Private Deputies' Business. - Means Test for Pensions—Motion.

I move:—

That Dáil Éireann is of opinion that the basis upon which income is assessed for the purpose of the means test in the case of persons entitled to old age pensions, blind pensions, and widows' and orphans' pensions, requires revision and in particular that in assessing income for such purpose, no cognisance should be taken of (a) gratuities paid to a pensioner by members of his or her family whether in cash or in kind; (b) any benefits received otherwise than in actual cash, and (c) casual moneys earned by the pensioner, and requests the Government to take all necessary steps accordingly.

In rising to propose this motion on the Order Paper standing in the names of Deputy Costello and myself, I might explain to the House that it is being taken to an extent out of its order on the paper, owing to the illness of one Minister and another Minister being engaged in the Seanad. I received an amount of documentary information from various organisations interested in the particular groups of pensioners referred to in the motion, but that information is not with me this evening, as I was not aware that this particular motion would be taken this evening. However, the motion is in itself explanatory. I submit to the House that this is not an unreasonable request to make at this particular time, in view of the circumstances that exist and the generally admitted situation, which requires a review of every State income, from the smallest salary or the smallest wage, up to the largest salary and the largest wage.

The motion which, in effect, deals with only three classes, old age pensioners, blind pensioners and the pensions of widows and orphans, asks Dáil Éireann to express the opinion that it would be advisable to carry out a revision. It does not make any demand on the Government; it merely requests a re-examination of the conditions of these people in the light of the circumstances that exist to-day. It asks, further, that in the course of that revision, special attention should be paid to the advisability of not taking into account for the purpose of assessing means (a) moneys paid to the pensioner by members of the pensioner's family, (b) gifts made to the pensioner in kind and not in cash and (c) any casually earned money which the pensioner may earn.

It is agreed on all sides that in view of the changed economic and financial conditions in this country and the acute spiral in the cost of living it is unreasonable, unjust and unfair to ask even the officer carrying the highest salary in the State to continue to exist on the same salary as he had prewar. It has been stated, rather unexpectedly, in so far as it was completely out of time, by the Minister for Social Services, that he intends to make a proposal to Dáil Éireann to increase these particular pensions by a certain amount.

This motion is not asking for an increase: it is asking the Government, in revising these pensions schemes, not to dam absolutely and ruthlessly all the wells of charity and all the little streams of assistance that may reach the very poorest people in our midst. It asks them, if a good daughter or son abroad in England sends £1 back now and then to an aged mother or father, £1 hard earned but £1 representing more than 20/-, representing a gesture of love and affection, of gratitude and appreciation for all that aged mother or father did for them, that the pensions officer should not step in and investigate and cut the unfortunate parent's meagre pension because of occasional gifts of that kind. It asks further, that if some kindly, benevolent neighbour, perhaps an ex-employer, who had that person in his service for perhaps 20, 30 or 40 years, animated with the Christian spirit displayed by a Samaritan, seeing that old age pensioner endeavouring to eke out a meagre existence on his estate, sends to that old age pensioner an occasional bag of potatoes, a bit of butter, a few poultry or fowl, or something to make that old age pensioner's life a little bit more comfortable and a little bit happier, those gifts should not be taken into account in order to reduce the income allowed to that unfortunate old age pensioner, blind pensioner, or widow.

It has now been announced as the policy of the Government—the considered policy which must be carried out as an urgent and imperative measure in view of the existing terrible circumstances—that they feel compelled to increase the old age pension by the princely sum of 2/6 a week. Assuming that some ex-employer of some old age pensioner is giving that old age pensioner a few shillings a week—giving the maximum allowed without reducing the pension—and that that ex-employer comes to the same conclusion that, in view of the appalling rise in the cost of living, he will increase his little grant to this old retainer by the sum of half a crown, the result under the present system is that the extra half a crown given by the State must be immediately taken away. That must be done or the person who is helping that aged person to a very slight extent must deny any increase to the individual. I do not think that was intended. I do not think that can be defended. I do not think there is any justification for the State taking into account gifts from a relative in cash or in kind. It may be and probably will be said that those were the conditions in the old age pension scheme years ago and before the present administration took over. That argument does not hold water. That may have been the system years ago but are we never going to improve conditions? If things were bad in the past are they to remain bad in the future and for all time? Is there no progress to be made in any direction because of the fact that things were backward years before? Surely, that is an argument against progress in any direction. Surely, that is an argument against increased State assistance of any kind or in any direction.

We all know that the relations between Government and public—between the Government of a State and the individual citizens of every State—have changed radically and drastically in the last 20 years and that day by day government in all States is becoming more and more responsible for services, social and otherwise. They are becoming responsible for services the responsibility for which now would have been regarded as lunacy in any administration 25 years ago. All that progress is healthy. All that progress is good and sound. All the progress is welcome. Again, it is common sense and sound administration to launch any scheme on strictly rigid lines. You must find out at the beginning exactly how you stand. But those rigid lines must be relaxed with time. That is normal. That is customary. The argument that the situation was such 15, 20 or 30 years ago is not an argument. It cannot be defended and it should not be listened to.

The next point is that it is Dáil Éireann—the whole of Dáil Éireann— that votes this money. It is not voted just by the Government or the Government Party. It is voted by the people of Ireland and it is the people of Ireland who subscribe the money. It is subscribed by every taxpayer and not just by those of the Fianna Fáil Party. I say without fear of contradiction that the people of this country, with their big generous Irish hearts, would assent to the request made here and that the people of this country would agree, if it were explained to them and if they had the same knowledge of these particular tests and barriers that we have here, that it is wholly unreasonable that because a son or daughter in England or America sends home some little assistance to the parents above a certain figure that the pension of those parents must then be cut, or the pension of the blind brother or the blind sister, or the pension of the related widow with her orphan children. That would not be the desire of the people. It would not be the desire of the taxpayers, rich or poor. It would not be their desire that gifts of any kind—food, clothes, or cash— should be taken into account for the purpose of reducing the pension. The mere fact that the gift is made in kind indicates in itself the necessity for such a form of external assistance.

The third class referred to in this request for exemption is the class where the opportunity for casual earnings arises. Casual earnings of old age pensioners should not be taken into account for the purpose of reducing the pension. We are living in a country that gradually and progressively is becoming depopulated. We are living in a country where in the last harvest there was not enough manpower or woman-power to save the harvest without practically disbanding the Army and, to a great extent, the Civil Service, while at the same time urging people to leave their ordinary occupations and avocations in order to lend a hand on the land to save the people's food supply and save the nation from starvation. To lay it down in such a situation that any old age pensioner who gave a day, or two, or three days now and then as a casual helper in a harvest field or did an odd day out fishing off our coast—and the population is without fish at a time when volunteers are feeding on our fish and making money out of it—would lose some few shillings a week off his pension was a travesty of all social justice.

The request made here is a simple request. We ask for a revision of this machinery. I take it that there is a revision being carried out at the moment in every Government Department with regard to all State services. We ask that a revision be carried out and that in carrying out that revision this particular little outside assistance to the pensioner should not be taken into account. That is the request made in this motion. It is to put this request that I stand up here to-night. I feel that the request finds an echo in the heart of every single Deputy irrespective of his geographical position in this House or of his political affiliation.

I second the motion. I think that very few will question what Deputy Dr. O'Higgins said in his closing remarks, that he doubts very much if there is any member of this House or any Party who would not be in favour of this motion. There is not a member of this House who has not almost daily come up against some glaring injustices in dealing with this question of the means test as applied to the aged, the blind and widows. I want to mention an aspect of the means test particularly as it applies to the blind and the aged that is not adverted to in this House and that is only adverted to in the country when certain people want to make Party political capital. I am not concerned whether what I am now going to say is misrepresented or not and I am not concerned as to whether certain members of the House may seek to make capital out of it. In relation to this means test one thing is very often forgotten and that is that, in the days of the British Government, the maximum allowed to a blind pensioner or an old age pensioner was 20/- per week. In other words, a person's means could be assessed at 10/- a week and he would still be entitled to a full pension. A change was made in that in circumstances and for reasons into which I do not propose to go now but which I would not shirk at all if I were challenged on it.

In any case, the position has definitely worsened from the time the British Government were here so far as the aged and the blind were concerned. Prior to the passing of that particular Act if the pension officer assessed the means of the applicant at 10/- a week, the applicant would still be entitled to the maximum pension of 10/-. After the passing of the Act, if the means were assessed at 10/-, the maximum old age or blind pension which could be given was reduced to 6/- and that is still the law. I want Deputies to keep that as well as various other aspects of the means test in mind.

Deputy Dr. O'Higgins gave certain examples. There are many other examples which could be given but there is certainly one effect which this means test, as at present and for years past administered, has had and that is that it paralyses any desire or attempt at thrift amongst people. The means test, as it has to be administered at the moment, has the effect that a man who has reached the age of 70, who has been a spendthrift, who has had a bigger income all through his lifetime than his neighbour but who has wasted it, who has lived extravagantly and who has never attempted to save a 1/-, gets a full pension automatically. That is his position when he comes to the age of 70. On the other hand in the case of the man who has worked hard, who had to live on a smaller income, who was thrifty, who was encouraged by the State not only for his own sake but for the good of the State to be thrifty, and to invest his money in savings certificates, that very virtue is brought up against him when he applies for the pension and his pension is accordingly reduced.

Let us take the case of a skilled worker, a member of a craft union in this country, who throughout his lifetime has been actually contributing to the superannuation fund which is run by the trade union or the organisation to which he belongs. When he reaches the age of 70, the State uses that against him and reduces the amount of the State pension which he will get. We are in this extraordinary position that if an employer with whom a man has been working for the greater part of his life is a kindly man who knows that this old workman has no immediate relative or no home to go to, if he is reluctant to throw that man out when he comes to the age of 70 knowing that his only choice, if you can use the word "choice" in that connection, is the county home—because he cannot take a room in a village or a town much less in the city, pay rent and keep himself on 10/- a week—if the employer decides to give him his bed and his board in return for doing some small jobs around the yard, that very fact is brought against him by the pension officer and is assessed against him. His claim for a pension is refused entirely or he is given anything from 1/- up to 10/- a week.

Let us take another case which is quite common. The son in a family is married and his father or mother reaches the age of 70. They are in very poor circumstances and the son, naturally enough, likes to offer the shelter of his home, no matter what sacrifices it may mean to himself or his family, to his mother or his father. He wants to give them a bed and enough to eat. That very circumstance is used against them to reduce their pension. I think that any Deputy in this House will know from practical experience that this means test has not been and cannot be impartially and uniformly administered. It very often depends on the particular pension officer and his knowledge not only of the circumstances but of the values involved. Does not every Deputy know that, in the same townland, you will find two persons over 70 years of age, one of whom gets the pension and the other of whom is refused the pension, although, to the knowledge of everybody in the parish, the person who gets the pension was infinitely better off before getting it than the person who is refused? That is common, I should say, to every parish and it is due, not to any desire on the part of the investigating officer to be harsh or unfair, but to the fact that this machinery cannot be administered in an equitable way.

I do not know what case the Minister will make on this motion, but I think he will find it hard to make any case against it on the merits. I do not think he can do so. I remind Deputies and the Minister that we are too much inclined to talk about the old age pension in terms of a maximum pension of 10/- a week. We have to remember that there are thousands of old age pensioners who are not getting 10/- per week and we have to remember this further fact, that, in order to qualify for the maximum old age or blind pension, a person has to be practically destitute, and, as was said by the mover of the motion, if any person, for charitable or other reasons, wishes to come to the assistance of that blind or old age pensioner, or, for that matter, a widow, that charity is used against the pensioner.

I want now to refer to an aspect of this matter to which I have referred on numerous occasions over the years. This is a most glaring example of what happened. Following the 1914-18 war, there were thousands of old people— there are not so many now, of course, but there are still some and probably are some more, arising out of the recent war—who had lost sons in that war and to these old people the British Government awarded pensions or gratuties. I remember when the Old Age Pensions Commission, of which I was a member, was sitting many years ago, I got particulars of a considerable number of cases, not only from my own constituency but from other constituencies. I went to the trouble of having these checked and I found this happening, that, where they were getting, say, 10/- per week from the British Government before the Act to which I refer was passed, immediately that Act was passed, the old age pension was reduced to 6/- as a maximum. That went on for some time and the British Government then discovered that the Irish Government were saving 4/- per week at their expense, and they cut the pensions they were giving from 10/- to 6/- and made the Government here pay the full old age pension. That was the sort of thing that went on. It is still going on to a lesser extent and I am sure that similar cases will arise as a consequence of casualties in the recent war.

Let me give another case—one that is brought to my notice fairly frequently and one which strikes me as deliberately cutting across the original intention when these pensions were given. It is, I am sure, quite a common case. It is the case of a road worker, 68 years of age—and I want to remind the House that a road worker is not a full time permanent employee; he is not paid wet or fine and in the light of the weather of the last six or eight months, Deputies will appreciate what that means—whose wife reached the age of 70 and applied for the pension. She would not get it because her husband was working for the county council and earning 35/- or 40/- a week. She would have been refused on the same ground, if he had been working for any farmer, but, if her husband ceased to work, she would get it and would have to get it. When he reaches 70 in two years' time and ceases to work, both he and his wife will be entitled to the maximum pension and will have to get it. Citizens of this country who have lived and worked all their lives in the country up to the age of 70 are entitled to something from us.

I do not want to take up much time on this and I am, therefore, merely skimming over a number of points because I am sure there are many Deputies who want to speak, and I will leave it to them to develop the points. There is one other aspect to which I want to refer, that is, the means test in relation to widows, and particularly the widows of what are called small farmers. I am speaking from recollection, but I think I am right in saying that the test there is an £8 valuation. I want to tell the House and particularly members who have knowledge of the country, of land and of £8 valuation holdings, so-called, that a widow left on an £8 valuation holding with orphans and with a non-contributory pension, cannot work that holding herself. What is she to do? Depend on the charity of her neighbours to work it or attempt to employ labour? A woman who has worked up to 50, 60 and 65 years of age and, for that matter, up to 45 years of age, on an £8 valuation holding and has reared a family, if she loses the bread-winner, is entitled to any help the State can give her.

I know the answer we will get to all this. I presume it will follow the old hackneyed lines of the money, what it will cost and so on. I have been listening to that over a long number of years. I heard it thrown out, not only by this Government, but by their predecessors. The extraordinary thing is that whenever money is required for matters which are less worthy than this there does not seem to be any difficulty in finding it. I am satisfied that if, as a result of the revision asked for in this motion, there is an improvement in the means test situation, the money can be found. I am satisfied that it is not beyond the wit either of the Government or of this House to make a saving out of a Book of Estimates for £52,000,000 that would meet whatever extra charge would be occasioned by it.

Let me say in conclusion that when the Government ultimately decided to introduce children's allowances they had to take what was undoubtedly a very important and a very big decision as to whether there should or should not be a means test in relation to children's allowances. They decided after full examination that there should be no means test and there was not a means test. So far as I know, it is working out equitably and I do not think there is any abuse. I suggest there is a better case for not having a means tests or, at least, for not having the particular type of means test that there is at the moment in connection with old age pensioners. I will content myself with that because there are many other Deputies who wish to contribute to the debate. I second the motion moved by Deputy Dr. O'Higgins.

Since I have come into this House the question of old age pensions has been discussed in various forms. One advantage of the motion now before the House is that it concentrates entirely on the question of the means test. On the other occasions when old age pensions were discussed an opportunity was provided for the Minister to concentrate in his reply on the inability of the State to meet any increase in the rates of pension and to gloss over the case that was usually made in connection with the means test. I want to be as frank as I was on a previous occasion and to say that it is my personal view that the means test in connection with old age pensions should be abolished. I agree with Deputy Morrissey that there is an excellent precedent for that in the case of children's allowances.

I will make one confession. The Fianna Fáil Government are credited or have been credited for a number of years with keen political intuition. Whether they deserve that reputation or not, I do not know, but that is the general opinion outside. It baffles me to know why it is that, particularly in recent years, they have turned a deaf ear to pleas made in this House and which were made, obviously, because they represented a very strong current of public opinion. The Minister should know as well as every other member of his Party that there is no question causing such heartburn at the present time as this question of old age pensions. Members of the Fianna Fáil Party, like every one of us here, must have their daily lives occupied with attention to this particular question. If it were viewed only from the point of view of political expediency, I cannot understand why the present Government has so far resisted the appeals from this very important section of the community.

I view the matter from a higher plane. As I have said in the House recently, I hope at some stage to be old. When that time comes, I should like my position to be at least such as to give me a certain amount of peace and security so far as ordinary means are concerned. That peace and security are being harshly denied to a very large section of the people at the present time. In the official returns for 1942-43 the number of pensioners was given as 146,000. Of that number 22,500 were in receipt of less than 10/- a week and of those who were on the bare line of 10/- the figure is 124,576. The House will appreciate that that 124,000 refers to people whose income in the very nature of things does not exceed 16/- a week.

If you add the range of people who have, say, between 16/- and £1 a week —of the number of which we have no estimate—you have a fair idea of the number of people who are interested in this particular question. The attitude of mind of the present Minister was expressed here last week when he said that he did not regard these particular services—and he named the services, and they included old age pensions— as being sufficient in themselves to meet the case of the recipient but that they should supplement out of their own means whatever was required on balance. I dispute the Minister's contention in that respect and I suggest that it is not a proper approach to a very great social problem. It is obvious that a very large section of our people could not have any private means of their own but it does so happen, for the purpose of this debate, that we can discuss at least 22,500 people who are in receipt of less than 10/- a week because they have some little means. The Minister will readily appreciate that the value of money when the means test was introduced and its value now are poles apart. It defies imagination how any individual could attempt to exist on 16/- a week at the present time. I suggest to the Minister that while he may make the plea that this is one aspect of what he has already described as a comprehensive scheme of social insurance, to be dealt with at a later stage, there is no insuperable difficulty to implementing that particular section of the old age pensions code now.

I take it the Minister will be in a position to give us an indication of the cost. I do not care how much it costs because the happiness of the aged people should be the criterion of a progressive State. I suggest that we cannot call ourselves a progressive State while we have so many of our citizens in a state of destitution or bordering on destitution. Comparisons have been introduced in regard to this question. I repeat one. I take the case of New Zealand, where a married couple, under their present pensions code, can have an allowance of £3 5s. 0d. a week and, in addition — as indicating their approach to a means test — can have £1 a week of their own, £500 in the savings bank and can own their own home.

There is another aspect of this question that I wish to mention. Members of old age pensions committees have found it absolutely futile to attend meetings. I know that is the position so far as the City of Dublin Old Age Pensions Committee is concerned. Week after week that committee meets to receive these poor old people. It is pitiable in the extreme to hear them having to disclose this little bit and that little bit, as the case may be, and being turned down as border-line cases. All the time, the committee is powerless and can do nothing. It would be idle for the committee to tell these people that it is the law. A person of 70 years of age does not give two straws what the law is. All he is concerned with is how much he can receive from any source, from the State or otherwise, to ensure his survival.

Now Deputy Morrissey referred to the question of trade unions having their own superannuation funds. That is perfectly true. It is an old custom of the trade unions to have a small superannuation fund in addition to their usual scale of benefits but immediately they attempt to apply those they come under the hammer of the law so far as the means test is concerned and, as a result, they are forced to adopt subterfuge methods to get round the law. The same happens with large companies. Take, for example, Córas Iompair Eireann. Only two nights ago I had two of these men, grand old types, at my home with notices in their pockets. They were in receipt of 16/- a week from the company, and because the company knew that a week hence they would reach the age of 70 the pension was automatically reduced to 6/-. The company took the view that since the pensioners could not receive the 10/- a week from the State and still be in receipt of their 16/- they would transfer their liability to the extent of 10/- from the company to the State. I attempted to explain to these poor old people what was involved. One is utterly powerless to attempt to state that it is the law that is being enforced so far as that is concerned. Is it too much to ask the Minister at this stage, and I am not overstating the picture when I say that he would be doing something that would be very welcome to this House as a whole and to the individuals who would benefit, if he would signalise this occasion of his new administration by an advance of the kind that has been suggested?

It would be an encouragement to companies like Córas Iompair Éireann and other companies, because there are quite a number of decent employers in this city and throughout the country who would be prepared to come to the aid of old faithful servants if they know that in doing so they will be in alignment with the State and that the State will set that example. Is it too much to ask that at this stage at least that measure of justice and equity will be given to our old people?

The question of the increase of the old age pensions does not arise in this motion. I would like that it would, but it so happens that it does not come within the scope of the debate. There is one aspect of the motion that does not personally appeal to me or to my colleagues and that is wherein a recital is made of certain sources of income which would indicate, not purposely I am sure, that it would be confined merely to charitable sources. We would prefer, as has been stated in the House on previous occasions, that a figure would be stated below which the State would not intervene: that the individual in question should have income from any source he liked up to £1 and that it should not be reckoned so far as the granting of the pension is concerned. Now I want to appeal to the Minister again. He has an opportunity now, and I would appeal to him not to use this occasion merely to state that it will be included at a later stage.

There are a number of people whose hearts would be gladdened by a measure of advance on this particular occasion and I would ask him to consider this. He knows as well as I do and every other member on the other side of the House that if there is one aspect of the pension code that causes more irritation and hardship it is this question of the means test. Just imagine an elderly person being subjected to all sorts of close personal investigation about his private life, amounting almost to inquisition. It tends to degrade the human individual who naturally at that stage, having gone through a gruelling of that description, would much prefer to say: "Well if I have no other means I will go into the workhouse or some institution of that kind rather than submit to this." It is deplorable at this stage of our history that we should have to appeal on a matter of this kind. Let us take the view that this State can be progressive on its own resources and that all these restrictions, vexatious and irritating as they are, can be swept aside and that this reasonable measure — and it is reasonable — asked for and sought for in this resolution, will be responded to by the Minister in the spirit in which it is being made in this House.

I would just like to say a few words on this very important matter. I have been very impressed by the statements which were made by the other Deputies. I have for a long number of years been a member of a pensions committee, and during the course of those years I have come across many cases where the old people were treated unfairly. I cannot see how the Minister and the Government can make any justification for the means test. There is no means test in the Children's Allowances Act, as Deputy O'Sullivan reminded the Minister. There is no means test in the case of a young man of 21 even if he has a million pounds who gets married and fulfils the other requirements. But the old men and the old women who produced the wealth of the country, who kept the last Government there and who are keeping the present Government here, when they reach 70 years of age, have to go through a very rigid examination as to their means.

My experience is this: when an old man or an old woman reaches 70 years of age they put in their claim for the pension to which they are justly entitled and the Minister, or his officials, use every method they can to prevent them from obtaining it. I would like to remind the Minister that when his Party, who are now the Government, came into power they took over that one fault from their predecessors — the way the old people were treated — and nothing has been done to improve the matter since.

During the course of my experience as a member of an old age pensions committee some very remarkable cases have come before the meetings. I remember one time the case of a respectable old woman; she was 70. It was the time of the economic war. Among her assets returned by the pension officer were four hens, and since then I have been bothering my head to know where the income came from the four hens. Again, there is the case of a poor woman who was left a widow with a young helpless family. One of her boys grew up to man's age, 21 years of age, and he said to his mother that he would go to England to work. The mother, in order to keep him at home and because she could not carry on without him, made over the farm to the son. She was 63 years of age at that time. Unfortunately the son could not get married because there were too many children in the family and they had to be supported. Seven years afterwards that poor old lady reached 70 years and when she applied for the old age pension the pension officer said to her that she had given over the farm to her son for the purpose of getting the pension. She was 63 years of age when she gave the farm to her son. How could anybody say that she did it for the purpose of getting the pension? I was not a member of the Dáil at the time, but I put the case in the hands of our Leas-Cheann Comhairle and that woman got the 10/-, and she was entitled to it. There are many other cases which I would like to put before the House.

Neither this Government nor the last Government made proper provision for these people. Many of them had sons who grew up. After leaving school, they had nowhere to go and they joined the British Navy. They sent home 10/- a week to the poor old father and mother who reared them and gave them whatever little education they could. They worked their fingers to the bone for their boys. When these boys sent home the 10/- a week the pension officers put it against them in the record and deprived them of the pensions to which they were well entitled.

On the Island of Cape Clear I knew of one man who, in the last war, lost two sons. He and his wife were getting an allowance of 30/- or 35/- from the British Government. The Irish Government stopped their pensions. I submit it was a criminal action on the part of the Irish Government to do that. I would not think it so serious if the money were coming from inside sources, but when it was coming from an outside Government it was quite a different matter. I am not blaming the present Minister for doing this, but I hope that he will try to remedy defects of that nature.

Going back to the little boys who joined the British Navy at the age of 16 years, is it not better for them and for our country that they would be encouraged to think of the father and mother who reared them rather than spend in a foreign country whatever money they might send? Because they are sending it home it is the first thing the pension officer will have on the record.

I listened with great interest to Deputy O'Higgins, Deputy Morrissey and Deputy O'Sullivan. They indicated what is happening in every district of the country. I know very respectable members of pension committees, including clergymen, who resigned in disgust. We are simply a rubber stamp; we have no power unless to make a recommendation.

In Northern Ireland at the present time a single man or woman who reaches 65 years can get a pension of 26/- a week and there is no means test. I do not know what the Minister would do if he were living in Northern Ireland and if he were a poor man. Would he vote for the abolition of the Border and lose 26/- a week? Would he go home on the chance of getting thin? I think I am as good a patriot as the Minister or any other member of the Government and I know damn well I would stay in the North. Do you want to break the Border at all?

I know very well from my experience that the members of the Fianna Fáil Party who are listening to me, those who act on pension committees, have the same story as I have. If this goes to a vote, I ask the Minister to allow the members of his Party to vote freely and then we will see what will happen.

I was always in favour, if it were found possible by the Government, of abolishing the means test altogether or, if not, at least to reduce it somewhat. I know of a widow in Limerick who married a man 61 years of age. She was 50 years of age at the time of the marriage. That man appeared to be in good health and had national health insurance stamps for 30 years to his credit. Unfortunately, he died within 12 months after the marriage and that unfortunate woman, because he did not live for two years, was not entitled to a pension, a contributory pension or a non-contributory pension. I appealed to the Department to give her a pension and I was told that as her husband was 61 years and as she was not married two years to him, she was not entitled to any pension. She is Mrs. Organ of Limerick. I think a decision in her case is pending in the Department and perhaps the Minister will give some consideration to it. I feel sure the Minister will favourably consider reducing the means test.

I wish to join in the appeal made to the Minister to remove the means test so far as its application to old age pensioners is concerned. I feel our appeal will not fall on deaf ears. The Minister has shown recently that appeals made to him by members of the Dáil have been listened to. The result is that there has been a change for the old age pensioners. We hope there will be a greater change in the days to come. Our immediate concern is to see that the means test so far as old age pensioners are concerned is removed.

Some of the Deputies have already cited a few cases to the House. I would ask the Minister would he make some inquiry in his own Department about the latest case which has come to my knowledge in the City of Dublin. It has come to be known amongst the members of the pensions committee as the "Pear Tree Case". By the grace of God, a pear tree grew in a small yard in a Dublin area. The old people who lived in the house decided that the pears would provide too great a temptation for the boys in the neighbourhood. We all know how boys climb walls to get apples and pears. The old people where this pear tree grew decided to let the boys of the neighbourhood have the pears for about ½d. each. The pears were sold to the boys at ½d. each. Later the old people decided to apply for the old age pension.

The investigation officer came along. He examined the pear tree and he put a valuation on it. Eventually he decided in either halfpennies or pennies that the pear tree produced fruit to the value of £3 12s. 6d. and he proceeded to assess under the means test £3 12s. 6d. for the pears. He put that £3 12s. 6d. against the application and the claim was reduced to 4/- or 5/- instead of 10/-. An appeal was taken and it was very justly decided on appeal — and I believe sanctioned by the present Minister — that the applicants were entitled to the full pension.

Another case came to my notice in Malahide. An officer went to a little cottage there where an old lady lived. He noticed that she had 23 or 24 hens and he decided that the old lady could not possibly eat all the eggs herself. After very severe examination he discovered that the old lady sold six dozen eggs at, I think, 2/- a dozen and he thereupon proceeded to deduct 1/- a week off her pension. Under the Old Age Pensions Act units of 6d. are not accepted. It must be an even amount of 1/-. I understand that in this Malahide case an appeal was also taken and after some considerable time the old lady was awarded the full 10/-. In the same area there was another old age pensioner in whose garden an apple tree grew. In this case, too, it was decided that the apples must be bringing in a small fortune and 1/- a week was deducted from the pension I could cite many more cases because I know of dozens of them. I attend the Old Age Pensions Committee in Dublin every Thursday and it is heart breaking to listen to the sad stories told by these old people whose pension rights are questioned.

Cases have arisen where charwomen earning 2/- or 3/- for washing out a shop have had their pensions reduced accordingly, and in some cases rejected entirely. Recently cases have come before our committee where employers were anxious to give old employees some assistance on their retirement. Under the present system of old age pensions if they give any assistance the pension is reduced. The result is that private employers have no longer any inducement to give their old workers a grant of any kind because in the last analysis it is the Government which reaps the benefit of it.

Recently in this House I raised a question about an old age pensioner whose son went to England and joined the British Army. The son sent home an allowance of 7/- a week to his mother and 5/- was immediately deducted from the old age pension. I do not entirely blame the Government for this because the law is there. Now, I have suggested to some employers in Dublin that they should not give any financial assistance to old servants retiring from their service, and I have suggested to them instead that they should make some arrangement whereby they would pay for a basket of food every week for these old servants or pay their rent. Another case which arises is where an old lady, the owner of a three-roomed cottage, lets one room to a lodger for 30/- a week. That letting is taken into account and a 5/- profit is assessed on the 30/-.

That old lady cannot get her old age pension because of that assessment. If the old lady loses the lodger or the lodger has not paid his rent for three months no allowance is made under the means tests and the assessment of 5/- continues on the empty room.

I would ask the Minister to go into all these cases, particularly those in connection with Córas Iompair Éireann and the old tramway drivers. There are dozens of them. There is an allowance of 16/- a week, but one week before a man is due to go out at 70 years of age an official document is sent to him telling him to apply for his old age pension and 10/- a week is then stopped from the allowance and they give him the difference of 6/-.

The sad part of it is that under the means test, as laid down in the Act of Parliament, when an unfortunate ex-employee of Córas Iompair Eireann gets 5/- or 6/- per week from a son or daughter, that man does not get his full pension from the tramway company and cannot get an old age pension. I do not wish to detain the House, but let me, for the information of some new members, recall an occasion when I heard the Taoiseach making a speech in this House about 12 or 14 years ago in which he said: "We have in mind the time when the small farmer and his wife can retire to another house on the farm, perhaps to the barn or to a cottage next door to the church, and the sons and daughters of that farmer can bring in all the food he requires in a basket."

It seems to be a Utopia now, but that was the intention. It has never been possible to realise that intention because of this means test. It was a reasonable thing to expect that the old people would be allowed to retire and that the son or daughter would be enabled to assist them without having that assistance reckoned for the purpose of reducing their old age pension. Any assistance that is given in that way is taken into account in the means test for the purpose of reducing the old age pension or of refusing it altogether. May I say that this means test applies also in the case of pensions given to ex-I.R.A. men? I mentioned last week the case of a man named Meade living in the Cabra area who is broken down in health; he was in practically every prison in England because of his services to the I.R.A.; he was in receipt of an I.R.A. pension and because his son or daughter got a job worth £1 or 25/- a week, his pension was reduced. I have his permission, I may say, to mention his name in this House. It has been pointed out there is no means test in the case of children's allowances and it has worked out satisfactorily. I would ask the Minister, following his recent gesture, to accept this motion which has the support of every member of the House. I know that so far as Deputies opposite are concerned, their heart is entirely with this motion, and that they are as strongly in favour of abolishing the means test as we are on this side of the House.

I want to add a few brief remarks in support of the proposal for a speedy revision of this harsh means test, many aspects of which have been discussed by various speakers. Deputies of all Parties have had experience of the hardships inflicted on many of our citizens because of the application of this means test. Deputy Morrissey has given some instances of the extraordinary manner in which this test is applied but I think that one of the greatest anomalies is that a widow who has to live on a pension of 5/- a week is not allowed to supplement it by earnings from any source exceeding 1/- without incurring a reduction. Cognisance is taken of anything over a 1/- a week and she is supposed to live in the luxury that that 5/- per week can bring to her without attempting in any way to supplement that income. Should she succumb to the temptation to accept a day's work at charring which may be offered her by a neighbour, her earnings will be deducted from the pension. I have known "umpteen" cases of that kind and I could never understand why any Government should attempt to operate such ridiculous regulations. The fact that a widow accepts the opportunity to supplement her income by doing a day's work with a neighbour is not going to inflict any hardship on the Exchequer. Surely it is not going to add to the expense of the Exchequer if the unfortunate woman is allowed to supplement her income by a day's wages offered her by her next-door neighbour? I think a provision of that kind should not be allowed to stand one moment longer on the Statute Book.

Deputy Morrissey also referred to the hardship inflicted on people who have been engaged all their life in industrial employment and who have tried to make provision during their working years for the rainy day, whether through a benevolent fund, the Foresters or some other friendly society, the carpenters' society or some trade union or by buying Savings Certificates. We spent thousands of pounds advising people to buy Savings Certificates through advertisements in the Press and in plastering the dead walls of our towns and villages. I remember that I made this very statement in 1927 from these benches on the occasion of my first speech in the House and the then Minister promised to give attention very speedily to this matter, but the same hardships are still inflicted on thrifty people when they come to pensionable age. We are still advising people to be thrifty but we do not play straight with them. If they are thrifty, we penalise them when they come to the age of 70. That is the corollary to the suggestion to be thrifty. Why do we continue to penalise a man who has been saving all his life to educate his children, who has put something away every week of his working life for the rainy day whereas the man who was in better circumstances, but who spent every penny he came up to, can come along, claim a pension at 70 and get the full pension without question?

There is another type of person who gets a full pension without any question when he reaches pensionable age — the man who was continually under the influence of drink, who smashed windows, who did all the damage he could to his neighbours and who never worried about sending his children to school. These men have been a burden on the State from the time they came into the world, proper wasters, but yet these are the very men who when they come to 70 years of age will get 10/- per week. The man who never did a day's work, who spent perhaps most of his life in gaol, is given the full pension whereas the good citizen is penalised for his citizenship. That is perfectly true and cannot be contradicted.

These anomalies exist, and I cannot understand why they have not got attention long before now. I appeal to the Minister, coming into his new office, to listen with attention to the pleas put forward. The Minister himself knows these anomalies exist as well as any other Deputy, and I am sure that as the previous speaker said, the position will get his sympathetic attention. I trust that he will be able to impose his will on the Cabinet and get them to agree not to wait for the bigger measure contemplated, because these anomalies, glaring as they have been for some time, appear all the more glaring in the light of the progressive methods in relation to social services adopted in every progressive country in the world. It is really a stain on our character to allow these anomalies and the hardships they inflict to continue.

I shall conclude on a note which has not been stressed particularly, but in which I am interested, the position of the blind. The greatest hardship of all is being inflicted on our blind fellow-citizens and they are being penalised as if they were people with sight. Lack of sight is the greatest calamity which God can inflict on anybody and these poor people have to try to carry on, isolated from the world and denied all the joys which those of us with the gift of sight have. Surely their condition should strike a sympathetic note in the hearts and minds of everybody. Yet, we find that they are subject to exactly the same test as people who have the gift of sight. Voluntary bodies are working on behalf of these blind people in order to rescue them from their nightmare, and I have the privilege of being chairman of the National Council for the Blind in my own city. I have before me, although I was unaware that this motion was coming on, an appeal from a lady who has given her life to this work. She says, and I think her own words speak best:—

"Our home teachers may teach a man, for instance, how to make simple rush baskets or a woman how to knit and they are proud when a saleable article has been achieved — proud of the pupil's skill despite the handicap and still more proud of the pupil's reawakened interest in life.

Yet when a few shillings have been earned so commendably the shadow of the means test looms up at once. Pension officers are sympathetic — we have found them so — but the law is the law and if a single blind person is in receipt of 6/- from a local authority even 1/- per week earned regularly will leave him liable for reduction in pension. We hesitate to encourage pupils to increase their output. They feel uncomfortable, their only crime being the part-time occupation so stimulating mentally may work to their detriment financially."

That is the position of the blind. They are naturally reluctant, being blind, to come forward, although they are encouraged to come out and mingle with their fellow citizens. In Limerick, we have started a class in the technical school for blind people and we found it difficult to get them to come there. We must break down that barrier. Home teachers go into their homes to teach them this work, but the position is that if they get a few shillings for work done, the pension officer comes along and uses it against them.

I suggest to the Minister that that is another glaring and outstanding case in favour of an immediate revision of the means test. Why should these little allowances, which might be called handicap allowances, be treated as income? In addition to the appeal made to the Minister on behalf of the widow and the old age pensioner, I particularly want to emphasise the appeal on behalf of the blind. No moment should be lost in removing this hardship from them. Anything they can do by their own efforts will be very limited and will not bring in more than a couple of shillings a week and that amount should not be taken into consideration in assessing their means for pension purposes. Furthermore, if the local authority, through its welfare scheme, is prepared to supplement the 10/- given to these people, it does so purely because of their physical disability and why should that small payment be availed of to rob them of their pensions? I think that is a matter which should have the Minister's immediate attention.

There are other anomalies, many of which have been cited by the various speakers, but I think that sufficient case has been made to excite the Minister's sympathy and interest. I hope that case will be successful in securing an early revision of this means test and the removal of these hardships.

I am glad that on this motion there is no playing to the gallery and I believe that there is a sympathetic House in this matter of the appeal on behalf of old age pensioners. I am glad also that this is a reasonable motion and not a motion calling for the complete removal of the means test. We must proceed by easy stages. I am one of those who hold that no man is expected to live on his old age pension and I agree that it is given to him as a help and not as an amount on which he is expected to live.

I am satisfied that a vast number of people in the country are getting the old age pension and also getting very good help from their families, but I am also satisfied that where people have to live more or less on their old age pension, there should be a far more liberal interpretation of the regulations. The interpretation in that regard is too narrow. The limit of means should be raised to a certain extent and we should allow £1, 25/- or 30/- before operating the means test.

It is all very fine to demand that the Minister shall remove the means test, but it involves £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. If we can secure that amount by reduced taxation, by all means let it be done, but if that money cannot be secured without increased taxation, will the House stand for it? I am a member of an old age pensions committee and we have dealt with cases of unfortunate people which, we were sure, would be sanctioned by the Minister, but we find the pension officer turning down these cases without giving any grounds for doing so. I also know cases of people who got the pension in times gone by and who have fields of stock and 20 or 30 acres of land. I know several of them — people who really needed no pension, who were very well off and who were able to put money in the bank. These people are spoiling the chances of the unfortunate person who has to depend on the few shillings he gets from the State.

The Minister, I know, has a hard job and I am sure that his heart is just as soft in relation to these people as our own, but the point is whether the State is prepared to raise taxation to the extent of the £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 involved in the removal of the means test. Under this motion, we can do something. We can raise the limit and give the poor applicant a chance of getting the pension. If a man is in receipt of 5/- pension from the British Government — that is money coming into the house — it should not be taken into consideration when assessing his means. If a man is getting a few shillings from his family, those few shillings should not be taken into consideration for that purpose. Further, the wife of a man working on the roads should get the pension on reaching the age of 70 when they have no other means of living than the money he gets from working on the road. This type of people are living in hard circumstances but there are other people who live by different means — thrifty people and some of them fairly comfortable. I can understand the rigidity of the administration in their regard, but I think we are a little too narrow and that investigation officers are rather too slick in "slipping it across" many people.

What I do not like about the whole thing is that most of the old age pensioners are in fear and trembling when they have to come before a committee. One would think that they were coming to their execution. They are unable to answer questions and they shiver with fear, lest they slip. We find that they have then to tell little fibs, because, if they tell the truth, they get nothing at all, and, even then, after telling all the lies, they are often found out.

I knew one case of a man with a few cattle who was told that a buyer intended to come to see his cattle, but, unfortunately for that man, before the buyer came, the pension officer arrived. He saw this gentleman coming and thought he was a big jobber coming to look over his cattle. The man asked him if those were his cattle, and he said they were and were they not fine cattle? He asked what they were worth, and, of course, the pensioner gave him a great story of being a comfortable man and of the profit he was making. When he had told his story, the pension officer said: "You have made a mistake. I am not a jobber; I am the pension officer." Of course, the poor devil nearly flopped. I am glad to say that he was well able to live without the pension. It shows the position of the investigation officer.

It is not right that the man who works all his life and who is thrifty cannot get a pension while the waster, the idler, finds no trouble in getting a pension but merely goes into the post office and gets the lady attendant to fill up a form to which he affixes his signature. That is all he has to do to get his 10/-, and he in addition can command a half-crown from the home assistance officer. It is putting a premium on laziness and idleness when the thrifty man is turned down and the waster gets the money.

Children's allowances have been referred to. In my opinion, we could have a means test in connection with children's allowances. There are many people drawing that money who do not want it and who are able to bank it. If we had a means test in connection with children's allowances it might be possible to apply some of the saving thereby effected to the old age pensioners. A case could be made for a means test in connection with children's allowances but there is not much case for a means test in connection with old age pensions. Something should be done for old age pensioners. We have raised the salaries of officials but we have not done anything for the old age pensioners. The Minister informed the House the other day that he intends to increase the pensions by 2/6 a week. I do not believe that that is enough. Give 5/- or 10/- a week increase. A half a crown is too niggardly.

I am satisfied that the motion is reasonable. I do not believe in high-falutin appeals to the gallery. It is all tommy-rot to say, for the benefit of the gallery, that the means test should be removed and that there should be pensions of £2 to £3 a week. The State could not afford that and the old age pensioner knows that he will not get it. When we talk reasonably in this House something will come of it. The old age pensioner is not such a fool as some would have us believe. He knows what he should get and what the State can afford to give him.

If the right type of people were getting more money and if some of those who are getting it were not getting it at all, the country would be better off. The Government should meet the men who need the money. There is always too much playing to the gallery and our people are bamboozled. This is a small State. Reference has been made to what is done across the water, where the pensions are 25/- and 26/-. We are a small country, very poor, with a big national debt piling up and our people emigrating. We must cut our cloth according to our measure and pay what we are able. We are giving 10/- to the old age pensioner. I am satisfied that he should get 15/- and during war a bonus of 5/- in addition. If an old age pensioner were getting £1 a week in the emergency he would be fairly well off and I think the State could afford it.

The Minister has a problem in deciding whether he should or should not remove the means test. I have known men, 20 or 25 years ago, who were drawing the old age pension of 10/- a week under the Cosgrave Government. Instead of getting 10/- they could have been giving 10/- to some charitable organisation. They were comfortable, wealthy men. I knew one man who had 300 acres who applied for a pension. There is a good deal to be said on both sides.

The Minister, starting a new Ministry, has a golden opportunity of making a name for himself. I know he has a kind heart. In fact if he had not such a kind heart he would be a better Minister for Agriculture, because he would be able to bow the heads of the other Ministers who were slipping it across him when the money needed for agriculture would not be given. He has a chance now of sticking his heels in the ground and telling the Minister for Finance that there is a case here.

The pensioner is entitled to an increase. I do not say that the means test should be removed but its application should be more liberal. If he has an income of 25/- a week, take that into consideration but do not count anything under that. I have known several men who applied for a pension three or four times and who failed to get it and who should not have failed were it not for the narrow interpretation of the means test. I am satisfied that many of these people could qualify for pensions and that they should get them. There is one man who has been a cripple in bed for the last nine months. He has applied three times and has been turned down, although the farm of 20 acres was signed over two or three years ago to his niece, who has two or three children. This man has not a penny and he is living with his people. A man of that type who worked hard while he was able and who, even now, weeds turnips and man-golds outside his door, should not be turned down while others who have 15 to 20 head of cattle have had 10/- a week for the last 20 years. The case I have referred to is one in which the means test was most narrowly interpreted.

I ask the Minister to accept this motion. It is a reasonable motion. If the Minister accepts it he will be doing a good thing and will please a great many people and it will stop a lot of the talk at the cross roads as to what we should do and what we could do. There is a great deal that we cannot do and it is better to tell the people that. But we could do a little as regards those who need the money by a more liberal interpretation of the means test. That would satisfy all of us.

In supporting this motion, I consider it is a very reasonable one which is not making a very large demand on the public purse. It does not ask for the abolition of the means test but for a revision of it and, as the Minister must be aware, a revision is long overdue. Deputy Giles said that there are some people drawing old age pensions who are well off and who do not really need it. That is perfectly true, and there are other people who should get pensions and who are turned down. It is because the means test is not properly administered. The investigation officer is asked to do a very difficult job. Take a small farmer living in a mountainous area. How is the investigation officer to assess the means of that farmer, who has a few mountain sheep that may be unproductive, that may be lost in snow or floods or ravines, two days after the pension officer inspects? Some income is assessed on the valuation of the holding. In many cases the holdings are absolutely unproductive and, while the farmer may boast of a few black-faced sheep or maybe an old cow, the person may be absolutely destitute or depending on money from relatives in England, America or elsewhere.

It is past time to have a complete revision of these particular kinds of cases. Account is taken also in the means test of money held in a bank or post office by the applicant for the old age pension. In nearly every instance, at least in my county and in many other counties as well, the money is not the property of the old age pensioner and should not be assessed as such. The money is the result in some cases of labour of the sons or daughters of the applicants in England. That money is sent home and is jealously regarded as the property of the person who sends it. It is the result of their labour in a foreign land and on the applicant's death will revert back to them. It is the usual custom to send money home and yet it is assessed at the rate of 5 per cent. interest while, at the same time, we have laws in force that allow banks to take in money on deposit at 1 per cent.

I remember the President of to-day, when he was Minister for Finance, being questioned on that subject about three years ago in this House and he admitted that such was the case: that income on money in banks was at the rate of 1 per cent., but was definitely assessed as being worth 5 per cent. I cannot understand why such an injustice is allowed to continue. Take, for instance, the case of a small farmer who has £200 in the bank. Immediately his income on £200 is assessed at £10 when in actual fact he is only drawing £2 on 1 per cent. interest. No explanation has come from either the previous or the present Minister for Finance on that subject. Then there is the case where the family of the applicant did not emigrate. The cash in bank or post office, as the case may be, represents a wage, a miserable wage I will admit, but it represents the savings of the man's sons and daughters who perhaps earned a few pounds in wages. All the money goes into one common pool for the final settlement of the family, yet it is assessed against the applicant for the old age pension. It is an injustice; it should not be. Another case I come across very often is that of a person who is in receipt of some small pension from England or from the United States.

That definitely should not be taken into account because, in the first place, these people should never have had cause to leave this country. If they spent a portion of their lives, perhaps in some foreign army, in many cases it is not their fault. I have not yet met a person who willingly left his own country for the sake of employment. They all go with certain pangs of regret. They did not go, as has recently been said by the Minister for Finance, on the condition that they could have stayed at home. Such is not the case. They are forced to go.

Now one last point that I wish to bring to the Minister's notice. It is the very vicious system of going into a pensioner's means after his death. I know one particular case of a person who applied for the pension and got the full 10/- because his means were low enough. That person drew the pension until death. The son of the pensioner came in for some money and that money belonged to the son. On the death of that pensioner the son was billed by the Revenue Commissioners for all the pension that that person had drawn for a period of some four years and five months.

That is a very vicious system altogether. It is perfectly wrong. If a person with other means has got the old age pension it is quite clear that the investigation officer has failed in his duty. If the person got the pension correctly in the beginning there should be no investigation into his money or means after his death and asking perhaps a young married man with a family who has only a small piece of land in the country to refund money that the old age pensioner drew and drew correctly during his time. That definitely should be cut out.

The Minister, no doubt, will ask us where the money is to come from. The Minister for Finance, on a previous motion by members of this Party here asked us if we were going to tax tobacco, tea, sugar and so on. Many ways have been pointed out to every member of the Government of how to save and curtail. There are many extravagances that should be cut out and the money devoted to some useful purpose such as this or perhaps still more pressing purposes. I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister for Social Welfare that there are many pensioners, particularly in towns, who are absolutely dependent on the pension and who are absolutely destitute. They are starving. We all know how far 10/- will go nowadays. Along with the revision of the means test some revision of the amount paid to old age pensioners is long overdue.

In joining this appeal for some revision of the old age pension tests and the widows and orphans, I just rise to quote one case to the Minister for Social Welfare. I have been interested in it for the last three years. The man in question under one Act was getting 10/- unemployment assistance. When he reached the age of 70 he was told by the clerks of the employment exchange to apply for the old age pension. He applied and his case was investigated by the pension officer and he was told by the pension officer that he was not entitled to any pension by reason of the fact that his wife is employed in one of the bacon factories in Tralee and earning the small wage of 35/- a week. The position, as I see it, is that if his wife relinquishes her employment she and her husband and daughter will have to exist on 10/- a week.

I think this is a case that should receive every consideration. A man can get 10/- a week under one Act and yet when he applies for a pension under the Old Age Pension Acts he is told by the pension officer that he is not entitled to it. We in this country want to see everybody working but it is a fright to see a man deprived of the old age pension because his wife has to go out every morning and work until six in the evening for a miserable wage of 35/- to support him. This case has come before the Department of Local Government on several occasions and I hope that the Minister for Social Welfare will give it every consideration and that he will see his way to grant this man the old age pension.

In connection with widows' and orphans' pensions—non-contributory— every Deputy in this House is acquainted with people who are in receipt of those pensions. Take the case of a woman with no dependents who is in receipt of a non-contributory pension. When she reaches the age of 45 her pension is withdrawn until she reaches the age of 55. It is disgraceful to withdraw the pension of any poor unfortunate widow in this country. Some clause should be put into that Act to give her a pension from 45 to 55. It should be left to her until she goes to the other side.

I join Deputy Keating in saying that there are people in this country, who, when they reach the age of 70, just put out their hands and get the old age pension. But people who have worked for the greater part of their lives to educate their family and to put a few shillings away for their family are told, when they reach the age of 70, that they will get no pension because they have a few shillings behind them. I appeal to the Minister to revise the means test and let the widows have their pension when they reach the age of 45 whether they have dependents or not.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.