Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Commission on Social Welfare.

5.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he intends to implement all or any of the recommendations of the Commission on Social Welfare.

7.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if it is his intention to implement the recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on Social Welfare in whole or in part; the time scale for the implementation of the recommendation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

11.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will implement the recommendations of the Commission on Social Welfare.

13.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if under the present financial restraints he will implement the recommendations of the Commission on Social Welfare.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5, 7, 11 and 13 together.

Full implementation in the immediate future of the report of the Commission on Social Welfare would be extremely costly and is not a practical proposition given the present financial constraints. The commission, in fact, acknowledged that many of their recommendations, in view of the additional expenditure which would be involved, could only be implemented over a period of time. The speed at which we can make progress in this regard will to a large degree be determined by the success of the Government's policies in achieving growth in the economy, thus enabling resources to be provided for this purpose.

However, as I indicated in my speech introducing the Social Welfare Bill this morning, I am determined that whatever progress can be made in reforming and developing the social welfare services within the financial constraints will be made. In line with the commission's recommendations on areas requiring priority attention I will be looking at ways of achieving a degree of convergence of the rates of benefit and assistance payable to the various social welfare categories, of improving family income support and of broadening the social insurance base to include in the social welfare system those groups currently excluded. I am also determined that substantial progress will be made in streamlining social welfare administration with a view to making the system more fair, efficient and effective for the over one million persons who have recourse to social welfare services.

Does the Minister's reply mean that, given the financial constraints, he accepts the implications of the report of the Commission on Social Welfare regarding the inadequacy of incomes? Is it his intention to generally implement the commission's conclusions?

I accept that there are many inadequacies and anomalies and I will do what I can to remove them given the financial constraints which exist.

The time for ordinary questions has expired. I am obliged in accordance with Standing Orders to go on to deal with priority questions. I will deal with a question from Deputies Spring and Mitchell provided it is put very quickly. Otherwise I shall pass on to priority questions as I am obliged to do.

I assume——

I have explained my difficulty to Deputies. Deputy Spring.

In view of the fact that there was a vote at 2.30 p.m.——

That is no fault of the Chair.

——could we not take extra time for priority questions?

There is no suggestion of that.

Could we not do it by agreement?

Does the Minister accept, and is it his intention to impress on his colleagues in Cabinet, the recommendation of the commission that the lowest level of social welfare should be a sum in the region of £45 a week? Will he press for the implementation of that? Will the Minister give his views on the family income supplement and whether he has any proposals for a realistic alternative since Fianna Fáil have said that it is availed of by only a limited number of people at present?

I accept the general need for an adequate level——

In the region of £45?

I will not specify the amount but it is one of my priorities. As regards the family income supplement I have been able to proceed with that and I hope it will have a wider impact as a result of the movement towards 50 per cent between the two points. We will see how that goes. As I said earlier this morning I will give time and attention to that to see if it is effective and, if not, to see what might be a better system.

In one fell swoop the Minister has dismissed the findings of the commission by saying the resources are simply not available. It is hard to contradict that but would he not agree that any savings which might accrue from greater efficiencies in his Department or from the combating of fraud or from growth in the economy should be diverted to ensuring increased payment for those in the lowest categories of payment to whom Deputy Spring has referred?

As regards the nonfinancial aspects, would the Minister agree with taking the supplementary welfare allowances from the health boards and giving them to the Department of Social Welfare?

May I——

I have strayed into priority question time. There are exceptional circumstances surrounding Question Time today but this must not be taken as a precedent. I have no intention of eroding the special time laid down for priority questions. I ask the Minister to reply briefly.

I had my name appended to a question.

It is no fault of mine if time runs out.

I am entitled to ask one question.

The Minister to reply.

May I ask one quick question?

Thank you. Would the Minister be prepared to set up an all-party committee to examine the report of the Commission on Social Welfare? This morning the Minister indicated his acceptance of that view which was expressed by a number of Deputies.

The Deputy is mixing up two things. A number of Deputies asked for an all-party committee on social affairs. I said that so far as I was concerned it would be a matter for the Leaders and the Whips. So as far as the Commission on Social Welfare are concerned I will undertake a detailed examination of the report and see what I can do. That will be done as a matter of urgency. I regard it as a priority to improve the lowest levels should any savings or possibilities within the current financial restrictions arise.