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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 28 Nov 1946

Vol. 103 No. 12

Unemployment Insurance Bill, 1946—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The purpose of the Bill is to implement an arrangement for enabling payment of benefit in respect of unemployment insurance contributions acquired in the British unemployment fund, by reason of service in the British forces during the war, to be made out of that fund to men and women ordinarily resident in this country who are unemployed on their return here. The Bill also provides for the amendment of the Unemployment Insurance Acts so as to enable unemployment benefit in respect of unemployment insurance contributions acquired in our unemployment fund by reason of service in the Defence Forces to be paid out of that fund to certain unemployed, demobilised members of the Defence Forces resident in Northern Ireland.

Deputies will be aware that the question of making with the British authorities a reciprocal arrangement for the payment of unemployment insurance benefit to persons in credit in one fund while unemployed and resident in the other country has been taken up with the British authorities on a number of occasions. It was following a renewed approach in that matter that the arrangement concerning ex-members of the British forces emerged. These proposals were discussed at a conference held in London last July and the implementation of the arrangement necessitated legislation both in Great Britain and here. The British legislation, entitled the Unemployment Insurance (Éire Volunteers) Act, 1946, was recently enacted and enables effect to be given to the arrangement on the British side. That British Act provides that the cost of paying benefit to persons concerned will be met by the Minister of National Insurance out of the British unemployment fund and for that purpose advances will be made out of that fund to meet the estimated cost. The implementing legislation here is embodied in the provisions of this Bill relating to special benefit which may be brought into operation by Order.

The British proposals also suggested the opening of discussions for the purpose of examining the question of making a reciprocal arrangement of general application, that is to say, of application to civilian workers under the British National Insurance Act, 1946. The provisions of that Act relating to unemployment insurance will, however, not come into force for some time yet and, until they are in force, the British authorities will have no legal power to enter into such a reciprocal arrangement. It is expected, however, that discussions concerning a reciprocal arrangement of that character will be opened in the near future.

Have they agreed to enter into this?

They have agreed to enter into discussions concerning the matter. This Bill provides for the payment, during the period of operation of the arrangement, of special benefit to unemployed discharged members of the British forces with service in these forces at any time during the war period, which is defined as the period between 3rd September, 1939, and 14th August, 1945, who were ordinarily resident in this country before that period of service and in respect of whom not less than 30 contributions have been credited in the British unemployment fund in respect of the two years immediately preceding the first claim for benefit.

Eligibility for special benefit will be subject to the fulfilment of the conditions and to freedom from the disqualifications for the receipt of unemployment benefit under our Acts as now in force here, other than the conditions and disqualifications relating to unemployment insurance contributions paid under these Acts, which are, of course, inappropriate. Special benefit will be payable at the appropriate rate of unemployment benefit payable under the British Acts. Increases of special benefit in respect of one adult dependent and not more than two child dependents within the meaning of our unemployment insurance code will be payable to the same rate as increases of unemployment benefit in Great Britain.

The increase, under the British legislation at present in force, in respect of an adult dependent is 16/- per week and in respect of each of the first two dependent children 5/- per week. The aggregate amount of special benefit payable to any beneficiary under the Bill will be equivalent to the amount which would be payable at the appropriate British rates, including payments in respect of dependents, for a period of 180 days. That aggregate amount will be subject to reduction in any case in which unemployment benefit has, since the claimant was discharged from the British Forces, been paid in Great Britain. There is power to reduce the rates of special benefit but not to alter the aggregate amount payable. A reduction, therefore, in the rates of benefit would involve an extension of the period of 180 days provided for in the agreement.

The existing machinery established under our Unemployment Insurance Acts in connection with the determination of claims to benefit and questions arising on claims by insurance officers and by courts of referees and the umpire will apply to claims for special benefit and all questions arising in connection therewith. There will be a right of appeal to a court of referees against a decision of an insurance officer, with further right of appeal, in the usual circumstances, to the umpire, whose decision will be final and conclusive.

Under the Acts in force here, the determination of questions as to whether additional benefit in respect of dependents is payable devolves on the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The same arrangements are proposed for the determination of questions in connection with additional special benefits in respect of dependents. Except in so far as they are inconsistent with the arrangement, the provisions of our Acts and the regulations under our Acts will apply to special benefit. Sums which are received by way of special benefit whilst statutory conditions are not fulfilled will be recoverable from the recipients under the provisions of our Acts.

There is a special scheme of insurance established under the Unemployment Insurance Acts for persons employed in the insurance industry. Persons insured under that scheme receive payments of out-of-work benefit when unemployed and are otherwise qualified. Neither that out-of-work benefit, nor unemployment benefit out of the unemployment fund, nor unemployment assistance under the existing unemployment assistance scheme, will be payable in respect of any day for which special benefit is payable. The lapse of time during which a person is receiving such benefit will not, however, affect any rights to unemployment benefit under our Unemployment Insurance Act or out-of-work benefit under the insurance industry's special scheme which had been acquired before receiving special benefit and which he might otherwise lose. As I have stated, the cost of paying the special benefit will be met out of the British unemployment fund. The Bill, however, provides that the cost of administration, which would be difficult to determine and would not be very considerable, will be paid out of the moneys voted by the Oireachtas.

As regards the other Part of the Bill, the position is that under our Unemployment Insurance Acts, unemployment insurance contributions in respect of full-time service in the Defence Forces since the 2nd September, 1939, are credited in the unemployment fund to certain discharged members of the forces. Contributions in that fund are not, however, as the law stands, available for benefit purposes to persons resident outside our territory. Under the provisions of the Bill, unemployment benefit in respect of contributions credited by reason of service with the Defence Forces will during residence in the Six Counties be payable to unemployed demobilised soldiers who were ordinarily resident in that area at any time before enlistment and who are otherwise qualified.

Is there reciprocity on the part of the Six-County people?

Of course, the arrangement made with the British authorities applies in respect of the Six Counties. It was not considered necessary, however, to make an arrangement of a similar character in regard to payments from our fund to our soldiers in the Six County area because the number is very small. I think the number of claims to date does not exceed one dozen and no special arrangement is necessary.

In order that Section 8, sub-section (4), of the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920 may not, through lapse of time since the soldier was discharged from the forces, disqualify him from receiving unemployment benefit, the insurance year following his discharge will be ignored if no unemployment insurance contributions were paid during that year. Deputies will appreciate that, under the law as it stands, if no unemployment insurance contributions were paid during a year, then previously paid contributions are not eligible for benefit purposes until additional contributions have been paid. Because of the lapse of time, that provision might operate to disqualify our soldiers resident in Northern Ireland from availing of this scheme and, consequently, we are providing here that that year, if no contributions were paid in it, will be ignored.

Would excused contributions for the subsequent year also operate in his favour?

It means that these soldiers are now in benefit and will be entitled to draw benefit within the limits prescribed in the Act. They will not, however, be able to draw benefit continuously unless there are other contributions paid.

At present you are giving him a free year and therefore it operates in this manner, that if the soldier does not pay contributions within a year after his discharge from the Army, his right to benefit still holds good.

Suppose you get a case in which the soldier does not pay any contributions for a year after the discharge, because he is in bad health, and suppose the bad health continues for 15 months, not for 12 months, do I take it that the extra three months of the second year will not operate against him, in other words, that they will be regarded as what are described as excused periods?

Let me put it this way: those soldiers, ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland, were demobilised from the Army here. On demobilisation, they were placed in credit in the unemployment fund. Benefit could not be paid in respect of that credit, however, because they were resident outside our territory. We are now proposing to pay them benefit in respect of that credit even though they are resident outside our territory. Unless, however, we ignore the year that has elapsed since they have been demobilised, there are other provisions in the Act which will prevent them getting it. We are proposing to direct that these other provisions will be ignored, that that year which has passed will be deemed not to have existed, so that they will be immediately in credit in our fund and will be able to draw benefit if they are eligible, that is, if they are unemployed and otherwise conform to the requirements for receiving benefit.

That is perfectly clear, but I want to know the position if in the second year a soldier is ill for a period. If resident here, the period of illness would be regarded as an excused period. Would that also operate in the case of the person resident outside our territory?

So far as they are concerned, they are being put in precisely the same position as any other person in benefit in the unemployment insurance fund. The one thing that has disqualified them for receiving benefit, namely, the fact that they were resident outside our territory, is being removed. Similar provision is being made in respect of any soldiers of our forces resident in Northern Ireland who would be entitled, not to unemployment insurance benefit, but to out-of-work benefit under the insurance industry's special scheme. These are the main provisions of the Bill.

I would have much preferred to have brought here a Bill implementing a more general arrangement with the British authorities providing for some reciprocal scheme for the payment of unemployment insurance benefit in respect of all classes of workers and not merely soldiers demobilised from the forces. The position is, however, that the British authorities are only now acquiring the legal power to make such reciprocal arrangements. These powers will become effective when the appropriate part of the National Insurance Act is brought into operation.

Prior to its coming into operation, there will be discussions which we hope will result in some satisfactory arrangement between the two countries. In the meantime there is no reason why we should not carry out this more limited arrangement which will ensure the payment through our organisation of unemployment insurance at British rates to British ex-soldiers resident in this country who would otherwise be debarred from receiving any benefit.

When the Minister speaks of his readiness to enter into arrangements for a wider scheme, does he mean a wider and a permanent scheme?

Yes. We have on many occasions before approached the British authorities with a view to having a wider and a more permanent scheme in respect to unemployment insurance brought into operation on somewhat the same lines as obtain in regard to national health insurance. There are a number of substantial difficulties to be overcome but a decision has now been made to meet in an endeavour to work out a practical scheme.

Will the Minister say whether the scheme will apply to men who worked in munition works?

No, this Bill applies only to ex-soldiers.

Will it apply to unemployed men who may have 300 or 400 weeks' stamps to credit under the English unemployment insurance scheme? Will they be entitled to benefit at any time in respect of their service in England?

I think the Deputy must not have been listening to me. I have already spoken at considerable length on that matter. This Bill relates only to former members of the British forces. The Bill as it stands will enable benefits to be paid at British rates to ex-members of the British forces resident here subject to a maximum period of 180 days. Under the Bill power is given to reduce the rate of benefit and to extend the period of payment but not to reduce the aggregate amount which a man may get.

Why does the Minister take power to increase the period?

It is not intended to operate that power unless there is some change in circumstances. The intention is to pay benefit at the British rate for a maximum of 180 days.

I do not think the Minister quite grasped the query put to him by Deputy Byrne. I am sure Deputy Byrne meant to ask the Minister whether he proposes at an early date to make representations to the British authorities with a view to securing the payment of benefit for men who worked in munition factories and in other types of employment during the war and who are now resident here.

I am just after saying that such representations are being made.

I welcome this Bill, and I think all sections in the House will welcome it, firstly, as an effort on the part of the British Government to repay the obvious debt of gratitude which they owe to those who served in the British forces, who accumulated unemployment insurance rights under the British statutory law, and who were unable to execute these rights against the British Government because of the fact that they reside here. The fact that the British Government has now recognised the rights of those who served in the British army to unemployment benefit at the rates appropriate to the British Acts is, I think, a welcome gesture so far as this House and the country generally is concerned. We all share with the Minister the view that reciprocal arrangements ought to extend much further than they do, so far as this Bill is concerned. The sole purpose of the Bill is to make the reciprocal arrangements operate so far as demobilised British army personnel are concerned. While that does meet some part of the problem, it fails to meet the bigger problem which is to have reciprocal arrangements made to cover the large number of our people who worked in British industries and munition factories during the war. The Minister has indicated that under the new British Insurance Act, the Minister for National Insurance in Britain has taken power which will enable him to enter into discussions on the question of reciprocity with our Government here. That is a welcome development. I gathered from what the Minister said that it is his intention to initiate these discussions even before the British Government have taken power to enter into reciprocal arrangements. I hope that every effort will be made to impress on the British Government the debt of gratitude which they owe to those who manned the British factories during what was for Britain a very critical period and those who served in the organised and regimented classes of employment to which they were allocated during the years of the war.

The British Government knows very well that each week our people are employed in British factories, unemployment insurance contributions are deducted from them and it is quite obviously unfair for the British Government to deduct contributions with the wilful knowledge that these contributions can never enable the insured person to receive benefit if he exercises his natural right ultimately to leave that employment and return to this country. It is true that he can claim unemployment benefit if he is unemployed and remains in Britain but if, as is the natural development for almost all of these persons, they give up their employment at some time and return to their families in this country or to employment in this country, the payment of contributions whilst a man is employed in England means that when he comes back to his family here he cannot execute a claim for unemployment benefit against the British Government unless he has served in the forces. He cannot enforce a claim if he worked at any other type of employment in Britain. I know the Minister is alive to the importance of this discussion because of the substantial movement of our population to Britain during the war years. I know the matter will be pressed but I think it would be quite appropriate to make it clear in this House on this Bill that all Parties in the House recognise that the British Government has a moral obligation in this matter to enter into reciprocal arrangements under which people who worked in Britain during the past seven years will be entitled to claim unemployment insurance benefit when they become unemployed here. These people made a very substantial contribution to British production during the war and they have every right to be paid unemployment benefits by Britain if they exercise their right to return to this country.

There is one aspect of the Bill to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention and that is the difficulty of ascertaining what rate of benefit a man is likely to get under the Bill. It would be necessary to read the Minister's speech to get that information. I can see the difficulty of embodying a schedule in the Bill because of the fact that the rates of benefit may vary from time to time but I should like to see some provision made to enable a person to know what he is going to get under the Bill. It is not possible to obtain that information by reference to the Bill. I can see the difficulty of putting in a schedule but I suggest that the Minister might devise some way of making the British rates known to those who want to make claims for benefit under the Bill.

I welcome the Bill. I think that the principle enshrined in it should long ago have been given effect in the case of the many thousands of workers who have been compelled to go into employment in Britain. I am disappointed that it has not been possible to include in the Bill members of what may be described as a civilian army. We all know that those who left the country during the war period were under control. They did not go to Britain when they liked and they did not go to whatever part they liked. They had to go to those places for which they were booked and British officialdom has complete records of their places of residence during the war period and of the time they spent at each place, even down to hours. Seeing that nothing is impossible in accountancy nowadays between nations, I fail to see why the civilian army could not have been included in this Bill.

A sad aspect of this matter is the number of widows who have got pensions neither from the British Government nor from the Irish Government. Through some bungling in Britain, there was no record of their husbands' service. Some men who went across did not attach themselves to approved societies and the welfare officers seem to have been so busily attending to the welfare of others that they overlooked those men. As a result, many widows are compelled to live on home assistance or go into employment. If they go into employment, they cannot qualify for a non-contributory pension. The Minister may not be aware of the extent of that unfortunate situation. It is a matter which I hope will be considered in later advances under this scheme. I must express disappointment that men who were in uniform can be provided for while men who did not put on uniform are unprovided for. The Government had just as great a check on the men and women who went into civilian service, called the "national effort" or the "war effort", as they had on the men in uniform and they should have been included in the Bill.

I welcome the Bill and I congratulate the Minister and his Department on bringing about this very satisfactory state of affairs. I join with other members in giving all the encouragement possible to the Minister to press for a scheme of reciprocity for the large civilian army which went over to munition areas in England. Many of our men lost their lives in the bombed areas there. They took all the risks they were asked to take and they were fully under control.

They could not move from one area to another without the consent of the authorities, and the conditions under which they worked were in accordance with Government regulations. I encourage the Minister to go ahead and see what can be done for these men. There are haphazard guesses at the number of men who went over to England in those years. The number 100,000 and the number 175,000 have been mentioned, and others say that between those joining the British Army and civilian workers, 300,000 men and women did their part to the best of their ability. While this friendly feeling exists between the Minister's Department and the British Department, I hope the Minister will achieve something more and that those men who have five or six years' British stamps to their credit will get some benefit.

One of the sections of this Bill states that the increase of unemployment benefit in respect of dependent children will be limited to not more than two. We all know that workers' families in Ireland are very large. They number from six to eight very often, and what is to happen a man who has four or five dependent children? If it were possible to increase the maximum number from two to whatever figure will be applicable here at the time, the Minister would be doing good work. Is there any flaw in the agreement which is not obvious at the moment? For instance, will a widow be entitled to the widows' and orphans' pension? Will she get the pension on a contributory or non-contributory basis? Will these arrangements entitle the widow to get the British benefits or, if they do not, will she be disqualified from getting ours? Will she be told that British stamps do not apply in this area and that, therefore, she is not entitled to the widows' and orphans' pension? If anything is left out, the Minister might be good enough to tell us. A number of us in this House had pleaded for these reciprocal arrangements. I congratulate the Minister on his achievement and I hope he will go further and meet with the same cordial and friendly reception when negotiating on behalf of civilian workers as he met with in the case of soldiers.

I congratulate the Minister and his Department on this agreement and on the very friendly negotiations which are in progress between the Minister's Department and the Ministry of Labour in England. I make a special appeal to the Minister to have those friendly negotiations continued. Special interest has been aroused amongst the emigrants who are presently employed in Great Britain as a result of the legislation before the House, which provides only for those Irish citizens who joined the British Defence Forces. As Deputy Pattison pointed out, the civilian army is deserving of most sympathetic consideration. I understand that groups of Irish citizens employed in England are holding meetings there requesting the Ministry of Labour to enter into negotiations with the Minister's Department with a view to seeing that allowances will be paid in respect of the amounts deducted, under the unemployment regulations, from wages in England. Like other Deputies, I have received a request in this connection.

At a public meeting in Bristol, at the Irish Social Club, the following resolution was adopted: "That we communicate with representatives of the Dáil relative to the Unemployment Insurance Bill, the text of which has been made public recently, to the effect that Irishmen who served in the British Forces during the war are to receive full benefit from British stamps in Ireland. We Irish workers, therefore, claim the same rights, as thousands of Irishmen have been working here for the past six years." I believe that the request which Irish workers in Great Britain are making is a very reasonable one. I was very proud to listen to the statement made by the Minister to the effect that he is in negotiation with the responsible authorities in Great Britain, and I hope that these negotiations may bring to a satisfactory conclusion the demands of the Irish workers over there. These men rallied to the cause in Great Britain for five or six years when they could not secure suitable employment in order to maintain their families at home and special consideration should be given in view of the very large number affected. Deputy Byrne gave a rough estimate of the numbers and said that one figure mentioned was 175,000.

These men and women, together with their relatives here, would deeply appreciate it if legislation to cover them were introduced and I am sure that such legislation would be welcomed by all sides. I believe, with Deputy Norton, that there is a moral obligation on the British Government to treat fairly and justly these workers who rallied to their cause. It is a grave injustice that these people cannot secure benefit in respect of the stamps they hold and in respect of which deductions were made from their wages in Great Britain. Many of those who are anxious to return to Ireland are prevented from doing so by the knowledge that no provision exists for the grant of benefit in respect of five or six years' stamps which they have to their credit.

I welcome this measure sincerely and I am glad to note that the British rates are to be paid. These rates are most satisfactory, but I suggest that, when these rates are paid to those who qualify, there will be a certain amount of discontent amongst the large numbers of Irish workers who, we hope, will be covered by future legislation and who will qualify for the rates here. When the British are setting the example of paying the standard rates, the Minister should take the opportunity of increasing the rates payable here and so ensure that the benefits which those unfortunate enough to qualify will receive will at least be on the same scale as those payable by the British Government who have been good enough to agree to cover those who served in His Majesty's Forces in recent years. The Minister deserves thanks for the successful outcome of the negotiations with the British Ministry of Labour, but I appeal to him to do everything he can to bring to a successful conclusion the negotiations in progress with regard to the huge army of civilians who deserve every consideration.

Mr. Corish

I, too, congratulate the Minister on his achievement, in cooperation with the British Government, in making it possible for Irish members of the Defence Forces of Great Britain to receive unemployment benefit in respect of contributions they paid into the unemployment insurance fund there; but, while congratulating him, I want to impress upon him the importance of being successful in his negotiations for the payment of unemployment insurance to those civilians who went across to England. These civilians are in no way different from the people who donned the British uniform whether in the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy or the Army.

They took practically the same risks, in living in bombed areas, and they contributed to the war effort of Great Britain just as much as the others. If what is sought is achieved, it will be no credit to the British Government because these Irishmen who left this country to secure work in Britain made their contributions to the fund in Britain and they were the man power which the British Government wanted to carry on the war successfully. If it is achieved, the Irish people who will benefit will certainly owe nothing to the British Government. England owes something to these people in so far as they did a job of work for her. It was unfortunate that we had to export them, but when man power was at a premium, England was very glad to get them, and the least she can do is to make repayment in some way for the sacrifices which this country and the individuals themselves made. With other Deputies, I congratulate the Minister on the successful result of the negotiations, but I press him to negotiate further with a view to securing the same benefits in relation to the payment of unemployment insurance for civilians, for the ordinary war-time workers who went across, at least.

I do not want to labour the desirability of introducing this measure. I regard it as a measure which has come late in the day. Neither do I agree with some of the statements made about the debt of gratitude which Britain owes to our workers who went across. Our workers had to go by reason of economic necessity and there is no use in destroying a good case by building it on a false thesis. I have no doubt that, when the British Government are approached in the ordinary way, they will do justice to these people. I am more concerned with the position of the widows of many of these men who went across. I know numbers of cases in Cork of widows of men who died across-Channel while engaged on war work who are debarred from receiving either contributory or non-contributory pensions.

There are dozens of such cases in Cork City alone. There is one case of a widow who applied for a non-contributory pension and whose claim was rejected on the ground that 104 weeks had not elapsed and 104 contributions under the Acts had not been paid by or in respect of her late husband from the date of his entry into insurance. Her claim was turned down simply because her husband went across to England and got work and naturally paid no contributions into the unemployment insurance fund here. That is the kind of case the Minister had in view when he indicated that, at some later stage, he hoped to be able to make some further reciprocal arrangements with the authorities on the other side.

I should say that, in this case, the referee confirmed the decision that she was not entitled to a pension, but she was informed later that her case had been reconsidered in the light of Emergency Powers No. 382 Order but that it had been decided that the provisions of the Order did not operate in her favour as her late husband was not insured for a period of 52 weeks and 52 contributions had not been paid by or in respect of him. These are the types of cases the Minister should look into. They are not very numerous and the fact that they are small in number should appeal to him, as well as the fact that they are good sound cases for immediate attention in the matter of pension.

The position in which our workers who contributed compulsorily to the insurance scheme on the other side were debarred from receiving benefit when they came over here, is remedied in this Bill, but I hope the Minister will also see his way to include in the further negotiations with the British authorities these people I have mentioned, widows whose husbands died in England.

It is hoped that discussions with the British authorities, for the purpose of examining the question of making reciprocal arrangements of general application under the British National Insurance Act of 1946, concerning unemployment insurance benefit payments will be opened in the very near future. I want to make it clear that those discussions will have nothing whatever to do with widows' pensions. The discussions which may follow on the enactment of this Bill will relate to the possibility of introducing a scheme by which unemployment insurance benefit earned by reason of contributions paid in one country can be drawn by the individual concerned when resident and unemployed in the other country. That has nothing whatever to do with the widows' pensions scheme, which is part of the national health insurance scheme, in so far as the contribution is collected by means of national health insurance stamps.

That is understood, but these are wrongs which should be righted.

So far as I know, there is existing statutory authority for reciprocal arrangements relating to national health insurance and it would not need the enactment of new legislation to alter the present arrangements. There is at present no statutory authority, either here or in Great Britain, for reciprocal arrangements relating to unemployment insurance. The British have got that authority under their National Health Insurance Act, but the appropriate part of that Act is not yet in force. The discussions will precede the coming into force of that part of their Act.

Would the Minister make it clear that already there are reciprocal arrangements in regard to contributory pensions for widows?

The Deputy will understand that I am not concerned with the administration of widows' and orphans' pensions. That is the function of another Minister.

It is the fact that there are men who have worked in Great Britain during the emergency period and whose widows now are getting contributory pensions here because of a reciprocal arrangement.

Certainly. The discussions I mentioned as pending with the British Ministry of National Insurance will relate to unemployment insurance and will not cover widows' pensions, which are a different matter, and so far as our organisation is concerned, are in the custody of another Minister. Of course, there are difficulties which we must not ignore, but it will help to remove some of them if this scheme relating to ex-soldiers works effectively.

The benefit under this Bill will be payable only to people who are unemployed. Deputies made reference to civilian workers in Great Britain earning credits in the British Unemployment Insurance Fund who might want to come home here. The fact that they come home would not entitle them to benefit, even if there were reciprocal arrangements now, as persons are not entitled to benefit if they leave their work voluntarily and, of course, they are not entitled unless they are unemployed. These soldiers who have been demobilised are in benefit and will be in benefit when this Bill is passed, but they must fulfil every statutory condition which an Irish worker would have to fulfil to draw unemployment benefit, before they become entitled to draw the special benefit which the Bill provides.

It is most important to us that we should enforce the Bill in that spirit, as if there should appear, to the British authorities, to be an inclination on our part to pay out their money to claimants here, without proper examination of their eligibility, they would be much more reluctant to enter into a reciprocal arrangement of wider application and of a permanent character later. I think it is true to say that some of the difficulties in the mind of the British officials, arising in connection with such a reciprocal arrangement in the past, arose out of the fact that a number of workers who go for seasonal work or temporary employment in Great Britain are land owners here. Many Deputies know that the problem of the land owner in relation to the unemployment insurance scheme is a perennial one with us. We have had many arguments as to when an owner of a small farm of land can be deemed to be unemployed. We have held that he is not unemployed if there is work which he can do on his own land. Many of the Irish workers in Great Britain who go for seasonal work and return here are in that class and I can anticipate very considerable difficulty in dealing with such workers, who will feel that, when it is a matter of paying out British money, we should show no hesitation in determining the facts of their case in their favour. However, we will deal with that problem when it arises.

There are also difficulties by reason of the fact that our code has tended to diverge from the British code. Originally, there was one Act for both countries. That divergence has not merely affected the rates of benefit and the rates of contribution, but has spread through all the code of legislation enforced here. Some Deputy queried as to why the special benefit under this Bill is payable only in respect of two children. That is one of the difficulties. The British children's allowances scheme is different from ours, allowances ceasing to be payable when the worker becomes unemployed. Instead of drawing his children's allowance, he goes on the unemployment insurance fund and draws the increase in benefits in respect of the children for which that fund provides. Under our scheme, the children's allowances under the Children's Allowances Act are payable in all circumstances, whether the worker is employed or unemployed and the rates payable in respect of children under the unemployment insurance scheme and the unemployment assistance scheme take regard of that fact.

In trying to adjust that difficulty, the British proposed the arrangement which this Bill contains—that the worker here entitled to benefit out of their fund will be paid benefit at their rate in respect of an adult dependent and two children, but will continue to draw the children's allowance under our scheme in respect of further dependent children.

Mr. Corish

It will not be satisfactory from the point of view of a man who will be unemployed and have over two children.

If there is a person entitled to special benefit, he will draw it at the British rates and out of their fund in respect of his wife, himself and two children and he will continue to draw our children's allowance in respect of any further children. If he were unemployed in Great Britain he would receive the same rate in respect of himself and his wife and two children, but would draw from the British unemployment assurance fund—and not from the children's allowances fund—in respect of additional children.

Then he would have 5/- as against 2/6 here.

There would be some difference, but it was the simplest method of adjusting the difficulty. So far as the British payments are concerned, we will be acting as agents for the British authorities, paying their money to people entitled under their regulations. The rates of benefit will be those in force in Great Britain. To meet a point raised by Deputies, arrangements will be made to provide a leaflet which will inform claimants of the amounts they are entitled to receive.

There is a possibility that there will be some discussion concerning the difference in the rates payable to these workers and payable to our own workers. It is necessary to bear in mind that the contribution in Great Britain is much higher than here. We could pay higher rates by means of a higher contribution.

This is an insurance fund. Whatever goes out of it must come into it, and the present rate of contribution barely supports the present rate of benefit. If it were desired to increase the rate of benefit, then there would have to be an increase in the rate of contribution also.

However, there is little more to be said about the Bill as the principle has been accepted by everybody. It is an arrangement of limited scope which may, however, lead to a subsequent arrangement of general application and of a permanent character, which would be a very substantial advance indeed.

The Minister, when speaking of the making of an arrangement for the payment of unemployment insurance in respect of people working in Great Britain, emphasised rather strongly that unemployment insurance is not paid where, on the one hand, a man is working, and where on the other hand he has left his employment by his own desire. It is that last point that I want to deal with. People went to Great Britain under very peculiar circumstances and under great emergency pressure. They do not belong to Great Britain, and naturally would be looking to get home and to re-establish themselves here.

I do not want to discuss that point. That is one of the matters that must be discussed when we re-open this question with the British authorities. The point is that workers at that time going to Great Britain for employment were going under an arrangement which would require them to come home at the end of a stated period. The British authorities argued that they thought that there was no injustice done to those workers if they took contributions from them, and undertook that they would pay them benefit in respect of those contributions while they remained in Great Britain. That argument had force if the workers were free to remain in Great Britain. If, however, British wartime regulations compelled them to come back, we contended that there was an obligation on the British authorities to do something about their unemployment insurance contributions. As the Deputy knows, that situation did not arise. The contracts under which they went to Great Britain terminated without their being required to come back.

Clearly, one of the matters that will have to be discussed will be the circumstances under which a worker will be eligible for benefit by reason of the fact that he exercised a personal decision to come back to this country even though that meant that he voluntarily left his employment over there.

May I ask the Minister a question about a certain phrase that is used in the Bill? It refers to benefits in respect of unemployment of "certain persons who served in the forces". Will the Minister say whether the words "certain persons" include women who served in the W.A.A.F. or in the W.R.N.S.?

It includes men and women.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 4th December, 1946.