I move:—To add at the end of the section the words: "This section shall not apply to persons who, by reason of disablement or infirmity are unable to contribute any service towards their support." The object of the amendment is to indicate that there is a difference in the description of old age pensioners. Some old age pensioners are bedridden and incapable of performing any service whatever on their own behalf. They have to obtain the assistance of a relative or of some other person to look after them. Some of them are afflicted with severe illness, which makes it necessary that more money should be expended on their maintenance. I commend the amendment to the favourable consideration of the Seanad and to the Minister in charge of the Bill.
SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - OLD AGE PENSIONS BILL, 1924—THIRD STAGE.
This amendment proposes to exclude from the scope of the Bill as regards future rates, pensions granted on and after the first appointed date to persons who by reason of infirmity or disablement are unable to contribute any service towards their support. Acceptance of the amendment would divide future claims into two classes—those within the scope of the amendment who would receive pensions at the old rate laid down in the Act of 1919, and those outside the scope of the amendment who would receive reduced pensions at the rate specified in this Bill. This differentiation would cause a very considerable amount of trouble and delay in administering the Act. It would make it necessary to establish medical boards, and it might result in quite a number of cases of alleged disablement or infirmity which previous to the passing of the Act did not exist. In that way I think it would interfere very largely with the comfort of those old age pensioners who would be continually charging for their beds at the time the Pension Officer came in sight, and generally making their life an "on the run" sort of existence. It appears to the Ministry, and in this matter I speak, of course, for the Minister for Finance—who in turn represents the views of the Executive Council—that enormous difficulties would arise if we were to accept this amendment, and the number of persons affected would be impossible to estimate.
It does appear to us that apart from the difficulties of setting up medical boards and the numerous complaints we would hear from reviews which would come before these medical boards, that anything of that sort or kind operates very much against the successful and smooth working of an Act such as this. I have had a good deal of experience of the work of an Old Age Pensions Committee, as I was for a very considerable time a member of one. Very few cases that I recollect came before us of persons who were unable to come before the Committee in any case where it was considered necessary for them to attend. Being unable to form any estimate of the number of persons affected, I am not in a position to say what the actual cost of this amendment would be. I can only say, apart from the difficulties of administering it, there is the expense of the administration, and the benefits that would accrue would not be compensated for by the expense that the State would be put to in order that these persons would get any such benefit. I think it is a maxim in the administration of Government Departments that any extra expense should at least be compensated for by the advantages that would be derived by reason of that expense. I have, therefore, to object to the amendment.
I am sorry that the President cannot see his way to solve the difficulty. Having regard to the President's statement, I feel that the difficulties might be so great and the machinery for administration so costly that it is advisable to withdraw the amendment.
That will also apply to the next amendment to Section 3.
To delete lines 24-27, inclusive, and to substitute therefor the words "subject to appeal to the District Justice, the applicant to have the right to appear by friend, who need not be a member of the legal profession, and the pensions officer to represent the State at the appeal. All appeals under previous Acts shall be dealt with in a similar manner."
I have been a member of a Pension Committee since the Pensions Act was passed, and I find that there has been considerable objection to the system of appeal to the Local Government Department in Dublin. Both the pensioners and the Committees object to it. This arrangement would be much more unsatisfactory now as there are very few records of age available. At present the ordinary claimant has to satisfy the pensions officer by evidence, or by appearance. The pensions officer says that he is not satisfied by appearance that the man is 70 years of age, the Committee appeal, and the case is sent up to Dublin. The officials of the Local Government Department have nobody's word for it except the pensions officer, so that he is the sole arbitrator in the matter, and I think in all cases of doubt it would be much more convenient and much more satisfactory to have them tried by the District Justice. There are many cases on the score of means where people would make statements before the pensions officer that they would not make in open court, and I think it would be the means of getting the pension for a good many people who are entitled to it, and it would be the means of preventing a number of people from receiving pensions who are not entitled to them if this thing were done in open court. I have put it in the amendment that the claimant should be allowed to be represented by a friend. Most of them are very poor, and I think if they are unable to appear themselves, their son, nephew, niece, or a friend should be allowed to appear for them. The pensions officer could look after the interests of the State, so that there would be no great costs.
This is slightly wrong, Senator. Your amendment is to sub-section (4), I think, not to sub-section (3).
Then I ask leave to amend it.
Practically what you propose comes to this: to omit the present sub-section (4) and to insert your words instead?
This is perhaps the most revolutionary proposal that has been put up. It takes from the Minister for Local Government the right of deciding whether or not a person whose case is in dispute shall be entitled to a pension. I put this to the Senator, that the pensions officers do exercise a generous discretion in dealing with these cases. I should say that although I would not make that statement in public 10, 12, or 14 years ago, when I was in much the same position as the Senator, I did certainly make it in private. My experience was that these officials were most exacting in seeing that an applicant for an old age pension got a fair deal, and his rights, and even more than that. I knew an instance where one pensions officer, hearing of a case in the district of another officer, and knowing the circumstances of the person in question, went to the expense of having a search made in the Census Records in order to establish the case and my experience of the whole of them, with, I think, one exception in the city of Dublin, was that you could not honestly make a good case against them. You might make a platform case, but to make an honest case was quite another proposition. To turn that generously-minded person into the position of an objector to the pension, and to have the case discussed in open court, with all the information and all the resources of the State, would act to the disadvantage of an applicant for a pension, because the Minister for Finance is looking on and the officer must do his duty, and while he might have very generous consideration for the applicant behind closed doors he would be bound in the interests of the State to establish a case against the claim. The position of the officers would be this, that while they are certainly hard-working and industrious in making up these cases—I speak from experience in that connection—they would be placed in the position of appearing in court and remaining there for some hours, the objects, I am sure, of very unwelcome attention and observations from the relatives and friends of the unfortunate applicant who would be appearing there to get justice. It would, in my view, antagonise the public much more against the pensions officers than at present, and I am not satisfied, from my experience of these officials, that they do not exhaust every possible means to establish a case for the person in question.
In my time I knew quite a number of persons not entitled by reason of age to the pension receiving it from the activities of a number of persons interested in doing what is called a good turn. While there might have been some excuse for doing that when it did not actually fall on the tax-payers directly, there is certainly not the same excuse now, where we give statutory rights to people, and no more than statutory rights. From all the information I can get from the Minister for Finance the expense of this change would be enormous; the number of cases that would come before the District Justices would be very much more numerous than those that at present come before the pensions officers. In the event of dissatisfaction, is there an appeal from the District Justices in cases of that sort, and what is to be the expense of an appeal in such an event? The Minister for Local Government can now be asked in the Dáil as to why he did not give favourable judgment in the case of a man who has a good case for an old age pension, and a list of cases put up there to the Minister places him in the position of having to justify any decision he gives. You are deprived of that if the cases are to go before the District Justices, and on the whole the Minister is not satisfied that the real interests of applicants for old age pensions would be served should this amendment pass, and consequently I have to oppose it.
In face of the attitude of the President, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment, but at the same time I am certain that a number of applicants cannot get the pension— I know three or four myself, and I know they are 73 or 74 years of age, and they cannot convince the pensions officer on appearance that they are that age.
I move:—Immediately before Section 5 to insert a new Section 5 as follows:—
(1) A person who is, or who, on the 1st day of January, 1924, was in receipt of a pension under Section 1 of the Blind Pensions Act, 1920, by virtue of a decision of the Central Authority based on evidence which included a certificate or other testimony of a medical practitioner certifying such person to be so blind as to be unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential (or in words being or accepted by the Central Authority as being of like effect) shall be deemed to have fulfilled and to continue to fulfil the statutory qualification of being so blind as to be unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential, unless the local pension committee or, on appeal, the Central Authority, are satisfied either
(a) that the state of the pensioner's eyesight has substantially improved since the time of any such medical certificate or other testimony as aforesaid and has become such as enables (or apart from personal circumstances other than eyesight would enable) the pensioner to perform a sufficient quantity of work for which eyesight is essential to constitute partial earning capacity in respect of such work, or
(b) that the said medical certificate or other testimony was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation on the part of the pensioner, or
(c) that the said medical certificate or other testimony was given by the medical practitioner according it without good faith or with a want of carefulness or want of professional skill making the act of giving such certificate or other testimony by him a breach of professional duty on his part.
(2) A decision of a local pensions committee or of the Central Authority to the effect that a person to whom this section applies does not fulfil the statutory condition aforesaid shall state expressly the ground (being one of the grounds specified in paragraphs (a) to (c) of the last preceding sub-section) for the said decision.
(3) Any decision to the effect in the last preceding sub-section specified given by a local pensions committee or, on appeal, by the Central Authority, after the 31st day of December, 1924, and before the passing of this Act shall be deemed null and void and the question which such decision purports to determine shall be deemed to be pending and awaiting a decision and shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of this section.
In sub-section (3) of this amendment as it appears on the paper, I think there is a mistake. "The 31st day of December, 1924" should read the "31st day of December, 1923."
We will make that correction now, Senator.
The Blind Pensions Act of 1920 provided for the grant of old-age pensions at the age of 50 years in the case of people who, in the words of the Act, are "so blind as to be unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential." This means that people who are not actually stone-blind are in receipt of old age pensions at the age of 50. It is true there are some people who are not stone-blind, but still are quite incapable of earning a livelihood by the work that they can perform. Under the Blind Pensions Act wherever a pension was granted in such circumstances there was an appeal by the pensions officer to the central authority. I am informed that no person who was not stone-blind has got the old age pension at the age of 50 unless by order of the central authority, except in the case of the inmates of institutions, where, I believe, the appeal was not enforced because the exact condition of the applicant was clearly defined. I am now informed that these pensions are being reviewed all over the country, that the pensions officers are asking that the local committees shall review them with the object of withdrawing the pension, or, at all events, making the person concerned prove once more that he is entitled to it. Of course, in the event of the Committee deciding in favour of the pensioner there is an appeal to the Minister or central authority. I fear that in view of the present hardened outlook of the Ministry in regard to all matters connected with finance that a less generous construction will be placed on the phrase, "so blind as to be unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential" than was previously the case, and the result will be that these afflicted people will be deprived of pensions which they have been enjoying for the last few years. That, I think, would be a very deplorable state of affairs.
The Blind Pensions Act also gives the local authorities power to make arrangements to the satisfaction of the Minister for Health for promoting the welfare of blind persons ordinarily resident within the area. That means that the local authorities have power to give facilities for training the blind and semi-blind, and also, as far as possible, for providing suitable work for such persons. It is well known that the Irish local authorities have not availed of that part of the Act, and consequently these people have not been given facilities for earning a livelihood that they would have had had these arrangements been made. Cases have been mentioned to me of persons who are totally blind in one eye, and have a cataract on the other. That is not at all an uncommon state of affairs. At certain periods the cataract subsides, and if that person were examined medically at that particular time he might be proved to be capable of work. Invariably, however, the cataract returns, and a condition almost equivalent to stone-blindness obtains. If a person during the temporary recovery of the sight of one eye is driven to perform work which he was not doing previously it inevitably hastens the complete stone-blindness of both eyes. I do not think that such a state of affairs should be encouraged. As I stated already, any of the pensions now paid have been paid after very mature consideration, and with the knowledge and confirmation of the central authority.
It would be deplorable, except in the circumstances mentioned in the amendment, if any of these pensions were withdrawn. In case they have been withdrawn already, the amendment proposes that the finding shall not operate pending a re-hearing under the conditions laid down in this proposed new section, and that if the pension is eventually withdrawn it shall be stated why it was withdrawn, and whether it was under any of these conditions mentioned here. I am afraid that there is a danger of putting a less humane construction on the conditions under which the pension may be given than was previously the case, and officials anxious to become noted for economies effected at the price of humanity may be disposed to go a little too far in cases of this kind. If we can only balance our Budget by laying rude hands on the pensions enjoyed by these people who have been deprived by nature of, perhaps, one of her greatest and most beautiful gifts it will be an indication of a very sorry state of affairs indeed. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will give consideration to this amendment, because it in no way hampers the activities of the Department. It merely ensures that there shall be a clear and definite statement as to why the pensions are withdrawn from any of those afflicted people, in the event of their being withdrawn as a result of the reviews now taking place.
The Senator has made his appeal in a very able and moving manner, but I do not think he has laid before the House, naturally, from his point of view, the real facts of the case in relation to those blind pensioners. So far as leniency and generosity should be observed in the administration of these pensions, I am altogether with him, but I have knowledge that a very large amount of misrepresentation has been indulged in in regard to these pensions, and that has been possible by virtue of the fact that the medical officers who have examined these applicants for blind pensions have not been equipped with the necessary appliances by which they can make a satisfactory and thorough examination. I am informed that certain special instruments are required. They are not at present available, and medical officers are dependent, or almost entirely dependent, on the statements and the ability of the claimant to read certain letters. Knowing that there has been a very large amount of misrepresentation, and that a number of people have obtained these pensions who are not entitled to them, I do not think that this House, in the interests of the taxpayer, should shut the door to a review of these cases. That is another matter altogether, apart from generosity and giving the benefit of the doubt to bona fide applicants. I heard of cases on good authority the other day where a re-examination was taking place, and it was found that a number of the persons to be re-examined were weeping. There was a peculiar discharge from their eyes, and the medical officer examined this discharge and found it was brought about by peat ash which had been inserted into the eyes for the purpose of the examination. I would not mention that except I had every reason to believe it was the case. If there is any possibility of misrepresentation of that kind, I think it is very necessary for this State to have power to review all these cases.
Might I point out to Senator Sir John Keane that this is not to prevent the cases from being reviewed at all.
I would like to support the amendment. As the Senator has pointed out, his amendment provides for dealing with cases where there has been abuse, misrepresentation, or want of skill on the part of the medical officer who gave the certificate. I think the lot of the person who is not stone-blind but so blind as to render him unable to earn his living is very hard. The fact that there have been cases of abuse and misrepresentation should not debar deserving cases. The general feeling through the country is that the Local Government Department, or the Department responsible, is rather inclined to take a harsh view and to exclude all but those who are absolutely stone-blind. If we had some assurance that that is not so it might alter our viewpoint, but in the absence of the assurance that pensioners who are not absolutely stone-blind but so blind as to debar them from earning their living will not be excluded, I will support this amendment.
The amendment proposes that where pensions were granted by the Ministry of Local Government on the certificates of local medical practitioners, they should not be withdrawn unless the pensioner's sight has improved since the date of the medical certificate or that the pensioner is now of partial earning capacity, or that the original certificate was fraudulently obtained or issued. An inter-departmental committee considered in 1922 the whole administration of the Blind Pensions Act, and it reported that although many pensioners had obtained certificates from local medical men they did not fulfil the statutory conditions. As a result of this report a general review of pensions under the Act was ordered, and is now in progress. All doubtful cases are being examined by a medical inspector of the Ministry of Local Government, who, I understand, was obliged to undergo a course in ophthalmic surgery, and he got the necessary instruments before he was dispatched on this work. I am informed that in any case where there is a doubt the pensioner gets the benefit of it. We all know that that particular examination ought to be complete. The object of the amendment is, so far as I can judge, to take as a standard whatever certificate was given at the time the person applied for his pension, and I think you are not fulfilling the obligation of the statute by that. That is not what is the law. I do not know that it would improve matters to have special reasons given for withdrawing the pension. I think that the Pensions Committees or the Ministry of Local Government, when exercising their judgment on matters of this sort, ought to fulfil the statutory obligation, which is that the pensioner is so blind as to be unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential. In this connection, as some harsh things have been said about the administration of this Act, I have had an examination made, and I find that no conditions of hardship exist which would render the amendment either useful or necessary. The inspection of cases on appeal, after questions are raised, is carried out by the medical inspector who has taken out this special course which I have mentioned. I think it would be of advantage to describe how this Act operates in England and Wales, in Scotland, and in the Irish Free State.
The population of the Irish Free State is 3,139,688. The number of blind pensions payable on the 30th June was 3,282. The proportion of pensions to the total population was one in 956, and the approximate cost £80,050. It can be observed that it is not a service in which any economy, however great it may be, is a matter of very great importance. In Scotland the population is 4,760,904. The number of blind pensions payable on the 30th June was 1,436, or a proportion of one in 3,315, and the cost to Scotland was £35,900. In England and Wales the population is 36,700,492. The number of blind pensions payable on the 30th June was 9,333, and the proportion of pensions to the total population was one in 3,864, and the approximate cost was £233,325. These figures unquestionably establish the case that we are either suffering from a greater infirmity in the matter of eyesight than either England, Scotland or Wales, or that it has been much easier to establish a case for a pension in this country than in the others. I think in the circumstances, the case for the amendment can scarcely be justified. I would put this as a final shot, that recently some examination of emigrants to America was undertaken by some particular trust over there, and to Ireland was attributed the greatest number of cases of insanity and other infirmities. I do not believe that that is the case. But we do establish cases like that if items such as those I have given to you about eyesight are scattered broadcast. We are not, in my firm belief and opinion, a less healthy race than any other race, and it is a mistake to make the case that we are.
The amendment does not prevent the Government seeking a review of these cases, and sub-section (c) makes it possible for a review if it can be proved that the said medical certificate was given with want of carefulness or professional skill. That meets the point made by Senator Sir John Keane and the President. The President's speech quite unintentionally is an incitement to the officials who are reviewing those cases to deal somewhat ruthlessly with appeals, because he has quoted those statistics which might be presented in quite a different light if the real circumstances could be explored, but they will be taken at their face value, and naturally the officials will feel it is an authority to them to deal in a ruthless manner with this percentage of blind pensions granted in Ireland. I think it has been established that Ireland has a greater proportion of insane among her population than any other country, and certainly it is not disputed that Ireland has a greater amount of tuberculosis than any other country except, perhaps, India. The President might have quoted those figures to show that Ireland should only have the same proportion as obtained elsewhere. I do not know whether there is any particular prevalency of eye diseases here. There may be a certain explanation of it, but at all events this particular amendment does not prevent a review, and all it asks is that there shall be stated the reason the pension is withdrawn. It is possible that some people might do work even when blind if that work is available, but seeing that no such work is provided for people so afflicted they might as well be blind. A man might be blind and be a piano tuner. We have heard of blind typists, and so on, but unless the work is convenient to their homes it is impossible for blind people to embark upon it, and it is to see that there will be no undue hardship on them that I have moved this amendment.
- Peter de Loughry.
- Michael Duffy.
- Thomas Farren.
- Thomas Foran.
- Mrs. Alice Stopford Green.
- C.J. Irwin.
- J.C. Love.
- James MacKean.
- William J. Molloy.
- John T. O'Farrell.
- Sir Hutcheson Poe.
- James Green Douglas.
- Henry A. Barniville.
- Samuel L. Brown.
- Richard A. Butler.
- Mrs. Eileen Costello.
- John C. Counihan.
- Countess of Desart.
- Sir Nugent Everard.
- Martin Fitzgerald.
- Sir John Purser Griffith.
- Right Hon. A. Jameson.
- Sir John Keane.
- Patrick W. Kenny.
- Thomas Linehan.
- John MacLoughlin.
- George Nesbitt.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- Mrs. Wyse Power.
The amendment which stands in my name is—
In Section 6, immediately after this section to add a new Section 7 as follows:—
7.—(1) In the calculation of means for the purpose of the Old Age Pensions Acts, no account shall be taken of the yearly value derived from a holding of land, held by the claimant or the husband or wife of a claimant, the Poor Law Valuation of which, including the buildings thereon, is less than £10.
(2) In the case of a claimant whose means are derived from a holding of land the Poor Law Valuation of which, including the buildings thereon, does not exceed £10, the existing method of calculating means shall remain in force and the provisions of this Act shall not apply.
Am I correct in saying that the amendment is covered by the First Schedule?
I am afraid Senator, you will have to make up your own mind on that.
If it is, I would ask leave to withdraw that and wait for Section 7, where there is an amendment somewhat similar to this.
I have not seen any other amendment except your amendment to Section 6.
I mean Section 7.
Would you rather move it as an addition to Section 7?
If I am allowed I would like to move the two amendments together (1) and (2).
I think it is the simplest plan to move them both together.
The object of the amendments is, that where the Poor Law Valuation of a holding is £10 or less, if an applicant had other means, the holding should not be included in calculating his means. All Governments have recognised that holdings in this country of a valuation of £10 or under are uneconomic and the valuations are in a great many cases erroneous. They were fixed a long time ago, and evidently were based on the area. In the west, north-west and south-west, there are patches of worthless land, composed of rocks and bog, which might comprise an area of ten, fifteen or twenty acres, in which there would not be one acre of arable land. Such holdings being uneconomic, it is reasonable to ask that they should not be calculated as means. I will ask the Seanad to pass the amendments, and I hope the President will accept them.
I wish to support the amendments proposed, if, as I think, they affect the people who are living on uneconomic holdings in Donegal and the West of Ireland. At present these people are feeling the pinch of poverty very keenly; in fact, they are almost in a state of destitution owing to the failure of the fishing industry and the cottage industries. Although economy and retrenchment are very necessary, I do not think they ought to be effected at the expense of these poor people, and I would appeal to the President to deal as generously and as sympathetically as he can with the amendments.
Does the Senator mean that if a claimant has a piece of land with a Poor Law Valuation just under £10, that that is not to be taken into account where the yearly means of the claimant come under £18? Can the claimant have a piece of land of £10 valuation and also means amounting to £18 5s.? Is that the way this would work?
That is what the Senator has explained. That is the meaning of his reference to the schedule. He wishes that in every case in which means are being calculated for the purpose of arriving at whether a person is entitled to a pension or not, that a holding rated for less than £10 is to be excluded from that calculation.
That would seem to be a very great benefit to holders of very small portions of land, which of course may be uneconomic, but we know that plenty of people who have got small pensions or other small means will have every penny of it calculated in the £18. Why should we take one section of the community merely because they have a piece of land and say they are to be treated better than all the rest of the people? I think that it would certainly be held to be a hardship if a man who has got a small pension is to have every penny of his pension calculated against him, while the man who holds a small piece of land has not that taken into calculation.
I do not know exactly what the capital value of a holding with a valuation of £10 would be, but I presume it would be in or about £100. For argument's sake, say it is. If the owner of such a holding sold for £100 in cash, for the purpose of calculating pension, under the Bill as it stands, the first £25 of that would be free. The other £75 would be assessed at 10 per cent. and he would be considered to have an income of £7 10s. from that £100. I do not exactly see where the difference lies between that man and the man who has means in the form of land, why the man with land should get off scot-free and the man who had converted into cash would be looked upon as a person with means amounting to £7 10s. There seems to be want of balance there. According to the amendment the person with the farm would be rendered immune from any assessment of that sort, while the man who had converted into cash would be penalised.
I take a similar line to the views expressed by Senators Kenny and Jameson. The effect of the amendment would be that any person who had any prospect of an old age pension, with any savings, must buy up a certain amount of land, otherwise he would not get the necessary benefit. Personally I do not like the reduction in the first schedule from £26 to £18. I think it is not wise, but I do not like the amendment, which really only deals with one class of people.
This amendment is one which the Minister for Finance might give favourable consideration to, and I should say he would be inclined to do so in cases of this sort were the circumstances different from what they are. I take it in the same way as holders of property having a larger valuation than £10, that we might divide the holders under £10 valuation into three classes—the uneconomic class, the class that is scarcely economic, and scarcely uneconomic, and a class that is economic. As regards the uneconomic class referred to by Senator MacLoughlin, they are not affected whether this amendment is passed or not. If the holding be uneconomic obviously there have been no savings. I do not exactly say that the individual occupying the holding, if his affairs be such that the yearly value, whatever the income, is negligible, is not affected by it. In the same way, people in the second class, who are just able to live, are not affected by it. We come to the third class, in which a person having a holding with a yearly valuation under £10 has got other means. That person does not come within the circle mentioned by Senator MacLoughlin. There is a sufficiency of means there to qualify him for having them entered up against him in considering his pension. One could more easily weigh up the advantage or disadvantage of the amendment if we took two holdings side by side, in one of which there was poverty by reason of the owner having no other property except the holding, under £10 valuation, and whatever little stock there is on it, while the person living alongside had other property which was bringing in an income independent of the holding altogether. In that case what was in the mind of the Senator when he put down this amendment is not affected. That was, that the means of these people were so small as to qualify them for the maximum pension.
In that case I think the Minister for Finance in years to come, when we hope the revenue of the State will bear a much more favourable proportion of the cost of this service than it does at the present moment, would be entitled to make a recommendation that would make these people a little better off than they are. Just now I think it would be unfair to discriminate in favour of persons who really do not require the discrimination, the discrimination not being of any use to the class mentioned by the Senator, as that class will get the benefit of the full pension of nine shillings. I do not think the purpose the Senator had in mind, which was to protect the poorer classes, would be effected. That purpose would be only effected in the case of those who had means other than the holding. The figures mentioned by Senator Kenny are correct substantially. The yearly value of the holding is not sufficient to disqualify a person from the maximum payment under the Act.
I am sorry that the President does not see his way to accept the amendment. Senator Jameson was arguing on the exception rather than on the rule. All who are acquainted with the West and North-West of Ireland know what an uneconomic holding is. Senator Kenny took too high a figure when he said that an uneconomic holding was worth ten times the Poor Law Valuation. That is a fallacy. It has no such value. As I explained, the valuations are misleading. When valuers are sent down the country they must put some value on a holding, and to put a value on something that is not productive is misleading and wrong. In no case did the valuer return and say that there were holdings in Galway, Mayo and Donegal worth nothing. The valuers value them, not on the merits of the land, but on the area. The President made his case mainly on the exceptions that people with small holdings have other small means. We are legislating then for the exceptions and to the detriment of the many. I think in another section of the Bill the people I want to exclude by my amendment are excluded if they transfer a holding. Under Section 7, if the owners assign, convey or transfer holdings in a legal and bona fide way they escape having the valuation included in the calculation of means. In effect, that is putting it into the people's heads to do something for the purpose of evading the Act. That is one of the things that I am sure the President will amend, now that his attention has been drawn to it. I hope he will undertake to look into the matter and amend it on the next Stage.
Might I ask the Minister a question that arises under Section 6, which says:—
"(1) In calculating the income mentioned in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Act of 1911, no account shall be taken of any amounts received during a period of not more than six months in any year by a person or by the husband or wife of a person (as the case may be) under a medical certificate as sickness benefit or disablement benefit from a Friendly Society or a Trade Union or under the National Insurance Act, 1911."
I want to know whether that covers superannuation benefit paid by trades unions to members unfit to follow their occupations when past the age of 70 years.
No. I am afraid that would be an income. Superannuation is an income, and as such I do not see any way whereby you could exclude it and include other sums as superannuation. The proposal, I take it, would be to exclude from means superannuation paid from trades unions. I do not think that could be done. Superannuation from a trades union, I take it, is equivalent to thrift, such as savings. If a man has built up this advantage I cannot see how you can exclude it from means.
In a sense, superannuation benefit is thrift. Superannuation benefit is paid when a person is not able to follow his occupation. It is as a result of being unable to follow his occupation that he gets superannuation, not as an investment against old age.
The basis of this Act, I might say, was to provide for persons who had no means, or means only of a certain sum.