help improve their holdings and accommodation.

We must encourage as many people as possible to provide their own accommodation. When a farmer has a valuation of £60 it can be considered that he has a net income of £1,200 but, as every Senator familiar with farming knows, a farmer's income is not his own income: it is a family income, it [1037] is the result of the work and labour of his wife and family as well. It should not be assessed in the same way as a civil servant's income because a civil servant works certain hours for a specific income. I submit that the farming community are in a different category and should be treated as such. The aim of this legislation should be to encourage and assist people to buy their own accommodation. No sooner do these people get the benefit of a few pounds grant or supplementary grant than the valuations go up and they have to pay it back in rates.

Mr. W. O'Brien: Information on William O'Brien  Zoom on William O'Brien  I support the amendment. By the time a farmer is able to maintain his family of five or six children properly they have probably all grown up. He should be able to provide a home for his family before that stage. Very often his family never gets the opportunity of enjoying a good home. As I said the other day, there is a wrong impression of what a valuation of £60 means in rural Ireland. Quite a number of us here are rural representatives and, irrespective of what section of the community we come from, we all know the long hours which farmers have to put in. There is a good case here for an increase and I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  I should like to support the Senators who spoke previously. I am not going to discuss the economics of farming: all I will say is that valuations vary. A farmer with a valuation of £60 could have a substandard house. There might be buildings on the farm carrying a valuation of £10 or £12 so that the land valuation would be approximately £48. However, I consider there is a disparity in this section in that if a person who is not a farmer—a wage earner— receives less than £1,045 per year he qualifies for a grant and, in addition, there is an allowance of £100 in respect of dependants up to a maximum of £400. I do not think there is anything in any other section that enables a farmer to qualify for a grant if his valuation is £61 even though he has four dependants; whereas a person with a valuation of £59 10s with no [1038] dependants will qualify. I see an anomaly in this section and I think the Minister should look into the matter.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  When the Department reviewed the income limits for supplementary grants this whole matter was investigated and it did not emerge that there was need to change the £60 valuation limit. Having said that, I should like to say that a valuation limit is not comparable to an income limit because income can be increased. For a farmer with a valuation below £60 there is no limit on his income. It has been assessed that £1 valuation is equivalent to £20 income; this is applied for the purposes of the Health Act and social welfare legislation and it is on this basis that we are assessing the income of persons with £60 valuation.

I said last night that I do not think a genuine case can be made for an increase in this instance because there are very few farmers in the country with valuations in excess of the amount stated. It certainly did not emerge from the investigations the Department conducted that this group constituted a large section of the farming community. One cannot deny the fact that approximately 90 per cent of farmers have valuations below this figure and I do not think the remaining section requires special attention.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Much as it might surprise the House, the Minister's reply delights me. The Minister has said he accepts the standards employed in the Health and Social Welfare Acts whereby £1 valuation is equated to an income of £20. Consequently, I presume we may expect in the immediate future that the £50 valuation compared to £1,200 income in relation to SDA loans will be changed by the Minister. The £50 valuation compared to £1,200 under the SDA loans obviously does not tie in with the Minister's suggestion today. Therefore, if this discussion only produces an increase in the valuation limit in respect of SDA loans it will have been worthwhile.

However, if the Minister is going to produce statistics we can all do the same. At mid-August, 1969, £1 was the [1039] equivalent in spending power of 16s 8d in August, 1966. On that basis £1,045, which is the income limit, should be £1,306. I understand the Minister is going to increase it to £1,250. Accepting the Minister's theory that prices go up and that there is an equivalent rise in income—I would add that it is rarely equivalent—the income of the farmer ought to rise.

I agree that valuation is a difficult method on which to assess whether a person should get a local authority grant. However, I do not see the Minister's difficulty in this. Public representatives throughout the country insist that the limit should be increased. The Minister does not want to increase it but, in fact, it would not cost the State anything—if that was not the case this amendment would have been out of order. Apart from that there is no obligation on any local authority to operate this scheme. The relevant section of the Housing Act states:

Where the relevant grant is made by the Minister or by the Minister for the Gaeltacht, as the case may be, to or in respect of a person providing a house, the housing authority may, whether the relevant grant has been paid in whole or in part, make a supplementary grant to or in respect of the person who is the person first in occupation of the house.

It goes on to set out a valuation of £60 for people who derive their livelihood from agricultural and an amount of £1,045 in relation to people in receipt of income.

There is no legal obligation placed upon any local authority to operate the supplementary housing grant scheme. There is no charge arising or likely to arise upon the State. It is up to the local authorities concerned to decide whether they want to operate the scheme. If local authorities consider the valuation figure should be increased, and as they are the people whose housing authority decides whether the scheme will operate, I am at a loss to understand the Minister's reluctance in this matter.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  Can the Minister explain the reason why a person with an [1040] income of £1,045 is granted an allowance of £100 in respect of dependants up to a maximum of four but on the valuation basis there are no allowances for dependants?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I do not know whether my reply will be regarded as statisfactory but it comes back to the point I made earlier that one cannot compare valuation limits with income limits, although we are making an assessment that £1 valuation shall equate £20 income. I realise it is a rough estimate and that it is possible for a person with a valuation of £50 to have an income in excess of £1,200. Although it is not a completely satisfactory arrangement to use the valuation limit, in present circumstances it is the only system that is operable. There is tremendous variation between one farm and another and in the manner they are administered.

I do not think I have given a full and satisfactory reply but it is not possible to make an absolute comparison between the two, and the position is not as bad as one might think from a first look. Senator Boland was making the point that the local councillors throughout the country were demanding that the valuation limit be increased to £75. I am not aware of this. I would be greatly surprised if this were so. The whole purpose of the Government's housing policy is to ensure that State assistance is given to those who are most in need of it. I do not feel we would be justified in extending the valuation limit to £75. The money must be provided by the State to the local authority to enable them to pay the supplementary grants. I do not feel that any further extension in this particular field should be granted to farms of £60 valuation.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he tried to explain the situation. I am pleased that the Minister himself is not satisfied with the present situation. A man without dependants can have a valuation of £59.5 and be qualified while another man with several children and with a valuation of £60.5 would not qualify. I appeal to the Minister to have another look at this.

[1041]Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I do not understand the Minister's ideas of farm incomes at the present time. Senator J. Fitzgerald has instanced the case of a widow with a farm. This unfortunate woman must rear a family and pay labour on present farm prices and yet she is not given the same facilities as people who, in many cases, are much better off. The valuation system is about 140 years old. It often bears no relation to income. It is an unfair system. If the ceiling went up to a reasonable figure of £75, this would help; it would tend to ease the many cases of hardship which members of local authorities meet. Senator Boland pointed out that this will not involve a direct charge on the Exchequer. The Minister has an opportunity of helping these people who are most independent and have provided for themselves over the years. There are still a few “lame ducks” in the agricultural sector. When we have an opportunity on this Housing Bill of allowing more people to avail of these benefits we should grasp that opportunity.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  We should get one thing clear. The Minister suggested that this was a form of State aid. This is not a form of State aid. It is money provided by the local authority and paid for completely by the local authority. If it were otherwise, then my amendment could not be discussed because it would have meant imposing a charge on State funds and the Cathaoirleach would very rightly have ruled the amendment out of order.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The point Senator Boland is making is inaccurate. The money which enables local authorities [1042] to pay supplementary grants is provided by the State by way of loans from the Local Loans Fund and is not provided from internal revenue as the Senator seems to think.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  The loan is paid back.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  At full interest.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It is coming from the one pool of money—the money available for housing. It is, therefore, using that money to provide assistance by way of grant to a section of the community which I as Minister, do not feel are in need of this assistance.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  The Minister is out of touch.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Other uses could be made of the money from the Local Loans Fund. It must be remembered at all times that rateable valuations are fixed things and the income on a farm is something which has been increasing over the years. The statistics show substantial increases. It is not completely accurate to make comparisons between the income from fixed rateable valuation and the known income of an individual. I think that the £1 valuation giving an estimated income of £20 is a conservative estimate, and one which tends to be very much in favour of the farmer. The House should fully understand that I cannot accept this amendment and I do not see any need for it at the present time.

Amendment put.

Belton, Richard.
Boland, John.
FitzGerald, Alexis.
FitzGerald, Jack.
Kelly, John.
McDonald, Charles B.
Mannion, John M.
O'Brien, William.
O'Higgins, Michael J.

Brennan, John J.
Brugha, Ruairí
Doyle, John.
Eachthéirn, Cáit Uí.
Farrell, Joseph.
Farrell, Peggy.
Fitzsimons, Patrick. [1043]Nash, John J.
Norton, Patrick.
O'Callaghan, Cornelius K.
O'Sullivan, Terry.
Flanagan, Thomas P.
Gallanagh, Michael.
Hanafin, Desmond.
Honan, Dermot P.
Keery, Neville.
Killilea, Mark.
McElgunn, Farrell. [1044]Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, Patrick W.
Ryan, William.
Walsh, Seán.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I move amendment No. 2:

Before section 7 to insert the following new section:

“Section 26 (1) (b) of the Housing Act, 1966, is hereby amended by the deletion of `one thousand and forty-five pounds per annum' and the substitution of `one thousand five hundred pounds per annum'.”

The reason is basically the same as the reasons outlined for amendment No. 1. The income limit of £1,045, which has been in operation for quite some time, is quite obviously inadequate. This is recognised by everybody. The Minister has tabled another amendment which would bring the maximum income, below which a person could qualify for a county council or a local authority supplementary grant on a new house, to £1,250. I do not feel this is a realistic figure. The limit for the SDA loan has, for some four or five years now, been at £1,200. For the past few months, it has been quite obvious that this figure is unrealistic. A large local authority like Dublin County Council which, last year, through a combination of circumstances, was unable to meet all the application for SDA loans which it received has discovered it is in the quite -amazing position that, in the course of the first few months of this financial year, it has received only 45 applications for SDA loans. In the equivalent period last year, it received 200 applications or perhaps even more.

With house prices rising as rapidly as they are, with inflation and spiralling prices, with a larger share of profit being taken by so many of the speculative builders, it is quite obvious that house prices will continue, unfortunately, to rise far out of proportion to the equivalent rise in wages and incomes. A man earning less than £1,200 a year cannot be expected to buy a house costing £4,800—which most of the houses in the greater Dublin area at least are costing at present—after the State grant has been paid. If a man is earning less than £1,200 a year he will be eligible for a local authority loan of £3,000 and he will still have to find £1,800 from his own resources. How the Minister or anybody else imagines a man earning less than £1,200 a year can save £1,800 for a deposit on his new house is quite beyond me.

By raising the income limit from £1,045 to £1,250 the Minister recognises that a problem exists, but I do not believe he recognises the gravity or the extent of the problem. I do not believe he realises that a figure of £1,250 is out of date even as of today when he is introducing it, never mind next week, or next month when the quite fantastic increase in the price of cement begins to have effect on the price of houses, or next year when spiralling price costs will show an even greater price being charged for a very modest home. The houses of dreadfully reduced size which the Minister will be forcing upon the community by this time next year will be costing at least as much as a decent sized house is costing today, if not more. The figure of £1,250 is the maximum amount on which a person can qualify for a supplementary grant and this will mean that many people will not get the benefit of this grant which is designed to help the small man, the ordinary man, to buy a house in a local authority area.

It is, to a large extent, in the interests of a local authority to pay this supplementary grant because they are paying it to a man who is buying a new house situated within their administrative area and on which, forever more, they will be receiving income by way of rates, Consequently, the payment of a supplementary grant by a local authority to help a man to buy a house within their area is an investment [1045] which will forever more produce income for the local authority. Granted, in return they will have to provide services, but most local authorities are trying to develop their counties, trying to build up their towns and provide decent houses and amenities for their people. They should be only too delighted to see builders coming in and building in a properly planned way in their towns and developing their county into one of which they can be proud. They should be only too delighted that there is a demand for these houses and that people are trying to improve themselves. They should be only too delighted to give these supplementary grants. They should be only too frustrated to discover that most of the people who are trying to buy these houses will be ineligible for a supplementary grant even at a figure of £1,250.

That is why I tabled a separate amendment suggesting a maximum income limit of £1,500, a figure which I do not think at all unrealistic in the light of present circumstances and bearing in mind that most building societies operating today will not look at an applicant unless he is earning at least £1,500.

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  I support this amendment of Senator Boland with much more enthusiasm than I supported the previous one. Senator Boland has made a valid case for this increase. It would be realistic in present circumstances. All of us know what the position was, over the last decade even, with regard to money values. Looking at things from the general point of view, there does not seem to be any reason to suppose that the continued erosion of money values is not likely to go on for some time. In those circumstances I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that a figure of £1,500 now would equate approximately to about £750 ten years ago. In circumstances such as these, and with the erosion of money values likely to continue, it would seem to me that the Minister would be facing up to this situation in a realistic way if he were to adopt this amendment.

Mr. Honan: Information on Dermot Patrick Honan  Zoom on Dermot Patrick Honan  Although I should not [1046] like to oppose any suggestion that makes it easier for people to come into the possession of houses, my experience as a member of a local authority tells me that the more you increase grants and loans the higher the cost of the house becomes. When money is provided it is intended to create favourable terms for the purchaser of the house but, inevitably, what happens is that the cost of houses starts to go sky-high. In my local authority we give an allowance equivalent to what a married person would get on his income tax allowance, which means that a person with four children and £1,500 a year would qualify. They would not be excluded by the figure of £1,250. I do not think this amendment would make it easier for someone to get a house. It might be that it would increase the cost of the house. It is a question of which road you want to go.

My experience is that every time grants were increased the cost of houses went up. The grant was usually swept into the cost of the house and the people who got the grant did not really benefit at all. I think the figure of £1,250 is fair and reasonable because, no matter what legislation is brought in, some marginal cases will be excluded anyway. If married people can get allowances they can earn £1,500 a year and still come in under this £1,250. Looking at the two sides of the problem I think it is better to leave it at £1,250 once the special allowances can be given for each child. As I say, every time grants were increased the cost of houses went up by the same amount and the grant was swallowed up.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  Something must be done to keep down the price of houses. One must agree, to a certain extent, with the case made by Senator Honan. He underlines the plea I made last night. It is a reflection on our system of price control if it means that, in order to help the people we want to help, we drive up the cost of houses. I think a valid case has been made for an increase here. In addition we should have rigid price control and rigorous investigation of housing costs so as to ensure that when we try to help people to own their own houses [1047] we are not helping developers and speculators to become richer than they are at present.

Mr. Crinion: Information on Brendan Crinion  Zoom on Brendan Crinion  Nobody has spoken of £1,045 for a single person. It has been set out in the previous Act that for each dependant there is an extra £100 bringing it up to a maximum of £1,445. Very few single men build houses and stay single. They usually have ulterior motives, if I may say so; they intend to marry. Instead of £1,045, I think £1,145 is a more realistic figure because most applicants would complete the house on marriage. If there is a question of qualifying for an extra £100 they will make the necessary arrangements. In this legislation we are trying to help and encourage people to build houses for themselves. The Minister mentioned some figure in his speech on the Second Reading as applying to the early sixties. That has more than doubled in the past three years of the decade, so we are achieving the results we set out to achieve. I do not think there is any need at present to raise the upper income limit. The results speak for themselves and I am a great believer in results. It is hard to foresee some things but at least here we have the record of the Department showing that house building is rapidly increasing over the past three years as against the first five years of the decade. Therefore, I support the Minister in keeping the income limit as it stands.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  Thank God the Senator is not Minister for Local Government.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The suggestion was made by Senator Boland that applications for loans in Dublin have dropped substantially recently. He gave as the reason for this the fact that the income limit stood at £1,200. This is a false statement. Everybody knows that during this period there has been a cement strike and there has been a bank strike and to some extent these have affected applications for loans. I also want to make it clear that there is sufficient money available this year to cover the [1048] normal increase in applications which we estimate in the Dublin region. The amount made available for loans in Dublin totals £4 million between the county and corporation areas.

However, as the House is aware, I have an amendment down to increase the income limit for supplementary grants from the figure of £1,045 that exists at present to £1,250. On top of that there is the £100 allowance per dependant, up to a total of four dependants. This will, in fact, make the maximum income limit for supplementary grants £1,650 in the vast majority of cases. I think that is most reasonable and I cannot accept that there is any case for increasing the limit to £1,500, because you would then have to continue the £100 allowance per dependant and this would mean that you were extending supplementary grants to persons with incomes up to £1,900. I have no intention of doing that. I think I have gone a long way. I have brought up the figure from what it was over a long period to £1,250 which I think is much more realistic and in line with the income limits operated under the Health and Social Welfare Acts. I intend to use that limit as an indication to my Department of where assistance should be given. I cannot accept the amendment. I think the House should appreciate that I have gone quite a bit of the way with the Senator and I think the House should accept my own amendment which will come up at a later stage. I ask the Senator to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I accept that the Minister has certainly improved the situation but “by their own words you shall know them”. He said himself that his amendment is intended to increase the limit of £1,200 with £100 per dependant to £1,250 and then the Minister said, and I quote, that this means “in the vast majority of cases” that people will be applying who will have under £1,650. To apply with an income under £1,650 would imply that a man was married and had three children before he could envisage getting enough money to buy a house. If this is the standard the Minister is laying down as the one he would like to see [1049] operating, that no young couple could think of buying a house because they would not be able to afford it until such time had elapsed that they had three children—as an intelligent man the Minister can work out how long that would take—it is a pretty poor standard from my point of view.

Any young couple with a reasonable amount of money in 1970, if they decide to get married, should be able to expect to receive from the State, and the the local authority in whose area they will live and where they will pay rates from then on, every possible assistance to help them to purchase a house in which to start their family and provide for them in decent Christian comfort. That is not a great deal to ask. Apparently, the Minister expects that situation will not arise until the young couple have married and lived, presumably in a flat and presumably at the exorbitant prices charged at present throughout the country long enough to have three children. Apparently he expects they must reach that stage before they can accumulate enough money to put down a deposit on a house.

Look at the facts of the situation. If the Minister cares to study statistics I am sure he will find that in the vast majority of cases the person who applies for a Small Dwellings Act loan at present is not a man with three dependant or four—his wife and three children. The vast majority of applicants are young couples getting married and, occasionally, a married couple with one child. The income limit is £1,045 now. Under the Minister's amendment it will be £1,250 plus £100 allowance for the wife. In other words £1,145 was the figure which the local authorities were operating on. If the Minister's amendment is accepted the figure will be £1,350 and if my amendment is accepted the figure will be £1,600.

A sum of £1,600 for a man and his wife is £32 per week before income tax and other deductions, and before taking into account the cost of living for one week. Out of this £32 less tax, less deductions and so on, that man, assuming he gets a supplementary grant of [1050] £300 and assuming he buys a house costing £3,400, which is not an unfair assumption, will be expected to find £1,500 deposit, that is, almost as much as he will earn in a full year. Supposing he saved £5 a week, that would produce for him £250 in one year. Six years would elapse before he had saved £1,500. Supposing he started saving today, does the Minister envisage that in six years' time when he had £1,500 that £1,500 would be an adequate figure any more, bearing in mind the way house prices have been spiralling?

It is quite unrealistic to rule out young couples because they are earning more than £1,250 or to rule out a man with a wife and three children because they have an income of £1,650. The man with a wife and three children has the expense of providing for his family. How much does the Minister envisage a man will save after paying for the flat or other rented accommodation he happens to be in and providing all the other essentials of life for his family? A sum of £1,650 would be £33 per week. How much can a man save out of that to provide a deposit for a house? While it is a simple argument to say that people up to £1,600 can get a grant, the people between £1,350 and £1,650, that would be a man with a wife and one child or a man with a wife and two or three children, are the most unlikely people to be applying for a supplementary grant. They are the people who would find it most difficult, if living in rented accommodation on an income of £33 a week or less, to find a deposit for a house at present day prices.

I agree with Senator Honan that there has been to some extent an abuse of the State grants for new houses. I touched on this in my Second Reading speech. Too often nowadays speculative builders work out their site costs, their development costs, their total costs for building the housing estate at so much per house. They then add on their profit and after that the State grant as an extra bonus, an extra amount of money straight into their pockets. Straight to them it literally goes because the State grant is given not to the applicant buying the house but direct to the builder. Very often speculative [1051] builders advertise their houses at a net price. What they do not mentiton to the applicant is that they know they are quite sure that, as long as they satisfy the basic requirements of the Department's inspector, there will be another £275 going straight into their pockets. I agree with Senator Honan that an abuse can grow in this field, an abuse that would be very hard to check, because the State grant does not take income limits into account, and that is the only way a check could be made.

This grant, which is the cause of our discussion at the moment, is the one which the speculative builder cannot be sure of, because it may or may not be provided by the local authority. This grant is based on the income of the potential purchaser and the builder advertising his house cannot say whether his potential clients will earn £1,200 or £2,000 a year. Since he cannot take into account the possibility of the supplementary grant, he cannot include it in his price.

Thank goodness the supplementary grant is paid not to the speculative builder but direct to the purchaser. This is the grant which the purchaser invariably finds more useful if he happens to be earning a sufficiently small sum to qualify for it. A figure of £1,500 is what I have suggested, less than £30 a week. Is there any one in this House who thinks that a young man and a young girl getting married on less than £30 a week do not need the assistance of several hundred pounds from the local authority, in whose area they will live and to whom they will be paying rates for evermore, to build their house? I would ask the House and the Minister to agree to this amendment.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  When I was speaking, last night I suggested that the figure might be increased to £1,500 but, having heard the closing speech of the Minister, I was convinced that the whole purpose of this legislation is to provide as many houses as possible for the amount of money available. Consequently, I was converted to the Minister's view that the valuations of [1052] farmers and the earnings of individuals should be retained at the figures the Minister proposes in the Bill.

I am not convinced by the argument of Senator Boland that the increased wages secured by the cement workers will be reflected in a fantastic increase in prices as a result of a fantastic increase in the price of cement. The increase in the price of cement arising out of the cement workers gaining for themselves what I consider a reasonable wage is fixed at 16s a ton. Twelve tons of cement would be sufficient to build the average small house. Therefore, the fantastic increase as a result of the cement workers having got a reasonable wage will amount to something like £10.

Generally people are reasonable and sensible enough not to try to build houses they do not need in the early years of their married life. Indeed, they may only need them after many years. This, as the Minister said last night, is now being recognised because many builders are now building a smaller type of house which is so designed that it will be capable of improvement later on through subsequent improvement grants, as the family increases. People who are really looking into the future will provide for themselves houses which are suitable to their requirements after marriage, which are capable of being improved later on.

The Minister also emphasised his support for other means of building rather than by speculative builders. Individuals building for themselves on sites provided by the local authority will be specially encouraged. Co-operative building was also mentioned by the Minister as a means of encouraging people not only to build at a cheaper rate but also at cheaper costs because they will be providing some of the labour through their own and their families efforts. We should not overlook this. Although last night I spoke in favour of the higher figure I did vote today for keeping the figure down in respect of farm valuations of £75. In view of that, and in view of the fact that I have been convinced that the whole purpose of this Bill is to use the money for providing more and more [1053] houses for those most in need of them, I will vote against the amendment.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  Senator Flanagan said that young people should be encouraged to build their own houses. This is typical of Fianna Fáil, just giving lip service, but now they have an opportunity of giving these people financial encouragement and inducement to build their own homes. All we are talking about here is a measly £325. We should be endeavouring to encourage, with financial assistance, as many people as possible to build their own houses. The £1,250 ceiling suggested by the Minister will exclude many local authority officials as well as people like members of the Garda Síochána, ESB workers and a host of technicians whose salaries are in or about this figure. The amount involved here is not a very great amount of money and if these people are not encouraged with this type of small inducement they will be falling back on the local authority to provide them with houses which will cost £3,500 to £4,000.

Surely the Minister must understand why as many people as possible should be encouraged to save in this way. Saving in this era of high prices is very difficult and people must have a high target. The provision of one's own home is a great way to save. As well as that, one must remember that, when a young couple are starting off and have provided a house for themselves, that is not the end of their expenses because they have to furnish and equip the house, all of which is very costly. The grant in toto does not represent a high proportion of the total cost when these people would be expected to build houses in the region of £3,000 to £4,000. As has already been pointed out this morning, raw materials here are now the dearest in Europe.

People also mentioned speculators getting the benefit of these grants but certainly in rural and smaller urban areas very many of the people who build houses do the greater part of the work themselves. A builder is not involved but they may employ a craftsman to put the finishing touches here and there. Surely these people should [1054] get special consideration? We talk about encouraging people but the proper way to encourage them is to give them the money, to let them see that we are prepared to back them as far as possible with this small financial inducement. Two grants totalling £650 is not such a colossal figure. I would ask the Minister to be manly enough to give the people a chance. I do not think that the Minister can possibly apply his own standards here. I suppose it is difficult for a person on £6,000 to £7,000 a year to visualise living on £1,250 or £1,500 a year. It is quite a mansized job and a person in this category starting off to build his house——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That is a most unfair remark. I have not earned £6,000 or £7,000 in any one year yet.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I certainly withdraw the remark if the Minister takes umbrage. I certainly do not wish to offend him or to——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It is a poor argument in favour of the amendment.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  ——sound offensive. Nevertheless, these people must get financial assistance.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  I was rather surprised that Senator Boland, when he was making such a very good case, should have been so hard on the Minister who has at least gone so far as to bring the amount to £1,250. In fairness to the Minister I would say that he is as deeply concerned about this problem as Senator Boland or I or anybody else is. We should give him credit for coming up to the £1,250. I would support Senator Boland in his appeal to the Minister that he should, if at all possible, increase the figure. I would not like to make the same case as Senator Boland made because he implied that people would get married and would wait until they had three children so that they would qualify for the £1,900, if Senator Boland's amendment was accepted. That is not the case. Young people are more sophisticated than we give them credit for and [1055] usually, as Senator Crinion pointed out, it is at the stage when they plan to get married that they make their plans for getting a house. Therefore, they are not concerned with the dependant part of the grant. I think that the relevant figure is £1,500 because, if a man is going to get married, he likes to provide a house. It is very unusual for someone who intends to marry to hope that grants may be increased or that houses may become available. I doubt if many people building their own houses would be drawing the portion of the grant in respect of dependants. For that reason I would respectfully ask the Minister to see if the income limit could be increased to £1,500. If that would help people to acquire their own houses it would certainly take a load off the local authorities and off the ratepayers.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Senator Fitzgerald has taken me up wrongly; it was the Minister who made the case that people with the maximum number of dependants would be applying, not me.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Seán Walsh  Zoom on Seán Walsh  I am a member of the same local authority as Senator Boland. I am very pleased that the Minister has introduced this amendment raising the ceiling to £1,250. Every member of a local authority will be delighted that the ceiling is raised. Senator Jack Fitzgerald said that the Minister has gone a long way to meet the situation. Senator Boland is very well aware that at housing meetings of the Dublin County Council we have had to argue to get supplementary grants approved for people who were £25 to £50 over the statutory limit. Most applicants for supplementary grants are people who are just getting married. They are not people with dependants. I certainly welcome the raising of the limit to £1,250 from £1,045.

Last night I referred to this package deal business operated by Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation for the past few years. The raising of the ceiling will help a great deal because, as I said last night, those interested in this type of housing are those who would fail to qualify for a [1056] local authority house. I welcome the amendment.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I am prepared to withdraw my amendment if the Minister will incorporate a clause permitting those who operate these local authority schemes discretionary power to the extent of £50 either way. As Senator Walsh has said, the most troublesome case is where an applicant produces an income certificate which shows him to be £10 or £15 over the statutory limit and the local authority has no option but to refuse his application.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Thomas P Flanagan  Zoom on Thomas P Flanagan  No matter what the limit is there will always be criticism.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I did not interrupt Senator Flanagan when he said this country had the highest priced cement in the whole of Europe and I will thank him not to interrupt me now. We can go into the cement figures; the facts are there.

As I said, the greatest hardship occurs when a man is £10, £15 or £20 over the limit. If the Minister gives discretionary power to the extent of £40 or £50 either way I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.

Mr. W. O'Brien: Information on William O'Brien  Zoom on William O'Brien  The Minister referred last night to a circular sent out to local authorities asking them to ignore overtime. I wonder was there any advice given on that line in the case of supplementary grants. I have known people who worked hard prior to buying a house and, because they worked overtime, they lost one-third of the supplementary grant. The Minister should get in touch with the local authorities and ask them to use their discretion as much as possible. A certain amount of overtime in the 12 months prior to the date of the application for a supplementary grant should be permitted.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Senator Boland is prepared to withdraw his amendment provided I agree to his proposal to have a flexible income limit; I think he said £50 either way. I could not accept that type of proposal. It would be too indefinite. At all times the Department instruct local authorities to be [1057] as lenient as possible in assessing income for supplementary grant purposes. We do not encourage them to take a very stringent line or to be inconsiderate in their assessments. We will continue to instruct local authorities to be as lenient as possible from the point of view of income with applicants for supplementary grants.

The general feeling seems to be that I have gone some way in increasing the income limit to £1,250. I am grateful to Senator Flanagan because he brought a bit of sanity back into the situation. When discussing house building policy we must, at all times, remember the need to achieve the highest number of houses possible commensurate with the amount of money available and always ensuring a good standard.

We must also consider how limits affect applicants for grants. It is significant that the number of applications for supplementary grants has been increasing all the time. In the year 1960 there were 1,813 applications and in 1968 there were 3,600 applications. The number is increasing all the time. The income limit at the moment is not affecting the number of applicants. However, because of increasing incomes, [1058] and for other reasons, I believe I am justified in increasing the limit to £1,250 and I hope the House will accept that.

Roughly 50 per cent of the people who are applying for housing loans are on incomes of less than £1,050. It is significant that more than 50 per cent of persons building houses for themselves with the aid of local authority loans are on an income level as low as £1,050. I do not think, then, that I would be justified in agreeing to any suggestion to extend State assistance to those on a much higher income. I commend this to the House. In all considerations of housing policy one must bear in mind that there is an obligation on all of us to ensure that the money available to the State would assist those who are in the greatest need and not be distributed large and wide.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  This is not State assistance; it is local authority assistance. If it were State assistance, my amendment would be out of order.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  As far as the Department are concerned, it comes under the Local Loans Fund.

Amendment put.

Belton, Richard.
Boland, John.
FitzGerald, Alexis.
Fitzgerald, Jack.
Kelly, John.
McDonald, Charles B.
Mannion, John M.
O'Brien, William.
O'Higgins, Michael J.

Brennan, John J.
Brugha, Ruairí.
Crinion, Brendan.
Doyle, John.
Eachthéirn, Cáit, Uí.
Farrell, Joseph.
Farrell, Peggy.
Fitzsimons, Patrick.
Flanagan, Thomas P.
Gallanagh, Michael.
Hanafin, Desmond.
Honan, Dermot P.
Keegan, Seán.
Keery, Neville.
Killilea, Mark.
McElgunn, Farrell.
Nash, John J.
O'Callaghan, Cornelius K.
O'Sullivan, Terry.
Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, Patrick W.
Ryan, William.
Walsh, Seán.

Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 3 to 6, inclusive, not moved.

[1059]Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I move amendment No. 7:

Before section 7 to insert the following new section:

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this enactment the provisions of section 33 of the Housing Act, 1966, shall continue to apply to dwellings of 1,250 to 1,500 square feet.”

I have tabled this amendment because up until now people occupying a new house of less than 1,500 square feet were entitled to receive rates remission from the local authority scaled over their first nine years of occupancy. This remission was operated under section 33 of the 1966 Act. It meant that in the first year of occupancy they paid one-tenth of the rates; in the second year they paid two-tenths; in the third year they paid three-tenths and so on until they ended up paying the full amount of the rates demand. This remission was given to assist occupiers of new houses with the considerable cost of furnishing the house and making the repayments on their mortgage. Indeed, many owners also have to make repayments on the second loan they have raised in order to provide the deposit. This will still apply when the Bill is passed but because houses of between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet are to be excluded by the Minister from getting grants they will no longer qualify for scaled rate remission as well as not qualifying for State grants, supplementary grants or exemption from stamp duty. It is estimated by the Minister himself that people buying houses of between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet will experience a difference of £1,000. This is a terrible penal imposition on people who want to buy modestly sized houses between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet. This imposition has been devised to help the Government out of the difficulty they find themselves in because they have neglected the housing programme over the years and there is now an enormous backlog. This Bill is forcing people to buy smaller houses and is making it the sole prerogative of people with substantial means to buy houses between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet.

[1060] It is because the Minister is imposing this extra £1,000 on potential purchasers that I tabled this amendment so that they might at least be given remission of rates scaled over the first ten years of occupancy. When one remembers they will no longer get the State grant or the supplementary grant they will automatically be £550 the poorer. They will also have to pay stamp duty. The average cost of a house in Dublin of 1,250 to 1,500 square feet would be at least £4,500.

An interesting comparison can be made on this point. The stamp duty in Ireland on a house costing £4,000 is £120; stamp duty on a similar house is not payable in England, Scotland or in the Six Counties. For a house costing £4,500 in Ireland the stamp duty is £135; there is no stamp duty in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. For a house costing £4,600 in Ireland the stamp duty is £135; in England the stamp duty is a mere £23 and the same rate applies in the Six Counties of north-eastern Ireland.

Mr. Gallanagh: Information on Michael Gallanagh  Zoom on Michael Gallanagh  How much would it be in America?

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  For a house costing £5,000 the stamp duty in Ireland is £150; it is £25 in England, Scotland and in the Six Counties. America or any other country far removed from us obviously does not come into the argument. I am making the comparison that in six counties of this country stamp duty is payable at the rate of £25 and the remaining 26 counties pay duty at the rate of £150. This is the situation obtaining in our part of the country that happens to be administered at the moment by Fianna Fáil.

Mr. McElgunn: Information on Farrell McElgunn  Zoom on Farrell McElgunn  We tax the rich to pay the poor.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  That is the kind of penal imposition that is being placed on people who buy a house over 1,250 square feet, in addition to the loss of the State grant and supplementary grants. On the Minister's estimation it is a loss of £1,000. Surely the people should be allowed the small concession of a graduated scale of rate remission extending over the first nine years of occupancy of the new house? It is not [1061] giving them something new but is merely an attempt to restore one of the concessions this Bill envisages withdrawing.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  As I have stated already, the main objective of the Bill is to ensure that as many houses as possible of reasonable size and standard are built from the resources that can be devoted to housebuilding. If rates remission for a house over 1,249 square feet were to be allowed much of the incentive to build houses below this size would be lost and the objective of the Bill would be defeated. I cannot accept that I should grant this concession or accept this amendment because the objective of the Bill is to encourage the building of more moderately-sized houses. We are not forcing people to do this: we are only providing an incentive to people who are prepared to do it. People who so wish can build houses of any size but there will not be any State assistance by way of grant or rates remission for houses over 1,249 square feet. Were I to accept the principle in this amendment I would be defeating the principle of the Bill.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  We cannot accept the Minister's explanation. As has been stated previously, the rates remission cannot be accepted as State assistance. The point we wish to highlight is that when people provide their own homes at great expense their expenditure does not stop at that point. For most families it takes two or three years to furnish their home and, in addition, they have the very heavy burden of rates. While the Government have promised to have the entire rating system investigated, nevertheless I consider the Minister should accept this amendment which gives only a reasonable remission. It is some small recognition of persons' industry in providing their own homes. I would ask the Minister to give this matter his sympathetic consideration as the persons involved are those who are making an effort to provide their own houses rather than waiting for the local authority to provide them.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  I consider the [1062] Minister has not made a very good case against the amendment. He states that if rates remission were to be given to people who build houses over 1,249 square feet, more money would be spent on housing than is intended. I cannot agree with that. I consider encouragement should be given to people to build a bigger and better type house if they want to do so. We should be consistent in this matter. Under the 1966 Act the area was increased from 1,400 square feet to 1,500 square feet. Four years later we decide to reduce to 1,250 square feet. What will happen in the future is that people who would normally like to build or purchase a house of 1,500 square feet will now, perhaps, decide to build a smaller house and thereby qualify for all the grants.

Mr. Nash: Information on John Joseph Nash  Zoom on John Joseph Nash  I agree that the floor area should be reduced for grant purposes so that the capital of the country will be applied to best advantage and a curb put on inflation. On the other hand, I think the Minister might consider the possibility that full rates might not be levied on houses that have an area of more than 1,250 square feet. I will explain why. First of all, any person who has to get a grant must have a ceiling on his income not exceeding £1,250 per annum. I can visualise cases where people with relatively small incomes may, for a particular reason, not only wish to build a house in excess of 1,250 square feet but may have the necessary capital to do so without looking for grants or benefits. A young couple getting married, where the bride's parents might have retired from business and wished to live with the young couple for health reasons or otherwise, might wish to provide accommodation for the old people who would have some capital after disposing of their business. I have known this to happen many times. Despite the fact that they are losing the grants, they will build a house in excess of 1,250 square feet. I would like to see the Minister considering an amendment in their rates. From the point of view of the public authority, it is a good investment. Only a relatively small proportion of what a householder pays in rates goes on services such as [1063] the removal of rubbish. A very substantial part of the money goes towards meeting health costs and improving the conditions of the poor. I have not a rate demand here but I think that half the money goes on services.

From the beginning a young couple would pay a small rate and they would be paying for the services they use. After a number of years the local authority would be making a clear profit. Young people might have a house with a poor law valuation of £30 or £40. The local authority would be getting full rates on the house. The smaller houses have a valuation of £18 or £20. The local authorities, if looking for a profit, could only consider such a young couple's house a good investment. Those young people should be given help and encouragement. We are living in an age when there is very little regard for old people. Where a young couple feel that they would like to oblige the parents of one or the other, I would ask the Minister to consider them in order to see whether a remission of rates could be granted to them.

Mr. McElgunn: Information on Farrell McElgunn  Zoom on Farrell McElgunn  Before we finish with this amendment I should like to have one point explained. The question of stamp duty was raised here. Stamp duty is payable on houses, and my understanding is that when you build a house you pay stamp duty on the building site. I understand from a perusal of the Finance Bill, 1970, and from looking at the Schedule at the end of page 36 where it says where the amount in consideration of the sale exceeds £6,000 but does not exceed £50,000—this goes on for every £50 or fractions of £50—the stamp duty is 3 per cent. Before that, where the amount does not exceed £6,000 the stamp duty is 2 per cent. I find it hard to reconcile these figures with the figures given by Senator Boland when he was speaking about the Six Counties of north-eastern Ireland.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  The Chair allowed Senator Boland to make a passing reference to this matter but it is not really a matter for this Bill. I have now allowed Senator McElgunn [1064] to make reference to it. After a couple of passing references to this, this discussion might cease.

Mr. Keery: Information on Neville Keery  Zoom on Neville Keery  I would like to mention a few points about the psychological arguments in some of the cases mentioned by Senator Boland and Senator Nash. I should like to support the Minister in his approach to rates remission in this Bill. The possibility of rates remission may be a temptation to young people when they are getting married. The young husband may consider looking for a house with a floor area in excess of 1,250 square feet and this might prove to be an additional pressure on him at a later stage. Any small temptation encourages people to take that last little step which brings them beyond their means and encourages them to do something which may be a very heavy commitment on them in the future. In the early years a young couple will benefit from the rates remission. Inevitably the overall burden is increasing in the young family in the early years of marriage while the man's salary may be increasing, and his family commitments are making heavy demands on him. When such a man begins to lose the rates remission he may also have to face larger expenses connected with the early upbringing of his family. I feel that the rates remission is of very doubtful value and may be something which is quite deceptive to young people getting married. If the Minister encourages people in the lower income groups to get houses and assist them to the maximum possible extent in getting houses appropriate to their means and further requirements, he would have achieved a great deal.

I have experience of cases where people at the end of the period of rates remission are appalled when they receive their first full rates bill. It is only then that the enormity of their commitment faces them. If people buy a house with an overall floor area which is big it is almost part of their civic education to have it explained to them what the full demands on a married man, in local and central taxation, will be. I am quite happy to support the Minister in his attitude towards the amendment before us.

[1065]Mr. Honan: Information on Dermot Patrick Honan  Zoom on Dermot Patrick Honan  I should like to say that I am generally in agreement with Senator Keery. On the Second Stage of the Bill the Minister pointed out that it would be possible for people to build this type of house and if at some later stage they found it necessary to make some additions, reconstruction grants would be available. I think it was provided in the last Housing Act, and in most of the Housing Acts, that one could not get a reconstruction grant for 15 years after receiving a grant. If a young person got married and built a house under the scheme which the Minister envisages it could be presumed that in 15 years time there would be a child aged about 14 years old then and that accommodation would be getting overcrowded.

If the 15-year regulation were maintained, it would militate against the person's being able to provide the accommodation the family required. The planning and lay-out of these houses should make it possible to leave room for extensions. Probably a seven-year period in these cases would be more equitable than a 15-year one.

Mr. Crinion: Information on Brendan Crinion  Zoom on Brendan Crinion  If you can prove overcrowding or that you are in need of extra accommodation after five years —I am not sure if it applies to new houses but I think it does—you can get a special grant of £50 a room. I know the Department are not too strict in this regard. If there is one member of a household in excess of the number of rooms in the house, they would consider that overcrowding. Most people would consider that a fairly lenient view particularly where there are young members in the family and where the inclination would be to put two in a room. That being so, there is a strong argument in favour of building the smaller house to suit present needs and then, if there is overcrowding after a five-year period or so, they could qualify for the special grant and build on to the house according as the need arises.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  The Minister should clarify this. It is one thing to hope a certain thing will happen but what matters is the interpretation that will be accepted in the Customs House [1066] when a person goes looking for a grant. Some years ago, the Land Commission built sub-standard houses with mass-concrete walls and without any services in the houses. When people applied for a reconstruction grant to build an additional room they found that, because they were not 15 years in that house, and because the Land Commission had drawn the grant, they did not qualify for the full £140. I think they called it a “sympathetic grant”. It is not enough to have it on the records of the House: it must be incorporated in the Bill.

Dr. Belton: Information on Richard Belton  Zoom on Richard Belton  I support some of the statements and I reject others of them out of hand. Senator Keery said that the rates remission in force at present is an inducement to young married people to overspend: roughly, that was his meaning. There are other inducements for people to overspend—buying a car, a television set, and so on. I consider that rates remission is one of the most valued concessions in the buying of a house. It must be borne in mind that rates remission falls on local taxation rather than on central taxation.

To some extent I agree with Senator Honan about the size of the house. He spoke of additions to a house and getting grants for those additions. I was very sorry I omitted this on the Second Reading of the Bill. If you design a house within a certain range of square feet then you design it as an entity: you design it without looking at it for extension. If you design it so that extensions can be made to it, it will be a dearer house: that is inevitable. That is why I am loath to accept the Minister's emphasis—emphasis or inducement—in relation to a range of, say, 800 to 1,050 square feet as being correct here.

I am trying to be as constructive as I possibly can and I am sure that that goes for all of us on this side of the House. I am pointing out the fallacies and flaws. As Senator Keery said, the people who will mainly be involved in this will be newly-married people who will expect a family. If their house has a floor area within the range of 800 to 1,050 square feet, for example, they [1067] will need an extension or a new house if there is a family they cannot live within those confines. In the light of that, I rather feel that the Minister might reconsider this whole problem.

It will cost more to design and build a house that can have an extension added afterwards than to build a house without the idea of extending it. Undoubtedly, it must be designed in a different way. I know something about this matter. The water supply or drainage will have to be altered. The extension may have to go over certain drains to the house and it may be necessary to alter the drains to that extension. The cheapest way to deal with the matter is to recommend a higher floor area than the Minister is suggesting at the moment.

Business suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I have not very much to add to what I said already on this amendment. Rates remission, similar to grants, be they Local Government Department grants or supplementary grants and, indeed, loans, are all instruments which the Government use to assist in implementing their policy. The policy of the Government in relation to house-building, as I said repeatedly, is to ensure that we provide the greatest number of houses we can with the amount of money we are spending and which is available to us from the resources of the State at present.

There is no doubt that a rates remission of this size would be a very substantial encouragement to persons to build the larger type house and such encouragement would be in conflict with Government policy. I could not accept the amendment on that ground. It would be going completely contrary to the objectives of the Bill we are now discussing. For that reason I want the House to fully understand that I cannot accept these amendments regarding the continuation of remission of rates in this case.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  We can take it then, apparently, that it is not merely a byproduct of this Bill that those who buy a house of between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet will be penalised to the [1068] extent of £1,000. In the Minister's own words, it is Government policy to put a penal imposition of £1,000 on those who want to provide decent sized homes. Let me suggest to the House that, apart from the fact that, to my mind, it is patently unfair that those people who want to provide a house of that size or who, because of the size of their families are obliged to provide a house of that size in order to give them decent living accommodation, it is bad economics in the long term. A house of that size will have a higher valuation and consequently a higher amount of rates will be paid by the occupier over the years in return for the same amount of services being provided by the local authority.

Once the house is built and completed, the only service which will have to be undertaken physically is the refuse collection week by week. The sanitary services will not be in any way different because the house is smaller than 1,250 square feet instead of bigger. The refuse collection will not be affected in any way. What will be affected is the revenue which the local authority can hope to get. The larger house would have a larger valuation and consequently a larger amount of money would be coming in to the local authority each year.

What the Minister is doing now is forcing the local authorities to expect to get less by way of rates because, in the Dublin area, he is wiping out the house that would have a valuation of approximately £25 to £30 at present. Consequently he is wiping out the additional revenue the local authority would get over and above the revenue they would get from a house with a valuation of £20.

This is deliberate Government policy. It is the intention of the Fianna Fáil Government to take £1,000 out of the pockets of every man who has to buy a house over 1,250 square feet in size because his family is so big that he must have a bigger house. It is Fianna Fáil policy to take £1,000 out of the pockets of the young couple who are getting married and want to face up to the responsibility of providing space for their aged parents to live with them in the home. Indeed, [1069] it was suggested by Senator Nash from the Government side of the House today, that a young couple might want to provide for the parents of one or other of them who had decided to retire from business, to allow them to live with them in the home, and that all the incentives towards building a house of a reasonable size ought not to be removed in one fell swoop. Indeed, he expressed tacit approval of this amendment.

I am quite sure there are others on the Government side of the House who would feel that some little help should be given to people buying houses in this category. The Minister is being absolutely adamant and apparently has the approval of his party and the Government and, consequently, all we can deduce is that Fianna Fáil are deliberately and consciously setting out to take £1,000 from the pockets of anybody who either wants, or is obliged to provide a medium-sized house of between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  The Senator has now said the same thing five times. Surely, there is no need for this?

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  The thing is so important that it is worth ensuring that it is properly, clearly and unequivocally spelt out in the record. Fianna Fáil are taking £1,000——

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Not for the sixth time.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  ——out of the pockets of anybody who must, or who wants to provide a medium-sized house of between 1,250 and 1,500 square feet. The figure is not mine; it is the Minister's.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  May I say that we have a very heavy programme and if the Senator persists in this type of repetition we shall have to ask for the closure.

Mr. W. O'Brien: Information on William O'Brien  Zoom on William O'Brien  I should like to support the amendment because I have experience of cases in the past where people with three or four children were forced to leave a small house and go into a large house. I do not think it would be impossible for the Minister [1070] to cater for those people. It could be done in the same way as provision has been made for the higher rate of grants in rural areas where it has to be ascertained to the satisfaction of the local authority that the existing house is unfit and overcrowded. Provision should be made to give power to local authorities to use discretion in the case of a large family where the existing house is unfit and incapable of housing the family of four or five to the satisfaction of the parents. In such a case the Minister should either make some provision for them if that is possible, or give some discretionary power to local authorities so that, if they are satisfied after investigation that the existing house is not fit for the family and that the family would have to move to a larger type of house, the grant would still be allowed.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  This Bill came before the House at very short notice and the Committee Stage is being taken at much shorter notice than is usual. When this Bill has been disposed of there is a further Bill to be taken in all Stages. I have gone out of my way to facilitate the Minister and the Leader of the House. I have even tabled amendments for the second Bill before it has got its Second Reading because I appreciate the difficulties. Let the Leader of the House not think that the bullying threat of a closure will prevent adequate debate. The amendment is being pressed.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  There is no question of using bullying methods. I am just pointing out to the Senator that if it is necessary on each amendment to say the same thing six or seven times then it will be necessary to bring commonsense to bear on the situation.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Section 6 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  I suggest that amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 10 may be discussed together.

[1071] Government amendment No. 8:

In subsection (2), to delete paragraph (b).

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  These amendments are required to provide for the recovery of expenses incurred by a county council paying supplementary grants in a borough or urban district situated in a county that has been divided into a number of rural sanitary districts under the Local Government (No. 2) Act, 1934. At present Cork is, in fact, the only such county. It has three separate administrative sanitary districts, Cork North, Cork South and Cork West. Under section 7, as amended by these amendments, the expenses of the county council in paying these supplementary grants in each sanitary district will be recovered in the same way as other county-at-large charges, that is, in proportion to the produce of a penny rate in the £ in the areas concerned. I commend the amendment to the House to cover this one case.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Are we discussing Nos. 8 and 9 and 10 together?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Yes.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I understand that the reason for No. 10 is to incorporate in one form in the Bill the paragraph that will be deleted if amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are agreed to. Is this correct?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This is so.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 9:

In subsection (3)—

(1) to delete paragraph (b), and

(2) to delete paragraph (c) (ii) (II) and substitute:

“(II) subsection (4) of this section shall apply and be deemed always to have applied for the purpose of enabling the expenses of the council of the county in relation to the grant to be charged.”

Amendment agreed to.

[1072] Government amendment No. 10:

To add the following new subsection:

“(4) The following provisions shall apply with respect to the expenses under a relevant section of a housing authority who are the council of a county:

(a) in the case of a county with respect to which paragraph (a) of section 8 of the Act of 1966 applies, the exclusion of boroughs and urban districts contained in that paragraph shall be taken as not extending to any borough which stands not designated by regulations under subsection (2) of this section as excluded with respect to the relevant section or to any urban district which stands not designated by regulations under subsection (3) of this section as so excluded,

(b) in the case of a county with respect to which paragraph (b) of the said section 8 applies and which includes an area or areas in relation to which this paragraph applies—

(i) there shall firstly be taken each area in the county consisting of an area or areas in relation to which this paragraph applies and the rural sanitary area adjoining it or them and the expenses under the relevant section in respect of that combined area shall be charged on it,

(ii) other expenses under the relevant section shall be charged as provided for by paragraph (b) (i) of section 8 of the Act of 1966.

In this paragraph ‘area in relation to which this paragraph applies’ means an area consisting of—

(i) a borough standing not designated by regulations under subsection (2) of this section as excluded with respect to the relevant section or,

[1073] (ii) an urban district standing not designated by regulations under subsection (3) of this section as so excluded.”

Amendment agreed to.

Section 7, as amended, agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Amendments Nos. 11 and 21 may be discussed together.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I move amendment No. 11:

In subsection (1), line 39, after “(a)” to insert “and (b).”

This relates to section 16 of the 1966 Housing Act. As the House knows, a special grant exists for farmers who want to build a dwellinghouse and under the provisions of section 8 of the Bill before the House those farmers are now being allowed to build a dwellinghouse for themselves within an urban area, presumably that nearest their farm, and will still qualify for the special higher rate of grant. Section 8 itself is unobjectionable. I think the House generally would agree that this is a good provision.

Services such as piped water and sewerage facilities are not always available in rural areas. Where a town is being developed and where these services are readily available a farmer could easily travel from his dwelling house to the farm. It is a welcome change that the Government are encouraging people to stay on the land by giving them this facility.

However, in section 16 (2) after the Principal Act, the Housing Act of 1966, as well as a paragraph (a), which basically covers people who are farmers, there is a paragraph (b) which provides that the grant is also available to people who derive their livelihood from farming, not farm owners but farm labourers or other people who are in some way engaged in the agricultural industry. For some inexplicable reason the present Bill which allows farmers the higher grant for building within the urban area does not include paragraph (b) of the principal Act, which [1074] would make the higher grant available to the other categories I have mentioned.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The purpose of section 8 is to validate the payment of grants to farmers who derive their livelihood solely or mainly from farming and who build houses in the urban areas. The Senator by his amendment, is asking us to validate the payment of grants to other classes of persons. I do not know whether the Senator realised when he put down the amendment that some of those grants have been paid, and we are validating this payment to persons deriving their livelihood solely or mainly from farming. The farm labourer can be classified as depending solely or mainly on farming for his livelihood and does, in fact, qualify for the increased grant.

In amendment No. 21 the Senator's wording is “in page 7, line 4 after ‘(a)’ to insert ‘and (b)’”. This would mean that only on grounds of living in overcrowded or unfit accommodation or for other compassionate reasons could a farmer qualify for the grant. As the Bill stands at the moment——

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It should be “or (b)”.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Senator has “and (b)”. Therefore, I take it it is out of order.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  It is not out of order but out of intent. I am sure the Minister and his advisers knew very well what was in my mind. I was rushing this to facilitate the Leader of the House.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I was rushed myself.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  I am overwhelmed by the way the Senator is trying to facilitate me.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I cannot accept the amendment. We are anxious to pay the grant to farmers who build their houses in the urban areas. However, if we were to extend it to those other classes of persons, then it would be hard to justify not increasing all housing grants to £450, and that is not the purpose. We intended to provide special assistance [1075] to farmers to move into the urban areas and for very good reasons, for planning and social reasons. Even though the Senator may have intended what he says he intended in amendment No. 21, I cannot accept that either, and I do not think the House would expect me to accept these amendments.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Even if amendment No. 11 were to read: “or (b)”, the Minister would still not be inclined to accept it?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  No.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  I am a little confused by the Minister's explanation. I take it that paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section 16 of the Housing Act, 1966, allowed people who were occupants of unfit houses or overcrowded houses in rural areas to qualify for the special higher grant which was being afforded to farmers who were building a house in a rural area. Now that farmers who build a house for themselves in the urban area can still qualify for the higher grant, why should not the other people who heretofore qualified together with the farmers for this higher grant in a rural area not be given this facility of building in an urban area?

I take it the intention of section 8 of the Bill is to encourage greater development of towns and to encourage people to build where water and sewerage facilities are available. If that it so, this intention would be fulfilled by allowing those who are covered by paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section 16 of the principal Act to qualify for this grant.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The higher rate of grant to farmers is intended as a special aid to the farming community, and I take it the House agrees with this provision.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Yes.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It is not intended to extend this concession given to the farming community to all rural dwellers. That is the reason for excluding [1076] that particular class of persons and applying the grant only to those who derive their livelihood solely or mainly from agricultural pursuits and who build in an urban area.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Would a farm labourer residing in a small cottage in a rural area be classed under paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of section 16 (2)? In other words, does paragraph (a) extend only to farmers who either own or lease their farm or does it embrace people who merely work on the land?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I explained that. It applies to any person who can reasonably claim to be deriving his livelihood solely or mainly from agriculture, and it includes the class of person to whom the Senator is referring, to farm labourers, persons who are employed by farmers. There is no property clause or ownership clause included in this paragraph. I think the provision is fairly broad and that the interpretation of it has been generous.

Mr. W. O'Brien: Information on William O'Brien  Zoom on William O'Brien  I should like to support this amendment. As I mentioned last night, a man living in an urban area on £14 or £15 a week is in a difficult position because he will not qualify for the £2,700 loan because of his income. In my county we are very fortunate because if a man is around the £15 mark he will get a £1,700 loan. If he is to be brought to the £1,700 mark plus, the maximum grant under the 1970 Act, it will only bring him up to £2,350 and he is still very far away from the price of a house. He still has to meet an additional £1,000. We should have some ceiling so that a man in that category would qualify for the higher rate of grant. I know people in the rural area who are on the £16 and £17 mark who qualified and did get it but then we had a man in the urban area who was in a worse position and who had three or four children and because the additional grant was not extended under the 1966 Act he did not qualify. That is something which would require consideration and the Minister might have a look at it again.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  When the Minister [1077] refers to people working mainly for agriculture, would employees of agricultural co-ops fit into this category? Many of these people may not be full time and it is the same way with people in the co-operative marts. It could be that three-quarters of these people's incomes would be derived from this work and can the Minister say in what way are these applicants viewed when they look for the higher rates of grant? Have the Department any hard and fast rules? I know that the matter is not left completely to the inspector who inspects the completed work. Could the Minister give me some guidance on this?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I do not think it would be for me to discuss individual cases in a debate of this kind because each application will be considered on its merits, as to whether the applicant is deriving his livelihood mainly or solely from agriculture. In the main, the Senator can accept it that the interpretation which my Department have been putting on these applications from a person, who may not be deriving 100 per cent of his income from agriculture, but where this is his main source of support, is that generally he will qualify. I do not intend, however, to discuss individual employments or assess them for grant purposes; each individual can make his claim to the Department and he will be considered in a reasonable way.

Mr. Honan: Information on Dermot Patrick Honan  Zoom on Dermot Patrick Honan  The administration of these Acts particularly at local authority level causes considerable trouble at times. I am sure the Department have considered one aspect which I should like to mention. If I am a farmer living within six or seven miles of a town and I apply for a grant to build a house in the urban area and having built it and resided in it for, say, a year or two, would I then be entitled to go back to the house I left and let, for profitable purposes, the house that has been provided for me at the increased grant?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Yes.

Mr. Honan: Information on Dermot Patrick Honan  Zoom on Dermot Patrick Honan  I could build a house in the urban area and having built it and having got the extra grant for it, [1078] in excess of what would be given to an ordinary urban dweller, I would be entitled to leave the house, set it at a profitable rent and go back to live where I started?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Yes, but you would not qualify for another grant at the special rate.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  But if your brother was living with you he would.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  I notice that the Minister intends to change the higher rate of grant to urban areas and “urban” is specified. I am thinking of a farmer in County Dublin. There is no mention of the corporation and a farmer who lives in a corporation area is not entitled to this higher grant.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  He is.

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  There is no mention of corporation area.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Senator can take “urban” to cover all the same areas, corporation and so on.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  In other words, take one of the large rancheros in the Royal County——

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  It only applies to rancheros whose farms are less than £25 valuation.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  ——and he moves about eight miles to the city area and gets the large grant. I think Senator Honan's point is a good one. Someone who is living on a farm on the edge of a town builds a house in the town and gets £450 from the State and £450 from the local authority, £900 in all, towards the cost and he sells the house within a year and probably gets some profit on it. He would have got a handy £900 profit anyway. Then his brother who is working the farm with him applies and does the same thing. In other words a clever speculator with the help of an unscrupulous farmer——

Mr. Honan: Information on Dermot Patrick Honan  Zoom on Dermot Patrick Honan  Or a good Senator.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  ——could apply for grants in the urban area and make a good thing out of it.

[1079]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  The Chair is very interested in this discussion but he is not quite sure that it is relevant to the amendment.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  In case this discussion creates any doubts in people's minds, a person to qualify for the housing grant must be able to show that he requires the house for ordinary residence. Once a person has shown that and has qualified for the grant, has built his house and lives in it and then, as Senator Honan suggested, after a short while decides to sell the house, we would have no control over that. It is his personal property at that stage and he can dispose of it. The only reservation is that he would not get a second grant unless he could show that he needed a second house for ordinary residence. The question about “urban” or “corporation” does not arise because this special grant which applies to the farming community applies to all farmers, or any person who can reasonably show that he derives his income from farming. Such a person can build a house anywhere he likes and qualify.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Senator Boland on the amendment.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  This amendment would allow people who are deriving their income wholly or mainly from farming to get the higher grant to build a house in the urban area. Take the case of the man I mentioned earlier, after all his toiling and saving, and who gets £1,500 together for the deposit: would he not be better employed to buy a small farm for £1,500——

Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  It would be very small for £1,500.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  ——and work it for six months and then apply to build a house in an urban area, collect £900 in grants, sell the farm and in that way get around the elaborate gradings in the scale?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  In a typical spirit of generosity I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

[1080] Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 8 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Amendments Nos. 12, 14 and 18 can be taken together.

Government amendment No. 12:

In page 3, line 52, to delete “31st day of August, 1970” and to substitute “31st day of December, 1970”.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This amendment involves the substitution of 31st December, 1970, for 31st August, 1970, wherever a reference to 31st August, 1970, appears in the Bill. The purpose of this amendment is to put back by some months the date on which the limitation of grants and rate remission in relation to dwellings with a floor area not exceeding 116 square metres or 1,249 square feet will come into effect. The change, as I explained earlier, is being made because of the effect of the recent dispute in the cement industry on the ability of builders to get houses started, houses which they would normally have started had the cement strike not occurred. This is a concession to those who had plans made and who would not have been affected by this new clause had the unfortunate strike not occurred. I commend the amendment to the House.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  Three worthwhile and very necessary amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 9, as amended, agreed to.

Government amendment No. 13:

Before section 10, to insert the following new section:

“10. (1) Subsection (1) of section 26 of the Act of 1966 is hereby amended by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (b):

‘(b) the total, determined by the housing authority, of the income of the person and the [1081] income of his spouse (if any) does not exceed the appropriate limit, that is to say:

(i) in case the supplementary grant is made in respect of a house the erection of which commenced before the 1st day of August, 1970—one thousand and forty-five pounds per annum,

(ii) in case it is made in respect of a house the erection of which commenced on or after the 1st day of August, 1970, and before the coming into operation of the first regulations made pursuant to the next subparagraph—one thousand two hundred and fifty pounds per annum, and

(iii) in any other case—the limit for the time being specified by the Minister, by regulations made with the consent of the Minister for Finance, as the appropriate limit for the purposes of this paragraph.’

(2) The following subsection is hereby substituted for subsection (2) of section 26 of the Act of 1966:

‘(2) A housing authority, in determining the income of a person applying for a grant under this section or of his spouse, may, if the person satisfies the authority that he or his spouse maintains at his or her own expense a dependant person, make such allowance as they think fit, subject to the appropriate limit, that is to say:

(a) in case the supplementary grant is made in respect of a house the erection of which commenced before the coming into operation of the first regulations made pursuant to the next paragraph —one hundred pounds in respect of each person so maintained, or four hundred pounds in the aggregate, whichever is the less, and

(b) in any other case—the [1082] limit for the time being specified by the Minister, by regulations made with the consent of the Minister for Finance, as the appropriate limit for the purposes of this subsection.’”

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This amendment will increase the income limit for a supplementary grant from £1,045 to £1,250 a year. Local authorities may make allowances of up to £400 in respect of the dependants of applicants, up to four in number, making the new maximum income limit for supplementary grant purposes £1,650. Under the 1966 Act the basic income limit could only be revised by the introduction of amending legislation. This new section empowers the Minister to make regulations revising, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, the income limit and the maximum allowances. The provision will facilitate the making of future revisions if, and when, these are considered necessary.

Mr. J. Boland: Information on John Boland  Zoom on John Boland  We discussed this at some considerable length this morning. I still hold the view that the income limit should be £1,500. Presumably other speakers still hold the views they expressed. I believe that the £1,250 will very quickly be seen to be just as inadequate as was the £1,045 two years ago. That is the comparison I would make.

I am not too sure that it is a good thing to allow the Minister to alter these figures in future by way of regulation. As things stand, the figure is written into the Bill. It is fixed by statute and it requires amending legislation to change it. On the other hand, there is a Housing Bill virtually every year and, when such a Bill is introduced, Senators have an opportunity of tabling amendments to have the limits raised. If we allow the Minister to take away the power of the Oireachtas to discuss this whenever there is a Housing Bill before the House and to table amendments, if necessary, we may find ourselves in the position in which we now are in relation to the SDA loans.

The upper limit is set by the Minister under regulations and, no matter how much we may wish to change that limit, we have to wait until the Minister [1083] himself sees fit to change it. He may want to change it just as much as the rest of us, but he has to wait until the Minister for Finance permits him to do so. This takes the fixing of the income figure out of the hands of the Oireachtas and places it in the hands of the Minister. The Oireachtas will not be allowed to discuss it or endeavour to have it changed. I do not think this is a good thing.

The Minister has, however, shown by his remarks here this morning and yesterday that he appreciates that the £1,045 was inadequate for a very long time and, if he does not privately feel so already, he will probably very quickly realise that the £1,250 is just as inadequate. If he does not realise it already, he will very quickly realise that the £1,250 for SDA loans is absolutely and utterly inadequate. Consequently, I reluctantly accept the idea that these figures will, in future, be fixed by regulation.

Dr. Belton: Information on Richard Belton  Zoom on Richard Belton  It is not usual for me to accept that anything should be done by regulation. We had some memorable examples of this kind of legislation. I regarded some of the regulations under the Health Bill as necessary. I regarded others as unnecessary and, because I did so, I thought they should have been spelt out in the Bill. On this occasion, however, I think the Minister might reserve to himself the power of regulating because the upper limit referred to by Senator Boland would not necessitate a new Bill coming before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Minister himself could, by way of regulation, fix the upper limit. This is one of the few occasions on which I would agree that the Minister should be empowered to regulate. Normally, I think too much legislation is done by way of regulation.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 10 agreed to.

Government amendment No. 14:

In subsection (1), page 4, to delete “31st day of August, 1970” in lines [1084] 18 and 20 and to substitute in each case “31st day of December, 1970”.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  This amendment has already been discussed with amendment No. 12.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 11, as amended, agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 17a can be discussed together.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  I move amendment No. 15:

To delete subsection (2).

The subsection in question is the most objectionable in a Bill which contains some good sections and which has a general good intent, but the subsection creates a new crime. This is most objectionable. The creation of a new crime should appear in nothing other than a criminal law Bill. It endangers the position at law of countless persons innocent of all guilty intent. If adopted, it will constitute a dangerous departure. No public attention has been given to the creation of this new crime in relation to a grave social problem which I, at least, am not satisfied will necessarily be solved by a measure of this kind. Certainly, the creation of any such offence should receive mature consideration and be made the subject of public discussion.

The Minister has tabled amendment No. 17 (a) but I am afraid I must say to him that this does not deal adequately with the objections I have to this subsection. However, I am grateful to him for it. It is an indication of his preparedness to bring new thinking to bear on the consideration of matters. I was impressed, as I think was everyone in the House, by the Minister's Second Reading speech and if I may say so without giving any offence to his officials, I was impressed particularly when he went away from his official brief and indicated his own thoughts at the end of that speech.

The very tabling of this amendment by the Minister points to the value of this Assembly for the reconsideration [1085] of legislation and for the usefulness of the House in that some of the Members are fortunate enough to have time to observe matters which, under the pressure of Dáil Éireann, are not observed. I think it is reasonable to make that remark. The openmindedness with which the Minister approached the subject yesterday encourages me to press him a little on this and to ask him to please be openminded during the remainder of my remarks and to consider whether the terms of his amendment are not capable of affecting such improvement as would at least remove a greater part of the problem. It is my view that this subsection should not be there at all but should be left over for the comprehensive discussion that this sort of matter must come in for when the Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill is being debated.

In so far as that matter is concerned, my party are approaching it with an open mind and they are anxious merely to reach a right conclusion on it, satisfied that there is a problem and trying to see what is the best solution to that problem. There is only a matter of months involved and if this subsection were deleted the matter could arise in the Forcible Entry Bill in a new form that would perhaps —I say this hopefully—benefit what was said today in relation to the subsection.

I do not profess to be a criminal lawyer; in fact, I have never defended an accused person in my life. I shall not bore the House with anything that might be pretentious but what I have to say is not merely the fruit of my own reflections on the meaning of the subsection but has been the subject of discussion between me and a number of people experienced in this field, including one Tory so blueblooded that it can hardly be true and he is utterly shocked that this subsection should be in the Bill.

I must look at the terms of the subsection to see what are the circumstances which might give rise to an offence under it and, if I may, I shall look at the subsection as it came to us from Dáil Éireann because it was that subsection and not the subsection as [1086] proposed to be amended by the Minister's amendment that we have been considering. I will make observations on the Minister's amendment when I complete my observations on the subsection in question.

One of the circumstances necessary to give rise to an offence is that there must be a case in which there is no tenancy of a dwellinghouse provided by a local authority—I am not proposing to exhaust the circumstances in which such a situation might arise but first of all, let us take the case that there are no tenants in a dwellinghouse provided by a local authority when the tenancy has been terminated and there is notice to quit under the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1866 known to lawyers as Deasy's Act. There is no tenancy on the expiration of the notice to quit but under the law as it stands, on the expiration of that notice while the tenancy is terminated, the local authority have no right to assume possession of the premises.

As the subsection has reached us from Dáil Éireann, the tenancy is terminated and one of the circumstances has arisen which might give rise to an offence. Let us take that particular case first. A notice to quit has been served, the tenancy has been terminated and a person effects an entry into a dwelling. This person may be the tenant, the former tenant, his wife and family or his friends and such a person, under the subsection as it stands, would be guilty of an offence. I know from the terms of the Minister's amendment that he is endeavouring to remedy that situation in relation to the persons who were ordinarily resident there at the time of termination of tenancy. However, if the section were not amended such a possibility would be there and these persons could be brought before a district justice because they were guilty of an offence under the section. A second circumstance would be the rather obvious one of the death of a tenant. The tenancy would then be terminated. The family of the deceased or his friends who attended the wake would be guilty of offences unless they made special application to the local authorities for permission to enter the house.

[1087] Another case could arise. This would be under section 62 (1) of the Housing Act of 1966 where the occupier is not the tenant. I should like to understand more than I do about the background of that situation. The Housing Act, 1966, oddly, seems to recognise the situation that there would be people occupying local authority houses who are not the tenants. A special procedure is laid down in section 62 (1) whereby a warrant can be issued by the district justice if the occupier refuses to deliver up possession on the demand of the authority. The district justice issues a warrant under section 62 (1). The authority is not entitled to get possession until the district justice issues the warrant and yet immediately after this Bill is passed even with the proposed Ministerial amendment, despite the fact that the authority cannot get possession without a warrant from the district justice all those people ordinarily resident with him become people for whom there is a special procedure to get them out under section 62 (1) and (3) of the 1966 Act because they would be guilty of a crime.

A fourth circumstance can be envisaged where the tenancy is determined by the authority assuming possession under section 62 (2) because in the opinion of the authority the house has been abandoned by the tenant and the tenant has not paid his arrears of rent. It is only if he has not paid his arrears of rent after the expiry of such a period as would be required to be given if notice had to be served on him to quit the premises, it is only then that the authority can assume possession and having assumed possession the tenancy is terminated. One can conceive of circumstances where the house in the opinion of the authority was abandoned even though a son or daughter might have a key and enter the premises not being aware that this process had taken place at all. He or she would be guilty of a crime. It is right that the authority's property law must be protected but the fact that such a person should be exposed to criminal liability and have his record tarnished for ever is terrible. It is not sufficient [1088] to say that of course nobody would prosecute in the circumstances. That may be, but we should not create the possibility whereby a person could be prosecuted in such circumstances.

I have had to consider what “making an entry” is. The sections does not give us any definition. I can find no special definition in the local government code. Certainly there is no reference to it in Streete nor is there reference to it in any Act of Parliament enacted since that book was published. I cannot find a definition of “entry” in any of the legal dictionaries or text books that one would look to for such a matter. I find that “entry” in criminal law is an essential element of burglary and is associated with clear criminal intent. The slightest intervention of the human body onto a dwellinghouse is an entry on that dwellinghouse.

One may then ask: what is a dwellinghouse? What does it include? A dwellinghouse includes its curtilage. It seems to be the general opinion that nowadays one would be entering a dwellinghouse if this dwellinghouse has a small garden. If my son followed his cat over my neighbour's wall in order to get him back he would be making an entry to my neighbour's dwellinghouse and he would have committed a crime under this section.

Let us assume for a moment that the Bill as proposed to us with this subsection is adopted. I want to go a little further and show how people could find themselves in the position of making an entry. If, for example, we have a squatter for whom no special treatment is provided in section 62 (1) —nobody concerned with the proper administration of justice could justify the operation of squatting and I do not propose to do so but people in desperate need who valiantly assert their rights may do so at the cost of people in greater need—there is a question here as to whether this should be made a crime and indeed what crime. Let us assume there is a squatter and the squatter is ill. The doctor is called and makes an entry without the consent of the authority. How does he know if the man is a squatter or not? Is he to be at risk in criminal law? [1089] There are some cagey doctors not prepared to risk committing a crime. What about the local TD? The squatter is in need but the TD has just heard of this section, what is he to do?

Mr. Nash: Information on John Joseph Nash  Zoom on John Joseph Nash  Advise him to get out.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  Very well advised action that would be. Having heard this section Senator Nash would bring him out on to the porch before talking to him. If he is dying and wants a priest to administer the last rites, is the priest liable to prosecution under criminal law? He might be a known resident at this address and the postman by inserting his finger in the letterbox to deliver a letter would be guilty of an offence. What if he was bad enough in addition to squatting not to pay his debts and the processor came along to service him with a summons or worse still if the summons having been decreed the sheriff came along with his bailiffs, would they all have to ring up the local authority to find out his precise legal position to see if he ever had a tenancy or if the tenancy was terminated? Social workers, milkmen, people taking shelter in the porch and a drunk man rolling into the wrong porch—after all it is not a criminal offence to take too much drink from time to time—would all be guilty of an offence. It is clear from the Minister's amendment that the cases I have mentioned were not intended to be caught. If the Minister is not prepared to delete the subsection I should like him to consider a combination—if my colleague Senator McDonald will forgive me—of Senator Jack Fitzgerald's amendment and the Minister's own. The amendment in the name of Senator Jack Fitzgerald appears to save from harm under the section the people I have mentioned—the doctor, the priest, lawyer, TD and so on. I am not certain that it would fully save the situation but it might. No doubt, the targets are the persons whom Senator Keery described yesterday as being “desperate”.

The difficulty in recovering possession arises from our rules of court because you cannot issue a summons in Ireland unless you can name the defendants. This is no longer true in [1090] England; in the last month or so they have changed the rules to deal with the situation, making it possible to issue a summons without naming the defendant and to serve it by pinning it on the premises occupied by the person whom it is desired to eject. By adopting a procedure such as this there should be no reason why a sheriff should not get possession for a local authority of any premises within a fortnight.

If the problem is to get possession, surely the solution is in the rules of court and not the creation of a new crime out of context of criminal law? It is the law at the moment under section 3 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1851 that where the trespass involves damage, injury or spoil to the property—I would imagine most squatting involves spoil to the property— such trespass is a criminal offence. It may be thought that the penalties are inadequate; if so, they should be changed in the context of a new criminal code. However, such a trespasser is not guilty under the Act of 1851 because he is protected by the use of language that is remarkably well reflected in Senator Jack Fitzgerald's amendment where “he has a fair and reasonable supposition that he had a right to do the act complained of”.

The Minister's amendment seems to save all those persons who are ordinarily resident at the time of termination of tenancy; they may make entry without committing an offence but what is the situation in regard to their friends, advisers, or even people who know nothing about the termination of the tenancy? If the Minister is not prepared to combine his amendment with that of Senator Fitzgerald's, perhaps he might cut out this subsection and we could have a look at it in the autumn when we will have a criminal law on this matter. Perhaps the Minister would consult with his colleague, the Minister for Justice, to consider whether he should initiate a change in the rules of court which could be done quite simply without creating any new criminal offence. If he does this the local authorities throughout the country will be in a position to get possession of their premises quite speedily.

[1091]Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Information on John Jack Fitzgerald  Zoom on John Jack Fitzgerald  I should be very glad if the Minister would accept amendment No. 15 which has been moved by Senator Alexis FitzGerald because I do not think there is any place in this Housing Bill for subsection (2). As a public representative and a member of a local authority for many years I find that the law in relation to the resumption of tenancy by a local authority has been quite adequate and is adequate to deal with any points in the 1960 Housing Act and in the 1970 Act. Perhaps it is too much to hope that the Minister would accept the amendment of Senator Alexis FitzGerald and delete subsection (2).

I put down amendment No. 16 because I was aware of the dangers in subsection (2) whereby a person or persons could unwittingly commit a criminal offence. I would appeal to the Minister to accept my amendment although I must say I am grateful to him for putting his amendment before the House. However, when one examines the number of ways in which a criminal offence can be committed under this subsection one sees the dangers involved and, therefore, I should be very grateful if the Minister would accept my amendment.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  Speaking on amendment No. 17, I wish to say that this amendment merely sets out to clarify subsection (2) of section 12. It is obvious from the Minister's amendment that he accepts the difficulties in this subsection. The Minister's amendment does not provide for the long category of people such as relations, neighbours, friends and social workers whom Senator Alexis FitzGerald so ably enumerated for us. As the Minister has already accepted some amendments to this Housing Bill today he should, and certainly in view of the extremely strong case made by Senator Alexis FitzGerald to the House, accept amendment No. 15. What the Minister originally intended to do in this can easily be done in the next session under the proposed legislation to be brought in by the Government. As has already been pointed out, this is not the type of legislation that we should have in a Housing Bill. We should not try to complicate matters. If a household gets [1092] into difficulty surely it would be completely alien to the Irish tradition to separate an unfortunate family, or a branch of a family, from its kith and kin. The Minister's amendment only goes as far as protecting people who are normally resident in a house. I think that it is wrong that if a family gets into difficulty the Minister should set out to divide them and keep them apart. This is not Irish tradition. The Minister should not do that. I appeal to the Minister to accept amendment No. 15.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Does the Minister wish to speak on amendment No. 17?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  No.

Dr. Belton: Information on Richard Belton  Zoom on Richard Belton  The purpose of my rising here is to speak on a point which Senator Alexis FitzGerald adverted to. I refer to the Forcible Entry Bill which is to be introduced. I do not know whether the Minister could tell me when this Bill is to be introduced. I would like to wipe out this whole subsection if I thought the Forcible Entry Bill was to be introduced soon. I would like to incorporate this into the Forcible Entry Bill instead of having it in the Housing Bill. I do not know when the Forcible Entry Bill is to be introduced. If it is delayed too long I will support the people who have already spoken. I think it is more appropriate to a Forcible Entry Bill or what is called the “squatters Bill”. This particular subsection (7) is more appropriate to such a Bill than to a Housing Bill. If the Minister wants to save time on discussion of the Housing Bill and the Forcible Entry Bill he will wipe out this from the Housing Bill now. We will have the same discussion on that Bill as we are now having on this Bill and we will have the same amendments on it also. We are only wasting our time.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  We will have more time to waste on the Forcible Entry Bill than we have on this Bill.

Dr. Belton: Information on Richard Belton  Zoom on Richard Belton  Senator Ó Maoláin sees my point.

Tomás Ó Maoláin: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  I do.

[1093]Dr. Belton: Information on Richard Belton  Zoom on Richard Belton  It is a waste of time introducing this amendment when we have a Bill coming which will deal adequately with this point. In the context of a Forcible Entry Bill we would deal with it more adequately than we would deal with it here under a Housing Bill. Senator McDonald mentioned something about tradition. Unfortunately I am not a traditionalist. I think tradition has probably been the greatest obstacle to progress in this country. I do not want to hear that word ever again. There is a tradition of doing something wrongly and we keep on that tradition of doing it wrongly. If there is a tradition of doing something properly we should keep on to that. Tradition to me just means no change at any stage. This is more appropriately taken in the Forcible Entry Bill rather than in the Housing Bill. I wish the Minister would remove it completely from this Bill.

Mr. Nash: Information on John Joseph Nash  Zoom on John Joseph Nash  The real purpose of this is to do something which I suggested should be done in other respects the other day and that is to have the minimum amount of red tape while having the maximum amount of justice. This section is to be administered by a local authority, not by a rack-rent landlord. It is to be administered by people who are the elected representatives of the local people in an urban area or of a county council, and who are expected to do their work with a sense of justice, fair play and integrity. For that reason, in all legislation dealing with houses owned by local authorities and set to their tenants the law is completely different from the law dealing with the ordinary landlord. If you are a local authority and capable of doing an injustice, it is a fair reflection of the entire community. You can come to that conclusion only if you conclude that the entire community is capable of doing an injustice. In the first instance, there is a justification for giving a discretion to a local authority which could not be given to anyone else. One can reasonably assume that a local authority would not willingly or wittingly commit an injustice. Having said that much, we come to a point very forcibly argued by Senator Alexis FitzGerald. The Senator referred to the [1094] various types of people who he said might unwittingly commit a criminal offence by reason of this. I am sure Senator FitzGerald will agree with me that one cannot commit a criminal offence unless you have what is known technically in law as mens rea. That is the old Latin for a guilty mind. Without that, one cannot commit a criminal offence at all. If as a local Senator he sympathises with people or if I in my little town down the country go in and see the person in possession of a house, I do so without risk of prosecution because there is no mens rea— there is no guilty mind on our part. Of the friends and relations, the doctor calling or the neighbours coming in for a cup of tea, not one of them is guilty of a criminal offence. The amendment of Senator Jack Fitzgerald included the following words:

“unless he acted on a fair and reasonable supposition that he was entitled so to do”.

There is one very interesting aspect of this section from a legal point of view. The prosecution under the section is dealt with in the district court. A district justice is expressly excluded from having any jurisdiction on a question of title. Therefore, any defendant prosecuted for an offence under this section can go into the district court and, even prima facie show that, as Senator FitzGerald suggested in his amendment, he had a fair and reasonable supposition to believe he was entitled to go into the house. Once he establishes that prima facie, without even final evidence, the district justice has to wash his hands of the case and to say, in effect: “A question of title arises in this case. Therefore, I cannot decide it. I cannot consider whether a criminal offence is committed. It is out of my jurisdiction completely.” I cannot see, therefore, that there is the slightest risk of the innocent third party or that there is a slightest risk to a party who has even a fair and reasonable supposition that he is so entitled to do. We must consider whether or not this is an advantage, whether or not it will prevent increases of public expenditure, because people see fit to take the law into their own hands.

[1095] As a solicitor to two local authorities, I find very frequently that what happens is as follows. A tenant of a local authority house, who wishes to leave in order to go to England or somewhere else, will take £5 or £10 from somebody and give him the key of the house and then the other party moves in. It may take us quite a while to discover the name of the other party to serve them with a summons. I find that, by the time we get possession of such a house, it takes us anything from eight to ten weeks.

You have to find out all about the new people who have moved in. You have a meeting of the local authority who decide to eject them. As law adviser to the local authority, you get instructions to eject them. You must wait for the next district court, which may be one month or two months hence. In the meantime, the use of that house to the local authority is gone. There is somebody there who is not entitled to be there and there is somebody excluded from it who is entitled to the house. All the time, you are acting for a body at least as fairminded as any district justice or any court of law. You are acting for elected representatives who, in 19 cases out of 20, are more considerate of the poor man than of the authority they represent, and very properly so. I feel, therefore, that the less red tape we can have — so long as an injustice is not done — the better. For these reasons, I feel that this subsection to this section is desirable and, in particular, that the amendment as suggested by the Minister should be accepted.

A further difficulty, when we get these strange people having possession of the house, is that there is a rule that you will not eject people if the woman of the house is pregnant. What frequently happens is that the woman of the house is not pregnant. I understand, and this has been my experience, that there are some places in the city where a person can get a certificate to a certain effect and Mrs Jones will call into this place and give her name as Mrs Ryan with an address in Tipperary and get a certificate that she is expecting a baby. When this certificate is produced, [1096] you are held up indefinitely. When the baby does not come and the period of nine months has elapsed one has doubts about the certificate. A vast amount of money is lost to the local authority and a vast amount of injustice is done to a person who should be in possession of the house during all that period. I felt it was about time something like this were introduced in some of these housing Acts from my own personal experience as solicitor to a local authority.

Miss Bourke:  I have listened with interest to Senator Nash. I cannot agree with his legal statements nor do I think his practical experience in the country favours this particular section. Of the four choices before us I should like to support that put forward by Senator Alexis FitzGerald that the subsection be deleted. In putting in an amendment, I realise that the Minister has gone some way towards meeting the problems argued by Senator Alexis FitzGerald but it is only a partial meeting of the real problem.

I want to deal with some of the points raised by Senator Nash and to reinforce the arguments why I think the subsection should be deleted. Senator Nash said that this section would be administered by a local authority. “Shall be guilty of an offence” would create a new criminal offence so it is not a question of the fair play of the local representatives. In reality, it may be that a local authority would not go out of its way to prosecute unnecessarily but we are legislating for the future. We must be terribly careful how we legislate about criminal offences. Fair play does not enter into it. It is the creation of a criminal offence. With regard to Senator Nash's point about mens rea, we have here a statutory offence “...shall be guilty...” Here is an area of law where it might be a strict statutory offence: it would depend on the court. It is framed in the strict summary offence and it would not be necessary to argue the usual guilty mind or mens rea.

Furthermore, with regard to jurisdiction of the district court, the argument that there is no jurisdiction in the case of tenancy is a very poor response [1097] when somebody is prosecuted for a criminal offence and, in the eyes of friends and neighbours is brought before the district court. To be able to raise a preliminary issue that they have a right to tenancy, and, therefore, oust the jurisdiction of the district court, is not, to friends and neighbours, what you might call clearing them of the taint of being criminals. So, I think on those grounds Senator Nash is not justified in his insistence on the section. Nor did he show that the Minister's amendment meets the real objections to the section.

He talked about his practical experience as an adviser to a local authority. He advises them on their property rights, their civil rights. As Senator Alexis FitzGerald so ably pointed out, it is possible to adjust civil remedies and make them more effective. One effective way of doing that is to adjust the rules for serving summonses so that if persons unknown, in common terminology squatters, move into local authority buildings, it would not be necessary to name them in the summons and it would not be necessary to serve them personally. This is the real handicap at the moment.

Here we are trying to meet a problem. We could meet the problem in civil terms without creating a criminal offence which brings us into a completely different area. For this reason I support Senator Alexis FitzGerald as strongly as possible. The Bill is entitled “An Act to amend and extend the Housing Acts 1966 and 1969”. We are now trying to create a new criminal offence, incorporated into the housing code. I sympathise with Senator Alexis FitzGerald in his search for a definition of how to even approach this Bill because he will not find any definition of “entering” except in the criminal law. This brings in the law relating to burglary. As a teacher of criminal law, I endorse everything he said. The merest entering of even a hand or anything else is “entering” for the purposes of criminal law, the law on burglary or housebreaking.

We are in danger of what can only be called over-kill by this section. The type of over-kill we are in danger of is not corrected by the Minister's amendment. [1098] It only protects the person who beforehand was habitually resident in the dwelling. It does not protect the other classes of cases. It meets only one of the four examples given by Senator FitzGerald. We cannot fall back on the argument of fair play by the local authority or that this will not happen in fact, and that an innocent party will not be prosecuted. We are legislators and we must not create a criminal offence which will endanger people in this way, especially when it will be considered in the context of another piece of legislation which will be coming before the Oireachtas in a few months.

Therefore, I would ask the Minister to look at this with an open mind, to understand the dangers which still exist in spite of his amendment and to accept the deletion of the subsection. I understand the purpose which this section is intended to meet but there are better ways, there are civil ways, there are more humane ways of meeting the section.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  None of the Senators who spoke referred at any great length to the need to introduce a section of this kind. I should like to inform the House that when I went into the Department of Local Government it was brought to my notice at an early stage that, roughly speaking, 350 Dublin Corporation houses were in the possession of persons who had not been officially allocated tenancies, people commonly called squatters. The total value of the property being improperly occupied by such persons at that time was in the region of £1 million.

People have spoken here drawing from their own personal experiences. From my personal experience this is one activity for which I have never found any support from any member of any party. I have always found unanimity in opposition to allowing persons to take up tenancies of local authority houses without the house having been granted to them under the ordinary priorities which obtain for deciding who is to get the tenancy of a house when it becomes vacant. I immediately requested that a section should be prepared for insertion into [1099] this Bill to enable action to be taken without any delay to try to have these houses recovered and let to those persons who were in need of them and who were, indeed, entitled to them.

The position has obtained for some time that strong arm methods have been determining, to a certain extent, who is to get the houses. We all know that in that kind of a rush it is not the old or the weak who will get there first. I strongly deplore the efforts of some persons to obtain tenancies of houses out of their turn and at the expense, in the main, of the weaker section of the community, a section of the community which is certainly in much greater need of houses and which would have a much higher priority on the corporation list. Otherwise, they would not adopt these tactics.

The Minister for Justice will be introducing the Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill. I could not tell Senator Belton when the Bill will come before the House. The House is now about to go into recess and it will not re-assemble until some time in October, I assume. Goodness knows when it will get around to deal with all the legislation which is on the Order Paper now and will have to be left in abeyance during the recess.

I want to tell the House that I am not prepared to wait that length of time, until next December possibly, for the powers which would enable me adequately to ensure that the local authorities can deal with this problem. The section I have included in the Bill gives the proper powers to the local authorities and will greatly discourage squatting of this kind. I have gone some of the way with Senator Jack Fitzgerald and Senator Alexis FitzGerald in adding in amendment No. 17 (a) which would lead to greater clarification and would avoid the possibility of including persons who were normally resident in the house and those people to whom we do not intend the section to apply.

Some Senators wanted to know what is the difference between this Bill and the Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill. I want to make it quite clear that I am not prepared to [1100] wait until that Bill passes through both Houses of the Oireachtas. I want these powers as quickly as possible. Under the Bill to be introduced by the Minister for Justice the Garda will prosecute offenders. Under this Bill it is the local authorities who will prosecute squatters. Under the other Bill it will have to be shown that offenders used force to gain entry. Under this Bill it will not be necessary to show that.

The Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill makes incitement to squat an offence. Section 12 of the Housing Bill does not make incitement an offence, so there are some major differences between the two. The Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill gives the Garda power to arrest offenders without warrant in certain defined circumstances. No similar provisions are contained in section 12 of the Housing Bill. I think that is sufficient to show the difference between the Bills.

On the question of whether it is proper to introduce a section into a Housing Bill creating an offence, I want to say that the 1966 Housing Act created many crimes and contains specific power in section 116 for the local authority to prosecute for these crimes. I would also refer interested Senators to section 4 (2), section 61 (2), sections 64, 65, 66, 67, 68 and 69. At least in those sections there are references to crimes that can be created under the 1966 Act. So, we are not introducing a new element in housing legislation.

I think the House has fully debated the section. I reject the amendment proposed by Senator Alexis FitzGerald to delete section (2) which would make the section completely ineffective. Amendment No. 16 proposed by Senator Jack Fitzgerald would make the provisions of section 12 unenforceable in that it might well be difficult for local authorities to prove that a squatter did not act, as the Senator says in his amendment, “on a fair and reasonable supposition that he was entitled to do so” when he illegally entered and commenced to live in the local authority dwelling. Therefore, I reject that amendment also.

[1101] Senator McDonald's amendment seems to aim at clarifying the wording of the section. The parliamentary draftsman is satisfied that the words “without the consent of the local authority” govern both the entry and the use of the dwelling. Also, for that reason I recommend rejection of that amendment. I trust the House will understand the situation in which I found myself and which brought about the necessity to introduce an amendment of this kind. It is regrettable that I had to seek these powers for local authorities. It is also extremely regrettable that this position should obtain.

I should like to inform the House that when I took up office the number of squatters was roughly 350. Since then it has been reduced substantially to 250. I am of opinion that the announcement of the introduction of this amendment into the Housing Bill and the publicity which it received was of considerable benefit. Senator Alexis FitzGerald did not agree that it had received much public discussion. In my opinion it has. Certainly, it was brought to the notice of the persons who were occupiers of local authority houses. All local authorities were very pleased to hear of this section and it had the right effect on those who were in illegal occupation of local authority houses. Many of them, of their own volition, handed in the keys. They did not want to be involved in a criminal offence. If the law had been adequate up to now to deal with this situation properly and efficiently there would be no need for me to do this. I presume I have the support of the House in going ahead and that this section will be accepted.

Miss Bourke:  Has the Minister considered the possibility of civil legislation being used to deal with this problem? Is there any possibility that it could have been dealt with under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  All I can tell the Senator is that all the law appertaining to illegal occupation of this type of dwelling was fully examined at my request and I am fully satisfied that every possible effort was made to employ existing legislation to bring about the situation which I required and that was [1102] the removal from these houses of persons who had not been given proper tenancies. There was no difficulty in regard to determining who the squatters were in any particular case. It is sufficient to identify them as the occupiers of the said premises. It is not necessary to name the persons in occupation.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Is the amendment being pressed.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  My amendment is being pressed.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  I am now putting amendment No. 15 and on the result of that will depend the fate of amendments Nos. 16 and 17.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 not moved.

Government amendment No. 17a:

In page 5, line 3, after “imprisonment” to insert “, provided that this subsection shall not apply in relation to a person who, at the time when the tenancy last created in the dwelling was terminated or otherwise ceased to exist, was ordinarily resident in the dwelling”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 12, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 13 and 14 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Michael B Yeats  Zoom on Michael B Yeats  Amendment No. 18 was discussed with amendment No. 12.

Government amendment No. 18:

To delete “31st day of August, 1970” in page 5, line 28, page-6, line 11, page 7, line 24, page 8, line 12 and page 10, lines 21 and 37 and to substitute in each case “31st day of December, 1970”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 19 to 23, inclusive, not moved.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments, received for final consideration, and passed.


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