Committee on Finance. - Emergency Powers (No. 98) Order, 1941—Motion to Annul.

I move:—

That Dáil Eireann is of opinion that Emergency Powers (No. 98) Order, 1941 (Compensation) Scheme, 1941, dated 17th September, 1941, should be revoked.

This is an order which has been issued for the purpose of fixing the amount that should be paid by way of compensation where people have suffered personal injuries, whether resulting in death or otherwise, as a result of bombing which has taken place, and naturally it makes provision for any future cases. An examination of the order brings us up against such astonishing facts that I think it is only necessary to state them, and to hear from the Minister what he has to say on these facts and on the principles behind them. Deputies may have read in some of the daily papers the other day that a High Court jury, in the case of an accident where a man was killed by an Army car and left a wife and family, awarded £1,700 to the widow and daughters by way of compensation. If an Army aeroplane had been responsible for the death of that man, the jury would, no doubt, have awarded £1,700. But, if an aeroplane belonging to one of the belligerents had accidentally caused the death of that man, the Minister for Finance, acting for the people of the country and expressing the public will, fixes in the most rigid language under the order, the cancellation of which I ask for here, that the widow and family would not get any more than £600 by way of compensation.

On the 20th November, as reported in Volume 85, column 845, I asked the Minister for Finance by way of supplementary question to a question on that day:—

"Would the Minister say if, in making claims in respect of loss of life and injury, the intention is to make a claim against the German Government on the basis of the amount of compensation contemplated in the Minister's order fixing the amounts of that compensation?"

The Minister stated:—

"I think so. We have not got the claims yet, and I should not like to say so definitely."

Then I asked:

"Will the Minister say whether, before making a claim on such a basis, he will make a statement to the House on the matter?"

The Minister in reply said "No." I do not understand why, if an Army car kills a man who leaves a wife and family, and a High Court jury decides that the State should pay £1,700, the Minister for Finance, in the distressing circumstances that we have and are likely to have, should fix for a widow and family left without a breadwinner, as the result of an accident caused by an outside aeroplane, a sum of £600, and why in making a claim against the people responsible for the accident this country on behalf of these aggrieved people should only make a claim for £600.

Again, the order provides for compensation in respect of injury, and I simply take the case of a person who has a wife and five children. If that man is seriously and permanently injured as a result of a bombing accident, the order provides that the maximum award that may be made for the maintenance of himself and his family is 30/- per week. Therefore, we get this picture. Assume it is a British aeroplane which comes down, as some of them have come down, and injures a man who has a wife and five children so as to disable him permanently and seriously. Under this order he would get a pension of 30/- a week, and, as the Minister suggests, we would make a claim against the British Government for that amount. But, if an Irish aeroplane happened to be driven across the Irish Sea and came down accidentally in Great Britain and injured a British citizen, as the Minister is aware, the British Government would compensate that man and his wife and family for prolonged and serious disablement at the rate of 68/9 per week, and no doubt would send us the bill.

For how long?

As long as the serious disablement lasts, the injured person would get 34/2; the wife 8/4; the first child 6/3, and the remaining children 5/- each, amounting to 69/9. I do not want to go into these details, except to point out that the Irish Government fixes the compensation for its own people at 30/-, and probably will send the bill; that the British Government, on their basis, would fix it at 68/9 and would send us the bill. I do not understand the order then from the point of view of the comparison that is in the minds of the Irish people of a jury dealing with a particular type of accident, or the comparison where you have the British Government considering their people and the Irish Government considering their people.

Then, again, if we take a man with a wife and five children who was drawing unemployment assistance in the City of Dublin, he would be entitled to 23/- a week. The Government have repeatedly emphasised the fact that the payments made under the Unemployment Assistance Act are not intended to be full subsistence allowances. On that understanding, the relief authorities of the City of Dublin invariably add, according to the circumstances of the case, a certain amount by way of outdoor relief to the amount paid by way of unemployment assistance. They would add between 5/- and 10/- in the case of such a man, depending on the amount of rent he had to pay or particular expenses he had to meet. Under the recent order dealing with the giving of assistance to persons in particular classes by way of food vouchers for bread, milk and butter, a man receiving unemployment assistance, with a wife and five children, would be entitled to six units of milk, officially valued at 5/3; six units of butter, officially valued at 2/4½; six units of bread, officially valued at 3/-, or a total of 10/7½. So that the man with the use of all his limbs and in good health, who is unemployed and has a wife and five children, would be entitled to 23/- unemployment assistance, 10/7½ value in food—milk, butter and bread—and anything from 5/- to 10/ from the relief authorities in the City of Dublin, or he would get from 38/7½ to 43/7½ to maintain himself and his family. I do not understand whether the 30/- is intended to maintain a man who is permanently disabled and his wife and children or whether the idea is that his family is to carry on with one foot on this compensation order and another on relief for the rest of his days. The order applies in such a way that no person, no matter what his position, no matter what his previous circumstances, no matter what his general requirements, no matter what his family, can get more than 30/- a week. That is another aspect of the matter that I do not understand and I think we ought to be told something about the principle that is underlying it all.

There are other details in connection with the order that deserve the most critical examination and that are objectionable in certain ways. As far as I can see, if a person under 14 years of age is injured he can get compensation to a limit of £25, but if that injury is a permanent one I do not know that there is any provision in the order to cover it. However, I do not want to go into details. I simply want to ask what is the principle underlying the fixing of £600 as the maximum payment in the case of the death, say, of a bread-winner and 30/- a week in the case of a man who is permanently disabled, who may have a wife and five children or who may have a larger family. I think the Minister would be very well advised to turn to the view of things that was taken by the High Court jury—I saw a similar case in the very same paper. Gárda accounts of cases have attracted my attention since this order came out. I think there is a great wealth of example and advice awaiting the Minister if he would review the decisions and opinions that Irish juries have expressed on cases where a breadwinner has been lost. I do not suggest that the circumstances are always entirely of a type that would guide the Minister, but through the general body of them I think the Minister will find much more guidance than he would find wherever he looked for guidance in the framing of this order. I submit to the Minister that it really ought to be cancelled. I submit to the House that by its vote it ought to ask the Minister to cancel it. I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House that it is not necessary to ask him to do so, that he proposes to do so.

I formally second the motion.

I am aware that, as Deputy Mulcahy has pointed out, juries in this city have awarded damages to the extent he has suggested—£1,700 to a widow and child, probably in the case of death caused by motor accident or something of that kind. I know that cases of that kind are not uncommon, but I do not think it would be logical to compare an individual case, where a jury has an opportunity of going into all the circumstances of the case and of the family, with a general order such as this is, which is meant to deal with an entirely different set of circumstances. We know that every day the courts sit juries do award damages, sometimes greater than the modest amount that is the maximum allowed to be paid for the death of the head of a family under this order. The amounts vary as the opinions of different juries vary and as circumstances vary. That is true. But could one imagine these same juries being so generous if they were acting in the place of the Minister for Finance? In the circumstances surrounding us, with no knowledge of what our commitments are likely to be or what the full extent of them ever will be, working in the dark as we are and, unlike Britain that has been mentioned by Deputy Mulcahy, with at any rate limited resources, we have to try to measure what, in justice to ourselves and in justice to the injured parties, we can afford to pay.

As a matter of interest, I might mention that before the present Road Traffic Act was enacted here it was not possible to take an action against the Minister for Finance in the case of injury by any motor car in the Government service. It was the last Road Traffic Act that I introduced and piloted through Parliament that enabled an action to be taken against the Minister for Finance in such circumstances. It is only since the passing of that Act that a jury can award damages like £1,700 in such circumstances and, of course, juries, not thinking of themselves as taxpayers, do award what I regard as generous damages in a case where the action is against the Government in the name of the Minister for Finance. But that is an aside. We have to consider the position here. We are not in the war, thanks be to God, but we have suffered damages arising out of the war. Already our liabilities, so far as they can be measured—we have not anything like all the claims in yet—are pretty heavy, and we have to go on the basis that we may have to pay all these damages ourselves or practically all. We have to work on that basis and, bearing that in mind, we cannot afford to be generous. We try to be just but we cannot afford to be generous.

I need not remind the House how often I, as Minister for Finance, and other members of the Government are attacked from different sides of the House, principally by the main Opposition, for the costliness of the Government, the expense of the Government. We are attacked regularly. There is hardly a day this House is sitting that we are not told of the costliness and expense of this Government and, on the other hand, whenever any measure of this kind is before the House we are equally vehemently told that we are skinflints, ungenerous, illiberal and unjust. I try to be just and in all cases, as Minister for Finance, I have to bear in mind that we are already taking considerable sums out of the taxpayers' pockets, and we may have to take all this compensation out of the taxpayers' pockets. In cases where any of the deaths, injuries, or damage to property are recognised by a belligerent as its responsibility and where that belligerent pays compensation to us, if that compensation is greater than the sum we have paid out, we will pay the excess over to the individual whether it be for personal injury, death or damage to property.

I do not think we are going to be embarrassed by putting our compensation to our own people on a basis commensurate with our modest circumstances. The persons injured and the persons who suffer damage are entitled to make their claims. When the foreign Government has accepted responsibility, these people will make their claim to us and we shall put that claim to the foreign Government and fight as hard as we can to get the utmost compensation from that foreign Government. As I say, anything received in excess of the amount we shall have already paid out will be paid over to these individuals. I hope we shall be able to get greater compensation for them, when it is properly deserved, but we have to go on the basis that the national Exchequer will bear the liability, whether or not we get any compensation from the foreign Power. Acting on that basis, I think the compensation, which is based on the terms of the Workmen's Compensation Act, is just. It is not generous; it is not liberal; but I think it is just, and it is within our competence to pay, especially bearing in mind the fact that we have no idea what the liability which the payment of this compensation to individuals is going to put upon us.

The case has been made to me that in such services as the A.R.P. services, the L.D.F. and the L.S.F., where similar compensation terms are allowed for, there are, as there are amongst the ordinary populace who may be injured, like the people in the North Strand and the South Circular Road, people in very different circumstances, and that the compensation ought to be measured according to the circumstances of the people concerned. We cannot proceed on a basis of that kind in arranging a general scheme. We have to go on the basis of the same compensation.

How is a disabled man with a wife and five children to live on 30/- a week?

I object to being interrupted.

The Minister will be more than interrupted——

The Deputy was not interrupted.

The Minister may as well shut down his Parliament.

I will not speak at all if I am to be interrupted in this manner.

I do not think I shall speak after this.

The Deputy can please himself. He got his opportunity and I claim mine.

The Minister is not answering my question as to how a disabled man with a wife and five children is to live on 30/- a week.

I object to being interrupted and I will not speak any further.

Mr. Byrne

The case must be very weak when the Minister will not continue.

I am quite ready to continue if allowed.

Mr. Byrne

Deputy Mulcahy asked how a man with a wife and five children is to live on 30/- a week—a very fair question.

Deputy Mulcahy to conclude.

I might as well. Great Britain, bearing the great cost of war, not getting an odd accidental bombing but getting a systematic bombing, is able to find money to pay its people who are injured. If, as a result of bombing, the head of a family in Great Britain, with five children, is so injured that he is permanently disabled, the British Government can spare 68/9 a week to maintain him, and to continue that indefinitely. Here we are, thanking God that we are spared the ravages of war. We have, unfortunately, had accidents. We have had people killed and injured, and this House is asked to accept without question an order by the Minister for Finance that an injured man, permanently disabled, and his wife and five children, are to carry on on 30/- a week, when, bringing our minds to bear on purely relief measures, we ensure that a man in the City of Dublin will get at least 38/7½ to keep himself, his wife and five children, he being in his full strength.

It is very hard to discuss this matter in any reasonable way, except to say that Great Britain with its war, its expenditure and its losses, can provide 68/9, while we provide 30/- per week, and the claim that we are to make against a belligerent Government is based on that figure. I do not mind that so much. There may not be very much hope of getting it, and it might be just as well to ask for a small thing as for a big thing. What I do shudder at is that when, arising out of this tragedy of war, death and disability fall from the sky on a man or woman living and rearing their families, in a Christian country we have nothing to offer them but 30/- a week. I have not been answered as to whether that is to maintain them or whether they are to get something from relief sources, whether the policy of the Government is that anybody with family responsibilities who is injured during this war is to go to the relief authorities for the rest of his days. We speak in our Constitution about the sacredness of the family. Article 41 says:—

"The State recognises the family as the natural, primary and fundamental unit group of society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights antecedent and superior to all positive law.

"The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the nation and of the State.

"In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State the support without which the common good cannot be achieved.

"The State, shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."

And a woman with five children and a disabled husband is offered 30/- a week by the State as compensation to enable her to keep the home going. What is the use of talking? The Minister says he will not speak any more simply because he is asked how a disabled man with a wife and five children can live on 30/- a week. He will not talk. What is the use of my talking? The Minister may as well shut down this Parliament if he has reduced it to a condition in which this matter can be discussed in this particular way, because the matter cannot rest there and the matter will not rest there. I do not think there is any use in my saying any more about it, except that if the Minister persists in his attitude on this matter, he may shut down this House.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 38; Níl, 56.

  • Belton, Patrick.
  • Benson, Ernest E.
  • Broderick, William J.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cole, John J.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Hannigan, Joseph.
  • Hickey, James.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Hurley, Jeremiah.
  • Keating, John.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Sullivan, John M.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Redmond, Bridget M.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Reynolds, Mary.

Níl

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brain.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Crowley, Fred Hugh.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Fuller, Stephen.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Keane, John J.
  • Kelly, James P.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Francis.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McCann, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Mullen, Thomas.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • Rice, Brigid M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Conn.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Nally and McMenamin; Níl, Deputies Smith and Brady.
Question declared lost.