Unemployment Assistance (Amendment) Bill, 1935—Committee.

Sections 1 and 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill."
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

Are we to take it that the principle enshrined in Section 3 in regard to continuous unemployment is going to be adopted by the Government, more particularly by the Department of Industry and Commerce, wherever it becomes necessary to define "continuous unemployment"? One finds in other measures that the Department defines "continuous unemployment" as being, literally, continuous unemployment.

No. The term "continuously employed" is defined for the purposes of this Bill only. It is the same definition as in the Unemployment Insurance Act.

Then it is clearly not the intention of the Government to extend this principle of legislation to other measures dealing with this matter?

I have not said that either. I said that it was defined here for the purposes of this Bill only.

And the Minister is not prepared to say what is the Government policy with regard to the conditions of continuous employment?

No. It adapts itself to circumstances.

Yes, it trims its sails all right.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 4.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

On Section 4, Sir. I should like to raise the question of the definition of dependency as set out in the Bill and to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that, in certain circumstances, under the Unemployment Insurance Act, a person is entitled to an allowance in respect of a housekeeper who lives in the house and looks after the children where the wife of the claimant is deceased. I should like the Minister to extend the scope of dependency in this section, so as to ensure that a person who found it necessary to employ someone to look after young children—because, obviously, it is not a task that a man can perform efficiently—would be entitled to claim benefit in respect of the person who so assisted in the rearing of the family.

I am afraid that, if we were to extend the class of persons who could be regarded as dependents for the purpose of getting increased payments of assistance, we could go very far indeed and still be dealing with cases which are quite common from time to time. I am afraid that it is not possible to do that. As a matter of fact, this section in this Bill effects only three changes which experience has shown to be necessary without unduly extending the scope of the principal Act. In the first place, we achieve a certain uniformity in the definition of dependency. In the principal Act, different terms are used in different sections. For instance, the term "wholly or mainly supported" is used in one case; the term "undertaking responsibility" is used in another case; as also the terms "liable for support" and "normally supported" These different phrases all appear in the principal Act and have, in fact, the same meaning. Accordingly, here, the phrase used is "wholly or mainly supported" as the definition of dependency in all cases. Then, we are extending the definition of dependents in order to include invalid children over 18 years of age, and we are restricting it in order to exclude the wife of an applicant who is herself in possession of means of any kind sufficient to support herself. These are the only changes effected here, and I do not think we could contemplate any elaboration of this section at this stage until we have more experience of the working of the Act and of the charges on public funds that are likely to result therefrom. I want Deputies to appreciate the fact that the existence of the Unemployment Assistance scheme in its present form is going to depend largely on the country's liability to provide the funds necessary to enable it to be maintained, and that it would be a mistake at this stage to do more than is contemplated in the principal Act as amended by this Act until we have had more experience on that subject. If the annual cost of the scheme should decrease for any reason, then we might contemplate various amendments in order to effect improvements in the scheme which will suggest themselves to many Deputies. If, on the other hand, the annual charge should increase and continue to increase, then it might be necessary to exclude certain classes already included. I would not be prepared to accept any amendment which would involve increased cost, other than the amendments embodied in the Bill, until we have more experience.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 5.
Question proposed: "That Section 5 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, Sir. Is it intended that these appeals officers should be temporary officers purely?

Officers of the Department will be appointed for this purpose. The number of them will be determined by the circumstances, but there will always be appeals officers between the unemployment assistance officer and the Appeals Committee. The actual number of the appeals officers, however, will have to be greater during the ensuing year than during a normal year.

Then, so to speak, they will be appointed until the arrears are disposed of, and then the majority of them will be allowed to go back to their normal occupation, leaving one or two officers to do the work?

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 6 and 7 put and agreed to.
SECTION 8.
Question proposed: "That Section 8 stand part of the Bill."

On Section 8, Sir, I would like the Minister to explain the necessity for introducing the amendment which makes it necessary for persons to submit an application in the prescribed manner and on the prescribed form.

The effect of that is merely to make it a matter upon which the appeal can be made as to whether the application, in fact, has been made in the prescribed manner. It increases the right of the applicant to bring an appeal against the decision of the unemployment assistance officer in that matter.

It also means that he must make the appeal on the prescribed form, which means that if he makes it by means of an ordinary letter or is assisted by another person in making it he will be debarred.

At the present time the application must be made in the prescribed form, but by making it one of the statutory conditions we give a right of appeal. The purpose is to extend the right of the applicant to appeal.

On Section 8, sub-section (2), a case has come to my notice—as a matter of fact, it was brought to my notice by a Deputy of this Party—where an applicant for unemployment assistance benefit thought that he would have a better chance of obtaining employment if he moved from a rural area into an urban area and proceeded, therefore, to move his family into the urban area. When he arrived there, he made a claim for unemployment assistance benefit but his claim was turned down because he was not a resident there for twelve months and had not worked there for the period of three months, which would entitle him to it. In addition to that, by reason of the fact that he no longer resided in the rural area, he was denied benefit there also. I can see, of course, that there are certain plausible reasons for this, but I do not think that they are all 22 carat reasons such as that it is desirable to stop the movement of populations from rural areas into towns merely for the purpose of getting a higher rate of unemployment assistance benefit. If, however, for good and sufficient reasons, the man goes into an urban area or into a county borough area to reside, while the Bill imposes penalties on him by not allowing him the urban rate, I think it is extraordinary that he should be denied his claim to unemployment assistance benefit at the rate which was applicable to him while he was residing in the rural area.

The whole purpose is to discourage people employed in rural areas from moving into urban areas in search of work, and we make it a condition that he does not do that. The tendency for unemployed persons in rural areas is, if unemployed for some time, to drift into the cities and towns. That only aggravates the unemployment problem generally. The whole purpose of this provision of the original Act is to discourage such movement of the unemployed into the towns. The provisions are there, but a person does not become entitled to receive unemployment assistance in the county borough until he has either completed 12 months' residence or three months' work. We are not preventing a person from coming in for the purpose of getting employment, but we are preventing him getting unemployment assistance at once. Let me point out we do not propose to change that provision.

That is my complaint. If the Minister proposed to change it I would have no complaint. Take the case of a person who resides in Dundrum, County Dublin, and is in receipt of unemployment assistance benefit at the rate of 12/6 because he has a wife and five children to maintain. He moves into the City for good and sufficient reasons. Unemployed men do not move as a matter of luxury or as a hobby. He has good and sufficient reason, or else he would not move his furniture and belongings from Dundrum into some place in the City. It is an expensive pastime to indulge in, but supposing there are good and sufficient reasons to induce him to move into the City. That person, if he resides in the City for 12 months, or works for three months, is to be entitled to unemployment assistance benefit when out of work and to get £1 per week having regard to the extent of his dependency. But the Minister is not satisfied with depriving him of his claim for £1. He also disallows that person the 12/6 a week that he was receiving in Dundrum.

It is not the Minister who does that; it is the Dáil.

If I submit an amendment designed to remove that injustice will the Minister, so far as he can, use his influence to have that injustice removed?

I would like to see the Deputy's amendment or suggestion first.

My suggestion is that the man is sufficiently penalised when he moves into the city from Dundrum.

But the Deputy's suggestion would not apply alone to the man from Dundrum. Is it to apply to persons all over the country, from the West and South of Ireland, who come into Dublin, and would have to receive unemployment assistance? Does the Deputy think that that is a suggestion that the Dublin worker would welcome?

That trick is too patent altogether. What the Minister is doing, in that case, is not distributing the benefit that the man would get amongst the other Dublin workers; he is simply putting it into the pocket of the Exchequer. What defence has the Minister to make of an arrangement by which a man, who, for good and sufficient reasons, moves from a rural area into an urban, should be denied the benefit of the urban rate and also the benefit of the rural rate?

It appears to the Department that there are good and sufficient reasons.

I am not prepared to allow that in respect of any machinery that exists. Clearly the unemployed man should be entitled to benefit no matter where he resides. The State has no right to impose such penalties because a man merely moves from one place to another. In the primitive days of the seventeenth century there was a law in existence known as the Law of Parochial Settlements, under which a person could be dealt with if he moved. But it was not claimed, then, that there was a Fianna Fáil Government in power, or that there was any democratic Government in power. In the year 1935, I think, it is altogether a tyrannical imposition to deny a person his claim to benefit simply because he moves from Dundrum into Dublin City.

Or from Connemara.

Yes, or from Connemara or from Galway. He should not be deprived of benefit simply because he moves. People of that kind are coming into Dublin and into other cities in the country. That drift has been going on for the last 70 years, and it has not been stopped in the last three years. When a person does move, as a matter of fact, there must be some very good reason why he should move. Unemployed men do not usually move in any promiscuous way, and when they do move, I think they should be entitled to unemployment assistance benefits at the same rates.

Question—"That Section 8 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
SECTION 9.
Question proposed: "That Section 9 stand part of the Bill."

Would the Minister say exactly what is in his mind in regard to paragraph (c), sub-section (1) of Section 9? The section says that a person shall be disqualified for receiving unemployment benefit "(c) while he is an inmate of any institution maintained wholly or partly out of public moneys or by a local authority." It is agreed that if sick in a county home he ceases to be eligible, because he does not fulfil the conditions under Section 15 of the Principal Act. Suppose a man is able-bodied, and is looking for work, and has nowhere to live, and, in his destitution, finds his way into a county home because there is no other place wherein he can lay his head, why deprive him of unemployment assistance? Perhaps the Minister has something in his mind which is not present to me, at the moment, and I would be obliged if he would let me know.

This is not a new provision. We have tried to avoid legislation by reference, and so we have re-enacted the original provision in its amended form. The purpose of this section is to make it possible for an unemployed person to draw either unemployment assistance or insurance benefit at his discretion. The unemployed person has an option. That particular paragraph appeared in the original Act, and it provides that where a person is maintained in an institution, out of public funds, it is not proposed to provide him with additional support out of public funds. The whole purpose of the Act is that the person who through unemployment is not in a position to maintain himself is to be given assistance until he can find work. If that person is maintained in some other way out of public funds the need for this assistance does not arise.

I see that.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 10 put and agreed to.
SECTION 11.
Question proposed: "That Section 11 stand part of the Bill."

I think this section of the Bill explains why the Bill has been introduced. I think if Section 11 were not in the Bill there would not be the same haste to have this amending Bill introduced. I asked the Minister on the Second Stage of this Bill, and I asked him again on the Money Resolution to-day, to indicate what the Executive Council expected to save for the Exchequer under this section. The Minister said he could not indicate what would be the saving to the Exchequer under the section.

Oh, no, I did not say that.

Can we have the figures?

I stated that Section 11 stood by itself, and without the rest of the Bill the saving would amount to £150,000 in this year.

How much in a full year?

It all depends upon the number of persons claiming benefit— the relation between what the number of persons claiming benefit bears to the total for a year. It would be about probably £180,000 for a whole year, if the section stood alone.

At all events, we have it that under Section 11 alone, assuming the Bill contains no other section but that section, in this financial year the Exchequer expects to save £150,000.

No, we do not expect a saving of £150,000.

Under that section, if it stood alone, you would save £150,000.

That is a purely hypothetical figure.

Under this section the Minister stated that in the present financial year if that section stood alone, and there were no beneficial sections in this amending Bill, the result of the saving to the Exchequer would be higher than £150,000 in a normal full year. I do not know if I am right in making this calculation, but I assume that the persons who are described as persons of means in the return, as persons who are applicants for unemployment assistance benefit, or persons who are in fact in receipt of unemployment assistance benefit are really persons who have means of the type which is clearly taken into calculation in calculating the claim for benefit. According to the information supplied by the Minister there are 75,000 persons with means in receipt of benefit under the Act, and in respect of everyone of these, if that figure is correct—and it is an official figure—if the deduction from it is correct, in respect of every one of these the State would save in a normal year £2 12s. So that if these 75,000 persons have means of 2/- a week or more, then the Exchequer would save 75,000 times £2 12s., or close on £190,000, assuming the same number of persons continue to be entitled to unemployment assistance benefit and have that amount of means. That, of course, is what the Minister is trying to put over on the House in this particular section. We have it now clearly, at all events, from the Minister that under Section 11 standing alone the Exchequer will save £150,000. He may plead that with the other five beneficial sections the Bill may result in the Exchequer being asked to pay more, or it may have the effect of substantially reducing the £150,000 or the £190,000 as I calculated. But the Minister has not even pleaded that the five beneficial sections which he relied upon last week during the discussion on this Bill will absorb the whole saving under Section 11. I suggest to the Minister that if he had a shred of such belief even a little judicious exaggeration would have enabled him to claim that the other five would have absorbed the £150,000, and we would have been told long ago that the saving under Section 11 would be wiped out by the other sections. The real position is that the Minister knows that he will save under Section 11 a sum very much greater than he will spend under the other sections of the Bill which he may claim to be advantageous to the unemployed persons. But even the other five sections which the Minister relied upon are not all for the benefit of the unemployed. The new appeals machine will cost £5,000, but the unemployed will not pocket one halfpenny of that. It is because I believe that Section 11 will wipe out the benefits which the unemployed are getting under this Bill that I believe, from the point of view of the unemployed, it is a worthless Bill except that in some respects it holds out the hope that the people who had been entitled to benefit under the principal Act, and who are not able to get that benefit because of the chaotic number of appeals pending, that I have any kind of regard for any of its provisions. At all events, when this Bill is passed, the unemployed are going to get less benefit than they are getting at present. The Minister wanted to make the point the other day that this Bill was a good Bill from the point of view of the unemployed. If saving £190,000 at the expense of the unemployed is regarded as giving them benefit, then every burglar in this country is a public benefactor. If it is regarded as a benefit to take that money out of the pockets of the unemployed, then every miscreant in the country who steals the people's money can claim under the Minister's definition to be in fact public benefactors. This Bill is raiding the pockets of the unemployed. It is going to take £190,000 from the unemployed in the same year as £300,000 is going to be taken from them under two Unemployment Period Orders.

Oh, no, nothing like that.

How much?

Less than half that.

How much is going to be taken from them by the Budget?

Do not let us entangle this thing now. How much is to be taken from them?

It is impossible to say; judging by the experience of the first Employment Period Order, it will be less than half what the Deputy has mentioned.

What the Minister says now may be right. He admits he has no figures, but I relied on the statement made by the Minister for Finance in his Budget speech.

That statement had relation to the fact that we were proposing to increase by £500,000 the amount available for public works.

How much was expected to be saved in that?

In so far as the employment on these public works had been confined to persons drawing the unemployment assistance benefit there was naturally expected a large saving.

£150,000?

There was more than that.

The fact remains that the sum allocated for public works this year is not a great improvement on the sum last year. No matter what increases there are they will not be such as to absorb the £150,000.

It will be substantially more than that.

In respect of taking people off the unemployment assistance?

We can put down a question for the Minister later on, to ascertain whether those rosy anticipations are realised. At all events, what the unemployed are going to lose under Section 11 is in addition to what they are going to lose by way of the two employment period orders.

Does the Minister challenge that?

Certainly.

On what grounds?

It does not mean that the saving of £300,000 estimated in the Budget is increased. Full allowance was made for this in estimating that figure.

That admission of the Minister is useful. Approaching the problem of balancing the Budget and indicating what might be saved in a variety of ways, the Minister for Finance said he would save £300,000 by employment period orders, by reason of the fact that certain preference would be given to persons employed on public works—and they will be more numerous this year—and by reason of Section 11, which shows that when this whole Bill is examined it is regarded as an economy Bill, because this Bill is expected to make a contribution to the £300,000 which the Minister for Finance indicated in his Budget statement would be saved in the payment of unemployment assistance benefit this year. The fact remains, therefore, that so far as Section 11 is concerned it is in this Bill, so that notwithstanding the other provisions of this Bill it is intended to make a contribution to balancing the Budget, and the unemployed are again to be singled out for the purpose of bearing burdens of this kind.

I think this is a most outrageous proposal in this section. When the principal Act was introduced in 1933, and that is not so long ago, the Executive Council and the Minister for Industry and Commerce then subscribed to the belief that the means exemption limit should be 2/- per week and that income which did not exceed 2/- per week should be disregarded for the purpose of applications for benefit, and for the purpose of determining title to the full rate of benefit. I take it, therefore, that the Executive Council were convinced in 1933 that the figure to put down for a means exemption limit was 2/- per week. Now, in 1935, we are told that the 1933 figure was wrong; that it was indefensible, and that we must go back to 1/- per week as the maximum means exemption limit. If we were abolishing completely the means exemption limit one might understand the desire of the Minister to adopt a tidy outlook on legislation, to allow all persons to draw the same rate of benefit from the State, and have a standard income from the State, disregarding any other kind of income. But we are maintaining the principle of a means exemption limit, with this difference—that we are cutting it down from 2/- per week to 1/- per week. The Minister cannot, therefore, have any objection to the means exemption limit. He has put it in this Bill, but he has divided the means exemption limit by two as compared with what the position was under the principal Act of 1933.

The provisions of the Old Age Pensions Acts are much more generous in respect of means exemption limit than is this Bill. The provisions of the new Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill are more generous than the provisions under Section 11, or under the principal Act. Although the principal Act was not as generous to unemployed persons as the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill or the Old Age Pensions Acts, nevertheless the Minister proceeds to make it still less favourable by the provisions contained in Section 11. I suggest to the Minister that this section is indefensible, except it now be a defence that you are entitled to grab at any kind of money which comes within the range of your own hands, and unless you are entitled to say: "The Budget must be balanced, and here is a section of the community which we must ask to bear new burdens." One might understand some people taking that viewpoint. I must say that I, personally, am surprised that the Minister for Industry and Commerce should come to the House with a proposal of that kind which, stripped of all the varnish which the Minister sought to put upon this Bill, is a proposal to take a sum estimated by the Minister at £150,000 out of the pockets of the unemployed. We cannot even get from the Minister an assurance that that sum of money will go back in the other beneficial provisions of the Bill, upon which he relied in his attempt to describe this Bill as a good one from the point of view of the unemployed.

Does the Minister seriously contend that a section which takes, according to his own estimate, £150,000 out of the pockets of the unemployed, is a good Bill for the unemployed? Does the Minister seriously contend that he is assisting unemployed persons by enacting a section of that kind? If he does, what grounds has the Minister for making an assertion of that kind? Section 11 is not necessary to this Bill. It is probably one of the briefest sections in the Bill, and probably one of the least necessary sections in it. The only purpose of this portion of the amending Bill is not to improve the main Act but to disimprove it. Some people contend that amending an Act presupposes improving it. That contention is rudely shattered by Section 11, because Section 11 of this amending Bill has been designed not to improve the principal Act, not to improve the lot of the unemployed, not to spend a greater sum on unemployment assistance benefit, but for the very definite purpose of enabling the financial experts in the Department of Industry and Commerce and in the Department of Finance to get both their hands down into the pockets of the unemployed and to take £150,000 per year out of them. If the Minister wants to do that, and has to plead economy reasons for doing it, let him do so, but I think it is nothing short of a cruel irony to tell the unemployed that this is a beneficial Bill when, under Section 11, they are going to be £150,000 worse off than they were formerly.

If the Minister is entitled to regard himself as a public benefactor by introducing this Bill, there are very few honest people in the country who will ever be able to aspire to that high rôle. The Minister wants to contend now that public benefaction is equivalent to getting your hands into the pockets of the unemployed and lifting £150,000 per annum. Whatever beneficial provisions are in this Bill can be allowed to remain in it, and the Minister can take the credit for amending the principal Act in the variety of ways suggested in this Bill, but it is not necessary to have Section 11 in order to amend the Act. Section 11 is going to take out of the pockets of the unemployed a sum which they are not capable of subscribing towards balancing the war Budget of the Minister for Finance.

Hear, hear!

Are there any other sources of taxation available to the Minister which could be utilised for the purpose——

Of the war!

——of effecting those economies?

Schedule A income tax.

Schedule A income tax? What is the Minister proposing to do there?

I merely made a suggestion, which I knew would be unpopular with the Deputy.

If you will allow me to discuss that, Sir, I will tear aside this tissue of misrepresentation which the Minister has indulged in, for political propaganda purposes, in this House. I do not think you will allow me to discuss that Sir, but in dismissing that unjustified allegation by the Minister let me say that he has now got this increased valuation for income tax purposes. It is true that he is getting his increased valuation for income tax purposes on working class houses. He has got it now and, notwithstanding the fact that he is getting that, he puts his hands into the pockets of the unemployed and rakes out, in a most shameless manner, a sum of between £150,000 and £190,000 per annnum.

The Deputy has taken that sum exactly six times out of the pockets of the unemployed in twenty minutes. I think he need not bring up that point again.

I wish that the unemployed were going to have it taken out in the way that I propose. When this Bill is passed the Minister will will take it out in a much more tangible way, and the unemployed will really feel the loss of the £150,000 under the Minister's method of abstraction. They will feel it much more severely than my abstract way of withdrawing that sum from their pockets. They will find that the withdrawal of that sum, six times in an abstract way, does not make them any poorer, whereas the Minister's one raid will relieve them of £150,000 in the first go. I think that most of those folk would prefer my method of abstracting the money after they have had experience of the Minister's method.

This Section of the Bill is indefensible. It cannot be excused on any ground, unless the unemployed are to be asked to make a contribution to balance the war Budget. The Minister is taxing the unemployed under this Bill to balance the war Budget, while the wealthy classes who are capable of bearing still more burdens are allowed to escape without the imposition of any new burdens. I propose to vote against this section. If the Minister believes in his heart that this Bill is a good Bill from the point of view of the unemployed, then he will vote with me against this section in his own Bill.

The great trouble about Deputy Norton is that he seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that you can have your loaf and eat it. Deputy Norton, when he is in the country, is a war horse. He declares that he is prepared to fight to the last ditch, and that the Irish Labour movement is a Republican movement. Deputy Corish says that he will never strike the flag while an Irish Government is struggling to vindicate the right of the Irish people to be free.

Hear, hear!

I respect the strange delusions under which Deputy Corish appears to be suffering, and I recognise that the best intentioned men can be deluded and be temporarily fooled by such an astute politician as President de Valera.

And the Deputy's practical experience of them in other years?

I have every confidence that when Deputy Norton and Deputy Corish come to their senses in due time, they will realise that if they want to indulge in the luxury of cutting a dash as twentieth century Robert Emmets, led on by a Robert Emmet of the type of President de Valera, they have simply got to pay for it. I quite recognise that, individually, they are making their contribution, but the sad part of it is that we cannot confine the losses of a war of this kind to one section of the community. Sooner or later it affects them all. Deputy Norton, with his usual perspicacity, put his finger on the whole trouble when he said that this was a war Budget.

It is not a Budget at all. This is a Bill dealing with unemployment assistance.

Deputy Norton was quite correct in saying that these savings were to aid in balancing the war Budget and, according to the Minister's own words, and to Deputy Norton, this is a war Budget. I quite agree. I think it is a monstrous thing to be inflicting taxation to the tune of £180,000 per annum on people who, according to the Minister's own finding, are destitute and hungry. The reason the Minister is doing it is not for any lack of desire on his part to plunder other sections of the community because he would raise the income tax rate if he dared, but he cannot. The Government, under the Financial Agreement with Great Britain, are enjoying an enormous benefit under the reciprocal income tax arrangement which is part of that agreement. The Minister knows perfectly well that under that income tax arrangement this country is deriving gigantic benefits, because we get back oceans of money from Great Britain and they get practically nothing from us. The Minister cannot upset the balance with regard to income tax between this country and Great Britain, because if he were to do so he would lose the advantage of that agreement. But he has not got the honesty—he never had—to get up and say so. He does not want to confess that any international agreement made by his predecessors in office was an advantageous agreement for this country.

That has nothing to do with this section.

These are alternative methods of balancing the Budget.

The Budget is not under discussion.

Surely the purpose of the section is to raise money to balance the national accounts, and that is the only defence that the Minister has put up for this section.

That certainly is not part of it.

The Minister has advanced two reasons in defence of Section 11 of this Bill. One is that he proposes under other sections to confer certain benefits, and these must be financed. His case is that he is financing them entirely out of his savings under Section 11. The balance is to go into the Exchequer, which was specifically referred to. The Minister for Finance, in the course of his Budget statement, reckoned on whatever saving the Exchequer would get under Section 11 when he informed the House of the reductions that could legitimately be made in unemployment relief. But the fact is that we were not told at the time the Budget was introduced how that was going to be arrived at. Because it was desired to divorce it from Budget purposes, we were not to know that the unemployed were to carry any burden, but in fact they are beginning to feel it now. I want Deputies to realise that this is only a beginning. I have often told members of the Labour Party that I regarded it as criminal to institute social services and at the same time to destroy the means of maintaining them, because by doing so they were simply fooling the people. This is the beginning of the destruction of our own social services, for the reason that we have not got the money to finance them. Why is that? Because we are fighting a war, not against a national enemy, but against the interests of our own people.

And when we had no such war the Party that the Deputy now belongs to never introduced a Bill of this kind.

The Deputy will agree with me that the tendency of every evolutionary State is to advance fairly rapidly along the line of the promotion of social services. He will also agree with me, I think, that Saorstát Eireann has never fallen behind the rest of the world, unduly, in the promotion of social services. We have sometimes led and sometimes followed. Our record in the International Labour Office at Geneva is fairly good, taking everything into consideration. But let us not get into a discussion of the conditions that obtained in the first ten years of the existence of this State——

They were supposed to be years of milk and honey.

——because if we are to do so, then a great many subsidiary questions will have to be raised.

The Deputy was not in the Party then.

I have no desire to disclaim responsibility because of that. Many things would have to be considered if we were to go back and discuss that period. Many things besides social services had to be financed during those years. A great deal of wild oats was sown.

Is the Deputy alleging that it was financed out of revenue?

It was sown with rifles and had to be reaped by the raising of revenue to the tune of over £30,000,000.

On the contrary, it was financed out of loans which we are paying back now.

The Financial Agreement to which the Deputy has referred was certainly wild oats.

I think we had better concentrate now on Section 11, and on what is going to happen in the future. If we start at what happened in this State between 1922 and 1935 a variety of questions would arise.

A Deputy

Awkward questions.

We will discuss that some other time. Here is the first shilling off the unemployed. We heard the caterwauling of the present Minister when 1/- was taken off the old age pensioners. I think it was a great mistake to have taken that shilling off. If that was a hardship—and I think it was—how does it compare with this? Admittedly the vast majority of the old age pensioners were not destitute persons at all.

On a point of order, is there a quorum present?

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present. House counted and 20 Deputies being present,

You are going to finance the war and this shilling is only the first of the silver bullets to do so. He has got everything he can out of other earning sections of the community and all that is left to the Government is to attack the social services, and that they will have to do. Deputies may as well be aware of this: that if the Government does not meet the situation by deflation they will have inflation. They will have to detach the currency of this country from sterling. Nothing is more certain.

The question of detaching the currency is not relevant to this section.

It amounts to this: whatever way the Ministry proposes to finance the war it is the poor who are going to pay in the long run. Although I think this is unjustifiable I prefer the methods of the highwayman which the Minister introduced. He came out bluntly and said: "I am going to screw it out of the poor if it is necessary to do so." The Minister for Finance and, I regret to say, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, piously fold their hands and say: "By administrative economies which we will take we will get £250,000" (or is it £100,000) "from the old age pensioners." Surely that is hypocrisy. If I may say so, with great respect to the Ministers, this is the method of the sneak thief. It would be much better to come out boldly and say that they were going to plunder certain persons. The Ministry are taking from the old age pensioners, and Section 11 takes from the unemployed.

Not at all.

It has nothing to do with Section 11.

These economies are emerging in every shape, sometimes on Section 11 and sometimes on administrative economies, but they are all part of the one thing. The astonishing thing is that Deputy Norton knows that it is part of the war Budget and cannot bring himself to realise the reason for it. If you want a war you have to pay for it.

Is that what you were told at Spithead last week?

No. I learned it long before that. I learned it before I went to London, before I went to Glasgow or drove in an Austin car. I have no doubt in the fevered imagination of the Deputy and his friends the Ministers I sold the country not only there, but in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

It is hardly likely your talents would reach that.

It is a matter of indifference to me what the Deputy or President de Valera thinks of my activities. I have no doubt their minds will evolve a delicious conception of what I was engaged in. Let me assure them that it does not concern me in the least.

The Deputy might deal with Section 11.

I dealt with Section 11 consistently. Surely when there are interruptions that I sold the country or consulted with the Admiral in charge of the fleet or, as we were told before, consulted with the Secretary for War for Great Britain, apparently we are called upon to defend ourselves from having sold this country to either Ministers or civil servants.

The Chair did not hear any such charge made.

I suppose the Chair has got accustomed to closing its ears.

After the holiday in Spithead the Deputy has come back in a stubborn mood.

The war spirit is rising!

The Minister and his friends know how slanderous interruptions of that kind are dealt with. They are very useful and deceive the more gullible sections. In this Bill there is no other alternative, and in the long run the poor will pay. We have been warning the Labour Party of that since they began to follow this Government.

The Deputy voted for President de Valera's election to his present position.

I am strongly of opinion that we did the right thing in giving the opportunity of demonstrating to the people of this country what the putting into practice of his policy meant. I believe they are slowly learning what it means. What makes me sorry is that the Labour Party does not seem to awaken to it. If they do not hurry up and learn soon it will be too late, and not only economies of this kind will have to be made, but the whole social services will collapse. Let them face realities by voting against Section 11. The effect of that section is to get the community to finance an unnecessary war that is being fought simply to maintain the personal vanity of President de Valera.

Who did the Deputy vote for?

Three years ago I voted for him subject to reservations.

What were they?

That he should not lead us into internal or external war.

The Deputy must deal with Section 11 or he will have to resume his seat.

I am dealing with it. My answer is that I am going to ginger up the Government and that I have consistently done so by voting against proposals of this kind, and against a war being fought for the protection of President de Valera's vanity.

This proposal was discussed at length on the Second Reading of the Bill, despite the fact that the Deputy was absent. I do not think it is necessary to go over what was said then. The proposal, of course, has nothing to do with the economic war or with the Budget position of this year. No matter what the position in respect of the war or the Budget might have been, this proposal would have appeared in the Bill. We think it is a good proposal. We think it quite a justifiable amendment of the principal Act, having regard to the experience of its operation. If it should happen that in consequence of this section the saving effected under it exceeds the additional charge arising out of the rest of the Bill, as Minister for Industry and Commerce, apart from the position of the Minister for Finance, I will be very pleased, because it will give us the opportunity of considering again other desirable amendments and additions to the principal Act, which could not be undertaken at this time, in consequence of financial exigency, and the difficulty of finding increased funds for such purposes. At the present time, the operation of the Unemployment Assistance Act works out to ensure that a person who has means, calculated in accordance with the provisions of the Act, equal to or less than 2/- per week is better off than a person who has no means at all. We think that that is undesirable. In theory, Deputy Norton is quite right in saying that there should be no uncalculated means at all, but, in practice, some margin must be provided to allow for errors in the assessment of means and to avoid too great rigidity in the administration of that part of the Act. We have found by experience, however, that a narrower margin than that contemplated as necessary in the 1933 Act can be made effective. If the result of that is to provide a saving in the cost of the scheme, then that saving makes possible the amendment and improvement of the scheme for which other sections of this Bill provide. No person who is unemployed in the sense in which unemployment is ordinarily understood, no person who is dependent entirely on what he earns in wages for his livelihood, will be one halfpenny worse off because of this section.

It is not nonsense. The unemployed person who has nothing to sell but his labour is not interested in this section and was never interested in the uncalculated means allowance. He gets the full schedule rate of unemployment assistance.

That is fantastic.

The Minister does not know anything about the working of the Act.

I think I can claim to be as familiar with the Act as the Deputy.

You are not very familiar with the Act judging by what you are saying now.

A person who has no means, who has nothing to sell but his labour, who is dependent entirely on wages is not interested in that section.

Of course, he is. The Department assesses the thoughts he has in his head.

That is nonsense. In fact, the administration of the Act, in so far as the assessment of means is concerned, has been on the generous side. Wherever it was possible in this regard to give the benefit of the position to the unemployed applicant, the benefit was so given and there is not an unemployed person in the country but will admit that, even though there has been difficulty in dealing with the arrears of appeals, which difficulty this Bill is intended to remove. The section has nothing whatever to do with the matters of which Deputy Dillon spoke and very little to do with the matters of which Deputy Norton spoke. This is, in our opinion, a justifiable change in the Act and, in so far as it effects a saving to the Exchequer, that saving is justifiable. The amount so saved can be utilised much more directly for the benefit of the unemployed and of persons in need of assistance from the State than in the manner originally provided under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1933.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 46; Níl, 26.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Browne, William Frazer.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corbett, Edmond.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Doherty, Joseph.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Walsh, Richard.

Níl

  • Belton, Patrick.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Keating, John.
  • McGuire, James Ivan.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James Edward.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Rice, Vincent.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Corish and Pattison.
Question declared carried.
Sections 12 to 17, inclusive, put and agreed to.
SECTION 18.
Question proposed: "That Section 18 stand part of the Bill."

What is the reason for altering the well-established principle under the Criminal Justice (Evidence) Act, 1924, that, I think, was long-established prior to the passage of that statute, that a wife could not be compelled to give evidence against her husband in a criminal charge? Is there any special reason why this Bill should be excluded from that general rule, because, I think the Minister will agree with me that as a general rule it is a good one? Why should a wife be made to go into the witness box for the purpose of convicting her husband of an offence alleged against him under the terms of this Bill?

I should like to ask the Minister to explain why he has seen fit in this amending Bill to take this power which he, apparently, did not desire to take in the Principal Act of 1933.

It was very largely an oversight, because the same power exists under the Unemployment Insurance Act since 1922.

I suggest to the Minister that in respect to this particular section he has taken it word for word from the British Insurance Act of 1935.

It is taken from Section 11 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1922.

British legislation, British inspiration is the basis of the section. I object to a section of that kind being embodied in a Bill of this description. Only the very gravest possible considerations should induce the House to enact a provision such as this, where the wife or husband of an offender is a competent witness in legal proceedings against the other. If it is in existing legislation, that in itself is not a case for the continuance of this kind of legislation. It is generally recognised that it is undesirable that a wife or husband should be a witness against the other, and here in this Unemployment Assistance Bill, for the purpose of recovering small amounts in respect of unemployment assistance, we are taking power to enact a principle of this kind which is rightly eschewed in the general legislation of the country. In what circumstances does the Minister think he is entitled to include a provision of this kind in a Bill of this kind? It seems to me to be enthroning a principle so vicious that we are not entitled, purely for the considerations in this case, to enthrone it in this Bill.

There is nothing vicious in this principle and nothing new. In a case where a husband or wife is claimed as a dependent for the purpose of obtaining increased rates of unemployment assistance, it may not be possible to prove fraud unless the wife or husband, as the case may be, is a competent witness in legal proceedings. The purpose of the section is to secure that position. That has always been the position under the unemployment insurance code, where precisely similar considerations arise, and this section is similar to Section 11 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1922, which has been in force since the State was established.

One consideration applies where the wife may be a witness, but here it is sought to make her a compellable witness against her husband and against the wishes of her husband. Does the Minister think it is a desirable state of affairs that a wife can be made a compellable witness against her own husband? One could understand a position where a wife might be summoned as a witness but not made a compellable witness, and where she would be entitled to plead the fact that the defendant was her husband as a reason why she should not give evidence against him. I think the section is very objectionable.

Has the section been put in force in connection with the Unemployment Insurance Acts since 1922?

I am quite sure it has. It is a very common type of fraud under the Unemployment Insurance Acts where a person is claimed as a dependent who is not a dependent for the purpose of getting increased rates of benefit. I could not say definitely, but I am sure this section in the Unemployment Insurance Act has been availed of for the purpose of proving fraud in cases like that.

The Minister says he is almost certain it has been, but I have never read of a case of the kind in the newspapers. I am sure the Minister remembers St. Paul's advice to wives, that they must obey their husbands.

Apart from the fact that this section was there before, the principal argument on the merits that the Minister has used was that the offence could not be proved unless the wife could be compelled to give evidence in many cases of this kind of fraud.

I do not say it could not be proved but it is much more difficult to prove it.

Will the Minister not realise that precisely the same argument would make a wife a witness in every case against her husband? I think that when the general jurisprudence of the State is against that principle, to introduce it as a side issue in a Bill of this kind is not advisable. If by a mistake it had been allowed to lapse in the case of the unemployment insurance it should be left that way. The Minister is going against the general sense of the community in this matter. Remember exactly the same argument will apply in the case of every offence. If it is tolerable in small offences like this, surely a much stronger case could be made for it in connection with graver offences.

The Deputy cannot contend that the same argument could be used in every case. The power to call a wife as witness against her husband or a husband against a wife is required mainly where the wife or the husband is claimed as a dependent in order to get increased rates of payment. In cases of that kind it would be completely impossible to prove the charge without the testimony of either party. That has been the experience in the Unemployment Insurance Act.

I think the Minister is going against a very sound principle established in relation to graver charges, without sufficient cause.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 46; Níl, 28.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corbett, Edmond.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Flinn, Hugo V.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Geoghegan, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Doherty, Joseph.
  • O'Grady, Séan.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Walsh, Richard.

Níl

  • Belton, Patrick.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John Aloysius.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Keating, John.
  • McGuire, James Ivan.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James Edward.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Rice, Vincent.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Bennett.
Question declared carried.
Section 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Sections 21 and 22 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Report and Final Stages.
Bill reported, without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.