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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Nov 1955

Vol. 153 No. 8

Social Welfare (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1955—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Social Welfare (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1955, which is now before the Dáil for Second Reading, is the Bill required to implement the promise made to recipients of old age and blind pensions, widows' (non-contributory) pensions and long-duration disability benefit that an extra week's payment of pension or benefit would be made to them in December.

The object of this additional payment is, as Deputies are aware, to provide the persons concerned with a lump sum payment approximately equal to the extra cost of tea to them for one year following on the recent increase in price of that commodity.

It is not proposed to double the pension or benefit where persons are resident outside the State, and only one extra payment will be made to a person such as a blind pensioner who is also in receipt of long-term disability benefit.

Those who will benefit as a result of this Bill are:—160,000 old age pensioners, 6,000 blind pensioners, 28,000 widows, and 25,000 recipients of long-duration disability benefit, a total in all of 219,000 persons. The cost of the additional payment to these 219,000 persons is estimated at a sum of £253,000.

The additional payment to old age and blind pensioners and to widows in receipt of non-contributory pensions will be made on Friday, the 23rd December. The extra payment to persons in receipt of long-term disability benefit will be made during the week commencing on the 19th December. It has been difficult to make all the arrangements necessary in the short time available, but the difficulties have been overcome and I am glad to say that the additional money should be in the hands of all the recipients before Christmas.

I feel confident that this Bill will recommend itself to Deputies of all Parties, and ask for its early passage in order that the additional payments may be made before Christmas.

Ba mhaith liom díospóireacht a dhéanamh ar an mBille seo. Dúirt an Tánaiste le dhéanaí go raibh an Rialtas chun 6d. a thabairt gach seachtain do gach sean phinsinéar sa Stáit. Ba mhaith liom a fháil amach ón Aire an bhfuil aon difríocht á déanamh idir na sean-phinsineirí atá ag fháil 6/6 in aghaidh na seachtaine agus na daoine atá ag fháil 10/-, 12/6, 15/- agus £1 in aghaidh na seachtaine. Má tá, ní reítiónn sé leis an méid a dúirt an Tánaiste, eadhon gur de bharr an mhéadú i gcostas an tae a bhí an soláthrathas seo á dhéanamh ag an Rialtas. Fé mar a leím-se an Bille gheobhaidh gach pinsinéar méadú do réir méid an phinsiúin atá aca cheana agus, mar sin, go bhfaghaidh a lán de na daoine méadú 2d., 3d., 4d., nó 5d. i n-aghaidh na seachtaine.

Sé an rud céanna é maidir leis na baintreacha agus na díleachtaí agus na daoine eile a luaitear san mBille.

I would like to know from the Minister, has he segregated the different cadres of people in receipt of old age pensions, namely, the people who are receiving 6/6 per week, 10/- per week, 12/6 per week, 15/- per week and £1 per week. That does not seem to correspond with the statement by the Tánaiste that provision was being made by the Government, because of the increase in the cost of living and the increase in the cost of tea of 6d. per week or £1 6s. per year. As I read the Bill, each category of pensioners will get a sum corresponding to the amount they are in receipt of at the moment and there will, therefore, be an increase of 2d. a week, 3d. a week, 4d. a week and 5d. per week in a big number of these cases. The same applies to the widows and orphans and to the other people included in the Bill. In the case of disability, the person must be in receipt of disability for 51 weeks. This is a very ungenerous approach and it is not one upon which the Government can applaud itself.

These facts should be made known. The Minister stated that the total number of pensioners is 219,000. We should like very much to be told, when he is replying, the different categories and how much each will get. It is not much to boast about. The measure is a Bill entitled:—

"An Act to provide for the increase in certain cases, in respect of one week in the month of December, 1955, of pensions under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1955, pensions under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Acts, 1935 to 1955, and disability benefit under the Social Welfare Act, 1952."

It provides for one year. What are the Government's intentions in regard to this whole matter? What will be their approach if there is a further rise in the cost of living in regard to all these social welfare matters?

I approach this Bill in practically the same manner as it was approached by Deputy Kennedy. When the matter of the increase in the cost of tea was discussed in the House, the question of those least well able to bear any further increases was taken into account. The Tánaiste Indicated that the consumption of tea per head had reached a certain figure and that, therefore, the allowance of 6d. per week to the beneficiaries of social services would adequately cover the increase to them in the cost of tea by this Government action.

First of all, this is a Bill limited to one year—1955 and 1955 only. It is not a continuing Bill. I take it that that is so. I should like the Minister to make it clear whether it will continue or whether it will be reintroduced. As far as I can see from reading the Bill, it is a measure that is limited to a payment at the end of the year to all beneficiaries of a certain sum of money and it does not go beyond this year.

Deputy Kennedy asked the Minister for figures. I am sure the Minister must have the figures for otherwise he could not have told us the estimated cost. He says there are roughly 219,000 pensioners of all categories who will benefit by this Bill and the total cost is estimated to be £253,000. I want to know how that cost was reached and whether it includes administration costs which I am sure it does. What is the net figure that will accrue to the beneficiaries? The cost cannot be very much.

You can say nil for administration.

That is what I thought. There will only be a double payment for the particular week. The means test is applied in the case of old age pensioners and some old age pensioners are drawing as little as 6/- per week.

9/- per week.

Very well. Those pensioners will get 9/- according to the Bill and not 24/-. That is roughly about 2d. per week instead of the 6d. per week for the increased cost of tea. I am sure it is not claimed by the Government to-day that every pensioner is in receipt of a pension of not less than 24/- per week. I should like the Minister to tell us the numbers getting 9/- per week, 10/- per week and so on up so that we can see whether, in fact, this measure will bring the relief to the people who can least bear the increase in cost. It would have been far better in my opinion had the Minister followed the expressed statement of the Tánaiste.

Has the Deputy got the statement the Tánaiste made?

I do not think the Minister will dispute the fact.

I have it here.

The Tánaiste indicated they had gone into the consumption of tea per head of the population and he reckoned that one-third of a lb. was the average weekly consumption of tea per head of the community. I do not know whether he included in his calculation infants who drink milk. Even if we accept that figure as being the consumption per person per week, he argued that the present increase to these people would compensate them and would place no additional burden on them as a result of this increase. Is the Minister suggesting that I am making a mistake when I say that everybody understood that it was a 6d. a week gift to the pensioners for the purpose of meeting this cost?

I am pointing out, as Deputy Kennedy did, that you have pensioners in various categories of income as low in some cases as 9/- a week. These people will have their pensions on that particular increase doubled. That is all the Bill gives them. Therefore, they will have 9/- and not 24/-. Perhaps the Minister would give the figures which he must have; otherwise he could not have told us what it was going to cost if it had not been added up. The House is entitled to a detailed analysis of the different categories of beneficiaries and the approximate numbers under each weekly payment.

I cannot see why there should be any controversy regarding this measure. It gives the House and the country evidence of the mindful interest that the Minister and the Government have in the people, mainly the weaker sections of the community, old age pensioners, widows and orphans and people in receipt of disability benefits. I believe that this double payment during the Christmas week will be of great advantage to those people and will help them, as the Government intends it should, to have a brighter and a happier Christmas.

The only opposition to this measure put forward by Fianna Fáil is that a payment of 25/- or 26/- is not made to each old age pensioner who is in receipt of a pension. Deputies Kennedy and Briscoe mentioned that, so far as some of these pensioners are concerned, the double payment will not amount to more than 9/- a week. It must be borne in mind by Deputies Kennedy and Briscoe that a pensioner who is in receipt of a pension of 9/- a week has other means. Were it not for the fact that his income is much higher than that of a pensioner in receipt of a pension of 24/- a week, his pension would not be reduced by 15/- weekly.

I believe that the measure, as presented to the House, is quite reasonable and fair to all categories of pensioners having regard to the difference in their means. It gives to the people with maximum benefits the maximum amount under the Bill and it gives to the people with lesser benefits a proportionate rate. I cannot for the life of me see why there should be any opposition to this measure.

We are not objecting. We are looking for more.

Such a measure as this was long overdue and it was thoughtful of the Minister to bring it in. It is the tradition in this country to send Christmas boxes to friends. That is borne out by the present Government who are sending these Christmas boxes along to the people who are in most need of them. The gesture will indicate to these people that they have, in the Minister for Social Welfare and in the present Government, careful and considerate friends. Deputy Kennedy is smirking but Fianna Fáil were in office for almost 20 years and not until we got a Labour Minister for Social Welfare was it ever thought of in this country to send a Christmas box to the aged and less fortunate section of our people. Now I believe Fianna Fáil may be converted to the idea that it is only from the present Minister for Social Welfare and his associates in the Government that this type of thing would come forward.

We have just heard Deputy Murphy lauding the Minister for Social Welfare for what I would describe as the meanest Bill ever introduced in the Dáil. There was only one Bill meaner. It was introduced by the Deputy's colleagues and it was to take a shilling off the old age pensioners. This will rank in the history of the nation for hundreds of years to come as the meanest Bill that ever was framed. The days of Oliver Twist have long passed, but I never yet saw a social welfare measure introduced in this House by the Fianna Fáil Government but the Labour Party were up on their hind legs yelling and bawling for more, like Oliver Twist looking for more porridge. They have changed their time since they got in with their new-found friends in the Fine Gael Party, who never yet were too generous.

If Fianna Fáil were in power, would they give a Christmas box of £250,000?

A Christmas box of 2½d. per week. Tea has been put up on all people, partly as a result of the present Government's policy of the past year. Even at world market prices, tea would not be as dear as it is to-day if the people had been allowed last year when drinking the tea to pay the cost all during the year. Now they are paying interest and sinking fund on the cheap—mar dheadh— tea which they drank last year.

The Deputy had better come to the Bill.

The Tánaiste made a statement here and shocked the House and the country by an increase of 2/8 a lb. on tea. He told the House then that he was proposing to soften the blow on the old age pensioners and the widows—but not on the orphans, and this Bill makes no provision for them. Orphans must not drink tea, according to the code of the Coalition Government, and they get nothing under this. Their Mothers may get, according to the rate of pension they have, from 1½d. to 2½d. a week. I would not be a bit wrong in repeating that this is the meanest Bill ever introduced here. It is only 16 months since this Government asked for the support of the people to give better social welfare benefits and there was no question then of tea being increased in price under the Fianna Fáil Government led by Eamon de Valera. It was said here a short time ago there was a gift of £1,000,000 to the tobacco manufacturers.

The Deputy is going over many matters. He should come to the subject matter of the Bill.

I am relating this to the Bill.

The Deputy is not relating what he said to the Bill.

He is practising his speech for Wexford.

This Bill is called a Social Welfare (Temporary Provisions) Bill. It is well it is temporary. It is a relief for the old age pensioners that it will not be repeated in 12 months. My colleague, Deputy O'Leary, campaigned in that election and, according to the Wexford Free Press of the 8th May, 1954——

Are you going back on the elections again?

——he said: "How long can a man be expected to live and bring up a family on 15/- a week old age pension?"

I have asked the Deputy to come to the terms of the Bill. If he persists in introducing matters extraneous to the Bill, I must ask him to resume his seat.

Mr. de Valera

Is this not a Second Reading?

It is a Second Reading but that does not give liberty to introduce matters extraneous to the Bill.

Statements were made by members of this House previously on what they proposed doing about old age pensions. Would they be extraneous matters?

When I intervened, the Deputy was talking about wages. He must come to the terms of the Bill, which are wide enough to enable him to deliver his speech on it.

The Bill provides from 1½d. to 2½d. a week extra for old age pensioners.

Are you against giving any?

I have never heard of any democratic Party or Government in the world—and democracy is a long time in existence and there have been many democratic Governments—as far as any records I have seen go, where a Bill was introduced to give 2½d. each to old age pensioners. The present Minister for Social Welfare made this statement:—

"No fair-minded person would say that the present benefits paid to old age pensioners, widows and orphans, and unemployed were sufficient to provide for the most modest requirements. Labour, therefore, proposed that those benefits be increased."

This is the increase.

Will we all be allowed to go back to the election?

If the Minister had told the House that in the near future he proposed to increase those benefits, the House would accept this Bill and pass it quickly as the best that could be done now. We would understand if he said that the financial stringency and strait-jacket that the Minister for Finance had erected around the Government did not allow more than 1½d. or 2d. a week to be given to the old age pensioners and widows, with nothing at all for orphans, although orphans may be up to 14 or 15 years of age, and most of them drink tea. This matter was mentioned first by the Tánaiste as being given to compensate those who drink tea, but what about all the other increases that have taken place in the last six weeks in the cost of living—in clothing, boots, food of all kinds?

Everything has gone up. Surely the 1½d. or 2½d. is not expected to compensate them for all those increases? We will know very soon that there are far greater increases than the increase in the price of tea. I hope that the Minister will explain that in concluding his remarks on this paltry Bill. He and his Government recently had £1,000,000 to give to their friends the tobacco manufacturers in the same manner as Fianna Fáil had it. They were advised by the Prices Advisory Body that they were entitled to get £1,000,000—so were the Fianna Fáil Government advised. The present Minister severely criticised that and campaigned in the country against Fianna Fáil because of the way they were subsidising the millionaire tobacco manufacturers. This Government, the Minister, Deputy O'Leary and the other Labour Party members quite recently remained mute as mice——

We had to sell Tulyar to get this money.

You sold Tulyar because of the agreement between the Labour Party and Fine Gael. When the present Government was formed the Labour Party insisted on Tulyar being sold.

That is not within the scope of this measure.

I did not introduce Tulyar. He was ridden to death by Deputy O'Leary and other members of the Labour Party. On joining the Coalition they insisted that he should be sold and he has been sold. The money, I suppose, was useful.

He did not drink tea. He drank stout.

That is the story behind the scenes if you want to know it. However, Deputy Norton, the Leader of the Labour Party and the Tánaiste of this Government, did say on previous occasions in public in regard to his Party's attitude to social welfare:—

"Its aim is to provide increased benefits and pensions, retirement pensions for men at 65 and women at 60, maternity benefits from £2 to £5 and an old age pension of 50/- a week."

I hope we will soon see the day.

I do not wish to delay the House. Let the Minister make all the preparations he needs to make to hand out this great Christmas gift. I am surprised that there was even one Labour Deputy in the House when the Minister announced it. If the Minister had been honest with the House, we would have accepted that—that they were in straitened financial circumstances although the poor Minister for Finance was to give 50/- a week to the old age pensioners, so much to the widows and so much to the orphans. There is nothing for the orphans in this. The Minister had better hurry up and give them this small amount. We hope that in our time in this House, whether it be long or short, we will never see such a mean Bill introduced, especially by a socialist Minister for Social Welfare.

Why do you not call him a communist Minister as you always did?

The Minister claims to be a socialist Minister.

It is amusing to listen to Deputy Allen. Having been so long supporting a Government which only a few years ago had butter at 4/2 a lb., he never said one word when the old age pensioners received only 1/6 of an increase through his Government. But I know what is worrying Deputy Allen, Deputy Kennedy and the Fianna Fáil Party generally—the fact that this Bill has been introduced to give a double week's allowance to our old age pensioners. If that Bill were not introduced it would be great propaganda in the coming by-election. No matter what Deputy Allen says, I think the old age pensioners welcome it. In the short time since we came back to office and since the present Minister has been responsible for the Department of Social Welfare, it is the second increase to be given. That is more than we can say of the Fianna Fáil Government led by the ex-Taoiseach, who is listening to me now and who led his Minister for Finance through-the 1952 Budget which brought all the destruction and brought prices to the high level they have reached to-day. You can laugh but that is a fact and everybody outside this House knows it.

Mr. de Valera

Why do you not change it?

We will change it and it will not take us 20 years. We are making progress.

I hope that is on the record.

We are trying to do something for a down-trodden people.

Mr. de Valera

Take 6d. and give them 2½d.

You made sure——

The Deputy should address the Chair.

——to keep quiet when the butter was at a high price and you gave an increase of only 1/6 to the old age pensioners. We heard nothing from Deputy de Valera then.

Will the Deputy confine his remarks to the subject matter of the Bill?

And you kept a means test all these years.

It is there in this measure.

It will take some time before this inter-Party Government can remedy matters. We know it cannot be done overnight.

Deputy Murphy advocated a means test in this.

I suppose there must be a means test; otherwise the President, when he is retiring from Arus an Uachtaráin, can draw his old age pension. We know there must be a means test but why was there not a means test for the children's allowances? Then we could say to the poor people: "We will do something for you."

They are getting nothing under this.

I find that we have people going out, welfare officers, whether it is that they are agents of Fianna Fáil, I do not know——

That is an uncalled for remark.

The Deputy must not make reference to people who are not here to defend themselves. The Minister for Social Welfare is responsible for the administration of the Acts. Therefore, any criticism on the administration must be levelled at the Minister.

I put a question to the Minister for Defence where a member of the Old I.R.A., because he had one acre of land, was subjected to a reduction of £10 a year.

The Deputy realises he is far beyond the scope of this Bill?

I admit that. I am sorry I am going outside it.

Will the Deputy please come back to it now?

As an ordinary worker I welcome this Bill on behalf of the poor old people of this country. I am surprised that any Fianna Fáil member should stand up to criticise something that is being given to them for Christmas, because if a man gets 48/- in Christmas week that is surely better than 24/- which Fianna Fáil would be giving him. There is no use in the Fianna Fáil Party making propaganda out of the old people. We would like to see more given if the State could afford it. I would like to see more than the 50/- for the old age pensioners. I would like to see the old age pensioners brought up to the same level as the Six-County people. We hear a lot from the Ard-Fheis about Partition but, until the social welfare end of this State is brought in line with that of the North, we need not talk about that. I know the Fianna Fáil Party are annoyed that this Bill was brought in. Deputy Allen is not satisfied at all. They would be delighted if there were nothing for the old age pensioners. I am glad that there is something for the old people, the blind and the widows. These are the people who need the help of a Government, whether it be inter-Party, Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. It is the duty of the Government to come to the aid of these people. That is what we in the Labour Party are trying to do and we make no apologies to the Fianna Fáil member who spoke for doing so.

Deputy O'Leary is more and more becoming like the walla-walla bird who flies around in circles.

You are a young man. You will learn.

I would ask the Minister to let us know why he did not deal with a very deserving section, namely, the disabled people who get an allowance under the Health Act. I appreciate the fact that the Health Act does not come within the scope of this Bill but the people who get £1 a week from a local authority are classified as destitute and the Minister could have catered for them in some way.

I have no responsibility for them.

The Minister could take responsibility.

No, he could not.

Anything can be done that is wanted to be done.

It is a function of the Minister for Health.

If it is the function of the Minister for Health, could the Minister tell me why he did not deal with a matter that is a function of his —the people in receipt of home assistance? I cannot see anything at all being paid to the recipients of home assistance and these are the worst-off section of the community. Even Deputy O'Leary will agree with me on that.

It is a matter for the local authority to help them.

The majority of local authorities make a double payment during Christmas week. We do it in West Cork.

The Minister might be good enough to deal with these points when he comes to reply. I want to know is this House to be faced with endless temporary provisions Bills in the near future? It is not only tea that has gone up. Why pick on tea? Has the cost of tea hit the poorer sections of the community hardest? What about coal and all other foodstuffs? It is such an important matter of policy that the Minister should deal with the question generally and let us know are we to expect further temporary provisions Bills in the near future to compensate the poorer sections for increases in other commodities.

Deputy Murphy referred to the people who are in receipt of pensions as low as 9/-. His argument was that the fact that they got only 9/- demonstrates that they have other income. The Deputy cannot argue that they do not drink the same amount of tea as those in receipt of higher pensions. Is not that the point? I cannot see the logic of his argument.

This is not a question of propaganda, as was suggested by some Deputies. The House and the Minister will recall that when Deputy MacEntee, then Minister for Finance, introduced the Budget of 1953 the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture screamed across the House that it was a halfpenny Budget when Deputy MacEntee announced that he was taking a halfpenny off the loaf, which cost the State close on £1,000,000. The important point is that that halfpenny off the loaf was a permanent annual feature, not a temporary provision such as the Bill now before the House is.

The Minister has said that the administrative cost in operating this Bill is negligible. If that is the case, there may be nothing in the point that I was going to make, that it might be possible to give some type of voucher to the people mentioned in the Bill, if there would be any saving in their going to the tea merchants direct. As the administrative costs will be small, I cannot see that there would be anything in that unless the Minister might like to consider it.

I do not know whether Deputy Murphy is coming down to West Limerick or not but I am sure he would be very welcome there. He has made great capital out of this great Christmas box. I do not know anything about that but I can assure the Deputy and the House of one thing, that when the electors of West Limerick are finished with them there will be a nice Christmas box for the inter-Party Government.

It is very difficult to know what reply to give to the debate in view of the speeches that have been made. I should like to deal with one of the points raised, in the first place, by Deputy Ó Cinnéide and secondly by Deputy Briscoe. Both of them said that the Tánaiste, Deputy Norton, had promised that the increase for the classes mentioned in this Bill would be paid by way of 6d. per week. I should like to read now what the Tánaiste said when he spoke in the House on 26th October—columns 75-76 of the Official Report, Volume 153, No. 1:—

"The Government have been most anxious to see, therefore, what could be done, as evidence of their goodwill, of their sympathetic understanding of the difficulties of these people, as evidence of their desire to help them, to shelter them from the impact of this increase in the tea prices and they have decided that it will give to these persons, that is, to old age pensioners, widows, blind persons and long duration disability benefit recipients, a compensatory payment of their basic allowance in one single payment which will offset the additional cash cost..."

Did not he specify an amount? I think the Minister will find, if he continues the quotation, that he referred to 24/6.

No, but just before that he said in the same column:—

"We accept that as the average consumption in respect of that class in the community and we arrive at a situation in which for them the increase in the price of tea will represent an additional charge of 6d. per week approximately."

He said that before the statement which I have mentioned in the first place. I trust that clears up that matter.

This Bill has been described as mean and niggardly by certain Fianna Fáil Deputies but I should like to ask any Deputy or any Front Bench member of the Fianna Fáil Party in what year during their régime or since the inception of the State has as much been given to old age and blind pensioners and widows and orphans? One can describe this particular measure taking it on its own as an increase of approximately 6d. per week but the record of this Government is second to none in their treatment of old age and blind pensioners and widows and orphans within such a short period. This increase, plus the increase given on the 29th July of this year, is akin to 3/- per week and at no time in the history of this State has such an increase been given to the people who are catered for in this Bill.

It seems to me that Deputy Ó Cinnéide and Deputy Briscoe advocated that the 6d. per week should be paid as a weekly payment. If the Government had decided on that it would have meant that these old age pensioners, these blind people, these widows and orphans, these people who are chronically ill would have received but 4/- up to Christmas week, as against what they are getting now, the majority of them, from 20/- to 24/- per week.

Deputy Allen here has tried to infer to the public through the Press and through the radio that this Bill means that certain people will get from 1½d. —I think he went down as he spoke; he started off at 3½d.—to 2½d. or 4d. per week. That is absolutely untrue, and the unfortunate thing about it is that Deputy Allen knows it. He knew what was in the Bill, because he is intelligent enough to read. The vast majority of these people are getting the maximum amount in double payment of the old age pension and the blind pension. Out of a total of 165,923, 158,454 will get 24/-.

In replying to a Deputy, a statement which says the Deputy knew what he was saying was wrong suggests that he is telling a lie. I do not think the Minister intended to make that statement.

I withdraw it. Of the 165,923, 158,454 will get the maximum of 24/- a week; 2,827 will get 19/- a week; 2,188 will get 14/- a week; and 2,451 will get 9/- a week. Three people will get 25/- extra. Of those in receipt of widows' non-contributory pensions, —27,742—25,127 will get the maximum of 22/6 per week.

Per week?

On a particular week.

Nine hundred and forty-two will get an extra 17/6; 776 will get 12/6; 807 will get 17/6; and 90 will get various rates from 4/- up to 20/. Therefore, we can assume that over 90 per cent. will receive the maximum amount in the double payment.

Are there not some widows who will get only 6/6, and is that not equivalent to only 1½d. a week?

Eight hundred and seven will get 7/6 a week. There are approximately 25,000 at present in receipt of sickness and disability benefits. These are deemed to be chronically ill and practically all of these will get the full benefit of this measure. The net point of all this is that, while Deputy Allen says it is a mean Bill, it means £253,000. The Bill introduced here in June and which had effect from the 29th July meant £1,250,000 per annum, so that, between the two, these people will receive £1,500,000 in extra benefits, and I challenge any Deputy to say whether or not anything like that was done during the régime of Fianna Fáil, or by any previous Government back to 1922.

Other Deputies have said that this would not at all compensate for the increase in the cost of living. I do not believe that the allowances being paid to these people are sufficient or adequate; I do not think anybody in the House would say they were adequate; but I do say that we have done this year more than has been done in any other single year. It is amusing, therefore, to see such criticism when we realise that, in the Budget of 1952, 1/6 extra was given to compensate for the increased prices in tea, sugar, bread, butter, and so forth. We give 6d. a week extra now to compensate for the increase of 2/- in the price of tea.

Will the Minister answer this question: what were the total increases in social benefits following the 1952 Budget?

They were £3,000,000.

Would the Minister say?

I cannot say accurately, but the point I am making is this——

The Minister made the point that there was no increase in benefits in any year like there was this year.

Old age pensioners were given 1/6 per week to compensate for the colossal increases in the commodities I mentioned. Now, to compensate for a single increase of 2/- per lb.——

2/4 per lb.

—2/- per lb. in the price of tea, we have given an increase of 6d. per week, which means an increase of 24/- altogether.

Is the Minister forgetting about the other increases in the cost of living?

This Bill is really intended to compensate for the increase in price of an essential foodstuff. It is not intended as compensation for the increase in the cost of living for which Fianna Fáil was responsible.

Is it the opinion of Fianna Fáil that there should be a reduction in the price of cattle and pigs?

Deputy Moran had an opportunity of speaking, but he did not offer himself.

And so had many other Deputies who are now interrupting.

There is nothing left for me to say, except to point out to Deputy O'Malley that some of the things he mentioned are not my responsibility. Home assistance may be, to a certain extent, my responsibility, but I cannot tell the local authorities what allowances they should make. In my opinion, and I have said this already, some of the allowances they are making are niggardly.

Hear, hear!

The Fianna Fáil members of the councils are niggardly, too.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the remaining stages to-day.