Committee on Finance. - Vote 59—Unemployment and Unemployment Assistance.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £800,107 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1944, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí i dtaobh Arachais Díomhaointis agus Malartán Fostaíochta (ar a n-áirmhítear síntiúisí do Chiste an Díomhaointis) agus i dtaobh Conganta Dhíomhaointis, an Chláir Speisialta d'Oibrithe Talmhaíochta agus Móna, agus Arachais in aghaidh Breac-Dhíomhaointis, agus chun seirbhísí áirithe i dtaobh Liúntaisí Bídh (9 Edw. 7, c. 7; 10 & 11 Geo. 5, c. 30; 11 Geo. 5, c. 1; 11 & 12 Geo. 5, c. 15; 12 Geo. 5, c. 7; Uimh. 17 de 1923; Uimh. 26 agus Uimh. 59 de 1924; Uimh. 21 de 1926; Uimh. 33 de 1930; Uimh. 44 agus Uimh. 46 de 1933; Uimh. 38 de 1935; Uimh. 2 de 1938; Uimh. 28 de 1939; Uimh. 4 de 1940; Uimh. 3 de 1941; agus Uimh. 7 de 1942).

That a sum, not exceeding £800,107, be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1944, for Salaries and Expenses in connection with Unemployment Insurance and Employment Exchanges (including Contributions to the Unemployment Fund), Unemployment Assistance, the Special Register of Agricultural and Turf Workers, and Insurance against Intermittent Unemployment, and for certain services in connection with Food Allowances (9 Edw. 7, c. 7; 10 & 11 Geo. 5, c. 30; 11 Geo. 5, c. 1; 11 & 12 Geo. 5, c. 15; 12 Geo. 5, c. 7; No. 17 of 1923; Nos. 26 and 59 of 1924; No. 21 of 1926; No. 33 of 1930; Nos. 44 and 46 of 1933; No. 38 of 1935; No. 2 of 1938; No. 28 of 1939; No. 4 of 1940; No. 3 of 1941; and No. 7 of 1942).

Has the Minister anything to say as to why the House should agree to this very big Vote or to any section of it?

I dealt with it in my statement on the introduction to the main Estimate. At least, I dealt with the main administrative matters that have arisen during the past year in connection with this Vote.

I could raise many points on this Vote but I merely want to raise one. The conditions under which turf workers are obliged to work in the turf-cutting counties, and particularly in portion of my own constituency, have been brought to my notice recently.

I do not know how that comes under this Vote, but perhaps the Deputy may be able to explain it.

It has been brought to my notice that they are being disqualified from the receipt of unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance benefit if they refuse to take a direction from the manager of the local labour exchange to walk seven miles to, and seven miles from, their work. I think that is an outrageous type of regulation to have in operation.

I would like to get from the Deputy the circumstances of that kind of case, because I can hardly believe that any unemployment assistance officer would deem work which was seven miles away from the residence of an applicant to be reasonably available to him, except in special circumstances. In any event, an applicant has the right of appeal to the court of referees, and, in many cases, the court of referees has ruled in favour of applicants in present circumstances. It is clear, of course, that all conditions must be taken into account, including, perhaps, the difficulty of obtaining cycle tyres or other purely emergency conditions. As the Deputy knows, the law is that an applicant is entitled to refuse work which is too far away from his home, having regard to the circumstances of the area in which he lives, his physical condition, and all other relevant circumstances.

I have personal knowledge of a case which occurred quite recently. It was an outrageous case. I did not believe the story when I was told it, but I happen to know the man concerned personally. It occurred in my native parish. As I say, I know the man, and I know the circumstances, and I am raising the matter to get the point of view of the Minister. The Minister must realise that it is an unreasonable labour exchange regulation to compel people who are willing to engage in turf-cutting operations to travel on foot seven miles to their work and seven miles home. This man was told that he would have to take up work which was seven miles away from his home.

I will be very glad if the Deputy will give me particulars of that case, and I will look into it.

To show that the man was not a shirker, he went there. It was a wet morning, and all he had was one hour's work, and then had to walk home seven miles. I am sure that the Minister will see reason in this matter. What I am trying to get from him is a rule for the guidance of labour exchange managers. The regulation to which I referred should not, I suggest, be operated when, say, distances of from three to five miles have to be travelled. I have been asked to impress on the Minister the necessity for issuing an instruction that a regulation of the kind in force should not be operated to the disadvantage of workers where the distance to be travelled is over three miles, and where workers are unable to get cycle tyres to carry them to their work, or other proper transport. If transport were provided by the Department to carry a group of people seven miles to their work, I would not have raised this matter.

I am sure the Minister has had cases of this kind brought to his notice. I remember that Deputy Norton referred to one case in Athy area, where the labour exchange officials declined to pay unemployment insurance benefit to a person who would have to travel over five miles to work. There should be some fixed reasonable distance agreed upon. I am raising this case, which may be an exceptional one, where I consider the Department acted unreasonably, for the purpose of getting the Minister to look into the matter, and to issue some instructions dealing with the position of men who refuse to take work where the distance to be travelled is unreasonable, so that they will not be deprived of the right to receive payment of unemployment benefit.

The Deputy, I am sure, is aware of the limit put on my functions by the Act itself. Determination of the question whether an applicant is unable to obtain work is, in the first instance, a matter for the unemployment assistance officers, and, on appeal for the court of referees. I have no function in relation to individual cases. In my opinion a person who had to walk seven miles to work would be entitled to refuse it, and still be eligible to draw unemployment assistance. I am, however, expressing that as a personal opinion. I feel certain that unemployment assistance officers and courts of referees through the country share that opinion. I cannot say if there might not be exceptional circumstances in the case referred to and that the unemployment assistance officers, or the court of referees, might be aware of the fact that the individual had a bicycle which had temporarily disappeared, or that there were some other circumstances which they were entitled to take into account including the employment record of the applicant. In the case that the Deputy refers to, where the applicant was seeking work and anxious to get it, I think it would be an unreasonable thing to ask him to walk seven miles there and back every day, and if he declined to do so, that would not, I think, debar him from unemployment assistance. The decision, however, in individual cases is made not by me but by the unemployment assistance officers and the courts of referees.

Is the Minister not responsible for the making of regulations under which these officers carry on?

Not altogether. We can give them a general indication in particular matters but, as the Deputy knows, there is growing up under the Unemployment Assistance Act, as there has been growing up under the Unemployment Insurance Act, a certain amount of case law and the decision of the umpire is the final decision on every question of law.

I noticed that recently the Department agreed to give food vouchers to unmarried men over 45 years.

They were given to single men and the age regulation only applies to them.

What case could be made for not giving vouchers to married men seeing that married men over 45 can draw unemployment assistance?

In that case the wife gets an allowance.

What case could be made against not giving vouchers to married men?

It was a matter of deciding the best way of expending the amount of money provided for that service.

If a man is married, he can draw unemployment assistance, but he is denied the right to food vouchers. The man who is not married can get these vouchers if he is over 45.

The aim was to secure an expansion of a service that would be the most effective in reducing hardship.

I am referring to men 50 years of age.

Originally the provision was confined to people with dependents only, and this was the first occasion on which that was departed from. It was to deal with the special case made here as to the inadequacy of the existing provision to deal with certain persons, single men ineligible for unemployment assistance, who were advanced in years, and consequently less able than others to obtain employment.

Another case concerns girls over 20 years of age who cannot get unemployment assistance no matter how badly off they are unless they have 52 contributions to their credit. If one of these girls gets unemployment benefit and then gets work for a time, she is no longer entitled to benefit when again unemployed, because she has not the necessary number of stamps to her credit since the previous employment.

I am sure the Deputy is familiar with the circumstances under which that limitation was imposed in the original Unemployment Assistance Act. I am not sure if the Chair will hold that we are in order in discussing the provisions of such legislation now, but it was felt, when the Unemployment Assistance Act was being introduced, that if it made provision for the payment of unemployment assistance to all single women who could prove unemployment, a very large number would come on the register, who would not need State assistance, and the total cost of the scheme would be expanded enormously. It was, therefore, decided to confine unemployment assistance in respect to women to those who had been in employment, and who could prove from the records that they were of the type which normally followed industrial employment.

I am not asking that that should be changed. I am dealing now with the very cases the Minister said he meant to cover. When they get employment after drawing the dole for a couple of months and are again thrown on the unemployed list, the 52 stamps to their credit for the period previous to drawing the dole will not stand for the second period.

They must have a recent history of industrial employment. It is a well-known fact that girls leave employment for other reasons than inability to continue. They leave in order to be married, or in the hope of being married, or for a variety of reasons. It is only to those who are regularly and normally dependent on industrial employment for a livelihood that the scheme applies.

I suggest that the Minister consult the local managers of labour exchanges or the chairmen of the courts of referees. They are continually talking about that disability of the Act in those particular cases.

There is one point I would like to raise in connection with the cessation of unemployment insurance. I wonder if it could be arranged that, when unemployment insurance ceases, the unemployment assistance certificate could be issued immediately, so that payment would be made on that day. At the moment, there is a great deal of overlapping, and three or four weeks may elapse between the time a man would have ceased to draw unemployment insurance and the time he receives the unemployment assistance payments. In the meantime, he has to go to the local relief office, he is thrown on the Dublin Board of Assistance, and when his unemployment assistance payments come through he has to repay what he drew from the relief office, and it goes back into the Unemployment Assistance Fund. I think the Minister will agree that there is a great deal of overlapping. There is a double cost of administration and, apart from the trouble and indignity which the individual suffers in some cases, if it could possibly be arranged that, when unemployment insurance ceases, the unemployment assistance certificate would become operative immediately, there would be a saving in cost.

Normally, the concern of the officers of my Department would be to see that there was no undue delay in the disposal of cases; but it is as much the function of the Department to see that persons who are not entitled do not benefit as it is to see that those who are entitled do get the benefit. I take it that that is a very important function. The Labour Party Deputies are sometimes inclined to minimise the dangers to the development of the social services, arising out of the knowledge amongst the public that abuses of them are practised. If there is to be a proper public attitude to social services, it is necessary to ensure that abuses are minimised. It is, therefore, necessary for the officers of my Department administering the Unemployment Assistance Act to take regular and periodic steps to ensure that nobody is receiving unemployment assistance but those entitled to do so under the terms of the Act. That occasions delay, but it is the duty of the officers, and it is my concern, to see that that delay is cut to the minimum in individual cases, so that hardship will be avoided for the applicant.

Does the Minister mean that members of the Labour Party consciously support applicants for unemployment insurance benefit who are not properly entitled to it?

I did not say that at all.

That they are likely to minimise the dangers?

They are likely to minimise the effect on the public mind.

Have you any evidence?

It is in every speech delivered by members of the Labour Party.

We wish that the exchanges were closed entirely against the payment of doles, rather than encourage them or minimise the dangers.

If the Minister's plans had been put into operation, it would avoid all this.

The difficulty could be met by warning the applicant three or even five weeks before unemployment insurance ceases, that he must now make application for unemployment assistance.

That is the fault of the applicant. A person may get a qualification certificate under the Unemployment Assistance Act while he is at work. He can do that now. When the applicant knows that the period of his unemployment insurance benefit is running out, he can take measures, any time he wishes, to get a qualification certificate under the Unemployment Assistance Act. It is his own fault if he does not do so. The unemployed are constantly being advised about it.

It is through ignorance that these mistakes are made.

From time to time we have given general advice to all workers, whether in employment or not, who may at any time become liable to unemployment, to take steps to see that they have a qualifica-sciousl tion certificate under the Act, so that there would be no delay if the necessity should arise.

A notice should be put up in the labour exchanges to that effect. I am dealing with a number of cases weekly and it is obvious that the applicants do not know the facts.

In the application of the Employment Period Order to land valuations, there is a clause whereby anybody over £2 valuation on land is not entitled to receive unemployment assistance during the currency of the Period Order. In some cases, although the valuation is in the name of one person, it may actually be a valuation on land which is owned by two, it may be a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common; but the unemployment assistance officers always credit the full amount of the valuation to the man whose name appears in the rating authorities' books. Very often hardship is caused thereby, and I would like the Minister to bring that to the attention of the Department.

I will have it examined, but I must confess that I do not see any way out of that difficulty.

Is the Minister still satisfied that the means test is applied correctly in these unemployment assistance cases? That is one of the cases that could be made for recasting social services. I know unemployed men who sometimes have to go to two or three Departments of State in a week to get their benefits. I think that Deputy McCann mentioned, in supporting me some time ago, that it was terrible to think that unemployed men should try to exist on 10/6 a week. It is most inhuman to expect men of 50 or 55, who have been cast off from employment, to exist and provide food, clothing and shelter for themselves on 10/6 plus a voucher, which is value for 1/9 or 1/10. It is time that this House, whoever the Government may be, should seriously consider its attitude towards people of that kind.

That is a matter for legislation. At the moment, I am concerned only with the administration of the law.

The Minister has emergency powers, and these people have not got any increase on the 10/6 since the war started. Take a person outside the city areas, who is getting only 6/-a week. I have known such cases and have communicated with the Minister on the case of a man with four dependent children. He went across to England to work, at the age of 66, and was sent back. Then his son went across and, because he sent him £2 a fortnight, he was cut off.

I doubt if that is correct.

If the Minister looks up the files, he will find the case of a man with ten children, four of whom were in the Army or Navy or were married and settled down. One of the others—the seventh son—went across to England and sent £3 in a fortnight to his mother and father, who were drawing the dole. Because of that, they were cut off the dole. I have written letters to the Department regarding it. It is unfair that, when such a man's son goes across to England, and helps his mother and father, they should be denied their right to get even the 29/-a week, which they were getting. I could quote a case for the Minister of a man who went across at the age of 66 and, because he was getting 8/- a week pension, he was only allowed 1/6, or something like that, from the labour exchange, through the working of the means test. I suggest to the Minister that we cannot stand here in this House and say that we are legislating in a Christian manner, while we are penalising these citizens in that way. Deputy McCann gave cases of men in hostels. I know cases in hostels in Cork City, where they are being supported and where they are getting only 10/6 a week to feed and clothe themselves. You cannot get a bed in a Salvation Army Hostel with a cup of tea in the morning for less than 10d. a night. What has a man left to keep clothes on him after that? Some of these men have given service up to 50 or 55 in industry, but they are not wanted any longer and they are thrown on the scrap-heap, with the 10/6 per week.

And the food voucher.

That is 1/6 worth.

It is more than 1/6 worth.

Has the Minister examined the cost of keeping a man in the Army or in a county home? He should have some regard for the decent-minded men who are anxious to keep out of these places and who do not want to be a burden on the community. He should relate the cost of keeping these decent citizens to the £2 a week that it costs to keep a man in the Army.

The Deputy is advocating legislation. This Estimate deals with administration of the existing law.

It is a matter of outlook and not of administration.

Further to the matter raised by the Deputy, this House must make up its mind, whether it wants the means test or not.

I hope, Sir——

That is a question of legislation, but, if the Minister would not interrupt, I might say that the Labour Party itself is continually crying out in regard to a means test.

Within reason.

There is the whole difficulty. If you have to apply a means test, you will come up continually against these cases of hardship outlined by Deputies. I do not often sympathise with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, but I sympathise with him in his difficulties in administering the question of the means test. I think a means test is an obnoxious and detestable thing in all circumstances. I say quite deliberately that I do not believe that there is any Minister who can satisfactorily administer a means test, because it involves this detestable inquisition into the most intimate domestic details of a respectable man's family affairs. But, if you charge public servants with protecting public funds and seeing that no penny of public money is given to a citizen of this State except on the conditions laid down by Oireachtas Eireann, you cannot blame these public servants if, in the discharge of their duty, they conscientiously make the inquiries necessary to establish whether that money is handled in accordance with the terms laid down by the Oireachtas. There is no use in blaming them for putting into effect the legislation that we have passed. If you have a means test, the persons charged with the administration of it must make inquiries.

We know that public servants, when they come in contact with the public, will find that possibly 70 or 80 per cent. of the public will answer truly the interrogatories put to them. But there is a minority of cute boys who will do all they can to pull the wool over the eyes of public servants. How is a public servant in any individual case to know whether he is dealing with one of the 70 per cent. of honest persons or with one of the 30 per cent. of dishonest persons? He is obliged to protect the public funds and must answer to the Comptroller and Auditor-General if he fails. If he allows one single man to get from him public money that, under the terms of the legislation passed by this House, the man was not meant to get, that case will be mentioned by the Comptroller and Auditor-General to the Committee of Public Accounts and the officer who permitted the money to be paid irregularly will be called upon to account to the Committee of Public Accounts for his failure to correctly discern the truth of the person's circumstances before the payment was made. In these circumstances, you are bound to have what I agree with Deputy Hickey is a detestable system of interrogation and inquisition.

Would abolition not involve a change in the law?

If you want to abolish the means test, yes. I am trying to explain that, having a means test, we ought to be slow to stigmatise too harshly public servants who appear to be unduly harsh, but who are merely forced into what is to them extremely disagreeable work. They are merely carrying out what we stipulated for them. I have no doubt that the Minister and his Department would sooner go open-handedly to the assistance of persons whom Deputy Hickey describes, and to whose assistance all of us would wish to go. It is pitiable that a man, who through no fault of his own is unemployed, has to see his children hungry. But public servants are not heartless bloodhounds. I have no doubt that, to them, the task of declining assistance in these cases of apparent hardship is a nightmare, and that it would be much easier for them to administer these eleemosynary schemes if no means test were annexed to them.

I want to make this concrete suggestion for the equitable amendment of the existing means test. The means test applies to a great deal of legislation, to old age pensions, blind persons, widows and orphans pensions, unemployment assistance, and a variety of other eleemosynary schemes of that kind. The Minister is responsible only for the application of the means test in regard to unemployment assistance. But there is a common rule accepted by all parties that they assess whatever income the beneficiary actually has without adverting carefully to the source from which he gets it, and the circumstances under which he gets it. I suggest to the Minister that a correct application of the means test, and still as equitable an application of the means test as is possible, would be to say that only those means to which the beneficiary has a legal right should be taken into consideration. I think it is entirely wrong, if a man has a family of children, some of whom go abroad and send home to the parents £1 this week, £5 next week, and 10/- the following week, that that should be taken into consideration for the purpose of assessing the beneficiary's means. Far from barring children or relatives from supporting their own people or families we ought to encourage them to send home as much as possible to help their parents to maintain their younger brothers and sisters, and say that it will not interfere with their rights under the social services here. We ought to encourage neighbours or friends who are in a position to help voluntarily other people, by telling them that, no matter what they send, we will not concern ourselves with it, that the right of the beneficiary to receive statutory benefit will continue. But, if you have a means test and it emerges that a person has become a beneficiary under a will or an irrevocable deed under which he is entitled to claim by law a weekly income of 10/-or 15/-, how can you ignore that, if we of Oireachtas Eireann have imposed a means test?

Personally, I would be in favour of abolishing all means tests. I admit that that would give rise to inequalities. But, bearing in mind the disadvantages of abolishing all means tests in connection with social services and the disadvantages and the inevitable hardships that must arise in border-line cases if you are to administer any means test, I would prefer to endure the inconveniences and even the evils which might arise as a result of there being no means test. We have to debate this Estimate on the assumption that there is a means test and, therefore. I suggest an equitable amendment of the present system of administration. I would urge that you should ignore the fortuitous income of a claimant under the social services, and that you should withhold benefit only where it was clearly brought home to the mind of the Minister that the person had a claim enforceable by law to the income in respect of which he was credited for the purpose of abating the sum which he would otherwise receive under the social service under review.

There are two other matters which I want to raise. They are related, not to unemployment assistance, but to the administration of the Employment Office. In doing that I want to speak of things as I know them. I want to pay a tribute to the Minister and his Department for the courteous forbearance with which they examine every individual case brought to their notice. It has often been a source of amazement to me how the Minister, with the immense number of communications which he must receive in connection with these cases, can find time to give attention to individual representations made on behalf of individuals desiring to get away to Great Britain for work. Any case I have ever brought to the Department has been fully investigated, and I felt that the man got a fair run for his money. But, I do not think it is right that those individuals who get in touch with T.D.'s should, in fact, get a better run for their money than the average run of the mill. Therefore, I press upon the Minister the necessity for simplifying the ritual which has to be gone through if a man wants to go to Great Britain.

I find that the strangest inequalities arise, in which a boy living in a house on the side of the road will be released to go to England without any trouble, while his neighbour in exactly similar circumstances is prevented on the ground that he is an agricultural labourer and that the Minister will not give permission to agricultural labourers to go to England. That arises from the attempt of the Department to administer the Minister's regulation relating to the export of agricultural labour and it seems to me that the thing has broken down absurdly. Any boy who can produce a national health insurance card, or who can manufacture evidence that he has been working in a job here, gets away on the ground that he is not an agricultural labourer, while some fellow who has not the cuteness to do that finds himself irrevocably prevented from going. Note this well, that if his name once gets on the record, if a file is once opened for him in the Department in which he has been found to be an agricultural labourer, all the King's horses and all the King's men will not get him going.

I have made several efforts to understand what the exact nature of the regulations is, but I cannot get clear in my mind what the conditions are. I recently had a case of a man from Inniskeen, in the Dundalk area, who said he had spent the greater part of his life as a docker on the Liverpool quays. He came home and worked for a while on his brother's place, knocking around and giving a helping hand here and there. He wanted to go back to Liverpool and resume his career as a docker, but he was informed that as he was an agricultural labourer he would not be allowed go. I have seen other cases of boys and girls going to the labour exchanges to which a letter, secured from an employer in England and stamped in the labour exchange in England, had been forwarded. I am thinking of one case in the Castlerea Labour Exchange in County Roscommon. When the persons who wanted to go to England went to Castlerea, they were told the letter was there, but that the exchange would not stamp it and that they ought to get a letter from a T.D. What the meaning of that was I could not make out.

I thought the first person who said that to me had invented it and I rather discounted it, but shortly afterwards other boys and girls came to me who had been told that they ought to get a letter from a T.D. What effect a letter from a T.D. could have in changing their status I cannot imagine. I gave one girl a letter setting out her circumstances as I knew them. It was the case of a girl under 22 whose father was in England. I was in a position to say that the father had come to me before he went and said that he desired the girl to go and that he would look after her there. I do not know what the issue of that case was, but why on earth should they have to get a letter from a T.D.? Deputy Mícheál Cleary, who has an office in Ballaghaderreen, Deputy O'Rourke, a representative of County Roscommon living near that area, and I, who reside in Ballaghaderreen, were the only three people to whom any person attending Castlerea Exchange could reasonably have access, although of course they might have written to the Minister for Justice or Deputy Brennan, but what a T.D. was supposed to say in the letter, I could not find out, and none of them could tell me, so that in connection with this whole business of getting away to England if you want to work there, I am obliged to say that the regulations seem to be extremely confusing, more especially when you bear in mind that having succeeded in getting a travel permit from the authorities in Eire, the person in question has then to get a visa from the visa authorities in Great Britain.

I understand that this business about the letter coming from the labour exchange in England to the exchange in Eire is really not anything of our doing, but that it is imposed on us by the British authorities. They require that regulation because they will not allow anybody in to work in England who has not got authority to go there from the British labour exchanges, but the regulations relating to refusal to allow certain classes of persons to go to England is a matter purely of our own doing. I have also had cases of boys who were 21½ years who will not be allowed to go on the ground that they are under 22. I recognise that, no matter what age is fixed, there will be that difficulty of the border-line case, but why did we light on the age of 22? Any one who lives in the West of Ireland and is familiar with conditions of migratory labour well knows that boys going to labour in England, particularly if they are going to farms on which their fathers used to labour in the past, normally began going when they were 18 or 19 years. What is the point of imposing this restriction on boys of 20, 21 and 22 going to work there?

It is true that a good many fellows will go to England attracted by the high wages, but might it not be a reasonable qualification of the regulations that nobody under 22 would be allowed to go without his or her parents' consent? Personally, I think it is an unreasonable restriction to prohibit a man of over 21 from going to Great Britain, if he wants to. Might I suggest to the Minister that a more reasonable system would be to provide that no person under 16 would be allowed to go at all; that no person between 16 and 21 would be allowed to go without the written consent of his or her parents; and that, all other things being equal, anybody over 21 would be allowed to go? In regard to this business of the necessity for conserving agricultural labour, I recognise the difficulty, but, in all conscience, I ask the House, if the community wants to keep a man here at home to do essential work, are we entitled to impose upon him a minimum wage of 36/-per week, when by crossing the Irish Sea or the Border into Northern Ireland he could readily earn up to £5 per week? What equity or justice is there in that? If we are going to force people to stay in this country to do essential work for the community, the community ought to take steps to subsidise their wages to bring them into closer conformity with the rate of pay they could earn if they were allowed to go abroad.

Lastly, I want to put this case to the Minister. I have had letters from men who appeared to have exceptional tradesmen's qualifications and who could not get work. Are we to assume that if a man who has that kind of qualification writes to the Department of Industry and Commerce, that Department will undertake to help him to get work in this country? I have known cases where men were not anxious to get away; they preferred to work at home, but they could not get a job at home. These people were living in country towns and there was no demand for their services, no work of the kind they were capable of doing. Does the Department of Industry and Commerce undertake, in cases of that kind, to find suitable employment for these men, albeit in another part of the country, and, if so, what is the procedure to be pursued by persons in those circumstances?

I have made two or three concrete suggestions and I have made one complaint—that is, the allegation that the manager of the Castlerea Labour Exchange asked individuals to get a letter from a T.D. Maybe there is nothing in that; maybe what the labour exchange manager said was "Get a letter from a responsible person in order to certify as to your circumstances". If that was the nature of the request, then there could be no objection to it; that would be a perfectly legitimate form of inquiry to help in the administration of the Act and there is nothing to be criticised or condemned. But if, on the other hand, there was any implication that without the influence of a certain political Party an individual would not get the same consideration as he would get if he had such influence, then that is quite another cup of tea and it is a matter that would require very close examination.

I am not quite satisfied that, in the area to which I refer, that interpretation was not put on the advice that was given. I am not satisfied that a great many young persons did not interpret that counsel to mean that they would be well advised to get a letter from this or that T.D. I know that at the time in question some Government T.D.'s were saying on public platforms that they would be glad to help all and sundry to get away to England if they wanted to go. It may have been the purest coincidence.

Or it might be just downright lying.

What might be?

What the Deputy is attributing to Deputies of the Government Party.

Does the Minister suggest that Fianna Fáil Deputies did not say that?

I am quite sure they did not.

Is the Minister shocked by the suggestion that Government Deputies said they would be glad to help their constituents to get to England if they wanted to go there? Why, one Deputy was greatly admired for saying it. If the Minister has the slightest doubt on the matter, will he cause inquiries to be made in County Mayo? If he does, I do not think they would tell him in any spirit of resentment—rather would they be prepared to tell him with admiration—that here was a Deputy who was busying himself about the welfare of his constituents.

If there was any connection between those two things, the statement of Government Deputies on public platforms and the counsel given to individual applicants at the Castlerea Labour Exchange, it is a matter for close examination. If, on the other hand, the manager of the labour exchange was merely seeking local reports as to the suitability of an applicant, that was a reasonable thing to do; but I think it would be well if the labour exchange people would amend the form of their suggestions. They might say that if they got a letter from the parish priest or the local sergeant of the Guards, it would help.

So they do.

If they do so, there is no complaint. I am merely telling the House what I have been told.

That should not take half an hour—telling the House what you know.

Is the Minister trying to be discourteous? It would be no great effort. I am drawing his attention to something that ought to be investigated. It may be that he is satisfied that he will not have time to investigate it before he gives way to his successor, but, nevertheless, it will be on the record.

It will be on the record at least three times, the Deputy has repeated himself so often.

It ought to be.

Once is quite enough for the record.

It ought to be on the record, and I hope, when it is, the significance of the incident will prove to be quite harmless. I am not altogether satisfied that close investigation will not disclose that something did occur to which objection could be taken. I trust that there will be adequate and effective investigation. These people are defenceless and they require protection. I would be glad if the Minister would give a short resumé of the regulations and indicate if there is any intention to modify them along the lines I have suggested.

The rigid application of the means test, in my experience, prevents deserving applicants for unemployment assistance from getting what is commonly called a living allowance and in a number of cases during the past few years it has also prevented people with small pensions—old I.R.A. pensions and British ex-service pensions—from getting work in certain circumstances. If the maximum allowance by way of unemployment assistance was a living allowance, I would not object to the application of a means test, in certain circumstances.

This is a matter that has statutory authority and I suggest it should not arise in this discussion.

Surely we can defend the proposal to increase the allowance by way of unemployment assistance in rural and urban areas at least to the level of a living allowance?

The Deputy must not advocate that on this Estimate.

It is not a crime to say that something of that nature is deserved.

It is merely not in order. The Deputy could say these things on the Appropriation Bill.

The Minister has not yet come to the stage when he can give a ruling, and I hope the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will not pay any attention to the Minister's suggestions.

The Deputy understands that certain things that are fixed by statute must not be discussed on this Estimate.

These things have been fixed by an Emergency Powers Order.

They have not.

Certain amendments were made by an Emergency Powers Order and not by legislation properly presented to the House.

At all events, they would not be in order on this Estimate.

I realise that a private Deputy has not the right to propose increasing the cost of a service of this kind, but there is a hope that the Minister who defends the payment of the miserable maximum provided in this Estimate will be relieved of his responsibility for defending that kind of policy inside the next few weeks. I should like the Minister to give us some information regarding the working of the special register of agricultural and turf workers. The Estimate provides for an increase of £56,000 under sub-head J (2). What is the total number of persons whose names are included on the most recent register? Of that total number will he say the number of married men and single men whose names are included on the register? In the case of a married man whose name is included on the register does the Minister reserve to himself, under the regulations made by his Department, the right to order a married man to travel a long distance to take up agricultural work or turf-cutting operations and, if so, is that being done under cover of an arrangement whereby the man concerned gets 5/- a week for having his name placed on that register? Are the regulations applied to married men whose names are on the register in the same way as they are applied to single men? In any case, I should like to have some information from the Minister as to the total number on the register, and some explanation of the increase of £56,000 provided under sub-head J (2).

Persons on the agricultural register enter into a contract to take work in agricultural or turf production in any part of the country. There is no obligation on them to have their names inscribed on the special register. When they report to the employment exchange they are informed of the obligation they are undertaking, and if they do give the undertaking they get certain advantages. They get an extra 5/- over and above the standard rate of unemployment assistance. They get exemption from the Employment Period Orders, and they get a preference for work on State-financed schemes. There are about 3,500 on the register at the moment.

What is the explanation for this increase of £56,000 under sub-head J (2)?

The scheme was not in operation for most of last year.

It was not in operation for the full year?

No. So far as the determination of the means of applicants for unemployment assistance is concerned, the rules under which the Department operates are laid down in the statute. It is true that there is set up under the Statute an authority to apply these rules. The appropriate officers, who are, in fact, officers of the Department of Finance, assess the means in the first instance. The applicant has the right of appeal, from the decision of these officers, to the Appeals Committee. That committee has made certain decisions. It is not true that every source of income of an applicant for unemployment assistance is included as means. While it would be impracticable to limit the definition of means to any means to which a person is legally entitled, the practice has been to confine the calculation of means to income of which an applicant is reasonably certain. Casual contributions from relatives or other sources are not taken into account.

They are.

Indeed they are.

They are not. Deputy Hickey referred to the case of a family with members over in England contributing to the cost of maintaining the family. I should be glad to have particulars of this case, and if the position is precisely as the Deputy stated, then the attitude which has been adopted appears to be contrary, not merely to my instructions but to the rules of the Appeals Committee. The Deputy may take it that casual contributions received by families are not taken into account in assessing means. The means have to be assessed in advance, and they are not varied from week to week. There is a determination of means for the purpose of marking the qualifications of the applicants, and it may be years before a person's means would be re-assessed. The consideration there is that there may be a change in the person's position.

I say that it is based on the average for the whole year.

For example, earned income cannot be taken into account. It must be left out of account altogether. That is the law.

Then he will get nothing.

The purpose of the assessment is to determine what he may have in the future, and not his means in the past. It is for the purpose of determining his means during the period in which he will be receiving unemployment assistance, and it is not concerned with the past.

My point is that if he gets, say, £20 in the first three months of the year, £10 in the second three months, and so on, making an average of £1 a week, or £51 for the whole year, he gets nothing at all.

The Deputy is misinformed. I do not want to say that that has not happened in an individual case, but so far as I recollect, at any rate, the application of the rules in connection with a decision by the Appeals Committee is done in a different manner. So far as the emigrants are concerned, the rules made by the Government preclude the emigration of persons under 22 years of age except in special circumstances. Now, it may be that in order to determine whether special circumstances exist in the case of an applicant under 22 years of age the local officer of the Department would advise the applicant to produce evidence from a responsible person in the locality that such special circumstances did exist. That is the only circumstance I can contemplate under which a letter from a Deputy might be requested. The normal practice is to require support for the applicant's own statement of his means from a parish priest, a Civic Guard or some other responsible person. On the basis, then, of the special circumstances being shown to exist, travel facilities are given or are not given, as the case may be.

The decision to restrict the emigration of persons under 22 years of age was arrived at on many grounds. It was felt that in the case of young men it could not be said that there was no work available for them. The Army, for instance, is willing to take all the recruits it can get, if they are physically fit, and the Construction Corp is also looking for recruits. Where a person shows that he has been rejected for the Army on medical grounds, or that he has served a period in the Army and was discharged under circumstances not due to his own fault, then it would be held that special circumstances existed and facilities would be given to him if required. In the case of agricultural workers it is, of course, necessary to determine the circumstances of individual applicants in relation to the known facts. Some manage successfully to conceal the facts and obtain facilities to which they are not entitled on that account. The decision to restrict the emigration of such people was due to the difficulties of the current year in maintaining the full labour needs of these industries, and that decision coincided with the establishment of the special register to which I have referred. The person who is debarred from emigrating on the ground that he is an agricultural worker or a turf worker can secure for himself, if he so wishes, the benefits of membership of the special register. It has to be assumed that such a person, since he is quite willing to travel to another country to work, should be willing also to travel to places in his own country to work, and if he is on the special register here he will get the benefits to which I have referred, as well as being reasonably certain of procuring employment. I do not know if there was any other point raised upon the Vote, which is a matter of administration, that I need refer to at this stage.

Vote agreed to.