I think the statement of the Minister shows how necessary it was for him to accept that amendment. The fact that there are so many people of that age who would be penalised to the extent of £100,000 by the Bill, as originally introduced, shows the importance of having the amendment accepted, and that the people over 80 at least should be allowed to die with the sense that they had not been starved to death. I think it is necessary to draw attention to the effect of this amendment of Deputy Davin, and to amplify it. As he says, the total income as fixed by the Bill will be maintained. The amendment would leave it that the person whose means were 6s. per week would still have the 10s. per week pension as distinct from the 9s. per week of the Bill. The Minister, in the earlier stages of today's discussion, rather suggested that that is the contemplation of the state of the old age pensioner who was entitled to full pension, so that he should be entirely dependent on the pension, that he should be a person with no means, without even privileges provided by his family, and he seems to assume that it is possible for people to live on the pension of 9s. a week.
Apparently he will agree that a pension of 9s. a week may accompany an income in the form of privileges, house room, and food, provided that the house room and food does not exceed 7s. a week in value, as valued by the Pensions Officer. He has told us that his contemplation was that the pensions were not intended to supplement private income, and included in the term "private income" are privileges provided by sons and daughters of the aged. I am asking the Dáil to agree with me that in the year 1924 no person can live decently in this country on a pension of 9s. a week, and it is a very grave question whether any livelihood provided by a son or a daughter of a pensioner could be estimated by the pension officer as being valued at less than 7s. a week in the city of Dublin where rents are as they are, or in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, or any other towns.
We are, therefore, asked to believe that the pension is only to be given to those who have neither house room, nor food, nor clothing, provided by their friends or relatives; that it is in fact for the utterly distressed and for the utterly distressed alone and that it is an alternative to the poor law relief. Is that the intention of the Minister? Is it his intention in framing this Bill and presenting it to the Dáil and persuading the Dáil to pass it, that the pension is to be considered as an alternative to poor law relief? Or is it his intention that they should supplement the pension by poor relief? Is it the intention of the Government, which is presenting this Bill, that its influence with the Minister in the Department of Local Government shall be such as to impress upon the local authorities that the receipt of an old age pension must not disqualify the recipient from receiving poor relief? It would be well if the Dáil knew the position of the Government in this matter, because the pensioner cannot live on the 9s. which is to be provided. It must be supplemented in some way. Is it to be by outdoor relief? Or is it to be supplemented by the provision that is made by the friends and relatives of the pensioners? If the latter, is it to be presumed that that supplement must be of such a quality as not to be worth more than 7s. a week?
The amendment will not go very far in placing the pensioner, in view of the Minister's statement to-day, in a state of comfort. But at least it will, in the case of persons who have no property whatever and no privileges whatever, save them one shilling per week. The other stages are based upon the scale at present available as against the steps of one shilling in the Bill, but the main effect would be to assist those people whom the Minister has intimated as being the class that he is thinking of when he is talking of old age pensioners—that is, those who have no means or privileges. Surely the Dáil is not going to say that these people should be deprived of the shilling. I am quite certain that it is not generally realised that the Minister is now accomplishing a revaluation of the instincts of the son and daughter, the friendliness, and the duty to parents, and is going to value these in such a way as will deprive the pensioners of the State bounty. You are not only going to penalise the pensioners, but you are penalising the sons and daughters of the pensioners who are trying to do their duty under very great difficulties of unemployment, bad times and low wages, and yet are trying to keep their parents. Because they are trying to keep their parents, you are going to penalise the parent and the son, or the parent and the daughter, by cutting those pensions, because, accompanying the cutting of the pensions, you are revaluing the perquisites which are provided by the sons and daughters for the father and mother.
The effect of it all is going to be to deprive these people, mainly the poor, of comforts as well as necessaries. I ask the Dáil to agree with Deputy Davin that at least this should be retained for the pensioners. If we cannot do better, let us at least try to retain this little comfort for them in the few days they have to live. The cost to the Exchequer is, no doubt, a very important matter indeed to the Ministry, but let us try to think of the cost to the pensioner for once, and bear in mind that though you may be relieving the Treasury and that though you may be relieving the finances of the State, you are going to impose it upon, in very many cases, the State in another form. You are going to impose it upon the poor law, upon the local authorities and, if not upon the local authorities, you are imposing it upon the poorest of the people who are trying to keep their parents in something like comfort. I ask the Dáil to accept this amendment.