The Minister tells us that this Act is being extended only for another year because other legislation will be introduced in the meantime that will take the place of this Act and no doubt take the places of other Acts before the year, contemplated as an extension under this Bill, is finished. The present occasion, however, provides an opportunity that should be availed of to make some remarks in regard to relief in the City of Dublin and to show to what extent the unemployment assistance scheme has been made a real swindle on the ratepayers in the City of Dublin. There was a very considerable amount of talk from the Ministerial Benches at the time the Unemployment Assistance Act was introduced as to the great relief that would be afforded local authorities in the City of Dublin by that Act but, so far from its being any relief to the local authority, it has piled on additional burdens on the ratepayers of the city as if the workers, the employers and the citizens of Dublin as ratepayers were not also paying considerable sums towards the general work of relief.
When the assistance of the able-bodied in the City of Dublin was given solely under the Outdoor Relief Act of 1929, for the year ended March, 1932, the total amount of expenditure from the rates was £111,900. Again, in the year ended March, 1933, when the relief of the able-bodied was provided entirely from the rates, the amount paid out of the city rates was £125,000. The year ended March, 1934, saw some of the developments in unemployment in the city which arose out of the general policy of the Government and the fact that such a large amount of national income had been lost through the reactions of Government policy on the agricultural industry. The total amount provided for relief of the able-bodied from the rates rose from £125,800 in the previous year to £173,000 in the year ended March, 1935. In the following year the unemployment assistance scheme began to operate.
What is the position for the coming year? The position in the coming year is that the ratepayers of the city have to provide, through the rates, a sum of £41,000 towards the relief of the able-bodied. As well as that they have to provide a lump sum equivalent to 1/6 in the £ towards the maintenance of the unemployment assistance scheme. In order to provide the Government with the produce of that 1/6 in the £, a sum equivalent to 1/8 in the £ has to be levied on the City of Dublin so as to provide for the cost of collection and other incidentals in addition to the sum which has to be contributed towards the unemployment assistance scheme. A penny in the £ on the City of Dublin realises £7,500. The amount realised by that rate of 1/8 in the £ is, therefore, £150,000 and, in addition, the ratepayers have to pay £41,000 directly for relief. The total bill to be paid by the ratepayers of the City of Dublin for the coming year is, therefore, £191,000 or nearly £20,000 more than they paid for outdoor relief in the city before the Unemployment Assistance Act was ever introduced. If that is not a swindle on the ratepayers of the City of Dublin, I do not know what would be. Instead of bringing relief to the ratepayers, this huge amount of more than £190,000 is going to be paid from the rates in the city towards the general scheme of unemployment assistance and relief to able-bodied persons during the coming year.
The City of Dublin provides, as I have said before, additional contributions by workers and by employers, and additional imposts on the general taxes of the country, in order to keep up the position of relief. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary where that peculiar circle is going to end, of a rising cost in the rates, in spite of the Unemployment Assistance Act and considerably rising figures in unemployment. If the Parliamentary Secretary will take the trouble of looking at the records of the Dublin Board of Assistance for the last few weeks, he will see that, for the eight weeks ending 18th January last, compared with the eight weeks immediately preceding, the cost of assistance to the able-bodied has risen by an average of £127 a week. In the period of eight weeks we have just passed, compared with the similar period of eight weeks in the year before, the cost of relief, through the rates, to the able-bodied in the City of Dublin has risen by 21 per cent. If he takes the actual position on 18th January last, he will find that whereas 1,552 men were assisted last year, 2,046 had to be assisted this year in that particular week, commencing 18th January, 1936. That is, 494 additional cases of men had to be assisted from the rates in that week as compared with the same week last year.
In the case of women, there is an increase of 317 cases in the same period, from 1,453 to 1,760. The percentage increase in the number of cases that had to be dealt with that week as compared with the same week last year is 26.5. The citizens of Dublin expect to know where they stand with regard to a continuance of this increasing burden. The Minister for Industry and Commerce was kind enough to warn industrialists in Killarney the other day that, as time went on, they would have to shoulder increasing burdens in order to provide the cost of government, according as the Customs duties fell. We ought to be told in Dublin, at the beginning of 1936, how long we are going to have a continued rise in the total number of unemployed in the city and a continued rise in the amount of money that has to be taken from the ratepayers in order to give those unemployed people some kind of relief, because if the position, from the viewpoint of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, is that industry will have to bear increasing burdens in the future to pay for the cost of government, it is nearly time we took stock of the general situation, in the interests both of the ratepayers who have to provide the money and the people who are unemployed at present and who have to be relieved.
There is another aspect of the matter that calls for very close consideration, and for very close co-operation between the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Recently, in Dublin, unemployment assistance had been withdrawn from a certain number of men. They have been given relief work, but that relief work has been of a spasmodic and desultory kind. Take the case of a man who, because he was an army reservist, with a wife and eight children, got only 16/- through the unemployment assistance scheme and 6/- from the rates. He was denied unemployment assistance and was put on work. He was delighted to get the work, and he would be delighted to get 28/- a week for doing three days' work if he could get it, but he did not get it. He was removed from the operation of unemployment assistance and was put on work, but the work gives him three days' payment one week, two days' payment in another, and two days' payment in another. The result was that between the withdrawal of unemployment assistance and the withdrawal of relief he found himself worse off when he was working than when he was idle. The case had to be retaken up by the Home Assistance people in the City of Dublin and dealt with as an urgent case.
It is only a sample of what is going on in the city, and the Minister for Local Government should demand and get from the Minister for Industry and Commerce much more co-operation in dealing with whatever relief schemes are going to be instituted in Dublin to substitute unemployment assistance than he has been getting in the past, and particularly than he has been getting for the last few weeks, because it seems to be nobody's business. An arbitrary decision is taken that unemployment assistance is to be stopped and that there is work to be got, but nobody has any concern for the man and his wife and their expectations of income. Very great hardship can be caused in cases like that, and very great bitterness of feeling amongst men who gladly turn aside from the getting of unemployment assistance to work, and who find that they are being fooled in the matter of work and deprived of the income they expected.
Very urgent and very important questions require to be discussed in connection with it, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary should tell the House what he has to say at this stage of the Bill on the points I have raised. Before the Bill passes through the House, the House should have an opportunity of hearing from the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister a more detailed statement than has been given of the general position with regard to our expectation in respect of the employment to be given to replace the unemployment assistance scheme here, what hopes the ratepayers of the City of Dublin can have that this huge burden of rates is going to fall instead of rise week by week, and what hope the people who are paying these large sums in rates have to seeing the large number of unemployed in the city decreased.