Committee on Finance. - Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1963: Second Stage.

Tairgim go léifear anois an Bille an dara h-uair.

Is é príomh-chuspóir an Bhille údarás reachtach a fháil i gcomhair na méadaithe ó'n gcéad lá de Shamhain seo chugainn i níochaíochtaí Chúnaimh Shóisialaigh a fógraíodh sa Cháinaisnéis, agus i gcomhair moltaí chun feabhsú na scéimeanna Árachais Ó thosach Eanáir seo chugainn a luadh freisin sa Cháinaisnéis. Ina theannta sin ta roinnt feabhsanna eile ins an mBille ar chúnamh sóisialach, árachas sóisialach agus ar an scéim árachais fliuch-aimsire.

Forálann an Bille go méadófar ar na rátaí uilig pinsean sean-aoise agus daille neamh-ranníocach atá ann do réir 2/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine; is iad na rátaí nua 35/-, 30/-, 25/-, 20/-15/- agus 10/- i naghaidh na seachtaine, do réir rang acmhainne an phinsinéara.

Gheobhaidh faighteóir cúnaimh dífhostaíochta méadú do réir 2/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine i n-a leith féin, agus méadú breise do réir 2/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe. Ciallaíonn seo gurab iad na huas-rátaí seachtainiúla cúnaimh dífhostaíochta i limistéar uirbeach 26/6d i leith fir singil agus 47/6d i leith fir pósta, agus i limistéar tuaithe 20/6d i leith fir singil agus 39/6d i leith fir pósta.

Gheobhaidh baintreach atá ag fáil pinsin neamh-ranníocaigh méadú 2/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine, i dtreo's go mbeidh uas-ráta pinsin baintrí neamhranníochaigh do réir 33/6 i naghaidh na seachtaine.

Ina theannta seo tá feabhsanna dá ndéanamh maidir le liúntais faoi na hAchtanna Liúntas Leanaí. Tá liúntas nua do réir 10/- i naghaidh na míosa dá thabhairt isteach do'n chéad nó do leanbh aonair cáilithe i gclainn agus tá an liúntas atá ann do'n triú agus do gach leanbh cáilithe eile dá méadú faoi 4/6d i naghaidh na míosa. Gheobhaidh duine le triúr leanbh liúntais míosúla de 52/- i n-ionad 37/6d faoi láthair agus gheobhaidh duine le cúigear leanbh liútais do réir 105/- i n-ionad 81/6d.

Is iad seo na méadaithe a éiríonn de bhárr moltaí na cáinaisnéise ar an dtaobh cúnaimh shóisialaigh.

Ina theannta sin, tá feabhsanna eile dá ndéanamh maidir le cúnamh sóisialach. Tá ráta nua pinsin sean-aoise neamhranníocaigh dá bhunú do réir 5/i naghaidh na seachtaine chomh maith le leathnú ar an dteorainn bliantúil acmhainne ó £130 15s go £143 15s. Ligfidh seo do roinnt daoine cáiliú chun pinsin gur leo díreach a nacmhainn faoi láthair le n-a n-eisiamh. Maidir le pinsean neamhranníocach baintrí soláthraítear íocaíocht liúntais a íoctar le leanaí mar chuid de na pinsin sin do leanaí áirithe a thosnaíonn ar chónaí go rialta leis an mbaintrigh i ndiaidh bás a céile agus nach bhfuil an liúntas iníoctha leo faoi láthair. Táthar dá mholadh freisin go nathrófar an chaoi i n-a n-áirmhítear luach bliantúil caipitil ag breithniú acmhainn baintrí nó linbh le haghaidh forálacha pinsin neamhranníocaigh baintrí nó dílleachta. Do réir na caoi níos leithne atáthar chun a chur i bhfeidhm ní áirmheofar an chéad £100 de chaipiteal baintrí, ní áirmheofar £100 eile i leith gach aon linbh cáilithe atá i n-a chónaí go rialta léi, agus glacfar le luach bliantúil de 5% i leith na coda eile de.

Is é costas bliantúil na méadaithe ar íocaíochtaí chúnaimh shoisialaigh a fógraíodh sa cháinaisnéis agus na bhfeabhsanna eile maidir le h-íocaíochtaí cúnaimh shóisialaigh a soláthraítear sa Bhille ná £4,000,000. Sa mhéid seo tá £761,000 i leith pinsean neamhranníocach sean-aoise agus daille, £181,000 i leith cúnaimh dífhostaíochta, £178,000 i léith pinsean neamhranníocach baintreach agus £2,880,000 i leith liúntais leanaí, le na n-áirmhítear £1,857,000 i leith liúntas nua do'n chéad leanbh nó do leanbh aonair. Toisc go dtiocfaidh na forálacha seo i bhfeidhm ón lú Samhain seo chugainn is é an costas a éireoidh sa bhliain airgeadais láithreach ná £1,688,000.

Ar an dtaobh árachais soláthruíonn an Bille méadú de 5/- i naghaidh na seachtaine ar na rátaí bunaidh pearsanta de shochar míochumais agus dífhostaíochta, liúntas máithreachais, phinsean baintrí (ranníochach) agus phinsean sean-aoise (ranníocach), agus tá an ráta seachtainiúil speisialta sochair míchumais agus dífhostaíochta do mhná pósta agus do dhaoine faoí ocht mbliana déag d'aois á árdú do réir 4/-.

Soláthraítear freisin méadaithe ar na liúntais atá iníoctha leis na sochair sin i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe. Tosnóidh na rátaí nua sa chéad sheachtain d'Eanáir, 1964.

Gheobhaidh fear árachaithe le mnaoi céile méadú 10/- i naghaidh na seachtaine nuair is breoite nó dífhostaithe dó agus gheobhaidh baintreach atá ag fáil pinsin ranníocaigh méadú 5/- i naghaidh na seachtaine. Fear pósta atá ag fáil Pinsin Seanaoise Ranníocaigh le liúntas dá mhnaoi céile gheobhaidh sé méadú 7/6d i naghaidh na seachtaine.

Tá rátaí nua ranníoca fostaíochta soláthraithe sa Bhille. Is é an méadú is mó ná 1/4d i naghaidh na seachtaine, nó 8d an duine don fhostóir agus do'n duine áracaithe.

Is é costas iomlán bliantúil na méadaithe ar shochar árachais, mar a meastar iad, ná £2,379,000 i dtreo's gurab é £23,689,000 an caithteachas iomlán bliantúil as an gCiste Leasa Shóisialaigh agus as sin soláthrófar cuid níos lú ná dhá thrian trí na ranníoca méadaithe agus as foinsí ilghnéitheacha eile. Is é an costas a bheidh ann do'n Státchiste sa bhliain airgeadais atá anois ann ná timpeall £250,000.

Seachas na méadaithe ar rátaí tá roinnt leasaithe eile ar an dlí dá dhéanamh ar thaobh an árachais, mar atá, sainmhíniú nua ar "sheirbhís tighis" dá thabhairt isteach agus múinteoiri i gColáistí Traenála Eolaíocht Teaghlaigh dá gcur ar aon bhonn le múinteorí eile i gcúrsaí árachais. Maidir leis an scéim pinsean ranníocadh sean-aoise soláthraítear go mbeidh teideal uathoibritheach ag baintrigh pinsinéara sean-aoise (ranníocadh) do phinsean baintrí (ranníocach) i n-ionad sochair faoi leith a bhí inoctha cheana do réir ráta níba lú agus a bhí gan liúntais dá leanaí má b'ann dóibh. Táthar freisin le rialacháin a dhéanamh chun go mbeifear i n-ann méadú i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe ar phinsean sean-aoise (ranníocadh) a íoc direach leis an gcleithiúnaí i gcásanna áirithe. Táthar freisin chun a sholáthar go mbeifear i n-ann liúntas linbh i gcás pinsin baintrí (ranníocach) a íoc i leith linbh, garlinbh, leaslinbh nó linbh altrainne baintrí nó a céile a bhíonn i n-a chónaí go rialta leis an mbaintrigh i ndiaidh bás a céile. Dhein mé tagairt cheana d'fhoráil cosúil leis seo maidir le pinsean baintrí neamhranníocach.

Soláthraíonn an Bille freisin mionathraithe sa scéim fliuch-aimsire. An chéad cheann díobh seo ligfidh sé do dhaoine a bhfuil 18 mbliana slánuithe, acu (i n-ionad 21 mar atá) bheith mar oibrithe oilte nó neamh-oilte agus faoi na rátaí níos aoirde sochair agus ranníoca is cuí do'n dá aicme sin. Faoi'n dara athrú acu seo beidh sochar fliuch-aimsire iníoctha i leith leath-uaire breise nuair a bhíonn leath-uair breise san áireamh i stad oibre a leanann ar feadh lae iomláin oibre. Ní bhaineann aon chostas do'n státchiste leis na hathraithe seo ach cosnóidh siad timpeall £2,000 i naghaidh na bliana do'n Chiste Arachais Fliuch-Aimsire a bhunaítear ar ranníoca na bhfostóirí is na n-oibrithe agus as a níoctar costas uilig na scéime ach amháin costas a riaracháin.

Taobh amuigh de na hathraithe sin tá mé chun méadú ar na rátaí sochair agus ranníoc fliuch-aimsire trí bhíthin rialacháin.

B'fhéidir go mba chabhair é costas na moltaí seo do'n Státchiste d'achoimriú. Is é costas na bhforálacha Cúnaimh Shóisialaigh ná £4,000,000 i bliain iomlán agus £1,688,000 an bhliain seo. Is é costas na moltaí árachais shóisialaigh ná £661,000 i bliain iomlán agus £250,000 sa bhliain reatha. Is é an costas iomlán do'n Státchiste mar sin, ná £4,661,000 i mbliain iomlán agus £1,938,000 sa bhliain seo againn. De bhárr na bhforálacha seo go léir beidh mar thairbhe ag faighteoirí íocaíochtaí Leasa Shóisialaigh £6,380,000 i mbliain iomlán.

Deputies will, no doubt, recall the increases in the rates of non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions, children's allowances and unemployment assistance announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement on 23rd April last, as also the increases in rates of social insurance benefits foreshadowed in that statement. This Bill is primarily concerned with giving legislative effect to these increases. In addition, some further improvements in the social assistance and insurance codes and in the Intermittent Unemployment Insurance (Wet-Time) Scheme are proposed.

For the convenience of Deputies, I will deal first with the social assistance increases and improvements. The increases proposed in the rates of non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions and unemployment assistance are 2/6d. a week.

The new rates of non-contributory old age and blind pensions will be 35/-, 30/-, 25/-, 20/-, 15/-, and 10/-, according to the means of the pensioner as set out in the table to Section 2. I shall have something further to say about this table later.

A recipient of unemployment assistance will get an increase of 2/6d. a week in respect of himself and a similar increase for an adult dependant, if he has one. A married man with a dependent wife but no dependent children will, therefore, receive a maximum rate of unemployment assistance of 47/6d. a week in an urban area, and of 39/6d. in a rural area.

The proposed new personal rates of widow's non-contributory pension are shown in the table in Section 4. I shall have more to say later on regarding these pensions.

An important change is proposed in the children's allowances scheme. At present children's allowances are payable to a person who has two or more qualified children normally residing with him. Payment of an allowance at the rate of 10/- a month in respect of the first child in a household is now proposed. This will result not only in payment being made for the first child in each of the existing families in receipt of allowances—some 225,000 in all—but will bring within the scope of the children's allowances scheme an estimated 84,000 one-child families who are not at present receiving allowances. In addition an increase from 22/- a month to 26/6d. a month in the rate of payment for the third and each subsequent qualified child in a household is proposed. The effect of these increased payments can, perhaps, best be illustrated by a few examples—the monthly allowance for a family of three children for instance will go up from £1 17s. 6d. to £2 12s. while for a family of five, the new rate will be £5 5s. as against £4 1s. 6d.

In common with the increases in other social assistance payments, it is proposed that the new and increased children's allowances should come into operation on 1st November next.

As I have mentioned, some other improvements on the Social Assistance side are also proposed. The first of these relates to non-contributory old age and blind pensions and is, in fact, dealt with in Section 2 of the Bill. The increase of 2/6d. in each rate of pension would result in a new minimum pension rate of 10/-, which would be payable where the yearly means of the pensioner exceeded £117 15s. but did not exceed £130 15s. A person whose means exceeded that amount would get no pension.

Deputies will remember that prior to the increase of 2/6d. a week given last year the minimum rate of non-contributory old age pension was 15/and the increase would have resulted in a new minimum rate of old age pension of 17/6d. a week, payable in cases where the means of the recipient exceeded £78 10s. but did not exceed £104 15s. a year. As the weekly rates of old age pension vary, according to the means of the pensioner, by steps of 5/-, it was then decided to add two new steps by introducing two new rates of pension of 12/6d. and 7/6d. where the means did not exceed £117 15s. and £130 15s. respectively. This year it has been decided to add a further step by introducing a rate of pension of 5/- weekly to be payable where the yearly means exceed £130 15s. but do not exceed £143 15s. The new step is included in the Table in Section 2 and it is estimated that about 250 persons will benefit.

A second improvement concerns widows with non-contributory pensions who receive allowances as part of pension in respect of children. At present such an allowance may be paid only in respect of a child who normally resides with a widow and who resided with her or her husband immediately before he died or who, being a child or step-child of the husband, became normally resident with the widow after his death. It is now proposed that this allowance should also be paid in respect of a grand-child of the widow or her late husband, a child or step-child of the widow or a child who is adopted by the widow after her husband's death— the basic qualification still being that the child is normally resident with the widow within the meaning of the rules made for that purpose under the Children's Allowances Acts. It is estimated that this concession will cover some 300 children and cost approximately £8,000 in a full year. A similar concession in relation to widows in receipt of Contributory Pensions is also proposed.

A further improvement proposed is to introduce a more liberal method of calculating the value of capital or property invested or capable of investment for means purposes in the case of applicants for non-contributory widows' or orphans' pension. At present the yearly value of such capital or property is calculated by ignoring the first £25, taking 5 per cent. of the next £375 and 10 per cent. of any excess over £400. This method of assessment has remained unchanged since the scheme of non-contributory widows' or orphans' pensions was first introduced in 1935, and the same method has applied in relation to non-contributory old age pensions since 1919.

While this method may be justified in its application to old age pensions where a return commensurate with the assessment may be obtained by surrendering the capital for an annuity at age 70, it does seem too severe in its application to the average widow, especially those with children. I feel sure the House will agree that some concession should be granted to widows in this respect in order to assist them in making the serious economic adjustment with which the great majority of them are normally faced on the death of the husband and particularly to enable them to provide the education for their children which the latter might have expected to receive if their father had lived.

It is therefore proposed that for widows' and orphans' pensions purposes the amount of capital not liable to a percentage assessment should be increased from £25 to £100 in all cases, that a further sum of £100 should be excluded for each qualified child normally residing with a widow, and that any remaining balance should be assessed at 5 per cent. The revised method of assessment would allow a widow with no qualified child to qualify for a pension at minimum rate if her sole means consist of capital to the value of £2,715 as against £1,520 at present, while a widow with two qualified children may qualify for a pension at minimum rate if she has capital amounting to £3,955 as against £2,040 at present. The number of widows who would benefit by this concession is estimated at about 800 at the cost of some £20,000, a year.

The yearly cost of the proposed increases in social assistance payments and the improvements in social assistance schemes is estimated at £4,000,000. This sum is made up of £761,000 in respect of non-contributory old age and blind pensions, £181,000 in respect of unemployment assistance, £178,000 in respect of children's non-contributory widows' pensions and £2,880,000 in respect of children's allowances, including £1,857,000 in respect of the new allowance for the first child. In the current financial year, the cost will be in the region of £1,688,000 since the increases take effect from the beginning of November next.

We now come to the provisions of the Bill relating to social insurance schemes. In his Budget statement, the Minister for Finance announced that it was proposed to introduce increases in benefits under the social insurance schemes from the commencement of the contribution year in January next. Section 15 of the Bill provides for an increase of 5/- weekly in the basic personal rates of disability and unemployment benefit, maternity allowance, widows' (contributory) pension and old age (contributory) pension and for an increase of 4/- a week in the special weekly rate of disability and unemployment benefit for married women and persons under 18 years.

Provision is also made for increases in the allowances payable with these benefits in respect of adult dependants. The increased rates of disability and unemployment benefit and maternity allowance and of the associated dependants' allowances will come into effect on the 6th January, 1964. The new rates of widows' (contributory) pension and old age (contributory) pension and the allowances payable with them, will come into effect on 3rd January, 1964, the first normal payday in the New Year. Under the new rates an insured man who is married will receive an additional 10/- a week when ill or unemployed, while a widow in receipt of widow's (contributory) pension will receive an increase of 5/- a week. A married old age (contributory) pensioner will receive an additional 7/6d. a week.

I need hardly say that these increased rates of benefit will result in a heavy increase in expenditure from the Social Insurance Fund and an increase in rates of contribution by employers and insured persons is, therefore, unavoidable. New rates of employment contributions are provided for in Section 14. The maximum increase is 1/4d. per week, or 8d. each for employer and insured person, in the case of those contributions which count for all benefits. Contributions which give title to limited benefits are being increased by an amount related to the cost of the increases in those benefits only. A table comparing existing and new contribution rates is included in the Explanatory Memorandum circulated with the Bill.

It is estimated that the increased contributions by employers and workers will increase the income of the Social Insurance Fund by £1,718,000 a year which will bring the overall annual income of the Fund from contributions, interest on investments, and other miscellaneous sources, to approximately £15,046,000. The annual cost of the increases and improvements in social insurance benefits provided in this Bill is estimated at £2,379,000 bringing the total yearly expenditure from the Social Insurance Fund including administration to £23,689,000. The excess of expenditure over income which will be borne by the State amounts to about £8,643,000 in a full year and represents about 36.5 per cent, or somewhat more than one-third, of the total income of the Fund.

I may say here that the views of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and of the Federated Union of Employers on the proposals to increase insurance benefits and contributions were obtained and duly considered. In this connection, however, I would like to stress that the increased rates of benefit proposed are the most favourable that can be provided on the basis of the proposed increases in contribution rates and within the existing framework of the Social Insurance Scheme which, as Deputies are aware, is financed on the basis of roughly equal contributions by employers, insured persons and the State.

The opportunity is also being availed of in the Bill to clarify the law and effect some improvements in relation to social insurance. A reduced rate of employment contributions which does not reckon for unemployment benefit purposes is paid in respect of females employed in domestic service. The term "domestic service" was originally defined in the Social Welfare Act, 1952, to exclude service of a domestic nature rendered otherwise than in relation to an employer's household and place of residence, and this was intended to confine the expression to domestic service given in the home. However, difficulties of interpretation have since arisen and provision is made in Section 7 to ensure that domestic service rendered mainly in relation to the students in a boarding school or college is not to be regarded as domestic service for insurance purposes. It is necessary also to bring the position in regard to insurability of pensionable teachers in Domestic Science Training Colleges into line with that of pensionable national, secondary and vocational teachers generally.

Pensionable teachers in domestic science training colleges are at present compulsorily insurable for all benefits and contributions at the full rate are payable in respect of them. However, as they are pensionable their position is no different to that of pensionable teachers in National, Secondary or Vocational Schools, for whom contributions at a reduced rate which reckon only for widows' and orphans' pensions purposes are paid. Section 9 of the Bill therefore makes provision which will enable such teachers to be treated for insurance purposes in the same manner as other teachers.

Some improvements are being effected in the old age (contributory) pension scheme. In the first place, the existing provision for contrinuation of payment of adult dependant's allowance to former adult dependants of deceased old age (contributory) pensioners is being replaced by provision that a widow of an old age (contributory) pensioner will automatically qualify for a widow's (contributory) pension of 42/6d. a week, which is higher than the allowance of 37/6d. otherwise payable, and which will be increased by additions for her children under age 16, if any. Over 300 widows who continue to receive an allowance as former dependants of old age (contributory) pensioners will benefit by this concession. The allowance as a former adult dependant will continue to be payable to widowers of deceased female old age (contributory) pensioners but the rate will correspond with the rate of widow's contributory pension. The Bill also includes a provision whereby regulations may be made under which the allowance for a wife or dependent husband as part of old age (contributory) pension may be paid direct to the dependant in certain cases. Under existing law the pension, including the allowance, must be paid in full to the pensioner. This can result in hardship or serious inconvenience where the husband and wife, due to circumstances outside their control, live at different addresses, for example, where both are in need of nursing and are taken in by different relations, or where the husband fails in his obligation to maintain his wife. In this connection I might mention that if the wife is over age 70 she is disqualified for receiving a non-contributory old age pension as a result of her husband's entitlement to a dependant's allowance in respect of her as an addition to his contributory old age pension.

Finally, in relation to social insurance, provision is made in Section 12 to enable payment of an allowance for a child as part of widow's (contributory) pension to be made for a child, grandchild, stepchild or adopted child of the widow or her husband who comes to live with the widow after her husband's death. It is estimated that this concession will result in payment for some 500 children and will cost about £16,000 a year. I have already mentioned the similar concession made in relation to non-contributory widow's pension in Section 4.

Turning now to the wet-time insurance scheme, Deputies will recall that this is a scheme of insurance which provides for payment of benefit to workers in the building, civil engineering and painting trades, when wages are lost due to stoppages of work caused by bad weather. The scheme is financed wholly by contributions from workers and their employers. Following discussions with representatives of the workers and employers it has been decided to increase the rates of contribution and benefit and this is being done by regulation. Two further changes in the scheme, which require legislation are included in this Bill. There are three classes of insured persons covered by the scheme—skilled workers, unskilled workers and young persons, and skilled and unskilled workers pay higher contributions and receive higher rates of benefit than young persons. At present a person may not be regarded as a skilled or unskilled worker until the beginning of the insurance year following that in which he attains the age of twenty-one. It is now proposed to reduce this age to eighteen, having regard to conditions generally in the building industry and the fact that the adult rate of contribution under the Social Insurance Scheme is payable from the age of sixteen. Again, wet-time insurance benefit is at present not payable for periods of less than an hour included in any period of a stoppage of work. Arising out of the introduction of the five-day week in the Dublin area, an 8½ hour day is in operation in that area from mid-January to mid-November and for the remainder of the year a 7½ hour day is worked for five days together with 5 hours on Saturday. To meet this situation, it is proposed to pay wet-time insurance benefit in respect of a fraction of an hour, which is not less than half an hour, where the working day contains such a fraction of an hour and the stoppage of work extends over the full working day. The rate of payment will be half the appropriate hourly rate.

In conclusion, it may be helpful to summarise the cost to the Exchequer of the various proposals which I have outlined. In relation to social assistance the total costs are estimated to amount to £4,000,000 in a full year and to £1,688,000 in the current financial year. The cost to the Exchequer of the social insurance proposals is £661,000 in a full year and £250,000 in the current year. The overall cost to the Exchequer will therefore be £4,661,000 in a full year and £1,938,000 in the present year.

As a result of all the proposals in this Bill recipients of social welfare payments will benefit to the extent of approximately £6,380,000 in a full year.

I have much pleasure in recommending this measure to Dáil Éireann and I would ask for expenditious and favourable consideration for it in order that sufficient time may be available in which to complete the necessary administrative arrangements.

There will be no objection to the passage of this Bill for its provisions are badly needed as a sequel to the Finance Bill which we have just passed and which is designed to increase the cost of the food, fuel and clothing of the people by £7½ million per annum, according to the Minister for Finance's calculation. In addition, a further £3 million will be charged under the Finance Bill on the other ordinary purchases of the purchasing public.

I often wonder if Deputies are awake to the facts of the social service payments of this country? It gives us all a comfortable kind of feeling to think that an old age pensioner is to get 35/- a week from 1st November next but does anybody ever ask himself what that represents as compared with pre-war? The new rate of old age pension prescribed under this Bill is the equivalent of 11/8d. per week in terms of 1939 money. I think a good many Deputies have the idea that we have very materially increased the benefits enjoyed by the old age pensioners in this country. In fact, what we have done since 1939—over the past quarter of a century—is to increase the real value of the old age pension by 1/8 per week.

That should be a chastening reflection to those Deputies who have repeatedly walked into the Division Lobby during the past couple of weeks further to increase the cost of all the basic necessaries that poor people have to buy in this country—and when I say "poor people", I include within that category all those who qualify for the old age pension, for the non-contributory pension and for benefits of that kind associated with a scarcity of income which brings them within the range of the social services which are provided.

We have made provision here for improvement in the unemployment and sickness benefits. They are urgently necessary because these people will have to pay the increased cost of food, fuel and clothing out of these exiguous provisions the social service code makes for them when they are sick, disabled or unemployed.

Do Deputies reflect that in the congested areas in this country where I was brought up—in Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork and scattered over almost every county in Ireland—there is a vast body of small farmers living on small holdings of ten, 15, 25, 30 acres whose incomes correspond closely to, where they are not less than, that of the agricultural worker? They have no sickness benefit. They have none of the benefits at all of the unemployment insurance code. They do not get national health insurance. But they have to pay all the charges the Fianna Fáil Party have just put upon their cost of living and for which the Minister for Social Welfare says this Bill is largely designed as a remedy. They will get nothing out of it at all except in regard to the children's allowances.

There the Minister has made a grievous mistake. He has provided £1,857,000 to provide children's allowances for the first child in every family. If we have £1,857,000 wherewith to supplement the children's allowances, we would have been much better advised to expand the allowances in respect of children who belong to the larger families. When young people set out on their married life, the first baby is a burden in that it is a baby when the family is acquiring experience in the rearing of a child. New baby clothes have to be bought. All the initial expenditure starting out on family life has to be undertaken. But that is more or less regarded as part of the essential expenses of that great adventure in life. It is when the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh child is added to a family that the parents sometimes find the financial burden to be truly grievous, particularly, if the family comes quickly. I think the family allowance was a splendid instrument to help young families to meet that burden and to meet it cheerfully. We could have used that £1,850,000 much better in giving more help in respect of the larger family than by extending the benefit to the first child in every family.

I observe we have decided to increase the cost of the stamp on the insurance card. That is going to cost insured workers £859,000 per annum. That is a substantial charge, coming to nearly £1 million, payable in respect of people in insurable employment. It is true that the employers and the State each make a contribution, and that improves the benefits obtainable.

The people for whom I feel the greatest sympathy in the context of this Bill and the Finance Bill we have just passed are the vast number of people in rural Ireland who get none of the benefits and all the burdens. They do not even get much sympathy in this House any more, but they still have to carry the burden. Those who put it on their shoulders should examine their consciences, and their consciences ought to be troubled.

It is a terrible thing to have to say, but so long as we continue to force up the cost of living on the people, we ought to face the fact that what we give them with one hand we are taking away with the other. The whole principle of shifting the burden of public expenditure from the shoulders of the well-to-do to the shoulders of the poor is a revolting social concept. It may represent twentieth century economic efficiency, but it does not, to my way of thinking, represent social justice. I commend to the Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party the realisation of the fact that, despite all we have sought to do to improve the rates of social benefits in this country during the last quarter of a century, largely as a result of the activities of Fianna Fáil in removing the food subsidies as a first step and in actually taxing food, not to speak of fuel and clothing, the true benefit conferred upon the old age pensioners of this country is that we have effectively increased their pensions in a quarter of a century by 1/8d.

I hope to make a constructive contribution to this debate. I hope the Minister will accept the criticism I have to offer as a criticism of the system rather than of himself. Ministers have a habit of becoming slightly annoyed at criticism and of feeling it is directed against themselves. In the past, I have paid tribute to the officials of the Department of Social Welfare and thrown brickbats at some of them. I propose to do exactly the same to-night.

While we welcome the increase which has been granted to the assistance sections, we feel it is very small. The Minister for Finance said that the increase being granted to the non-contributory old-age pensioners and other assistance sections was to compensate for the increase in the cost of living which would result from the turnover tax. He also said it was proposed that there would be an increase of 5/- in the contributory old-age pension. I cannot understand how any Minister can assume that the people who are really poor can be let off with 2/6d. per week extra while there is 5/- extra for somebody else to cover exactly the same increase. Perhaps the Minister would explain that when replying?

I am interested in the changes the Minister has made in the means test. It was about time particularly—I am sure Deputy P.J. Burke will agree with me—so far as the unfortunate widow is concerned.

Is that the one the Deputy has in Julianstown?

She has moved down from Balbriggan. She used to be looked after by Deputy Burke there.

I hope the Deputy told her he voted against her increase.

I hope to vote in favour of it later. Until the coming of this Bill, the position in regard to the means test was this. When an inspector went out to assess means, he checked everything, including the vegetables in the garden. The Minister may remember an instance I brought to his notice of a thrifty widow, who did not live either in Balbriggan or Julianstown, who planted a ridge of potatoes and a few heads of cabbage. She was assessed on that as means and, as a result, was disqualified from receiving a non-contributory widow's pension.

That is an upward movement from £25 to £100 a year. I think the Minister is right in introducing something like that in order to prevent a recurrence of what was a scandalous state of affairs.

He has said he is increasing the number of types of people who will be entitled to non-contributory old age pensions and he now announces that following his decision last year to grant a pension to people of an income of 12/6d. a week he has taken the big step and decided to move the limit up and give some people 5/a week. The number affected is very small, 250. The limit has been moved up from £130 15s. Od. to £143 15s. Od. I should like the Minister to note that at that stage you are dealing with people who have some other income and I ask him does he think 5/- a week to people who will be debarred from drawing a better pension because they have some income will be of great benefit? If the Minister had this money, I think he could have spent it in a much better way by improving some other section and I doubt if he will get much thanks from anybody for the extra 5/- a week.

There is an increase in the disability and unemployment benefit and in the contributory old age pension for widows. Perhaps I am misreading it, but since the old age pension was introduced, it has always been the same for the pensioner and his wife. Now I understand it is to be 5/- for the pensioner and 2/6d. for the wife?

That is right.

I should like the Minister to explain why it is considered that it will require 5/- for the old age pensioner to pay his turnover tax while his wife is supposed to pay for it with half a crown. That discrimination should not exist. We are not dealing with very many millions and in this case it is contributory pensions we are talking about where people have paid in for years for what they are getting. Surely the Minister should have continued the very good practice, which I think he introduced himself, or carried on, last year of giving the same amount to husband and wife.

In the case of the disability and unemployment benefit, while an increase is being given to the husband and a lesser increase to the wife, there is no increase for the children. Would the Minister say why? Is it because of the increase in children's allowances? He gave 3/- last year and it was felt 3/- was necessary. I agree with somebody who said some time ago that these increases would be necessary now, even if there was no turnover tax. It is not good enough, in view of what has happened in the past few days, to give very miserly increases. The 5/- to the man of the house may be considered middling but I think after that, the Minister is making a mistake in not continuing the amount of increase as he did last year and level it off. If the proper ratio last year was 5/-:5/-:3/-, surely 5/-:2/6:0 could not be right this year? Perhaps the Minister would explain that when replying.

There is one thing in regard to contributory old age pensions with which the Minister might deal by regulation, the question of people who are minor officers and who are stamping cards for the purpose of the widows' and orphans' allowances. Many of those people have stamped cards for years at the full rate and because they have been appointed minor officers towards the end of their days in many cases they find themselves debarred from the old age pension. Could the Minister arrange to have a special rate added for these people to ensure, even at the cost of paying a little more, that they will become entitled to an old age pension for which they have paid as much as some people who are benefiting by that contributory scheme, if not more.

It was only introduced in 1961. Nobody paid anything prior to 1961.

I know people who have stamped cards for many years and never drew any kind of social welfare benefit. They are being debarred by a stupid regulation which the Minister introduced. It was not included in the Act and therefore it was something he, or some of his advisers, thought up at the last minute.

The Minister referred to the division of pension where husband and wife are concerned. It is unfortunately necessary to introduce this legislation. While it is true that when husband and wife have been paid and where the husband insisted on drawing his wife's share of the contributory old age pension, it has been possible to have it divided. The Minister is aware that there has been much confusion before it can be done. He has now made it easier. He has done quite well in that section. It will apply particularly where old people are living with different relatives. The division of the pension is very necessary in that case. Even where they live together, I think many old ladies would be much happier if they got their share of the pension paid to them rather than have the husband get it all because most of us get complaints from these old ladies about husbands who get the full pension and call into the public house on the way home with the result that they have very little left when they reach home. Until this was introduced, nothing could be done but I think the Minister is now doing well if the arrangement can be made fairly elastic.

I want to mention something which the Minister may say is outside his jurisdiction but it is something that is very necessary. I refer to the attitude of the local authorities towards these increases. The Minister knows from representations made previously that as soon as they are notified, the unfortunate people who are drawing home assistance in addition to some of the lesser benefits in practically every local authority area in Ireland are told that the home assistance is being stopped forthwith. It may be possible after much arguing to get it back again but would the Minister forestall this by sending a notice to the local authorities that he considers under the circumstances they should not reduce the amount of home assistance because of increased benefits where home assistance is being paid? If he does not do so, many poor old people will be in a worse position after getting the increase than before, turnover tax or no turnover tax. The Minister can deal with this very effectively and very easily and I should be glad if he would do so.

There is another question which arises every time social welfare benefits and particularly increases in social welfare benefits are being considered. Would the Minister try to do something about this question of the three-day waiting period? Surely he appreciates that no matter what increase is given in unemployment and disability benefit, it is reduced considerably the first week because of the three-day waiting period. I do not mind whether the Leas-Cheann Comhairle gets advice that it is out of order. I know well it is but I hope the Minister will consider it.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is getting no advice on the matter.

But he is getting frowns from the Minister and that is nearly as good as advice. Would the Minister also consider this question of the inmates of county homes? It is not generally known that most county homes have quite a good hospital section and the older patients from the county hospitals are usually sent into the county homes, particularly if they are chronic or semi-chronic invalids. If these people are in receipt of old age pensions or disability benefits before they go in, it has been the practice of the local authorities in most cases to confiscate all or nearly all of the pension or allowance which is being paid from social welfare benefit and treat them as if they are old people who are destitute and have to go in for shelter. That practice should be discontinued. If they are in for medical treatment, they should be treated in the same way as when they go into any other hospital.

The reason I am raising this point is that occasionally where people who have been supporting—no matter how ill they are—some relative at home are sent into a county home for treatment, if the pension or the disability benefit is confiscated, it means that these poor people are left without any means of sustenance and they have to go back to the same local authority which has taken away the pension or disability benefit looking for home assistance. It amounts to the same thing in the end and, if it is at all possible, the regulation should be framed so as to stop that sort of thing. If they go in for treatment, they should get free treatment and they should also be allowed to retain whatever benefits they have. If they go in permanently for shelter, it is a different matter altogether.

It has been mentioned here that there has been an alteration in the wet time insurance. I would again congratulate the Minister on consulting the people who knew all about it and on reducing the age limit to 18 years. It is about time that was done. As a matter of fact, I am rather surprised that the Minister has not done something about the age limit all around. It seems stupid that people are required to pay the full rate from 16 years of age and yet cannot get their full benefit until they are what the Department considers to be adults. If they are adult enough to pay for their stamp, they should be adult enough to get the benefit. However, this is a step in the right direction in regard to wet time. I cannot find—perhaps it is not intended to be included—the rate of increase in regard to wet time.

It is done by regulation.

Could the Minister say when he is replying what it is?

The unions have the information. I thought the Deputy would have it.

I would like the Minister to mention it here.

It is not relevant. The unions have been notified officially and it is not relevant to the Bill. That is why I did not tell the Deputy. It is not included in the legislation. It is being done by regulation.

If I have the information as a trade union official and if anybody else in the House has it because he is a trade union official, does that mean Deputies do not need to know what they are being asked to discuss?

They are not being asked to discuss that.

They are being asked to discuss and make provision for increases which the Minister is not prepared to make public.

I do not mind making it public.

Why does he not do it?

It was not relevant to the matter under discussion.

I believe it is and the Minister could, without being awkward, very easily make the information available.

The Deputy is entitled to suggest what he would like to see incorporated in the Bill.

It is probably an omission by the Minister.

It is not an omission. It does not require legislation. It is done by regulation.

The Deputy's point is that in that the Minister spoke about the matter, he could have mentioned the rate.

If the Deputy likes, I can tell him.

It will do when the Minister is replying.

When he is replying because I know what the rates are.

The Deputy does not. He should, but he does not.

Yes, I do. The Bill itself does give fairly detailed information. The Minister's speech gives a lot of information which I felt could have been made a little clearer in the Bill.

There is just one other point. Reference is made here to the amount which it will cost, the amount which is being paid by the insured person and the amount which is being paid by the employer, and it is suggested —and rightly so—that the State is paying slightly over one-third. I should like the Minister to say whether or not it is a fact that since the contributory old age pension was introduced, the percentage which the State has to provide for this sort of thing has been reduced considerably. Is it not a fact that the insured person now is paying for more of his benefit than he ever did before? We here in the Labour Party, and the trade union movement also, will never quarrel with the Minister so long as the amount of the increase in insurance stamps is being passed on by way of benefit to the insured worker or his dependants, or those who are unemployed or ill, but we still feel there has been a bad precedent established here. We believe the rates should be maintained as they were before and that children's increases should have been given as they were given in previous years.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo agus déanaim comhgháirdeachas leis an Aire as ucht Bille mar seo a thabhairt os cóir an Tighe.

I want to welcome the atmosphere of this debate. It is certainly a calm after a storm and all speakers so far have discussed the matter logically and reasonably. It is a welcome Bill and I congratulate the Minister on the increases being granted and the other useful changes included in this proposed legislation. The Leader of the Opposition did say this was necessary in view of the introduction of the turnover tax in so far as the prices of various commodities should become very expensive. That is so, but this Bill goes a good deal further than meeting the cost of the turnover tax. The expenditure of £4½ million on the social welfare recipients is much more than the increased expenditure of those recipients. The increased cost of the turnover tax to the entire population is £7½ million a year. The recipients of social welfare benefits will receive £4½ million per annum. The social assistance classes will receive £4 million and the others £2.4 million making a total of £6.4 million which social welfare recipients alone will receive.

To the £7½ million which will be contributed by the turnover tax, only a small part of the £6.4 million will be contributed by these people with the result that there is a substantial net gain as a result of this Bill. I congratulate the Minister on this legislation. It is no wonder that it got a good reception in the House and I am sure that those amongst the public who have been reading the debates in this House and reading the speeches of those who are opposed to the turnover tax will welcome this Bill and that their fears will be very much allayed.

Deputy Dillon mentioned that the small farmers would not benefit under the Bill but would suffer some of the effects of the turnover tax. The increase in the children's allowances will benefit a large number of small farmers. After all, we have to consider that this is only one Department of State. This is a contribution by one Department to our social service recipients and I am quite sure that within the next 12 months other Ministers will come to the House fortified by the increased income which will then be available and give benefits to other classes in the community as well as to the social welfare recipients.

Nobody has said that the social welfare recipients are the only class in the community who will benefit in the future. I am certain that other Ministers will come before the House and distribute other moneys in a way that will benefit other sections of the community and especially those mentioned by Deputy Dillon this evening, the small farmers.

He would only speak of them. He would not give them any money.

They did not do too badly when they had him.

It is debatable whether it is better to give it to the first child rather than spread it over the children of the larger families but both are being done. The impression given by Deputy Dillon is that we are dealing only with the first child. The first child gets 10/- and the third and subsequent children get an increase of 4/6 a month. I think the method the Minister is proposing here for the distribution of children's allowances is fair. Possibly the arrival of the first child creates more problems for the husband and wife than any of the other children. For that reason, I know that the granting of 10/- for the first child is something that will be welcomed by everybody. I do not agree that some of the money should be taken from the younger couples and given to the larger families, seeing that the allowance for the third and subsequent children is being increased.

I know that the Minister and officials of his Department have drawn up certain regulations which must be adhered to. We find in rural areas that the interpretation of these regulations may be over-strict, that the determination of means is carried out in an over-strict way. This question of means is the bugbear not only of Deputies but of the applicants. It is something the officials would prefer not to have to do. For that reason, I feel the increase in the means allowance is the most important thing in the Bill and I hope it will do away with a lot of the bickering and dissatisfaction which arises on this question of means. I know a State like ours cannot afford a completely free social welfare benefit scheme for all-comers. I am, however, glad that we have gone another step along the road of improvement, a step which will be welcomed by many people other than the actual recipients themselves.

There are problems peculiar to certain areas. One very aggravating problem in my constituency is being remedied in part, but only in part. The problem will continue. I refer to cases of applications for unemployment assistance where a means test operates. A married son who lives with his parents, solely for the purpose of keeping a filial eye to their welfare, is refused unemployment assistance because the total income from the farm is assessed against his application. Now that is causing a great deal of hardship. I have come across a case in which the income from the farm was assessed against the married son when he applied for unemployment assistance. When his father reached the age of 70 —the father was the owner of the farm—he applied for a non-contributory old age pension. What happened? The income from the farm was assessed against him. That is not a logical approach and some instructions should be given to social welfare officers in cases such as these.

I compliment the Minister on this legislation. It is legislation made possible by the legislation enacted in this House yesterday. Had that legislation not been passed, the Minister for Social Welfare could not come in here today and produce to the House these proposals for the expenditure of £6.4 million. I know all Deputies welcome this legislation. I also know that over the past few weeks the method of collecting the moneys necessary to implement these proposals was very strongly contested. This is a first instalment made possible by the provisions of the Finance Bill passed here yesterday.

Deputy Cunningham stressed the increased benefits but he carefully ignored the increased cost of living. This Bill is not even a sugarcoated pill. It is a smokescreen to try to hide the fact that people will have to pay much more than they will get in the way of increased social welfare so-called benefits. Those who have families, particularly of young boys, know what it costs to feed them. A young boy of 14 or 15 will eat as much as a man. The fathers of these young boys will be faced with the position of having to pay increased costs for all the food they buy, increased costs for all the clothing, and increased costs for all the fuel used in the home. The Minister told us yesterday that the cost of electricity will increase. What is the compensation offered for all these increases? Half-a-crown will be given to the child. That would not keep a child in lollipops in hot weather.

Tomorrow, of course, we will have the front page of theIrish Press proclaiming in bannerline type all the benefits; it will not show the other side of the picture. It will not show what living will cost. Remember, there will be an increase, too, in the stamp contribution from the workers. There will be increases everywhere. If we have a winter like the last one, what will the increased price of fuel mean? There has already been an increase in the price of coal. On top of that, there will be this 2½ per cent. That will cancel out these proposed benefits.

This Bill is an admission by Fianna Fáil that the cost of living will increase. As was pointed out here, increases will be the order of the day from the cradle to the grave. Not only will the cost of living increase but so also will the cost of dying.

It is only fitting that more should qualify for pensions. It is time the investigating officers stopped counting the few hens owned by the unfortunate widow. There is too much of that in my part of the country: a few hens, and you are out of your pension. These people have worked all their lives and paid through the nose all down the line. Along comes this well-paid official to deprive a marginal case of a pension. That happens all over the country.

I said this Bill is a smokescreen but the people will not be fooled this time. Deputies may laugh, but the laugh will be on the other side of their faces if they go to the country.

(Interruptions.)

I will resign any day and fight a constituency against you. I will guarantee that I will be elected.

I would not be seen dead in one parish with you.

Thanks be to God for that. I spoke about the cost of dying. It comes to all of us and, should it strike here, which God forbid, I am afraid a great many of the Deputies on the opposite benches will not sit again in this House. Deputy Carter left this House once before. Since he came back, he has been very quiet. People will not be fooled again.

Debate adjourned.