Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, 1935—Committee.

Section 1 agreed to.
the expression "the appointed age" when used in relation to a child means the age of fourteen years, except in the case of a child who on attaining that age is under full-time instruction in a day school and continues under such full-time instruction after such attainment, when the said expression means the age (not exceeding sixteen years) up to which such child remains under such full-time instruction;

I move amendment No. 1:—

Section 2, sub-section (1). To delete all from the word "fourteen" in line 48 down to the end of line 53, inclusive, and to substitute therefor the words "sixteen years except in the case of a child over fourteen years of age employed as a wage-earner under any contract of service or apprenticeship either expressed or implied when the expression means the age (not under fourteen years) at which such child becomes so employed."

It looks as though it would be advisable to have this meeting of the Seanad on the Commitee Stage of this Bill in a small ante-room. We might be able to deal with the Minister more effectively if we had a small room with this size of an audience to discuss the matter over a table. The definition section of the Bill includes a definition of the expression "the appointed age," and the appointed age, when used in relation to a child, means the age of 14 years, except in the case of a child who goes to school after that age for full-time instruction in a day school, in which case the appointed age is 16 years. The amendment seeks to make the appointed age 16 years except in the case of a child who is sent out to work. The amendment is in conformity with the recommendations of the Committee on which the insurance side of this Bill is founded, and it seems to fit in much more reasonably with the requirements.

I ask the Minister to bear in mind the point that I made on the Second Reading of the Bill, that this Bill has two separate parts; that is to say, an insurance part and a State assistance part. This definition, I would point out, will apply, not merely to the State assistance side, but to the insurance side; that is to say, that when the transitory period is passed the appointed age of 14 will continue even when insurance proper is in effect. If we allow the expression "fourteen years" to remain in the Bill, that certainly will add to the assumption that the policy behind the Bill is to continue the practice of sending children out to work at that age. Now the policy of the Government, in other aspects, tends towards raising the age at which children will be sent out to work, and if we are to assume that the intention of the Government in this matter, in dealing with children, is to raise the age at which they will be sent out to work, then the definition in the Bill presupposes an interregnum during which there would be no allowance payable in respect of a child. I think it would be in accordance with every idea that the Government have given expression to, to provide that where the child is not at work 16 years should be the age.

The proposition in the Bill is that if a child is attending full-time instruction in a day school the allowance will be payable for such a child up to the age of 16. But we have the problem in the mass of cases of how to keep children at school up to 16 years when there is no provision in the education scheme for doing so due to the fact that the schools are not capable of taking them. There are many difficulties in maintaining the position if we want to insist upon children being at school up to 16. One is that there will have to be a great many administrative changes.

The point that I want to insist upon is that we ought not to let it go out under the cover of his Bill that the Oireachtas, following the lead of the Ministry, assumes that the normal course of a child's life will be to leave school at 14 and to go out and earn. If that is not the intention of the Oireachtas, then we should say that the child who is not at work will be deemed to be a child for the purposes of this Act until he or she reaches the age of 16. That is the case that I have to make in favour of the amendment. Again, I would point out that this definition applies, not only to those children who come under the provisions of the non-contributory part, but also to those who come within the provisions of the contributory part and that, I submit, is an important point when considering the definition.

It is important, as Senator Johnson says, to bear in mind that this definition takes into account the insurance side of this Bill as well as the non-contributory side. It was on the actuary's figures that were given to us when drafting the Bill that the finances of the measure, as presented, were arranged. If the change which the Senator proposes in his amendment were accepted it would alter the financial structure of the Bill. It would alter both the insurance side and the non-contributory side. It would radically affect the Bill, and it would add, I am sure, a considerable amount to the cost. Provision for that additional cost has not been made in this year's Budget. The school-leaving age at present is 14. The law of the land is that children must go to school until they are 14 years of age. This Bill only takes into account the actual state of the law. It does not seek to alter it. There will be no new declaration by the Oireachtas in so far as this Bill is concerned. If the Bill, as it stands at present, is passed, it simply adopts the law as it is, and directs the House to enact this legislation in accordance with that law. What Senator Johnson says about the school-leaving age and the difficulty of changing it is, of course, quite true. I know that the present Government has given consideration and is giving consideration to having the question of raising the school-leaving age examined. It is not alone from the economic but from other points of view that many people —some of them sound educationists— think that it would be better to have the school-leaving age raised to 16. I suggest that until there has been a decision to change the law we ought not to change it in the indirect way suggested here. It is an indirect way to change the law or, at any rate, to a certain extent the principle behind it. It would also have the effect of upsetting the basis of the finances of the Bill which have been arranged on an actuarial basis in so far as the insurance portion of this Bill in particular is concerned.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2:—

Section 2, sub-section (1). After the word "attainment" in line 51 to insert the words "or who on attaining that age is precluded from receiving such full-time instruction because of physical or mental infirmity."

I am sure the Minister will agree to accept this amendment which I consider is a very reasonable one. The Bill provides that pensions shall be paid in respect of children up to 14 years or if a child is in full-time attendance at school up to the age of 16. This amendment provides that if a child because of physical or mental infirmity is unable to attend full-time at school between 14 and 16 years of age the mother will not be deprived of the pension. I am sure that on consideration the Minister will accept it. If a child between 14 and 16 years of age is unable to attend school because of illness surely the allowance in respect of the child will not be taken away. I think the amendment is reasonable and that the Minister will accept it.

It is not easy for me to combat every amendment on the Order Paper that appears reasonable. There are some that strike a sympathetic chord in my heart and that I should like to accept. There are others which I do not regard with the same amount of sympathy. If there is one that I should like to include in the Bill it would be an amendment of this kind. But again the Bill is very largely an Insurance Bill and it has been drafted on insurance principles. It has not been drafted with regard to disability or infliction. It is a Pensions Bill and the benefits determined for widowhood and orphanhood, if I may use the word, have not any relation to afflicted children. There are other ways of dealing with children who are afflicted. Provision is made by the State in various ways for such children, some may say not all the provision that there should be made, but some is made, and the probability is that in time better provision will be made for such afflicted children. There are children who at the age of 15 or 16, though suffering from disabilities, are in employment.

While, as I say, I view this with sympathy, I find difficulty in accepting anything that would add to the cost, at any rate so far as this year is concerned, of this Bill. As I said on the Second Reading, I do not take the same view as some do, that we ought to have waited and brought in a Bill with more generous financial provision in various ways. I fought for this Bill and got it through, even in times of financial stress, on the plea that we could work it, at any rate for some time, within a certain amount. Having got sanction so far for it and for the various commitments contained in it, I am loth to go back even for a case that I have sympathy with and demand more money that I doubt would be forthcoming this year.

In view of the Minister's emphasis upon provision for this year, I wonder if he would accept this amendment dated from next year. If he would not, then that particular defence against this amendment falls. Frankly, I thought that this was merely filling up a gap which, inadvertently, had crept into the definition. I did not imagine it possible that the Minister would decline to accept the amendment, which brings within the definition of children those from 14 to 16 years who are not able to go to school because of mental infirmity. Let us leave out physical infirmity for the moment and argue it on the basis of mental infirmity.

One knows that there are not very large numbers who are going to be brought in by this amendment but there will be some and it is in regard to those few that the unjust and unreasonable feature of the definition as drafted would show itself. The parent would like to send the child to school; possibly it is done in a country town. Possibly the mental affliction did not show sufficiently to ensure that the child should be sent to a home, but as soon as that child becomes 14 years of age the 3/6 a week is to be stopped from the mother. I am not speaking of the preliminary conditions alone but of insurance conditions. The widow has been receiving, say, 3/6 per week in respect of the child. It arrives at 14 years of age, and if she could arrange with the school teachers to take the child then she would continue to get her allowance in respect of that child, but if that is not possible and she has to keep the child she is going to lose the allowance which is paid to her in respect of that child.

I suggest to the House to take the responsibility from the Minister. Let us appreciate the Minister's position and say to the Dáil: "This at least we ask you to do to remedy a defect in the Bill." I think it is a most reasonable amendment, that it would cost very little and would prevent happening a great deal of injustice. I must say that I think the Minister would be glad to be overborne on this point by the House.

As I said earlier, I am loth to make a strong case against an amendment of this kind dealing with afflicted children. At the same time, I do not think it would be right or proper to give a promise for next year. God knows what may happen next year, and it would probably mean further legislation. If the House would agree to leave the matter over until Report Stage I will do my best to see what can be done.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The same arguments apply to amendment No. 3.

Amendment No. 3, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

On the definition of this full-time instruction in a day school, I wonder has the Minister examined the efficacy of this definition. It seems to me to be a little unsatisfactory. A day school is not defined but I dare say in the education code what it means is understood. We are developing trade preparatory schools and technical schools, some of which are conducted during the day time. I am wondering whether within this definition a boy or girl who goes to such an educational institution or school would be deemed to be undergoing full-time instruction in a day school. I raise that point with the Minister to draw his attention to it. If he has not examined it closely I wish he would do so with the intention that it will include all children who attend full time schools of any kind provided it includes tuition at school and their study after school; that is to say, that they are not sent out to work. I take it to be the intention here that tuition at a vocational school, a trade preparatory school or such like, will be treated as instruction in a day school.

The intention is to give it as wide an interpretation as possible, and to include trade preparatory schools and such like courses, provided that a reasonable number of hours per week is spent in the schools by the children.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

I desire to draw the attention of the Minister to cases of great hardship that are not dealt with in the Bill. I refer to cases where the mother is dead and where the father is a worthless type, with whom nothing can be done except to put him into jail. The children in such cases are often worse off than children whose father is dead but whose mother is alive. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, with which I am connected in a small way, is in touch with many cases where there is terrible destitution and poverty amongst poor children whose mothers are dead. It seems hard to exclude such cases from a Bill of this kind. The father of these children is generally a worthless scoundrel, for whom there is no treatment except to keep him in jail, because the children are worse off when he is not there. Another type of case is one where the mother is dead and the father is a bankrupt and is going to be kept an undischarged bankrupt. A case of that kind was brought to my notice concerning respectable children who were brought up in refined circumstances while the mother was alive, and who have nothing before them now but to be sent to industrial schools. If a little help was given to their relations perhaps it would save the children from the fate of having to be sent to industrial schools.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:—

Section 5, sub-section (2). To insert before the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) For the purpose of this Act an employed contributor shall be deemed to be an insured person for a period of thirty months after the last date on which contributions under this Act are paid in respect of his insurable employment.

The case I want to make is this: that a man might have been insured from 25 to 30 years, and during that period may have paid contributions for national health insurance purposes, and may have been fortunate enough not to have suffered any illness and never to have received one penny for all these contributions. It may happen that he was then unfortunate enough to have lost his employment and not to secure other employment. He would then go out of insurance after a certain period, and if he died his widow and orphans would be deprived of the full benefits of the contributory scheme. That seems to me to be a great hardship on the dependents of a man who was in employment during the best part of his life, and who then lost it through no fault of his own. There should be some period of grace given from the last date on which national health insurance has been paid. There is a tremendous difference for the widow and orphans in the benefits to be obtained under the contributory scheme and the non-contributory scheme, as to whether or not at the time of death he was what was known as an insured contributor under national health insurance.

I referred to this matter on the Second Reading and also to the payment of arrears. Under present conditions if a person had one or two stamps on a card at the beginning of the contribution year he would be entitled at the end of that year to pay the arrears of contributions at a reduced rate, and therefore would be entitled in the next benefit year to be in full benefit for national health insurance purposes. Some consideration must be given to this important point, because, for all practical purposes, in a case of that type the man was in insurable employment practically all his life and continued to pay national health insurance contribution. A fair period of grace should be allowed during which time that person would be considered a national health insurance contributor, so that, in the event of death, his widow and orphans would be treated as if he had remained an insured contributor. I know that a limit must be drawn. I think we ought to be able to arrive at what would be a fair limit. The Minister knows that a tremendous hardship will be entailed by the administration of this Bill on the widow and orphans of a man who a year or two prior to his death may have lost his employment. If the Minister is not prepared to accept this suggestion of 30 months, perhaps he would consider the matter before the Report Stage. Regulations will have to be made defining the arrears. The Bill provides that during three years prior to the death of the contributor 26 stamps will have to be paid, but it does not say if that person would be entitled to pay up the arrears of contributions in order to have the required number of stamps. I have been a trade union official for a great number of years, and I was one of the first secretaries of a National Health Insurance Society. As such I administered the Act, and from my experience of the difficulties that arise some consideration must be given to the question of arrears, and as to whether an insured contributor would be entitled to pay off some of these arrears. As this is very important I am asking the Minister to agree to consider it, or to give an opportunity for consultation. The National Health Insurance regulations with regard to arrears of contributions will have to be altered in order to comply with the provisions of this Bill. I urge the Minister to give the question earnest consideration. If he is prepared to do so, the amendment could be left over until the Report Stage.

There is something to be said for the point of view put forward by Senator Farren, but one would imagine from his speech that no provision is made to give some time to people who fall out of employment. A period of 12 months' grace is already given in the National Health Insurance Act, and that applies to the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, which is based on the national health insurance law as it stands. No matter what period of grace is given, even at the end of five years, you might find that some cases of hardship could be brought up. The question of arrears does not come under this section. It comes on later. It is a question about which difficulties have arisen under national health insurance. The question of the free period of a year arises. The Senator suggests 30 months. I think 12 months is a reasonable amount of time. Of course there are ways in which the difficulties suggested by Senator Farren might be got over, and a person who is out of employment might possibly become a voluntary contributor. Apart from this, under the national health insurance scheme, it will be necessary in the next 12 months to revise and recast the regulations, when the question of arrears will be one of the big questions that will have to be gone into. Whatever affects national health insurance in the free year will affect widows' and orphans' pensions. Perhaps the Senator would agree to leave the matter over. I will certainly agree to consult with the different organisations concerned when the question of the arrears period in national health insurance is being revised and reconsidered.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Sections 5 and 6 agreed to.
(2) In this Act the expression "urban area" means any urban district (not being a county borough), the population of which (as shown by the census of population which is for the time being the latest such census) exceeds seven thousand.

I move amendment No. 5:—

Section 7, sub-section (2). To delete the words "urban district" in lines 41-42 and to substitute therefor the word "town" and to delete the word "seven" in line 44 and to substitute therefor the word "two."

This amendment deals with the classification of towns. It is another definition section, if I might say so. For the purpose of this Bill a rural area would include Dungarvan, Enniscorthy, Killarney, Nenagh, New Ross, Thurles, Ballinasloe, Ballina and a dozen other towns. It does not seem to mean very much, saying it that way, but it means a good deal in the administration of the non-contributory scheme. I am sure the answer the Minister will make will be that, because it means a good deal, it is so classified. We are asked to assume in passing this section as it stands that a widow in one of the towns I have mentioned is in a better position to provide for herself and her children, on a lower weekly allowance, than a widow in towns like Clonmel, Carlow and Athlone. I cannot see that that kind of definition or classification has any justification at all and I would very much rather see that towns over 7,000 in population but which are not county boroughs, would be classified with the smaller towns up to 2,000, and the smaller towns get the benefit of the funds that would be available for the larger towns, that is to say, funds should be pooled, and whatever sum is now allocated to the larger towns should be spread over the whole. This classification for the purposes of the Act runs counter to the general scheme of local government administration and I cannot see that there is any justification for it at all.

I again draw attention to the fact that if one takes the number of widows in the country, whether necessitous or not, according to the census returns, these rural areas including the towns I have spoken of, really comprise 76 per cent. of the country as a whole. That may be subject to some modification if one takes only necessitous widows, but one may speak in terms of three-fourths of this Bill having effect on the scale applicable to the rural areas. I am asking the Minister and the House to agree that the rural areas shall comprise only purely rural areas and towns of 2,000 and less. It would seem to be a more logical kind of classification inasmuch as it approximates to the local government scheme as a whole, not perhaps precisely so, but nevertheless, much nearer the facts than the scheme of this Bill. I move the amendment.

I do not like to be harping always on the basis upon which the Bill is drafted, but, unfortunately, I have to do that. The Bill as it stands brings in 12 urban areas with a population of roughly about 124,000 people. The amendment suggested by Senator Johnson will bring in an additional 61 urban areas with a population of 214,000, and that would be a serious upset to the financial arrangement we have proposed in the Bill. I cannot give anything like an accurate estimate of what the additional cost would be, but it would be very considerable on the basis of the amendment of Senator Johnson, and I do suggest that in these small towns— take Enniscorthy, one of the towns that Senator Johnson suggested, a town that I happen to know a little of; I do not happen to know the other towns he mentioned so well—that the life there and the scale of living does approximate to a rural area pretty well. I think that on the basis of the Bill as it stands it is not doing an injustice to these people. It is possible that there might be a greater injustice done in the other way. I am afraid I cannot accept the amendment.


Is the Senator pressing the amendment?

There is no use pressing it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7 and 8 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:—

New section. Before Section 9 and in Part I of the Bill to insert a new section as follows:—

9.—Sections six, ten and twelve of this Act shall be construed and have effect subject to the provisions that

(a) any person aggrieved by the decision of the Minister in any matter decided by him under the said sections may appeal from that decision in the High Court, and

(b) the Minister may, if he thinks fit, instead of himself deciding any such question, refer the question for decision to the High Court.

This, I think, raises a matter of principle. There are certain sections, Nos. 6, 10, and 12, which deal with the possibility that there may be disputes as to whether a person is in agricultural employment or not. But bear in mind that the scheme of the Bill provides a differential in the rate of contribution of a person in agricultural employment and the rate of pension applicable to such person in the case of widows and children. Section 6, for instance, defines agricultural employment, but if any question arises as to whether any particular employment is agricultural, then the Minister shall decide.

This question applies to insurance, not merely to the non-contributory part of this Bill. There is a definite rate of contribution towards the insurance side, and there is a definite rate of pension as between the applicant and the fund. It is provided that when a dispute arises as to what category a person shall be in, the Minister shall decide. The proposition is that if the person aggrieved by the decision of the Minister wishes, he may appeal to the High Court or if the Minister has any qualms as to what the true interpretation is, he may, if he wishes, refer the matter to the High Court for decision. I think the amendment is in accord with the Health Insurance Acts and as this Bill is going to be administered by the health insurance people very largely, and is part of a general code of insurance, it is desirable there should be some harmony between the different insurance schemes as to the relations of the insured persons and the paying authority; who is to decide the category in which the person shall be placed, in the first case, what he shall contribute and in the second case, what pension shall be paid.

In Section 10 a somewhat similar point arises as to whether employment is normally agricultural, and that is one of the cases that would probably be more difficult to decide. I do not know how this is going to be administered, if I may say so, incidentally. When is the decision to be made as to what kind of employment the person is engaged in if there is any difference of opinion? Is it at the time he is paying his contribution or is it when the matter of pensions is under discussion? If the person has been paying a contribution of 4d. on the understanding that he is in agricultural employment, or—shall I put it the other way?—if he is paying 8d. of a contribution on the understanding that he is not in agricultural employment and when the question of pension arises, may the Minister decide that he was engaged in agricultural employment and is so only entitled to the agricultural pension?

There is plenty of room there for conflict and as between the paying-out authority, which, we will say, is the Minister, and the applicant, surely it is not reasonable to say that the last word should rest with the Minister and that it should not be possible for the applicant, if he feels aggrieved as to the Minister's decision, to have recourse to the High Court. That is the amendment that is down and it seems to be reasonable. It is in conformity with the Health Insurance and Unemployment Insurance laws and, I think, should be incorporated in this particular Bill.

I think it will be agreed that on Sections 6, 10 and 12, to which this amendment of Senator Johnson's refers, the questions likely to arise under one of these sections are not questions of law, but questions of fact—is the person in agricultural employment, or is he not? It would be better in the interests of the person concerned to leave the determination of this question of fact to the official in the Department. The Minister, of course, is in the Bill, but it very rarely happens under the Old Age Pensions Acts that any question is referred to him. It would have to be out of the ordinary, and very unusual before it would come to me. The same type of decision has to be made in the old age pensions section every week of their lives by the officials who decide old age pension questions. They have to decide questions of fact. They do not regard them from a strictly legal viewpoint, as would happen if the questions went to the courts, for the courts are bound by the law in a strictly legal sense.

It is my experience, and it was before I became a Minister, that the decisions of the officials dealing with old age pensions are humanitarian decisions. They are not bound around with red tape. We know they are civil servants, but they are experienced and are not hide-bound in these matters. They meet people who go in to discuss these questions with them. There is not a day in the year when there is not some Deputy or Senator in discussing these matters of pensions with the Appeals Board. The same would apply here, and I think a decision would be given more in the interest of the individual, and not on very strict legal lines, bound as the judges in the courts naturally are. For the benefit of all concerned, I think it would be wiser to leave the legal High Court decision out of it and to leave it to the officials to administer with the spirit of liberality and a humanitarian outlook.

I am sure that is perfectly true in regard to the bulk of individual cases, but I have in mind the kind of case that will be taken as a test case in respect of a group of types or classes. Assuming that everything the Minister says about the breadth of view and the generous treatment of the applicants in these cases is correct, and I am not for a moment inclined to dispute it, the probability in some cases and the possibility in many cases is that the Minister's advisers will be inclined to say that this particular class or group is agricultural employment or is not agricultural employment, as the case may be. We are not speaking entirely without some precedent in mind. Under some of the Acts there have been disputes, and there are disputes pending, as to whether employment is agricultural employment, is exempted employment, or is not exempted employment. The Minister has decided against the applicant, and appeals are being made to the courts for the purpose of getting their decisions. As a matter of fact, the appeal to the Minister has been ineffective. That is to say, what the applicants believed to be provided for by the law is contradicted by the Minister. In this case, it was not the Minister for Local Government who was concerned; it was another Minister. There are other instances where, knowing there is a possibility of appeal, the Minister's view undergoes some modification. That, again, is a factor that will weigh with the people concerned, especially where typical cases are being taken. I should hope that there would never be occasion for appeal to the High Court. The fact that provision was made for the possibility of appeal to the court in case of dispute between the paying authority and the insured person would be a certain protection and would give confidence. Confidence is a big factor in these cases, and it is not always desirable, even from the point of view of the Minister, that he should be administrator of the law and the judge of what was legislatively intended. That, of course, is a vexed question on a much wider field than this. I think we ought to keep in line, so far as we can, with the other sections of the social, ameliorative code of which this Bill will form part. I have no confidence that the inclusion of this particular section will be of great benefit, but there is a certain principle involved which I think is desirable—that if there is dispute between the paying and the receiving authority, the claimant and the Minister, as to what class the individual is a member of, then the Minister, as the paying authority, should not be the person to make the final and irrevocable decision.

A point raised by Senator Johnson is of some importance. That is the point as to the payments to be made and the stamps to be put on the cards. Will some indication be given by the Department, on general lines, as to what is agricultural employment? It is not at all clear from Section 6. Take the case of a gardener who works three-quarter time in the garden and one-quarter time in the house. Is he a domestic servant or is he in agricultural employment under this section? There is a class of people employed by many householders—a class who work in the garden for the greater part of the week and who are used for domestic employment during the remainder of the week. These and kindred cases may create difficulty. Will it be possible to find out, from some general instruction issued by the Department, what stamps are to be put on in these cases? If people have to wait until the question of pension arises, it will be too late. In the event of a misunderstanding and the wrong stamps being affixed, what will the position be? If the payments are too small and the person is dead, will it mean that the pension cannot be paid to the widow? In the case where the pension is on the smaller scale, though the larger stamps were affixed, will the difference in the value of the stamps be made good to the widow, or will there be any other way of dealing with the matter?

Regulations will have to be issued. They have not yet been drafted. These regulations will be issued through the usual channels— the Post Office, Gardá stations, and the National Health Insurance Society. Every person insured for health purposes will get a copy of the leaflet. The issue mentioned by Deputy Douglas will have to be raised and there will have to be a method found to determine, at the outset, the classes of people who will be regarded as employed in agriculture or other occupations. There is another way at present of determining whether a person is in agricultural employment or not—that is, whether or not the person is insurable under the Unemployment Insurance Act. If a person is insurable under that Act, he is not engaged in agricultural employment.

Then the applicant will have to wait for a decision by the courts?

I hold that it will be more favourable to the individual to leave the matter to the determination of the Minister and of his advisers than to adopt the method suggested by Senator Johnson.

Amendment put and negatived.

Section 9 agreed to.
Question proposed:—"That Section 10 stand part of the Bill."

I should like to have a point made clear on this section. The Minister has dealt with the question raised by Senator Douglas. He says that regulations will give a general or precise indication as to what class of employment shall be deemed to be agricultural employment. I presume that persons engaged in other employments will have to pay contributions on the higher scale. I do not see how justice will be done when the Minister on being applied to for a pension on the basis of nonagricultural contributions decides that the employment was agricultural employment—that is to say, 8d. has been paid, but only 4d. worth is to be given. The Minister is to be asked to say that the widow of a person who, following a general direction in good faith, pays 8d. per week for years is to be paid her allowance on the basis of a 4d. contribution. It seems to me that that problem ought to receive further consideration by the Minister and that some alteration in the Bill should be made before it leaves the Oireachtas.

There is another problem on which the Minister may be able to throw some light. "Relevant period" means in relation to a person who died on or after the date on which he attained the age of 70 years, "the period of three years immediately preceding the said date, but in calculating the said period of three years no account shall be taken of any unbroken period ending on the said date during which such person was incapable of work by reason of some specific disease or mental or bodily infirmity." I do not understand the position in the case of a person who was infirm for a year before death. Is the broken period three years preceding that year or three years preceding the date of death? On paragraph (b), the same question arises in relation to persons who died before attaining the age of 70. Does the definition refer to three years immediately before the date of death or three years prior to the incapacity?

Prior to the incapacity.

That is a matter which should be made clear. I ask the Minister to look into it and to make clear that it is the three years before the date of incapacity which is to count.

If it is not sufficiently clear, I shall look into the wording and have the matter clarified before Report Stage. The intention is that the period should be three years prior to the date of incapacity. With regard to the other point raised by Senator Johnson, I think that the interpretation by any Minister would be that if a person paid the higher rate of contribution—8d.—morally as well as legally his widow should be entitled to the full rate of pension. That would be my interpretation.

Does the Bill provide for that?

I think it is pretty clear.

In that case, an employee, by arrangement with his employer, could get the additional benefit.

There will be inspectors whose duty it will be to examine into these matters.

Examination does not take place under the national health scheme until something happens. In many cases there is not an inquiry except on the question of age or if the stamp is outside the normal category. Taking the Minister's statement, any man whose stamp would be only 4d. because he was legally an agricultural labourer, could, nevertheless, by the operation of doubt or, possibly, by agreement with his employer, by putting on the higher stamps, get the benefit of the higher pension for his dependents if the occasion arose. In that case, he would be endeavouring, by agreement, to get the larger benefit. From the point of view of strict insurance, that might not be unfair, but it might be held to be unfair in this case, as the State makes a contribution.

That could be done, but we have got to take into account the intention to defraud. If it was clear that there was an intention to defraud the State, the larger benefit would not, I take it, be paid. It is correct, as Senator Douglas says, that these matters might not be decided until something had happened. But the proportion of persons at present who are in national health insurance and who get benefit some time or another is very great. The proportion of people who send in their cards claiming benefit and whose cases are examined is pretty high. I cannot recall what the percentage of cases is, but in that way the numbers of people who, over a year, will claim benefit and whose cases will be examined by the officials of the National Health Insurance, who call and inquire into these cases—they inquire practically into every case of that kind—is pretty high. Therefore, the number who would intentionally try to defraud and who would escape detection would not be very great. Some cases, of course, would go through, but they would be a very small proportion.

I was not speaking of an attempt to defraud, but of the problem of the agricultural labourer who, having been employed by a farmer, and having his card stamped on a 4d. basis, then goes to work for a few weeks for a non-agriculturist and gets his card stamped with the 8d. stamp. It is in that kind of in-and-out employment that I see the difficulty, and I should like to know whether it is intended that there shall be a different type of stamp, as I suppose there must be, and that the card will be stamped with, say, 15 nonagricultural stamps and 15 agricultural stamps, or some other number, and that, at the time of the application, the stamps for the relevant period will be examined and judgement come to on the basis of the stamps on the card. That would seem to me to make the problem a very simple one, if the card, stamped in that way, were to be the evidence. But if other factors are going to be brought into consideration, then the difference in the amount of the stamps, and the number of stamps of one valuation compared with the number of stamps of another valuation, that raises complications that I cannot see through at all. I hope that the Minister will go into that matter.

May I suggest that the Minister could really get over this difficulty by putting a small section in the Bill to provide that, in the event of it being found that claims were being made on stamps that had been put on over what need have been put on, a refund could be given to the widow. There would be no grievance there, and if it had been paid over a certain time, then the widow would have a small sum repaid to her and the employer would not be under a heavy loss either. I think that that would get over the difficulty.

I can see great difficulties arising with regard to this particular matter. Take County Dublin as an example. Quite a number of men in County Dublin work for a certain period of the year on the roads, and during the period of work on the roads, being employed by the County Council, their cards would be stamped at the full rate of the additional 8d. These men, at certain periods of the year, go around to the various farmers and work at threshings. I think that is correct.

They go from farmer to farmer and are engaged for a period of from two to three months going around from one place to the other, working at threshings and such work, and during these periods their stamps would be put on at the agricultural rate. I can see great difficulty arising in determining how you are going to arrive at the proper value that should be placed on these stamps in the event of this man dying and his widow claiming a pension. There is a real difficulty there. I am speaking from practical experience, because, as some members here know, I had a good deal to do with the County Dublin labourers for a number of years. I know the conditions of employment there and I know that for certain periods of the year men are engaged on agricultural work and, at other periods of the year, they are engaged on road work and other work of that kind. I do not think that this can be settled by a discussion here now, but I suggest that some steps will have to be taken to deal with that situation, because it covers a tremendous number of men. I am sure that Senator Wilson and Senator Counihan will bear me out when I say that great numbers of men will be concerned in this and that it involves very careful consideration. Some steps will have to be taken to deal with that matter.

I think there is a good deal to be said for what Senator Farren has stated and I think the Minister should keep this matter over for the Report Stage and look into it.

Yes, but I would say right off that if a case, such as Senator Farren had in mind, came up before the Department, where a man was employed for two months of the year in agricultural employment and for six or eight, or even ten years, at road work or similar work that might be regarded as industrial employment, if he had a qualifying number of stamps at the higher rate, he would get the benefit of the higher rate. If he had, say, 30 weeks in industrial employment at the higher rate, and 20 weeks at the other rate, his widow would get the benefit of the higher rate.

That would be deemed to be normal?

Yes, the higher rate would be deemed to be normal.

Section 10 put and agreed to.

My attention has been called to a word in Section 11, line 25, and I ask the House, with your permission, Sir, to allow me to make an amendment. The phrase in the section reads "is the orphan child of a man or widow". It is felt that that might exclude an orphan of an unmarried woman, and it is not the intention that the child should be penalised. Accordingly, with the permission of the House, I would ask leave to insert the word "woman" instead of the word "widow".

I move the amendment asked for by the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 11, as amended, put and agreed to.
Sections 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 put and agreed to.
(1) In this Part of this Act the expression "small holder" means a person who—
(a) is the occupier of a holding or holdings of agricultural land the valuation or the total valuations of which does or do not exceed eight pounds, and
(b) is not the occupier or owner of any rateable hereditament or hereditaments (other than agricultural land) the valuation or the total valuations of which would, if added to the valuation of such holding or the total valuation of such holdings exceed eight pounds.

On behalf of Senator Dillon, I move amendment No. 7:—

Section 18, sub-section (1). To delete the word "eight", line 27 and to substitute therefor the word "twelve".

The House will remember that Senator Dillon, when discussing the Second Stage of this Bill, argued very strongly for the valuation to be raised to £20. A number of farmers' representatives objected to that valuation, but, in discussing the matter, a couple of cases of very great hardship were pointed out. In further discussion on the subject, we agreed that £12 would be a reasonable compromise. We have come to the conclusion, in looking carefully into the matter, that a widow with a small farm is in a very helpless position. In many cases, those widows, through their upbringing and training, are absolutely unfitted for outdoor work, and very often are much worse off than widows in towns and cities, or the widows of agricultural labourers or artisans. Senator Jameson's plea had a great effect on us and, I am sure, on the House, and we have come to the conclusion that it would be worth a considerable amount of money to keep the family and the home together, as stated by Senator Jameson. Even if it should cost a little more money, I think that the Minister should agree to the amendment in the name of Senator Dillon.

I would like to see every possible case of likely hardship in the farming community, or in any other community, brought within the ambit of the Bill. That would be my own personal wish, but even if we fix £10 or £12, whatever limit you fix, you would certainly have hard cases on the border line. That is the case with all legislation of this kind. You are just as likely to meet a person with a £10 valuation whose circumstances are such —perhaps through the man's own fault, or perhaps through no fault of his own —that when the breadwinner dies the family are left in a deplorable condition. No matter what limit you fix, any Senator here might be able to find cases which should have been brought within the scope of the Bill. When drafting this Bill, we were looking for figures on which we could base a fair estimate, and we have statistics relating to farms up to the valuation of £7 10s. We have not such accurate figures with regard to other valuations of holdings, say, £8, or £15 or £16. Reliable figures are not there. That was one reason why, when we had reliable figures with regard to the £7 10s. valuation, we put on another 10/- to make certain all cases would be covered, and make it £8. It certainly would mean, at a low estimate, an addition of close on £30,000 to put in what the Senator suggests, and I am afraid that that would be beyond what we could hope to do, at the present time at any rate. I should like to do it, and I know that, probably, the House would like to do it, but I do not think it is possible. I would only be misleading the Seanad if I said that I would look into this between now and the Report Stage. I would like to do it, but in view of the additional cost that it would involve, I am afraid it is not possible to do anything.

The Minister must realise that farmers' representatives are very conservative, and except they felt that there was an absolute necessity for this they would not put forward or support a proposal for spending more money. We are the biggest contributors to the Exchequer ourselves. I suggest to the Minister that we divide the £4, and make it £10.

What about the luck penny?

I am very glad to see Senator Counihan taking an interest in the small farmers. I desire to support him in the line that he is taking although, in 1929, when we had a Housing Bill before the Seanad, and when I brought forward an amendment the object of which was to secure special facilities for farmers with small valuations, Senator Counihan voted against it. It is only right to add that Senator Dillon voted for my amendment. The Minister referred to statistics in the case—of farms with valuations up to £7 10s. 0d. I think if he makes inquiries he will find that the Land Commission have decided that an economic farm is one with a valuation of £10, and that any farm with a valuation below £10 is considered uneconomic. That is so in the West of Ireland. A widow on a farm with a valuation under £10 finds it rather difficult to carry on. If she has a farm with a valuation over £10, it would appear that there is not the same difficulty. The Minister is to be congratulated on bringing in farmers who have low valuations. Senator Counihan knows that throughout the country— it is certainly the case in the West of Ireland—it is the general practice that when a farmer who has a holding with a small valuation dies, his neighbours always assist his widow and children, particularly if the children are very young, in doing the spring's work and in reaping the harvest. There is no doubt that up to the present such people have been very well cared for by their neighbours. In spite of all that, a widow on a holding with such a small valuation is not in a position to make full use of her farm in the sense of being able to go to the fairs to sell her live stock. She is not as well able to transact business at the fairs as her husband was.

Some of them, I think, do it a great deal better.

The exception proves the rule. In any case, I think the Minister would be well advised to come to an agreement with the Land Commission and to split the difference —the typical farmer's way of setting a question of this kind. I suppose we cannot expect the Minister to fall into line with farmers in that respect.

I have made deals from time to time for Senator Counihan, and he was always very agreeable when it came to the question of settling the luck penny. What I suggest to the Senator is that he should give the Minister £2 for luck in this deal. The Senator does not say anything, so I take it that he is ready to agree. Can we take it that the Minister and the Senator are ready to call it a deal? At any rate, the Senator must realise that the amount of money which would be required to carry out his proposal, over and above what will be required to finance the Bill as drafted, would be considerable.

The sum of £15,000 will meet it now.

Senator Counihan, like a lot of other people, is always ready to criticise the Government for its extravagance when it is a question of giving any money to the farmers. I had forgotten for the moment that the Senator is a farmers' representative. At any rate, when he thinks that the Government are inclined to dish out money, according to him, too freely, then he says that they are spendthrifts, extravagant and all the rest. I do not think it is right for him, therefore, to be urging further extravagance on the part of the Government. Senator MacEllin, I think, was not correct in stating that the Land Commission had decided that any holding under a £10 valuation is uneconomic, and that holdings over £10 valuation are economic. It is possible that that may be the case in the West of Ireland, but it is not the case in various other counties, and this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will apply to the east, north and south as well as to the west.

Not to Cork?

Senator Johnson says it is not to apply to Cork. I do not believe that the Government would be so vindictive as all that, and, further, I do not believe that the Cork farmers are half as bad as they are painted. I suggest to Senator Counihan that he should not press his amendment, because I believe that the Minister has gone a long way to alleviate the distress which has been evident to everyone for a long time, and is making a genuine effort to cover every case of hardship.

Would it be possible to have something in the nature of a sliding scale? It would certainly be a terrible hardship on a great number of deserving people if, because their valuations happened to be a fraction over the amount laid down in the Bill, they should be deprived of the benefits of this measure. It would be a good thing, in my opinion, if something in the nature of a sliding scale could be introduced to meet such cases.

I think the Senator misunderstands the position. This is the question of the definition of a small holder as one whose valuation does not exceed £8. I would like to stress the point that even though you do include people with valuations up to £12, the pension is not going to become payable to them. It will be subject to the means test. If a holding with a £12 valuation is going to allow a livelihood to a widow, that will preclude her from getting the pension, or even if a holding with an £8 valuation is held to provide a widow with a livelihood, that also will preclude her from getting the pension. This is the non-contributory side of the Bill, and Senators should bear in mind that the question whether holdings have a valuation of £8, £10 or £12 is not so material as has been suggested. If a widow has a holding nominally valued at £10 or £12, and that it should only be valued at £8, the same justice would be done to the widow.

We had an intimation from the Minister for Finance this afternoon about the faults and the failings of the valuation authorities in respect of housing, and, presumably, they are equally liable to faults and failings in regard to the valuation of land and of houses on land. When the means test is in operation, justice will be done under the scheme of the Bill even though the amendment is accepted and the £12 valuation is inserted in place of the £8 valuation. Therefore, there is not so much at stake as has been suggested.

I suggest if that argument were to be pursued to its logical conclusion that we would find people on the opposite benches standing up to prove that the man who had a holding with a valuation of £125 or £145 was also an uneconomic holder. If it does not make any difference, as Senator Johnson has suggested, when the means test is applied, I suggest that it would involve a considerable amount of time in investigating all the cases, and that the same argument would hold for including all valuations under £125. I imagine that very few such holdings would be in such dire need that they would require to be provided for under this measure, but at any rate certain people would proceed to apply under it and would get considerable help in trying to prove that they were not able to carry on. Because of that a great deal of investigation would have to be carried out, and the difficulties in administration would be very great.

I am very doubtful, after listening to this debate, as to how I shall vote if a division is taken on this amendment. The Minister holds that the acceptance of the amendment would involve an additional expenditure of £30,000 a year. Supposing the amendment were accepted, there is no doubt that when it went to the Dáil the Minister for Finance would be able to get it rejected. The Minister in charge of the Bill has told us that he could not recommend the acceptance of the amendment. If we pass the amendment it will do no harm, but when it is rejected by the Dáil and comes back to us I do not think that we can raise any row about it, and I should expect that that would be the end of it.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Sections 18 and 19 agreed to.
(3) A widow's (non-contributory) pension payable to the widow, resident in a rural area, of a man shall, subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act, be as follows, that is to say:—
(a) if and so long as there are two or more children of such man alive and under the appointed age, such pension shall consist of—
(i) an allowance in respect of such widow at the rate of five shillings per week, and


The following amendment appears on the Order Paper in the name of Senator Dillon:—

Section 20, sub-section (3). To delete the word "five" in line 12 and to substitute therefor the word "six."

Is the amendment being moved?

Not moved.

I think that this is an amendment that ought to be moved. I would like to have some expression of opinion from the House as to the desirability of amending this sub-section. The figure in the Bill is surely too small: that the widow of a farmer, on a farm with a valuation of £8, is only going to receive a pension of five shillings.

The figure in the urban areas is 6/- and I do not think it is reasonable to make the distinction between the rural area widow and the urban area widow in this way. This is a question not merely of a small farmer, though I mentioned that and the fact that it appears in the name of Senator Dillon would suggest that it only has reference to the farmer. It applies, however, to the rural areas which include all those towns I spoke of at an earlier stage. While I am not impressed with all that Senator Jameson said with regard to the non possumus attitude of the Minister because of the finance restrictions I would like the House to express the view itself that 5/- is quite inadequate and that the amendment raising it to 6/- ought not be allowed to be withdrawn but should, in fact, be inserted. I move the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question—"That Section 20 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
A widow of a man shall not be granted a widow's (non-contributory) pension unless—
(a) she has attained the age of sixty years and has not attained the age of seventy years, or
(b) she is under the age of seventy years and there is at least one child of such man who is for the time being alive and under the appointed age.

I move amendment No. 9:—

Section 21. To delete the word "sixty" in line 40 and to substitute therefor the words "fifty-five."

The subject matter of this amendment I referred to on the Second Reading of the Bill. It raises another very important point. The section provides that a widow shall be granted a pension when she attains the age of 60 years provided she has no child under the age limit fixed in the Bill. My amendment seeks to change the age limit from 60 to 55. The Minister, when replying on the Second Reading debate, referred to this particular matter and said he thought it would cost an additional £50,000.

I think I pointed out in the Second Reading debate that the Committee which considered this whole question of widows' and orphans' pensions and which made exhaustive enquiries into similar schemes in every other country in the world and examined it from every aspect made a recommendation that the age limit should be 55 and not 60, though the Minister says that this would mean an increase of £62,000. Might I remind the Minister that he has the best possible argument to meet the Minister for Finance on this. He can tell him truthfully that in last year's Budget provision was made for £250,000 for widows' and orphans' pensions and that he got away with the whole of it and owes in all equity to the widows and orphans of this country £250,000. That £250,000 should have been paid to the widows and orphans when it was voted in the Budget last year. If it was invested it would easily bring in £62,000 to pay the additional amount that would be incurred by changing the age for pensions for widows from 60 years to 55.

I must say that we did expect that the age would have been fixed at 55. We are sadly disappointed it was not. I think it is unfair to a woman who has been married and away from employment for a considerable number of years to say that she has got to reach 60 years before she can get a widow's pension, especially a woman who may have been in receipt of a widow's pension because she had children under the age limit and who no longer gets the pension when the children go over the age. She may be 55 years of age, and because of that she is deprived of the pension for another five years. I ask you, in the name of Providence, how can a woman of that kind be expected to find employment; the thing is impossible. The Committee recommended it and it is in the British Bill. Why should a widow in Northern Ireland at the age of 55 be getting a pension, while in the Free State a widow has got to wait until 60? I could talk for hours on this particular matter, but I do not want to take up the time of the House. I say, however, in all fairness that this £250,000 was included in last year's Budget and it should have been spent on the widows for whom it was provided. If this is done now it will only be paying back to the widows what they have been deprived of because this Bill has been too long held up. I am not saying it was the fault of the Minister. Nevertheless, I make this statement that the money was provided in last year's Budget to be spent during the financial year and it was not spent. The Minister for Finance has got the benefit of it, and surely it is not too much to ask that the pension should be paid to widows at 55 years, even if it costs £62,000 additional. The age limit recommended in the report should be adopted.

As a matter of correction, it was not recommended in the report. There is a definite recommendation against it on page 26 of the report and again in the penultimate paragraph. Paragraph 33 states: "These reasons are considered sufficient to justify the exclusion of widows without dependent children from the scope of a non-contributory scheme. The fact that the condition of many elderly widows without dependent children in urban areas is precarious and deserving of sympathy has not however been overlooked," and so on. Later it is stated: "It is regrettable, for instance, that we have found it necessary to confine the scheme to widows having dependent children, and that no provision is included for widows whose children have ceased to be dependent upon them or for elderly, childless widows."

Surely the Minister is making a mistake. Section 21 provides:—

A widow of a man shall not be granted a widow's (non-contributory) pension unless—

(a) she has attained the age of sixty years and has not attained the age of seventy years, or

(b) she is under the age of seventy years and there is at least one child of such man who is for the time being alive and under the appointed age.

I desire to say, from the point of view of sympathy, that it is very difficult to debate some of these questions, particularly in a case where the widow had children and was in receipt of a pension and ceased to be entitled to it. Senator Johnson says that he would like to have an expression of opinion. No amendments have been put down to this Bill from this side of the House. That is entirely due to the fact that we accepted the statement made by the Minister at the outset that provision was made for a specific sum and that that could not be increased. What I am saying now applies almost to every amendment which one would have natural sympathy with and which one could not argue against. We are not supporting these amendments for that reason. The only thing we can do is to make some suggestions as regards administration. I mention that because Senator Johnson said he would like to have an expression of opinion. This is a non-Party measure; it has been accepted by all Parties and the only thing that can be achieved by making expressions of opinion is a certain amount of Party capital. I am not accusing the Labour Party of doing that, but from our point of view it would have been so regarded. We do not want to create difficulties for this Bill; we want it to be a success and we are not expressing an opinion that the 5/- should be raised to 6/- because we have accepted the statement of the Minister.

May I withdraw the correction I made regarding the Minister's statement. I was wrong and the Minister was right.

I should like to say that I made this mistake: The recommendation with regard to the age of 55 was intended to apply to the contributory scheme and not to the non-contributory scheme.


You have done great work in carrying the principle. Of course, this will be amended hereafter.

I thought when the Minister stated that this would cost an additional £62,000 that Senator Farren would withdraw his amendment. He then drew attention to the fact that £250,000 would produce——


That was a miscalculation.

He stated definitely that a sum of £62,000 would accrue from it.

I did not say how long it would take.

He is not going to let us share his secret as to how he is going to do it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 21 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) A widow's (non-contributory) pension payable to a widow shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, continue to be payable until she attains the age of seventy years and shall then cease, unless she previously remarries, in which case the said pension shall cease as on and from such remarriage.
(2) Where—
(a) a widow's (non-contributory) pension which includes any child's (non-contributory) allowance has ceased to include any child's (non-contributory) allowance, and
(b) the widow to whom such pension was granted has not at the date of such cesser attained the age of fifty-nine years and six months.
such pension shall cease to be payable on the expiration of six months after the date of such cesser, without prejudice however to the regrant of a widow's (non-contributory) pension to her when she attains the age of sixty years.

I move amendment No. 10:—

Section 22, sub-section (2). To delete the words "six months" in lines 1-2 and to substitute therefor the words "two years".

This is on a different basis. This amendment is one which I think the House should approve of, and I think the Minister should approve of it, it is so palpably unjust and unreasonable to deprive a widow of a pension when her youngest child reaches the age of 14. Take the instance I gave on the last occasion. A widow in Dublin with two children. She is without means, and she will receive a pension of 12/6. She is aged, say, 58. The eldest child is 13, and the second child 12. When the eldest child becomes 14 the allowance in respect of that child ceases, and the widow's income drops from 12/6 to 11/-. Another year passes and the second child is then 14 years of age and, according to the scheme of the Bill, the allowance in respect of the second child also ceases. As the Bill is drafted, not only would that allowance cease, but the widow's pension ceases. Accordingly, when the second child is 14 her income drops from 11/- to nothing.

After six months.

The six month's period is merely for administrative purposes. The amendment would leave the widow with her pension, even though she has lost the children's allowances. It is heartless to suggest that after bringing up children to the age that they would be expected by the scheme of the Bill to be leaving school, the widow should not only lose their allowances but her pension, at a time when their requirements are greatest, and when the cost of maintaining and caring them throws the greatest possible burden on the mother. As soon as the children are aware of their position in life the widow is to be thrown on the poor law holus-bolus. I think that is most unreasonable and undesirable. The whole mentality of the children is going to be affected. Up to that age the widow has got the pension as a right. That is the great value of the Bill. But, when the children reach the age of 14 they are informed that no longer is the mother's income due to her as a right; that she has to go to the poor law authorities to get relief. I suggest to the Minister that he should press for the additional cost involved by the amendment, and press very hard with the backing of this House. The scheme in the Bill I suggest was not sufficiently appreciated when the drafting was left as it is in Section 22. I ask the Minister very seriously to examine this proposition, to see if he cannot agree to making this change.


From six months to two years.

That is the effect of the amendment. If the present form of drafting is not the most appropriate it can be amended. The intention is that widow's pensions shall continue until the children are 16 years of age. That is the real meaning.

I agree with what Senator Johnson has said about the amendment. This is a more important amendment than the one I put forward. I think we may leave it to the Minister to press the Minister for Finance for the concession in the way of expense which the amendment would entail. The feeling of the House should be unanimous in support of the amendment.

I am inclined to take the same view, even if we had to take something else out in other parts of the Bill. In any case we might go further than six months, because the widow would not be able to support the children within six months if she is to look out and to make other provision for them. The position will lead to a real grievance which will operate against the State generally. Some reasonable time should be given to widows to look for work. In most cases the children cannot take employment until they reach 14 years. All the payments stopping suddenly will create hardship and a bad situation. I would like to see something else in the Bill cut in order to stretch a point and to make the period at any rate 18 months.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Will not the section require further amendment now, and will not the age 59 years have to be changed?


The sub-section says:

The widow to whom such pension was granted has not at the date of such cesser attained the age of fifty-nine years and six months,

I do not think it needs amendment. The Minister would have an opportunity on the Report Stage if the Dáil accepts the amendment that has been passed. There may have to be some consequential changes.

I will look into it.

Section 22, as amended, to Section 27, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:—

Section 28. Before paragraph (e) to insert the following new paragraph:—

(c) if she was 40 years of age or over at the date of the marriage, one or more years have elapsed since the date of the marriage; or."

The purpose of the section was to discourage the possibility of a young woman marrying an old man, with the possible consequences of a pension. There may be cases where a middle-aged woman marries an older man, and it seemed to me that there should not be any penalty arising in such a case. In effect she would be debarred from any pension. I put down the amendment rather to draw attention to that feature of the case, and to ask the Minister if he will look into it.

This matter was discussed at fair length in the Dáil. It was under review before it was brought to the Oireachtas at all. I have gone into it with my adviser and I am really strong in saying the section should be allowed to stand as it is. I believe there are serious reasons for having it there.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 28 to 30, inclusive, agreed to.
A sum shall not be paid on account of a pension if payment of the sum is not obtained within three months after the date on which it has become payable.

I move amendment No. 12:—

Section 31. To delete the word "obtained" in line 37 and to substitute therefor the word "claimed."

I gathered from the section that the pension has been cancelled, if payment was not "claimed" within three months.

If it is not presented for three months.

Does the Minister mean that if the order is not presented for payment, like old age pension orders, within three months?

Does that not necessitate acceptance of the amendment? Supposing the pension is not obtained, perhaps owing to the fault of the Post Office authorities, surely to deprive the claimant of the pension would be an injustice. The word "claimed" should be inserted.

"Claimed" would not do at all. In the legal sense "claimed" would raise other questions. The word "obtained" has been in use since the Old Age Pensions Act came into operation, and I never heard that any difficulties arose.


The amendment would nullify the whole effect of the section.

That is the legal interpretation.

We are not dealing with the matter from the point of view of the legal position, but from the point of view of the ordinary man in the street. If the Old Age Pensions Act contains the word "obtained" and if the Post Office authorities refused to pay, it must be remembered that there have been cases where the Post Office people have not been all that was proper. Certain postmistresses and postmasters have failed in their duty. Presumably, then, the claimant would be debarred from raising the question.

I never heard of anyone losing the old age pension owing to the failure of the Post Office authorities to act properly A case of the kind was never brought to my notice.

I am not suggesting that, but we are enacting a Statute saying that if the money is not obtained the person will not be entitled to it.


That if the person gets a paying order and does not cash it within three months, that person shall not then be entitled to present it.

If it was presented, and if owing to some mistake or misunderstanding payment was refused, the Minister would have no power to deal with it at the end of three months. I have the feeling, however, that a way out would be found, and if the Minister assures me that that is so, I suggest that Senator Johnson need not worry.

The wording was taken from the Old Age Pensions Act and put into this Bill.

Are we to repeat that mistake?

I never knew of such a case under the Old Age Pensions Act. I do not think the office ever heard of a case since the Act was passed where a person failed to get the pension owing to the failure of officials or anything of that kind. I am advised that if we change the wording greater difficulties will arise.

Could the officials suggest another word?


I think "obtained" is good enough.

Now that I understand what the section means, in view of the Minister's statement I am perfectly satisfied. From my experience of the Old Age Pensions Act there will be very few paying orders remaining over for three months. I would like to say also, lest there might be any misunderstanding, and I am sure Senator Johnson will agree with me, that in the administration of the old age pensions the Post Office officials everywhere have gone out of their way to help the old age pensioners, and to assist them in the matter of their payments as far as their duties allow them to do.

Hear, hear.

I have a memorandum here on this point which has been raised, and it says that there is no danger that delay in deciding claims will cause any loss to the pensioner. If, for any reason, a delay up to three months takes place, a special corrective pension order will be issued.

That explains my difficulty as far as the Department is concerned, but my proposition here is a matter of drafting. I do not think there is any division of opinion as to deciding the matter of the claim. The claimant has his or her pension allowed and he or she receives a paying order on a certain date, and for some reason or other, sickness or otherwise, it is not presented until two months, three weeks and six days have elapsed. She brings it to the Post Office for payment and something has occurred there and she does not get paid on the last day. Now, the Comptroller and Auditor - General would come down and say that that pension could not be paid legally.


The Post Office would be bound to pay it because it would be within three months. It is a question of acting on the law and I dare say the Departments act on the principles on which a court acts, that delay in the courts does not affect the validity of any matter upon which there is a time limit. The Latin phrase is actus curiæ non facit injuriam. Delay in the Department cannot then prejudice a person whose claim is put in at a proper time.

You are using the word "claim," Sir.


Well, then, a paying order handed in.

I think that Senator Johnson now, having got the Latin translation, ought to accept it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 13:—

To add at the end of the section the following words:—

Provided, however, that notwithstanding anything contained in this section the Minister may, if he is satisfied that payment of any sum on account of a pension was not claimed or obtained within the time specified in this section because of the illness of the claimant, through inadvertence or for any other reasonable cause, order the payment of such sum retrospectively for such period as he may consider proper.

This is really intended to provide against the possibility of pensions being lost, owing to sickness or ill-health or for some reason which satisfied the Minister, over and above the three months' period. Its aim is to enable the Minister to order the payment of such sum retrospectively as he may consider proper where a period of over three months has elapsed owing to illness or inadvertence recognised by the Minister. Something of this kind surely is required.

I want to be satisfied that the Minister is not deprived of paying it if he thinks it is a right thing to do, but the person should know that after three months the legal claim ceases because you must have a limit somewhere. I think the Minister will not find himself prevented from making payment in proper cases.

In Section 64 (1) (f) provision is made enabling the Minister in the case of a widow who is by reason of any mental or any other incapacity unable to act, to appoint a person on her behalf to receive the pension. That ought to cover it.

That might be all right in respect of cases where there is clear incapacity, but everybody is conscious of the fact, and cases have in fact been brought to my notice, that in insurance claims difficulty has been caused through inadvertence as to dates, and it is to guard against that kind of thing here that the Minister should not deprive himself of power to pay what is due. Under this amendment I am suggesting that the Minister should have power to pay when he is satisfied as to the justice of the case.

If this was left over to the Report Stage the Minister could perhaps satisfy himself in the meantime whether he has this power to cover cases of the type mentioned?

I am not sure we have the power, but is it necessary that the Minister should take the power to look after people who know they have a right and who neglect for three months to exercise it?

Through inadvertence?

If they are sick they can get somebody appointed to look after them. Under the section I mentioned, the Minister has power to appoint somebody at their request to look after their affairs and to receive payment of any pension due but would there not have to be some limit to the time for which you would keep a claim open? You cannot have it open indefinitely and three months, I think, is a reasonable time. I would be prepared to extend that period somewhat if you thought it too short. I think it is reasonable however, as you must have a limit beyond which even the Minister cannot go.

The Statute of Limitations.

A cheque would be six months.

I take it that the same arrangement as in regard to old age pensions can be made, that a relative of the person who is incapacitated can call to the Post Office and cash the order.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 31 to 37, inclusive, agreed to.

Senator Kennedy, in whose name amendment No. 14 to Section 38 is proposed, is engaged with other Ministers on other business, and perhaps it would be advisable to leave it over and reintroduce it on the Report Stage.

Amendment not moved.
Section 38 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:—

Section 39, sub-section (2). To insert before the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—

"(2) Section 70 of the National Insurance Act, 1911, and Section 40 of the National Health Insurance Act, 1918, shall be construed and have effect as if the contributions there mentioned included contributions payable under this Act and as if the right conferred on an employed contributor to take proceedings against his employer extended to the survivors of such employed contributor and as if every reference to membership of an approved society in that section were deleted therefrom."

This is an important amendment. Under other Acts, like the National Health Insurance Act, where the employer has neglected to stamp the cards and the insured person suffers a loss by virtue of that, he has a claim against the employer for loss sustained through the default. Under this Bill, the employer may not stamp the card, and when the person dies the widow cannot claim against the employer in respect of any loss she may suffer through the default. The amendment is designed to give the widow the rights against the employer that the insured person would have under the Health Insurance Acts. The case is simple in so far as the intentions are concerned, and it seems to be obvious that if there is going to be an obligation on employers to stamp cards under this Act as under the Health Insurance Acts, as it is to be a similar stamp, the law which protects an insured person should also protect the widow where she is to suffer by reason of that default. The amendment is intended to remedy what I think is a defect in drafting in those circumstances. Perhaps the Minister would give his views on that point.

Going into this matter after Senator Johnson's amendment was put down, we examined it again, and in view of the definite intention which he had expressed in the amendment and which was also our intention, to provide for that matter in the Bill, we found that it was doubtful if the amendment drafted by Senator Johnson would cover the point. It would have to be re-drafted, I think, and it is no discredit to Senator Johnson, that his amendment has not covered the point either. I am told by a most reliable authority on drafting that it would require one of the mose difficult sections that has been drafted, or is likely to be drafted, to cover it satisfactorily. It is unlikely that we would be able to get a section drafted in time for the Report Stage of this Bill. If it would meet Senator Johnson and the view of the House, I would say that I know that legislation will have to be brought in soon to amend certain sections of the National Health Insurance Act, and I will bring in a section there and make it applicable to the widows' and orphans' pensions, as this, being based on National Health Insurance, is a somewhat similar Bill. We will endeavour to have the point that Senator Johnson has in mind—a very good point and the same thing as we had in mind ourselves—met by amending legislation, but I would not like to risk having the Bill delayed in the Report Stage and consequently delayed in coming into operation, on account of the failure to bring up a revised section, as I am advised that that most likely would happen.

Would there be a chance of having it, say, in two or three weeks? If there were you could put this amendment of Senator Johnson's in, and the Dáil could amend it. It will not be nearly so satisfactory to deal with the matter under another new Bill. I suppose from the point of view of the employer I should be opposed to this, but I take Senator Johnson's view that there should be a claim against an employer for negligence, and it is better that he should know it in the beginning.

In view of what the Minister has said, I should like to feel that the amending Bill is not likely to be delayed very much beyond the actual coming into operation of this Act. I take it that it will come into operation early in the new year?

The 1st of January.

I wonder could we have an assurance that the amending Bill will go through in the interim.

I am afraid I could not guarantee that the Bill would pass. In order to get the Bill into operation by the 1st January, we are taking chances, even now, in getting the administrative machinery put into order. An enormous amount of printing has to be done, including the printing of new cards and other things which have to be done in connection with national health insurance. We are providing for these but we cannot give an order for certain printing until the Bill is actually through the Oireachtas. Every day counts with us now if we are to get the Act into operation by the 1st January. If there is a delay of even a few weeks now, we could not put the Act into operation even on the 1st February or the 1st March; we should have to wait until the 1st July. A delay of a week now might mean a delay of six months in getting the Act into operation. Therefore, I should like to get the Bill through the Oireachtas as soon as possible and have it in operation on the 1st January.

The Minister has mentioned a point of great importance. It would be just as well that the Minister and his advisers should have time to make this amendment in the National Health Insurance Act water-tight. I agree that the Bill should be brought into operation on the 1st January because the stamps for national health insurance must be paid in the half-year commencing 1st January.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 16:—

Section 39, sub-section (2). To insert before the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) Where in any proceedings under the National Health Insurance Acts as amended by this Act taken against the employer of an employed contributor for failure to comply with the provisions of these Acts or of this Act the court by order applies the Probation of Offenders Act such order shall be made subject to the condition that the employer shall pay any contributions due by him under the National Health Insurance Acts or this Act.

The Minister, in his proposed legislation, may intend to deal with this point. Possibly the drafting difficulty would not arise in this case and the Minister may agree to the incorporation of this amendment in the present Bill. The proposition is that where an employer is prosecuted for failure to comply and the court deals with the offender under the Probation of Offenders Act, it shall be an obligation on the employer so dealt with to stamp the cards and pay what is due. At present, when the Probation of Offenders Act is applied, the offence is expiated.

If the point is not fully covered—I think it is not—in the Senator's amendment, I shall see that it is covered on the Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 39 to 53, inclusive, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

I move amendment No. 17:—

New section. Before Section 54 to insert a new section as follows:—

54.—In granting outdoor relief to a person in receipt of or entitled to receive a pension under this Act, a public assistance authority shall not take into consideration any such pension, except so far as such pension exceeds five shillings a week.

This is a very important amendment and it will not throw any increased charge upon the Exchequer. It is intended to provide that, in granting outdoor relief to a person who is in receipt of a pension under this Bill the public assistance authority shall not take into consideration any such pension except in so far as it may exceed 5/- per week. I take it that this Bill is not a rates relief Bill. I want to make sure that the intentions of the legislature shall have effect and that it will not be merely a case of transferring from the poor law to the State a certain sum which the pensioner at present receives. There is a real danger that there will not be any financial benefit to many people by the passing of this Bill. It is, I think, the intention of the legislature that there should be a financial benefit to widows and orphans—that they should be in a better position to maintain themselves after the passing of this Bill than they were heretofore. If, after the passing of the Bill, a widow receives 10/- in pension and the poor law authorities come along and say they will deduct 10/- from their allowance, then there is no change save the transfer of the authority whence the income is derived. I want to make sure that, so far as the first 5/- of pension is concerned, this Bill will not affect the position of persons in receipt of assistance. I ask the House to agree to the amendment.

I accept in principle the amendment moved by Senator Johnson but I think it would require re-drafting. From the strictly legal point of view, a few words might require to be changed. Even if such an amendment were not passed, there would be nothing to prevent a local authority from giving any relief it felt inclined to give. On the other hand, the insertion of the amendment will not compel the local authority to give additional assistance. There is an indication in the amendment that the local authority should not take into consideration the pension under this Bill, up to a certain amount, but the local authority, through its officers, are the arbiters as to what relief will be given. There is no law to compel them to give any definite sum. They are obliged to give relief to indigent persons but they get out of that by saying that they will give only so much and that if the applicant is not satisfied he must come into the institution. The passing of this amendment will not alter the situation.


This amendment might operate against the interests of the widow and orphan. It might be taken as an indication that if the assistance exceeds 5/-, they are to take it into account.

I do not think that there is any risk in that interpretation. The public assistance authority is bound by law to give assistance in case of need. They take into account the extent of need and, in taking into account the extent of need, they take into account the means. Unless such an amendment as this is passed, in taking into account the means, they will take into account the pension. I want to ensure that they will not take into account the first 5/- of the pension.

Amendment adjourned to Report Stage.

Section 54 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 18:—

New section. Before Section 55 to insert a new section as follows:—

55.—In granting unemployment assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1933, to a person in receipt of or entitled to receive a pension under this Act, the Minister for Industry and Commerce shall not take into consideration any such pension, except so far as such pension exceeds five shillings a week.

This amendment is on the same lines as the last amendment but I am not so keen upon arguing it because a slightly different principle is involved. Nevertheless, I ask the Minister's view as to whether this amendment might not be embodied in the Bill.

I cannot accept the amendment. Even if I did accept it, I do not think it would be of any use because there is in the Unemployment Assistance Act a section disqualifying for assistance a widow entitled to a pension. One provision would nullify the other.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 55 to 73, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 19:—

First Schedule, Rule 1, sub-rule (1), paragraph (b). To delete in lines 3-4 the words "or from a friendly society or trade union".

This arises from the means test. The section says that in the calculation of the annual means of a person certain things shall be deemed to constitute the means of such person, and they include any moneys received by way of sickness or disablement benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts or from a friendly society or a trade union. This raises the very same issue that we have repeatedly raised with regard to old age pensions. Some trades unions do make provision that, when their members have been benefit members for a considerable number of years, when they reach the age of 70 or are incapacitated for further work, they make them a small donation from the funds of the trade union. We argued this case on several occasions in connection with the Old Age Pensions Act, and the same principle applies here; and that is that the thrifty person who has been contributing to friendly societies for a lifetime—and some of them have been contributing to these friendly societies long before there was any State Insurance of any kind—and that, having contributed in that way for a lifetime, when they would be entitled to these small benefits in their old age, what has happened is that in the Old Age Pensions Act, in the calculation of means, the trades unions found that if they paid the money, the State refused to pay, with the result that the trades unions refused to pay. That has been the actual practice, and I suggest that, if the trade union has been giving a few shillings a week to an old or incapacitated member, those few shillings a week ought not to be set off against the widow's pension. It may be argued that you must take into account all the means that a person has, but under the Old Age Pensions Act people have been able to get around that. For example, the trade union need not pay a man so much a week; it can make him a present of the equivalent. There are ways and means, as Senators are aware, I am sure, of getting around these things.

Do not give the game away now!

I never heard of it!

Anybody who knows anything about trades unions knows that such things take place, and other people do it also. When the Parliamentary Secretary, Dr. Ward, was dealing with this matter before, I raised this point then and Dr. Ward said to me: "I need not tell you how to get around it." That is quite true, but the point is that if the State insists on carrying out these regulations the benefits of the friendly societies will not be voted. And actually it does not make a farthing's difference to the State whatever. My amendment will not mean a farthing's difference to the State because, if the State insists on carrying out these regulations, the result is that the friendly societies will not pay these benefits.

Then it will be to the benefit of the trades unions.

Well, the benefit societies take the view that, if there is 5/- to be saved they will save it and leave the State to pay it. That is well understood. In some cases the difficulty is got around in other ways. For instance, they will not make a weekly allowance but they will pay the rent. They are entitled to do that under the law, and that does not debar the person concerned from getting the 10/- a week old age pension. We argue that people who have been thrifty and who have paid for these little benefits should not be deprived of them when they are entitled to receive them.

I cannot see my way to accept this amendment. Suppose the person concerned was not a trade unionist and had saved enough to provide himself with a few shillings a week, let us say. Whatever the amount the trade union would pay, that person would be mulcted because he was thrifty, and the equally thrifty person, who happened also to be a member of a trade union, would not be mulcted.

But this is a contribution for a benefit. It is a benefit that had been paid for.

The Senator must remember that there are other people in the country besides members of trades unions.

I know that.

In the eyes of the law, everybody has to be treated on the same level as everybody else, whether they are members of trades unions or not.

Well, I did not expect my amendment to be accepted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 20:—

First Schedule, Rule 1, sub-rule (2). Before the sub-rule to insert a new sub-rule as follows:—

(2) In the calculation of the annual means of a person for the purpose of paragraph (a) or paragraph (d) of the immediately preceding sub-rule it shall be presumed that the yearly value of any advantage accruing to such person from the ownership of a dwelling house, the poor law valuation of which

(a) if situated in a County Borough does not exceed £20,

(b) if situated elsewhere than in a County Borough does not exceed £15,

and in which such person resides is nil.

In moving this amendment, I have in mind, mainly, those persons in the cities particularly in the City of Dublin, who have bought their houses or are in course of buying their houses and are legally the owners of their houses. Take people who bought their houses from 1923 onwards. The Corporation built a number of these houses. The Minister for Finance this afternoon told us, in defence of a certain proposition, that houses that were valued at around about £25 a year in Dublin had a letting value of up to £100, and that, in fact, for valuation purposes, they showed a profit of about £75. If that is a correct statement, or if it is approaching correctness, there is a real danger that, in assessing a person's means, the value of that house which is being paid for by instalments will be set against the applicant and will deprive her of any benefit.

I am not quite satisfied with the drafting of this amendment, but what I desire to ensure against is that a widow will not be debarred from benefit who is living in a house which was bought by her husband when he was alive and which was his property although he was paying for it in instalments. The widow continues to live in the house and treats it, not as property that belongs to her but as a home. I am trying to provide against the State regarding it as property that she could let at £12 or £20 a year over and above what she is paying by instalments. I want to ensure that that house, which is her home, should not be assessed in such a way as to be means set against her claim for pension. As I say, I am not quite satisfied with the drafting of the amendment, but I think the intention is clear and I would earnestly ask the Minister to agree to the insertion of a clause of this kind, if not now, at least on the Report Stage, so that the fact of her living in a house which was in course of being purchased should not be set against her claim. She is not letting the house for profit or letting to lodgers. It is not being set out as a piece of property. It is her home that she is in process of purchasing, but, in-as-much as it has a letting value in the market, which may be as high as the Minister for Finance suggested this afternoon, if that were the case, it would deprive her of any claim for pension even though she was not deriving an actual rent from it. I want the Minister to guard against that and to provide for it. I think it is perfectly reasonable and, if the contrary were allowed to happen it would be a real injustice.

I do not think I could take any other view than that a house, the owner of which had fully paid for it or was paying by instalments, would have to be considered property. I cannot see any other way that you could treat any person claiming, say, an old age pension. The house is certainly valuable property and would have to be assessed in the same way as any other property a person might possess. There might be equally hard cases, such as that of a dying man who had amassed £400 or £500 in the expectation of buying a house and that £500 would be assessed against his widow; but the person who actually bought a house a few years before his death would not have that set against him, according to this amendment.

The Minister speaks of property but he overlooks this: suppose there are two widows, one living in a house and paying rent to the Corporation and the other paying instalments. Now, the instalments, so far as the widow and her late husband were concerned, were merely another form of rent and it made no difference to them whether it was rent or an instalment payment. In the one case, the widow living in the Corporation house and paying a weekly rent has nothing set against her in respect of the house, but in the other case it is alleged to be her property although, in fact, she is merely paying rent.

She has an interest in it which she can sell.

She has an interest in it of perhaps £20 or £30 or £40, but you are not going to charge her the interest but the possible letting value of the house.

Well, if the Minister for Finance was accurate in his statement to-day, and I think he was approaching accuracy, then the market value of that house to let would be charged against the woman.

I do not think so.

That, certainly, was what we were told this afternoon so far as the basis of income was concerned, and unless this is a different thing, as it may possibly be from the administrative point of view, we were assured that the letting value was what the person should be assessed on.

Well, so far as I know, that would not be the case for old age pension purposes.

I would ask the Minister to examine this between now and the Report Stage, because it will be very serious for many people in Dublin.

I shall examine it all right, but I am afraid I could not accept the amendment.


I must say that, on the death of a man, the way that the value of the house would be determined is that the purchase price of the house would be assessed and then the amount of the mortgage charge would be deducted. The difference would represent the value of the house.

Yes, at that moment; but if the house could be let, bringing the widow a profit of £30 a year, it is going to affect the claim for noncontributory pension.

I think that the Inland Revenue Department have very different methods. Senator Blythe might be able to enlighten us on that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedules and Title agreed to, and Bill reported to the House.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 24th July, 1935.

I should like to say, Sir, that the Minister for Agriculture is most anxious that his Cereals Bill should reach the Final Stages next week, and it is suggested that we meet to-morrow morning, or, alternatively, agree now to take all stages next week.


That is a matter for the House.

I think it would be better to take all the stages next week.


We are sitting on two days next week and we will fix the Committee Stage for Wednesday next and probably the Report Stage for Thursday, if the House agrees.

Agreed to take the stages of the Cereals Bill next week.

The Seanad adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until Wednesday, 24th July, 1935, at 3 p.m.