We are discussing social security at a time when the country is completely bewildered. Last year we had talk of hair shirts and overall gloom in conneetion with a measure similar to this. This year we are discussing it in an atmosphere of sunshine, but the people generally do not believe that anything good will come out of this Bill. There are Bills galore, and the people are always told they must pay for them. I have always believed in social security, but I believe the country should be well organised before an attempt is made at such security.
Social Welfare (Insurance) Bill, 1951—Second Stage (Resumed).
Would the Deputy tell us what he is quoting from?
Quoting what? I am making a speech.
I am sorry. I thought the Deputy was reading.
He was dreaming and he has only just wakened up.
The Deputy should fall asleep and dream again.
So that he may have more to dream about, could we have a House. If Deputy Brennan is taking that line, two can play it.
Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,
Before a scheme of this kind can be brought before the country the country should be educated for it. There should be a publicity campaign, and it should not be a race between Parties to see which will gain the most votes. Some time before the change of Government Deputy Norton brought in a Social Welfare Bill. That Bill was built on sound principles, but it was met by an organised Press campaign denouncing it. The present Government has brought in an almost identical Bill. There is no Press campaign now, and seemingly there is a blessing on the Bill. I hate that kind of hypocrisy. Principles remain the same, and if they are admitted they must be admitted for all time.
I am satisfied that this measure has been brought in, not so much for the good of the people but rather out of a desire by the Government to down the Norton Bill by bringing in a cheap type of social security on their own lines—on austerity lines. Some form of social security was inevitable in the present set-up as some scheme was badly needed because we have too many people living in insecurity and the least sign of depression brings them to the border of destitution. If Deputies were reasonable, I am satisfied that there should be no need for conflict on a measure of this kind. The people's co-operation should be sought and Church and State should have joined together to see that a measure was brought in here which would have the blessing of all the people. Instead of that, we have a race between politicians to see who will get the most votes out of these schemes and, unfortunately, you never get a good Bill in conditions of that kind. I agree, however, that a Bill of this kind, having a contributory basis, is good because it gives people self-respect, feeling, as they do, when they come to draw benefits that they are getting something for which they paid out of their own pockets. Certainly, this measure is a great step forward from the system of doles and sops which so degraded the people of this country over a long number of years. Doles and sops have always made schemers of the people and led them to evade the law whenever they could. We do not want a repetition of that situation.
If this scheme is worked on right lines I am satisfied that it should eventually mean a saving to the people in many other directions. If Christianity were practised in its fullness, as it should be in this country, there would be no need for schemes of this kind. We all know that the root cause of social insecurity is man's inhumanity to his fellow-man. We are living in an imperfect age and the greed of the few has brought about the suffering of the many. There is such a vast number of people who have no security of any kind that schemes of this character are necessary to stem the tide of Communism that threatens to engulf Europe. I am satisfied that social security on a Christian basis is a bulwark against such a danger. Communism is a direct result of greed-the greed of the few to possess what should belong to the many. There are many good points in the present Bill but it contains many defects also. For instance, the fact that the farmers are excluded from the Bill is a very grave defect. While the farmers have to contribute, not once but twice, they get nothing for it. He, however, has to pay his labouring man on Saturday night and make a contribution for his security and at the same time he has got to pay his own contribution. The two contributions come out of the same pocket, still we exclude the farmer from any benefit. That, I say, is a mean way of dealing with him because we all know that the most insecure people in the country are the small farmers. They have to carry the biggest load and I do not see why they should be excluded.
When Deputy Norton brought in his Bill, the present Minister asked: "Why not include the farmers?" and he added that when he was bringing in a Bill he would include them. Now we have his Bill before us and he is deliberately excluding them. I think that is a shame, because it is the hard struggle of the small farmers that is keeping the country going. We know what the farmers have had to go through over a long number of years, from the time of the Famine up to the present. When I speak of farmers I mean, of course, the working farmers, men holding anything from five to 50 acres, not the big wealthy farmers who carry on farming only as a sideline. These working farmers, if they have to contribute to this scheme, should be entitled to all the benefits which it confers on any other section of the community and I hope that before the Bill passes the House, an amendment will be inserted whereby these worthy sections of the community will be brought within the Bill. The Bill represents an injustice to the nation if they are excluded.
My opinion is that this State really never got a chance. We have had a surfeit of politics in this country for the past 30 years, of politics of stunts. There was hardly a decade in which some stunt was not introduced. We had a stunt in 1922, a stunt in 1927, a stunt in 1932 and now we have a stunt in 1952. Shock after shock was administered to the people. What do you expect from a people who have had to undergo all that? If you want honesty and principle, you cannot get them by giving shock after shock to the people in that manner. After all these shocks, they are certainly not in a position to bear the further shock of the Budget they got last week. They are now being told that they are going to bask in the sunshine of social security. I think we should be honest and tell the people that if they are going to bask in the sunshine of social security, it will be at their own expense. I certainly am satisfied that the people of this country were badly trained for the introduction of a Bill of this kind. They were trained to evade and to deceive for years and years; they were trekking to and from the labour exchanges to draw doles or sops. The dole was only a miserable pittance upon which they were not able to live and they had to try to evade the law to get something additional.
The Deputy is certainly succeeding in making a speech that would be relevant on almost anything.
I am satisfied that if the State were properly organised on a right basis this Bill could bring an immense amount of good. As matters stand, we see a race between different Parties to see who is going to get the most votes out of it. That is bad for the country. There are very many heavy calls on the people, and the farmers especially are not one bit happy about the Bill. I am a farmer myself and I think that the farmers should have been put in a position to understand this Bill, but they got no chance whatever. This measure is being forced on a country that is unprepared. If the country got a chance there would be a proper publicity campaign carried on over a reasonable period; the people could then see the good points and the had points of the measure. The heads of the different Parties should have put these points before the people and Church and State should have come together to lay a proper foundation for a social security scheme. Instead of that, we have confusion upon confusion and that is the time that is chosen to bring in a Bill of this kind.
There are, as I have said, many defects in this Bill, too many defects. I am satisfied that one of the greatest benefits that could be provided for the masses of the people is a death benefit. That is excluded from this Bill for some reason which I cannot understand. Then we have a marriage benefit provided for. Surely we all know that the death of any member of a family involves considerable expense and that is the time we should be able to give aid to the unfortunate people concerned. Yet this Bill absolutely excludes any death benefits.
We all know that when people get advanced in years their sons or daughters take out an insurance policy on them. They pay the premium for, perhaps, 15 or 20 years. Sometimes they have it paid three times over when the old person dies and they expect to draw about £40. They draw, in fact, about £20. That is a defect which, I think, should be remedied, because it is wrong. It is legalised robbery of the people. This Bill could have included a death benefit. If it had, it would mean cutting out a good deal of this so-called insurance, which is nothing more than robbery. Of course, there is something behind it. Why it is excluded I do not know. There seems to be some kind of a pull, some big pull, with the insurance companies all over the country.
It is the same with the old age pensions. I do not see why we should not give them to people at 60 or 65 years of age. At the present time, in the County Meath, we have been ordered to pension off five or six men who are hale and hearty and in the full vigour of their life. They are rate collectors who were in the employment of the Meath County Council, men who could have worked on for the next five or ten years, and who are just as good to-day as they were 15 or 20 years ago. But no, an Order came from the Government and they must get out at 65 and must be given a reasonably big pension. Young men will have to be put in their places. But while that could be done, there is nothing in this Bill to give hope to the small farmers and workers of the country, men who have worked hard all their lives. If they could retire at 65, there would be a chance for a son or a daughter taking over the homestead. Surely it would be just to give those men a retirement pension during the few years of life left to them.
They have been excluded from the Bill. The age laid down is 70 years. At that age a man will have very few years left to him to enjoy any benefit. I think that men who have sweated and toiled up to 65 years, and in most cases have reared families, are entitled to retire at 65 and to enjoy reasonable benefits. Such a provision was in the Norton Bill. I regard that omission from this Bill as a very bad defect.
I do not see any reason why a marriage allowance should be paid because there are very few hazards attaching to a man when he is getting married. He is then hale and hearty and full of life and should be left to fend for himself. Now, the proposal is to give him a prop before he starts in life, but we will not give a prop to the poor old man who is tottering on the edge of the grave. The Norton Bill provided death benefits. These would be a help to an old person's relatives because, as we know, most of those old people leave debts that have to be paid after their death and these are often a source of worry to their relatives. If that were done, of course, it would be following the Norton scheme in every detail. That would not do at all because Fianna Fáil must have their own scheme. Their idea is: "How could Norton or the Labour Party bring in anything good for this country; no, they are not a national Party and they do not belong to the great Fianna Fáil."
As a farmer, I have doubts about those schemes. I would not have much doubt about a scheme if it were comprehensive, covering all sections of the people. There is no reason why this scheme should not be comprehensive. What we have lacked in this country for a long number of years is a co-operative effort. We have not given it the slightest encouragement. If the small farmers had been included in this Bill then we would be making some move towards co-operative effort. They, surely, should have been included. We are not going to make much headway in this country until we have co-operative effort on the lines I suggest. I hope it is not yet too late for the Minister to bring in amendments which will make this Bill a fully comprehensive one covering all sections.
I would welcome the Bill were it a contributory one under which the people, all classes of them, would get benefits as of right. As it is only some classes will be entitled to benefit. A comprehensive Bill should include all classes and the benefits would be there as of right for all. I am satisfied that the Minister and this House will have to enlighten the people far more than has been the case so far before measures of this kind are put across.
The farmers are not what I would call enemies of this Bill but they are enemies of a House that would force down their necks a Bill without either consulting them or the country. They will have to pay contributions for themselves and their workmen and will then find themselves excluded from all benefit. I say "shame on the Minister for the insult he heaps on the farmers." They have to drag the load for everybody else. Fianna Fáil blows its trumpets about social security but there is no social security for one section of the people—the farmers. They are being used as a Trojan horse, and always have been, for other sections. They have to drag along in the mud. I wonder if their consciences tickle Fianna Fáil for the political mistrust and bewildered confusion which they are creating?
Where are the masses of votes to be found? Are they to be found amongst the workers or the farmers? The Government know well that you have five labouring men to one farmer. That is the reason for this and that is why the farmers are neglected. They never grumble but even when they do they will not hit back. I repeat that they are fully entitled to be included with other sections of the people in this Bill. Who could need the benefits of it more than the small struggling farmer with ten or 15 acres of land trying to make ends meet? He is depressed at all times and has no help from the State or from anybody else. He is going around in tatters and rags. I am afraid that these will become less so. That is the way we found them and that is the way we are leaving them.
While this scheme may be an advance as regards social justice, in my opinion it is an ill-considered and an ill-advised one. I think that the people are not educated for it. The people down the country need more education in regard to these schemes. We have had a flood of them in this House and they have left the people bewildered. As I said at the opening, we had hair-shirt hysterics last week, and now we are told that the people are going to bask in the sunshine of social welfare.
The provocative and very bad tempered type of speech made by the Minister when introducing this Bill proves to me, at any rate, that he has brought in this Bill, or has been forced to bring it in against his own good judgment—if he has good judgment— but certainly against his own wishes. Outside this House, the Minister is a good tempered, jovial, gentlemanly type of man. I do not know why it is, since he went back in June last to the seat which he now occupies, that every time he gets up to speak he must pour out all kinds of personal abuse against the Leader of the Labour Party and Labour Deputies for not doing everything that he would like them to do. However, that is not going to affect in the slightest our outlook or attitude to this measure.
I believe that the Minister would never have brought this measure before the House were it not for the fact that his predecessor introduced a better Bill on the 3rd March last year. Now Fianna Fáil as a Party—since the day they were baptised or re-baptised as Fianna Fáil, and since the day they came into this House in particular— have claimed to be the successors of the Republican Parliament in 1919. To that extent they claim—in my opinion they cannot prove it—that since they came in here, or since they came into power they have done their best to give effect to the Republican declaration, that is, to the democratic programme of Dáil Éireann that was read to that Assembly in 1919.
I challenge their right to make that claim. I challenge their whole history. I assert that it is a very bad history if they claim to be the successors of the men who were responsible for the declarations contained in the democratic programme. I challenge their right to claim that they have done anything to justify their attitude on matters of that kind. Their history in respect to matters of social legislation is very much open to criticism and to question so far as they claim to be the successors of the men who were responsible for issuing the democratic programme in 1919.
The Minister himself, on many occasions in this House since October, 1947, has challenged the accuracy of statements that I have made here concerning what he said on the 22nd October, 1947, when he was asking the House to reject a motion of mine, which was brought in by the Fine Gael leaders at the time, for a modification of the means test so far as it then applied to the aged, the blind, the infirm and the widows and orphans. On a number of occasions the Minister challenged the accuracy of my statement, and I repeatedly reasserted that the passing of that motion would not mean a cost of any more than £750,000. The Minister himself agreed that it might be as low as £500,000. Here is what the Minister said at column 822 of the Official Report on the 22nd October, 1947:—
"To carry out the terms of this motion would, so far as I can calculate—it is difficult to calculate it— involve a sum of between £500,000 and £750,000."
The Minister also appeared to be under the impression, when he spoke without reference to files or notes, that it was not actually a motion brought in for the purpose of modifying the means test. But later on on the same occasion he said in the same column of the Official Report:—
"However, what is being sought is a modification of the means test."
Will the Minister further challenge me in view of the fact that I am now quoting from the official printed record what he actually said?
I would ask the Deputies, especially the Deputies who were not here in October, 1947, to read the speech made by the Minister on the date to which I have referred, and compare it, so far as it is comparable, with the speech that he made when he introduced the Second Reading of this Bill. If you read the speech that he made on the 22nd October, 1947, and relate it to the relevant portions of this particular Bill and the speech he made when introducing this Bill, there is much more convincing evidence required to prove that the Minister gave the correct story regarding his attitude to social security and his association with the preparation of the Bill which he now asks the House to adopt.
In October, 1947, the Minister made no reference whatsoever to the legislation that he now alleges was then in the course of preparation. He made no reference to the documents he had inspected and to the conferences he is supposed to have attended. He made no reference in October, 1947, to those particular matters although he came along and stated on Second Reading that the preparation of this Bill was well advanced in October, 1947. Why did he not take his own supporters and the members of the House as well into his confidence and tell them that what he actually did in October, 1947, so far as the preparation of this Bill was concerned up to that time, was to keep the whole business a complete secret, a fact which leaves me and other Deputies entitled to question the accuracy of what he said on the Second Reading of this Bill?
The Minister did, however, make some remarkable admissions. He attacked Deputy Norton and asserted that what Deputy Norton said on a previous occasion was not correct. On the Second Reading speech on the 22nd March at column 623 of the Official Report the Minister stated:
"The ‘Outline of a Scheme of Social Insurance', produced before Deputy Norton became Minister for Social Welfare, had not received my approval."
Does not that seem to contradict entirely what the Minister said in other portions of the same speech? The matter was only in the preliminary stages and Deputy Norton, who succeeded the present Minister and held that office for three years and four months, said that out of 21 or 22 conferences which took place between the staff officers of his Department responsible for getting the preliminary information for the Minister, the present Minister was present only at one.
However, it is not now a question of what the Minister had done up to the time he was obliged to hand over his office in February, 1948, but what the Minister has done since he came back to office on the 30th June last. If the Minister's proposals, as indicated to this House, had been so far advanced before he went out of office in February, 1948, and if the Minister's scheme which he gave to the public on 3rd March, last year, was the scheme which was approved by the Fianna Fáil Party and by the ex-Ministers of the Fianna Fáil Party, why has it taken him from the 13th June of last year until the 27th March of this year to bring in a Bill which he said was almost ready for introduction in February, 1948, and which required only a simple O.K. when he went back again to the same Department on 13th June last? What is the explanation of the delay from the 13th June last to the 27th March of this year in bringing in this particular measure?
I know it is not the same measure. It does not contain the same proposals as he even promised to the public in a statement which he issued on behalf of Fianna Fáil on the 3rd March last year.
I have had some experience of the attitude of the Fianna Fáil Party to matters that are relevant to his Bill. I was christened by people in my own constituency and by other people outside it as one of the seven sinners that voted Fianna Fáil into office in 1932. I want to assert—I challenge the Minister, if he will, to deny it— that, before we cast our votes on that particular occasion, we had talks with the Taoiseach and with two leading members of the Fianna Fáil Party who know the many matters upon which there was general agreement. One was the intention of the Fianna Fáil Government, particularly if we gave them our votes to put them into office on that occasion, that they would bring in a Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act. There is no doubt whatsoever but that we got that undertaking from the leaders of the Fianna Fáil Party in their offices in Merrion Street before they were put into office in 1932.
We met them periodically during that period, as is well known, since it was publicised, and after seven or eight months we made inquiries as to what was being done in connection with the promised measure for widows and orphans. We asked them at the end of nine months and at the end of 11 or 12 months, and the present Minister will not deny that they refused point blank to take any steps whatever during their first year in office to bring in a Widows' and Orphans' Pension Bill.
How is that related to this Bill?
It is related to the very bad history of the Fianna Fáil Party and Government regarding matters of social legislation.
History does not come into this.
As a result of our making these polite inquiries, as, of course, everybody knows, we were thrown overboard, and Fianna Fáil came back to office after the election with a clear majority in 1933. If they were so keen on matters of that kind, why did it take them three years more before they brought in the widows' and orphans' pension scheme, which provided miserably low allowances for the limited number of people covered by it?
I suggest to the Deputy that he should tell us about this measure. It would be more relevant.
It is no harm for me to say that between 1935 and 1947 they did practically nothing more on the social security side. Am I precluded from referring to that to justify the assertion I am making that the Fianna Fáil Party and Government have a very bad history in regard to matters of social security?
I should like the Deputy to come to the Bill.
The members of the Government travelled over the history of the last 25 years during the debate.
I publicly charge the Minister and his colleagues, because they voted against the Norton measure on the 2nd March, 1951, with being responsible for not having that scheme in operation from the 1st January this year. I challenge the Minister to ask the head of his Department or any of the senior officials who were associated with the Social Security Bill, to deny that there were instructions given by his predecessor in the early part of last year to take all the necessary steps to have the Norton social security scheme brought into operation on the 1st January, 1952. I assert that Deputy Norton had the authority of his colleagues in the Cabinet for giving that instruction. It would be correct to say, in fairness to the officials, that they expressed the opinion that that was a tremendous job and that they might not be able to carry out his instructions in the matter. Notwithstanding their opinion, Deputy Norton and all his colleagues in the Government, to my personal knowledge, had the courage at any rate to take their own policy decisions and tell the senior civil servants to carry them out. They did not take instructions from their senior civil servants as the Minister for Finance has taken them in connection with his brutal Budget.
They did not carry out their decisions.
Civil servants must be left out of this debate.
I am not blaming any senior officials connected with the Department of Social Welfare. You voted against that Bill which could have been in operation if you had even given it the same kind of qualified support that we are giving to your Bill.
Will Deputy Davin please use the third person and come to the Bill?
The Second Reading of that Social Security Bill was passed on the 2nd March last year by a majority of the members of this House notwithstanding all the secret service men that you sent into the trade union meetings and every political meeting to obstruct the measure outside the House as well as inside.
I did not send any secret service men to any meeting. I would ask the Deputy to deal with the Bill.
This has a definite bearing on the history of the Bill we are discussing, and has been previously mentioned.
I do not know where the history of it comes in. The only point I can see in it is if the Deputy wants to charge the Minister with delaying the measure. That is the only thing that is relevant, and he has not done that.
I hope I am correct in charging the Minister with misleading the people who were intended to be covered by the Norton measure. I will prove that he misled them by a document issued by the Minister himself after he left this House on the 2nd March of last year. This document has been made use of by members who have spoken already. It is a statement issued by the Fianna Fáil Party, and published on the 3rd March last year, in which the provisions of the Norton scheme were compared with the Fianna Fáil promises. In the majority of cases it is exactly what was proposed in the Norton measure, which passed its Second Reading on the previous day. They never made any reference then to the dropping of the death benefit or the retirement benefit, both of which were included in the Norton measure.
The present Minister on the 2nd March last year compared the cost of the proposals contained in the Norton Bill with the cost of the alternative scheme which he promised to put into operation if he came back to this Department as a member of the Government. Dealing with the question of cost, the Minister in this statement said the cost of the Norton scheme would be: "£3,500,000 in increased contributions from employers and employees, plus £3,000,000 increasing to £4,000,000 after five years in taxation." What did he say his alternative proposals meant? "No increase in contributions, but an increase of £4,600,000 in taxation."
The workers and those covered by the Norton scheme who were deceived by the propaganda machine that he had at his disposal at the time, and which infiltrated into every one of the trade union meetings in this country, now know where they stand. The Minister is not passing the whole of the cost on to taxation. He proposes to take £750,000 out of the pockets of the workers and the employers and, in addition to that, the poorer section of the workers, the old age pensioners, and everybody else will be taxed through the present Budget. They will have to pay more for their tea, sugar, bread, butter, flour, all the essential commodities which are consumed by the poorer section of the people.
What explanation has the Minister for coming in here with a Bill which so glaringly repudiates the public promises which he issued to the people on the 3rd March last year? It takes a brazen man to do what the Minister is doing through the medium of this Bill. What does he do in addition to that by an Order made since this Bill was introduced? When Deputy Norton was Minister there was an arrangement between the national health insurance section of the Department and the hospitals of this country to pay out of the Insurance Fund a sum of £2 12s. 6d. per week for every insured person who went into a hospital. The hospitals put up a case—it must have been a convincing case—that that sum of £2 12s. 6d. was too low, as their losses on the administration of the hospitals were piling up from month to month and year to year. Deputy Norton then increased the sum from £2 12s. 6d. to £4 4s., and the total amount of that came out of the surplus funds of the national health insurance section of the Department of Social Welfare.
What has the Minister done by Order since this Bill was introduced? He has done this: Under his Bill the amount to be paid from the national health insurance section to the hospitals of the country for maintenance is five guineas, but he is going to compel the unfortunate insured person, who is to-day in receipt of 22/6 per week, to pay an increase of £1 1s. He has to pay a guinea out of his 22/6 per week for maintenance in the hospital and, if necessary, he will have to pay 10/- extra for an X-ray photograph.
Is not that administration?
The Minister took good care that he would not put that proposal into any section of the Bill.
If it can be done by administration, it surely cannot be relevant.
There has been a good deal of discussion on this matter. As I said here earlier to-day, I do not want to take up the time of the House. We are not taking up the attitude with regard to this measure or with regard to any other mild or good measure that we will not support it simply because it was brought forward by a Fianna Fáil-Cowan Administration. That has been our attitude since this corkscrew Government came into operation. I feel I am right in thus describing it. We said in our committee room when Fianna Fáil came into office that we would consider on its merits any sound and good measure which they brought forward. We were not going to adopt the tactics followed by Fianna Fáil when in opposition; they obstructed every measure—the Land Bill, 1950, the Local Authorities (Works) Act, 1949, and the Norton Social Security Bill, 1951. We are considering this measure also on its merits.
Will the Minister who appears to be so touchy on the question of the death benefits, tell the 700,000 or 800,000 who are going to be covered by this measure what the reason is for dropping the death benefits? He did not propose to drop them according to his statement on the 3rd March last year. I do not propose to make any personal attack on the present Minister or on any Minister but I am sure the Minister will not object to my saying that he did not want to go back to his Cabinet and that he proposes, when he has got this Bill through the House, to go back to his insurance job. I am saying this because I want the Minister, if he is only going to remain here until this Bill comes into operation, to honour the promises that he made in connection with social security just a year ago. He did not say it in any positive way but he made a sort of a conditional promise. He said at one portion of his speech in connection with death and retirement benefits, at column 638, Volume 130 of the Official Reports of the 27th March, 1952:
"If at any time I am satisfied that workers generally want such a scheme, I should be prepared to produce it and, if they so desire, a scheme of death benefits as well."
Will the Minister be frank with the House? He is very frank in his criticism of the members of this Party and in his criticism of our whole Party's attitude on everything with which he does not agree. That is his conditional promise. That is not the kind of thing the Minister should hold up in front of the people who want a definite decision and who want to know where they are. Will the Minister say definitely, one way or the other, whether it is his intention to bring back into this scheme the death and retirement benefits which he promised on the 3rd March last year in an advertisement at the expense of the Fianna Fáil Party organisation? I appeal to him to be frank, especially if he does not intend to remain in the Government after this Bill has gone through the House.
In any case, I would appeal to the Minister in the most sincere way, if he is going to take credit in the future for this measure, both as an individual Minister and as one of the strongest planks of the Fianna Fáil Party in this country over a long period, to realise that it is well worth doing the job well rather than putting a patchwork scheme through the House and changing his mind later on, or having his mind changed for him by somebody else in his Party and having to bring these benefits back in the manner in which they were provided in the Norton Bill last year. In any case, let him be frank with the House. Will he take the opinion of the trade union movement in this country? Let him forget about the Labour Party, with which he disagrees so much. Will he take the opinion of the Congress of Irish Unions and of the Irish Trade Union Congress? Will he take the opinion of the bigger unions of this country on this matter, or is he going to leave it to the decision of the Fianna Fáil cumainn all over the country whether or not to introduce death and retirement benefits?
I appeal again to the Minister to be frank with regard to this matter, because it has been brought to his attention by many other Deputies who have spoken earlier on this measure I am a member of a superannuation fund. Before I retired from the railway service, I was a member of what I am informed was the biggest superannuation scheme of clerical workers in the world. I had to pay, from the day I was a junior clerk, a percentage of my salary towards a retirement allowance and also towards the provision of widows' and orphans' pensions. I was a member of an advisory committee, though, probably, not a very useful one, in that particular body. Through my own trade union organisation, I know a little about figures concerning the administration of a contributory superannuation or pension scheme. Will not the Minister admit, from his own experience and also from the knowledge which, I feel sure, he can get from his advisers, that the insurance companies, whether they be British or Irish, derive the major portion of their profits from lapsed policies? Foolish and stupid people allow their policies to lapse after paying into an insurance company for a long period. However, most of them allow them to lapse as the result of circumstances beyond their control, for instance, the fact that they are thrown on the scrap-heap of unemployment.
Is it not a fact, therefore, that the insurance companies are strongly opposed to the provision of death benefits? Is there a letter in the file—the big file which the Minister held up here the other day from the insurance companies—protesting against the inclusion of death benefits as proposed in the Norton scheme? Deputy Norton had to interview a deputation from the insurance companies protesting against the inclusion of death benefits but he was determined to go ahead with the idea. A good deal of the cost of the propaganda provided in the newspapers of this country was found by the insurance companies—by the big insurance companies. However, I am not attributing the criticism of the death benefits to one insurance company. All of them had the same outlook, and out of the pool of their huge profits, they provided money for the propaganda carried on against the Norton Bill which was framed to include a provision for death benefit. Who has persuaded the Minister to drop this benefit, seeing that he did not say last year that he was going to drop it?
I would like to put another question to the Minister in regard to the death benefit. What additional amount would be paid by the worker and the employer if death benefit was included in the scheme now before the House? Although I do not know what figures the Minister has to support him in this matter, I guess that in connection with the new benefits to be paid for under the Norton scheme or under the Ryan scheme—if the Minister does not mind me calling it the Ryan scheme— death benefit would have the highest percentage contribution of all. Will the Minister deny that? If you provided retirement pension and death allowances the contribution from the point of view of the contributor would be much greater than it would be for retirement benefit, for marriage gratuity, for increased national health allowance or for any other new benefit or any old benefit increased.
The retirement contribution would be very big.
I suppose it would. I would like to have this information. The Minister should give it.
I do not know exactly what it would be.
I would like him to compare the retirement benefit with the death benefit, from the point of view of what would have to be paid by way of contribution.
The amount for the contributor for death benefit would be very small.
I would like the figures because we are prepared to consider the measure on its merits——
I will give them to you.
I am asking for the information not for the purposes of criticising the Minister here or elsewhere. We are entitled to that information. This is a serious measure which will cost an additional £750,000 to the workers and to the employers, and legislation is being introduced for increased taxation on the necessaries of life. This Bill linked up with the Budget is not understood by the people of the country. Of course, the Budget is the most brutal Budget in my 30 years of public life. I can only conclude it was framed by some mad Minister or some mad adviser of the Minister.
You have not far to go for that.
I do not want to repeat here what has been better said by many speakers, but I have asked for information in the most polite way possible, for me at any rate. I asked for it not for the purpose of making political capital. We want to consider the measure on its merits, and if we are to consider it thus, I say to the Minister that we are entitled to all the information which within reason we are asking for. I hope he will drop the provocative and bad-tempered type of speech he made when he was introducing this Bill, that he will forget, for the time being at any rate, that Deputy Norton, his predecessor, was responsible for bringing in a better measure; and seeing that Deputy Norton is not in the House, if he is going to reply now, I hope he will forget, because he should never have said, some of the things he said when introducing the Bill.
Seeing that the Minister is from my own constituency, and since this Social Welfare Bill has come before the public the people in his own constituency have asked me to appeal to the Minister on their behalf. The people who were expecting to benefit by the Norton Bill on retirement must now resign themselves to continue working in industries at hard, manual labour. It is regrettable that the Minister has cut out some of the good things that were in that Bill. As has been said here to-day, the death benefit was very necessary. Throughout the whole country in the days gone by poor people had to be buried by what is known as the "shake of the hat". They were not able to pay anything to the insurance companies. When I look out from my own door every day of the week I see an insurance agent and his inspector going into poor people's houses to collect sums from 1d. up to 3/- a week which are to provide something to put them under the clay. It is unfortunate that the Minister should have omitted the death benefit from the Bill.
It is a sad thing also that in his own constituency to-night there are over 1,200 people on home assistance with no provision for them under this Bill. If they are unable to work or if they are invalids they must exist on home assistance at the miserable rate of 5/- or 6/- or 10/- in very odd cases. What relief will this Bill afford to those people if it is passed? What relief is it to the man who is an invalid who may be drawing a paltry 15/- a week, or what avail is it to have inspectors and doctors going around holding courts of referees in hotels that are costing more money than would provide an increase for these people? Is it not time that this situation was remedied? The Minister knows as well as I do that he was mistaken in cutting out the death benefits and in compelling the worker to continue working after 65. There is many an Irishman to-day, who went over to Britain for a few years and came back to his own country at 65 years of age and is drawing a pension and an allowance for his wife from the British Government, while our own Irishman at home in industrial employment is compelled to carry on because he cannot get a pension at 65. I would like to ask the Minister how many men on his farm in Delgany or in any of his property around are 70 years of age? How many agents has he in the insurance company carrying on at 70 years of age? I am sure there are none. Yet he tells us that the workers must continue and that he will not give them a pension at 65.
When the Minister was in opposition he said that there was a Social Welfare Bill in the Custom House, which, if he had remained in office, he would have brought into operation. He has taken Deputy Norton's Bill and adopted its most important points, and this is what he now intends to implement. When he was in opposition he said: "I have a Social Welfare Bill; if you give us a majority, we will put it into operation." That is a trick that has often been played by the present Government. They are now back in power with the support of four Deputies, two of them denounced by the Bishops of Ireland—Deputy Dr. Browne and Deputy Cowan—and Deputy Cogan, who has been put out of the Farmers' Party and who has been denounced throughout his constituency of County Wicklow. At column 1819, Volume 112, 29th July, 1948, Deputy Cogan said:—
"I want to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill. Many Deputies have said that it does not go far enough, but, at any rate, it goes a long distance to meet the claims of the weaker sections of the community. Deputy MacEntee attacked this Bill so vigorously that I am rather expecting that he will marshal his entire Party into the Division Lobby to vote against it."
I do not know the intentions, but it seems plain that this Bill is a retrograde step. I do not think any Deputy would agree with him on that point so far as social services are concerned. A great man said the truth is to be found at the bottom of the well, but when Deputy MacEntee puts on his diving-suit he hardly ever succeeds in bringing up the truth. He brings up a lot of other things that do not, as a rule, look well, sound well or smell well. I wonder if the names of Deputy Cogan, Deputy Cowan, Deputy Dr. Browne, aye, and Deputy John Flynn, smell well to-night in their constituencies after the Budget statement which the Minister for Finance made last week? These are the men who are keeping the present Government in power.
What provision is there in this Bill with regard to disability pensioners— the special allowance people? What help will be given to them? It is all very well to say that there has been an increase in the number of registered unemployed. As a worker, I prefer to see work provided for our people. The workers want work. It is only the men who cannot get work who want social services. I happened to go into a shop not far from this House for a paper to-day. There were two old ladies behind the counter. A big shot came in. They said: "We do not want social services"; and he said: "I am with you in that statement." I followed him out of the shop and he got into a big Chrysler car. The people in the shop were well protected because they had their trade. They did not, therefore, want social services. However, there are thousands of unfortunate people in the country to-day who are waiting for some help from this House. They are honest, genuine cases and, God knows, they need help and the sooner they get it the better.
The Minister indicated in his Budget speech last week that he was giving an extra 1/6 to the old age pensioners. Does the Minister consider that that is a fair relief to the old age pensioner in view of the increased prices for food which will come into force in July next? What can the people of this country expect from a Government that is hanging on to power?
Listen to what the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Smith, said at a Fianna Fáil meeting in his constituency in Cavan: "Mr. Smith, T.D., who presided, said that nothing was so distasteful as to see members of the Government shivering in fear and afraid to meet the electorate." Is that not the case to-day with the Fianna Fáil Government? Are they not shivering after last week's Budget?
The Deputy must confine himself to the Social Welfare Bill.
I am. I am just quoting what the Minister for Local Government said at a Fianna Fáil meeting in Cavan. Now listen to what the Taoiseach said at the same meeting. I quote from the Irish Press of the 12th February, 1951: “We always went to the country when there was any doubt as to whether we were representing the people or not.” I assert that the present Taoiseach and his Coalition Government do not represent the people.
That has nothing to do with the Bill before the House.
I voted in this House after the last general election—even though my health was in a precarious position at the time—in an endeavour to keep Fianna Fáil out of office. How ever, they got in by trickery and this Social Welfare Bill is merely window dressing. Deputy Dr. Ryan, the present Minister for Social Welfare, had the cheek to tell his followers at a Fianna Fáil meeting at Wexford that he left a better Social Welfare Bill behind him than the Norton Bill. We now have evidence that his Bill is not nearly as good as Deputy Norton's Bill.
That is what you say.
Did you not cut out some of the best of Deputy Norton's Bill? What about the death benefit under which, if a person died, a child would get £6 and an adult £20? Did you not reduce the maternity benefit from £5 to £2? What good is £2 when a midwife charges three guineas? I always welcome any Bill that will help the down-trodden people of this country. They have no protection and they have to submit to a means test before they get anything.
I want to quote, now, from a letter which I received from a man in Foulksmills. It is as follows:
"My age is 66 years and two months. I spent one month in the Enniscorthy Hospital by reason of my back... I do not see, Sir, why I and all my class, invalids, should be expected to exist on a lower weekly pension than the old aged. I can hear the people in general commenting earnestly upon it and I am advised to appeal to you about the matter."
The writer of that letter also said that he had notified the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Dr. Ryan, and appealed to him not to let people such as him down in their disgraceful plight. He further stated that for the past eight years he has been in receipt of 15/- national health. What hope has that person of getting anything out of this Social Welfare Bill? None. Then the Fianna Fáil Party are blowing that it is a great Bill. They hinted that the Labour Party were going to oppose it. Since I came into this House in 1943, the Labour Party has never opposed anything that was for the good of the people—and they never will. The propaganda used against us in the last general election was shocking. We were told that we sold ourselves to Fine Gael. The last Government promised the people a ten-point programme and before the inter-Party Government left office that programme was almost fulfilled. An increase of 5/- was given to the old age pensioners who were made paupers by the Minister, Deputy Dr. Ryan, and who had to exist on 12/6 a week and 2/6 home assistance. We did away with that pauperism. We gave them a pension book and the pension could be drawn at the post office. We had the Old I.R.A. men's pensions reviewed— which is something that Fianna Fáil turned down.
The Deputy is getting away from the Bill.
I was taunted by Deputy Dr. Ryan in Wexford that the National Labour Party had sold themselves to Fine Gael.
So you did.
But did you not sell yourselves to Deputy Captain Cowan——
The Red nuncio.
——and Deputy Cogan? The Minister is afraid to do anything because he is the head bottle-washer of the New Ireland Assurance Company. He does not want the death benefits because the company would lose its profits.
If the Deputy cannot confine himself to the Bill he must resume his seat.
The people in the constituency in which the Minister gets his votes are not satisfied with this Bill. Last year, on a similar Bill, the Minister said it did not go half far enough. Did the Minister not say that?
Then why have you not gone further?
I will tell you all about it in a few minutes.
Why has the Minister taken away the good things out of the Bill? The Minister has empty benches behind him now. There will be no one to clap him as they clapped the Minister for Finance after he read his Budget last Wednesday. There is very little for which to clap the Minister, but, nevertheless, we welcome the Bill for the little good it does do on behalf of the people we represent.
I want the Minister to clarify some points in the Bill. He stated that in future disablement benefit and compensation will come in under this measure. At the present moment an adult under the Workmen's Compensation Act is entitled to 50/- a week, while under this measure he would be entitled to only 24/- a week. I am sure it is not the Minister's intention to worsen the position of these people but perhaps he will clarify the matter when he is replying.
Deputy Cogan pointed out—and here I want to dissociate myself completely, as senior representative of County Wicklow, from Deputy Cogan's remarks—that this clause would be of great advantage to farmers who employ men, because by paying their contribution they would have compensation cover for their men in the event of an accident. Has the Minister considered the position that exists during harvest time when casual workers are taken on? These workers would not be insured because they would not have sufficient stamps. What, then, will be the position with regard to them? Will they be covered by this Act or will the farmers have to insure them?
The Minister stated that if he received sufficient evidence he might amend the Bill on the Committee Stage in relation to death benefits. I am sure the local authorities will be able to supply the Minister with all the evidence he desires in that connection. The local authorities have to come to the assistance of numbers of poor people by making a contribution towards burials. I am sure the Minister will be able to find out from the local authorities the amount paid out each year in death benefits in the Twenty-Six Counties.
In 1947 I made an appeal for some measure of social security for our people. I mentioned at that time that I recognised we could not have a scheme similar to the Beveridge scheme in England because we are an agricultural country. At the same time I thought we could do somewhat better. The Minister opposed our plan last year and I was led to believe that he could produce something much more far-reaching.
Recently I had a case which I think deserves the Minister's consideration. A worker in my own constituency went to England for six months and worked there as a builder's labourer. He fell from a scaffolding one day and was killed. He left a wife and six children. When we looked for compensation for the widow and children we were told it was an accident, that we could not prove the employer was negligent and that, therefore, we were not entitled to any compensation. Because the husband had not been quite six months in England the widow was not entitled to any pension for herself or the children. Her case is now before the Minister's Department in an effort to secure a contributory pension for her. Trouble like that is bound to arise unless we come to some definite arrangement with the British. In Ireland of course the widow would be entitled to full compensation. If something is not done in this particular case this unfortunate woman will be dependent on charity in the form of home assistance or through the St. Vincent de Paul. I can give the Minister all the particulars he wants, including a copy of the solicitor's letter stating she could not receive any compensation or qualify for the widows' and orphans' pension.
The Minister has not included domestic servants in this Bill. I do not think that is right. A number of these people are now in receipt of home assistance and other assistance having reached 60 years of age and being unable to work. Even though the number may be small I think these people should be brought within the scope of the Bill. They will not then be compelled to seek charity and they will have some security. I have been connected with public bodies all my life and I know that numbers of these people are anxious that they should be covered by some pension scheme which would enable them to pay their rent so that they would not be forced to go into the county home at the end of their days.
I appeal to the Minister to consider the points I have raised between this and the Committee Stage. I am sure that any improvement will be welcomed. I would like to take this opportunity of pointing out to Deputy Cogan that he is not in touch with people. Neither is he a member of any public board in County Wicklow. If he were and if he had the knowledge I possess he would make a similar appeal to the Minister in connection with the improvement of various clauses of the Bill. I make it not from any political point of view but as one who has been interested in social security from 1947 onwards. I should like to see the Bill improved so as to obviate the infliction of hardship on a large number of people, and the imposition of a big burden on the ratepayers. It would be well if the Minister would amend the Bill so as to remove some of the snags which I have pointed out and to bring a greater sense of security to the people affected.
Coming from a rural constituency, where the number of contributory workers is very small in comparison to the number who might be termed non-contributory workers, I am very disappointed that this Bill provides no concession for the small farmer who works as hard as any industrial worker in Dublin or elsewhere. The weekly income of these small farmers in many instances is much smaller than that of the industrial worker in the cities or any provincial town. It is very discouraging, when we hear so much about social security and about the need for a comprehensive scheme to relieve the working man of the many handicaps which he has to encounter in life, to find that the small working farmer is left out in the cold.
I protest against the Bill for that reason, much more so than from any desire to argue as to whether the Bill introduced by Deputy Norton, when he was Minister, or the Bill introduced by the present Minister is the better measure. Neither of these two Bills makes provision for the small working farmer. I was as much disappointed on the occasion when the former Bill was introduced a year ago as I am on this occasion, that the small working farmer was left out, but there is the difference that there existed some hope under Deputy Norton's scheme that, in time to come, some ways or means would be provided under which the small farmer could be included.
I cannot see in this Bill any ways or means whereby the small farmer can be considered, for the simple reason that the moneys necessary for the implementation of this scheme come mostly from the taxpayer. That being so, we cannot envisage this scheme being able to pay its way apart from the taxpayers' contributions. If the Norton scheme were implemented, when one considers the contributions which it sought from the worker as against the contributions which the present Minister is seeking, one could envisage the time when that scheme would eventually pay its way, with, perhaps, something over, and, in due course, the sum which Deputy Norton's scheme would require from the taxpayer would be reduced to an insignificant amount. One had the hope that, eventually, the Government would not have to appeal to the taxpayer for any aid for the financing of that scheme, and the moneys which would be required in the early stages of its implementation could then be utilised to bring the benefits of the social welfare scheme to the hard-working small farmer and non-contributory workers. Unless the present Bill is amended, we can see no hope of providing any concession for the small working farmer. I wish again to stress the point that the small farmer in my constituency and in similar constituencies works as hard for much longer hours, and at much heavier toil, than any man engaged in the heaviest industry that exists in this or any other city, yet the Government deliberately left him out in the cold. As if that were not bad enough, they are being taxed to make a contribution towards the financing of this scheme. That, I think, is utterly unfair, seeing that there is no hope that, in future, they will get any consideration under it.
When we consider that when the other Bill was introduced by Deputy Norton a year ago, it was opposed violently by the then Opposition, now the Government responsible for the introduction of this measure, on the ground that it was not sufficiently comprehensive, that every class and creed did not come under it, and because it was not sufficiently generous, are we not entitled to ask the Minister to-night why he has not included in the scheme now before the House the many benefits which he urged Deputy Norton's scheme should have contained 12 months ago? We are entitled to ask him why this Bill is not in keeping with the promises he made to the electorate during the election campaign. Why did he not take the Bill which Deputy Norton had prepared and add to it all those features which he thought it should have contained when he was opposing it from this side of the House? All that was needed was the re-introduction of the Bill prepared prior to the dissolution. If Deputy Dr. Ryan, as he then was, was serious when he attacked the Bill, if he was serious when he walked up the aisle and into the Division Lobby to oppose it, he would have taken Deputy Norton's Bill, re-introduced it and added those extras which he advocated when he was speaking from this side of the House. Knowing the circumstances, we are entitled to come to the conclusion that he was not serious, that he was merely playing politics both in this House and in the election campaign throughout the Twenty-Six Counties.
What has he done for the non-contributory old age pensioner down the country? What has he done for the non-contributory widow and the other classes of non-contributing persons excluded from this scheme? Nothing whatsoever in comparison to what he is expecting to extract from them in the form of taxation. I feel as a representative of hard-working small farmers that it is unjust and unfair, when one takes into account the suggestions put forward by Deputy Dr. Ryan when he was speaking on this side of the House.
What explanation has the Minister to offer for taking Deputy Norton's scheme and putting it through the meat mincer, for pulverising it and reducing it to what it is at the moment, or for the elimination of death benefits and retirement benefits for domestic employees in hotels, boarding houses, etc? Are they not entitled to consideration? So far, we have got no explanation. We have certain grounds to work on, whether these are genuine or otherwise. Suggestions have come from this side of the House as to why these benefits in the Norton Scheme were omitted. We hope the Minister will give some explanation to-night. We believe in advance, however, that no explanation will be forthcoming, and that he will merely try to cover up things for the time being. That, in our opinion, is just a mere bribe in regard to those sections of the people which are going to benefit.
Take the case of a man who falls sick or becomes unemployed. He will receive certain benefits, in some cases better benefits than under the Norton scheme, but there is this difference. Under the Norton scheme, when out of work or sick he no longer was asked to contribute. Under this Bill, a demand will be made on the taxpayer to meet the increased sum required to finance this scheme, due to a reduction in the contributions which Deputy Norton had in his scheme. That means that the man when sick or unemployed will indirectly be contributing to the benefits he is in receipt of.
We consider that most unfair. The ordinary worker recognises the significance of that. No amount of propaganda by the Minister, or his colleagues, is going to convince the ordinary insured worker that, under this scheme as against the one presented by Deputy Norton, he is going to enjoy better consideration. He is not, because the Norton scheme was designed primarily to provide benefits for him when out of work or sick. Under this scheme he will have to contribute his share towards the benefits he is to receive, because a big proportion of the necessary finance is in the form of indirect taxation. That is unfair, especially when you consider that the whole community is not going to enjoy benefits under this Bill.
When Deputy Dr. Ryan was on this side of the House he asked questions time and time again over a period of three years, and brought pressure to bear on the then Government and the then Minister for Social Welfare as to the necessity for speeding up the introduction of a comprehensive security scheme. The then Minister was told time and time again that there was a Bill prepared in his Department and all that was needed was to introduce it. In fact, on the occasion that Deputy Norton introduced his Bill, he was told that there was an even better Bill than it in the Department of Social Welfare. If that were so, may I ask the Minister for Social Welfare to-night why it took him almost a year to prepare this new Bill? Why did he not take the old Bill that he said was prepared in 1947, a better Bill, as he said, and introduce it at once?
The reason is that no such Bill existed, no matter what he or his colleagues may say. That is so, that there was no such Bill when Deputy Norton took over the Department in 1948. We know that to be the truth, and we do not accept one word that was uttered by Deputy Dr. Ryan from this side of the House or since he again took over the Department of Social Welfare. We know, of course, that Deputy Norton's word as against the word of the present Minister for Social Welfare may not convey the same strength of argument, but what we do know is that the Minister, when moving the Second Reading of this Bill, made very little reference to his prepared Social Welfare Scheme. He did not charge Deputy Norton with failure to introduce it. But we have had allegations made that the scheme was prepared and was in existence.
We now want the Minister to admit the truth and to confess publicly in this House that there was no such thing as a scheme prepared when Deputy Norton took over the Department. Honesty of purpose is a good thing, and particularly in this matter. It is no use for the Minister or his colleagues to try and lead the public astray by misrepresenting Deputy Norton. If anybody is to be congratulated on the fact that we have a Bill of this type before us now, it is Deputy Norton and his Party and the inter-Party Government, who brought pressure to bear on this Government, which was in office from 1932 to 1948, to introduce a comprehensive code of social welfare with a codification of the various Acts passed over the years.
It was interesting to listen to the two Fianna Fáil Deputies for South Mayo, my two colleagues, Deputy Moran and Deputy Seán Flanagan, talk about what they did during their term of office from 1932 to 1948. If I were to try and rival them by going back over all that happened during the past 30 years, both inside and outside this House, there would have to be an awful lot of dirty linen washed, and it would not all be on one side of the House. I do not intend to do that or to bring this debate down to the level they did. I have more interest in social security than that. They talked about the restoration of the shilling that was taken off the old age pensioners by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. It was said time and time again, not only across the floor of this House, but from many a platform, that the reduction of the shilling a week was an indication of the mentality, outlook and desire of the Cuman na nGaedheal Government as far as social security and an interest in the ordinary poor people were concerned.
Those Deputies forget that if we were to debate that subject fully they would find that they should be the last to bring that up. It could be shown that the situation was much more difficult for the Government in office from 1922 to 1932 than it was for the Fianna Fáil Government from 1932 to 1948. If the Opposition from 1922 to 1932 was as law abiding and as helpful as the Opposition from 1932 to 1948, perhaps greater progress could have been made in the field of social security and social welfare. I do not wish to go along the road that was travelled by Deputy Moran and Deputy Seán Flanagan in the course of their speeches. I would like them to understand that the progress made by their Party when the Government for almost 16 years was insignificant and anything that was done in the latter years of their term of office was due to the pressure brought to bear from within and without this House. I am quite certain but for that pressure we would see very little social welfare. As an indication of that, Sir, we find that on the 22nd October, 1947, when I was a member of the House, there was a motion tabled in the names of Deputies Costello and O'Higgins requesting a miserable increase of 2/6 a week with a very moderate amendment of the means test in relation to the old age pensioners and the widows. We find that the then Government in office opposed that motion violently because it was going to cost an extra £500,000. Am I not, therefore, entitled to suggest that that was the outlook and mentality of the Government and an indication of how far that Government was prepared to travel in the field of social welfare if they were left in office and if they got their way? But for the pressure brought to bear by the opposition of all Parties we would have had very little development in that particular field. If the 1/- was restored it was not because they could not go back on their promises but because they made a mountain out of a molehill in the elections of 1932 and 1937.
I want to be clear—very clear—that my reason for supporting the Labour Party amendment is because I do not look upon the present Bill as comprehensive enough. I admit it is a step in the right direction but it falls far short of the Bill we expected when Deputy Dr. Ryan took over the Department of Social Welfare. It falls far short of what we were led to believe would be forthcoming, but something more important still, it falls far short of what we and the people outside were led to believe existed when the present Minister held office in 1947. It is because of that and that alone that I am prepared to walk into the Lobby if a division is called and support the Labour amendment.
I cannot understand why a man who claims to be responsible and who holds a responsible position can take things so easily and go back on his word and refuse point blank to give an explanation. I cannot understand how Deputy Dr. Browne and his colleagues can walk into the Lobby in support of a Bill of this nature.
In fact, it was very interesting to listen to Deputy Dr. Browne give his views of social welfare. I do not know whether that view represents the majority of the Fianna Fáil Party or not but let us hope it does not. Having listened carefully to Deputy Dr. Browne express himself for three-quarters of an hour in a detailed prepared speech I cannot for the life of me understand how he can justify his conduct in walking into the Lobby and supporting this Bill, which has been, as I have said, put through a mincemeater, chopped up and all the important provisions taken away. I should not like—and I want to be quite candid about it—to be in Deputy Dr. Browne's position when going before the electorate in two, three or four years' time from now. If he thinks the people of Dublin have a short memory he is making a big mistake. I would not like to stand here and say one thing and in an hour's time or so go into the Lobby and vote against what I said. I like to be as consistent as possible. But there is neither reason nor consistency attached to his speech. I assume that he will trail in to the Lobby behind the majority of the Government Deputies if there is a division.
In the absence of the Minister, I should like to put this to Deputy Kennedy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare, that he should ask the Minister for Social Welfare, in the course of his reply, to indicate to the House, first, why is it that the Minister did not introduce the comprehensive scheme that he had prepared in 1947 and left behind in his Department? I take it that Deputy Norton did not destroy it. It must be still there, pigeon-holed somewhere. I am sure some group of officials would have discovered it for him if he had asked. Why was not that introduced eight months ago? They could have introduced it the second week after they took over office. We had to wait until now for this sample of social security to come before the House.
Secondly, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to request the Minister, Deputy Dr. Ryan, to explain to the House on what grounds has he excluded the domestic servants and on what grounds he did away with death benefits? I do not want to be personal. I do not want to make any attack upon any insurance company, but where there is smoke there is fire, and we are at least entitled to base our reasons on certain assumptions. I am not going to start assuming. I will wait for the Minister's explanation as to the reason he excluded the death benefits. The Dublin Deputies have elaborated on that aspect very fully and I am not going to traverse the same ground as to the need for death benefits in Dublin.
However, the same need for death benefits applies in many rural areas where it is a nightmare when a boy, a girl or a father or mother is taken away and it becomes necessary to find the money for a decent, respectable burial, which is the wish of every Irishman and woman as it is the wish of the children to bury their parents when the time comes. As I have said, it is a nightmare to find the necessary means in rural areas where the cost of defraying many burials goes on for many years. They have to go in to the local businessman or undertaker in order to get sufficient money to defray the cost.
Death benefits to-day would be a boon, and the fact that they are cut out of this Bill is nothing, more or less, than a deliberate act, dictated by some outside influence. I do not believe it is the Minister's desire. I do not believe it is his Party's desire, but I do believe that pressure of a nature was brought to bear on the Minister which forced him to cut out that section. I should like to know why the Minister has cut out the provision relating to a retirement pension at the age of 65. The Minister knows full well that there are many people who would wish to retire at 65. There are many people who are anxious to retire at 65. The Minister has now come into the House, and the Parliamentary Secretary can tell him that many Deputies have asked these same questions. That is something that we must keep on repeating if we feel there is going to be any success, because every effort is being made to misconstrue the Norton scheme.
Deputy Cogan said that the inter-Party Government and the Labour Party, in particular, never had any intention of implementing that Bill. They said it was a political trick, introduced on the eve of the election with a view to deceiving the electorate. We all know that that is not true. I do not think there is a Fianna Fáil Deputy who believes that. If it were a political trick, if there was no sincerity in the introduction of that Bill by the inter-Party Government, why was there organised opposition to it? Why did the then Opposition go into the Lobby to try to defeat it? The then Opposition were then as determined in holding up the implementation of that scheme as they were in holding up the Local Authorities (Works) Bill. They voted eight times against that Bill, and every county council which had a Fianna Fáil majority, opposed it, and held it up for a considerable time.
That has no connection with the Social Welfare Bill.
There is no connection, but I want to point out that the tactics of the then Opposition were very consistent not only with regard to the Social Welfare Bill but any Bill designed to bring benefit to the masses of the community. The reason why their tactics were consistent was, not that they did not want to see the community benefiting from social legislation of one kind or another, but because they wanted to prevent at all costs the then Government from having any claim to the development of social legislation or the bringing in of any Act to remove the evils which existed when they assumed office in 1948. They were determined at all cost, irrespective of the damage and the injury they would do and of the unemployment and emigration which they would create, to oppose it with a view to preventing the then Government from deriving any benefit from removing the evils left by a Government which held office for 16 years. The people are not so simpleminded or so foolish that they can be "kidded" by the conduct of the Government to-day. Their memory is not so short as not to remember the speeches of the members of the Government when they were in opposition bemoaning the failure of the inter-Party Government to do this and that. When they took office, instead of implementing the schemes of the inter-Party Government, they introduced them under the same heading but with much curtailed benefits.
The Deputy has said that at least three times.
Why did not the Government of the day pass their Bill?
I would remind the Deputy that in three years the inter-Party Government did more in the field of social welfare than the Fianna Fáil Government when they were in power for 16 years. They have no apology to offer to this Government or any other Government for their conduct and the success they made of things, taking into consideration the organised and determined opposition encountered during the time they were in office. There is no comparison between these two Bills. It is quite clear that the inter-Party social security scheme was one of the best pieces of legislation introduced since the establishment of this State.
From mere political jealousy and spite, the Minister could not see his way to reintroduce that scheme because it might be said: "You are introducing the Norton scheme which was prepared for you." He is now introducing a scheme under the heading of social security which does not deserve that title and, if he was honest, he would not give it that title.