Old Age Pensions Bill, 1929—Second Stage (Resumed).

When this Bill was last before the House the Minister for Finance made what most of us will admit was, from his point of view, a very clever, but from the point of view of the promoters of the Bill and those whom it will interest, a very misleading speech. He stated that a number of the speeches in support of the Bill dealt with questions of administration and were in the main a plea for the more sympathetic administration of the existing law. That is not the purpose of the Bill. This Bill does not ask for a more sympathetic administration of the existing law but seeks to amend the existing law so as to ensure that the cases of applicants for the old age pensions will secure that sympathetic consideration to which they are entitled. I agree with the Minister that no matter what the law may be you are bound to have complaints about its administration from time to time. The position that at present prevails is that when these complaints are raised in this House or when they are brought directly to the notice of the Department concerned the answer invariably is that that Act is administered strictly in accordance with the existing law and that therefore a number of cases of hardship which this Bill proposes to remove cannot be considered at all because to consider them would mean that the Department would have to disregard factors which they must, under the existing law, take into consideration and that therefore they would be guilty of an illegality.

We seek in this measure to secure that certain of these factors which at present have to be considered will no longer have to be taken into account. I said the Minister made a misleading speech. He attempted to prejudice the case at the very outset by mentioning a figure which is altogether ridiculous and which has no relation whatsoever to the proposals contained in the measure. This Bill deals entirely with the question of means. It seeks to ensure that certain elements which now enter into the calculation of means of the applicant will no longer be considered. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of the age limit. Yet the Minister in his opening remarks coupled those two factors together, and stated that if the qualifications as to means were to be abolished and the provisions as to age were to be amended, so that the age limit might be reduced, the total cost to the State of pensions would be from one and a half million to two million pounds.

I might just at this stage institute a comparison, and if I were to argue that a good case can be shown for a reduction of the age limit of the applicant and for the abolition of the means qualification altogether on the plea that the level of the social services of the Twenty-six Counties in Ireland should not be permitted to fall below the level that obtains in the Six Counties or in the neighbouring country of Great Britain, in view of the fact that life in those countries should not be made any more attractive to our people than it is at the moment, I could defend that proposition by saying that under the existing law the total amount paid by way of pensions under the Treaty and in respect of civil war services is all but two million pounds. In actual fact, in the present Estimate the House will be asked to vote £1,191,227, mainly to able-bodied persons, either in respect of services rendered to the late British Government in this country or services rendered to the present Government during the civil war. I would say there is much more justification for abolishing the means qualification altogether, and for reducing the age at which people become entitled to the old age pensions, though they cost the State anything from one and a half to two millions, than paying £1,191,227 in pensions, mainly to able-bodied people.

The Minister in the course of his speech, attempted also to prejudice the case by instituting a comparison between the cost of old age pensions in this country and the cost in Great Britain. I submit that there is no parallel whatsoever. Our conditions here are wholly different. We have, as the Minister himself admitted, a much larger percentage of aged people in our population than there is in Great Britain. The average wealth of our people is very much less and, therefore, when they become old they have greater claims and greater need for assistance from some public source. As a matter of fact, I think this State owes a special debt of obligation to its aged poor because they are people who, for one reason or another, have resisted inducement to emigrate from this country. They remained here, laboured in the service of the people and contributed to the wealth of the community as a whole. Therefore, in this country they have much more claim on the State than in Great Britain and the State has a greater obligation to them.

Another argument which the Minister used against the Bill was that if we had £300,000 to spend we could spend it in better ways. The Minister, though he said that, did not attempt to substantiate the statement. He left it as anobiter dictum which this House could accept or reject, but we think if he feels there are better ways of spending this money he ought to have exposed them to the House. He said that the really hard cases are among those who have no means whatsoever. The fact that the Minister knows that there are really hard cases amongst those who have no means whatsoever I suggest makes it incumbent on him, by securing economies in other Departments of State, to meet these really hard cases. But if these hard cases exist there is no reason why the proposals contained in this Bill should be rejected. From the speeches which have been delivered in support of this Bill from all parts of this House, it is clear that the Bill will deal with a considerable number of cases of great hardship occasioned by the present regulations and the present restrictions. Therefore, whilst we think that this Bill will confer the most general benefit and whilst the speeches prove that great hardship exists under the present regulations, I say that unless the Minister can give to the House categorical proof of the truth of his statement that the money could be better expended in other ways, those who are considering their attitude in regard to this Bill should reject it and give a vote to remedy the actual cases of hardship which have been brought under their notice.

The Minister said that the proposals in this Bill will benefit a considerable number of people who are at the present moment maintained in luxury. Since there is a means qualification, and since the title to a pension is not a general title, we do not wish that this Bill should operate to maintain any person who is not in need of State maintenance or State assistance, and we would be perfectly prepared, I think, in the Committee Stage of the Bill to consider the introduction of a monetary limit which would provide that all those people whose present privileges exceed a certain very definite amount might be debarred from benefit under the Bill. Admittedly, if people live in luxury, or are maintained in luxury out of filial affection by their relations, the State possibly ought to have the advantage of those very praiseworthy qualities and, accordingly, we would be prepared to consider the insertion in the Bill of some provision to debar cases such as the Minister has mentioned from benefiting under the Bill. But those cases are comparatively few. I doubt whether if the Minister's Department made an investigation he could come to the House and say, if this Bill passes, there are 500 people at present living in luxury who will benefit in consequence of the Bill. What we do know is that if this Bill goes through a considerable number of people will benefit, and we ask that the good of the greater number should be set against the cases which the Minister has cited in opposition to the Bill. The Minister said that, according to the present practice, in the case of those who are maintained under the average conditions of a working-class family the question of means did not enter. That is an extraordinary statement, because just on the day the Minister made the speech in the House I received a letter from a constituent in which he said that he was now 75 years of age. He was working as a boot repairer and had been employed all his life. He applied for the pension at the age of 72. His average earnings then amounted to £1 per week, and the amount of pension he stated given to himself and his wife was one shilling per week. It is quite obvious that in the case of these two people the question of means must have been considered, and the question of the maintenance of the wife must have been considered. The fact that her husband was earning £1 per week at the age of 72 years militated against the claim of the wife. I am not arguing at the moment that the old man himself, who had actual earning capacity, should have got a larger pension, but it is quite clear that the total means of the wife, if we are to take it as half the total means of the husband, was £26 per year, and therefore she was entitled, unless she was in receipt of some other benefit or privilege, under the present Act to something like six shillings per week, while in actual fact she was only in receipt of one shilling per week pension, showing that some benefit or privilege which the Minister holds is not taken into consideration at all in the case of working-class people must have been taken into consideration in her case.

The Minister also objected to Section 3 of the Bill, because of the anomalies that would be created. But the existing law creates anomalies. We are all familiar with them, and I have just cited one. Every law which proposes to confer financial benefits of this sort—in fact, one would say every statute which does anything in the State—creates certain anomalies because within the text of a Bill no person could make provision for every possible variation of circumstance which will be affected by it. Therefore it is no argument against the Bill or against Section 3 to say that certain anomalies will be created.

The Minister himself in the course of his speech referred to the fact that when one came to consider the position of a person of 80 years of age who was deprived of his life's partner, it was not desirable to alter the pension in such a case. We are asking the House in the case of a married couple, both of whom must have been over 70 years of age in order to be in receipt of a pension at all and in order to come under the proposals contained in Section 3 of the Bill that if one dies the State shall not inflict upon the survivor the increased hardship of reducing the income which formerly went to maintain that household. I believe when Deputies think that over as human beings, leaving out of account the figure of one and a half millions or two millions, which the Minister introduced into this debate, in order to prejudice the House and to create a wrong impression in regard to the Bill, that they will agree with the Minister that, based upon ordinary principles of humanity, it is not desirable to alter the pension in the case of one who is 80 years of age. We say that it is equally not desirable to reduce the pension in the case of a person who has reached 70 years of age. The expectation of life of a person at 70 years of age is still comparatively small. I believe that, since the Minister admits that it would not be desirable if the person had reached the age of 80, then the House should force him to concede that it is equally undesirable to reduce the pension in the case of a person who has reached the age of 70 years. That is the difference between us and the Minister. The Minister considers that that is the principle that we should apply to persons of 80 years of age. We are asking the House to apply it to persons of 70, and I think that ordinary humanitarian principles are on our side and ought in this matter to prevail.

The Minister in that connection, dealing with Section 4 of the Bill, cited two cases. Section 4 is the section which proposes that "the yearly value of so much of the capital value of the said property as exceeds the sum of £25 shall be taken to be one-twentieth of the capital value thereof." I must remind the House that prior to the Act of 1924 the proposal contained in Section 4 of this Bill was the proposal which was then operative in the Old Age Pensions Act, but that the Dáil provided by the Act of 1924 that instead of taking one-twentieth of the capital value of the property, one-tenth should be taken into account. The Minister in dealing with that proposal cited the case of a bachelor who had £250 in the bank and no other means, and said that he has now his income assessed at £22 10s. per annum and he is awarded a pension of 7/- per week. Under the proposed change his means would have to be calculated at only £11 5s. per annum and he would get a pension of 10/- per week. The Minister cited the case which is most favourable to his own argument. Let us consider it a little in detail. Supposing this bachelor with £250 applied for a pension. Under the law as it stands, his means are calculated at £22 10s. 0d. per annum and he gets a pension of 7/-. Under the Bill, his means will be assessed at £11 5s. 0d. and he will get a pension of 10/-. Let us consider the annual income of that man. At one-tenth of the total, with the pension calculated upon the present basis, the income of that man, assuming that each year he consumes £25 of his capital and that he receives interest at 5 per cent. on the balance and a pension of 7/- per week, will be £48 4s. 0d. per annum. Under our Bill, the total annual income under the same conditions would be raised to £56 0s. 0d. I submit that £56 is the very minimum—it is possibly below the minimum—that would be required to maintain a bachelor, if proper provision were made for clothing, feeding and sheltering him. Assuming, as the Minister has chosen the case of a bachelor, that he has no relative, and, assuming, as we must, that he is going to consume his whole capital, under this Bill the amount which he would receive would be barely sufficient to maintain him, to feed, clothe and shelter him, as he would have to pay rent and buy food, which he would possibly have to cook himself, and he would have to live in a condition of almost absolute squalor. If he is a bachelor without any relative to assist him to maintain himself, he would find it very difficult to live on £56 0s. 0d. per year, particularly in the city, whatever it might be in the country.

Let us consider the cost of the Bill as a whole. The Minister states that the total cost of the provisions contained in the Bill would be something between £250,000 and £300,000. I submit that that is a mere bagatellc, considering the total pension bill of this State, and that under the Treaty we are committed to the sum of £1,783,000 in pensions, mainly to able-bodied persons who are still in a position to earn their own livelihood, and who doubtless after receiving pensions will proceed to add to their annual income by following some form of private occupation. The total provision to be made in the Estimates for the current year for pensions of all kinds other than old age pensions is £2,320,000. As I have said, the total Treaty and civil war pensions amount to £1,991,000. The total pensions for the Post Office amount to £223,000; Army pensions to £208,216, and judicial pensions to £30,511. Taking all these facts into consideration, and also the fact that this Bill has been supported from all parts of the House by Deputies who have intimate knowledge of the hardship which the present law inflicts upon applicants for old age pensions, the fact that if this Bill becomes law an additional sum of £250,000 or £300,000 will have to be found is no argument against it. I say, taking all these facts into consideration and putting this additional £250,000 against the £1,991,000 which we already pay, as I said before, and which I emphasise again, to able-bodied pensioners, if we can afford to pay that, is it not a duty put upon the Dáil to find by some form of economy the quarter of a million which is required for the new Bill if it becomes law?

I agree with those Deputies who deprecate making old age pensioners a stalking horse for political propaganda. I am afraid that sometimes is done. Old age pensioners are a very deserving body. They were about the most stalwart supporters of the changes that took place in the Government of this country, although, of course, they were aware, as they must have been, that they would no longer be killed with the kindness that they were promised before the change took place, but they preferred to have freedom, like the rest of the country, to the fleshpots of Egypt. But while we say that, we have to consider a good many matters.

First of all England, one of the richest countries in the world, which introduced old age pensions in 1908, took a very long time before she did so. England is a country full of millionaires. It is no uncommon thing to read of quite ordinary people in England dying worth two or three hundred thousand pounds every day of the week. We do not see that in this country; the two countries are not comparable. When the Old Age Pensions Act came into effect here I was, myself, a member of a local pensions committee from the commencement, and I watched with considerable sympathetic interest the working and progress of the Act. It is quite common knowledge that at the time a great many people were passed for pensions simply because the British had to pay. Very doubtful cases came up before the Committee which now that we are on our own would not be recommended—at least, I think not. They were all then passed because the idea was prevalent—a very mistaken idea—that the British were paying all this, forgetting that a great deal of it came out of our own pockets. There is no doubt that a lot of people who had no right to pensions got them. Once a person gets a pension it is an extremely difficult thing to dispossess him of it. There are a great many people, I am sure, who ought not to be in possession of the pension who have it at the present time, but it is not the business of any particular Deputy to be running about finding out who these people are.

It is a very difficult thing in many cases to establish claims to a pension. There was a great deal, perhaps of undue difficulty placed in the way of the pensioners establishing their claims, especially with regard to age and the matter of means. Things are much better of late years and there is not at all the difficulty to-day that there used to be. It is my experience that the administration of the Act is working much better than it was some years ago.

Now, the British could very well afford to pay; they are a great industrial country. There the farming industry does not count for anything like what their industrial work does. They introduced de-rating, which relieves the farmers to a great extent of liabilities. The cost of that, of course, must fall upon somebody, and the consequence is that it must fall upon the industrialists, who can afford it, and upon the rich people. We have not got rich people here in this country. In Ireland who is to pay for these pensions? The greatest industry in this country—the source of the revenue of the country to the extent of 70 per cent.—is farming and the farmers. What state are the farmers in? They are crying out that they are in a bad way, and I have no doubt at all that they are. They also want de-rating. How are the industrialists of this country off? Some of them are not very well-to-do. Some of the greatest concerns in this country are English concerns which do not give full benefit to the country that entirely Irish concerns would give. Therefore, we may take it that it is from the people not so very well-to-do—the people who are clamouring for de-rating and relief— that any extra money will have to come to provide the extra sums for pensions or for any other source of expenditure that may be found necessary.

I do not think that anybody who listened to the speech of the Minister for Finance could consider that in the present circúmstances we could do anything more than we are doing. As I said, the old age pensioners are a most deserving body of people; they have the sympathy of everybody, and not lip sympathy either. They have the most sincere sympathy of everybody in the country, but we have our different ideas as to how they should be benefited. But there is no use giving them more money if we are pauperising, or are likely to pauperise thereby, an additional number of people and bring about greater poverty in the country.

Anybody who looks at the returns of the revenue of the country must be conscious of the fact that we have not got enough money at present to do anything more than we are doing. We restored the pensions to 10s. a week, which is the amount that is given in England, where they budget for over £800,000,000 against our £22,000,000 each year. I think it stands to reason that we are acting liberally—I will not say too liberally—because the old age pensioners are a most deserving class, but we have not the money to do more. If any private individual attended to claims for every good object that came to him, I wonder where he would find himself. If every one of us subscribed to the claims that come to us every day for good objects I wonder what would our financial position be? In the same way, if the State does not act prudently—well, the end will be bankruptcy. With the prudent management that there has been of money affairs, I believe the time is approaching when we may look forward to being in a position to give this most deserving class increased benefits. According to the Minister, the present cost of old age pensions here is over 18s. a year per head. In England, where they have a scheme of pensions for widows and orphans as well as old age pensions, the cost per head is at the rate of 15s. I think the cost is 15s., although I saw it stated in the newspapers as 10s., which appears to be a mistake. The Minister stated that the cost in England was 15s. a head. It stands to reason that we cannot possibly compete with England in that at present; we cannot compete with a country that has such resources, but we can do the best we can, and I think we are doing it in a prudent way, which, in the end, will bring more benefit to the very class we are anxious about. Later on when our finances are in a better way I hope many more benefits will be given than those proposed in this Bill. Taking the recommendations in the Bill separately, one would approve of them, but when you put them together, anyone who knows anything about the money affairs of this country could not for a moment suggest that in the present state of our finances we could afford them. The Minister has made that perfectly clear.

Everybody, irrespective of party, hopes that the time is not far distant when we will be able, not only to give increased benefits, but what is more important, to introduce a widows' pension scheme, which I look upon as being of more value than giving pensions to people at 65. I am opposed to giving people pensions at 65. I have had a good deal to do with men and women who were in my employment and I think people would be miserable at 65 if they had not something to do. That is my opinion from what I have observed. I look upon the giving of pensions to such people as a secondary thing to the giving of widows' pensions, which I think would be most excellent. I hope the day is not far distant when such an Act will be passed. Having regard to the present condition of our national finances I see no way in which this Bill could be put into effect. The Minister has stated clearly that the money is not there to do so, so that there is no more to be said about it.

This debate has been remarkable, as many other debates have been remarkable, for the silence of Cumann na nGaedheal. Deputies will note that when any matter comes before this House affecting either the social or national status of the people, or any section of the people, it is left to the two Opposition Parties to debate and the one or two Ministers who speak usually draw a red herring across the trail, in order to camouflage whatever suggestions may be offered by Deputies on this side. This debate is also remarkable for the fact that the first clear indication has been given in any debate affecting old age pensions of the real mentality behind the Government Party in respect of pensions for the aged. Deputy George Wolfe has sounded the keynote, and I presume that the Deputies in his Party will march into the division lobby in response to that trumpet call, and vote according to the Whip. In effect the policy espoused by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Sheehy, and Deputy George Wolfe appears to me to resolve itself into a phrase we used when we were in jail: "Live horse and you will get grass." The old age pensioners are about sick and tired of this lip sympathy which, in spite of denials, is all that they appear to get from the other side of the House. The old age pensioners look for deeds now, not promises.

This Bill is not Fianna Fáil's last word on old age pensions. It is not as comprehensive a Bill as we would wish it to be, but it is certainly a constructive attempt to remedy a state of affairs which, to my mind, is a disgrace to any country that calls itself civilised. This is a constructive attempt to get back to the pre-1924 days in regard to pensions for the aged. Surely any Deputy who claims to have any real, sympathetic interest in people who are not in a position to defend themselves, who claims to have any real sympathy and interest in that section of the community who are more or less the cockshot of every powerful authority that cares to attack them, can do more than mouth lip sympathy. Surely they can translate that sympathy for once by decently and generously voting for the Bill which does not ask the Government to perform any miracle.

We heard the Minister for Finance state that the Bill was going to cost money, and that he was not in a position at present to provide the money. Surely, if it is possible for this State to provide for the cost of foreign Consular services, to provide representatives at the ornamental League of Nations, and delegations to international conferences with which we have no intimate connection, and which can have no intimate relation with this country until it is free, if it can provide all these luxuries it could make an endeavour, which has not been done up to the present, to give the old people who were the real producers —and who unlike civil servants and others who are in receipt of pensions—something when they reach an age when they are no longer able to work. Deputies who have spoken about the expense this measure would involve will recollect that in the past four or five years Bills have been passed granting pensions and gratuities to able-bodied young men of 25 and 30 years of age. Let them recollect when they preach sympathy with the old people, when they say that they have absolute confidence in the efforts being made to alleviate the distress that exists amongst the aged, that these Acts succeeded in giving this country the most magnificent pension scale of any country of its size in the world, and at least let them have the common decency to refrain either from speaking in the debate or from voting in the division which will follow.

Undoubtedly it would cost about £300,000. The ground of expense appears to me, from the Minister's statement, to be the only concrete objection that he has to advance against the passage of the Second Reading of the Bill. There was a time in this country, and it was not very far back, when it was found possible to raise not £300,000, but millions of pounds in order to suppress a section of the people who believed in the country's independence and who were prepared to translate their belief into action in arms. That money was found to fight the civil war. Surely if the Minister for Finance and the Government are in earnest they could find the £300,000 that is necessary in order to translate this Bill into practical effect. I am convinced that if the Minister came before the House with a Supplementary Estimate for that amount Deputies on every side would welcome it and would pass it without discussion. If the Minister persists in his attitude that money cannot be found for this Bill he must realise that he is only trying to draw a red herring across the trail, and though this Bill, which is certainly a constructive effort on our part to improve the conditions of the aged people, may be defeated by the machine, the fact is that the Deputies who vote against it will find it very hard to make their constituents believe that lip sympathy was the only thing they could give when the occasion arose. I do not intend to go into the details of the Bill; every section was dealt with by Deputy Ward in the able speech he made in introducing it. It is, in my opinion, made more necessary by reason of the edict of the Minister for Local Government by which facilities have been refused to Deputies to interview headquarters in connection with old age pension appeals.

Anybody who has any connection with the administration of old age pensions will tell the Minister, and any Deputy, no matter what his political outlook or what political complexion attaches to his party affiliation, will also tell him that he is not satisfied with the administration of the Old Age Pension Acts under present conditions, will tell him, further, that the old age pension committees at present have just as much chance of doing anything concrete for the alleviation of the distress that exists amongst the old people as I have of jumping to the moon, and they will tell him, further, that he should either give these old age pension committees power to do something and make them helpful institutions instead of being simply ornaments, or else abolish them altogether. I pleaded for that about twelve months ago but without result. I ask the Minister again to take that into consideration. If this Bill is given a Second Reading it could, to a certain extent at all events, do what the old age pension committees are not at present able to do, and it is principally for that reason that I ask Deputies to give it their support when the Division takes place.

Deputy Sheehy, as usual, in his laudation of the Government as a marvellous and intelligent Cabinet, stated that he pinned his faith to the Minister for Finance, and said that he had confidence that the old age pensioners would receive justice at his hands. I think the old age pensioners have been waiting long enough for justice, and Deputy Sheehy's confidence appears to be just as great as his laudation, which can see no flaw in the Executive Council. That sort of eye-wash will not work any longer, and I think it is time that the position with regard to the old age pensions, as well as the position with regard to widows' and orphans' pensions, should be faced, faced definitely and faced honestly. It has not been faced honestly up to the present. This Bill gives one opportunity for doing so, and I hope that Deputies when they vote will remember that all the sentiments, all the speeches and all the explanations that they can make of their sympathy for the old persons will not wash away the fact that when they had an opportunity they refused to vote for a constructive measure that would translate their good wishes and their pious sympathies into action.

Deputy Wolfe, from my own constituency, wanted to know whether the Bill was an act of repentance on the part of Fianna Fáil or in the nature of an apology for 1922-3. I think that that question would have been more properly addressed to the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, and to the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government in particular. This Bill is not in the nature of an act of repentance on our part, but it could be availed of by the Government as an act of repentance on their part for the wrong inflicted on the old age pensioners five or six years ago.

The main thing that we want to bring before the House is the fact that this Bill gives us an opportunity for doing what all Deputies have been talking of since the shilling cut in the pensions was made and since the amending of the Acts in force prior to 1924. If they do not take the opportunity they are missing a chance which may not come again. The Government, in my opinion, would be well advised to accept this Bill, to allow it to have a Second Reading, and to find the money which can be found if they put proper determination into their efforts to find it.

Dealing with this Bill on its merits, irrespective of who the proposer is or what Party he belongs to, I support it. Anyone who has had anything to do or who has come in touch with old age pensioners for the last three or four years, whether he is on the Independent Benches or on the benches of the two big Parties, must be aware that there is grave dissatisfaction in the country with the administration of these Acts. While this purports to be an amending Bill in reality it is not an amending Bill; it is an honest attempt, in my opinion, to put back into the existing Acts the spirit which has been extracted from them in their administration. I had a Question down yesterday dealing with the number of applications for pensions, the number of appeals, and the number of appeals upheld. To some extent I have been foiled in getting that information by being referred to the Minister for Finance for the number of applications, so that I could get no relative figures as to the number of appeals and the number of applications for pensions. But I have got some figures that will throw a little light on the question.

I find that there were 9,500 appeals for last year, and the number upheld by the Minister was 6,514, which shows that 68½ per cent. of the appeals lodged by the pensions officers have been upheld. I am very sorry that for some reason or other the figure of the number of applicants was not given, because I think it would throw a little more light on the unfair and unjust administration of the Acts generally. From my experience of dealing with people looking for the old age pension, I find that in almost every case—it is up to the Government to contradict me if I am wrong—there is, on the smallest possible pretext, an appeal lodged by the pensions officers. We have it in black and white that of the total number of appeals lodged 68½ per cent. are upheld. Unfortunately, in the case of many debates in this House we always seem to have to go back on ancient history and to set up comparisons between the old age pensioners and other sets of people. I do not propose doing that to-day.

The Minister for Finance in his speech last week was in some difficulty in dealing with this question. He spoke altogether beside the point when he said that he would much prefer to raise the old age pensions to the maximum of eleven shillings than allow this Bill to go through, a Bill which really only deals with the question of how to arrive at the means of old age pension applicants. The Minister also stated that the amount spent on pensions in Great Britain was 10/11 per head of the population, while in this country it was 18/5, and that the amount per pound of tax collected in this country was 2/7 and in Great Britain 8¾d. These figures have nothing at all to do with the Bill before us. The only thing they do prove is that there is a greater number of deserving poor in this country who have reached the age of seventy years than in Great Britain. They also show that the number of people whose income is below the standard which disqualifies them for the old age pension is enormously greater in this country than in Great Britain. For these reasons it is quite evident that the instructions to pensions officers in this State practically amount to this: that if the people were to get the full benefits of the Old Age Pensions Acts it would be too big a financial strain on the State. If that is so, it would have been better that it was frankly stated rather than by a subterfuge to deny the people the rights they have under these Acts.

The Minister for Finance stated that this Bill, if passed into law, would cost the State from £250,000 to £300,000. I think that economies could be effected in many other directions than by depriving the old age pensioners of what it is proposed to give them under this Bill. The cost of the Bill, I think, has been exaggerated by the Minister. A couple of years ago, when it was proposed to restore the shilling that had been taken from the old age pensioners, some very exaggerated figures were put before the House. We were told that the Amending Act would result in an increased cost of £600,000. We find now, when we look at the Estimates, that the restoration of the shilling only amounts to £175,000, which is less than one-third of the estimate put before the House at one time On the same basis, I think that the cost of this Bill, which has been put at £300,000 by the Minister for Finance, could be very considerably pared down.

We all know that, when matters come before us involving the expenditure of money, the Minister for Finance generally gives an exaggerated figure as to the estimated cost. We find afterwards, when the particular measure becomes an Act, that the estimate given by the Minister can be very considerably pared down. I think if the Minister for Finance and the Executive Council wanted to administer the Old Age Pensions Acts in the spirit in which they were originally conceived, they could do it without any Amending Bill whatever. When any section of the House finds it necessary, in order to get these Acts properly administered, to bring in a Bill of this kind, I think that the Government, if they have any sympathy with the old age pensioners, should treat it as a non-party measure, and thereby give the back-benchers in their own Party an opportunity of expressing what they personally feel in regard to the administration of these Acts.

The Minister for Finance also stated that these Acts were very liberally and sympathetically administered. The figures that I have quoted do not show very liberal administration or much sympathy for the old age pensioners. One can give an instance of the liberality and sympathy which are being shown to old age pensioners in the new rule recently made with the sanction, I presume, of the Executive Council. Under that new rule, not alone are the old age pensioners who are dependent upon this dole, as one may call it, excluded from fighting their cases but, in addition, their representatives in this House are also excluded in a most insulting manner from going to the Minister and placing before him the claims of these unfortunate people, who have no other advocates than their representatives here. If that is sympathetic and liberal administration, then I do not know what liberal administration means. I think that fact in itself is sufficient warranty for the introduction of this Bill. The object of this Bill is to secure that the Old Age Pensions Acts are properly administered. The spirit of the Acts has been evaded in their administration, and the object of this Bill is to remedy that. I hope the House will pass the Bill by a large majority.

Deputy Jasper Wolfe in what one might regard as a sympathetic speech endeavoured to frighten nervous members of the House into the belief that there was no use in voting for the Second Reading of this Bill because, even if it were passed, the Minister for Finance could refuse to bring in the necessary Money Resolution to enable the Bill to be put into operation. I want the Minister for Finance, or whatever Minister replies in this debate, to state whether he is prepared to disregard the vote of this House if it decides to pass the Second Reading of this Bill. I assume that any majority of this House which voted for the Second Reading of the Bill would have the courage to drive out of office any Minister who refused to bring in the necessary Money Resolution. Deputy Jasper Wolfe, of course, knows that perfectly well. I only mentioned the matter for the information of Deputies like Deputy Timothy Sheehy, who may feel nervous as to the action they ought to take in regard to this Bill. Deputy George Wolfe drew a very pitiful picture of the condition of the farmers, agriculturists and industrialists of the country. Of course he rightly pointed out that we had not as many millionaires in this country as there are across the Channel. When speaking of millionaires across the Channel, I am not aware whether Deputy Wolfe had in mind people of the Hatry type.

No.

[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]

We hear pitiable stories of the conditions in this country only when a Bill is introduced to improve the conditions of the poorer sections of the community. Was Deputy George Wolfe thinking of these conditions, and those sitting beside him, when he and they voted for a grant of £3,000 to the Royal Irish Automobile Club to enable the wealthiest section in the country to hold motor races and amuse themselves in the Phoenix Park, and from which the poorer section of the community had to keep away by reason of the high charges imposed for admission to the stands? Will he think of the pauperised community when he is asked to vote for the erection of a broadcasting station for the amusement of the wealthy at an expenditure of £48,000 per annum? I presume he would condone the action of the Ministry in an over-expenditure to the tune of a sum of £216,000 in the year 1928-29 by giving gratuities to retired Army officers, varying from the sum of £3,000 down. I would suggest to him that if he is thinking of the poor section of the community he should think of how he could most effectively sympathise with them. I suggest to him that he should deal with the Government Party, the Party that is supporting the Government in providing these moneys for people who do not need it so badly as the old age pension applicants. The over-expenditure of over £200,000 on Army gratuities was done in spite of the deliberate instruction of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and the Committee appointed by this House to super vise expenditure on public services.

I have not heard any word from any Cumann na nGaedheal Deputy or any Minister in regard to this matter. No doubt they will tell the House in due course that they were right in regard to it, while at the same time pretending to the people who are foolish enough to believe them that they are most careful and cautious and conscientious regarding public expenditure. So far as I am concerned, I can say that hundreds of applications have been received by me since I became a Deputy nearly seven years ago, in connection with old age pensions. I have never worried the Minister or officials of the Local Government Department about applications. I just passed them on, and stated as far as I knew what were the circumstances of the applicants. I frankly admit I have no complaint to make about the administration of old age pensions, so far as the Department of Local Government is concerned. The complaint is against those appointed by the Revenue Commissioners, and who are, wrongly, as Deputies will admit, fixing the maintenance value of the applicant on war period standard.

Would any Deputy suggest that the maintenance value to-day should be fixed on a war period standard? I want to know from the President or the Minister for Finance is that a fact? Cases have come under my notice where it was quite clear that was being done. That is one of the main complaints I have against the way in which the Act is administered. A case came under my notice where two people over seventy years of age applied for the pension. A recommendation was made by the pensions committee to the pensions officer who, as far as I know is a Revenue official, and he fixed the maintenance value at 18/- per head per week on a holding with a valuation of £7. I suggest it was ridiculous for a pensions officer to say that the maintenance value of an applicant living on a holding of £7 valuation could be anything like that in any part of the Midlands, as far as I know of the living conditions of the people. If by regulation the people who are doing this thing could be put right, I would say the Bill is not necessary, but so far as people have the power to fix the maintenance on a war standard I say we should vote for a measure to right that wrong. I have only a limited experience, confined to my own constituency, and I do not know whether that is general, but from the speeches we have been listening to from those who represent all parts of the State it appears to be fairly general.

I would advise Deputies, especially Deputies who are supporting this Bill, to be in no way affected by speeches which they have heard from Deputies such as Deputy George Wolfe—a Deputy who I am prepared to admit is one of the most conscientious and scrupulous in this House, but he allows his feelings to get hold of him sometimes, especially when he is dealing with matters affecting the pauperised section of the community. If the Minister says we cannot effect a reduction in the Estimates amounting to £250,000, I am prepared as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and with the knowledge I have of public Departments to help him to find the money without any trouble. I advise Deputies to vote for the measure with the absolute certainty they can find that money by saving it on other Estimates.

I desire to support this Bill, and I am glad Deputy Davin has called attention to a few points that I intended to deal with. One is in connection with the proposal to amend the 1911 Old Age Pensions Act, Section 2. Clause 1 (d) says the yearly value of any benefit or privilege enjoyed by that person shall be calculated against the claimant for an old age pension It has been said by speakers on the Ministerial Benches that that was interpreted according to the strictest letter of the law up to 1928, I think. We have no information on this side of the House as to the basis adopted by Government officials in assessing the yearly value of this benefit, so that we have Deputies who have wide experience of the working of the Act stating that the most preposterous sums, such as 16/- per week, are estimated for upkeep in the matter of maintenance of old age pensioners by their friends. What the Minister means when he says this Act is being interpreted in the widest and most sympathetic manner, and with due regard to the claims of the applicants from a desire to give them the benefit of the doubt, is that he is so satisfied with the way the pensions officials have carried out the guillotine legislation which was passed by this House in 1924 that he is not anxious the basis on which these officials work should be discussed in public, and, therefore, the Ministers take refuge in vague general statements that the Act is being interpreted in the widest and best possible manner. That is in violent conflict with the experience of Deputies of all sides of the House—not only Labour Deputies but Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies as well.

In the first place, you have the old age pensions committees, useless, anomalous bodies who have no power whatever. As Deputy O'Hanlon pointed out, practically all cases with them pass muster. They are afterwards on the ipse dixit of the pensions officer referred to the Local Government Department, and in nearly 70 per cent. the cases are turned down. We in this House have not the slightest information as to why he knows a person is not of age merely by looking at the person, or why he believes that the old age pension claimant's annual privilege or benefit from staying with relatives is worth from 10/- to 15/- a week. His word is to be the final decision in that matter. This Bill ought to have an effect on the Ministry in making them state what is the basis of maintenance. Is it that the Ministry are not acquainted with the operations of the Act down the country, and that whatever knowledge the back benchers may have as to the preposterous lengths that have been gone to in order to effect a saving the Ministers are unaware of it? They have such faith in their officials, who have done such good work in effecting economies at the expense of the most defenceless section of the population, that they have not gone into the rights or the wrongs of the question. As proof of that we have the fact that they have refused to allow Deputies to approach the officers in charge of the appeals. If there had been any statement from the Ministerial Benches as to what the basis of maintenance was, how these charges were estimated, what was in fact allowed for a hen, for a duck or a huxter's shop in Bangor Erris or some other place like that, then we might have some confidence in the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Local Government and we might believe that they had gone into this question.

Mr. Byrne

Does the Deputy want any information as far as chickens are concerned?

Bad eggs, it is suggested, might be more in the Deputy's line. As Deputy O'Hanlon has pointed out, this measure is simply an act of reparation. Two instruments were included in the Act of 1924 for effecting a cut at the expense of the old age pensioners. I believe what happened in 1924 was that the Minister for Finance, finding that he had, on one side, officials whose salaries could not possibly be touched, and, on the other side, military pensioners and pensioners to whom we were told this State has Treaty commitments and who could not obviously be touched, turned to the only section of the community that could be dealt with, the old age pensioners. A communication was sent out by the Revenue Commissioners in order to let the Minister for Finance know in what way a cut could be effected at the expense of the old age pensioners.

I am sure the Minister for Finance was delightfully surprised when he was told there were two methods by which this cut could be put into operation. One method was by altering the schedule so that persons who would, for example, be allowed 7/- on an income of £18 5s. 0d. before 1924 would be allowed 9/- on an income of £26 5s. 0d. afterwards. A general levelling up of the whole basis of the schedule meant that 1/-, 2/- or 3/- would be cut off from all the persons in receipt of pensions except those—and I doubt if, in the opinion of the pensions officers, there are any such throughout the country —who were absolutely destitute. With the exception of these persons, if there are any such, there would be a general cut all round. The second method was to alter the means qualification and, instead of taking one-twentieth, to take one-tenth. Either of these methods would have effected a saving of a couple of hundred thousand pounds. The Minister was not satisfied to adopt one of those methods. He adopted the two, and the cumulative effect was to reduce the amount granted to old age pensioners by half a million. Deputy Ward is not trying to get back the whole of the half million. Many changes which we know nothing about have been made in the administration of the Act. Rules have been formulated for the guidance of pensions officers, and these have been carried out in the most stringent fashion. The conditions indeed are such that it would be almost quite impossible for Deputies on this side of the House to formulate any measure which could adequately cope with the very tight administration of the law as applying to old age pensioners. Deputy Ward has attempted to remedy at least one of these injustices. In regard to the Schedule he has tried to bring the basis of fixing the means of the applicant back to the pre-1924 level. We are told that would cost £250,000. In any case, we are told it would only apply to border-line cases. The fact that a quarter of a million has been saved yearly by the operation of the means qualification inserted in the 1924 Act shows that throughout the country a great cutting down must have taken place and very large numbers of people must have been affected. The Minister has refused to state the number of people. He has confined himself to vague generalities. In one case he says there would be a very large number of people, comfortable and well-off with their relatives, brought in. In another case he says this only applies to border-line cases and that we will have these in any event. That is so. No matter what the administration will be, we are bound to have border-line cases, and hardships resulting from them.

The best argument in favour of this Bill is that it is trying to bring the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act back to what it was during the thirteen years when it was administered under the British régime and when it gave satisfaction to nearly everybody. We are asked if the means qualification is going to be interfered with, where are we to stop. We are going to stop at the £250,000 limit. If the Minister for Finance had stated his case in full to the House I doubt if he could have shown us, on the basis of the recent handing back of the one shilling to the old age pensioners, that it would involve such a large sum. Even if it does involve that, the argument that there will be no logical stopping place until we completely abolish all reference to means and give pensions to every person over 70, is not quite logical When the pensions were reduced from 10/- to 9/- what was the attitude of the pensions officials throughout the country? Not one of them, no matter how sympathetically minded, did anything but carry out the instructions. Of course they were bound to carry them out. There was not one of them who was not prepared to argue that since an old person could live on 10/- he or she could equally well live on 9/-. Obviously we can carry that much further, and perhaps they could even prove that a person could live on 5/- a week and, if necessary, nothing at all, merely by going into the county home, or living, as a great many old people are living, on the charity of neighbours. We are trying to bring the scheme back to the pre-1924 basis, and we are trying to cut out this absurd new arrangement for calculating the means qualification. It is as absurd for the Minister to say that we have in mind the complete abolition of the means qualification as it is for those administering the Act to say that people living on 10/- could live on 9/-, 8/- or 6/-, as the case may be.

The Minister took a few examples to show that the 10 per cent. basis is a very fair basis. What example did he take? Did he take an example that represents any typical case down the country? Not at all. He took the case of a bachelor with £250 in bank, and he told us that if this Bill is passed that bachelor, who is already getting 7/-, will get 10/-. If a bachelor could succeed in getting 7/- from the present administration it would certainly be a tribute to his powers, because under the legislation that is at present operating it would be an extremely difficult thing for a bachelor in the position the Minister stated to get a pension. That is not an ordinary case. The ordinary case, where £200 or £300 would be in the bank, might be the case of a man with a large family. That family might be either in America or at home. If several of the family are in America, I think anybody who is acquainted with the condition of families who are represented by emigrants will admit that the passage money could only be got after a good deal of trouble. In these cases there would be very little money left in the bank after certain members of the family had been sent to America. But the young people send the money back again, and in the course of time the money may rise up to a couple of hundred pounds, which would be available for the son or for the daughter or daughters who are living at home, to enable them to get married.

Even if it is the case where all the family are at home, you have then the case where the old person is living with his or her son and the money in the bank really does not represent the personal possession of that old person, any more than the money sent from America represents it. It may be in the bank in the old person's name in one case or another, but it is very often held in trust for the unmarried daughter or son who has come into possession of the holding but who has practically no finance. We know that old people do not like to shake off whatever legal claims they have and the fact that the £200 in the bank is in the old person's name is no argument at all. In fact the £200 will be distributed in one way or another amongst the members of the family, if there is a family. For that reason that argument of the bachelor with £200 in the bank is not an apt argument and is not illustrative of the general position in the country.

We are also told that all the holdings over a valuation of £10 are definitely economic holdings and that the old persons can live in comfort there with their relatives. It may be that holdings over a £10 valuation could generally be termed economic, but I do not agree that the general situation of the country or the general position of the tenant farmers who have between a £10 and a £13 valuation, and have, let us say, twenty acres of land and a large family to support, can be definitely described as economic. I think that you have there very definite proof of what has been alleged from this side of the House, that you will be putting a premium upon charity. You are actually telling these people that if they maintain their old fathers and mothers, these old fathers and mothers are going to lose the pension. You are putting them in the position that they have to turn their fathers and mothers out on the roadside because they would then have a better title to the pension. Why should that be so? If the Minister wants us to believe that in general persons with farms over a £10 valuation are so well off and comfortable that they do not require a pension, then he ought to prove that that is so. I think he ought to show us that the country has improved so much under the general administration of his Government that these people are better off than they were under the old British régime. If the Minister can prove that, there would be reason for the change. These people know they are worse off and therefore the argument that people with that valuation should not get the conditions that Deputy Ward's Bill seeks to get for them does not hold.

The argument with regard to old age pensioners who are living in institutions where they have been receiving hospital treatment is absurd. The Minister said that they should send on notice a few weeks in advance to say that they are coming out of the institution in order to qualify for the pension. Such a statement is not worthy of the Minister. If the Minister has made some advance already in that respect, such advance as he leads us to believe he has as a result of the work of the Committee which inquired into this question, he should go further and give the old person who leaves the hospital the pension automatically. In fact, why the pension should be stopped at all while the old person is in hospital is more than I can understand. It is well known that the pension in that case would enable the old person to get tobacco, which is one of the very few luxuries—I think it is a necessity—in the case of the old person. In my opinion leaving them the pension while they are undergoing treatment would enable them to enjoy the solitary joy which very often is all they have in their old age.

Generally speaking, no arguments have been made against this Bill. We have been told that there is a prima facie case against it, as there is a case against the old age pensioners in general when their appeals come up. But we have not heard any definite argument. We have not heard why these people in the hospitals should be deprived of a pension; we have not heard why these people with a valuation of £10 and over should be deprived of a pension or why they should be deprived of that provision in the 1911 Act with regard to calculating the yearly value of the maintenance by the relatives of the old age pensioner. We have not heard any argument why these regulations should not be abolished. I submit to the House that whatever commitments it has in regard to other classes of pensioners, it certainly has very definite commitments with regard to the old age pensioners. If it were only in consequence of the amount of trouble and annoyance that has been caused to Deputies, and the amount of trouble and annoyance it must cause them in the future, so long as these questions have to be gone into; if it it were only the cost of the administration and the numberless appeals and the numberless letters of applicants which have to be written and replied to in connection with these cases—these in themselves, I submit, would be arguments in favour of the adoption of Deputy Ward's Bill, and even more generous proposals.

The Minister says he has not the money. There are other directions in which the money can be got. There is no reason why this class of pensioner should be ill-treated, or why the old people should not be in as good a position as they have always been, while other pensioners who do not deserve so well at the hands of the State are waxing fat at their expense. If the Ministry had made any definite case against this Bill, if they had held out any hopes in reply to the general demands that have been made from all sides of the House for a really liberal interpretation of the Act and for the abolition of some of these new cogs that the Minister for Finance put into the wheel, then there might be some hope. But no shadow of a promise has been given by the Minister as to what he will do, whether this Bill is defeated or not. It is obvious that the Minister believes that the present Old Age Pension Act is working wonderfully well. He is perfectly satisfied with his officials. In that, I really believe that the majority of his own Party are in disagreement with him. We know that the Cumann na nGaedheal Party have made up their minds about it. They have already consigned it to oblivion. If the Bill does nothing else but wake up the Minister to the realities of the situation and show him that there is very real discontent in the country about the administration of these Acts; if it gets him to bring together his Revenue Commissioners and the heads of the Department in charge of the Old Age Pension Act to see in what way the whole thing can be amended so as to bring it back again to the old basis, then Deputy Ward's Bill will have done good work.

I rise to support the Bill. I believe that a Bill on those lines is very necessary to remedy some of the grievances of old age pensioners in connection with past Old Age Pensions Acts. I wish particularly to refer to the clause dealing with the calculation of means. A good deal has been said by previous speakers in connection with past Old Age Pensions Acts and I have no intention of covering the ground which they have already gone over, but there are a few outstanding matters in connection with the circumstances of old age pensioners in different parts of the country that have been mentioned and which I also would like to bring under the notice of the Minister. In connection with the calculation of means in my county, and presumably in other counties, it should be mentioned that when people attain or approach the age of seventy they have probably the last of the younger flock left who are anxious to settle down. There is a common custom in the West, when a marriage is about to take place, by which the old people take the precaution of making some provision for themselves in their old age. There are such things as marriage agreements, though it may be hard to convince some people that they exist. There is a certain amount of love in the West and all marriages are not the result of bargaining. In these marriage agreements the old persons take the precaution of inserting a clause providing for their old age.

In every case in which they apply for old age pensions the marriage agreement is asked for by the pensions officer, who knows that such a thing exists. This is put against the claimant as regards means. The fact that they safeguard themselves when they have a certain claim on a house, which they helped to keep or probably built themselves and in which they reared their family, and the fact that in their lifetime they helped to pay the pensions for other people, should not be brought against them when their means are being calculated. Certainly these marriage settlements should not be brought against them.

There are instances where such agreements are not always safeguards as sometimes unpleasantness occurs and the old father or mother may have to leave the house. I have a case before me in which a marriage settlement of that kind prevented a woman from getting a pension. A year or two after she applied for a pension things were so unpleasant in her house that she had to leave and go to live with a daughter who was married in another part of the county. The original settlement made in her own house was brought against her in the calculation of her means when she applied for a pension although she is living with a daughter. The daughter stated to the pensions officer that she was keeping her and he calculated the cost of her keep and put it against her claim.

I have also a case of a railway employee who has a small pension from the railway company. He is living with a second cousin and he applied for a pension. The pensions officer asked him some questions and the man told him truthfully that he had no settlement with the cousin in question as regards wages but, in order that he could get his food and sleeping accommodation in the house, it was understood that he would do some little work around the place. He had no means except, as I say, a small pension from the railway company. He was quite prepared to have that put in as part of his means but the pensions officer calculated as means the charity which he received from his cousin in the shape of food and bed for the little help which he gave around the house. These are difficulties which people are up against owing to the actions of pensions officers in different districts. Charity given to a man in the form of a bed to sleep in should not be reckoned as means in the case of claimants for old age pensions. The impression which I got while listening to different speakers on this Bill was that it was doomed to failure simply because it came from the Fianna Fáil Party.

Several Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies seem to think that the Bill could not be any good, and that it could not pass muster in this House because it came from Fianna Fáil. We have no redeeming feature at all, according to some Deputies. For instance, when Deputy Wolfe was speaking he stated that it emanated from the benches of Fianna Fáil as an act of repentance. Here is exactly what he said: "I am sure that they, or a very considerable number of them, are repentant for what occurred in 1922 and 1923, and I was waiting and hoping that from some of the numerous Fianna Fáil Deputies who spoke I would have heard some expression of regret, some expression of apology, even if there were no rational explanation for the acts of 1922 and 1923, which resulted in the Fianna Fáil Party driving the old age pensioners into the unfortunate position in which we find them to-day." I am very glad that Deputy Wolfe made such a statement. It is possible that it was as a result of what happened at that time that the old age pensions were cut by one shilling. It is possible that that is what caused it, and I am assuming that when Deputy Wolfe mentioned 1922 and 1923 he was talking about the civil war. The act of repentance, however, if it is such, should come from the Cumann na nGaedheal Benches because we are quite clear about the civil war. One Minister in the Cumann na nGaedheal Party said——

Mr. Jordan

I beg your pardon, Deputy Wolfe was allowed to make this statement while you were in the Chair.

Mr. Jordan

Are you sure?

A Deputy

He got away with it more quickly.

Mr. Jordan

I am in no hurry. I was present when Deputy Wolfe made that statement and referred to the civil war. If an Leas-Cheann Comhairle says that I cannot refer to it I bow to his decision. If you say that I cannot go over the ground which Deputy Wolfe went over——

I am afraid the Deputy cannot make the civil war relevant to the Old Age Pensions Bill.

Mr. Jordan

I am only going back to what other speakers said.

There is nothing about the civil war in the quotation the Deputy gave.

Mr. Jordan

I will just read what Deputy Wolfe said, if you do not mind:

I am in entire sympathy with the old age pensioners. I disagree with the policy of the Government in the past towards them. The cut in the old age pensions which has given rise to the introduction of this Bill was the direct consequence of the insane folly of the years 1922 and 1923. It followed as the result of the debt created by the blowing up of bridges, the destruction of property and the robbing of banks which took place that year.

When were the bridges blown up?

Who started it?

Mr. Jordan

These are the statements he made. He said that the Bill emanated from the Fianna Fáil Benches and that it may be properly suggested that they brought it forward as an act of repentance. I repeat, sir, that you were in the Chair at that time.

It is purely a matter of opinion.

Mr. Jordan

Deputy Wolfe made that statement. It is quite possible that it is true, that it was as a result of these insane acts that this particular Act was introduced, but we are quite clear who started it because the Minister for Agriculture said that he had no apology to offer to the people of Ireland except this: that he was sorry that they did not fire the first shot sooner.

Perhaps you will leave it at that.

Mr. Jordan

Yes. I am quite satisfied now. That is just all I wanted, and having said that I hope we are clear as to who caused the destruction and who took the shilling off the pensioners.

I think I heard that statement in the House before.

Mr. Jordan

There is an old saying in the West that your own are always the worst. When the British were here the old age pensioners got 10/- a week but when the Party opposite got power they docked off one shilling and made it 9/-. Now they want to throw the blame on our shoulders. Deputy Haslett speaking on this Bill cited a rather peculiar case. He said that he was in agreement with the Bill except two clauses, Clauses 3 and 4. His argument against Clauses 3 and 4 was that if two old age pensioners living together had £675 invested in the Loan, it would not debar them from a pension. We, at least the people of the West, know of no people applying for the pension who are possessed of such a large amount of money. I would be very glad if Deputy Haslett could cite even one case of old people who have such an amount of money invested and who would make application for the pension. These are not the kind of people who apply for pensions. However he said that if this Bill goes through these people would be entitled to a pension. I want to try to prove to him that such is not the case. In order that these two people would be entitled to the pension both Clause 3 and Clause 4 would have to be passed. If these clauses were not passed persons having such an amount of money invested could not get the pensions under this new Act.

When Deputy Tubridy was speaking on this Bill he stressed the case of two old age pensioners in the West, joint pensioners who have say eight or nine shillings a week. One of them dies and there is a revision of means immediately, the survivor being reduced probably down to five or six shillings or perhaps less. It is really a hardship on these old people and that practice should not be followed up because one would imagine that on the death of one of the pensioners the pension dies with him or her. The house is, therefore, 9/- the poorer. While both were living they were getting 9/- each but when one of them dies the pension dies with him or her. We think it is not just that on the death of one of the old age pensioners there is immediately a revision of the means of that house and the pension of the survivor is reduced in consequence. I think we should be a little more humane and say that the surviving pensioner has lost enough without having his or her pension reduced.

Deputy Wolfe also stated that this Bill was merely so much eye-wash and that the old age pensioners should not be deceived by it. It is not introduced here as eye-wash. It is introduced because it is considered necessary and just that something should be done to relieve the conditions of poor old age pensioners in the country. To stop to such criticism as to say that it is so much eye-wash because it comes from the Fianna Fáil Benches is not befitting the position of a Deputy such as Deputy Wolfe.

On a point of order, when the Deputy refers to Deputy Wolfe, does he mean Deputy Wolfe of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party or Deputy Wolfe of another party?

What other party?

Mr. Jordan

Deputy J.T. Wolfe.

What Party does he belong to?

I say he does not belong to the Cumann na nGaedheal Party. He has not to toe the line like the other Deputy Wolfe.

You do not crack the whip.

Mr. Jordan

I just want to say in conclusion that I hope that the House will declare that it is in favour of this Bill as introduced. There is a good spirit behind it. We believe that it is right that something should be done for the old age pensioners and I hope the House will pass the Bill.

I wish to support this Bill. It is the most deserving Bill that has been brought before the House for a very long time, and I will be very much surprised if we do not get many of the Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies to march into the Lobby with the Fianna Fáil Party when the division on the Bill takes place, because it is an honest and a just attempt to get justice for the poor in their old age. The Minister for Finance stated that if this Bill passed the House it would only help to relieve those old people who are living in luxury. I think that is hardly likely because the great majority of old people living in luxury will not, I think, bother looking for the old age pension. I think as Deputy Walsh stated it is a crime now to become old. The Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government think so at any rate.

So much has been said about this Bill that I think it would be out of order to say much more. One or two particular cases were brought under my notice in Limerick where applicants who were really over 70 years of age and could not procure a birth certificate were deprived of the old age pension on that account, although old age pensioners could state on oath that they went to school with these people and that the applicants were really older than themselves. I think, in a case like that, the Minister ought to give the benefit of the doubt to the applicants, and I hope the House will vote for this Bill.

I rise to support this Bill, as introduced by Deputy Dr. Ward, for the reason that it sets out to repeal certain sections of the old Age Pensions Act which have inflicted great hardships on many old people in this country. The first part of Section 2 of this Bill sets out to repeal that section in the Old Age Pensions Act that provides for estimating a person's means, and includes any privileges or benefits even when enjoyed as a matter of charity. I think that is one section that should be repealed. An old age pensioner becoming ill or infirm and not able to look after himself is taken in by some neighbour through charity. As soon as that happens the pensions officer comes along, and if those people who take in the old age pensioner through charity are of comfortable means a question is raised and the old age pensioner is disqualified and is no longer entitled to a pension. I think the Minister for Local Government stated that a liberal interpretation was being given by the Old Age Pensions Department to cases of that kind, and that where a case was put up, or where representations were made, favourable consideration was always given to the old age pensioner. I hold that that is not so, and I have the experience of many appeals from different parts of Donegal in connection with the maintenance clause of the Old Age Pensions Act. I have one case in mind, although I could quote several. That is the case of an old lady who looked after her father for several years. Her father was an agricultural labourer. A few years ago her father died. The lady was left by herself, and she became infirm. A neighbouring family took her in. An application was made to the County Board of Health, who awarded 4/- relief. When she reached 70 years of age she applied for an old age pension. A pension officer investigated her case and set out that this lady was only entitled to 2/- a week, as she was getting maintenance from those people who took her in through charity and as they were of comfortable means. That is one case.

The Minister stated that the interpretation of the Act was more liberal than what was stated by me and other Deputies. The first part of Section 2 of the Bill sets out to repeal a section that enacts that where a person enters a poor law institution after a period of three months he is automatically disqualified from the old age pension. I have in mind old persons who had become ill and had nobody to look after them. The doctor, after attending them for a while, recommended that they should go to the county infirmary. They went there for a time and happened to remain three weeks longer than three months. When they came out their pension automatically ceased. They had to make a fresh application. The pension officer investigated the case, and a period of three months elapsed before they were actually in receipt of the pension again. For that reason I think that particular section should be repealed.

So much has been said by other Deputies regarding other sections in this Bill that I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything further. There is, however, one thing that I should like to mention. I believe the passing of this amending Bill would bring a lot of happiness to many homes in the constituency I represent, and I would like to make a special appeal to the Deputies on the opposite benches from that constituency. I believe they are sympathetic towards the old age pensioners, and that the best way of recording that sympathy would be to go into the Lobby with Fianna Fáil and other Deputies when a division comes on this Bill. If they do, I can assure them they will have the blessings of many people in County Donegal.

It is rather hard at this stage to find anything to say on this Bill without traversing ground already covered by some of the other speakers. I only wish that some of the people on the opposite side had the guts to stand up and tell us exactly what they see wrong in this Bill, or why they are opposing it. In the very near future, from public platforms down the country, I feel we will be told that Fianna Fáil put this forward—as we were told by Deputy Wolfe today—for political reasons. I do not think there can be very much said for that in the present case, because every Deputy in the House, and I think the Government at present, should feel that it is their duty to see that the old people should be looked after in their old age.

I support this Bill because I believe that the amendments proposed are absolutely necessary. As Deputy Jordan pointed out, there is such a thing in the West of Ireland as a marriage arrangement, where an old man or woman, when the son or daughter, as the case may be, is getting married, hands over what he or she possesses. It happens that probably the son or the daughter-in-law falls out with them, with the result that they get the high road and their chances. The section, as amended in this Bill, will certainly help to prevent that happening. It will mean that the persons who will be in that position will be getting their pensions, and if one of them happens to leave the world the one that is left will be getting the same amount as before. The Minister for Local Government said that we have to compare the amount that is paid in old age pensions at present with the amount that is paid for other social services. Deputy Wolfe said that England, the richest country in the world, took a very long time before she introduced the Old Age Pension Act. That is proof to us of how careful England was when she was drafting this Pension Act. She did not mean to fire away money to people who were not deserving of it. We find the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Wolfe and other Deputies on the opposite side, saying that we cannot afford this. But you will not find them standing up to oppose gratuities of £2,000 or £3,000 to men who gave a few years in the National Army or, as Deputy Davin remarked, opposing the giving of £2,000 or £3,000 for motor races in the Park. If it was £250,000 that was to be given in that way you would not find them opposing it either. Of course, it is a question of the iron hand of the Whip. They are driven like sheep and have to go where the dog drives them. I am sorry that all the Galway Deputies are not sitting where they should be. I hope when they come down to Galway they will be able to tell the old people to whom they appeal for support their reasons for voting against this Bill.

Deputy Wolfe told us that the farmers to-day are very interested in de-rating and he spoke of industries going down. He seemed to contradict the President and the Minister for Agriculture who have been telling us that we are around the corner and advancing from day to day. It was about the best indictment I have yet heard of the Government's record. They all talk about industries going down and the farmers going down but when they come down the country it is a case of the farmer being on his feet and progressing. Here we have a case where people after a life service are no longer able to fight for an existence and they are being turned down while other services are to be kept up and run extravagantly. We have Deputies standing up—only a few of them I am sorry to say because the Ministers have to talk for them—and telling us that we cannot afford this at the present time. I hope these Deputies when they are going into the division lobby will realise what they are doing, and that when they go to the country they will not make false excuses as they have done in the past.

The Minister for Local Government when speaking on this Bill wondered if Deputy Dr. Ward's explanation of Section 7 of the Act of 1924 was not somewhat extravagant and proceeded to state the interpretation that was being put upon that section by his Department since 1928. Section 7 of the Act of 1924 refers to a case where the applicant transfers his property and is not eligible for a pension until three years have expired. I have one case in mind where a woman made an assignment of her farm on July 12th, 1926. She waited for three years to pass and it seems that she did not remember that it was on the 12th she made this assignment. On 1st July, 1929, she handed in her application for an old age pension. I happen to know the woman and the circumstances of the case. I was interested in her case. The pension officer appealed and I wrote to the Department. After some time I got a letter from the Department stating that her claim was turned down under Section 7 of the Act of 1924. The Minister for Local Government invited us to cite cases in support of Deputy Dr. Ward's contention as regards this section. I think that is one case that shows very clearly what the attitude of the Department of Local Government has been since 1928 as regards Section 7.

The two sections in this amending Bill of Deputy Dr. Ward's that appeal to me are Sections 2 and 5. Section 2 proposes to repeal that portion of the Act which refers to the maintenance of an applicant. It was claimed here by the Minister for Finance that the passage of this Bill would not affect the holders of small farms. I think anybody who knows anything of the conditions in the country and how the Old Age Pensions Acts have been administered will admit that there is no person in receipt of a full pension who is living on land or being maintained on land. There is no form of maintenance that will not be estimated by the pensions officer at over £15 12s. 6d. per year, and if his estimate is greater than £15 12s. 6d., then the person cannot receive a full pension. Everybody will admit that any sort of maintenance must be worth more than £15 12s. 6d. So much for that portion of Section 2.

Let us now come to Section 5, which repeals Section 7 of the Act of 1924. These are the two sections which interest me most. Where is the use, under Section 7 of the Act of 1924, of a man transferring his property if, after a period of three years, the maintenance that is going to be calculated against him by the pensions officer will deprive him anyhow of receiving a pension? It is not a matter of whether he has transferred his property or not; it is a matter of the calculation of means and maintenance by the pensions officer, and that calculation will prevent the claimant from receiving a pension.

It is all very well for the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government, when a Bill of this kind is introduced, to consult their officials as to the interpretation and administration of the Old Age Pensions Acts. We who mix with the public need not be told by these Ministers what the interpretation of the different sections of the Acts is; we know the sections and see them working. Whatever may be said as to the expense caused by such a Bill as this, I am one of those who would not be afraid to go before the taxpayers and say that I am going to stand for the Bill, even though it means increased taxation to the extent of £250,000 per year. That is my attitude towards old age pensions.

I think the Minister for Finance should not say with one breath, "We are not administering a poor relief scheme" and in another breath talk about border line cases and that sort of thing. We should have a different mentality to that expressed by both Ministers. We should regard these as Old Age Pensions Acts and nothing else. Any Deputy who has any experience of their administration will find that they are merely regarded by the officials as an outdoor relief sort of affair. That is not the spirit in which we should approach the question. If £250,000 is necessary to deal with this question in a fair way, we should not be afraid to go before the public and say that amount must be got. I intend to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.

Judging by the number of Deputies who have spoken in favour of the Bill, there should not be any doubt as to its fate. For all practical purposes, only two persons in the House spoke against the Bill— the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Finance. It is true that Deputy Sheehy of Cork spoke, but it would be untrue to say that he spoke about the Bill. This Bill is to be opposed presumably because it has been introduced by a Fianna Fáil Deputy.

The Minister for Local Government denied that there was any difference of opinion in the interpretation of the Old Age Pensions Acts, especially paragraph (d) of the Act of 1911, between his Department and the Department of Finance, and he threw down a kind of challenge to me either to modify the statement I made in moving the Second Reading or to produce some evidence in substantiation of it. I do not propose to do either of these things. I should like the Minister for Local Government to take an early opportunity of stating, as he evidently cannot do it on this particular occasion, whether he has the authority of the heads of the appeal section in the Local Government Department for denying that this difference of opinion existed. If he says that he consulted the heads of the appeals department before he stated that there is not any difference of opinion between these two departments, then I shall have to modify my opinion as to the length that some people are prepared to go to ensure that this Bill shall be defeated. In that connection, it is a significant thing that the Minister for Local Government had not as his advisers on the Bill during the debate here the heads of the appeals department or anybody from his own Department, but that he was advised by the Finance Department.

Further on, the Minister for Local Government stated that it was never intended not to calculate as means the maintenance a person might get from charity or as a matter of sentiment. If that were in the minds of the Executive Council, why was Section 7 of the Old Age Pensions Act of 1924 passed? That section provides that certain property can be transferred, and if it were property, other than a farm of land of less than £10 valuation, after three years that property would not be taken into consideration in estimating the claimant's means; also that the owner of a farm of land of £10 valuation or under could assign that farm and apply immediately for a pension without having that farm taken into consideration in the calculation of his means. There would be no point whatever in passing that section if it was the intention that the benefit or privilege of remaining under the roof of the person to whom the farm was assigned could be estimated at from 10/- to £1 per week income.

It has been definitely stated by both Ministers that the Old Age Pensions Acts are being interpreted at least as liberally and generously by them as they were by the British Government. That is not so. It is quite likely that the Ministers believe that it is so, but those of us who have an intimate knowledge of the working of the Acts know that it is not so, and that a benefit or privilege that was not enjoyed as a legal right was not estimated as means by the British administration in this country. Cases can be cited in proof of that contention. In cases of the fathers or grandfathers of Deputies in this House who had a full old age pension from the British administration, and who lived in comparative comfort and had the benefit and privilege of being maintained by their people, this was put into operation against them. If the Minister for Local Government, or the Minister for Finance, wants me to state a case or two cases, I shall do so. The Minister for Local Government compared the amount spent under the Medical Charities Act with the amount spent on old age pensions. What has that to do with the case? I cannot see what bearing the money spent under the Medical Charities Acts has on the amount spent on old age pensions, unless the Minister frankly looks upon old age pensions as a form of outdoor relief to certain people.

If that is the mentality of Ministers then it becomes a different proposition. That is not the way I approach the old age pensions question, and I do not think it is the way that it is approached by the majority of Deputies. It appears to me, at any rate, that those poor old people who have contributed during a long lifetime to the salaries and pensions of the salaried and pensioned classes, when they reach the age of seventy years or over, that they are morally entitled to a retiring allowance, and that we should take the necessary steps to ensure that they become legally entitled to it. If the civil servant, the policeman, the local government official—all the various types of pensioners at the present time, able-bodied people— are entitled to a retiring allowance at an age considerably less than 70 years, I think it could be in accordance with all reason and logic that people who produced the mechanical requirements, and who have laboured for a lifetime in producing the food of the nation, ought also be entitled to retire at a period when their earning capacity, for all practical purposes, has ceased.

Several Deputies have expressed regret that this Bill is not more far-reaching in its effects. I very much regret that a more far-reaching Old Age Pensions Bill would not have any prospect of securing a passage through this House. This Bill was deliberately drafted to make it impossible for any decent Irishman to oppose it; at least, it was drafted in the belief that no decent Irishman would oppose it. As I said, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, it does not represent, and it is not intended to represent, the ultimate policy of the Fianna Fáil Party on the matter of old age pensions. It is not denied that if this Bill is not passed that charity must continue to be taken into account in estimating the means of a claimant for an old age pension.

Paragraph (d), which Section 2 of this Bill proposes to repeal, says account shall be taken of the yearly value of any benefit or privilege enjoyed by the claimant. It has already been agreed that that section has been interpreted to mean any benefit or privilege whatsoever, whether that benefit or privilege is enjoyed as a legal right or as a matter of charity must be taken into account. So there is no use rejecting this Bill under a delusion. If this Bill is rejected charity is going to be taken into account in calculating the means of the claimants for the future. Let Deputies, who may be forced to go into the Division Lobby against this Bill, realise that they are voting very definitely for the inclusion of charity in the calculation of the means of a claimant to an old age pension.

The Minister for Finance said that the Bill would not benefit the very poor. Now, it would appear to me that if the Bill would secure that charity would not be estimated as means, at least that the people depending upon charity for a living are amongst the very poor. The Minister for Finance has, I suppose, a definition of his own and peculiar to himself for the very poor. This is no longer a matter of interpretation, and it ceases to be a matter of interpretation after this debate. It was considered to be a matter of interpretation until we heard the views of the Minister for Finance, and the Minister for Local Government, who have very definitely laid down that it is a matter of law, and that charity must, under the law, continue to be taken into account, and that such a benefit or privilege as a few shillings a week from the St. Vincent de Paul Society or bread or milk or other goods from a charitable organisation, or such benefit or privilege as Christmas boxes or free shelter or free food must all be taken into account in the future, according to law and according to interpretation put upon the law. It seems to me that the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government have set out to oppose this Bill altogether regardless of the hardships that will be inflicted as a result of their opposition, or of the hardships that are being inflicted at the present time by the Finance Department's administration.

It is proposed by the Government to continue to deprive a person of a pension who through destitution has to enter a poor law institution. There is some confusion between two classes of cases. There is the class of case that can retain the pension for three months if they enter a poor law hospital or are under medical treatment. But the main body of people with whom I am concerned are the people who through destitution have nobody to look after them in their homes go into the county home or poor law institution to spend the remainder of their days in some degree of comfort. It should not be necessary to argue it at any great length, in order to persuade the majority in this House that it is unfair and unjust and un-Irish to deprive these poor old people of the pension and to send them into these institutions as paupers and a charge upon the rates, to deprive them of something they had already enjoyed as a legal right, to make them a burden on their neighbours, an object of charity for all the days of their lives, and for all practical purposes to secure that such old persons entering poor law institutions went in to remain there for the rest of their lives. Why should these people who have become entitled to old age pensions, and who enjoyed old age pensions before they entered poor law institutions be deprived of them when they go into such institutions? Why should they not be allowed to continue to draw their pensions and to hand them over to the boards of health as payment for their maintenance, so that they could go to these institutions with their heads up, with an air of independence, instead of being sent in there, by legislation passed in this House, as paupers? I do not know how the majority of Deputies can reconcile voting for a continuation of that British enactment? I believe in my heart that a number of them do not know what they will be voting about. It is that, or the pressure that is being exerted to secure the defeat of this Bill is such that it cannot be resisted.

There is another aspect of this matter of depriving people who enter poor law institutions of pensions that one would think would appeal, for instance, to farmer Deputies, who are so deeply interested in de-rating. If this Bill were passed it would mean that £50,000 per annum in the Twenty-Six Counties would become available for the relief of local rates by enabling people who enter institutions, and who are entitled to old age pensions, to hand the money over to the poor law authorities. Apparently de-rating is not to be seriously considered, even to the extent of £50,000, when the Government Whips say that the thing is not to be done. The Minister for Finance, and I think the Minister for Local Government, have stated that people in poor law institutions can apply for the pensions before they leave, and that there should not be much delay in having them restored. They say they can apply before they come out of these institutions. Of course the fact that many of them are illiterate was not considered by Ministers. Their applications cannot be considered, and pensions cannot be awarded them, while they are in poor law institutions, so that a considerable period is bound to elapse after leaving poor law institutions before the pensions can be restored. One can picture the position of such a person leaving a poor law institution in the summer, being taken in by some charitably disposed person until the pension is restored, and having the benefit of being supported by some charitably disposed person taken into account to deprive that person of some of the pension. Absurd as that may appear, that is the law as it is being administered.

The Minister for Finance was particularly critical of the section of the Bill which deals with the continuation of the pension to the survivor of a married couple of pensioners. Considerable rounds were gone to by the Minister and others to make a case against that section. The arguments advanced against this proposal fell mainly under two heads: first, that it would be unfair to the person who becomes a widow at 69, and secondly, that it would be unfair to an unmarried person. Dealing with people who become widows at 69, we were told by the Minister for Finance that these people would have a grievance, that it would be unfair to them not to take the pension off the survivor of two pensioners who were over 70. But if you continue the argument along that line it appears to me to be unfair to a person who dies at 69 that the age for pension was not 65, so that that person might have enjoyed it for four years before death. Such an argument appears to me to be foolish, and to be merely arguing in a circle. "It is unfair to the unmarried person." Well, the real hardship appears to me to rest in taking the pension from a person who has just suffered a serious loss by losing a life partner at such an advanced age. An unmarried person does not realise the loss of a life partner. I do not think it is a serious injustice to them to make some provision, so that this hardship will not be inflicted on any old person who has just lost a partner.

Another aspect of this matter of depriving the survivor in the case of a married couple living together of the pension is the position of a widow. This section tries to secure that when a woman becomes a widow at 70 years or over, she will not be deprived of the pension she enjoyed as a married woman. If we are seriously to discuss the matter of pensions for widows, surely we will not refuse to pass legislation that will ensure that a widow over 70 will be as favourably placed as a married woman over 70. The case appears to me to be too strong to require any argument at all, and I would not deal with it in even that much detail only that the Minister for Finance suggested that this matter had not been thought out. I can assure the Minister for Finance that it was thought out in detail, and that the section was not introduced as a result of any wave of emotionalism. Deputy Haslett quoted a case dealing with a theoretical pair who have £675 in National Loan and where one of them dies.

[An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.]

I can only say that I have never yet come across a claimant to an old age pension who had between himself and his wife £675 in National Loan. I do not think we need lose much time dealing with the possible case that Deputy Haslett mentioned. But if Deputy Haslett ever knew of any such case I would be delighted to know that we have old people in County Monaghan who have this large sum of money, even though it is in National Loan. Such a widowed person as Deputy Haslett is uneasy about would not get a pension under Section 3 of this Bill. Deputy Haslett can guard against that by voting against Section 4, because it would check the operation of these two sections, and ensure that the class of case mentioned by the Deputy would become entitled to the pension. That is a comparatively minor section in the Bill, and if Deputy Haslett is satisfied that the major clauses ought to be supported, and he feels that they contain principles with which he agrees, we ought to be able to accommodate him at a later stage. From the point of view of expense, most of the Deputies who spoke, including those on the Independent Benches, expressed wholehearted agreement with the main clauses. The Minister for Local Government says that Section 2 would involve an expenditure of from £200,000 to £250,000 a year. If that is so, the amount involved in the other clauses must be comparatively small, and anybody who agrees with the part of the Bill that involves an expenditure of £250,000 should have no difficulty in voting for the Second Reading, because the minor clauses must involve only a few thousand pounds altogether.

The Minister for Finance said that under Section 4 a person with £425 in the bank would get a pension of eight shillings a week. If that is so, such a person under existing legislation could get a pension of four shillings. That is all right in theory, but it is not the practice. I have just fought out a case with the Appeals Department that has been dragging on for a considerable time, the case of a person who has not got £425 in the bank but £145, and who has no other means whatever, not even free maintenance,—who contributes 5/- a week for his maintenance. As a result of a very stiff fight with the Appeals Department, presumably with the Department of Finance somewhere in the background, I succeeded in getting that person a pension of 5/- a week. I do not think we need lose any time with the Minister for Finance's theoretical case of the person with £425 in the bank. The practical side of it is how it operates in working, and it is because that is the practical operation of the Old Age Pensions Acts that this Bill has been introduced to try to amend it. I would again remind the House of how that particular section operates against an old farmer who is unable to work his farm. When a man becomes unable to work his farm—and I have in mind such a case, which has recently been fought out with the Appeals Department— he is liable to have the capital value of that farm taken in estimating his means, and one-tenth of the capital value, after setting aside £25, is considered to be his income. Now, for a case in point, a case that has recently been fought out with the Local Government Department, was the case of a man whose farm was valued at somewhere around £400. He was awarded a pension of one shilling a week. The actual income from his farm was £13 a year, out of which had to be taken rates, taxes and rent, amounting to over £7 and he was expected to live on the balance. Under British law such a person would have his income assessed as being one-twentieth of the capital value. Under the 1924 Act it became one-tenth, and this Bill proposes that we go back to the one-twentieth capital value in such a case in future. It is all right to state theoretical cases about people with piles of money in the bank; I am not concerned with them at all; they are very scarce as far as old age pensioners are concerned, and I have not come across many of them in my experience of fighting appeals.

A good deal has been said about Section 5. Section 5 aims at amending Section 7 of the Act of 1924. The Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Finance told us in effect that from 1924 to 1928 they had been working on a wrong interpretation of Section 7 of the Act of 1924. They have not told us on what particular date in 1928 they discovered that their interpretation of that section was wrong. They have not told us if they intend to make any restitution to the many people who were deprived of pensions as a result of that wrong interpretation, nor have they told us that the pensions will automatically be given to those who were deprived of them on that wrong interpretation. I would also be interested to know who made the discovery that their interpretation was wrong from 1924 to 1928. Was it the result of a High Court decision, or was it as a result of the opinion of some of the legal gentlemen in the Department of Finance? It will be necessary to know all these things, because if it is merely that a new interpretation has been put upon it without having the matter tested out in court, we are liable to have a different interpretation put on it again in 1929, and I think the safer course would be to amend the law so that there can be no doubt as to the interpretation of this section.

Both the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Finance were surprised to hear that if a person assigned a farm of over £10 valuation and applied for a pension before three years had elapsed he would be deprived of a pension for life. They discovered that a new interpretation had been put on in 1928. But I suggest that that discovery was made after this Bill had been introduced, and Deputy Smith has quoted a case of a person who applied in the last month of the three years after assigning a farm of over £10 valuation and who was deprived of the pension—a case that happened since 1928. That is not the only case; I have before me details of the case of a man who assigned his farm eight years ago and deprived himself of everything. He has been going around on sticks as the result of chronic rheumatism for a number of years. He applied within two years of assigning his farm, and he applied a couple of times every year since, but because he had applied before the complete three years had expired, though he has nothing whatever in the world except that his son is decent enough not to throw him out, he is deprived of a pension. The latest decision on this is not 1928, but the 21st March, 1929.

These things force one to the conclusion that a discovery has been made since this Bill was introduced about a new interpretation of Section 7 of the Act of 1924. It is necessary that we should know if instructions with regard to this new interpretation of Section 7 of the 1924 Act have been issued to pension officers, whether they have been instructed, without any application on the part of the people who were turned down, to re-open their cases. If these instructions have not been issued, then we should like to get some undertaking that they will be issued in the near future.

The Minister for Finance also stated that the poor would not benefit by the passage of this Bill. I think I have already shown that the passage of the Bill would ensure for people who are so poor that they have nothing only charity to depend upon, that in the future charity would not be estimated in calculating means. These people who live on charity and charity alone are, in my opinion, the poorest class in the community. The Minister for Finance also stated that under Section 5 of the Bill, if passed, £125,000 a year would go to small farmers with valuations ranging from £10 to £13 10s. According to the Minister such farmers are not poor. There may be certain parts of the country where farmers with such valuations are not poor, but farmers of that valuation in the County Monaghan, the only county I can speak of with the necessary intimate knowledge on this question, are so poor that they cannot make ends meet. It appears that that particular class of the community would, if the Bill were passed, benefit to the extent of £125,000, but then the Minister says that these people are not poor, and therefore it is undesirable that the Bill should be passed.

The Minister for Local Government stated that Section 2 of the Bill would cost from £200,000 to £250,000, while according to the Minister for Finance Section 5 of the Bill would cost £125,000 a year. I suggest that these two Ministers should have compared their briefs before they addressed the House, because they have both separately declared that the total cost of the Bill would be from £250,000 to £300,000, but when speaking on two different sections of the Bill they state that these two sections, if put into operation, would cost a total sum of £375,000. I think that these discrepancies in the figures given by the Ministers go to show that there was not even the necessary examination of the question to arrive at some kind of uniform front, or a uniform case being presented to the House as to why this Bill should be rejected.

Deputy Haslett will be delighted to hear that all the money that it has been stated this Bill is going to cost has already been allocated to meet the expenditure under two sections. The sections the Deputy is opposed to will evidently cost nothing.

The Minister for Finance appears to be satisfied that the building of new houses or the improvement of holdings will not be interfered with if this Bill is not passed. If new houses are built, or if existing holdings are improved, the valuations of these holdings will be increased, and as soon as the valuation goes above £10 the farm cannot be transferred without being taken into account for old age pension purposes. I think, therefore, that it cannot reasonably be argued that unless the valuation of transferable property is raised that the building of houses with the assistance of housing grants, or the improvement of holdings and out-offices, is bound to be interfered with in the case of people whose valuations range from £8 to £10. However, the Minister for Finance is satisfied, and presumably the people who belong to his Party. I cannot say the people on the Cumann na nGaedheal Benches, because they are not there, but the people who will follow him to the Lobby will probably be satisfied.

The Minister for Finance has drawn attention to the striking difference in the amount payable per head of the population in old age pensions in the Twenty-six Counties and in England. That is not an argument against improving the conditions existing here. Every schoolboy in the Twenty-six Counties knows that all the young people of this country are getting out of it. The natural result of that inevitably is that the proportion of old people becomes increasingly large. The comparison that has been made between the amount paid per head of the population here and in England in old age pensions is not a fair comparison. It is not meant to be a fair comparison. It is meant to be a misleading comparison. If all the young people have to go abroad to send money to pay the rates and taxes and keep the old home together the percentage of old people in the population must, as a result, be increased.

The Ministers who oppose this Bill have asked the House to agree that the administration of the law is generous; in fact, more generous according to them than under the British régime. I am not going to trouble the House with a lot of figures, but I will give some figures to show the generosity in the administration of the old age pensions. The sum voted for old age pensions in 1921-22 was £3,397,000, and in 1929-30 £2,722,000, showing a reduction of £675,000 per year in the Old Age Pensions Vote from 1921-22 to 1929-30. It is suggested that this Bill would restore £250,000 of that, and that there would still be owing to the old age pensioners £425,000 a year to bring them back to the conditions existing under the British Government here. I think that is the best proof of the generosity of the administration of the Old Age Pensions Acts by the Free State Government, and I do not think any further argument on that is required. The Minister for Finance said that maintenance in a working-class house is no bar to a pension. That is absolute nonsense. The Minister probably believes it, but it is regrettable he should get up in the House to influence votes by a statement like that without ascertaining the facts. What is the standard of living in a working-class home as defined by the Minister in this particular respect? If a man who is earning 30/- a week had his father living in that working-class home, does the Minister seriously suggest that the benefit or privilege of living in that home would not be estimated against the father? If he does he does not know anything about the administration of the Act. Such a benefit or privilege must be taken into account according to the law, and, on the admission of the Minister for Finance, must be taken into account.

Charity is taken into account, and will continue to be taken into account again, if the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government can get a majority of the members of the House to vote against this Bill. I do not think it is necessary to show where the money can be found. I think that has been adequately dealt with by other speakers. There is no difficulty about it whatever. We have not been challenged very seriously to show where the £250,000 or the £200,000 that would be necessary under the Bill could be found. That particular line would probably have been developed much more forcibly were we not in the happy position to point not to one way but to many ways of finding it, and were not this Bill coming so soon after the debate here on the allocations of pensions to able-bodied men—men whose claims to pensions were questioned by Deputies in this House, men whose means were not inquired into, and whose ducks and chickens were not counted before the amount of the pension was awarded. If it were not for that debate we would hear more about where the money could be found.

There is no difficulty in finding money when that money is for a purpose acceptable to the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, but when it comes to finding money for the improvement of any social service in the country it is a horse of a different colour. It means then that new taxation is being inflicted, and the country is very poor, and so on. When a couple of weeks ago a Bill was before the House dealing with reductions in the Seanad that would secure a saving of £10,000 a year, not a large amount I grant, one of the Deputies on the Cumann na nGaedheal Benches would not vote for it because it would not mean the saving of £20,000 a year. That £10,000 would give a good few old age pensions. Deputies who refused to save that £10,000 are asking us where is the money to be found for such a matter as this. We can find, as Deputy MacEntee has shown, upwards of £2,000,000 a year for able-bodied pensioners, most of them having spent their lives in trying to thwart the wishes of the majority of the people of this country and helping an alien Government in suppressing the wishes of the people. We can find pensions for them and we cannot afford to give destitute persons old age pensions. We must take into consideration in calculating their means, even the charitable donations and loaves they get from charitable people. The majority may vote for a continuation of that, and the majority probably will, but I submit that of the many disgraceful things the majority in this House have done that if they achieve the defeat of this Bill it will stand out as the most disgraceful thing that has ever been done.

Question—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time"—put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 64.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Broderick, Henry.
  • Buckley, Daniel.
  • Carney, Frank.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Cassidy, Archie J.
  • Clancy, Patrick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Colbert, James.
  • Colohan, Hugh.
  • Cooney, Eamon.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • Doyle, Edward.
  • Fahy, Frank.
  • Flinn, Hugo.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Haslett, Alexander.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
  • Kent, William R.
  • Kerlin, Frank.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mullins, Thomas.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Connell, Thomas J.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.
  • O'Hanlon, John F.
  • O'Kelly, Seán T.
  • O'Leary, William.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Reilly, Thomas.
  • Powell, Thomas P.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Sexton, Martin.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Tubridy, John.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.
  • Wolfe, Jasper Travers.

Níl

  • Aird, William P.
  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Blythe, Ernest.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Byrne, John Joseph.
  • Carey, Edmund.
  • Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
  • Conlon, Martin.
  • Connolly, Michael P.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Crowley, James.
  • Daly, John.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • De Loughrey, Peter.
  • Doherty, Eugene.
  • Dolan, James N.
  • Doyle, Peadar Seán.
  • McDonogh, Martin.
  • MacEóin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James E.
  • Myles, James Sproule.
  • Nally, Martin Michael.
  • Nolan, John Thomas.
  • O'Connell, Richard.
  • O'Connor, Bartholomew.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • Duggan, Edmund John.
  • Dwyer, James.
  • Egan, Barry M.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Hassett, John J.
  • Heffernan, Michael R.
  • Hennessy, Thomas.
  • Hennigan, John.
  • Henry, Mark.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Jordan, Michael.
  • Keogh, Myles.
  • Law, Hugh Alexander.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Reilly, John J.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick.
  • Rice, Vincent.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
  • Thrift, William Edward.
  • Tierney, Michael.
  • Vaughan, Daniel.
  • Wolfe, George.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies G. Boland and Allen; Níl, Deputies Duggan and P.S. Doyle.
Question declared carried.

A Money Resolution will be required, and the Committee Stage can then be fixed.

Will the President be able to say if and when the Minister for Finance will bring forward the Money Resolution?

I will give an answer to-morrow morning.