asked the Minister for Social Welfare if Mrs. Ann Brophy, Ballincor, Shinrone, Offaly, a blind person, who was in receipt of an old age pension at the rate of 7/6 a week until recently, had her pension reduced, as from the 7th January last, to 5/-; whether the reduction in question was consequent on an appeal from Mrs. Brophy herself that her pension was insufficient; whether the pensioner's husband is now over 69 years of age; whether the justification for reducing her pension is a means test whereunder the pensioner is assumed to possess half of her husband's earnings in his 69th year.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Offaly Old Age Pension.
As regards the first and second parts of the question, the position is that on the basis of an investigation of means, made last year, following an application for an increase in her pension, it was decided that, in view of the means of her husband, the pensioner in question was not entitled to any pension under the legislation then in force, but that, by virtue of the Social Welfare Act, 1948, she became entitled to a pension of 5/- a week as from the 7th January of this year.
As to the rest of the question, I am not aware of the age of the pensioner's husband, but the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1932, which require that a pensioner who is one of a married couple living together in the same house shall be assessed with one half of the total means of the couple, apply irrespective of the age of the marriage partner.
Did the Minister not undertake to abolish the means test and to give old age pensions of 26/-a week at the age of 65? Why, therefore, is he in a Government which enforces a means test?
May I say in reply to that inappropriate supplementary question, which does not arise out of the question put by the Deputy——
It does, of course.
——that any statements which were made relating to the abolition of a means test clearly had relation to the abolition of a means test under a comprehensive scheme of social insurance. The means test will be abolished under such a scheme and old age pensioners will get under that scheme a higher rate of old age pensions than they are getting to-day and further a much higher rate than the highest rate of pension they got during any of the years when the last Government were in office.
Will the Minister say when there ever was a means test under any insurance scheme?
There was a means test for every one of Fianna Fáil's 16 years in office and you know it. It is easier now than ever it was at any time for the past 16 years and that is what is annoying you.