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.