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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 26 Nov 1942

Vol. 88 No. 19

Committee on Finance - Vote 74—Food Allowances.

I move:—

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £35,000 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1943, for Allowances in Kind to certain Beneficiaries under the Unemployment Assistance Acts, 1933 to 1940, the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1938, the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Acts, 1935 to 1940, and the National Health Insurance Acts, 1911 to 1942 (No. 28 of 1939).

As Deputies will remember, one of the reasons why it was decided to supplement the cash payments, available under various social services to necessitous people, by vouchers entitling them to receive specified quantities of certain foodstuffs was because, in present circumstances, the value of money is unstable. It was appreciated that if additional cash benefits were given, the added purchasing power of the recipients would fluctuate with alterations in the prices of essential commodities and, under present circumstances, would tend to move downwards. It was considered that the more satisfactory method of dealing with an unstable situation such as the present was to supplement the cash allowances by these food vouchers, which would secure for the recipients thereof stated allowances of food, irrespective of what the prices of these foodstuffs might be from time to time.

One of the consequences of the introduction of that system was that the actual cost of the food allowances scheme would vary with the variations in the price of foodstuffs and that additional funds would have to be provided to meet the cost of the food vouchers if the prices of the foodstuffs available on the vouchers should rise. Since the main Estimate for the year was introduced, there have been increases in the price of bread and in the price of butter. The price of batch bread was increased by a penny per 4-lb. loaf from the 21st September and the retail price of butter was raised from 1/7 to 1/9 a pound, in May, and, on the 10th September, was further increased to 2/- a pound. Consequently, the value of the vouchers represented in terms of cash has increased. The cost of cashing these vouchers when presented by the traders who have supplied the foodstuffs has risen and a Supplementary Estimate is necessary. It is also necessary for another reason: When the price of bread rose by a penny per 4-lb. loaf. in September, the Government decided to off-set the effect of that increase on persons coming within the scope of the food voucher scheme by increasing the quantity of bread which such persons could receive on their vouchers by 50 per cent. That decision of the Government has also involved an increase in the cost of the food voucher scheme which is being provided for in this Estimate.

The effect of the decision to make an increase of 50 per cent. in the allowance of bread available on food vouchers was to improve the position of recipients of those vouchers to a greater extent than the actual increase in the cost of bread would have necessitated. A single person who ordinarily consumed, say, four 2-lb. loaves in the week, before the increase in the price of bread, would have received one loaf free on a voucher and would have had to purchase three loaves. In other words, such a person would have paid 1/6 in cash for his bread supply for the week. Following the increase in the price of bread, off-set, as I have said, by the increased allowance of bread under the food voucher scheme, such a person would have to pay in cash, not 1/6, but 1/4½d. for his weekly bread supply, his bread supply remaining unchanged. Similarly, the case of a family receiving, say, four food vouchers per week and using 20 2-lb. loaves in the week, the total cost of the bread prior to the 21st September was 10/- per week. Of that, 2/- per week was met by the food vouchers and 8/- had to be provided in cash. Consequent on the introduction of the revised arrangement, that family, although the total cost of the bread consumed by it had increased from 10/- to 10/10d., would have to provide only 7/7, instead of 8/-, in cash to obtain the same quantity of bread. These figures or any other comparisons that might be made substantiate the case that the position of the recipients of food vouchers was improved rather than disimproved as a result of the changes made by the Government following the increase in the price of bread.

During the course of the year there were periods during which shortage of bread and of butter was experienced either generally or in particular districts and in these periods in the districts concerned some difficulty was experienced in meeting the requirements of food voucher holders. Nevertheless, I think it can be said that the scheme has successfully withstood the periodic fluctuations in the supplies position and any difficulties which did arise have not been protracted. Towards the end of last spring, there was a brief period during which a widespread shortage of butter existed and complaints were received from some voucher holders in many areas of difficulties experienced by them in exchanging their butter vouchers for butter. When the position improved, towards the end of May, arrangements were made through the post offices whereby holders of out-of-date butter vouchers, which could not be exchanged for butter during the period of scarcity, were enabled to obtain the quantity of butter represented by such vouchers.

I think Deputies are aware that the introduction of butter rationing in Dublin has not affected the position of holders of butter vouchers under the food voucher scheme. Persons in receipt of these vouchers are entitled to get the quantity of butter for which the vouchers provide and, in addition, if they so choose, to purchase the full ration available to citizens generally. The position in regard to butter, so far as the food allowances scheme is concerned, is now satisfactory and every effort is being made to ensure that the demands of the scheme in general are fully met at all periods of the year. Detailed arrangements for the allocation of butter in the Dublin area are in the hands of the Butter Marketing Committee set up by the Minister for Agriculture.

Deputies may be interested to know how the scheme is operating. It has now been in existence for over a year and, at the present time, food vouchers are being issued every week to approximately 84,000 persons. Of the 84,000 persons who are receiving food vouchers, very nearly one half, that is to say, 40,000 of them are resident in the City of Dublin or in the Borough of Dun Laoghaire.

Mr. Byrne

Does that include children?

Of the 84,000 recipients of food vouchers, 33,000 are dependents of persons in receipt of unemployment assistance; 25,000 are old age pensioners, including blind pensioners and their dependent children; 22,000 are widows and children who are beneficiaries under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Acts, and 4,000 are recipients of disablement benefit who, under the National Health Insurance Acts, are in necessitous circumstances.

Mr. Byrne

What about a person whose national health money has been stopped through technicalities and who is still hungry or necessitous?

In operating a scheme of this kind, one must deal with general classes. It is not possible to provide an administrative machine which will adjust itself to meet the peculiarities of all individual cases. The decision was to give food vouchers to persons who were in receipt of disability pensions under the National Health Insurance Acts.

Mr. Byrne

I will give the Minister a case of a man who was drawing national health benefit but who did not go to work to get four extra stamps. He could not get these stamps, so he was disqualified to receive national health benefits. He went into hospital. He lost his arm. When he was released from hospital he got only half the benefits that he had been receiving prior to going into hospital. That man was suffering from tuberculosis.

I could not discuss the circumstances of individual cases. The facts may or may not be as the Deputy states.

Take the case of those in receipt of unemployment assistance and national health insurance. You may have the case of a man with a wife and family getting only 15/- a week.

They are not getting food vouchers. The food vouchers are only given to those in receipt of disability pensions.

Why not give them to the others?

One could argue in favour of extending food vouchers to many classes of persons not getting them at the moment, but I do not know if that would be in order now, because what we are discussing is the administration of the scheme which was provided for in the first instance. That scheme confines food vouchers to the dependents of persons in receipt of unemployment assistance, to old age pensioners, to blind pensioners, to the dependent children under 16 years of age of blind pensioners, to widows and orphans who are beneficiaries under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act, and to persons with disability pensions under the National Health Insurance Acts. These are the only classes of persons at present who are entitled to receive food vouchers. There are 84,000 of them getting vouchers at the moment.

Mr. Byrne

Will the Minister make inquiries about the man Fitzsimons who lost his arm and who, on coming out of hospital, received only half the benefit that he had been previously in receipt of?

I will not. The Deputy must not try to put on the Government responsibility for everything that happens. There is an obligation on the Dublin Board of Assistance to relieve destitution arising from any cause, and the Dublin Board of Assistance cannot get rid of its responsibility by trying to pretend that it is the responsibility of the Government.

Mr. Byrne

Thanks; that is all I want.

The Government have made funds available for the Dublin Corporation and other local authorities in the country to enable them to provide food vouchers, in addition to the ordinary home assistance that is available.

Mr. Byrne

I will send the Minister's statements to the commissioners.

My statement does not matter. That is the law, and the law places upon the home assistance authorities, and the urban authorities, the obligation of providing for the relief of destitution arising from any cause.

Mr. Byrne

I thought so, too.

It is not merely the law now, it has been the law for a number of years. As regards the administration of the scheme, I think the fact that so few complaints are being received now concerning it is proof that it is working smoothly, and that there is, in fact, very little difficulty in operating the machinery either in respect of the allocation of food vouchers to individuals or the exchange and encashment of vouchers when they are surrendered by traders. At the beginning, there was some difficulty, due to a misunderstanding amongst traders, as to the operation of the scheme, but it has completely disappeared. The number of complaints received concerning the operation of the scheme are much fewer than I have experienced in connection with any other scheme operated by the Government.

There is one thing that I would like to bring home to the Minister, and that is the large number of men in receipt of unemployment assistance to a maximum of 10/6 a week who have got no increase of any kind and are not entitled to food vouchers. Does the Minister realise the difficulties and the hardships that such men are labouring under? My views on food vouchers have not changed. Even though the Minister may praise this scheme, I am and always have been of the opinion that, instead of providing men and women with food vouchers, they should be given a weekly income to be spent by them to the best advantage. No increase whatever has been given to those unfortunate men in receipt of a maximum weekly sum of 10/6. Their ages may range from 50 to 69 years. How does the Minister justify not giving them an increase?

Deputy McCann had a question down to-day about a number of them who are living in hostels in this city. They cannot even get free fuel. Does the Minister realise that it costs those men 7/6 a week to live in a hostel? If they go to a doss house they have to pay 6d. or 8d. a night. That will cost them 4/6 a week. How can they be expected to feed and clothe themselves on the 6/- which remain? It is time, I think, that we got down to fundamentals instead of praising a scheme of food vouchers for a certain section of the community. Many of those unfortunate men have given 50 years in the service of the community. Industry has now no further use for them and they are expected to live on this 10/6 a week. They are not entitled to free fuel or to the food vouchers. Suppose those men were to go into the county homes what would it cost to maintain them there? I suggest to the Minister that he should include them in this scheme.

I addressed a question on this matter to the Minister for Local Government to-day. I have been informed by the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Legion of Mary that there are some 500 or 600 of those unfortunate men in the City of Dublin who are not being given the benefits of this scheme. What I am pleading for is that the scheme should be extended so as to take in the recipients of 10/6 a week under the Unemployment Assistance Acts. These particular men are really forgotten men. They are in a special category. They are not of military age and cannot fend for themselves. They live in hostels and lodging houses. All they have is the 10/6 a week. Approximately 100 of them are staying in Iveagh House. They are permanently resident there, and out of the 10/6 they have to give 7/- a week for their lodging. What I want to bring home to the Minister is that the Dublin Board of Assistance has refused to relieve those men.

It would be surcharged if it did.

I take it that there is an obligation on the board to relieve the destitute poor. Those men are nobody's children and are living under terrible conditions. They are really on the border-line of starvation. I appeal strongly to the Minister to give their case consideration. If it is not within the power of his Department to do that, then I would ask him to have representations made on their behalf to the appropriate Department. I intend addressing a communication to the commissioners who are administering the affairs of Dublin Board of Assistance, pointing out the conditions under which those unfortunate men are living.

Mr. Byrne

During the past few weeks members of the House who live in the City of Dublin have been receiving complaints by every post-three times a day—from old and young men in the city who are striving to live on this bare allowance of 10/6 a week. They ask why they are not entitled to a free bag of fuel.

There is no money for fuel in this Vote.

Mr. Byrne

Neither are they entitled to receive food vouchers. I have had brought to my notice the case of people between 65 and 70 years of age who have nothing whatever to live on except this 10/6 a week. They are not entitled to the old age pension. They are hoping to live until they become qualified to receive it. What is to become of those elderly, unwanted people —unwanted so far as employment is concerned—between the ages of 65 and 70? Through a wave of economy, the board of assistance in many cases curtailed the benefits and in others refused to provide for the type I have just mentioned. I was grateful to the Minister for saying that there is an obligation on them to provide for the destitute. I have a case in mind—I already mentioned it by way of interruption, probably at a wrong time, but I could not resist—where a man of 30 years of age had 10/6 unemployment assistance, 5/- or 6/- national health——

That could not possibly be right.

Mr. Byrne

I may be mixed up for the moment. In any case, he had 10/6 from one source, I think 8/- from another, and 3/- fuel money from the Dublin Board of Assistance. In all he had about £1 per week. He was suffering from T.B., and went into hospital, where his arm was taken off. After he came home, he came to me one morning and told me that 8/- had been deducted from him when he came out of the Dublin Union Hospital minus his arm. He is going around this city, an unfortunate T.B. sufferer, with 10/6 a week and nothing else. Some authority in this State, in order to justify their existence, took 8/- from him. Now I have given the case, and I gave the number. The man's name is Fitzsimons. I was debarred from putting a question down on the grounds that I was probably using the Order Paper to get the Minister to instruct the authorities as to what to do; my question was disallowed. I would ask the Minister to inquire how many applications for assistance, in those border-line cases of destitution, have been refused.

That is a question of the administration of another Act.

Mr. Byrne

Those people have appealed to the Dublin T.Ds. to help them to get assistance under the scheme introduced by the Government. Some flaw or some technicality prevents them from getting the assistance which, I think, the Government intended them to get. I intend to raise the case of this man, and I am going to ask all those who are interested in tuberculosis sufferers to help me. A campaign to help those people has been started. I tried to start it myself a year or two years ago. I did not get very far, but I was interviewing those T.B. patients regularly, and I saw their harsh treatment. There should be an inspector of the Local Government Department whose business it is to keep an eye on them and see that they are properly looked after when they come out of hospital, where money has been spent on trying to cure them.

The Minister for Local Government is not in charge of this Estimate.

Mr. Byrne

But this Minister is in charge of the vouchers. I believe I am on the border line——

The Deputy is well over the border line.

Mr. Byrne

Sometimes it is difficult to get home that border-line case; each Minister can say: "It is not for me," and we cannot ask a question in the House because it would appear that we were trying to get the Minister to give instructions to another authority over which he says he has no power. Meantime, my tuberculosis friend is minus his arm, and minus an allowance of 8/- which he had when he went into hospital. Some of those unfortunate men have to spend cold nights in 6d. lodging houses. I would appeal to the Minister to do something for them. God knows the time has come for this native Government to take people out of the destitution in which we see them. I know that every other member of the House has the same experience as I have. It is very depressing to have to mention it, and far more depressing when people will not believe it.

This is only a small but very serious cross-section of what is a very big problem. In all parts of the world where the impact of the war is felt—and that is pretty nearly everywhere on the globe—the ordinary attitude of those who are administering funds of this kind is that the people who have sub—standard wages or substandard conditions should be particularly attended to. Recently, I asked the Minister a question in regard to people who were lucky enough to be at work. I asked what was the percentage increase in wages since the war broke out, and I wanted to get a comparison between that increase in wages and the increase in the cost of living. As far as I remember his figures, he said that there was an increase of about 3 per cent. in the wages of those engaged in the building industry, about 9 per cent. in a series of 25 protected industries, and about 20 per cent. in agriculture, but the cost of living all round had risen by over 40 per cent. One can see immediately the amazing disadvantage that those people are under, owing to the fact that the war has come and that prices in this country have not been, either by subsidy or some other means, kept down to the pre-war level. How much more is the situation oppressive on the people whose case has been pleaded here to-day? I would ask the Minister to take some better view of this situation, in the sense of trying to meet the acknowledged needs of the people who are at the point of having to get those food vouchers. He must remember that his colleague, the Minister for Finance, came into this House about a year and a half ago and announced that the Revenue Commissioners, after their examination of the accounts of certain business people in this country, had told him that those people had definitely been taking advantage of the war situation to make greater profits than that Minister thought should be allowed. He said that, through the taxation which he was going to impose, a sum of about £750,000 was to be got in that particular year. Subsequently, he said he was not going to impose that taxation; he threw that £750,000 back to those people who were making extravagant profits. What fraction of that sum would it take to do what Deputies here have pleaded for?

I want to make a plea for the necessitous people in villages and towns, and in fact in the rural areas. What case can the Minister make for not extending this scheme to those people? Is not the cost of living as high in the towns as it is in the cities? Is the cost of living any lower in towns which have not the privilege, if you like to put it that way, of having town commissioners or an urban council? I think that distinction between the people who live outside those areas and the people who live inside them is one which requires some explanation. This is not a very big additional allowance to give the people who live inside those areas, because, as Deputy McGilligan has said, the cost of living has increased considerably, and consequently the position of those people has been worsened. What then must be the position of people who have got no increase over and above the allowance they had before the war? I think the Minister should address himself to that side of the matter and not pass so lightly over it. He should not assume that he has done his duty completely by dealing with people in certain areas. I have in mind places immediately outside the City of Cork, places like Douglas and Blarney, where there are necessitous people who do not come under the scope of this Estimate at all. They are certainly not in any better position than the people who live inside the city, and there does not seem to be any adequate reason for their exclusion. I would ask the Minister for some explanation as to his attitude towards those people. Why is it that he has not extended the benefits of a scheme like this to the people who live in those areas where the cost of living is just as high as it is inside the cities and towns?

I have been approached by people who are in receipt of national health benefits. The Minister referred to people who are in receipt of disablement benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts, but as far as I know some of them do not derive any benefit under this scheme, although in some cases they are in receipt of only 7/- or 8/- a week. As other Deputies have pointed out, the cost of living in the small towns and in the rural areas has gone up, and I think this scheme is not properly developed in so far as these places are concerned. The people living there are, in the main, deprived of the benefits of this scheme.

In my own district I know of one man in receipt of national health. He was disabled and he does not derive any benefit under this scheme. I mention that matter so that the Minister may have an opportunity of looking into it. He will then be in a position to see whether it is through a lack of publicity, or organisation amongst the different Departments, that these people are deprived of benefit under this scheme. I am speaking mainly of the small towns and the rural areas where people are as badly off, if not worse off, than are the people in Dublin and other important centres of population. It must be remembered that the cost of living has gone up in these places by leaps and bounds. It is about time that the Minister should consider these people in the same light as he considers the others. I shall be grateful if he will look into this matter.

I should like to join with previous speakers in appealing to the Minister to arrange for an extension of the food voucher system. Seeing that the voucher system has been applied to widows and orphans and old age pensioners, I think we are entitled to ask why a line is drawn between widows and others in the country districts and those who reside in the urban and municipal areas. Provision has been made in the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act to give widows a certain stipend, but I should like Deputies to contemplate the position of a widow in a rural area trying to exist under present conditions on 5/- a week and being denied access to these food vouchers. Imagine how she feels when she realises that she is denied access to this food voucher scheme.

I have had repeated representations made to me pointing out the injustice that exists because of the line drawn between poor people living in the rural areas and poor people residing in the cities and towns. Taking Limerick as an example, we find the people living in the municipal area entitled to avail of this scheme, while those living under similar conditions in an area immediately adjacent are not permitted to avail of it. The same thing applies to other cities and towns in Éire. These unfortunate people in the rural districts are condemned to live on 5/- a week, and I think, in all fairness, they should be permitted access to the food voucher scheme. In view of the increase in the cost of living, many of these people are absolutely destitute.

I join with Deputy McCann, Deputy Byrne and other speakers in appealing to the Minister to extend this scheme indefinitely. The widows who are placed on the lower scales under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act are the hardest hit, by reason of the very high cost of living, and I think there is a really strong case to be made for an extension of the food voucher system in that connection. I do not think that in an extension of the scheme the Minister need fear opposition from any portion of the House. He will be assured of general support, I feel certain, if he will extend this scheme so as to ensure that these food vouchers will be made available to the widows and their dependents who reside in areas outside those for which he has already catered.

Most Deputies have urged an extension of the food voucher scheme to classes of persons at present not covered by it. Deputy Keyes was anxious to assure us that if we do extend the scheme we will meet with no opposition from Parties in the House. That may be quite true. If proposals for extending the scheme were discussed here, there probably would be no opposition but when, say next May, the Budget is introduced, and taxation is proposed in order to find money to meet the cost of the scheme, Deputy Keyes, Deputy Hurley and all their colleagues will vote solidly against it.

Against what?

Against the imposition of taxation to find money to meet the cost of the extension.

We would not do anything of the kind.

The Minister is not entitled to make that statement.

I think I am historically accurate, but perhaps the Deputies may be inclined to reform in the future and adopt a more consistent line; up to the present they have not done so. Deputy Hurley asked that this scheme should be extended to recipients of unemployment assistance in rural areas, and Deputy Keyes suggested that it should be extended to other types of recipients in rural areas. One of the difficulties of extending the food voucher scheme to rural areas is that it cannot be administered with the same facility, if at all, in rural areas as in urban areas. I should say that in the majority of rural areas a food voucher scheme is impracticable, because the same type of trade organisation does not exist in these areas as exists in urban areas which would enable vouchers given to persons to be easily translated into specified quantities of goods.

Apparently Deputy Hurley has been ignoring the announcements in the papers recently. If he had been keeping in touch with events, he would have found that from a date early in this month unemployment assistance recipients in rural areas and in unincorporated towns have been receiving additional cash allowances equivalent to 1/6 in respect of each dependent, representing a very substantial addition to the amount of unemployment assistance payable in these areas. It is true, on the basis of city prices of foodstuffs, that the cash addition to the dependents' allowances under the Unemployment Assistance Act in rural areas is not fully equivalent to the value of the food vouchers, but on the basis of rural costs, it probably is. It certainly represents a substantial addition to the amount payable to persons with dependents in rural areas under the unemployment assistance scheme.

But what about the other classes?

The Deputy did not talk about them when he was speaking. He introduces them only by way of interruption. When he was speaking he referred to persons in receipt of unemployment assistance. That practical difficulty which I have mentioned will prevent the adoption of the suggestion made by Deputy Keyes, that food vouchers should be granted to other classes resident in the rural areas. It may be that the periodic review of the position which the Government undertake will occasion an alteration in the rates of assistance under each of the social services in rural areas as well as in urban areas. None of these arrangements is static. They all will be, and some already have been modified to meet the changing conditions.

Deputy McGilligan, who spoke about the need for making special provision for those who are at the bottom of the social scale, persons who are dependent on the assistance which they get through the social services, missed a significant fact. It may be that the amounts provided under the Unemployment Assistance Act, the Old Age Pensions Act, the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act—all these measures designed to establish or extend the social services of the State— were, before the war, inadequate to deal with the then existing conditions.

That case was often made here and I do not know that it was ever seriously contested. In fact, the attitude of the Government then was that the measure of the assistance given was determined only by the resources of the country and the extent to which these resources could be earmarked for that specific purpose; but, on the assumption that the unemployment assistance payments and other social service allowances before the war were as much as the State could be expected to contribute, they are no worse now. In fact, in consequence of the introduction of this food voucher scheme and the expansion of the dependants' allowances to unemployment assistance recipients in rural areas, there has taken place a proportionately greater increase in the amounts available to unemployment assistance recipients than the increase in the cost of living.

Does the Minister suggest that 1/6 a week for a dependent child is equal to the increase in the cost of living?

It is 1/6 in addition to the 1/-, representing an increase of 150 per cent.

That is on the basis that the 1/- was enough.

Is that not the very point I am trying to make, that in so far as the allowances made before the war could be regarded as adequate, there has been in these allowances a proportionately greater increase than in the cost of living?

Was that not based on the view that the allowance was not intended to cover all the needs, because it was expected that people could make a bit here and there?

That is precisely the point I was going on to make.

I want to add to that. Are the chances of making a bit here and there greater or less since the war started?

In the rural areas, they are greater. I should say that the general level of prosperity in rural areas is much greater than before the war.

The Minister has not travelled the rural areas.

I have, and, apart from personal observation, there is statistical proof of the accuracy of that statement. Deputy Hickey said what he has said before, that an unemployed single man without dependants cannot be expected to live upon 10/6 per week. That is quite correct. The purpose of the unemployment assistance scheme is, as its very name implies, to assist persons who are unemployed.

That is where the irony of the thing comes in, because he has no visible means but that. Let the Minister not try to bluff himself that he has.

A person in employment is expected to make for himself some provision against the possibility of unemployment, just as he makes provision against the possibility of illness, or the possibility of his death, through insurance.

Is the Minister serious in that statement?

I am quite serious. It is too much to expect that the State will go so far in the building up of social services that all sense of individual responsibility will be removed.

Surely a man has a right to the means of life?

Certainly, and he has also the duty of making, within the limits available to him, whatever provision he can against the possibility of unemployment.

When he is deprived of every chance of earning or getting anything, what is to happen?

The Deputy is talking nonsense when he suggests that the Government are depriving anybody of the opportunity of making a living.

That is the very point that Deputy McCann made.

Nobody is depriving anybody of that opportunity. There may be a difficulty in present circumstances in maintaining commercial and industrial activities on the same scale as before the war, but that is not evidence of any desire on anybody's part to deprive somebody of making a living. If the Deputy and his colleagues will approach these social problems in a constructive way, they will get much more done than they will get done by their various efforts to represent the Government as being inspired by malice to the unemployed and those who are dependent on social services.

Not only in a constructive way, but with deadly realism. That is what is wrong—we have not got that deadly realism in dealing with the problem.

The only realism is the Deputy's desire to make propaganda.

I object to that remark. I have too much knowledge of the grim realities and brutal facts of these men's lives to attempt to make any capital out of them.

The Deputy will get much further if he adopts the principle of attributing to others motives which are no meaner than his own. He knows how mean his own are.

These cheap remarks will get us a long way.

The Deputy may assume that others are as sincere as he is.

Let us see that sincerity shown in a practical way.

We are showing it in a much more practical way than the Deputy. The Deputy's assumption is that he is the only honest man and that all the rest are frauds and hypocrites. That is the whole purpose of the Deputy's remarks.

I object to that. It is unfair to make such an insinuation.

If a Deputy interrupts, he may get unwelcome replies from the Minister. The Minister must be heard. No Deputy has a licence to interrupt a Minister every time he rises. Deputies should listen in patience to Ministerial statements.

Reference was made here to the case of single men. It is correct that the food voucher scheme does not apply to single men without dependents. Deputies, however, have spoken as if all these men without dependents were elderly people and incapable of working. A number of them are, of course, young men. In fact, statistics show that the majority of the single men without dependents registered under the Unemployment Assistance Act are comparatively young men, and I do not think we should leave out of account in present circumstances the fact that a number of these men are eligible to enrol in the Defence Forces. We have not got anything like military or industrial conscription in this country, but the obligation on the community to provide maintenance for young single men must obviously be conditioned by the willingness of these people to give service to the nation of a kind which is very urgently required. I have said, however, that the existing scheme of food vouchers, or any of the social services provided by the State, are not static. They are capable of being modified, and will be modified as changing circumstances appear to make it necessary.

Deputy Flynn raised the question of persons in receipt of national health insurance benefits. The national health insurance scheme is, of course, an insurance scheme. Persons coming under that scheme pay contributions which entitle them to receive certain benefits when in ill-health. These benefits are payable to them as of right and they are payable to them irrespective of their personal circumstances. There is no means test for the receipt of these benefits, and it would be wrong to assume that all the persons who are entitled to national health insurance benefits are in need, to the extent that the State must step in to provide additional assistance for them by means of food vouchers or otherwise. In so far as these persons are in need, it may be necessary to provide for them, but not on the ground that they are national health insurance benefit recipients. That ground alone is not sufficient to qualify them, nor would it be advisable to extend the food voucher scheme to all such persons without some effort to ascertain their need for additional assistance from the community, the doing of which would involve substantial increases.

We must not leave out of our minds, as Deputies are frequently inclined to do, that the social services provided by the State are supplemented, and intended to be supplemented, by the assistance from local authorities. The Government has given substantial financial assistance to the home assistance authorities to enable them to make additional assistance available in present emergency circumstances to cases of various kinds. The only persons coming under the national health insurance scheme who are receiving food vouchers are those who are in receipt of disability pensions. It is necessary in administering a scheme of this kind to have the persons to whom it applies more or less easily identifiable. Persons receiving disability pensions under the national health insurance scheme are in much the same category as old age pensioners, blind pensioners and widows and orphans. Their status is not likely to change, and arrangements are made to deal with them on the assumption that their conditions are not likely to be changed at all.

That could not be said about persons receiving ordinary national health insurance benefit. A person may be ill for a week, a fortnight, a month, or for varying times, and the adaptation of a scheme of this kind to the varying circumstances of a number of individuals such as these would be a matter of administrative difficulty. It is possible to do it under the Unemployment Assistance Act because we have an arrangement which involves the constant attendance of unemployment assistance benefit recipients at State offices at which their conditions are checked. They have, in fact, to prove in each week that the conditions under which they receive unemployment assistance have been maintained. That administrative machine does exist to deal with unemployment assistance benefit and that is why it was possible to extend the voucher scheme in their cases. I appreciate perhaps more than most Deputies that conditions now existing are likely to disimprove rather than to improve while the war lasts, and that normally the provision now being made by the State to alleviate hardship arising from those conditions will prove to be inadequate in future, if the war persists. The only thing I can say to the House is that the Government is fully aware of its responsibility in the matter, and within the limit of the resources available to it will try to discharge it. We must not, however, leave out of account the fact that the national resources are, at the same time, diminishing, that the effect of the war on productive activity here has been serious, and that it is with constricting resources the State is trying to discharge its liability to its own people. The resources of this community are not unlimited, and we cannot make provision that would ensure everybody against the possibility of hardship. Hardship is almost inevitable in circumstances like the present, but the Government will do its best in order to minimise it, and to ensure that the burden falling upon particular individuals will not be unduly severe.

In reference to the point I made about widows, the Minister said that it was difficult in some places to apply the voucher scheme to rural areas, after having applied it to the unemployed.

No, not the voucher scheme. Unemployment recipients in rural areas are getting increased cash allowances.

What is the difficulty that the Minister visualises in the case of the widows supplied by shops? Does the Minister not realise the seriousness of their situation? Is there an insuperable difficulty to the giving of these vouchers?

The Deputy can be assured that I satisfied myself that the administrative difficulties are insuperable. If I were not so satisfied I would have extended the food vouchers to unemployment assistance recipients rather than cash allowances.

Question put and agreed to.
Supplementary Estimate reported and agreed to.