Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Old Age Pensions.

110.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he is aware of the hardship suffered by old people owing to the inadequacy of the old age pension; and, if so, what steps he proposes to take to increase the pension.

111.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if in view of the recent rise in the cost of living he will consider increasing the old age pension.

I propose, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, to reply to Questions Nos. 110 and 111 together.

I would remind the Deputies that non-contributory old age pensions, in common with other social assistance payments, were increased as recently as August last, that this was the third successive year in which increases in these pensions were granted and that they have, in fact, been increased no less than four times since 1957.

The Minister has said that four increases have been given since 1957 but he did not say how much they amounted to—a few miserable shillings. Will the Minister not agree that we have a special duty to old age pensioners and that we should be ashamed of ourselves in this House if we do not discharge it both to those receiving contributory and non-contributory old age pensions and living in this city particularly? Does he not know that many of them live in his own constituency and does he not think that something should be done for them now? If we can give a Supplementary Estimate for television, could we not have a Supplementary Estimate to help these pensioners over the winter?

The amount of non-contributory old age pensions now exceeds the amount which would compare, at present day prices, with the amount of non-contributory old age pensions in 1951, by 3/4d. I think the fact that they have been given four increases in the past four years is ample evidence of the willingness of the Government to increase old age pensions in accordance with the improvement in the economy.

Would the Minister say how much dearer now tea, bread, butter and sugar are compared with 1957 and what effect that has on the old age pensioner?

I have said the old age pensioner has more than kept pace with the increase in the cost of living.

But not the cost of essential foodstuffs.

In order to bring this mentality fully to light, I propose to raise this matter on the adjournment.

Is the Minister aware that since the last increase the cost of living has increased and is continuing to increase and that, arising out of the recent increases in wages, it has been stated openly that all those firms that gave the increases will put up the price of their commodities. They will have to do it. Therefore, there is a further increase necessary to allow for those recent increases.