(Cavan): The Bill which is now about to pass merely proposes to enlarge the definition of what is commonly known as the middle income group. Heretofore a person whose income exceeded £800 ceased to be in the middle income group. That ceiling will now be increased to £1,200. A farmer whose poor law valuation exceeded £50 heretofore ceased to be entitled to the benefits, such as they were, which were enjoyed by the middle income group. That poor law valuation is now being increased to £60. So far as the Bill enlarges the definition of the middle income group, we approve of it. As I said on Second Stage, however, the Minister freely admits that the Bill does nothing to relieve the great injustices and great hardship imposed on sick people, those who need medical attention, hospitalisation and surgical attention. The Minister, I understand, freely admits that illness imposes great hardship in this country and that the State so far has done nothing to relieve that hardship. This Bill certainly does nothing and is a grave disappointment in that respect.
For several years past, there has been a cry in the country for a proper health service. The Government have been called on to provide such a service. On the assembly of the 17th Dáil, the Government were confronted with a demand for the replacement of the Health Act of 1953. They did not really seek to defend the Health Act of 1953 but, instead of replacing that Health Act, they set up a committee to advise the Minister. That was at the end of 1961. Through the period from the end of 1961 to 1964 this country experienced the farce of that committee being obstructed by the then Minister for Health. He used it as an implement of obstruction, as a method of shirking his responsibilities, as a method of saving the face of the Government which had fallen down on the health services.