Committee on Finance. - Redundancy Payments Bill, 1970: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The main purposes of this Bill are, firstly, to provide for a new definition of redundancy to meet the circumstances arising from a decision of the High Court in 1969 which gave a narrower interpretation to the term redundancy than was originally intended and to provide for the compensation of workers adversely affected by the High Court decision in the period before the amending legislation comes into effect; secondly, to reduce the qualifying period for statutory redundancy payments from four to two years; and, thirdly, to provide for improvements in the rates of redundancy payments.

The Bill includes a number of other amendments to the Act, which are necessary or desirable to clarify certain provisions, to remove anomalies, and generally to facilitate the more efficient administration of the redundancy scheme. I am also proposing to amend the provisions in relation to the resettlement allowances scheme to provide that the scheme may be extended in scope.

Perhaps it would be helpful if I were to refer briefly to the provisions of the Redundancy Payments Act, 1967, and to give some information on how the Act has operated. Under the Act, a qualified worker who is dismissed on redundancy after four years continuous service with the same employer is entitled to a lump sum and weekly payments related to his age, service and pre-redundancy pay. The lump sum is payable in full by the employer who may receive a rebate of part of it, normally 50 per cent, but up to 65 per cent depending on the length of notice of dismissal given. Rebates of lump sums to employers are paid from the redundancy fund, which is financed by weekly contributions from employers and workers. Redundancy weekly payments, which are paid to qualified workers during unemployment following redundancy are met in full from the redundancy fund.

The redundancy payments scheme was designed to achieve two broad objectives. Firstly, it set out to alleviate the hardship arising for workers affected by redundancy and, secondly, it sought to facilitate rationalisation of production, which is an essential feature of economic progress.

The redundancy payments scheme applies to workers who are insured for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts. This means that virtually all manual workers are covered and that non-manual workers with earnings of up to £1,200 a year are within the scope of the scheme. The number of workers at present covered by the scheme is approximately 730,000, comprising about 470,000 men and 260,000 women.

The annual income of the redundancy fund from the contributions of employers and employees is now about £1,200,000. In the period from 1st January, 1968, when the Act came into effect, up to 31st December, 1970, the total expenditure from the fund was £1,900,000 approximately. This included £42,000 in respect of the expenses of the redundancy appeals tribunal.

In the three year period since the introduction of the scheme on 1st January, 1968, up to 31st December, 1970, a total of 11,455 redundancies was notified to my Department. This total was comprised of 8,994 men and 2,461 women. The yearly number of redundancies has been remarkably even—3,863, 3,696 and 3,896 in the years 1968, 1969 and 1970 respectively.

In the three year period 1st January, 1968 to 31st December, 1970, redundant workers received lump sum payments totalling about £1,600,000 and weekly payments amounting to almost £1,000,000. Lump sums paid under the scheme have ranged from about £15 to almost £1,000 and the average weekly payment has been approximately £7, which is, of course, additional to unemployment benefit or other payment to which a worker would be entitled under the Social Welfare code.

The figures which I have given show clearly that the redundancy payments scheme has been of great benefit in reducing the hardships resulting from redundancy for many workers and their dependants.

I am glad also to be able to say that the redundancy fund from which the scheme is financed is in a very sound condition. Despite the substantial outgoings on lump sums and weekly payments since 1st January, 1968, the fund had a credit balance of approximately £1,750,000 on 31st December last. While it is prudent to build up and maintain a reserve in the fund against unforeseen contingencies, I am satisfied that it is possible to introduce improvements in benefits without the risk of serious depletion of the fund.

I now propose to describe the main provisions of the Bill. The decision to amend the definition of redundancy arose following a High Court judgment in 1969 which had the effect of interpreting the definition of "redundancy" in a restricted way which was not intended when the Act was drafted. If this interpretation were allowed to stand, certain workers who are dismissed as surplus to their employers' requirements and who are redundant in the generally accepted sense would not be entitled to redundancy payments. The Government decided to amend the appropriate provision in the Act and I publicly announced this decision in October, 1969. I also announced then that it was proposed to provide for payment from the redundancy fund of compensation to workers debarred from receiving redundancy payments following the High Court decision in the period before the new definition of redundancy comes into effect. The Bill now before the House provides for these matters. In fact payments have been made from the fund to 20 workers in anticipation of this legislation.

Turning now to improvements in the redundancy payments scheme the following are the main improvements in the Bill:

(i) reduction in the period to qualify for benefit from 208 weeks— four years—continuous service with the same employer to 104 weeks— two years—;

(ii) an increase in the maximum lump sum, at present the equivalent of 20 weeks pay, to 30 weeks pay;

(iii) each year of continuous employment over the age of 41 years to count for two weekly payments instead of each period of two years over 41 counting for three weekly payments;

(iv) a minimum of four weekly payments contingent on unemployment;

(v) an increase in each lump sum payment by the equivalent of one weeks pay;

(vi) a general 5 per cent increase in the rates of lump sum rebates to employers;

(vii) the existing waiting period of two weeks for weekly redundancy payments to be reduced to three days; and, finally

(viii) persons will continue to be covered by the Act for four years after they exceed the insurable limit under the Social Welfare Acts instead of for two years at present.

Under these provisions every worker who becomes redundant from the date of the new Act will secure some additional benefit. It will be clear that the main emphasis in the new benefits is directed towards older and long service workers who will gain from the higher maximum lump sum and the extra weekly payments for service over 41 years of age. Workers with shorter service will be helped by the reduction in the qualifying service to two years and the minimum of four weekly payments. The higher rebates will largely reimburse employers for extra costs arising for them as a result of the additional benefits for workers.

The proposal to extend from two to four years the period for which workers are eligible for benefits under the Act after they cease to be insurable under the Social Welfare Acts is mainly relevant to non-manual workers who at present cease to be insurable when their pay is increased to over £1,200 a year. I may say that this income limit for social insurance is at present under review by the Government. While no final decision has been taken as to how it should be revised, Deputies can be assured that it will not stay at its present level for much longer.

Most of the other amendments which I am proposing to the existing Redundancy Payments Act are of a technical nature. I do not propose to deal with these in detail at this point, as they can be debated more appropriately on the Committee Stage, except to say that they are desirable in the interests of the more efficient administration of the existing legislation, to remove anomalies and to provide for matters not covered in the existing Act. I would like, however, to mention some of them briefly.

Workers will be facilitated in pursuing legitimate claims under the Act by provision laying down a presumption in the workers' favour in the event of a dispute as to whether dismissal was due to redundancy or service was continuous. The time limit for claims is also being extended and strengthened provision made to protect a workers' right where there is a change of ownership. Another provision covers the award of costs, at the discretion of the court, to be paid by the redundancy fund where cases which are dealt with by the Redundancy Appeals Tribunal are brought to the High Court. The position in relation to eligibility for weekly redundancy payments in the event of a trade dispute is being brought into line with the Social Welfare Acts and some further penalties in relation to fraud are being introduced.

Apart from the redundancy payments scheme, I propose to introduce an amendment relating to the resettlement allowances scheme which was authorised by the Redundancy Payments Act, 1967. Under this scheme various types of financial aids are payable entirely from State funds to unemployed persons or persons about to become redundant to move to new areas to takeup employment. These allowances include interview grants, travel expenses for the worker and his dependants, household removal expenses, settling-in grants, lodging allowances, grants for the worker to visit his family while awaiting their transfer to the new area and grants towards the legal expenses involved in the sale or purchase of a house. Since the resettlement allowances scheme came into effect in January, 1968, the demand for assistance under it has developed, though the number availing of it is still comparatively small—186 persons in the period from 1st January, 1970, to 31st December, 1970. I am satisfied that the limited use made of this scheme was caused mainly by the fact that there is little tradition of geographical mobility of labour within this country except to the cities— mainly Dublin.

I consider that the scheme should be extended to enable it to be applied (i) to persons already in employment to facilitate them in moving to new areas in order to take up other jobs and (ii) to Irish emigrants to assist them in returning to this country in order to take up jobs which are available here. I feel that there are good grounds for extending the scheme also to assist persons who have to travel from their normal place of residence in order to attend for tests for selection for training at approved training centres—such as those operated by An Chomhairle Oiliúna—or to undertake courses of training at such centres. I also propose to clarify that the scheme may be applied to persons other than persons who are insured for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts. Provision is made in the Bill for the necessary enabling powers which will be put into operation in due course by regulations.

Before this Bill was drafted, my Department had consultations as to its provisions with various representative bodies, including, in particular, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Federated Union of Employers. I will not be letting you into any great secret if I reveal to you that the Bill does not go as far as Congress would wish but goes a great deal further than the FUE would like. It is the lot of the Minister for Labour to be in the middle and he must make his own judgment as to what is to be done, with a special eye on what the fund can afford.

I am sure the main criticism which will be directed at the Bill in this House is that it does not go far enough in extra benefits. I expect also that I will be asked to apply some or all of the new benefits retrospectively. In the hope of discouraging some of the advocates of higher benefits and retrospection, I want to argue the case for prudence. The redundancy fund is in a healthy state but there is no guarantee that this will continue. Wages are going up all the time and these will be reflected in higher benefit payments—but contributions are at flat rates. When the social insurance limit is raised, many better paid people will qualify for benefits and the effect of this on the fund cannot be predicted.

The "crunch" period of the Free Trade Agreement with Britain and the probability of free trade with an enlarged EEC are approaching. It is far better to approach these contingencies with something in the kitty. I am completely against retrospection because there could be no basis in principle for picking one retrospective date rather than another and because any retrospective payments would have to be borne in full by the redundancy fund. The additional benefits I am proposing will cost the fund over £450,000 a year, assuming that the rate of redundancy stays about the same as we have experienced in the last few years. This is as far as I think it prudent to go in the present situation.

The benefits could, of course, be further improved if contributions were increased substantially but I have no wish to add, at this particular time, to indirect charges on employers and workers. I do, of course, propose to keep the situation under continuing review and if I am satisfied that further improved benefits are justified by reference to the position of the fund I will take steps to introduce them. I might mention that the 1967 Act gives powers to vary rates of benefits in a flexible manner, by orders approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

I wish to make it clear that I do not regard the proposed improvements in the Redundancy Payments Act outlined in this Bill as the final solution to all the problems associated with redundancy. A national scheme of redundancy payments for workers is an important part of the Government's overall manpower policy but it is only a part. It is obviously not sufficient merely to compensate a worker for the loss of his job. Every effort must be made to obtain for him new employment. With this aim in view, the benefits available for redundant workers under the Redundancy Payments Act are being supplemented by the improved placement and guidance facilities being made available by the reorganised and strengthened national manpower service.

An Chomhairle Oiliúna, set up under the Industrial Training Act, 1967, is also making an increasing contribution to the re-absorption of redundant workers into the labour force with schemes for training and retraining. The improvements proposed under this Bill should, nevertheless, help to protect further workers' interests in this time of economic and technological change, and also encourage workers to accept the inevitability of change in the interest of national economic progress. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to the House.

It is a pity that most of these points were not covered when the original Bill was introduced. Section 4 (2) of the 1967 Act provides that the Bill shall not apply to a person who is normally expected to work for the same employer for less than 21 hours a week. I believe the 21 hours should be brought down a bit. For instance, women cleaners may work for only 18 or 19 hours per week and I think they should come within the scope of this Bill. The Minister has improved various payments. Section 5 of this Bill covers the case where an agency changes hands. In this case an employee can change his job and still get redundancy payment as if there was no change of ownership and as if he was working in the same job.

In this country I think we allow public companies to get rid of men on changes in management, though the company remains the same. The new management can say: "You are redundant as far as we are concerned. You can go". Maybe I am taking it up wrong. I know the provision is only put in to cover a person working for an agency if he suddenly loses that agency, but I think this could also happen in a public company. That is the way I read it.

We are in favour of the improvements in this Bill. There is no point in going into details at the moment. We agree with most of what is in the Bill and if we have any objections to make or improvements to suggest we can do so on the Committee Stage.

The Minister said that during the period since 1968 the total number of redundancies of men was 8,994. In other words, there has been an average annual number of redundancies of about 3,800. The Redundancy Payments Act certainly favours those employed in the service industry, like grocers, tobacconists and so on. Those people are dismissed because there are no jobs for them and they are given sufficient money to keep them for a reasonable time while they are looking for new jobs. On the other hand, people like those employed by companies such as Hibernian Transport, who have spent 25 to 30 years in a firm, suffer because redundancy in their case means a ticket for the whole family to emigrate. The failure of the business I mentioned was caused by bad running. I am not blaming the Government although I do blame the Minister for Labour and the Minister for Transport and Power for not following the thing up in an effort to save the jobs of some of the people employed in Hibernian Transport. Keeping even part of that business going would have meant an improvement in our balance of payments position and it would have kept at least 50 per cent of the 800 employees in jobs. Three or four years ago we recommended legislation to have worker representation in the managements of some companies, and a former Deputy, Mr. Michael Mullen, agreed with this, saying it would prevent mismanagement.

From my point of view, the redundancy fund is all right for service industries but in relation to employees in other industries the Department of Labour should arrange for retraining. I agree that AnCO are doing a very good job of training people, although they are doing it slowly. From what I can gather, however, very little retraining has been done by comparison with the amount of training. Where there is redundancy, during the period that redundant workers are being retrained for new jobs, they should be paid their full wages. Workers who are affected by free trade conditions or workers who will become affected when we join the EEC—neither of which was their doing —should be paid in full until such time as they are retrained. If the Government could not foresee the possibility of such conditions 20 years ago, how could the workers be expected to foresee them? At the moment, for instance, the shoe industry is affected. Two industries in one town have got the knock. The workers have to be retrained or else get out of the country to find work. They should be paid in full. Otherwise we have no manpower policy. There is no information from the Government—they kept it from the people—that the shoe industry would get such a quick knock.

In Dublin at the moment there are approximately 5,000 to 6,000 persons employed in the car assembly industry and the Government have not given them any information. It has been said that there is no need to worry until 1980. However, in the EEC set-up, people in this country can purchase cars in Germany and bring them in here cheaply without customs duty. That means the motor assembly industry here will be in trouble and we should be already retraining the workers concerned. In England, most car makers make the body in one place and bits and pieces all over the place. We do not do that. Therefore we should be retraining those people instead of telling them that the car industry will last. It well may not. When tariffs and customs barriers collapse the car industry here will be on its way out.

The workers have not been given information about the clothing and woollen industries, about whether they will survive EEC conditions. We do not know yet whether the Government's non-intervention in the bank strike had anything to do with the future of those industries or whether those industries were on their way out anyway.

All this the worker must be told now and I repeat that when retraining is necessary the workers should be paid in full during the time they are being fitted for new employment. Not only must we know which industries will disappear but we must know also in what parts of the country they are least likely to survive. Have we made any effort to encourage the setting up here of car industries whose headquarters are based in such far away places as America or Japan rather than those based nearer home.

I do not think that workers are being made aware of the comparative rates of wages and production costs in the EEC countries. Already we have heard a big brewery industry here say that with only a quarter of the staff which they employ here they could produce in England the same amount. This comes from one of our major industries. On the Committee Stage of this Bill, we shall have an opportunity of going into more detail.

Until such time as there are sufficient places in which to retrain anybody who becomes redundant and until we have a proper manpower policy, we should ensure that every person who becomes redundant is paid in full. There is a reference in the Minister's speech to section 18 in connection with employers and redundancy. I can see this being abused very much and such abuse will result in many disputes between trade unions and employers in cases where employers will find it much easier to get rid of workers. Quite often they may succeed because, for some reason or other, a person may be in need of a sum of money at some particular time. There should be some provision to ensure against a person buying a business and deciding suddenly that people must go because he is able to prove that they are to some extent redundant. We support this section but, again, we shall go into it in more detail on Committee Stage.

We, in the Labour Party, welcome the belated improvements embodied in this Bill. However, we deplore the fact that it is so necessary and that it is becoming increasingly necessary in this country to cater for redundancy. There is a tendency on the part of the Government not to remember what exactly redundancy is. If a person becomes redundant, he has lost his employment. As the party who have been in power here for so long, the Minister and his Government must accept responsibility for a situation in which more than 6 per cent of our employable population are unemployed.

At the outset I used the word "belated" purposely because the proposals embodied in this Bill were brought before the House by the Labour Party as amendments to the original Bill but they were rejected then by Fianna Fáil. As a result of that shortsightedness many people have suffered through redundancy. Those who have become redundant since 1968 have got nothing—people who, when this Bill is enacted, will qualify. At that time, we asked that the qualifying period be two years and not four years. We did not understand then and we do not understand now why the Government refused to accept that amendment. This two-year period has been in operation in England and even in the Six Counties. Many people have been disqualified from receiving any benefit or compensation for the loss of a right and we must concede that it is a right of any citizen to be employed. When compensation is given for redundancy it is a compensation for a denial of that right. Deputy Paddy Belton mentioned an average figure during a number of years of about 3,000 people as becoming eligible each year under the Redundancy Payments Bill. That figure was quite accurate but, by no means, does it give a true picture of the number of people who become redundant because many people who have become redundant since the Bill was passed were disqualified from benefiting because they had not the necessary qualifications.

Because of what the Minister has told us in his brief, we know that he can rectify the situation. We know, also, that the fund is in a healthy condition. We suggest, as the Minister anticipated, that these additional benefits be retrospective so as to include people who should have been covered in the first instance.

Another improvement in the Bill is that the maximum time for the payment of a lump sum is being increased from 20 weeks to 30 weeks. Undoubtedly, this will help the older worker and it is the older worker who will be hit hardest by redundancy. However, why should there be any limit? What is the necessity for a limit? There is a considerable sum of money in the fund so that there would be no extra cost to the Government. If a man has sufficient service to qualify for 40 or 50 weeks, why does he not get it? When the Minister went so far in improving the Bill considerably why would he not go a little further and give the worker with the requisite service what is only his due? The worker has contributed to the fund; so has the employer. While we may on occasion say hard things about employers I do not know many employers personally who would begrudge any man his due. The Minister should have another look at this.

The waiting time has been cut down from two weeks to three days. Why any waiting time? Why should a worker have to wait three days if, through no fault of his own, but simply because of something over which he has absolutely no control, he suddenly finds himself virtually on the breadline? The fund is financially healthy. Why should he have to wait three days?

Again, non-manual workers with over £1,200 a year are not covered by the fund. The ordinary, sane person finds this very difficult to understand. This is supposed to be a Bill designed to alleviate financial hardship on those who become unemployed through no fault of their own. The non-manual worker will probably suffer more hardship from being unemployed than will the average manual worker. All workers suffer hardship, of course, but the white collar worker with £1,300, £1,400 or £1,500 a year will probably be buying a house with a mortgage. He will have all sorts of commitments that the manual worker may not have. If, however, he loses his employment, through no fault of his own, he is excluded; there will be no benefit for him under this Bill.

I cannot understand that thinking. The three days waiting and the £1,200 limit are a carry-over from the social welfare way of thinking. It is about time we gave up that kind of thinking. This is 1971 and Fianna Fáil should rid themselves of this poor law appoach. I must say some Fianna Fáil people appear to be very liberal with money.

No trouble to them.

The Minister said that he could not improve the Bill any further at this stage. He spelled out two of his reasons for that statement quite clearly—the Free Trade Area Agreement with Britain and our application to join the EEC. The effects, he said, cannot be properly assessed. The EEC is in the future. The Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement is in the recent past. We have very definite views about our application to join the EEC and the way it is being handled by the Government. Because of that we have been subjected to a great deal of criticism. We have been accused of being shortsighted, of being cranky, or being agitators. All sorts of labels have been pinned on us because of our attitude to the EEC. We have had tonight from a Fianna Fáil Minister a statement with regard to the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. This is not something in the future. It is a reality. This party was the only party which told the nation and the Government what the possibilities might be and what the effects of that agreement would be. A little late, apparently, it has dawned on the Fianna Fáil Party what the effects are. The Minister states in his brief that, because they cannot anticipate fully how much unemployment our people will be subjected to, it is not possible at this stage to improve the benefits further.

There are improvements, belated improvements, in this Bill as compared with the original proposals in 1967. We welcome these improvements but, on Committee Stage, we in the Labour Party will be proposing a large number of amendments and we would ask the Minister not to reject these amendments out of hand, as happened in 1967, because they will be tabled by men with long experience in industrial relations and with very close daily association with both workers and employers. The amendments will not be tabled merely to score political points but in an endeavour to improve the Bill. If the Minister accepts these amendments he may not have to listen to me three or four years hence telling him once again: "We told you so".

I welcome this advanced legislation. We, in Fianna Fáil, are living up to the great principle to which we have always adhered and which we have always adopted in the past; we are concerned with the wellbeing of every section of our people, irrespective of class or creed.

Including the IRA.

This advanced social legislation demonstrates to the country the fact that we are concerned with every section and, in particular, with the worker. The Minister has been doing a good job as Minister for Labour and Minister for Social Welfare. He has the social conscience necessary for the holder of those offices. If we neglect any one section then the State will become lopsided. I do not want to see anybody in our society hungry or in want in a Christian State. We are dealing with the problem of trying to rehabilitate workers who become redundant and place them in gainful employment again. We are trying to tide them over evil days. The reduction from four years to two years is a big advance which I welcome. It is costing almost another £500,000 to do this. Notwithstanding that, the Minister for Labour is not asking any further contribution: the State will have to bear this increase. The fund is solvent at present. I hope to see the day when the resources of this nation will improve so much that none of our people will be unemployed but until such time as that happens it is well to know that we are making provision as far as our resources permit——

The State is paying nothing for this. The employer and the employee are paying.

All things come from Fianna Fáil.

Many good things have come from Fianna Fáil——

And some bad things also.

Looking at the evening papers, we realise that.

The great advances in social legislation came from Fianna Fáil. I shall be 27 years here on 31st May and great things have happened in our time.

Read the papers this evening.

The Deputy does not believe one word of it.

Thank you, Deputy, for coming to my assistance. The Deputy was always a kindly soul. Wonderful advances have been made since I came to the House. There were no widows' and orphans' pensions, no children's allowances or various other social benefits.

Deputy Belton is trying to help me. Deputy Coughlan should give him a chance. I shall not enumerate all the good things that Fianna Fáil have done for the people and for the country. Deputy Cluskey mentioned that we had 6 per cent of our people unemployed. I remember when we had over 100,000 unemployed and people were leaving the country every day and the Deputy's party was in power in those days.(Interruptions.)

Am I to understand the Deputy is satisfied with 6 per cent unemployed?

I shall never be satisfied until I see everybody who is employable employed. No matter what we do on this side of the House, the other side of the House can go one better.

In certain things you will have no competition.

Any advance made was made on this side and any help that the workers could get was given.

What about the ESB employees? What about the farmers you put in jail?

We are anxious to see as many employed as our resources will permit. You cannot take the trousers off a highlander.

The Deputy is trying to put long trousers on a highlander.

Would Deputy Coughlan cease interrupting?

I shall buy him a bottle of whiskey if he does not conduct himself.

The Deputy knows bloody well I do not drink.

It is strange to see how sensitive Deputies opposite are when one is telling the truth and giving facts about one's own party and what we have succeeded in doing. They begin interrupting.

Self praise is no praise.

I am praising the Government and I shall continue to do so. I am saying, as one of the backbenchers, how much I welcome this measure. When our resources permit, I hope the Minister will see fit to deal with white collar workers and others who become redundant. Tradesmen have over £1,200 today——

They are included.

I know that, but I am thinking of the white collar workers and others. I should like to see the legislation improved as time goes on. Our economy has made great progress. I remember statements made about the agricultural south by the then British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, who said: "We have given them the agricultural south and they will never be able to carry on." The people of Ireland, irrespective of political affiliations were sound and contributed immensely to our progress so that we have reached the position in which we are today. If our economy continues to develop as it is developing, the standard of living will continue to go up and up. I remember working in this city in my time, for about 2d an hour. If the economy could afford it, the Minister for Labour would go further than he has gone. He would be glad to do it. We are fortunate to have a man of his standing, of his social conscience and a man concerned with the wellbeing of the workers. We are concerned with the wellbeing of every section of the people. That is what makes a Christian society. These are the things that have kept us on this side of the House for so many years.

I shall genuflect to you yet before you finish.

Our people are sound. They know we are doing our best. The people will continually support us in that line.

Wishful thinking.

On the Committee Stage I will be listening to some people who will plead "better than thou" all the time and they will be putting something else forward. I saw the time when these people, and I was very hurt to see it, voted against increases for old age pensioners, against increases for social welfare benefits. I do not know why they did this because these are the things which will help every section of our people—these wonderful advances which have been made in all social welfare benefits. God forbid that we should see any more people unemployed but we are trying to deal with this situation. The Minister for Labour referred to a transitional period when we go into the Common Market. I know that this is not a debate on the Common Market but I do want to say that we cannot remain out on a limb, we cannot build a wall around the country and put glass and barbed wire on the top of it and let nobody in or out. If we were to do that our standard of living would be very low. For that reason there may be a transitional period.

I should like to see more people from all sides of the House studying the repercussions which did take place within the six countries and thus be able to deal with this matter in a practical way. This Bill represents a 100 per cent improvement on what went before. I want to say to the Minister that I did encounter a few cases of real hardship, people who were not protected by a good trade union and who were sacked a few days before they had 40 years service. When they went to claim redundancy benefit they were given some footling excuse. I do not want to see that type of person hurt again. People who are in a good trade union and who as well as having the protection of the union have the protection of its legal department are all right, but there are workers here and there in private employment who have no trade union, and more shame on them because they should be in a trade union if they want to have their interests protected, and they find themselves out in the cold. Such people will now be protected under this Bill and none of these footling excuses will be accepted in the future under this more enlightened legislation. How far are we going to go with retrospective legislation? Are we going to consider going back so many years? In this matter the Minister is up against it.

Your Minister for Finance has done it very often.


On the Prices and Incomes Bill, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, the FUE and the Trade Union Congress got around the table and it was nice to see——

To see this Bill withdrawn.

They got around the table and they discussed these matters.

Even we were not that hard on you, Minister.

I prefer to see agreement through ordinary conferences rather than by legislation. This was a wonderful social advance. The Trade Union Congress and the employers, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Labour were responsible for a very good job. People said that the then Minister was going back on his word. There is an old saying that anybody is entitled to change his mind on greater enlightenment and that is what the Government and the party did in this matter. I hope that in the interests of future industrial peace and harmony the same thing will be done by the present Minister, the Government and the party, because these are the things we all stand for, although the more conservative people would say that a Minister should not change his mind, or that the Taoiseach should not change his mind. A judge cannot very well change his mind when he makes a decision in court but a Government or Ministers are entitled to change their minds on greater enlightenment. The Minister for Labour, the Trade Union Congress and the FUE changed their minds when they saw that they were getting something as a result of co-operation. I hope that that co-operation will long exist between the workers, the employers and the Department of Labour. In conclusion I welcome this advanced, Christian, social legislation which is a credit to the Minister.

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to proceed on the same lines as Deputy Burke and to spend the next one and a half hours discussing Fianna Fáil because at present the country is doing that, but I will leave that to another occasion. I will discuss, instead, what he did not discuss and that is the Bill.

Deputy Tully is at a disadvantage; he read it.

I agree, that is so. There are a number of matters which will be dealt with by amendment on the Committee Stage but in fairness to the Minister and his Department a number of the amendments which we propose to put before the House should be mentioned and explained. Deputy Cluskey has already done so in regard to a number of them but I would like to mention a few more because some of them are so necessary that I cannot understand why the Minister did not take the opportunity of having them included in the Bill. He mentioned that he discussed this with the Trade Union Congress and the FUE. The Trade Union Congress submitted 25 amendments to him and he accepted about six; one or two of the remainder were partially accepted and the balance were just dumped out. Was that because the FUE did not like them? That was the suggestion the Minister made.

Apart from any other considerations such as benefits and scope, the provisions of the Redundancy Payment Act should be simplified in relation to lay-off, the daily and periodical dismissal—this is something which caused endless trouble in the other Bill—and the conversion of lay-off into dismissal and the claims for payment following the lay-off; continuity of employment when employment is interrupted, and the giving of written notice and written offers by employers. Why were these not dealt with in this Bill? These are matters without which it is not possible to operate the Bill properly. Despite the fact that it was brought to the notice of the Minister they were not included and now the Labour Party will have to introduce amendments to cover these matters unless the Minister changes his mind, as he is entitled to do, before the Committee Stage.

I agree that these essential modifications can be achieved within the Bill as it stands. To deal with section 3, for instance, it is not possible to define or foresee all the circumstances in which genuine redundancy may occur. I am sure the Minister knows this. This Bill became necessary because the High Court decision of July, 1969, to which the Minister referred, held that all the circumstances of redundancy were prescribed in section 7 (2) of the Act. This meant that either you were dismissed under this section or you were not. The words: "For the purpose of 7 (1) in 7 (2) of the Act" prevent the tribunal from making an award in a case of genuine redundancy within the generality of section 7 (1), unless it comes within some of the circumstances in 7 (2) as extended by section 3 of the Bill. When this Bill was going through one of the matters to which we objected—similarly in the Bill dealing with occupational injuries— was the fact that the phraseology of the Bill would make it possible for the legal gentlemen to sit back and have a field day. They would be able to say "In our opinion this is wrong" and they would be able to misinterpret entirely the spirit of the Bill.

The Minister has had to come in to this House with a new Bill within three years of the operation of the first Bill. I agree with the Minister that the original Redundancy Bill did much good. I do not care who was responsible for its introduction; it was a major step forward in social legislation. However, it was spoiled because matters that could have been dealt with and which, in many cases, were introduced by way of amendment by the Labour Party, were rejected by the then Minister.

Section 12 (2) of the Act which covers claims for payments following lay-off is difficult to understand and operate. An employee who wishes to activate the section for the purpose of ascertaining his employer is likely to be in a position to allow employment to resume is obliged to terminate his employment. This is the practice at the present time with people who are on a three-day week, some of whom have been temporarily laid off. Will they be re-employed fully or must they, in order to qualify for redundancy, terminate their employment? This is as we read the Act. The employee should be permitted to activate this section either by making a claim for payment or terminating his employment but notice to terminate employment is not appropriate in circumstances where resumed employment may be contemplated. This section would be more easily understood if the top section were inserted after the bottom section.

A simplified version of section 12 (2) could provide that an employee could make a claim for redundancy payment while on lay-off without terminating employment. It should be possible and there is no reason why it should not be done. For some reason or another someone must have objected to it because it was brought to the notice of the Minister and he cannot say he did not know about it.

The intent of paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 of the Act should be crystallised. There is no reason why it should be left as it is because experience has proved that employers tend to disregard the presumption in paragraph 4 in the mistaken belief that absences in excess of the periods listed in paragraph 5 have the effect of terminating employment. This is causing all kinds of trouble at the present time. Dismissals, followed by resumption within the prescribed period, should not break continuity and it was never intended that they should. However, this is the way it worked out because the Act is not clear. The intention that a notice of termination of employment is cancelled by resumption within a certain period should be more positively stated. If it is definitely stated that resumption within a prescribed period means that it is continuous employment and that it is not broken, this will solve the problem.

For instance, employees who are hired daily and resume work daily should be given the same protection as other employees. It is necessary to clarify the position of employees who are actually dismissed daily, such as dockers, as interruption of employment in this case would not be a lay-off in the absence of a lay-off notice.

The presumption in the first continuity rule in paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 of the Act is weakened in the absence of "written" notice to terminate employment. There is too much scope for disputed claims arising from the methods in which "oral" notice may be given when an employee is absent due to illness. The supervisor may neglect to deliver the oral notice and this has happened on more than one occasion. Notices which employers are obliged to give, or may give, to employees and offers of employment should be written notices. When they are written notices this danger cannot arise and at least the situation is definite. There can be no doubt about it if the employer writes the notice and has it delivered to the employee. The situation can occur that an employee who is ill would be completely unaware of what has happened and return to his place of employment when he has recovered.

This procedure should also be adopted in the case of a change of ownership or the transfer of business. In some instances the new owners— and this includes solicitors who should know better—tend to avoid making a written offer to the employees. This causes much misunderstanding, not to say suspicion, which may or may not be justified. We have had a golden opportunity to do something to clarify this matter but the Minister has passed it up.

Section 8 of the Act which deals with seasonal workers is unsatisfactory as some employers actually dismiss employees although it is intended to allow applicants to resume work at a future date. Dismissal is not a lay-off and this kind of interruption should be deemed to be a lay-off. There should be presumption of continuity of employment for periods before and after commencement of the Act as happens in the Northern Ireland Act and section 5 should be amended accordingly.

Section 11 of the Act deals with lay-off and it is unsatisfactory. It permits employers who laid-off employees, in circumstances of genuine redundancy, to convert that lay-off into dismissal, without notice to the employees. Laid-off employees who are not allowed to resume work when work resumes should be deemed to have been dismissed for redundancy and a written notice in this case is necessary.

There is one other matter which should be dealt with. It should have been done before and when the last Bill was before the House we attempted to deal with it but did not succeed. Now we have the chance to do it and it should be copperfastened. Provision should be made to safeguard the position of employees who are dismissed between 22nd January, 1971, and the commencement of the new Act. If they are laid off they are deprived of the benefit of the reduced 104 weeks qualification. Some employers dismissed employees between 17th May, 1967, and 1st January, 1968, and some employees lost the protection of the Third Schedule because more than 26 weeks elapsed between publication of the Bill and commencement of the Act. Possibly this could not have been foreseen but it did happen and it should not be repeated. Employers who established new companies between May, 1967, and January, 1968, and transferred employees to the new companies managed to avoid the Act and therefore the benefit of long years of service was lost because of the fact that some clever people spotted a way to beat the Act. This could have been avoided had the suggestion made at the time been taken up. While it is not so serious now, at the same time we should ensure that it does not happen again.

The surplus in the redundancy fund increased by £619,000 in the year ended 31st December, 1970, so that the accumulated surplus exceeds £1½ million. The Minister gave me that information in answer to a question the other day. The estimated annual cost of the improvements proposed by the Department of Labour is, according to the Minister's answer, £360,000. In his speech today the Minister mentioned a figure of £450,000. I should like to ask the Minister is the difference of £90,000 an estimate as to the cost of resettlement? Where did the Minister get the figure because the original figure which he gave me, added to the other figures, makes £360,000?

The Deputy did not ask for all the figures.

The Minister is being clever and I am trying to be the same. If the £90,000 is not an estimate of the cost of resettlement, can the Minister say what it is? Perhaps when he is replying he might supply the figures he said I did not ask him to supply.

I can tell the Deputy now.

I should prefer the Minister to add them up afterwards. The estimated cost of a lump sum related to weekly pay under age 41 and of twice-weekly pay over age 41 without an income limit, is £800,000, of which £250,000, unless the number of redundancies increases substantially. There is scope for better benefits within the existing contributions, unless the Minister has information of large-scale redundancies coming.

Somebody told me the other day, and I do not know whether it is correct or not, that the Government, having carried out a survey, do have information as to the number of companies that are likely to go the wall, that they knew of a number which were in fact going to the wall and of ones which are likely to go to the wall: (a) under the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement; and (b) under the Common Market if we are ever unfortunate enough to have to enter. Was this what the Minister had in mind because, apart from saving the fund, as he said himself, he did by a very simple act the other day, when he was changing the figures into decimal currency, add £23,000 per annum to the fund? Was he laying by for the rainy day? Is the rainy day coming, and does the Minister know that there will be a call on the fund far greater than there has been over the past few weeks? Incidentally, I should like to correct a figure which Deputy Belton gave some time ago in regard to the seven transport companies which went burst when he said that 50 per cent of the employees were eligible for redundancy pay. My information, which I got by way of Parliamentary Question, is that out of 500 only 30 of them were not eligible for redundancy pay. I should like to put that on the record.

Provision should be made to extend the Act to clerical employees whose wages exceed £1,200. The Minister may say the Government are considering that. Might I ask the Minister this: How long does it take the Government to consider something like that? If he remembers he will be able to confirm that he told me some time last October, that he told me again some time before Christmas and repeated it again last week, that the matter was under consideration by the Government and he repeated tonight that it was being consideration by the Government or was being considered by somebody anyway. Goodness knows it is not a terrible secret. There have been bigger secrets which were much worse kept over the last 12 or 18 months. I would ask the Minister to let us know to what figure he proposes to increase the limit, so that a great many people who are wondering at the present time what is going to happen will know whether they are in or out.

I know the Minister is making provision to cover for redundancy payment purposes people who are over the limit for the four years following; at the present time it is two years. At the same time that is no good reason why he should not be able to say that the figure will be £1,800 or £2,000 or whatever he decides it will be. Such employees as come in under the change should at least get full benefit for their employment up to the date on which they went over the full insurance. This, I mentioned a few minutes ago, refers particularly to the 30 people who have been affected by the seven companies that went burst. There is no reason why those people should not get benefit for their credits.

It is now admitted that the cost of reducing the qualifying period from 208 to 104 weeks is only of the order of £140,000. We suggested this in 1967 and the Minister's predecessor refused to agree to it. It shows that at that time we were right and the Minister was wrong. However, it has done one thing: the refusal up until now to operate has meant that the Act is practically in-operative as far as the construction industry is concerned. The Minister must know this and he should do something about it. In any case he should agree that the matter should have been dealt with then.

Another point which again was referred to correctly by Deputy Belton was that the 21-hour rule under the Act needs clarification, especially where an employee was in continuous employment on the 1st January, 1968 but whose weekly hours had been reduced to less than 21 when the Act commenced. Employers had 33 weeks advance notice of the rules and I would ask the Minister to examine case No. 384/1970 and he will better understand the effect of this.

The scope of the amendments to section 5 and to the schedule of the Bill referred to at page 11 are not in harmony. Both should apply to a change in the control of a business before and after 1st January, 1968. Section 5 should extend continuity of employment to cases where a principal takes on the employees of a sub-contractor. The Minister must know that very often there will be somebody who is employed in a firm and who considers he is in the employment of that firm for a number of years; then somebody suggests that while he was working on the job and was there all the time some unknown person was a sub-contractor and he was an employee of that sub-contractor. This problem can be solved by asking the principal employer to take over the employees of the sub-contractor. Again in regard to section 2 of the Act, notice to be given by the employer should be in writing. Offers should be in writing and dismissals should be in writing. This should be insisted on in every case.

In regard to section 10 of the Bill the time limit should not apply if the employer has not given the written notice of dismissal or the redundancy certificate. This is one way to ensure that the notice or the redundancy certificate is given in writing. It cuts out completely the idea of someone just giving a verbal notice and trying to get away with it. There should be a penalty if the employer fails to give the lump sum. The employee should also be enabled to recover a lump sum as a simple contract debt. Section 19 of the Act covers this. It is very difficult sometimes to get a claim heard and dealt with and if the right to claim it as a simple contract debt was included in the Bill I believe it would save the redundancy court a great deal of trouble. In addition, employers who would have no objection to going before the redundancy court would be made change their minds in regard to refusing or trying to avoid paying a sum if they thought they were going before an ordinary court.

If redundancy has occurred or is expected employees should be free to accept a going offer of alternative employment in another firm without prejudice to a claim for payment. That is quite a simple matter and I see no reason why it should not be included in the Bill.

Provision should be made for payments from the fund to employees who lost their employment between 17th May, 1967 and 31st December, 1967 in circumstances of redundancy because of decisions made by employers to avoid the Act. The Minister said he does not like retrospection of any kind. This is one case where, no matter what objection he has to retrospection, retrospection is justified. This is one case where a number of employers—I could name many of them—dismissed people who had been in their employment for many years under, shall I be kind and say, very suspicious circumstances. The effect of which was that those people did not get the benefit of the Redundancy Payments Act which they would have got if they had been retained a little longer. This was brought about because when the Bill was going through this House the idea was that it would be law before 26 weeks but in fact it was 32 weeks, if my memory serves me correctly. The new qualifying period of 104 weeks should apply from the date the Bill was published.

I have mentioned the 21st January and I think the Minister is prepared to agree that this is reasonable; it will at least avoid the same thing happening again.

Lump sum benefits should not be restricted to 30 years where the employment period exceeds 30 years. Why should someone decide 30 years is enough? I was talking to a man on Sunday last who had been in the same employment for 51 years, but under this Bill he would get the maximum of 30 years. Why should he not get benefit for all the years he has spent there? One week's pay in the lump sum should apply under 41 years of age and two week's pay thereafter. The weekly payment should be two-thirds of weekly pay up to full pay. It is essential that the Acts which are generally operated outside the legal arena should be simplified as far as possible.

This Act is too complicated and there are too many things in it which leave it open to a legal mind to say: "Well, look, there is a loophole here, we will let him take it to court and when it goes to court we will play round and round and round." Amendments to the Principal Act should be framed with a view to ease of reprinting the Principal Act as amended. I do not know whether or not it is possible to do that but I make that suggestion to the Minister.

The proposed amendments to paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 of the Act are insufficient to remove anomalies. Contrary to what the Minister stated on the 29th November, 1967, in Seanad Éireann, the prescribed period of 26 weeks following lay-off could not have preserved continuity where service was broken by an employer in anticipation of the passing of the Act, as—I mentioned this earlier—27 weeks had then elapsed since the publication of the Bill, 30 weeks had elapsed before the passing of the Act and over 32 weeks passed before the commencement of the Act on 1st January, 1968. This had the effect of keeping people out who should have been in. The Bill was brought into this House to protect them and because the Minister obviously could not count, the unfortunate unemployed person lost out on the deal. If there had been a lay-off in May, 1967, and no further resumptions in that year, a bridging period of 32 weeks was required, not 26 as in the Schedule. In any event the period of absence permitted without breaking continuity should be at least 52 weeks. Is there any reason why it should not be? This would solve many of the problems. A period following dismissal, especially a written dismissal, could not be bridged as employers could reasonably claim this was not an authorised absence.

In section 11 (1) of the Act the words "after the commencement of the Act", which is the 1st January, 1968, seem to restrict the lay-off procedure to periods after 1st January, 1968, and do not apply to the pre-1968 periods as suggested by the Minister on the 29th November, 1967. When he made that statement he obviously thought it was all right, but it has now been proved either that he did not know what he was talking about or that somebody took advantage of the loophole which was there. The words "lay-off" in paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 should read "lay-off or dismissal".

The suitability of alternative employment in section 15 (2) (c) of the Act needs further examination. Section 47 of the Transport Act, 1950, might provide an acceptable rule of thumb. In any event "suitable employment" should be defined as employment which is no less favourable to the employee than his immediate previous employment. We had hoped the Minister would include this sort of thing when he was introducing the Bill. It was brought to his notice by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and there was no reason why we should not have included them except that if he had done so the Federated Union of Employers would not like it.

Before the Bill comes up for Committee Stage I would ask the Minister to take another look at this because if he introduces the amendment himself it will save both the House and himself a great deal of trouble. If he does not do this, I am going to make this promise: we shall do what we did on a previous Bill and argue every way we possibly can to try to have our amendments accepted. We are as anxious as the Minister is for speedy implementation of this new legislation but we do not believe that as the Minister says if, when the new Bill as amended is passed, it is not perfect we can bring in another one. That is not the answer, now is the time to do a good job on the Redundancy Payments Bill.

The whole question of redundancy payments, the number of redundancies and the effect redundancy has on people is going to be highlighted within the next 12 months to two years. The Minister said that Irish people were not good at moving round from one place to another, they were not mobile. I do not think he had in his mind moving around from Dublin to Cork or Galway and I would not dream of suggesting he had in the back of his mind moving to Paris, Berlin or down the Rhine Valley where all the employment will be if we are unfortunate enough to go into the EEC. He does not include travelling out of the country as resettlement. He does think that people who have had to go to England to get a job should get assistance to return here if a job is available for them. I remember the Minister telling me that the reason he found it necessary to ask some of these people to come home, despite the 65,000 or 66,000 people which for Deputy Burke's information is the number on the unemployment register, was that those on the unemployment register were not suitable for training. I hate to think we have reached the stage where we are prepared to accept, as Deputy Cluskey has said, that 6 per cent of the insurable population are going to be permanently on the labour exchange because the Minister in charge of the Department for getting employment for them and training them for other employment, if there is nothing available for them in their own trade, considers they are not suitable for training; in other words what we have on our unemployment registers are the unemployables. I am not prepared to accept that. I think it is a terrible statement to have made.

If the Minister wants to make a success of the Redundancy Payments Bill he must ensure that, as well as getting compensation for those being dismissed from a job, other jobs are available for them. It is just too bad if all we have been discussing this evening is how to give some little thing extra, and it is a little thing extra, to those who are going to lose their jobs. The Minister seems perfectly satisfied that apart from the number who have lost their jobs over the last few years the numbers will be increasing. He is ensuring that the £½ million surplus is not eaten up by extra benefits, if it is the money will not be there when another draw may come on the fund.

This gives us food for thought. It appears that deep in the Minister's mind is the threat of further redundancies. We have blamed the cement strike, the bank strike, the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement and we shall shortly be talking about the EEC. All these things are causing and will cause further unemployment. For quite some time we have had far too many people unemployed. The Government have never made any effort to find full employment for the working population here. Recently I saw a figure given, which did not surprise me because I have mentioned it before in this House. We tend to talk about all the man days lost through strikes. The man days lost due to unemployment in this country is a national disgrace.

I should like to welcome this Bill and to say that I regret that the original Act was not fully understood and the benefits included in it are still not fully understood by the community and by people who could and should benefit from it.

The benefits outlined in the Minister's statement include interview grants, travel expenses for the worker and his dependants, household removal expenses, settling-in grants, lodging allowances, grants for the worker to visit his family while awaiting their transfer to the new area and grants towards the legal expenses involved in the sale or purchase of a house. Many workers do not know about the benefits in existence at present. It might be worthwhile for the Minister to explain once again to workers the benefits that are already there.

I should like to welcome the provisions of the present Bill. The updating of legislation is very important. Whether it is updated on a piecemeal basis in accordance with the resources available or whatever the basis of updating is, when it brings new benefits it is certainly welcomed by this House and by the workers.

While I would subscribe to many of the views expressed by Deputy Tully and other Deputies I feel that the Minister has gone a long way to meet the claims that have been put forward from time to time for consideration. The trade unionists in my party have on many occasions discussed with the Department and with the Minister many of the problems that have now been covered in this Bill. The trade union group within Fianna Fáil, who are ever active in relation to the problems of the workers and the defects in legislation affecting the workers, deserve some credit for any legislation that flows from this House that is beneficial to Irish workers. We have quite a number of those people actively engaged in processing problems and complaints and conveying them to the various Departments.

I welcome the reduction in the period to qualify for benefit from 208 weeks'—four years'—continuous service with the same employer to 104 weeks'—two years'. This is a substantial advance and by it a substantial number of workers who were previously not covered will be brought within the scope of this Bill and rightly so. Another very important step is an increase in the maximum lump sum, at present the equivalent of 20 weeks' pay, to 30 weeks' pay. This will give some degree of financial assistance to people during a difficult period when they are deprived of employment due to redundancy. These are very important provisions and will affect the lives of the families of those people who will be redundant in the future. Other improvements mentioned in the Minister's speech are that each year of continuous employment over the age of 41 years is to count for two weekly payments instead of each period of two years over 41 counting for three weekly payments; a minimum of four weekly payments contingent on unemployment; an increase in each lump sum payment by the quivalent of one week's pay. These are all very essential advances and ones that will alleviate the distress that follows redundancy.

It is rather regrettable, however, that the extension of the limit of £1,200 was not finalised before the introduction of this Bill. It is regrettable that the Minister is not in a position to make a statement at this moment because it would give a fair indication of the extent to which this legislation will be effectively applied in the coming years. It is difficult for Deputies to assess a situation in relation to a figure undisclosed in this House in regard to legislation coming before it. For that reason I think that the sooner this extended figure is made known to the Deputies the better because Deputies will then be in a better position to assess the real factors in relation to the legislation.

I think the suggestion made by Deputy Tully in relation to written notice is very important and something to which the Minister might give consideration. It is absolutely essential and unless there are very good reasons why it should be left over it would be worth while for the Minister to re-examine the situation.

The call on the Fund over the years has shown how effective this piece of legislation has been. The 11,450 notified redundancies represents quite a substantial number of people who have been assisted. It is interesting to note that the number of redundancies over the years has not varied to any great extent—3,863 in 1968, 3,696 in 1969 and 3,896 in 1970, and that £1,600,000 was paid in lump sum payments and almost £1,000,000 in weekly payments, and lump sums paid ranged from £15 to almost £1,000.

This shows the Department's constructive outlook in relation to the problems that affect people at times of stress and strain. The continuing updating of the Act is something that must be welcomed by workers and by those who represent the workers. If there are defects and if these defects can only be remedied by an increase in contributions, then I see no reason why bigger contributions should not be sought. It is desirable that we make the best job we can of this Bill to ensure that the maximum benefits will accrue from it and if it is necessary to increase contributions there is no reason why they should not be increased.

Once again I would ask the Minister to ensure that the review of the £1,200 limit should be completed at a very early date so that Members of this House will, in relation to legislation of this type, be fully aware of the extent to which it will apply in the future.

I was generally impressed by the approach to the Bill. As I expected, most of the points raised were points which will be appropriate to the Committee Stage. I do not propose at this stage to go into the details with regard to the various smaller points that are appropriate to Committee Stage such as the question of whether a notice should be in writing or given verbally. These are matters that one must necessarily have a look at to see whether they are valid. Very often there are very good reasons for some of these things which are not obvious. Very often it is to the advantage of the employees that they are not included. Examination very often can reveal the real purpose and benefit of having them there.

The general criticism of the Bill, of course, as I prophesied in my introductory statement, was that it does not go far enough. That was to be expected from people who would like to do better, or for good propaganda reasons. I suppose if I were on the other side of the House I would be saying the same. I can assure the House that our approach to this, my examination of the proposals from the earliest stages, the departmental assessment of the situation, an actuarial assessment so far as it was possible to make it, went as far as it would be possible to go since a good many of the assessments must be conjectural anyway.

It is not sufficient to look at the surplus in the fund at this stage and the payments made from the fund over the past few years and say they ran quite evenly. One must always be prepared to accept that unforeseen circumstances can arise in which there would be an extra call on the fund. We have only to look at the experience in Britain to realise this. What happened there was sufficient in itself to make me very wary about the extent to which I am prepared to play with the surplus now available to me in the redundancy fund. In Britain they have had to raise the contribution at least twice, I think, and to make amendments to meet an unforeseen situation. They too went along fairly evenly at the start. There was very little variation in the payments and the annual outgoings from the fund, but they suddenly found that they could run into a period in which there would be a very heavy call on it.

To those people who facetiously or otherwise suggested that I was making allowances against the possibility of redundancies that would arise due to our entry into the EEC or, indeed, the coming to maturity of the British Free Trade Agreement, I should like to point out that one must accept without question that the more industries there are in a country the more redundancies and the more shuffling around one is likely to have. The more industries we have the greater will be the disbursements from the redundancy fund. It is not sufficient to say that there will be many redundancies due to the closing down of concerns, or firms, or factories, or other types of employment. The average number of redundancies in any country is based on the amount of industrial development they have and the number of people in employment. The greater the number, naturally, the more redundancies they will have.

I would be quite foolish if I did not anticipate that on our going into the EEC there is bound to be a certain shuffling around. I can see a lot of industries coming here due to our going in, which would never think of coming here otherwise. Already people are inquiring in this respect. We can also visualise people being rendered redundant if the industry in which they are employed is proved not to be viable under the new conditions. It is inevitable that we will have a good deal of shuffling and shuttling that will call on the fund for the necessary payments, certainly lump sums but perhaps not the weekly payments. When a person is rendered redundant he is entitled to a lump sum but if he goes straight into employment, or there is little delay before he receives alternative employment, there is no weekly payment.

By and large, unless you are very unwise, you must make provision for the eventualities that could occur in any circumstances, particularly having regard to the experience they had in Great Britain where they had an even period at the start of the redundancy scheme and then found that the figures were moving up rapidly and that the fund was unable to carry them. While our fund is quite buoyant at the moment and our surplus would seem at first sight to justify making better provisions, it would be unwise to take any further chances for the time being.

This has been referred to as a complicated Bill. I do not really think there are any great complications in it. The essential qualifications are fairly obvious but, in the interests of varying the benefits, and in order to lean, as this Bill does, towards the older and longer employed classes, one must make some provisions that might seem to be a little complicated at first sight. In fact they are not really complicated. One of the things I find— and I think all Members of the House will agree with me—is that workers are very quick to discover what their entitlements are under any piece of legislation.

None of the Members who spoke criticised the Redundancy Tribunal and I would not expect them to because I find that it works very well. We are making provision in this Bill where in certain circumstances the right is presumed on the part of the employee, until it is proven otherwise, which gives him a tremendous advantage in having a case straightened out by the Redundancy Tribunal.

Deputy Tully referred to the improvements we are making in the resettlement allowances. I am sure he was not serious when he suggested that we should apply resettlement allowances to people going abroad to work. In my introductory statement I referred to the fact that the mobility of labour in this country is rather limited. People are reluctant to move within the country, perhaps with the exception of coming to the city. A case in point is that of female workers who frequently could find employment in many parts of the country although perhaps not in the particular place where they are living. Very often they prefer to emigrate rather than move to Shannon, or Cork, or Limerick, or some other part of the country, where there is ample employment for female workers and thus no need whatever for them to emigrate.

Perhaps they are following the men.

That may be a point. We made provision for extending the resettlement allowances scheme and I referred to its being extended to cover those who come back from abroad.

Deputy Tully questioned the wisdom of bringing people back when we have so many thousand unemployed at home and he referred to a statement I made in the Dáil some time ago to the effect that the shortages in employment are in the service industries and the shortages in unemployment, generally, are in the sphere of skilled workers. Right now there are vacancies for 600 skilled people in different industries in the country. The director of the IDA made reference to this last night or the night before at Trinity or elsewhere and I think one can rightly assert that there is not an unemployed skilled man in this country and that if there is it is his own fault. That is an important statement and a true one.

I agree with Deputies who said that AnCO and all others responsible for operating the training programme have an important task, one which I hope we will be able to speed up and to expand as time goes on. We have only three training centres at the moment, Galway, Waterford and Shannon, but we hope to get the Dublin centre going as soon as possible. The actual construction operations are about to begin. We have to get a centre going in Cork. We need more centres. If they do work as well —I am glad Deputy Belton paid tribute to them—in the new centres as they have been doing in the three existing ones an excellent job will be done in training and retraining our people to fit them for employment.

It is quite a common thing, and Deputies are well aware of it, that a large number of unemployed people are in fact unemployable in some special way. One can take an example of where there may be 300 people signing at a local labour exchange in a provincial town. If a factory employing twice that number is set up tomorrow we will still see the same number signing at the exchange either because they are not the type of workers the factory may be looking for or because the work is not the type those people are suited for: they may be small farmers who want to work their land at certain periods or they may take on work for the county council or with other farmers or local builders. I would be rather naive if I said otherwise, but a large number of the people drawing unemployment benefit are not ready for employment that may offer. One of the problems that applies, therefore, in the matter of training for employment is represented in the older labour force who are chronically unemployed. They must be trained as well as the school-leavers.

Then there is the point about retraining redundant workers. There were many points made in regard to this which I will be better able to deal with as each section comes before the House in Committee. Deputy Cluskey referred to shortsightedness when my predecessor was bringing in the Act of 1967. I looked over the debate at that time, as any Minister in my position will do, and while Deputy Cluskey was boasting about the great suggestions the Labour Party were making, I learned that not many of them seemed to be sure at that time that the shilling per week would cover the provisions of the Bill. They were not sure that it would cover the redundancies that would occur let alone provide the surplus we now have.

Matters of this kind are all by way of conjecture at the time because it is never possible to make an exact estimate. I do not think anybody in the House blamed the responsible Minister at that time. Although naturally suggesting he should have done better, as far as I can recall and as far as my memory serves me from my occupancy of another Department at the time, nobody suggested or nobody was sanguine that the shilling a week would meet redundancies that would occur.

All Deputies asked this afternoon why we should have a limit of 30 weeks—why not take every week the man worked into the reckoning. It is simply a matter of cost, for one thing. After all, a man who has had 51 years' employment has been very fortunate as compared with a man who has had only ten years and became redundant. The former is a very lucky man.

He will not be fortunate if he is more than 70 because then he will not be covered.

He has all the social welfare benefits available to him. He will not be badly off. I consider 30 weeks to be a reasonable limit. What we are doing is ensuring that there will not be an overspill which will erode the redundancy fund. What must be taken into consideration is that every single benefit in the 1967 Act is being improved. It is very easy for Deputies to be cynical about Deputy Burke's remarks, about his boasting about this very advanced legislation. It has been proved to work well in the past, quite unexpectedly from the point of view of many people at the time.

Deputy Tully asked me to refer to the insurability limit when I was introducing this Bill. All I can say is that it is before the Government and that there was some brief discussion on it. I was hoping this would have concluded by today. I was pressed to mention the limit—to what limit I will increase the £1,200 at present set down. I will not mention any figure. I may not get away with the figure I am looking for.

We can make a good guess.

You might be very far out.

I do not think so.

I assert that the four years we allow non-manual workers over the limit to continue to be eligible for benefit under this Bill fully covers redundant people. I would say there is no reason to complain on that score. I had meetings with the Irish Employers' Confederation and with the workers' representatives and it is quite true that I did not give any of them all they wanted. If I did, I am afraid we would have to raise the amount of the contribution on the one hand while on the other hand we would still have a very great surplus, because some people think we are going too far while others think we are not going far enough. I have followed a middle course and I do not think we are doing too badly at all. I thought I was doing very well when the social welfare waiting period was reduced to three days, but Deputies who have spoken did not seem to be satisfied even with that and they asked why should the three days not be abolished. I am becoming a little tired of the three days in relation to social welfare legislation and one of these days I shall abolish it.

Is it a sacred cow?

In saying that I am not giving away anything but that is my own opinion. However, there is a reason for all such legislation and in this case the three days act as a deterrent to people claiming benefit because they were ill on one or two days in a week. They are not likely to make application for payment in respect of sickness of a short duration. The three days period has survived during the lifetime of several Governments here and, like all social welfare benefits, it was introduced by Fianna Fáil.

That is the first time the Minister has tried to charm the birds off the bushes this evening.

While Deputy Belton was annoyed with Fianna Fáil, Deputy Burke gave us credit and I would only ask Deputy O'Donovan now, who is trying to be so cynical about this, to name one piece of social welfare legislation that was brought in by any Government other than Fianna Fáil.

I am comparing the present to 12 months ago.

Is Deputy Paddy Burke writing the Minister's scripts now?

I am asking a very important question.

He will be congratulating the Minister next.

For how long have the Minister's party been in office?

We have a right to talk about what we do as well as to talk about what we intend doing. People are always more interested in what they are being promised for the future rather than in what they received in the past, but it is no harm to be a little retrospective now and again.

Go back 40 years.

I hope the Minister intends being retrospective in regard to this Bill.

I intended dealing with the question of retrospection at Committee Stage but I can say now that I do not intend making these measures retrospective. To do this would bring in all sorts of anomalies. If one goes back one week one will be expected to go back two and so on. Who is to fix the date where one should start? If one were to go back over a period people would say that at one time they were redundant and would have qualified and this would lead to a lot of confusion. Most of our people are intelligent enough to know whether they qualified and this applied in particular to the four-year period. We could not make it retrospective and go back on the applications we had received. Many people did not apply because they knew they did not qualify so that they would have to be asked to come in and make application for a time in the past during which they were redundant for a couple of weeks. Redundancy retrospection is not possible under this Act.

I thank the House for the fairly good reception that has been given to the Second Reading of this Bill, although it was received with a certain amount of jealousy and, as might be expected, a little prodding to do better.

The Minister is not charming any birds off any bushes this evening. What has happened to the Minister today?

I am a little surprised that Dr. O'Donovan did not speak on this important piece of legislation.

I shall speak on it on Committee Stage.

The Deputy has done nothing but interrupt and, while I know that this was done in a light vein, I am not prepared to spend too much time arguing with him across the floor at this time of night. I thank the House, too, for the speedy passage they have afforded the Second Reading of the Bill and I compliment Deputies generally on their approach to it. In conclusion, I give myself a little pat on the back for the very excellent Bill it is.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 3rd March, 1971.

The Minister almost provoked a Division.

He is very serious tonight. Something must have happened today.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 10th February, 1971.