Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, 1935—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The object of the Bill is to extend the social services provided for the working population by adding to the existing schemes of health insurance, unemployment insurance, unemployment assistance, old age pensions and workmen's compensation, a scheme of pensions to widows and their dependent children and to orphans. In conformity with the general principle that extension of the social services is best pursued along the lines of compulsory contributory insurance, the scheme for which the Bill provides has been framed mainly on the idea that during the working life contributions can be and should be made to provide for the protection of the worker's surviving widow and children or orphans in the event of premature death.

It has not, however, been possible strictly to adhere to the contributory principle. In the first place, there is already in existence a number of widows and orphans, who are the survivors of men who, if the scheme had been earlier in force, would have been insured under it and in respect of whose insurance, pensions would have been payable. It would be very hard on persons in this class if, through a deficiency in the social legislation which is now to be remedied, they could never become entitled to the benefits of the scheme. Secondly, schemes of compulsory contributory insurance are suited, in the main, to the circumstances of the wage-earning classes. Starting with the idea that these are the classes for whom protection is needed, it is reasonable to require from the employers and the employees, a weekly contribution payable with the same regularity as the cash wages are paid.

It is true to say, however, that out of the whole population of workers in the Saorstát whose means are little more than sufficient to provide the ordinary necessities of life, there are a large number of persons who are not in receipt of cash wages at regular intervals. The small working farmer whose level of subsistence is comparable with that of the urban wage-earner, requires to the same extent at the least, to be protected against the loss, which his premature death might bring to his wife and children. No proper solution of the difficulty of applying a scheme of compulsory contributory insurance to persons of this class has yet become apparent. Their inclusion in the scheme is, however, considered imperative, and it has been decided to include in the Bill provision for the payment of non-contributory pensions to the existing and future widows and orphans of "small-holders" where the valuation of the holding does not exceed £8.

Under the contributory scheme certain conditions as to the number of contributions to be paid in order to qualify for pension are laid down. In some cases these conditions may not be satisfied. It would be inequitable to exclude the widows and orphans of such men entirely from benefit in view of the provisions made for the "small holder" class in respect of whom no contributions are payable. It is accordingly provided that non-contributory pensions may be paid to the widows and orphans of men who, though insured under the contributory scheme, fail to satisfy the qualifying conditions as to contributions.

The Bill accordingly provides for two separate classes of pensions: (1) Contributory, applying to all persons insured under the health insurance scheme. (2) Non-contributory, applying mainly to three classes: (a) Existing widows and orphans of persons who were in the wage earning class at the date of their death; (b) future widows and orphans of persons who, although at date of their death, fail to satisfy the qualifying condition for contributory pensions; (c) existing and future widows and orphans of persons who, at the date of death, were occupiers of agricultural small holdings not exceeding £8 in valuation.

As is usual in non-contributory schemes of this kind, certain conditions as to means will apply in the non-contributory scheme. Under the contributory scheme, however, the insured person has contributed towards the cost, and, if qualified, payment of the pension will be regarded as a right without the application of a means test. The dates at which the schemes will come into force are to be appointed under Clause 8 of the Bill and will be as soon after the passing of the Bill as the making of the necessary administrative arrangements will permit — probably January, 1936.

The scope of the contributory scheme is practically identical with that of the existing national health insurance scheme. Every person who is at present insured for health insurance will become insured for widows' and orphans' pensions and the beneficiaries will be the future widows and orphans left by these persons. The number of persons at present insured for health insurance is about 500,000—345,000 men and 155,000 women. Those members of the Defence Forces who are insured for health insurance will also be included in the contributory scheme. Certain classes were excepted from the provisions of the National Health Insurance Acts, on the grounds that the terms of their employment secured to them sickness and disablement benefits not less favourable than those provided under the Acts, for example, Government employees, employees of local authorities, salaried staffs of railway companies, etc. It does not follow, however, that any provision has been made for widows or orphans of such persons, and, accordingly, these classes will, if their rate of remuneration does not exceed £250 a year, be required to be insured for widows' and orphans' pensions although not for health insurance.

If in any of these excepted classes the Minister is satisfied that the terms of the employment provide protection for widows and orphans not less favourable than is provided by the Bill, he may by order exclude them from the scope of widows' and orphans' pensions insurance. Insured persons under the National Health Insurance Acts include voluntary contributors. These are persons who, having left insurable employment after not less than two years' insurance, elect to continue to be insured persons and to pay the whole health insurance contribution (both employer's and employee's portion). Existing voluntary contributors under the Health Acts can elect to continue to be voluntary contributors, but they must do so before contributions under the Pensions Bill begin to be payable and must pay the whole health and pensions contribution.

Persons who, in the future, cease to be compulsorily insured on leaving insurable employment, can, if they have had not less than two years' insurance, elect to be voluntary contributors under the Health Insurance Acts. If they so elect, they become insured also for pensions purposes and are required to pay the full pensions contributions, in addition to the full health contribution. The option to become a voluntary contributor is extended to persons in employments excepted under the Health Acts but insurable under the Bill. Subject to the fulfilment of the qualifying conditions, widows of persons insured under the contributory scheme will receive pensions of 10/- a week up to age 70, when they will become entitled to old age pensions without any means test.

In addition, children's allowances will be payable for children under 14, or under 16, if they are under fulltime instruction at school. The allowances will be 5/- a week for the eldest child and 3/- a week for each of the other children. If the widow remarries, her own pension will cease, but the children's allowances will continue until the statutory age is reached. A widow of an insured person who is over 70 when her husband dies becomes entitled to an old age pension without any restriction as to means. Orphans' pensions at the rate of 7/6 a week are payable under the contributory scheme for each orphan of a man or of a widow, who was insured under the scheme. An orphan is defined as a child both of whose parents are dead.

Contributions will be at the rate of 8d. per week for a man (of which 4d. will be paid by the employer and 4d. by the employee) and 4d. per week for a woman, all payable by the employer. Contributions will cease to be payable on the attainment of 70 years of age. The contributions will be payable as one with the National Health Insurance contribution, by means of stamps affixed to cards. The values of the stamps ordinarily used will be: Men, 1/4 per week, of which 8d. will be in respect of health insurance and 8d. in respect of pensions insurance, and women, 11d. per week, of which 7d. will be in respect of health insurance and 4d. in respect of pensions insurance.

The arrangement for the payment and collection of contributions under the Health Acts will apply automatically to contributions under the scheme. The same contribution card will be used for health and pensions purposes and the employer will be required to affix to the employee's card a stamp representing the combined health and pensions contribution for each week for which a contribution is payable. The stamped cards will be surrendered as at present to the Unified Society by the members concerned. Special provision for payment of contributions will be necessary in respect of soldiers and persons in excepted employments who are insurable for pensions. In the case of soldiers, the Minister for Defence will pay direct to the pensions fund contributions at the rate of 8d. per week in respect of each insured soldier, subject to a deduction not exceeding 4d. per week from each insured soldier's pay.

In the case of persons in excepted employments, pension contributions only (and not health and pensions contributions) are payable. Power is taken to modify the regulations made under the Insurance Acts for the collection of contributions, and the power will probably be used to allow of direct cash payment of contributions by the employers of excepted persons. Persons engaged in agricultural employment which is insurable under the Health Acts are included in the scope of the contributory pensions scheme. As the rates of wages obtaining in agricultural employment are in the main lower than those of other wage-earning classes, it has been considered desirable to include in the Bill special provisions for dealing with them which can be reviewed if necessary at a later date. For a period of five years from the date of commencement of the scheme, the rates of contributions of such persons will be half the ordinary rates, i.e., 4d. for a man instead of 8d., and 2d. for a woman instead of 4d., and the rates of pensions payable in respect of their insurance will be: widow's pension, 8/- a week; children's allowances, 4/- for the eldest and 2/6 a week for each other child; and orphan's pension, 6/- a week.

The qualifying conditions for contributory pensions involve a minimum period of insurance and payment of a minimum number of contributions before a claim to a pension is established. The person in respect of whose insurance the pension is claimed must have been at least two years in insurance, and must have paid at least 104 contributions. If more than four years have elapsed since the date of last entry into insurance, an average of 26 contributions must have been paid in each of the last three contribution years. If the person was over 70 at the date of death, the contribution test is to be applied to the period before the attainment of age 70 during which contributions were payable. When an insured person attains the age of 70 he remains an insured person until he dies, although contributions have ceased.

This point on which there had been some doubt is made clear by the amendment of the National Health Insurance Acts in Clause 66 of the Bill. Insurance for the purpose of the National Health Insurance Acts and contributions paid under these Acts before the scheme begins will count towards satisfying the qualifying conditions. In the case of excepted persons for whom contributions under the Health Acts were not payable, contributions under these Acts are deemed to have been paid before the commencement of the scheme if the person was then or within the prescribed period, which will probably be 12 months, before the commencement of the scheme in the excepted employment. These provisions make it possible for widows and orphans of insured persons or persons who have been in excepted employment and who die soon after the commencement of the scheme to qualify for contributory pensions.

With regard to the non-contributory scheme, I should draw attention to the fact that no contributions have been paid or are to be paid in respect of these pensions, and consequently the entire cost must in the final resort be borne by the State. It is desirable, therefore, that payments should be limited to necessitous cases, and that widows and orphans who either are in a position to provide for themselves or are already so provided for should not be entitled to these free pensions. The Bill accordingly imposes two main limitations on the title to non-contributory pensions. Firstly, pensions are only payable subject to a test as to the means of the applicant. Secondly, widows under 60 years of age who have no dependent children will not be entitled to pensions. Dependent children are children under 14 years of age, or under 16 if they are receiving fulltime school instruction.

The persons to whom non-contributory pensions will be payable may be classified as follows:—(1) Widows and orphans of men who have died before the date upon which contributions under the Bill become payable, and who were insured persons under the National Health Insurance Acts when they died. This provision covers also the existing survivors of men who were over 70 when they died, if on the attainment of that age they were insured persons; (ii) widows and orphans of men who had died before contributions under the scheme became payable, and who when they died were engaged in an excepted employment which would have been insurable if the scheme had been in force when they died. This provision covers also the existing survivors of persons in excepted employment who were over 70 when they died, if, when they attained age 70 they were in an excepted employment which is made insurable under the pensions scheme; (iii) the future widows and orphans of men who become insured under the contributory schemes, but who when they die have failed to satisfy the qualifying conditions as to contributions; (iv) the future widows and orphans of men who on the date when contributions under the contributory scheme become payable were not liable for the payment of contributions because they were over the age of 70, provided that when such men attained the age of 70 they were either insured under the Health Acts or would have been insured under the Contributory Pensions Scheme if it had then been in force; (v) the present and future widows and orphans of agricultural "small-holders" the valuation of whose holding does not exceed £8. It is a necessary condition in this case for the payment of a widow's pension that the widow shall continue to reside on the small-holding.

The rates of pension payable under the non-contributory scheme will vary according to the locality in which the pensioner resides, and also according to the means possessed by the pensioner. The maximum rates of pensions are as follows:—(i) Widow's allowance.—(a) Resident in a county borough — 7/6 per week; (b) resident in an urban area — 6/- per week; (c) resident in a rural area — 5/- per week. (ii) Children's allowance. — (a) Resident in a county borough — 3/6 a week for the eldest child under 14 (or 16 as the case may be), and 1/6 per week for each other child; (b) resident in an urban area—2/6 a week for the eldest and 1/- per week for each other child; (c) resident in a rural area — 2/- per week for the eldest and 1/- per week for each other child. (iii) Orphan's Pension.—Resident in a county borough—4/- per week; resident in an urban area — 3/6 per week; resident in a rural area — 2/6 per week. These maximum rates are reduced to 3/-, 2/-, and 2/- respectively if the orphan is in an institution or is boarded out by a local authority.

Provision is made to discourage cases of migration from rural areas to urban areas or county boroughs in order to qualify for pensions at the higher rates. As already indicated, non-contributory pensions are only payable subject to a test of the means of the recipient. The Bill provides that no pension will be payable when the net weekly means of the claimant are equal to or exceed the maximum rate of pension payable to the claimant. If the net weekly means are less than the maximum pension payable the maximum rate of pension will be reduced by 1/- for every complete shilling of the net weekly means.

The First Schedule to the Bill describes the manner in which the annual means are to be ascertained and their division into carned means and unearned means. The annual means of a widow include the annual means of any children in respect of whom allowances are claimable and the annual earned means include the annual earned means of such children. The weekly means and the weekly earned means are the weekly equivalents of the respective annual means. In calculating the net weekly means from the weekly means certain exemptions are allowed. These exemptions are as follows:—Residence in a county borough — An exemption of 5/- from the weekly means together with an additional exemption from the earned weekly means of 2/6 for each child with a maximum exemption in respect of children of 7/6. Residence in an urban area — An exemption of 4/- from the weekly means together with an additional exemption from earned weekly means of 2/3 for each child with a maximum exemption of 6/9 in respect of children. Residence in a rural area—An exemption of 3/- from the weekly means together with an additional exemption from earned weekly means of 2/- for each child with a maximum exemption of 6/- in respect of children.

If these exemptions exceed the weekly means, the net weekly means are taken at nil, and the maximum pension is payable. If these exemptions are less than the weekly means, the net weekly means are taken as the difference, and for each shilling of net weekly means the maximum pension is reduced by 1/-. In the case of orphans the exemption from means is 3/- in all cases.

Widows' non-contributory pensions cease on re-marriage or on the attainment of age 70. On re-marriage the whole non-contributory pension, i.e., the widow's allowance and the children's allowances cease, while in the case of contributory pensions, re-marriage of the widow does not affect the children's allowances. As already stated, a non-contributory pension is granted only to a widow who is over the age of 60, or to a widow who, being under 60, has at least one dependent child. In the latter case the widow's allowance continues for a period of six months after the right to children's allowances ceases. If, at the end of the six months, the widow has not attained the age of 60, the widow's allowance also ceases. On the attainment of age 60 she may again become entitled to a non-contributory pension.

The administration of this scheme will be carried out by the National Health Insurance Section of the Department of Local Government and Public Health, to which all claims for pensions will be made. The Minister has power, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, to appoint investigation officers for the purpose of investigating claims, means, etc., and deciding officers, who are to decide on the claims and make awards. Any claimant who is dissatisfied by the award or decision of a deciding officer may appeal to a referee or referees selected by the Minister from a panel of referees appointed by the Minister for Finance and the decision of the referee or referees will be final.

Books of Pension Orders of a type similar to those used for the payment of Old Age Pensions, will be issued, and the pensions will be payable weekly in advance at a post office selected by the pensioner. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health will have control of the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Fund, to which will be carried all contributions payable under the scheme and out of which pensions will be paid. Moneys not immediately required for current expenditure will be paid over to the Minister for Finance for investment in the "Pensions Investment Account." An annual State Grant of £250,000 will be paid into this Account in each of the first ten years. Whenever the amount in the Pensions Fund is insufficient to meet current expenditure, the necessary sums will be paid into the Fund from the Investment Account. The Minister for Finance is given power to have an actuarial investigation made into the general financial operation of the scheme at such time or times as he may consider necessary.

Ordinarily, contributory pensions will not be paid when the pensioner is resident outside Saorstát Eireann. Power is, however, taken in the Bill to arrange for the payment of pensions to persons who are resident in another country, if that country has a contributory scheme of a similar nature, and if it provides for payment of pensions in Saorstát Eireann. Power is also taken to make reciprocal arrangements with such countries for the continuity of insurance and the maintenance of acquired rights. A non-contributory pension will not be granted unless the applicant has been resident in Saorstát Eireann for two years before the claim is made, and in no case will a non-contributory pension be payable outside Saorstát Eireann.

In order to safeguard the scheme against abuse, the Bill provides that the widow of a man who marries after the Bill was introduced and was over the age of 60 at the date of the marriage will not be entitled to a pension. Certain exceptions to this provision are set out in the clause. A widow's pension, whether contributory or non-contributory, will not be paid while a widow is undergoing imprisonment or is maintained at the public expense in a mental hospital. The widow's allowance and the children's allowances both cease, but the children, in such circumstances, are deemed to be orphans, and orphans' pensions (contributory or non-contributory) become payable to the guardian of the orphan or to such other person as the Minister may direct. Cases may arise where the child of a widow is removed from her custody by order of a court, or is sent to a reformatory or industrial school, or is deserted or abandoned. In such cases the widow cannot include the child in her claim for pension, and if the child is removed after the widow has been granted a pension, the pension will be reviewed. The child in such cases is deemed to be an orphan and an orphan's pension will be payable to the guardian of the orphan or to such other person as the Minister may direct.

The Minister has power to pay a widow's pension to some other person for the widow's benefit, or to pay any child's allowance to a person other than the widow, for the benefit of the child. An orphan's pension will be payable to the guardian of the orphan or to some other person appointed by the Minister for the benefit of the child. If a person who has claimed a pension receives outdoor relief pending the payment of the pension, which would not have been given if the pension were being paid, or if relief at a lower rate would have been given, the Minister will have power to repay to the public assistance authority granting the relief, the amount of such relief, or the excess payments of relief, and deduct the amount so paid from the pension. Similarly, if a person who has claimed a pension receives unemployment assistance pending the payment of the pension which would not have been given if the pension were being paid, the Minister will have power to repay to the Minister for Industry and Commerce the amount of such assistance and deduct the amount so paid from the pension.

Certain amendments in the National Health Insurance Acts and the Old Age Pensions Acts are required, and these are contained in Part VIII of the Bill. Section 13 of the National Health Insurance Act, 1918, is amended to provide that a person who attains the age of 70 while he is insured under the Health Insurance Acts, remains an insured person thereafter until he dies. This section also grants to insured persons who cease to be employed and who were members of an approved society or the Unified Society, a period of free insurance after the termination of employment, known as the "Free Year." For the purposes of qualifying for pensions, this period of free insurance is now granted to persons who were not members of a society.

Cases have arisen where persons have applied for membership of the Unified Society and have produced contribution cards relating to previous periods of insurable employment. Under the provisions of the Health Insurance Acts, a person who was not a member of a Society, and who ceased insurable employment even for a week, was not entitled to a "Free Year" and was consequently regarded as a new entrant into insurance on subsequently becoming insurably employed. Periods of insurable employment separated by short periods of unemployment could not be linked up. In order to preserve continuity of insurance in the cases of such of these persons as are genuinely persons whose normal occupation is insurable, the "Free Year" is now deemed to apply.

The Old Age Pensions Acts are amended so as to remove the means test under those Acts in the case of a widow who reaches age 70 while in receipt of a contributory widow's pension, or in the case of a widow who is over age 70 when her husband dies, who if she was under 70 would be qualified for a widow's contributory pension.

Statement of numbers of widows and orphans and estimates of costs. — In making these estimates considerable difficulty has been experienced, as full materials were not always available on which to base calculations. The following figures have therefore been arrived at with some reserve, but may be regarded as sufficiently accurate to give an approximate indication as to number and cost.

Taking first the contributory scheme, it is estimated that in the first year the number of beneficiaries will be 700 widows and 1,200 children, including orphans. These figures will rise gradually as insured persons die leaving widows and orphans, until ultimately there will be 23,000 widows and 18,500 children in receipt of pensions or allowances. The cost in the first year will be £30,000, rising ultimately to £800,000 per year.

Under the non-contributory scheme the persons covered fall into various classes. Firstly, there is the class now existing of widows with dependent children and of orphans of persons who had insurable status at their deaths. It is estimated that there are 6,700 widows and 16,700 children and orphans in this class and that the cost of pensions will be £180,000 in the first year; gradually decreasing year by year as the widows remarry, die, or attain the age of 70, and as the children and orphans reach the statutory age. Secondly, there are the now existing widows between 60 and 70 years of age who have no dependents, and whose husbands had insurable status at their death. The number of these widows is 8,600, and the cost of pensions in the first year will be £125,000, gradually decreasing year by year as in the first class.

The third class comprises the now existing widows, with dependent children, and the orphans of small holders. It is estimated that this class will include 4,000 widows and 10,460 children and orphans, and the cost in the first and each subsequent year will be £94,500. Lastly, there are the existing widows between 60 and 70 years of age, who have no dependents, and whose husbands were small holders. Of these there are 4,750 and the cost in the first year and each subsequent year will be £62,000.

Taking these four classes together, it is estimated that the non-contributory pensions will cover 24,110 widows and 27,160 children and orphans, and the cost of the first year will be £461,500. This figure, added to the first year's cost of contributory pensions, brings the total figure for pensions in the first year to £491,500. As the years progress the general effect will be that the cost of non-contributory pensions will decrease, and the cost of contributory pensions increase, until eventually a position of comparative stability is reached in which the total annual cost will be £956,500, of which £800,000 will be for contributory and £156,500 for non-contributory pensions.

The contribution income in the first year is estimated at £402,000, rising gradually to £426,000. To this will be added an annual State subvention of £250,000, which it is estimated will be sufficient to cover the cost of benefits and administration during the first ten years. The financial position will then be actuarially examined and further consideration given to the future arrangements necessary for the operation of the Act.

I am sure every member of this House will welcome this Bill, which makes provision for necessitous widows and orphans, and for the widows and orphans of persons who were insured persons under the National Health Insurance scheme. The Bill is long overdue. I think it has been a standing disgrace to this Christian country that this Bill, to make provision for widows and orphans has been so long held up. It seems to me to be an extraordinary thing that we took so long to make up our minds about treating, according to Christian principles the widows and fatherless children of the working-class population. Unfortunately, instead of being looked after for a number of years in a proper way they were, as we all know, branded with the taint of pauperism and were made to go through all the horrors and the indignities that applied to the poor law system. I say that that was a standing disgrace to this country and I think the Minister and the Government are to be congratulated in bringing in a measure that will put an end to such a system. Although we are all delighted and pleased at the introduction of the Bill, I must say that my colleagues and myself, who have been for, at least, a quarter of a century demanding the introduction of a measure of this kind, are somewhat disappointed with its provisions.

Under the contributory scheme an attempt is being made to do something like justice to widows and fatherless children. We expected that a little more might have been done. Under the non-contributory scheme, I must say that we are sadly disappointed at the meagre provisions made for widows. As the Minister pointed out, the Bill provides for two separate classes. First, there is a contributory scheme embracing all workers whose remuneration does not exceed £250 per year. The payment of contributions under that scheme will be linked up with payments for national health insurance. That scheme is simple and should be very easily managed. The Minister is to be congratulated on the simplicity with which the contributory scheme is to be administered. An additional amount will be paid on the stamp of every insured worker for national health purposes. In the case of a man in industrial employment the amount will be 8d. per week, and in the case of an agricultural worker 4d. per week. One stamp will qualify for national health insurance and for benefit under the pensions scheme. I want to get some more information from the Minister, and I want to be satisfied that the same provision that applies under national health insurance with regard to arrears of contributions, will be applied to this scheme. If it does not apply I am afraid this scheme will be unworkable. Under national health insurance regulations if an insured person is in arrears at the end of the contribution year, it is the duty of the secretary of the society, now the Unified Society, to supply within a specified period in October an arrears card showing the amount of contributions due in the previous contribution year. Under the National Health Insurance Act the insured person was entitled to pay the arrears at a reduced rate I think by a certain period in November. The date I am giving may not be quite correct, as it is a long time since I dealt with the administration of the National Health Insurance Act. If the arrears were paid by the insured person at the reduced rate by a certain date in November, that qualified that person for full benefit during the next benefit year. I would like the Minister when replying to make that quite clear.

I went through the Bill and I could not find anything to show that the same arrangement will apply with regard to this Bill as to the National Health Insurance Act. If it does not apply I do not see how the scheme can be worked. I am afraid that an arrears card cannot be sent to persons whose contributions are in arrears for national health insurance purposes, without sending one in connection with this Bill. I am sure the Minister has thought of this question and that he will be able to satisfy the House in that respect. The scheme is simple for people who happen to be lucky enough to be in constant or semi-constant employment. I am afraid it will not be very good for those who are unfortunate enough not to be in fairly constant employment. It is bad enough, God knows, for the father of a family who, during his lifetime, suffered from the dreadful worry of unemployment, and who witnessed the sufferings of his wife and offspring, through no fault of his, to provide them with the wherewithal that Christians should enjoy, but if he has not 26 stamps to his credit for the three years prior to his death, he will have to go to his grave thinking of what is going to happen to his widow and orphans. Through no fault of his they were half hungry when he was alive and when he is gone they are going to continue to be in a state of abject poverty as long as they live. I feel that something is necessary to obviate that dreadful position.

All legislation involving payments of insurance contributions presents a difficulty, especially for people who have no guarantee of regular employment. Under this Bill that serious difficulty has been accentuated. No matter how long a man may have been insured and paid contributions, his wife will not qualify for a contributory pension if the arrears at the time of his death, or at the age of 70, whichever occurs first, exceeds an average of 26 weeks in the three previous years. A man could be in constant employment for 30 years and through some cause become unemployed. Owing to the developments and changes that have taken place large numbers of workers in certain employments have lost employment. Quay workers, dockers, and people of that type, because of the changes that have occurred have been deprived of continuity of employment, and numbers of them will not be in a position to qualify for pensions by having 26 contributions in the three preceding years before their death or on reaching the age of 70 years. For that reason, I am extremely anxious that this whole question of the arrears should be considered very carefully before the Bill leaves the House. I think we ought to get some assurance that these people will get an opportunity, as under the National Health Insurance Act, to pay up arrears of contributions and that their dependents will come under the contributory scheme, because there is a vast difference in the benefits to be paid under the contributory scheme and the benefits to be paid under the non-contributory scheme. Under the contributory scheme, if a man who has the necessary qualifications dies, leaving a widow with children, the widow automatically, without any means test, will receive a pension of 10/- per week. When she reaches the age of 70 years, the old age pension of 10/- will be automatically paid her without any means test, while the first child will receive 5/-, and the other children 3/- each up to the age of 14 years, or, if they are at school wholetime, up to the age of 16 years. Contrast that with the provisions under the non-contributory scheme and the difference is very marked. I am very anxious that these workers who, through no fault of theirs, have not these 26 stamps in the three preceding years before death, or at the age of 70, should be fairly dealt with and that earnest consideration should be given to their position. Under the National Health Insurance scheme, if a man has only five stamps on his card during the contribution year, he is entitled, if he has the wherewithal, to pay up his arrears and to put himself in full benefit during the following benefit year. I do not see why the same thing should not apply to this Bill.

We are surprised at the meagre amount of the pensions which are to be paid under the non-contributory scheme. Under the non-contributory scheme, the widow of an unfortunate unemployed man suffers a great deal of additional hardship. The widow of an unemployed man who is not qualified under the terms of the Bill will get no pension, if she has no children, until she reaches 60 years of age. If she has children, she gets the pension until such time as the youngest child reaches the age of 14 or, if continuing at school, 16 years. For a period of six months after that, the widow will get the pension. She may have drawn the pension for a number of years and the youngest child may come of age when she is 50 years of age. At 50 years of age, this woman loses the pension until she becomes 60 and, in addition, has to keep the child. I must say that is not common justice. I am speaking about people who have no other means but employment. I am talking about slum dwellers and people of that type. A woman is expected to live in Dublin on 7/6 a week, with the cost of tea, bread, sugar and coal going up. How is an unfortunate woman to eke out an existence on 7/6 a week for a certain number of years and, when the youngest child reaches 14 years or 16 years of age, to live without the pension until she reaches 60 years of age. I congratulated the Minister on bringing forward this Bill, and my experience of the Minister tells me that he will give sympathetic and serious consideration to these matters before the Committee Stage.

The Committee which inquired into this question of widows' and orphans' pensions presented an excellent report, containing invaluable information about schemes of this kind. They pointed out that our scheme approximated to the scheme in operation in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They recommended that the age of 55 should be the age at which a widow with no child would get a pension. There is an appreciable difference between the ages of 55 and 60 years, and I suggest that the Minister should substitute the age of 55 for that of 60. The argument may be used in the case of a widow whose youngest child had reached the age of 14 or 16 or was taken away from her, that she is in a similar position to a spinster. I do not agree. It must be remembered that when a woman gets married — I am speaking generally — she leaves whatever occupation she has been in and sets up house. During the years of her married life she has been engaged in housework which, in my opinion, is best suited for a woman. That woman has been divorced from employment for a number of years. Owing to the present tendency, only a girl over 16 years of age can get employment in the new factories. The authorities at these factories say that they want only young people to train. It is difficult enough for unmarried women who are a little over 25 years to get employment, but what would be said to a woman who had been away from employment for 20 years and was the mother of a family if she went in search of a job? Who would give her employment? There is no possibility of her getting employment. For that reason, I suggest that the Minister substitute the age of 55 for that of 60 in the Bill, as recommended by the Committee which made this excellent report.

As to the amounts to be paid, the people who know most about the agricultural districts will probably deal with that aspect of the question better than I could. I think it is grossly unfair that the scale laid down under the non-contributory scheme should be worse than the home assistance being given by many of our boards of health. At least, one would expect that widows and orphans would get as much under a Bill of this kind as they would get under the poor law system. I do not think that 5/- a week in rural areas for a widow is sufficient to enable her to keep body and soul together. The Minister will say—I suppose justly—that he would be in favour of increasing the rate but that the difficulty is one of finance. In my opinion, the widows and orphans have a very strong claim on the people. We boast of our Christianity and civilisation. Let us put it to the test. Let us apply Christian principles to the widows and fatherless children — the children from whom the Almighty has taken the breadwinner. Let us do the best we can in all the circumstances to provide for them in a manner which will be a credit to ourselves and to the country to which we belong.

I should like to draw attention to a small question of drafting which arises on Section 34. That section provides for the mode of payment of orphans' pensions — children who have neither father nor mother. The section provides that the pension is to be paid to the orphan's guardian or, if the Minister thinks fit, to some person in lieu of the guardian. "Guardian" has a legal meaning. If the mother is alive, she is the guardian. There are two other kinds of guardians in law. One is a testamentary guardian. It is most unlikely that, in these cases, there will be a testamentary guardian — a guardian appointed by will. The third class of guardian is one appointed by the court, which is also unlikely in these cases. The section merely enables the Minister to pay somebody in lieu of the guardian. I think it ought also to provide for the case where there is no guardian. It is a small point, but the Minister might think it worth while to look into it to make a slight amendment.

After hearing the Minister and Senator Farren, I cannot add much to the debate. Senator Farren says that this is a simple Bill in its terms and application, but I think it is a rather complicated Bill. With Senator Farren, I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of the measure. I thoroughly agree with the principles of it — that widows and orphans are deserving of support and that the State is under an obligation to give them assistance. They are the most deserving and probably the most helpless class in receipt of any sort of social assistance in the State. There are some things in the Bill which it is not easy to understand or agree with. I should like to know in what way the limitation of £8 poor law valuation, in respect of widows in rural districts, and the 5/- per week assistance are arrived at. I do not understand how the Minister or the Government could fix on a farm of an £8 poor law valuation as an economic unit. I have a life long experience of farms of £8 valuation, and my belief is that such a farm would not carry more than three or four cows. Farmer representatives in the Seanad will bear me out that with four cows the maximum income would be £32 a year. We may cut out calves as a source of income under the present régime as they are only worth the price of their skins. I am not saying that in any political sense — I do not want to make any political capital out of it — but I think that with a £32 income, or even £40, out of which a widow will have to pay annuities, rates, and other incidental expenses, the position would be very acute. In my opinion a farm of that valuation is not an economic unit. It merely enables a male worker to find economic work. I believe that in that respect the Bill should be enlarged. I think the poor law valuation should be raised to something in the neighbourhood of £20, especially taking the present economic conditions into account. It has been mentioned by Senator Farren that persons who are to receive non-contributory pensions are being rather harshly treated in relation to others. I do not know how that may be, but it seems to me absurd that 5/- would be considered anything like sufficient for a widow living in a rural district who has to take care of a farm of that character. That farm could only provide work for the male occupier. He would be somewhat in the position of the rural labourer; in fact, if anything, the labourer would be better off, he would have a regular cash income and some other resources which such a farmer would not have. I thoroughly agree with Senator Farren that that is a matter that ought to be gone into if the Bill is worthy of support, and I believe it is thoroughly worthy of it. I and those for whom I speak, at all events, are absolutely in favour of it. I think, however, it is necessary to go a little further, especially in these times. I am talking in a general way. I am not able to go into the Bill in a technical way. But with regard to these matters, I think the Bill does not meet the necessities of the case. I agree with Senator Farren that the Minister ought to consider between now and the Committee Stage whether or not he will make an advance in that particular instance and also in the amount of money that he proposes to give to widows and orphans.

I want to join with Senator Dillon in welcoming the Bill, but as regards the statement that the valuation should be raised to £20, I do not think that many farmers with such holdings would feel complimented by the statement that the widow of a farmer with a £20 valuation would be destitute. I know hundreds of farmers in my own county with holdings of not very much more than half £20 valuation who in the old days sent their children on for professions. Many of them were able to send their children to universities. I agree with a good deal of what Senator Farren has said, but I think he stressed the point of Christian feeling too much. The first thing we want to consider is where the money is to be found for all this outlay that Senator Farren desires. That is a consideration for the Minister. While we would all like to be generous, we must see that our generosity will not hit the majority of the people of this country too severely.

I am sure the Minister is very pleased with all the congratulations he is getting — and he deserves them — for bringing on this measure, which, as Senator Foran has said, has been needed for so long. I should like to add my congratulations to those accorded to the Minister for his move in this direction, but, like Senator Farren, I am rather disappointed. I had visioned at one time that if we ever had a Government of our own, which would bring in a Bill for necessitous widows and children, they would bring in a Bill with the main idea that in order to bring up children with right ideas and as decent citizens of the State, it was necessary to have the mother when she is an all-right mother, as she is in 99 per cent. of the cases, provided with sufficient money to enable her to remain in her home, to keep her home together and look after her children, to educate them, and rear them as decent citizens. Though it might seem that that would cost more in the long run, it would, I think, mean a saving because when the mother has not sufficient money to remain at home and look after her children she naturally has to go out to work, and when she is at work the children are on the streets where they do not learn the things that I consider necessary to make them good citizens. The result is that many of them reach reformatories. Some of them may come out of reformatories all right, but many of them only leave the reformatories to pursue their course of wrong-doing until they reach the gaols. That costs the State a certain amount of money and the reformatories cost the State money. It seems to me that it would be better economics to provide sufficient means for widows to keep their homes and children together. I think it is a national duty in any country to see that the mothers of the children are enabled to remain in their homes which they would be able to do were their husbands living, and to rear their children as good citizens. That is the only criticism of the Bill that I have to offer. I believe it is only a beginning and probably the financial end of it has curbed the Minister's good intentions. But it is a beginning, and I believe eventually we will have amending legislation which will be more in accord with what I am thinking of and which I visioned in the past.

The difficulty in this country of setting up a scheme of widows' and orphans' pensions is obviously the problem of the small holder. In other countries where by far the greater proportion of those who might need this help are wage earners, such a problem would not be serious. Here, obviously, it is serious. I have no doubt that the whole question of a scheme for widows' and orphans' pensions would have been tackled earlier than it was but for the difficult decisions that had to be come to with regard to the widows and orphans of small holders. Previous speakers have suggested, particularly with regard to the small holders, that the provisions of the Bill are perhaps on the meagre side. I have no doubt that this Bill is only the first of a series of Bills which will have to be introduced to deal with this problem. One can see, when experience will show the difficulties and the various aspects of it, that readjustment will be necessary. One can see even in regard to this borderline case of the small holder whose dependents are entitled to benefit and another small holder of £8 10/- valuation whose dependents are not entitled to benefit, that probably when the Act has been in operation for some years that various adjustments will be necessary. I think it is bound to be found in the case of a measure of this sort once it is in operation that the benefits will have to be extended in various directions.

Coming back to the question of the small holder, I suppose it is too late now for any change to be made in this scheme, but I think it is admitted that the benefits are very small in the case of this particular class. Five shillings for the widow, 2/- for the first child and 1/- each for subsequent children is a very small contribution. I think it will be found in a great many cases that the widow of a small holder is practically no better off than the widow of an agricultural labourer. I have seen small holdings of very bad land out of which a man might manage to make a sort of a living when he was in full health and vigour and perhaps was assisted by a little fishing or some other means of earning. When a woman is left alone to carry on such a holding as that it is relatively of little value. When her children begin to grow up and begin to help her, it may again take on some value, but if she has three or four small children the holding is really of little value. She has perhaps a house without rent; the place will provide annuities, but apart from that she is no better off, I think, than the widow of an agricultural labourer without a holding at all. I think it is a pity, therefore, that even in this Bill the widow and orphan of the very small holder is cut down below the level of the dependents of the agricultural labourer. In the case of the agricultural labourer, if the widow has two children the allowance is 14/6 as against 8/- in the case of the widow of the small holder.

Contributory and non-contributory.

I am talking of the widow of the agricultural labourer who has been a contributor; in that case there is a contributory benefit of 14/-, while in the case of a small holder who could not contribute, the allowance is 8/. The Minister, of course, knows that there are many such cases. If you look at it in another way—a widow in those circumstances, with young children, is able to make very little out of her holding and not able to get employment in a rural area. In many areas there is no employment, as everyone knows. Even at agricultural work, there is no employment, because there are no farmers to employ and she is, therefore, left to bring up children on a very small holding on 8/- a week, whereas the old age pension for the individual is 10/- a week. I think that is the most glaring deficiency in the Bill. As I said, it is in relation to these small holders that the difficulty arises. The Government has faced up to that difficulty by giving the State contribution mentioned and also by deciding, and I think rightly deciding, that non-contributory pensions should be somewhat lower than contributory pensions. I think it is a pity that some additional grant — and it would not, on the figures the Minister has given, involve a great deal — was not given in this respect.

Otherwise, I think the Bill will certainly do a great deal of good. It is not so much that the sums obtained are so great; it is not that the benefits will relieve the people of their difficulties, but that the principle of contributions and of support and maintenance for widows and orphans is accepted in the Bill. Also, the help that is given is help that is obtainable as of right and not on the basis of charity as it would be obtained through the machinery already in existence. Therefore, we can all welcome the Bill and I think we can all feel satisfied that, whatever defects we may see in it now, those defects, with others, will be remedied as a result of the legislation which is sure to succeed a Bill which introduces a new system.

I welcome this Bill and I agree with some of the speakers that it is long overdue. It will certainly go a long way towards removing one of the most inhuman blots on our social service system. It will be a great advance upon the present arrangements whereby many a poor widow is forced to allow her children to go into an industrial school or orphanage, in that, as Senator Mrs. Clarke has very properly pointed out, it will allow a mother to bring up her own children. I think it is in the interest of the State, and interest of the children, and in the interest of the whole community that a mother should be allowed to bring up her children. It is better for the children, morally and physically, as well as spiritually. For this reason, I support the Bill but I think that in many respects it might be improved. I think the amount of pensions to be granted is very small in some cases, but as this is only the beginning, I think we may leave it to the future when remedies for defects can be brought forward.

Senators have congratulated the Minister on the introduction of this Bill, but I am inclined rather to commiserate with him on having had to introduce such a Bill. I am quite sure that his desire and his intention was to introduce a Bill which would have been more in keeping with the report of the Committee of Inquiry on this question and I feel certain that he has been forced to introduce provisions into the Bill on the score of economy, on the score of shortage of money, which he finds are very difficult to stand over. I think the statement which the Minister made might well have taken a different form. He pointed out that it was part of a scheme of social amelioration, remedying defects of the social system, and he linked it up with old age pensions, unemployment insurance and health insurance. I draw attention to the fact that this Bill is called a Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill. We have an Old Age Pensions Act and we have Unemployment Insurance and Health Insurance Acts.

The Minister has pointed out how desirable it is, in his view, and I think it is generally conceded, to have a contributory system, that is to say, an insurance system with a State subvention to the insurance fund, but this Bill is a combination of insurance and free pension. I would like the general scheme and finances of the Bill to be looked at from those two points of view. I should like to have the free pensions to the small holder class and the difficulties of that side dealt with quite separately and treated as a State contribution of £156,000 a year and the remainder, the insured persons, dealt with distinctly and the whole picture placed before us in that manner. If that is done, I think we would find that the question immediately arises whether an insurance scheme ought only to bring in benefits to those who come into benefit after a certain period — the future widows and children — or whether existing widows and children should be incorporated in the insurance scheme. Quite rightly, the existing widows have been incorporated in the insurance part of this scheme and the cost has to be borne.

When we were beginning with health insurance, the people who were then brought into benefit, who had not any credits to their account, were brought into benefit and paid for by the succeeding contributions of the insured persons and the State. They were all brought into benefit as part of the insurance scheme, and, I think, it would have been very much better if we had had presented to us a statement of the finances of this Bill on these lines. The position, as I see it, in regard to the financial side, and dealing with the insurance portion, that is to say, the insured population, is that we have at present a State subvention to unemployment insurance of about 22½ per cent. of the benefits paid; in health insurance, about 22 per cent. of the benefits paid; and, in this case, for the first year, it will be a State subvention of about 28 per cent. I am deducting the amount of free pensions to the non-insured smallholder class. Twenty-eight per cent. of the amount paid by way of pensions comes from the State in the first year, but, by the tenth year, it will have been reduced to about 12½ per cent. I think that if subventions similar in relevant amounts, or approximating to those which are being paid under health insurance and unemployment insurance, had been applied to widows' pensions insurance, we would have found that it would have been possible to incorporate the scheme recommended by the Commission from the very beginning.

It is very desirable, I think, that we should have clearly in our minds the position regarding the different areas. I am speaking now of the non-contributory side. The Minister told us that there are county boroughs, towns with a population of over 7,000, and, under the name, "rural areas"— a very misleading name indeed — we have rural areas proper and all those towns under 7,000 population. That is to say, about 10 per cent. of the widows live in towns which are to be treated as rural areas and, in fact, about 76 per cent. of the whole of this scheme of non-contributory pensions is going to be on the basis of the lowest category — the portion that is being complained about by Senator Blythe, Senator Dillon and others. Three-quarters of the whole will be pensions payable, on the non-contributory side, on the meagre scale of 5/- per week for the widow, 2/- for the eldest child, and 1/- for the younger children. Like Senator Farren and others, I am very disappointed indeed by a scheme which reduces these pensions to so low a rate. There would be one possible justification — but it is not in the Bill.

I am afraid that the design of the Bill, especially in view of that section which deals with the repayment to local authorities of sums which they may pay out to prospective recipients, contemplates that home assistance will be reduced where pensions are paid. I think the one possible remedy that could be applied to this fault would be that, either in the Bill or by some other legislative or administrative method, local authorities should be made to realise that the pensions paid under this Bill are not to be taken into account in assessing the amount paid as home assistance. One would hope that the Local Government Department, especially, would have some regard to the prices of goods and the cost to a widow of maintaining a family. I am inclined to press this on every possible occasion, and I find it is necessary on so many occasions to draw attention to the failure on the part of Government Departments and Ministers to realise what it does cost to keep a family in the manner in which they ought to be kept, if they are to live healthy lives. Let us take an illustration. There is a pension of 5/- for the widow, 2/- for the eldest child, and 1/- for the remaining children. Take the case of a widow with four children, without means, which is the normal case. She has a pension of 10/- a week. I do not know what it is imagined would be the cost of maintaining that family. Unless we are to assume that the home assistance that is being paid at present will continue to be paid, this sum is entirely inadequate. The Bill itself throws some light upon the inadequacy of the amount.

There is a very curious provision in the Bill dealing with orphans. An orphan in a county borough, that is a child without either parent, may be sent to an institution or may be maintained outside an institution. If children are not maintained in an institution, the amount allocated for the maintenance of, say, three children is 4/- per child or 12/- in all. But if these three children are living with their mother, the amount allocated for them would be 3/6 for the eldest and 1/6 each for the other two. In arriving at these figures, has any exploration been made of what it costs to keep a child for whom 4/- is allowed? That is the amount allowed for an orphan that has not either parent living. If that is the amount that it is calculated as required to keep an orphan, how can one say that 1/6 is going to keep a child living with its mother? Suppose you put those children into an institution in which there are, say, 200 children, and that all the food required in that institution is bought wholesale. For each child in the institution 3/- per week is allowed, but only 1/6 a week for a child living with its mother.

I have drawn attention on another occasion to a recommendation made by a British Departmental Committee set up under the Ministry of Health on the question of diets in poor law children's homes. That Committee, I may say, was composed of persons of authority on this subject. The last paragraph of their report reads:—

"In a home containing about 200 children, we estimate that the weekly cost, allowing one pint of milk per child daily, would be about 4/6½ per head if all provisions were bought at contract prices."

But a mother is condemned in this Bill not to allow her children one pint, a half pint or a quarter pint of milk daily because she will have to buy these provisions at retail prices and, in addition, will have to provide for the means of cooking and shelter. There is no institution in this country, no matter how meagrely it treats the inmates and no matter how well it is provided for by way of cheap food, that could maintain children in it on the sum allowed to parents in this Bill for the maintenance of their children in their own homes. What is the deduction that one must draw from that? It is that whatever is being paid at the present time by way of home assistance should be continued, and that these pensions must not be allowed to be a substitute for home assistance. There could be only one justification for allowing them to be a substitute for home assistance, even partially, and that would be if the scheme recommended by the Committee were put into force fully, and if the rates planned for the contributory side were implemented. As a matter of fact, the scheme of the Bill, so far as I can read it, was first designed to give the widows and the children the rates recommended by this report, but the Bill now restricts such to future widows after funds have accumulated.

To come back to the question of areas. Let me take the larger towns. I will leave out for the moment the county boroughs because it may be argued that, generally, the rents and the cost of living are higher in these larger towns than in the smaller towns. Take the case of a widow and one child. In such towns as Ballina, Arklow, Enniscorthy, Mallow, Longford, Mullingar, Nenagh, Thurles, 1/6 per week less is allowed to a widow with one child than would be allowed if she happened to be living in Athlone, Carlow, Cobh, or Drogheda. Now, there is surely no justification for that distinction. I wonder whether the Minister can produce any evidence to show, leaving aside the question of rents — there is no difference in rents — that the cost of food, clothing, household requisites and fuel is less in the group of towns with a population of 1,500 than it is in towns with a population of over 7,000. I think it would be impossible to show that there is any difference at all in the great majority of cases, so that, as regards the results of this Bill, we really have to consider the lower range of benefits in respect to nearly all widows for the next five, six or seven years.

I really felt very hesitant as to whether it would be worth while having this Bill put upon the statute book at this stage in its present form, and whether it would not be better to wait for a while until the Minister had been able to persuade his colleagues that something better was necessary. The only thing that makes me feel that it is worth welcoming is what Senator Blythe referred to, namely, that it is creating a psychological change which will make people feel that they are getting this as a matter of right, and it may be that very rapidly, indeed, there will be improvements in the scheme once it is put on the statute book.

The Minister gave us certain details as to probable costs. I hope that before the Committee Stage is reached he will prepare and circulate a financial statement showing how the costs that he contemplates were arrived at, and how they compare with the tables submitted by the actuary and by the Committee, because I cannot reconcile them. I feel that it is necessary that we should know how the first ten years are going to be provided for: what are the probable costs on the one hand and the receipts on the other during this ten-year period, and what are the results likely to be at the end of the ten years. It would be well in doing so that he should differentiate between the small-holder, the permanent non-contributor, and the remainder — what may be called the insured population. The figures presented by the Minister are based upon contributions of 8d. and 4d. in the industrial areas and 4d. and 2d. in the agricultural areas. In both cases, the contributions and benefit differ materially from the basis of calculation in these reports, the contribution being considerably higher and the benefit considerably lower. I have tried, but I have utterly failed to reconcile the figures in the report with the figures which the Minister gave in the Dáil and gave here to-day. I think it is very desirable that the Oireachtas should know upon what basis this scheme is evolved because, bear in mind, it is for the greater part an insurance scheme to which has been added a proposal to give pensions to the widows and dependent children of small-holders with a State subvention to bring them into the general scheme of the Bill. But, mainly, it is an Insurance Bill and, from that point of view, I think it is very desirable that the prospective contributors should know exactly what they are expected to contribute towards it and how their scheme of insurance is to be financed. I feel that it would be much more satisfactory if that were done before the Bill finally passes out of the hands of the legislature.

There are a couple of points that might appropriately be brought forward on the Committee Stage. If the Minister gets a hint of them now in advance he may be the better prepared for them on that stage of the Bill. He referred to the case of a mother who is sent to prison or to an asylum, and to the position of her children. I am not able to trace the section in the Bill, but I understand that where a widow is sent to prison she loses her pension, but that the children are deemed, while the mother is away, to be orphans, and, I presume, would get the orphans' pension. It is rather interesting and, I suppose, is one of the anomalies that inevitably arise, that a widow in a county borough, who has four children, before she goes to prison will receive 15/6, and, in a rural area, 10/-. But after she goes to prison the orphans will receive 16/- in the county borough, and, in a rural area or small town, 10/6, so that, from the point of view of money, it is going to be more profitable to the children for the mother to go to prison, inasmuch as the cost of maintaining the mother will be borne by the State, and rather more than the widow's pension, plus the children's allowance, will be automatically transferred to the orphans. I hope that no change in the Bill which might be made, will alter the probable benefit that is going to be attributed to the orphans in such a case.

There is another matter of some importance in connection with the assessment of means that I would like to have cleared up. In general, one might say that the tests regarding means in this Bill are similar to the test regarding means in the Unemployment Assistance Act. There have been many anomalies, and many grievances have arisen out of the way the Unemployment Assistance Act has been interpreted. Some have been cleared up, but a considerable number still remain. I hope there will not be so many under this Bill. What I am anxious about is the position in, say, the city of Dublin, where a man has been in occupation of a Corporation house for eight or nine years, and is paying instalments towards its purchase by way of rent. The house is his and on his death becomes the property of the widow, with a charge due to the Corporation. Is the income value of that house going to be charged against the widow as means? Under the Bill I am afraid it must, and as years go by and as the purchase instalments increase, the value of the house in the market, as a letting proposition, would be great, and the property value would be assessed and put against the widow as part of her means. If it is not clear, I hope the Minister will accept an amendment to exclude from the calculation of means any income value of such a house. I hope the fact that a person has been living in the house, and that, instead of paying rent, pays by instalments towards purchase, is not going to be put against the widow as part of her property, which she could let and, in that way, probably make half as much again as she is paying in interest and instalments to the Corporation. As things are, and as the Unemployment Assistance Act has been interpreted, I am afraid any such property in the house would be treated as income, and would, of course, detrimentally affect the widow and the children in such a case.

Senator Farren has dealt with a very serious blot in this Bill, which causes the widow with one child to lose her allowance coincident with her loss of the child allowance, when that child attains the age of 14 years. It is certainly a very undesirable state of things that, just at the time that the need is greatest the blow will be heaviest, that both the widow's pension and the child allowance will be deducted from the family income at the same time. Take the case of a widow with two children in Dublin. She is aged 58 years. The eldest child is 13 and the other one 12. For a year after this Bill becomes an Act the widow receives 12/6. Then the eldest child reaches 14, and for the next year her income is 11/-. In another year the second child is 14 and her income nil. That seems to me to be not merely an anomaly but a very great grievance. The presumption is, that what is intended is that the mother shall go out to work, if she can get it, and that the children shall become employed automatically as they reach 14. Another matter that the Minister should persuade his colleagues to relent about is deeming a child an earning child at 14. Where the widow can maintain the children out of other means, by scholarships, or by some other method, when a child becomes 14 and where full-time instruction is carried on, then the child allowance continues. But what proportion of the citizens of Dublin are in a position, after the father has left this world, to maintain children at school for two years beyond 14? At least there should be an inducement, not merely to maintain the children at school at 14, towards which 1/6 per week helps, but that the full pension and value of the children up to 16 years of age should be given, whether they are earning or not, or whether they are at school or not. The most expensive period of child life is between 14 and 16, and it is certainly not merely deplorable but wrong that this Bill should be drawn so that the recommendation of the Committee, and of every scheme that is operating in these counties, should be departed from, and that the 16 years which was recommended should be reduced to 14, except where a child is maintained the full time at school. I hope it will be possible to persuade the Minister, and that he will be able to persuade his colleagues, that that fault of the Bill should be, at least, removed.

I stated at the beginning that I commiserated with rather than congratulated the Minister. I still feel that he has come here with this scheme with regrets, and that in his heart of hearts he feels that the only real thing that he is to be congratulated about is that he is at last getting on the Statute Book a Bill which ensures that there is some right recognised, and not mere charity, and that widows and orphans can claim under it as they claim old age pensions and have certain rights. That is the only thing in the Bill that I think the Minister deserves congratulation upon. Even at this stage I hope it may be possible to improve the Bill, even at the cost of a higher rate of contribution. It has to be taken into account that the deductions from the weekly earnings of workmen are going to be pretty heavy between the various schemes that have been referred to, unemployment insurance, national health insurance and contributions under this Bill. These contributions will tot up to 1/9 per week. That is a pretty heavy income tax. When people are talking about high taxation let them bear in mind that workmen are paying as much as 1/9 per week for income tax, in order to get these social services and pensions. I am sure I am voicing the opinion of everybody capable of expressing the opinions of workmen when I say that rather than this meagre scheme that will apply for several years to the great bulk of the widows and orphans, they would be willing to pay as long as is necessary a higher rate of contribution in order to provide a higher rate of pension. It will be an advantage to have the Bill on the Statute Book, but if I thought it would be likely to be improved if deferred for another year I would very much prefer to have it deferred in that hope.

I think our job is to deal with the Bill we have before us, and to see if we can do anything to improve it. If anyone is going to hold up the Bill, or to put forward proposals it should be remembered that the Dáil would not give the money and that we would be only wasting our time. Undoubtedly Senator Farren, Senator Johnson and those who are looking after the poor, could show where some changes could be made in the way of administration, and in the distribution of the money. Amendments along such lines should certainly be discussed, and if anything is suggested to the Minister in the way of improvement probably it would be accepted. But if we are to go into finance, and to introduce amendments that are going to cost the country more than the Minister could recommend the Dáil to agree to we are only wasting our time. During the discussion I was interested in one particular class. I refer to the non-contributory class of people with valuations of £8, where it would not require a tremendous amount of money to do some good. Having regard to what the Minister said the cost would be it will be seen that it would not be a very big proportion of the amount involved. A suggestion was made by Senator Dillon that the valuations should be raised so as to make the pensions available to more people. Senator Counihan objected to that, and one can see the force of the objection. I believe that meddling with the valuation might be wrong. I do not believe that it would cost a lot to put these non-contributory widows, in possession of small holdings, more on a level with those in receipt of contributory pensions. What Senator Mrs. Clarke referred to — keeping the families together — could be more effectively done in the case of widows who are managing small farms than possibly in any other case. I do not think that it would cost more than £20,000 or £30,000 a year to deal with all widows of that class and some extra contribution might be got. If we go into the larger part of the scheme and alter things so that a big demand will have to be made on State funds, I do not think we will be successful. I do not believe that the Minister for Finance would meet our demand and I doubt if we would be wise in putting it forward. If we can improve this Bill from the point of view of administration, let us do it. But we have got to do it now. I do not agree with Senator Johnson that we should hold up the Bill. I think it would be a great mistake to do anything to delay the Bill.

I did not suggest that.

As Senator Blythe said, let us see from experience how it can be improved. If we could do anything to assist widows on small holdings, under the non-contributory part of the Bill, it would be well, but I think we should not go into such figures as would wreck our own ideas. It is not from me or from anybody associated with me that really useful amendments can come. But we will give every attention to amendments brought forward by those who are in a position to deal with the matter. That, however, must be done quickly and we must do nothing to delay the Bill.

Mr. Kennedy

I should like to draw attention to one point. Under Section 39, it is not quite clear whether the employer under the contributory scheme will be made responsible for any loss through non-compliance, or failure to stamp cards. Under Section 70 of the National Health Insurance Act, that is made clear. I should like the Minister to consider this section of the Bill and to make it clear that an employer will not, by non-compliance or refusal or failure to stamp the cards of his employees, make it possible for the persons concerned to suffer any loss.

With the exception of Senator Johnson, I think there was among Senators generally a disposition to praise rather than blame the Minister for the introduction of this Bill. It is not usual, in my experience, for Ministers to get much praise for the introduction of any Bill. So far as praise is forthcoming in connection with this measure, I am grateful to Senators. It is satisfactory that a measure of this kind which, as several members of the House noted, has been advocated for so many years, is now introduced. I have been listening to advocacy of pension schemes for necessitous widows and orphans for a great many years. I have been receiving literature from at least one society in Dublin in connection with this matter for 25 or 30 years. I have always read their literature carefully, and I have always been sympathetic — as I am sure everybody is—to the idea of pensions for widows and orphans. It is gratifying to me that I happened to be in a position, as Minister for Local Government, to be able to introduce a measure of this kind which, when passed into law, will ensure that necessitous widows and orphans will have a statutory right to pensions. That is something gained. That much, I think, we can claim to have achieved. Senator Farren has evidently studied the Bill with care, as have most of the Senators who spoke on the subject. Senator Johnson, who offered some severe criticisms of the measure, had also studied it carefully. As Senator Counihan said, Senator Farren stressed the attitude of mind which we should adopt in dealing with this matter and spoke of our Christianity. We are not in advance of a great many countries in social legislation but, with regard to widows and orphans pensions, I might point out that some of the oldest established, some of the wealthiest and some of what might be regarded as the most civilised States in the world have not got widows' and orphans' pensions. I should not like it to be taken, therefore, that we are so very backward in our civilisation. Quite a number of the most important States of Europe and, indeed, of the world have not got anything like the measure of social welfare legislation we have here, although this State is only a short time in existence. Many of these States have not even reached the stage when they contemplate the introduction of a widows' and orphans' pensions scheme.

There has been delay in bringing in this measure. The State has been in existence for almost 13 years. A great deal had to be done in that time in organising the State — I am talking of the whole period of the existence of the State — but a great deal has been done in the way of social legislation. Since the present Government came in, we have advanced considerably. We have not satisfied everybody. No piece of social legislation will ever satisfy a publicly-elected Assembly, not to speak of satisfying everybody outside. This measure is an advance—and a distinct advance — on our social legislation. Senator Blythe made a remark which I made in the Dáil, that no legislation of this character can be regarded as permanent or even quasi-permanent. Take the case of the Insurance Acts. There have been many changes in regard to health insurance legislation during the period of the Oireachtas, and that will continue. Similarly in the case of all classes of social services. Practically every year there will be amendments of one kind or another. Seeing the outlook on this question and the advocacy of improved health services and social services, the tendency will be to improve and increase the social services and, probably, to impose a greater burden of taxation — perhaps justly so — on the employer and employed and on the State. What is true with regard to health insurance will, I am satisfied, be equally true with regard to the measure we are discussing to-day. The mere fact of its introduction and the publicity accorded the discussions here will encourage greater interest on the part of the general public and will also encourage greater demands. We will have more knowledge and more intimate acquaintance with the subject as a result of this public interest.

When people get a right of this kind, they very soon forget the advantages. "Eaten bread is soon forgotten." People will be concerned not so much with what they have got but with what they will consider themselves entitled to get in the future. That is human nature. The whole tendency will be to demand more and more benefits and more and more improvements. The scheme of widows' and orphans' pensions will be one of the schemes that will be made better and better and greater benefits will be demanded for what is generally regarded as one of the most deserving classes in the community. I make these general observations now because I want members to realise that I do not think it is possible that there can be any further advance out of State funds to meet amendments which may be put forward in this House. It is, perhaps, regrettable that a measure of this kind, which it is agreed on all sides is a very desirable measure, should be brought in at a time when the economic circumstances of the country are not at their best or rosiest. If times were better, the financial clauses of this Bill would probably be better. Senator Counihan talked of the "good old days." The "old days" are always good. Nobody talks of the present days being good. During the period of greatest affluence in the history of the United States, I never heard anybody say that the times were as good as they ought to be. When you will not get that admission there, you will hardly get it in Ireland. I am not saying that the present times are the best or rosiest, but the present times never are. Perhaps, we look in this way on the old days because we were younger and enjoyed them better. It is regrettable that this Bill is being introduced at a time when we are not, comparatively speaking, at our rosiest period of prosperity. At any rate, it is being introduced and I hope it will pass. I am sure it will, from the expressions of opinion that have been indulged in from all sides of the House to-day, and we will have achieved this much that we will have adopted the principle of widows' and orphans' pensions. We will have given necessitous widows and orphans the right to a certain amount of assistance, and, taking into account the small amount of help that is given to them by this Bill — even 10/- a week in a rural area is a sum of money — it will be help that will be very much appreciated. There is not a member in this House who knows anything about the town or the country who does not know the remarkable work that has been done by some widows. In the case of some of them the larger the number of children they had the greater the success they made of it I know even some members of this House who were reared with a great deal of success by widowed mothers without any support from the State. Some of these men have been a great success and a great credit to Ireland. What is true of individuals that you and I know is true generally of the country. What the State proposes to give them now will be a godsend to many of them no matter how small. Many widows in town and country who are rearing families of four and five without State aid or support from the local authorities, if they have 8/-, 10/- or 12/- a week to get, as they will get according to the size of their families, will think themselves well off. I hope the result will be that they will be in a position to do even more for their children than many of them, without any State assistance, were able to do for their families in the past.

There are many matters of detail which some Senators raised that I am not in a position to give definite answers to at the moment. Senator Farren, I think, stressed the hardship caused by taking pensions from widows who are under 60 years of age. Unquestionably, that is one of the points in the Bill that is most open to criticism, but taking the measure as we have it and the demands on the State, with all its imperfections — I realise the imperfections of the Bill as well as anybody in this House or outside it — I am satisfied that in present conditions we cannot ask the State to do more. To reduce the age to 55 from 60, as suggested by Senator Farren, would cost £62,000 per annum. That is something that, in present circumstances, we could not expect. Senator Farren, in concluding his speech, urged us, taking all the factors into consideration, to do the best we can for them. That is what we are trying to do in present conditions, within the limits of our resources. We have — to use the old cliché—“to cut our cloth according to our measure.” At any rate, this year I tried, and some colleagues of mine who are particularly interested in the subject tried, with Finance to get more generous provisions. When all the pros and cons of the situation were examined, we had to agree that the sum mentioned, so far as the Budget of this year is concerned — and, as far as I can see, for some years, at any rate — was as far as we could go. We had to be satisfied with that or else, as Senator Johnson suggested, postpone the Bill. I do not agree with Senator Johnson. I took what I could get and I will ask for more later.

There is hope of improvement next year.

There is bound to be a growing demand for improvement and that demand must be met some time or another. Senator Brown raised a legal point on Section 34. I will have the matter examined and if the point that he raised needs safeguarding I shall have it done. With regard to Senator Dillon's statement with reference to the limitation of the valuation to £8, I think in most counties an £8 valuation is pretty high. In fact, in most counties what is known as the small holdings make up the greatest number. Take Donegal or Mayo: £8 valuation in these counties is regarded as pretty high for a smallholder. I do not agree with the Senator that we are, so to speak, on the tight side in that direction. I think we have been pretty liberal. I think Senator Counihan was quite right in repudiating the suggestion that the figure ought to be raised to £20. I think that many of the people who have holdings of £20 valuation have done remarkably well all over the country in the past without any State help. I think they will continue to be able to manage despite the hard times, I know Senator Counihan is satisfied, we are going through.

I quite agree with a good deal of what Senator Blythe said about the small holders and their difficulties. There are many smallholders who are worse off than agricultural labourers, because they have not got the regular income that most of the agricultural labourers have. Small though that income is, there is something regularly coming into them and that is not true always of a great many of the small holders. That is one of the difficulties that we were up against, and probably it was one of the reasons why a measure of this kind — I do not know whether it was contemplated or not — was not introduced during the régime of the last Government. We decided to face the difficulty and deal with it in the way in which we have dealt with it, by putting these small holders into the non-contributory class. I know that some of the points that were raised against the measure by Senator Johnson were good. Though he raised a good many points of objection and of criticism — and so did Senator Farren — I think if I went through the Bill I could raise a good many more. But on the whole the Bill is one that the House should be glad to receive and pass. If there are any such amendments, as Senator Jameson suggested, which might be feasible in matters of administration, I shall certainly examine them most carefully and in the most sympathetic manner. I am anxious to improve the Bill and to make its administration as smooth and easy as possible. But with regard to additional finance, as I said earlier, I am afraid, in present conditions, I cannot ask the Executive Council to add any more to the cost of the measure as it stands.


I hope the House will allow me from the Chair to congratulate the Minister on his good fortune in having the honour of his name being associated with the principle enshrined in this measure which is so long needed.

Question —"That the Bill be now read a second time"— put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 17th July.
The Seanad adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until Wednesday, July 17th, at 3 p.m.