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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Oct 1933

Vol. 49 No. 18

Unemployment Insurance Bill, 1933—Final Stages.

This Bill is, of course, just an appendage to the other. I move that it be received for final consideration.

Will the Minister be able to tell us, in connection with his observation about the increase in the revenue of the unemployment insurance fund, how many of the persons who have taken out unemployment insurance books are engaged in temporary relief works up and down the country? Will the Minister be able to give us that information, and if so, when? Will it be possible, when he comes to supply those figures to the House, to differentiate between the people who are doing relief works on the roads and the people who are employed on productive industry?

I take it that the Deputy objects to their being employed on relief works?

On the contrary, I think it is a most desirable thing that they should be employed, but I think it is very hard that when getting their miserable 21/- they should be asked to stamp an unemployment insurance card.

They are not.

Some of them are.

No; they are not.

Some of them engaged on road work have to stamp cards.

The persons who receive the agricultural wage are employed upon minor relief schemes, which are not insurable.

Well, when you have one group of men whacking away on one side of the quarry for 21/- a week, and another group of men whacking away on another side of the quarry for 29/- a week, it is very difficult for the ordinary man in the street to differentiate.

Why make statements then?

I am not making statements; I am asking questions. I want to know will the Minister be able to distinguish for us between those employed in productive industry, who have unemployment insurance books, and those who are not engaged in productive industry. If so, when will he be able to supply us with the figures separated in that way?

I intended to wait until the Fifth Stage of the Bill to raise this matter, but as Deputy Dillon has raised it now I may intervene. My objection is not that people are asked to stamp unemployment insurance cards but that provision is not made by the people responsible for the stamping of those cards where they should be stamped. Provision is made for the replenishment of that fund in Section 4 of the Bill. My grievance is that people who are entitled to take some money out of those funds are not put in a position to get it; that is to say, their cards are not stamped. I am referring to drainage and some such works, where there should be no submission to tribunals of any kind, but where in the ordinary normal operation of this Bill and the previous Acts those people would be entitled to unemployment insurance. I want to ask the Minister if he thinks that a case has been sufficiently made—not now, because I am not making a case now—during the past twelve months to justify that in the case of certain people who have not had unemployment insurance cards stamped provision would be made now that their cards be stamped, and that the benefit which would come to them under Section 4 of this Bill will come to them in the ordinary normal way.

Before the Minister concludes I should like to ask him a further question on the same lines as Deputy Dillon's, that is, whether he is able to give us figures with regard to unemployment insurance, and whether he is able to distinguish between those employed by the State or other public authorities and those employed by private enterprise? Naturally, that is very relevant to an understanding of the general unemployment situation, and as to the extent public employment is really taking the place of the private employment.

I am quite certain the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance will have no hesitation at any time in informing any Deputy who wishes to know the number of persons employed on works conducted by the Board of Works in any part of the country. Reliable information of the kind requested by the Deputy can only be ascertained by a census, and a census is not likely to be taken for a couple of years.

The figures the Minister gave us with regard to insurance stamps and insurance books when they come to him do not differentiate between private and public employers?

Of course they do.

No. The figures in relation to sales of unemployment insurance stamps do not permit of any differentiation between types of employment. The figures relating to the unemployment books exchanged do permit of a rough differentiation between types of employment, but not between types of employers. It would not be possible, for instance, to say whether a man engaged on constructional work was employed by the State or was employed by a private employer. But both sets of figures show that there has been a substantial increase in employment. That is apart from any work provided on minor relief works.

What figures?

Both the figures relating to the sales of insurance stamps and the figures relating to the number of books exchanged.

Is the Minister in a position to say that there has been any substantial increase in the number of unemployment insurance books issued to private employees?


He said just a moment ago that he did not know; now he says "certainly".

I pointed out that at the end of 1931 the number issued was 294,000 and for the 12 months ended 31st March last the figure was 366,000. The increase of 70,000 obviously cannot possibly be explained by the employment provided by the State.

What is the reference?

Column 2110 in the debates of last Wednesday. As to the point raised by Deputy Hogan, following a certain discussion that took place here, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance had a number of test cases submitted to me as Minister for Industry and Commerce for decision in accordance with the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. I do not know whether the considerable number of test cases that were submitted covered all types of cases that could possibly be contemplated in relation to minor relief works or drainage works.

Mr. Hogan

Arterial drainage works.

In relation to all these cases I had to come to the decision that the employment was employment in connection with agriculture and that consequently the persons engaged in them were not insurable. My verdict is open to review by the courts if anybody feels like bringing a case to the courts for final determination there. In particular cases facts may arise which would permit of a contrary decision to that given in respect to the test cases to which I have referred but in relation to these test cases, which in the opinion of the Parliamentary Secretary covered all the types of cases which were likely to arise in relation to drainage works, bog roads and things of that kind, my decision was that these people were not insurable under the Act. I do not think that we can properly debate the matter here now, nor do I think it could properly be debated here at any time. If there is any organisation or any group of individuals who feel that they would like to have that decision more fully examined and finally decided in the courts, I suggest they should consider doing that. It might be no harm if before doing that they would have discussions with me because I am as anxious as they are to have the matter finally decided.

Mr. Hogan

Does the Minister not know that they would have to bring an action against the Minister for Finance in the courts for the nonpayment of insurance benefits?

It is open to any person to submit a case to the Minister for Industry and Commerce as to whether a particular employment is insurable or not. The Parliamentary Secretary took that course in relation to a number of individuals whom he regarded as typical of the cases likely to arise. He submitted the circumstances of the cases to me for a decision as to whether the employment was an insurable employment or not. My decision was that it was not insurable, that it was an agricultural occupation.

Mr. Hogan

That was a wrong decision.

It is open to anybody to test the matter in the courts.

Question—"That the Bill be received for Final Consideration"—put and agreed to.

I suggest that the Fifth Stage be taken now if there is no objection.


Question—"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.