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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Aug 1948

Vol. 35 No. 11

Social Welfare Bill, 1948—Second Stage.

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

I hope that Senators have not been thinking that this is a very complicated measure. If their minds have been running on those lines, I hasten to reassure them. The Bill is not really of such complexity as it appears to be. It is necessary that the different services dealt with in the Bill be linked up with existing legislation. This means that each existing service has to have a separate part. It is, however, my intention to analyse the objects of the Bill in a general way and to give as clear a picture as possible of its general import. In doing this, it is my desire to put the House in as good a position as I can to give its consideration to the measure.

The Bill deals with seven services in my Department, namely, old age pensions, blind pensions, national health insurance, unemployment insurance, unemployment assistance, widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions and widows' and orphans' (non-contributory) pensions. Those schemes may be divided into two classes—the contributory schemes and the non-contributory schemes. I propose to deal first with the non-contributory schemes.

Senators will remember that when the Government first took up office one of the items that stood in the forefront of their declared programme was the improvement of the social services. When I, as the responsible Minister, came to examine the details of those services, it was speedily borne in on my mind that something required to be done immediately for the beneficiaries of two of those services, where the need was great and the necessity for quick action urgent. There is no need for me to tell you that I am referring to the old age pensioners and the non-contributory widows and orphans. For the betterment of those two classes, increased funds to the amount of £2,500,000 are being provided, of which amount approximately £1,000,000 goes to the widows and orphans, and approximately £1,500,000 to the old age pensioners, in which category, through the vagaries of legislative improvisation, are also included those pensioners who are stricken with the misfortune of blindness.

Those additional funds will be distributed by way of increased pensions and allowances and through modifications of the means tests, which, in addition to improving the position of existing recipients, will also have the effect of making new claimants eligible.

The Bill, in Part II, introduces a new scale of pensions for old age pensioners and for blind persons. In this connection, Part II abolishes the existing differential against old age pensioners and blind persons who reside in the rural areas, and under the Bill a similar rate of pension is being provided for old age pensioners and blind persons; that is, a universal rate where the recipients live in rural areas or in the cities and urban areas. This section of the Bill modifies generally the means test applicable to these pensions so that the pensioner may enjoy greater means than at present without suffering the existing reduction of pension. It reduces the minimum age for blind persons' pensions from 30 to 21 years, and it excludes, within generous limits, the personal earnings of those pensioners from the computation of means. Pensioners in urban areas at present receive a weekly pension of 15/-, including cash supplements, which is reduced by 1/- down to a minimum of 1/- in accordance with a scale of annual means ranging from £15 12s. 6d. to £39 5s. 0d. No pension is payable where the annual means exceed £39 5s. 0d.

The Bill now before the Seanad substitutes a weekly pension scale of 17/6, reducible by 2/6 to a minimum of 5/-, with a new annual means scale ranging from £15 12s. 6d. to £52 5s. 0d, above which figure no pension is payable. In the reduction of the qualifying age for blind persons' pensions from 30 to 21 years of age, I am proceeding on the basis that 21 is nearer the age at which an adult, not suffering from an affliction such as blindness, might normally be expected to be self-supporting.

In order to encourage recipients of blind pensions to undertake gainful occupations and so improve their position generally, the Bill proposes to exclude within certain limits the personal earnings of a blind person in the calculation of means. It also seems to me reasonable that this exclusion should have regard to the blind person's family responsibility. The Bill, accordingly, allows £52 of such person's earnings to be excluded in calculating means, and, moreover, allows this sum to be increased by £39 for a wife or dependent husband, and by £26 for each child.

The second of the non-contributory schemes to which I have referred is the widows' and orphans' non-contributory scheme. This is dealt with in Part VI of the Bill. With regard to this scheme I felt that it would not be sufficient merely to merge the existing cash supplements in the basic pensions and allowances, and I have, therefore, decided that reasonable increases should be granted on this side. It will be seen from the explanatory memorandum how generous the proposed increases are.

The new maximum pension for a widow without dependent children will be 14/- per week in an urban area, whereas at present it is as low as 7/6 and cannot exceed 11/6, and it will be 10/- in the rural area, where at present the rate of pension is 8/- a week. For a widow with ten children the maximum weekly pension will be 58/- in an urban area, where now the rate of pension is as low as 43/6 and cannot exceed 52/-. In the rural area the maximum pension for a widow with ten children will be 54/- in future, whereas the maximum rate of pension is now 32/6. These increases, together with the modification of the means test, to which I will be referring immediately, will have the effect of bringing into the scheme large numbers of widows at present excluded owing to the combined effect of the means test and the existing low rate of non-contributory pensions. The cost of these new proposals will be in the neighbourhood of £650,000 per annum.

To improve the scheme still further, and so make it more readily intelligible to the general public, there will be only two areas as against four areas at present for the purpose of relating the pension to the pensioner's place of residence. All the county boroughs, boroughs, urban districts and towns—that is, incorporate towns— will constitute the urban area, and the remainder of the country will be the rural area.

It is also proposed to modify the means for non-contributory pensions by disregarding the first 10/- of a widow's weekly earnings and any sums up to a maximum of 10/- per week received by a widow as voluntary contributions. These means exemptions, totalling a possible £1 weekly, represent a considerable improvement in the present position under which no special exemption applies to earned income. The exemption for gratuitous payments (as, for example, remittances in cash from members of the family), at present limited to 2/6 per week, is now raised to 10/- per week. The main purpose of these amendments is to encourage the widow to work and to provide for herself and her family by disregarding any income up to a maximum of 10/- per week—a concession which does not exist at the moment—and to allow a son, a daughter or any other relative or any organisation to come to her assistance to the extent of 10/- weekly without having that sum taken into consideration for the purpose of ascertaining the widow's means.

The limit of age (at present 55 years) for a childless widow has in the past caused considerable dissatisfaction. Widows have had their pensions terminated when the only dependent child left school or attained the age of 16 years and have had to wait until the age of 55 for the restoration of the pension. This is now remedied by reducing the qualifying age for all non-contributory pensions from 55 years to 48 years. The annual cost of this concession is £210,000. I might here say that it is anticipated that the effect of this amendment in the existing Acts will be to permit 7,000 widows, who are now ineligible, to qualify for a non-contributory pension under this Bill. The total annual cost to the Exchequer of the proposals regarding non-contributory pensions will be in the neighbourhood of £860,000 per annum. The over-all cost on this side of the Bill is estimated to be in the vicinity of £1,000,000 per annum.

The remaining non-contributory scheme is that relating to unemployment assistance, which is dealt with in Part V. The Bill makes provision for abolishing the temporary cash supplements and including equivalent permanent increases in the rates of unemployment assistance. Cash supplements are payable only to persons entitled to some unemployment assistance at the present rates. The substitution for cash supplements of increases in the rates of assistance will have the effect of admitting to assistance persons who, by reason of their means, cannot at present qualify for unemployment assistance.

This Part of the Bill also makes provision for enabling the disqualification for unemployment assistance imposed in the case of persons losing employment through misconduct or leaving voluntarily without just cause to be varied from one week to three months, thus giving to the disqualification considerable flexibility which will enable unemployment assistance officers and courts of referees to adjust the period of disqualification to the circumstances of the individual case.

The removal of the disqualifications for unemployment assistance applicable to persons convicted of an offence under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, or of any other crime or offence, which is also provided for in the Bill, will have the effect of ensuring that persons so convicted will not suffer loss of unemployment assistance in addition to any penalty imposed by the courts.

It is also proposed in the Bill to incorporate permanently in the unemployment assistance code the modified rule governing continuity of unemployment introduced by Emergency Powers Order in 1941.

I now pass to the contributory schemes which relate to national health insurance, dealt with in Part III of the Bill, unemployment insurance, dealt with in Part IV, and widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions, dealt with in Part VI. By the Cash Supplements Orders of last year, recipients of benefit under those schemes are also entitled to cash supplements in addition to the basic benefits payable under the scheme. All those supplements are of a temporary and provisional nature, and their payment out of Exchequer moneys was a departure from the insurance principle on which the finances of the scheme have been based since their inception. It is proposed under the Bill that those cash supplements should become permanent and be merged in the basic benefits. Actually, more than the cash supplements are being incorporated in a limited number of cases in the widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions, and in unemployment insurance the increased allowances payable for adult and child dependents are being made permanent.

At the same time, it is proposed to restore the old insurance basis so that the increases in the benefits being substituted for the cash supplements will in future be paid for by the employers, the insured contributors and the State in the same proportion as the basic benefits now payable are paid for. The increases in contributions will, in the case of national health insurance, also provide for an increase in the remuneration payable to doctors who issue medical certificates to insured persons and for the additional expense of administration of the National Health Insurance Society arising out of increases in salaries and wages granted in recent years to the staff of the society in common with all other employed persons.

It is considered better on general principles that this amalgamation of benefit and cash supplement should take place now, as the present schemes of social insurance will form the foundation of the future comprehensive scheme of social insurance. I do not think that exception will be taken to the increase in contributions. The British Beveridge Report stated that:—

"Benefits in return for contributions, rather than free allowances from the State, are what the people of Britain desire."

I feel confident that the great majority of Irish workers will echo that sentiment and that they will be happy to shoulder their part of a burden which will bring them their insurance benefits as a matter of right, rather than have such benefits subjected to political and financial vagaries.

In the widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions scheme there will be in the future, as in the non-contributory scheme, only two areas as against the existing four, for the purpose of relating the pension to the pensioner's place of residence.

There are in the Bill some features relating to unemployment insurance to which I would like to refer specially. The proposal to raise the insurability limit for a non-manual worker from £250 to £500 per annum follows what was done last year in the schemes of national health insurance and widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions. The insurability limit in unemployment insurance of £250 per year for non-manual workers, as well as being out of step with the other contributory schemes, is also out of date in the light of remuneration changes of recent years. Many workers who have ceased to be insurable by reason of increased remuneration would, in the course of time, lose the advantage of their contributions, whether paid under the general scheme or the special scheme for the insurance industry. In that event, the persons concerned would have no cover whatever, and they could no longer participate in our unemployment insurance merely because their remuneration passed over £250 per annum.

Provision is also being made in the Bill to ensure that workers who have ceased to be insurable will not, by reason of the lapse of time, lose any of the rights acquired before the cessation of insurance, and to incorporate permanently in the unemployment insurance code the modified rule governing continuity of unemployment introduced in 1941 by Emergency Powers Order, which is now being revoked.

I have now analysed the effects which the Bill will have on both the non-contributory and the contributory schemes. Before I close this part of my remarks, there is a provision affecting two non-contributory schemes and one contributory scheme to which I would like to refer. It is proposed in the Bill to adjust the position of persons resident in houses owned by the local authority of a city, urban district or incorporated town, but situated outside such area, so that such residents, in relation to the schemes concerned, will be treated as if they were resident in the adjoining city, urban district or incorporated town. This proposal will remove a long-standing grievance amongst the residents of certain areas adjoining Cork City. It will have effect also, of course, wherever an urban authority is compelled to go outside the urban boundaries for sites for the housing of the working classes. This provision affects the unemployment assistance scheme and the widows' and orphans' schemes, contributory and non-contributory.

To sum up, the general effect of the Bill will be to convert a temporary right to receive cash supplements dependent on Emergency Powers Orders into a permanent statutory right. This applies to all schemes, contributory and non-contributory. In addition, the recipients of non-contributory widows' and orphans' pensions and old age pensions, including blind pensions, will receive generous increases amounting in a full year to £2,500,000.

The present Bill does not abolish the means tests, but it considerably modifies them. I remain convinced of the desirability of doing away with them altogether, and I am hopeful that in the not too distant future it will be possible to do so. To do it now would require a sum of £3,500,000 per annum over and above the £2,500,000 per annum which is being disbursed by the Exchequer in the manner I have already described. In the coming comprehensive scheme of social insurance I propose to introduce a scheme of contributory old age pensions at 65 years of age. This will have the effect of abolishing the means test for anybody who in the future will qualify for such an old age pension. That is, however, in the future. At the moment we have to deal with things as they are. It is proper that, in order to secure the best value from our present limited financial resources, money should not be spent in directions where the need at present is not too severe. If we were to go beyond a certain limit of need, the taxpayers' money would be distributed in quarters where it was not needed. It should be remembered, too, that approximately 90 per cent. of old age pensioners are at present in receipt of the maximum rate of pension and so are not affected by further modifications in the means tests. I must say, however, that, on principle, I should like, if it were possible, to be able to avoid the necessity for inquiring into a person's means at all, but I must for the moment stand over what I regard as the more important principle that we should distribute what is available to the best advantage—that is, to those in the greatest need.

I need scarcely say that it is my earnest wish to grant these improvements at as early a date as possible. Were it not for certain administrative necessities, I should like to give effect to this Bill as soon as it has become an Act. The House, however, will hardly fail to appreciate that changes of this magnitude involve action which in the physical sense cannot be made to conform to one's personal desires. The present Bill, in fact, necessitates the following work: an examination of about 23,000 existing non-contributory widows' and orphans' pensions with a view to awarding new pensions, taking into consideration the increased rates and the modified means tests; an examination of thousands of new claims for widows' pensions; a review and adjustment to new rates of 150,000 existing old age and blind pensions; an investigation of many new claims for old age and blind pensions; the production, preparation and issue of about 23,000 pension order books for existing pensions under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Acts and some further thousands for new pensions; the production, preparation and distribution of about 150,000 pension order books for existing pensioners under the Old Age Pensions Acts and some additional thousands for new pensioners; the recall and cancellation of about 20,000 cash supplement and widows' and orphans' pension order books; and the recall and cancellation of about 150,000 old age pension order books.

A large amount of work has fallen on the Department of Social Welfare since its inception; for example, that arising out of the transfer of functions, the introduction of cash supplements last year, the conducting of talks with Great Britain and Northern Ireland on reciprocal arrangements, and, not least, the action preparatory to the present measure since the new Government took office almost six months ago. I am satisfied that my Department has done, and is doing, a considerable amount of solid work of lasting benefit to the community. Miracles, however, cannot be achieved, and there is a limit to what even the most earnest people can accomplish. I am constrained to wait until January 7th before the new conditions can be made operative. I may say here that even the fixation of that date will impose a very heavy strain on the resources of the Department, and the officers of the Department will be called upon to perform what in ordinary circumstances one would consider to be an exceptionally heavy volume of work.

This Bill is not in my view an end in itself, but it is an important step forward. It carries our social services and our social legislation a very substantial step forward to a new high level. It provides more security for the weak and the helpless, and it is calculated to brighten their lot by the distribution of a sum of £2,500,000 per annum additional to whatever income they have from our present social services. The fact that it does that, that it will help to brighten the lives of the weak and helpless members of the community will, I am sure, commend the Bill to this House.

Much, however, remains to be done before we can regard our social services as adequate to the requirements of our people, and no time must be lost in bringing before the House measures designed to lift our social services to a plane of which we can feel proud. When this Bill has been passed by the Oireachtas I hope to concentrate upon the production of a comprehensive scheme of social services. With this Bill out of the way, and in operation, the comprehensive scheme will be tackled with earnestness and expedition, and I hope the House will have the opportunity in the course of a few months of seeing the White Paper in connection with that scheme. Meantime, I would take this opportunity of bespeaking the support and warm endorsement by the members of this House of the long overdue provisions of this Bill.

This is a Bill that one might refer to as a Bill to be dealt with more in Committee than on Second Reading. I should like to say at the outset that, far from receiving the Bill with enthusiasm, we on this side of the House, members of the House generally, and the country at large received the Bill with a keen sense of disappointment. We are not very far removed from a very serious contest in which one of the chief questions at issue was that of social security and social legislation.

There was a competition entered into between two Parties as to which would give the biggest, greatest and quickest services. I am sure that the Minister is as disappointed as I am in having to come here to-day after the many promises made by his Party and by himself, and the statements they made about putting into operation schemes drawn up and having the approval of the Party of which he was Leader, if only ways and means of doing so were given to them. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons put forward for the Minister and his colleagues entering the inter-Party Government was that it was going to put them in a position quickly to put into operation a comprehensive social services scheme for the people of the country. We have had an instalment of that plan before us to-day. It is most disappointing in what it proposes to do and it is still more disappointing in how it proposes to do these things.

Many references were made during the election campaign to the social services of this country. If we examine what happened since 1931-32 we find that the total Estimates prepared by the Government for 1931-32 for this purpose totalled something in the region of £3,500,000, while the Estimates for 1947-48 had risen to £16,000,000. Increases were given to old age pensioners; a widows' and orphans' pensions scheme and a family allowances scheme were introduced; free boots and free milk were provided; school meals and various other schemes were put into operation, and last year we had introduced here a Bill for the purpose of setting up two Ministries, one of which is occupied by the present Minister, the other being the Ministry of Health. We have already enacted here the Public Health Bill, which made provision particularly for the dependents of those who were suffering from infectious diseases and were receiving medical treatment. All that has been accomplished, and in January, 1947, the Department of which the Minister is now the head was set up. On the 4th April, 1947, I think it was, provision was made for the expenditure of £2,500,000. Whether we have had greater inflation or deflation since 1947, the sum of £2,500,000 was then made available for increased benefits to the recipients of old age pensions, blind pensions, national health insurance, unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance. Those increased benefits were made available without imposing any additional charges on the worker or the employer.

The Minister, in putting forward the reason for changing that policy now, tells the House that he is going back-to the insurance principle. But surely he is not going back to the insurance principle when, under the terms of this Bill, a person paying for national health insurance or unemployment insurance is not alone contributing for the benefits that may accrue to him or his family as a result of paying into the fund, but he is compelled to make provision for the building up of a fund to provide for those who may be entitled to benefits of a non-contributory nature. If the Minister sets that out as the principal reason why he is going back to a contributory scheme, I am sure that he will find it rather difficult to relate that to the proposal to compel those people to make good the amount of the increase to the recipients under the non-contributory scheme. While the present Bill makes provision for an increase of contribution from the worker and the employer, it makes no provision for an increase of benefit to those entitled to benefit under national health insurance or unemployment insurance.

I put it seriously to the House that this is going to do very serious damage to any further development of a social security scheme. If the Minister is going to bring in this comprehensive scheme of which he talks, it is either going to be on a contributory basis or it is going to be provided for wholly from Exchequer funds. If you are to have it on a contributory basis, then you must set out now to establish the principle of contribution. It must be set out that those people who are asked to pay contributions will be doing so in order that they may at some time, if the occasion demands it, be entitled to benefits as a result of that. But it is not going to encourage workers throughout the country to become enthusiastic about paying for national health insurance or unemployment insurance if they realise that part of the money so subscribed by them is being used to pay benefits to people who are making no contributions at all. I think that if the Minister goes ahead with that proposal he is certainly going to damage the whole principle of insurance.

The Minister has given us a very elaborate statement. He has, however, avoided, as I think he avoided in the other House, a very important part of what should be given to this House if we are to give a proper consideration to a Bill of this kind, namely, the impost under this Bill on the worker and on the employer; what will be the additional total amount contributed by these people in order to give the benefits which are at present being given without any increase. The Minister has stated that he is making available a sum of £2,500,000. He has, however, unintentionally I am sure, passed over any reference to the £950,000 taken by the Minister for Finance from the Insurance Fund, the £450,000 taken from the Widows' and Orphans' Investment Fund, and also the provision contained in this Bill, not alone to put national health insurance and unemployment insurance on their own feet, as it were, but to recoup to the Minister for Finance the amounts advanced since 1st July of last year. I am sure that the Minister is no more in love with a provision of that kind than I am. I can quite realise his very difficult position, because we had the privilege, while the Minister was expounding before the Dáil the terms of this Bill, of hearing a statement in this House in connection with it from the Minister for Finance regretting that such a sum of money had to be made available.

I should like to have the quotation from the Minister for Finance's speech as to that. That is not a fair statement.

Will the Senator give the quotation?

I have not got the quotation at the moment. If the Senator is anxious to have it put on record, as I would myself, he can have it later. If the Senator doubts the attitude taken up by the Minister for Finance to such a question I am sure the Minister for Social Welfare will be very glad to be convinced that the Minister for Finance will be found more generous than he has been on this occasion in making available this £2,500,000.

The point is quite clear. The Minister for Finance did not say he regretted that he would have to give the money for this Bill. I was here when he was speaking.

Senator Hawkins ought to withdraw the statement if he cannot give the quotation.

In order not to delay the proceedings, I am prepared to withdraw it, but I will avail of an opportunity of convincing the Senator that what I have said is correct. As I have said before, there is no necessity to do that, because there is not a child in the country who does not know the Minister for Finance's attitude to a question of this kind. Knowing that, I should like to express very sincere sympathy with the Minister in trying to extract this very small amount of £2,500,000 for this purpose.

Very small amount?

It is small in relation to what we were told would be expended on the schemes which would be put forward.

There is nothing about its coming from your side?

Now we come to the question of the widows' and orphans' pensions. The Minister has made several concessions, particularly in regard to non-contributory widows' pensions. It is, however, on that very matter that I join issue with the Minister; not on the question of increasing the pensions, but on the question of imposing on the insured workers and the employers the responsibility of providing the funds to do this.

That was done under Fianna Fáil.

The present Government are eight or nine months in office.

Not quite six months.

The Senator should be allowed to make his speech.

He does not mind.

We are only keeping him right.

There may have been an excuse for the Minister for Finance to come to the Seanad on the Appropriation Bill and say: "Here is the Book of Estimates that was prepared by Fianna Fáil and of the things that they were prepared to do", but there can be no excuse for the Minister for Social Welfare, if he has found that certain conditions were operating in regard to a scheme of this kind under Fianna Fáil, in not removing them and in making better provision now. It is time that the Minister and the Government got away from making the excuse that because this or that provision was made by Fianna Fáil, therefore, they must go ahead with it. We know, of course, that if there is something they wish to undo, they will undo it simply because it was Fianna Fáil did it.

I wish to draw the attention of the Minister and of the House to the provision that is being made for, the payment of orphans' pensions. The Minister has taken a lot of credit for having divided the country into two areas. He has also divided the insured workers into two classes. The orphan of a non-agricultural worker is to get 10/-, and of an agricultural worker 8/6, even though both may be living next door to one another.

That is under the contributory scheme.

We have heard a lot of talk in this House and outside of it about the importance of the agricultural worker and of keeping him on the land. If an agricultural worker dies his widow, with her children, will, I suggest, soon remove to a town when she finds that by doing so she is going to receive greater benefits than if she continued to live in a labourer's cottage or on a small holding. There will be that inducement to make her change into a town.

Is the Senator in favour of obliging an agricultural worker to pay a higher rate of contribution for his benefits, because that is the issue?

It is not the issue.

Of course it is.

I am trying to advocate what should be the policy of the Minister in this Bill, and I am pointing out that he is deviating from that policy as regards the provision relating to contributions made by the workers.

I have asked the Senator——

Senator Duffy will get his opportunity to make his point later.

I hope that I shall get as much latitude as the present speaker.

The Senator can say as much as he likes.

I think that the point I am making is quite clear, both to the Minister and to the House.

The Senator is quite wrong.

Surely the Minister is not going to deny that there is a difference in the rate of benefits payable to the orphan of an agricultural worker as against the orphan of a non-agricultural worker. The point that I am making is that I would like to see the benefits in both cases on the same level.

I made an offer to do that in the Dáil on two occasions. I offered to introduce the necessary amendments if any such desire was expressed by Parties in the Dáil, and it was not expressed.

Even by Deputy MacEntee?

I now come to the provision dealing with old age pensioners, the one under which the greatest amount of money in this Bill is going to be expended. I do not think it is necessary to go back over all the quotations that might be given in regard to what was said either in the Dáil or elsewhere on the subject of old age pensions and of the abolition of the means test. I think that the best approach to make is to examine the proposals that are before us on their merits, regardless of what was said in the past. We find that the means test is being raised from £39 5s. 0d. to £52 10s. 0d. A person with an income of £52 10s. 0d. will not be entitled to any pension, while a person with an income of £15 12s. 6d. will be entitled to a pension of 17/6. That is very faraway from the promises that were made by the various Parties. When we examine that proposal, and relate it to its value, we must remember that we are dealing with a person whose highest income may not be more than £15 12s. 6d. We do not know what that person's real income is, whether it is £1 or £2 a year, but the most that this Bill provides for such a person is 17/6 a week. We then proceed to examine the provision made for the young unemployed man who is entitled to unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance. Provided that he complies with the conditions laid down, and that he has been employed for so many days in the week, the amount that he is entitled to receive from State funds is 22/6 a week, while the most that the old age pensioner can get, even though he has no other income whatever—and that will be the position in most cases—is 17/6.

What is he getting now?

12/6 in the rural areas.

15/- with the provision that the local authority may, in necessitous cases, make a further provision for that person.

If he is destitute.

A person with 17/6 a week is destitute.

I am afraid that Senator Duffy, while he might like to be helpful on this Bill, will not be quite so helpful by the time that I have finished. We also find in this Bill a provision to which very serious objection was offered at one time by the present Minister and his supporters throughout the country. Yet the system, so much criticised, is to be carried on under the Bill. Senator Duffy has just referred to it. It is that a local authority, in administering public assistance, may give assistance to the people described by Senator Duffy as being destitute. It can assist such people out its own funds, but that will still leave them destitute. It will, however, be competent for the local authority to give assistance to them. Therefore, those people who, as the Minister has stated, are at the present time in the lowest category— people in receipt of 15/- a week—may get an increase of 2/6 per week if the local authority thinks that it is necessary to supplement their income by that amount.

We have also a provision in the Bill dealing with six groups ranging from £15 to £52 10s. 0d. The Minister claims credit for having raised the means test, but I should like him to give me a definite assurance on one very serious aspect of that matter. He has informed us that a tremendous job of work will be carried out in this connection. Each and every person in receipt of an old age pension will be examined as to his or her means, as the case may be, and new books will have to be issued, although that particular matter should not be very difficult. I should like the Minister to inform us on what basis that examination is going to be carried out. Is it going to be carried out on the basis of present-day inflated prices or on the basis that is maintained at present and will that basis be continued in the future? Even prior to the outbreak of the recent war, when an inspector went down the country to investigate the means of an old age pension applicant he valued the cow, the horse, the hen, the number of chickens and the possibilities in regard to the price of eggs for the coming year. At present-day prices, God only knows what the value of horses, cows and poultry produce will soar to by the time the inspector is finished. That is why I am anxious to know the basis on which the examination of means will be carried out in the future.

I hold that you can raise the means test figure, but you can also raise the calculating basis of arriving at that figure. If you do that you are going to have a position whereby very few, if any, people will qualify for the full pension. I am aware that the Minister explained in the other House that there is a saving clause in this Bill whereby no person will be any worse off as a result of the passing of this Bill, from the point of view of pension purposes, than he or she was before the passing of this Bill. The reason the Minister gave for that was that a number of people have become entitled to old age pensions since the passing of the supplementary allowance and that others had family allowances and so forth that were not taken into consideration. I should like to see inserted in the Bill, before it leaves this House, an amendment in respect not alone of those who are now in receipt of old age pensions but also of those who will become entitled to old age pensions in the future, whereby their position will not be any worse as a result of any change in the computation of the means test than if they were applicants at the present time. I hope the Minister will receive that suggestion sympathetically and that he will avail of the opportunity given in this House to amend the Bill and make it more satisfactory than it is.

On the question of the means test, I propose also to move an amendment on the Committee Stage of this Bill. In rural Ireland, and in particular in the congested areas, we have what is known as the uneconomic holder. It is the view of the Government and, indeed, it is the view held in general throughout the country that people living on holdings whose valuations are anything under £10 cannot have an economic existence and, in order to abolish such a condition of affairs, provision is being made to transfer many of them at great expense to the State to the lands of County Meath. Surely it is not too much to ask the Minister to accept an amendment whereby, in such cases in rural Ireland where the applicants live on holdings under £10 in valuation, the means would be classed as nil and such applicants would get the full pension. Let me refer to a specific case which will illustrate some of the difficulties that can arise from time to time. An inspector visited a woman who had applied for the old age pension, and he took a full statement as to her means. She had some poultry and, in addition, she happened to have a horse's cart. Because she had a horse's cart and because she lived at the side of a bog the inspector reported that that woman had an income from turf.

When did that happen?

About 12 months ago.

The present Minister could not, therefore, be blamed for that.

I am complaining about the system of the investigation of means. I am quite sure that Senator Baxter comes across just as many cases of that kind as I do—that is, if he is the attentive and——


——hard - working Senator that I take him to be. Of course, there are some Senators and some Deputies who may get such requests, but who do not attend to them. The fact of the matter is that that particular woman had no animal to draw the cart, even if she had the turf to dispose of.

Did she get the pension?

She did, eventually. There is a provision whereby the payment of old age pensions under this Bill will not come into operation until the 7th January. I have already pointed out to the House that the former Minister for Social Welfare introduced a Bill here and that the payments were made as from the 1st April. If the Minister is going to introduce the comprehensive scheme that he is expected to introduce, and about which he has told us, within a reasonable period of time surely he cannot support the proposal that an examination of each and every old age pension case must be carried out in order to decide who is going to benefit under this measure? Will the Minister state to the House that this inquiry is being made not, in particular, for the implementation of this Bill but as a basis for the Bill that is to come— which it is not and which it could not be? Then, if it is not so, it is a complete waste of time and money and it is putting back something that can be done to-day until some distant time in the future for the purpose of saving a paltry sum of money. Senator Baxter will say that I look on these sums as being insignificant. The Minister states that a sum of £2,500,000 is provided for the purpose but I say that a sum of £2,500,000 is not provided to implement the measures in the Bill this year.

He did not say that. He said that £2,500,000 would be provided in a full year.

As far as my memory serves me, the Minister for Finance made provision in his Budget for £600,000 in this connection. That £600,000 is the money, and the only money, that is going to be expended on the implementation of this measure.

In the present financial year.

Having made that sum available he is taking, with the other hand, £450,000, plus £500,000 which, in a full year, is £950,000 out of the same fund. Senator Duffy may smile, but these are the facts.

The Chair has stated that I may talk for a long time later on, so I shall say nothing now.

The Chair is right.

The Chair is always right.

If Senator Duffy doubts my statement I would recommend him to examine the Estimates for the year 1946-47. He will see that the sum provided for national health insurance was £494,000; for unemployment benefits £298,000, for widows and orphans £450,000, and for old age pensions £3,780,250. With the introduction of the supplementary benefits to which the Minister has referred, these sums were increased to—national health insurance, £804,000; widows and orphans, £962,500, and old age pensions, £5,149,000. That was a total of £2,500,000. Those benefits were made available without placing any increased charges on contributors. I think the Minister should avail of the opportunity which presents itself to him now in this House to amend the Bill in such a manner as to make it more acceptable. I hope, too, that he will give a clearer and more definite indication of when he is going to introduce the comprehensive scheme of social services. I would like to have that information in view of some remarks that he has made. In concluding his opening speech he said that to abolish the means test would involve an expenditure of an additional £3,000,000.


£3,500,000 to abolish the means test. I am not in favour of the total abolition of the means test, but that is a matter upon which we can have a full discussion when the comprehensive scheme comes before us. The Minister went further. He said that in the measure that he intends to bring before the House later on he hopes to make old age pensions payable at 65 on a contributory basis and that that, in relation to the particular people concerned, would abolish the means test. Of course, that is true. But if that comprehensive scheme is going to be put into operation money will have to be found to build up a fund to enable either voluntary contributors or compulsory contributors to benefit from the increases. From the statement made by the Minister and because of the manner in which this Bill has been put before the House, I feel that there is no definite intention on the part of the present Government to give effect to its promises of putting into operation a comprehensive insurance scheme during its lifetime.

I would like to intervene in this debate to say that I am disappointed. That is the key-note of this entire debate and that describes the reception this Bill has received so far. Senator Hawkins says it is a very disappointing measure. Of course it is. The Party for which Senator Hawkins speaks here and throughout the country are very disappointed by this measure. What pleasure it would have given them to be able to go to the crossroads and say: "Here they are. They promised to improve the position of the widows and the orphans; they have been six months in office and what we could not do in 16 years they have failed to do in six months."

In a very brief space of time the Minister has taken a very important step to implement the promises made by the Government. That is the biggest disappointment of all to Senator Hawkins. He made that absolutely clear in his speech. He talked about this very small sum. Small as it is, it is £2,500,000. But that is typical of the kind of mentality that was induced in this country for 16 years by the Party for whom Senator Hawkins speaks here. He thinks £2,500,000 is nothing. He regards it as a mere bagatelle. To him it is an insignificant sum. What is insignificant about it? What is insignificant is that it was not worth while Fianna Fáil including it in the Book of Estimates for the present year which reached the grand total of £70,000,000. That £70,000,000 did not include this £2,500,000.

The present measure is not perfect. We all realise that and the Minister made that very clear in quite simple language which ought to have been understood by everybody in this House. The truth is that the Bill is a step forward with regard to social services. It improves the position of the old age pensioners; it improves the position of the widows and the orphans; and it improves the position of a particular category of people in whom I myself have a peculiar interest—that is, the blind. The measure is not perfect. It does not give to these people what everybody would like to give them. Far from it, but it should be recognised as an important step in the right direction and as something which is entirely practicable. There is an improvement in the means test.

I am not a convert on this question of the means test. For ten years during which I occupied the Chair in the Dáil I was unable to express a view on any subject. In 1932, after I ceased to be Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, I had an opportunity of speaking on an Old Age Pensions Bill. I was quite clear in my own mind that the means test, as it was then administered, was unfair to certain classes. It was unfair to certain classes of whom I had a personal knowledge in the City of Dublin. It was not unfair to the agricultural workers. At that particular time I advocated that the means test should at least be modified. It is modified now under this Bill.

Perhaps Senator Hawkins is right when he says that it should not be abolished altogether. That is a matter we can discuss at some future date. The Minister said this afternoon that it would require an additional £3,500,000 to abolish the means test. He also pointed out that 90 per cent. of the people in receipt of old age pensions get the full pension. In 1932 it appeared to me that the means test was unfair in relation to certain classes. It appears to me to be unfair still with regard to certain classes of workers in the towns. A skilled worker who has been a member of a trade union all his life and who has by his membership and contributions earned a certain pension is not entitled to receive the full-old age pension if he is in receipt of a pension from his union. That position is partially remedied under this Bill, but it is only partially remedied. I think that is an injustice. Another drawback is that the skilled worker cannot make use of his skill, even to a limited extent. If he does so and earns a small amount of money he forfeits his right to the old age pension. I admit that some improvement has been made in that position under the present measure, but I would like to see it improved still further.

I recognise limitations of finance and other limitations. All limitations are of practical effect and it is quite useless for anybody in this House to get up and say that we should have a perfect situation. It is not within the compass of man to create perfection. As far as I remember, Fine Gael policy, as adumbrated during the election, dealt with the question of modifying the means test—a test which is expensive for the State and irritating to applicants. We all know that it is irritating. As far as old age pensions are concerned, I think the means test is administered in a very friendly and reasonable way, taking into consideration the ramifications of the various Acts. To say that one is disappointed with this Bill merely because it is not perfect adds nothing to Parliamentary debate.

Senator Hawkins was very eloquent to-day with regard to the way in which the means test is administered. During the ten years past in which I have been a member of the Seanad I have never heard Senator Hawkins say one word about the means test. In the 16 years during which Senator Hawkins was one of the official spokesmen of the Fianna Fáil Party and, I am sure, admitted to all their inner councils, Senator Hawkins never said one word about the means test. He excelled himself in eloquence to-day about those unfortunate people who have their hens and eggs and chickens and goats and horses and cows valued by the old age pension officer. Perhaps that is going a little too far. But I think Senator Hawkins is a bit belated in his enthusiasm about this matter.

There is a case for this Bill. The most important factor of that case is that within six months of the present Government taking office they have succeeded in cutting down some of the unnecessary expenditure in which the Fianna Fáil Government was indulging and in diverting some of the money involved in that unnecessary expenditure by Fianna Fáil to a better purpose. Surely Senator Hawkins must agree with me that the expenditure of money under the present Bill is an expenditure on a better purpose than those upon which Fianna Fáil were spending money. The Government in having done that, has disappointed the Opposition. Those of us who support this Bill feel that that disappointment is perhaps the most able commentary to be made upon this Bill. Most of Senator Hawkins's other points are largely Committee points.

I listened to the Minister for Finance speaking here on this matter. Senator Hawkins said that the Minister for Finance regretted having to give money for this purpose. We know that Ministers for Finance always have to find the money and foot the bill. Naturally it is their desire to keep expenditure down as low as they possibly can within reason. The Ministers for Finance in the Fianna Fáil régime were failures from that particular point of view. The present Minister for Finance never made a statement that he regretted having to give money for this particular purpose. Knowing him as I do, I should think that he regrets he is not able to give more. The facts are there. The facts must be faced. The facts speak for themselves.

There is one other point that I think is well worth making. Senator Hawkins challenges the Minister that he will not produce his comprehensive scheme. We must judge people by their performances. The Minister has produced this scheme and he has promised to produce another scheme in the course of the next year. The likelihood will be, on his Ministerial performances so far, that he will produce the other scheme and, when he does, Senator Hawkins will be profoundly disappointed, in all the sense of that word.

There is one other thing that should be stated on a measure of this kind. I think the Minister in another place said something like it. We would all like to see social services improved. The increases that have been given are not increases which are really commensurate with the decrease in the value of money. We would all like to see the blind, the old and infirm and the widows and orphans properly treated. It is a commonplace to say— it was said by those who favoured and devised the Beveridge Plan—that you can have no plan of social security without greater production in the country of necessary goods. The word "production" is constantly used in this country, too, but I feel that the word "production" is used to hide a smaller word, a monosyllable, namely, "work." Unless people who are working, no matter what they may be working at, work harder and produce more, then the social services we would all like to see made available for the aged and the infirm and the widows and orphans cannot be made available, either in this measure or in the better measure with which we all would be so sympathetic. It is well that everybody would understand that.

There has been talk about changing money from the contributory fund to the non-contributory people. In effect, whatever there may be about the technical point, social services mean all the time transferring money from the people who can earn it to the people who cannot—not through their own fault, of course. That is the fundamental basis of the whole business. People who are engaged in work can make a certain contribution. There are others who cannot do so. Those who work, whatever they may work at, make the contribution, and unless we can provide that people will work, we cannot provide social services, and, if we cannot provide social services, we are up against a very difficult situation. We can only provide them in the situation where everybody works, and works a little harder.

The Minister deserves great credit for bringing in this Bill and he deserves credit for the improvements which are effected by it. He deserves credit also for admitting frankly that the Bill is not his own ideal, but is a Bill which, in practical circumstances, and in the circumstances created for him by his predecessors, he finds it possible to bring in. I hope the House will agree with it and I hope the Senators who speak about it will do so with more realism and less politics than Senator Hawkins displayed.

Ba hiondual nuair a bhítheas goimh an ainmhí sa gcaint, gur san earball a bhíonn sé. Chítear dhom, ó thaobh an Bhille seo, nach san earball atá an ghoimh: feicthear dhom gurb é an t-earball, nó an deire, an chuid is fearr—an chuid is mó a thaithníonn liomsa, go háirithe.

Is dóigh liom gur ceart a rá go bhfuilimid ar fad ar aon intinn go bhfuil codacha den Bhille ionmholta. Má theastaíonn ón Aire go molfaí é mar gheall ar na buanna atá le tabhairt faoi deara sa mBille, ní miste liom é mholadh. Is fíor go ndúirt mé níos mó ná aon uair amháin nuair a bhí mé ag caint anseo ar scéimeanna fóirthine agus cabhruithe do lucht sean-aoise agus baintreacha, nach féidir linn leath ár ndóithin a dhéanamh le freastal ar na ndaoine sin, dá mhéid dá ndéanfaimíd dóibh. Taithníonn liom an méid atá beartaithe le cuidiú le baintreacha agus le díleachtaithe. Níl mé chomh sásta leis an méid atá déanta ar son lucht sean-aoise, ach níl mé ag déanamh beag is fiú ar an leath-choróin. Is maith é, agus tá fáilte roimhe.

Cheapfá, go mór mór ón gcaint a bhí ar bun ag an Aire sa Dáil—agus cheapfá, cinnte, ón gcaint a rinne an Seanadóir Ó hAodha—go bhfuil díomá ar mhuintir Fhianna Fáil mar gheall ar an mBille seo—díomá ar an mbealach seo, gur truagh linn an chabhair atá geallta ann. Ní bheadh sé sin fíor. An té a déarfadh é no an té a déarfadh aon rud go bhféadfaí an tuigsint sin a bhaint as ní bheadh sé ag tabhairt Cothrom na Féinne. Ní misde liom a rá go bhfuil mé go láidir ar thaobh Fhianna Fáil. Bhí mé nuair cuireadh ar bun é agus ní dóigh liom go raibh mé níos láidre ar son beartas an pháirtí sin ná mar tá mé inniu. D'fhéadfaí a rá ar son Fianna Fáil gurb é an chaoi a mbreathnaimid ar an mBille go bhfuilimíd mí-shásta faoi nach dtéann sé chomh fada agus cheapaimíd a mbeadh an tAire agus an Rialtas sásta dul leis. Molaimid an méid atá tugtha do na baintreacha agus na dílleachtaithe agus molaimid an leathchoróin atá tugtha do lucht na sean aoise ach ní fhágann sé sin gur Bille é seo atá gan locht mar tá mór chuid lochtaí ag baint leis. Dá mbeadh Fianna Fáil i gcumhacht, an ndéanfaidís aon rud ar son na mbaintreacha agus ar son lucht na sean aoise? Dá mbeadh Fianna Fáil i gcumhacht, an ndéanfaí aon rud ar son lucht árachais náisiúnta agus ar son lucht díomhaointis? Níl aon tuairmíocht ar bun agam. Tá fhios ag an Aire go raibh mór-chuid réiteachta déanta ag an Aire a bhí ann roimhe le Bille a thabhairt isteach a d'fheabhsódh cor lucht sean-aoise, na baintreacha, lucht an árachais náisiúnta agus lucht ceal oibre.

An fíor é sin? Bhfuil an Seanadóir deimhnitheach de sin?

Fan nóimeat. Is cuimhin liom nuair bhí an díospóireacht ar bun sa Dáil gur chuir an t-iar-Aire, an Dochtúir Ó Riain, ceist ar an Aire ar bhfíor é seo go bhféadfadh a chuid oifigeach innseacht dó ar an bpointe cé mhéad a chosnódh scéim Beveridge in Eirinn, go bhféadfadh a chuid oifigeach a chur in úil don Aire céard a déanfaí le haghaidh gach scilling dá mba mhian leis a chur san áireamh. An fíor gur bailíodh an t-eolas sin, gur cuireadh an t-eolas sin ar fáil, an chuid is tábhachtaí dhe, don réiteach atá le déanamh le haghaidh Bille den tsórt seo. An fíor é go raibh Páipéar Bán beartaithe ag an iar-Aire sul ar éirigh sé as oifig. Níl fhios agam —ní raibh mise sa Roinn agus níl agam mar chruthúnas ar an méid atá á rá agam ach na ceisteanna a chuir an t-iar-Aire ar an Aire nuair bhí an díospóireacht ar bun sa Dáil—ar thug an tAire freagra ar na ceisteanna seo? Bhí mé fhéin faoin tuaith ach an tseachtain a bhí an Seanad ann, agus ní fhaca mé na nuachtáin. Bhí mé ag ceapadh go bhfuighinn ar theacht isteach dom inné tuarascála na Dála agus an tSeanaid le haghaidh na seachtaine seo caite—dhá thuarascáil a bheadh an-tábhachtach dúinn le haghaidh clár an tSeanaid don tseisiúin seo. Ní raibh siad le fáil agus níl siad le fáil inniu ach oiread. Níl fhios agam cén freagra a thug an tAire ach ón eolas agus an aithne atá agam ar an iar-Aire agus ar an duthracht a bhaineann leis, agus ar an spéis a bhí aige ins an obair seo, creidim go raibh mór-chuid réiteachta déanta aige i gcóir Bille a bhéarfadh cabhair do na dreamanna atá ag fáil cabhrach sa mBille seo. Isé an fáth a n-abraim é seo, le súil go gcuirfear deireadh leis an gcineál seo argóinte—go raibh muintir an Rialtais deiridh ag déanamh neamhshuime i scéal na n-aicme ar mhian linn cuidiú leo. An on gcáil air, atá cruthaíonn sé, ón gcéad lá a dtáinig siad isteach, a mhéid a thuig siad a riachtanaí a bhí sé go bhfuidheadh na h-aicmí sin cabhair. Nach ceann de na lochtaí a fuarthas ar Fhianna Fáil, gur árdaigh siad cánacha go £15½ milliún le freastal ar na seirbhísí sóisialacha seo.

Sin é a deirtear.

Nach fíor é?

Nach bhfuil sé le léamh sna Meastacháin gach aon bhliain an méid a cuireadh ar fáil le haghaidh gach brainse de na seirbhísí sóisialacha? Cén chaoi a rithfí na seirbhísí foirleathna atá againn marach gur bailíodh an oiread airgid agus a bailíodh in a chóir. Ní aon mhaith don tSeanadóir Ó hAodha ag rá "Sin é a deirtear." Is fíoras é, agus tá an fíoras sin le léamh, más mian leis breathnú siar, bliain i ndiaidh bliana, ar an airgead a vótáladh le haghaidh seirbhísí sóisialacha ó tháinig Rialtas Fianna Fáil isteach.

Dúirt an Seanadóir Ó hAcháin gur Bille diomuíoch é an Bille seo. Tá mé ar aon intinn leis. Is cosúil go bhfuil an Seanadóir Ó hAodha ar aon tuairim linn. Maidir liom fhéin, tá sé sásta leis an méid atá déanta; ach, mar sin fhéin, ba mhaith leis go ndéanfaí i bhfad níos fearr é. Admhaíonn sé na deacrachtaí atá ag baint le tuille cabhair a chur ar fáil agus admhaímse an rud céanna. Ach níl a fhios agam cén uair a d'fhoghlaim an tAire na deacrachtaí atá ag baint le seirbhísí a chur ar fáil a bheadh chomh sásúil agus ba mhaith linn iad a bheith. Tá an Bille mí-shásúil ina lán pointí. Ní abrann sé sin nach bhfuil rudaí ionmholta ann. Tá mé ag moladh an Aire as a ucht. Tá mé ag iarraidh air freagra cruinn a thabhairt faoina lán ceisteanna a bhaineas leis an mBille.

Gealladh—agus ba rud an-mhór é, le linn an toghcháin—go bhfuigheadh na seanóirí a bpinsin in aois a 65. Is maith liom an laghdú atá déanta i gcás na mbaintreach, Ó 55 go dtí 45. Is maith liom go mór, ar nós an tSeanadóra Ó hAodha, go bhfuil an aois laghdaithe, i gcas na ndall, go dtí 21. Tá mé go láidir ar an tuairim, ámh, go bhfuil éagóir déanta ar lucht sean-aoise, de bharr na fógraíochta le linn an toghcháin, nuair nár híslíodh an aois pinsin ó 70 go dtí 65. Táimíd tagaithe go dtí an pointe ar cheart go bhfuighidh duine seans ar éirí as obair in aois a 65. Tá sé sinn socruithe againn agus scríofa isteach againn anseo in Achta a ritheadh le cúpla bliain, a bhaineann le Stát-Sheirbhísí agus Seirbhísí Poiblí. Is dóigh liom, go mór mór má tugadh geallúint chomh láidir sin, go mba cheart go bhfuighidh na daoine an buntáiste sin.

Dúradh go bhfuigheadh na daoine £1 5s. 0d. agus £1 6s. 0d. mar phinsean, nuair a bheidís an aois chuige. Deireann an Seanadóir Ó hAodha go n-admhaíonn sé go bhfuil deacrachtaí ann in a choinne sin, agus deireann an tAire an rud céanna. Cén uair a fuair an tAire eolas ar na deacrachtaí sin a bheith ann?

Bhfuil an Seanadóir cliomh simplí sin?

Fan go mbeidh mé réidh, agus feicfidh tú chomh simplí agus tá mé. An innseoidh an tAire dhúinn cén uair a fuair sé eolas ar na deacrachtaí atá i gcoinne a dhéanta? Níl mé ag déanamh léarmheas le spídiúlacht ach le go bhfuighimíd amach céard iad na ‘realities' agus an admhaíonn lucht an Rialtais seo go bhfuil siad ann, amhail mar d'admhaigh an Rialtas a bhí ann rómpu. Go dtí go mbeidhimid ar aon intinn go bhfuil deacrachtaí ann, ní bheimid ábalta an rud a dhéanamh mar ba mhaith linn é dhéanamh ar son na daoine a bhfuil cabhair tuillte, agus tuillte go maith, acu uainn.

Thug sé lide dhúinn faoin gcúis nár chuir sé maoin-fhiosrú ar ceal. Dúirt an Seanadóir O hAodha féin nach bhfuil a fhios aige ar mhaith an rud é deireadh a chur leis an maoin-. fhiosrú. Is cuimhneach liom, nuair a bhí rún ós ár gcomhair tamall ó shoin, faoi phinsin lucht sean-aoise, gur labhair mé i gcoinne an mhaoinfhiosrú a chur ar ceal. Níl aon ghá dhom m'intinn d'athrú faoi. Tá mé lán tsásta gur athraigh an tAire na leibhéalacha éagsúla le haghaidh an phinsin. Tá áthas orm go bhfuil coigeartú no ‘adjustment' déanta aige maidir leis an maoin-fhiosrú. Má theastaíonn moladh uaidh faoi sin, bheirim moladh dhó, ach ná ceapadh sé ourb é an t-aon duine amháin é a thuig an gá a bhí le coigeartú mar sin. Ná ceapadh aon duine, dá mbeadh Rialtas eile anseo, nach ndéanfaidís coigeartú ar an maoin-fhiosrú freisin. Níl a fhios agam cé na méideanna a shocróidís ach tá mé cinnte go mbeadh athrú ann. Dúirt sé linn go gcosnódh sé £3½ milliún sa mbreis dá gcuireadh sé an maoin-fhiosrú ar ceal. Cén fáth a scanródh £3½ milliúin an tAire?— fear, más fíor dó féin, a thuig an méid a d'fhéadfaí a dhéanamh ach an cumhacht a bheith aige chuige. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil níos mó ná mise agus an Seanadóir Ó hAodha diomuíoch mar gheall ar an mBille seo. Is doigh liom nach bhfuil an tAire féin antsásta leis an mBille. Cinnte, maíonn sé go bhfuil cuid mhaith déanta aige —agus tá údar maoite aige. Ach, más inchreidte an méid adúirt sé féin, agus é ag caint ar an mBille seo sa Dáil, níl sé sásta leis; agus mura bhfuil seisean sásta leis cén peacadh dhúinn a rá nach bhfuilimidne sásta leis?

Meabhráim don Aire na focail seo:

"I do not deny that if this Bill were fashioned by my own hands in a different set of circumstances, it would be more generous than it is."

Cén tsrian a bhí ar an Aire? Cé chuir cosc air an Bille a cheapadh é féin?

An saol, chuir an saol cosc leis, mar atá sé.

Tiocfaimid suas leis sin. Céard a chuir cosc air a rogha rud a dhéanamh, do réir mar gheall sé go minic nuair a bhí sé ag caint i nDáil Éireann agus ag caint leis an bpobal? Ní duine nua an tAire sa Dáil. Tá baint aige ar feadh beagnach a shaoil leis an saol poiblí. Tá cleachtadh aige ar chúrsaí Parlaiméide agus ar scrúdú airgeadais an Stáit. Ní hionann é agus duine a thiocfadh isteach as an nua. Ní hionann é agus Airí eile—an chuid is mó díobh—agus daoine a chuir Páirtí nua ar bun agus a tháinig isteach gan mórán deise bheith acu i dtréineáil ar chúrsaí an tsaoil phoiblí.

Bhí a fhios aige céard a bhí sé i ndon a dhéanamh. Murar chreid sé an méid a bhí sé ag rá, ní maith liom ainm a chur ar a iompar. Dúirt an tAire mar leithscéal faoi an laige atá ag baint leis an mBille:

Nobody ever expected, I take it, that within five months of taking over office, a new Government would be able, especially with the legacy of debts left to them by the last Government, to implement its full social welfare programme.

An lá cheana a dúirt an tAire é sin. Tá sé le léamh sa Tuarascá l Oifigiúil, colún, 1860. Céard iad na fiacha a fuair an Rialtas nua. Shílfeá on méid sin, nuair a tháinig an Rialtas nua isteach, go raibh droch-bhail ar chúrsaí airgeadais agus ar geilleagair na hEireann—"especially with the legacy of debts left to them by the last Government." Foillsítear gach bliain clár in a dteaspántar go soléir an mhaoin atá ag an Stát, agus, ar an taobh eile, na fiacha atá ar an Stáit. Tá sé le fáil ó na Comisinéirí Cánach Ioncaim, ach, an chuid is mó againn, léimíd é san Statistical Abstract. Ar mhiste leis an Aire, ar a chaothúlacht, an clár sin d'fháil agus é a scrúdú, agus a chur in iúl dúinn céard iad na fiacha a d'fhág an Rialtas deiridh a bhaineann dá chumas seisean an oiread a dhéanamh agus a gheall sé? Tá daoine éicint nach bhfuil ag innseacht iomlán na fírinne. Is cuimheach liom, lá éigin an Márta seo caite, go dtáinig an tAire Airgeadais isteach go dtí Dáil É reann agus gur fhógair sé don Dáil go raibh air dul ós comhair an phobail agus £12 milliúin a iarraidh ar iasacht. Ní fear é an tAire Airgeadais atá ana-cheanúil ar an Rialtas a bhí ann roimhe. Dúirt sé, agus é ag iarraidh údaráis an iasacht sin a chur ós comhair na tíre—"The credit of the State is high." Ar an ábhar sin, bhí muinín aige go bhfuigheadh sé an t-airgead. Bhí muinín chomh mór sin aige as an bpobal agus as chreidmheas an Stát nar gá frithgheallacha nó underwriters d'fháil, le dul i mbannaí ar an iasacht.

Deir an tAire gur fágadh oighreacht fiacha ar an Stát a bhain dá chumas an méid ba mhaith leis a dhéanamh, ach dúirt an tAire Airgeadais go raibh creidmheas na tíre an-ard ar fad. Ba cheart don Aire é sin a mhíniú dhúinn. Abradh aoinne go bhfuil sé mí-shásta le Fianna Fáil—bíodh sin mar atá— ach ná cuirtear rud i leith Fianna Fáil nar cheart a chur ina leith. Má habraítear go ndearna sé rud mar a deirtear, ba cheart a bheith ábalta é a chruthú. Ba cheart—agus is cuma liom an tAire, nó Teachta Dála, nó Seanadóir é— cuimhniú ar an bpaidir a deirtear gach aon lá nuair a thosaíos an Seanad agus an Dáil:

" ... that every word and work of ours may always begin from Thee and by Thee be happily ended."

Ní ceart a bheith ag fógairt scéalta mar sin agus á bhfágáil mar sin. Is peacadh é i gcoinne duine. Má tá peacadh déanta, ba cheart é sin a cruthú; ach duine a rá gur fágadh oighreacht fiacha aige, nach féidir leis an oiread a dhéanamh agus ba mhian leis, agus duine eile ag fógairt chomh h-ard agus tá creidmheas an Stáit, ní thagann an dá rud le chéile.

Deir an tAire go bhfuil sé ag caitheamh £2½ milliúin:

"My position in this matter was that I had £2,500,000 for additional services."

Cuimhneoidh an tAire ar sin. Tá sé i gcolún 1836, Iml. 112. Cá bhfuair sé an £2½ milliún? An bhfuil sé ag teacht as Ciste an Stáit? Nó an bhfuil sé ag cur iallach ar dhuine íoc as fiacha nach ceart aon iallach bheith air íoc as? Céard iad na méideanna éagsúla atá i gceist ins an 2½ milliún? Bhfuil an Stát á íoc? Lucht íoctha cánach atá í íoc, lucht íoctha síntiús leis an Arachais Náisiúnta. An bhfuil Muirir. á chur ar sin nar cheart a bheith orthu? Is léir go bhfuil. Ní amháin é sin, ach an t-airgead atá i dtaisce, sílim go ndúirt an tAire gur £4½ milliúin an fuighleach atá sa gciste pinsin, nach ceart go rachadh sé sin go dtí lucht a íoca? Nach ciste airgid é sin a bhaineas le lucht íoctha síntúis a bhaineas le lucht Árachais Náisiunta? Ní dóigh liom gur ceart go n-úsáidfí an t-airgead le haghaidh cuspóir ar bith ach cuspoir a bhaineas go dlúth leis na daoine a d'ioc an t-airgead sin.

Ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh don tuarascáil a tháinig ón achtuaire sa bhliain 1942. Is dóigh liom nár cuireadh timpeall í agus níorbh fhéidir liom teacht air gan mórán trioblóide agus mórán duadh sa Leabharlainn anseo. Labhair an tAire ar an tuarsccáil a chuir an t-achtuaire sin isteach i 1942. An doigh leis an Aire gur fiú leis a bheith ag caint ar an tuarascáil sin? D'admhaigh an t-achtuaire sin chomh deacair agus a bhí sé aon chuntas réasúnta cruinn a dhéanamh amach le haghaidh na hEireann mar gheall ar na deacrachtaí speisialta a bhain leis an tír seo. Mar shompla, rinne sé tagairt don tsaghas dí-fhostaíochta a bhí sa tír. Rinne sé tagairtd'ardú a tháinig ar an gcostas maireachtála, don bheartas tionscalach annseo agus do chúrsaí imirce. Tá rudaí athraithe go mór ó shoin. Tá a fhios againn céard é tuairim an Aire faoi cheist na h-imirce. Níl aon bheartas cinnte againn i dtaobh tionscail na tíre, ach ón méid atá fógartha i dtaobh tionscail na tíre, ní hionadh imní mór a bheith orainn i ngeall ar a bhfuil ag tuitim amach. Dúirt an t-achtuaire, ag críochnú a thuarascála dhó:

"I have assumed that the pre-war conditions may more reasonably be accepted as a criterion for the future than those which have obtained during the war period and may prove only transitory."

Níl a fhios agam céard a chiallaíos na focail deiridh. Béidir go bhfuil sé léite go ró-scioptha agam, ach is abairt é a bhaineas an bhrí as an ráiteas ar fad. Shilfeá gurb é an saol roimh an gcogadh a bhí mar shlat tomhais aige le haghaidh a chuid meastachán. Ní fiú bheith ag caint ar an ráiteas sin faoi láthair, ach siné an fáth go speisialta a bhfuil mé ag déanamh tagairt dó. An t-achtuaire, bhí sé in aimhreas ar gá an £450,000 a bhí á thabhairt ó bhliain go bliain ag an Rialtas, do chiste na bpinsean lena choinneál ar bun. Mar gheall ar gur mheas sé go mbeadh an saol mar a bhí sé roimh an gcogadh, ceapadh gur gá é a laghdú. Tá a fhios againn nach bhfuil an saol mar a bhí roimh an gcogadh, agus tá gach cosúlacht ann nach bhfeicfimid saol lenár linn sinne mar a bhí ann roimh an gcogadh. Cheap an t-achtuaire go mba leor an oiread seo airgid in aghaidh na bliana, le go mbeadh an ciste sábhálta cothrom, gur éirigh chomh maith leis an gciste gur cuireadh £3,000,000 i leath-taobh, gur bailíodh £3,000,000 níos mó ná a bhí riachtanach i gcóir an chiste. D'fhéadfadh sé bheith gur ar an taobh eile a bheadh an scéal: d'fhéadfadh sé tuitim amach nach leor an méid airgid a bhí ar fáil. Ba mhaith liom go mbaileofaí an méid airgid sa gciste gach bliain agus a bailíodh roimhe seo. Is moladh é don Rialtas a bhí ann roimhe go ndearna siad an ciste chomh sábhálta agus a rinne. Dá láidre an ciste, is ea is buaine a bheas na buntáis' í agus is socra-de a bheans a síntiúis. Má thugann lucht árachasi faoi deara go bhfuil an ciste ag tuitim ró-íseal, is furasta dóibh teacht isteach agus a gcuid rátaí a ardú le go dtiubharfaí an ciste suas go dtí léibhéal réasúnta. I gcás lucht pinsin, go mór mór daoine mar tá i gceist againn, ní dóigh liom go mba cheart go bhfuighfí an t-airgead uathu ón gciste seo. Ba cheart go mbeadh sé intsabhálta i gcónaí, nach gá chóiche athrú a dhéanamh sna síntiúis a chaitheas na daoine sin ó sheachtain go seachtain.

Tá mé mí-shásta leis an mBille sa méid nar tugadh an pinsean do na daoine a bhí agsúil leis in aois a 65. Níl mé ag rá go bhfuil mé mí-shásta. nár cuireadh an maoin-fhiosrú ar ceal, ach caithfidh an tAire míniú éigin a thabhairt don phobal faoi sin, seachas an míniú atá tugtha aige go dtí seo. Tá mé mí-shásta go bhfuiltear ag cur Muirear no charge ar na h-oibrithe agus ar lucht tionscail agus gan na buntáistí a bheith le fáil acu dá réir. Tá mé mí-shásta go bhfuil ar lucht oibre agus lucht tionscail íoc as fiacha arb é, do réir gach caighdeán dualgas an Stáit íoc as. Sin iad na fáthanna ar cheart dúinn bheith mí-shásta leis an mBille. Béidir go leigheasófar iad ar ball, nuair a thiocfas an Bille eile ós ár gcomhair. Má thuigimíd an tAire, agus an Rialtas a bhfuil baint aige leis, ní leigheasófar iad ar an mbealach ar ceart iad a leigheas.

Thairis sin, molaim an tAire, má tá moladh uaidh, ar an méid atá déanta, agus fágaim mar sin é.

I am wondering what has happened the speakers on the other side of the House that they should feel in such poor spirits about this Bill. They have not been pleading for increased benefits for widows, orphans and old people. They have not been complaining that the Bill has been introduced before its due date. One, therefore, wonders what it is that has put them in such poor spirits. One thing, however, is that they all seem. to speak with the same voice, not with the same tone of voice, but with the same voice, and the speech which Deputy MacEntee made in Dáil Éireann has been repeated here this evening, undoubtedly not in the language of Deputy MacEntee, but in the soft, gentle tones of Senator Hawkins and Senator Ó Buachalla. One can even taste the Atlantic breezes in the tone in which the speeches—political speeches, no doubt —were delivered.

Senator Hawkins commenced by talking about the promises made by the various Parties supporting the present Government prior to the general election and wants to know why these promises have not been all redeemed in the Bill. That reminds me of a cartoon which I saw recently in Dublin Opinion in which Deputy Lemass was represented as going into a restaurant and saying: “I want rashers and plenty of them. The Government is three months in office”. Senator Hawkins and Senator Ó Buachalla want benefits and plenty of them: redemption of promises, all of them, because the Government has been almost six months in office.

Even if the Minister had not said so, this obviously is an interim Bill. There are certain aspects of the social service—so called—which required to be dealt with promptly. In their speeches criticising the manner in which the supplementary benefits are substituted here by a permanent scale of benefits, speakers on the other side have ignored a most important thing, the fact that the Emergency Powers Act of 1946 lapses at the end of this year and if it is not renewed all these benefits will disappear overnight. These supplementary benefits were provided under Orders made under the Emergency Powers Act, which has been given a limited life and which, if it were to lapse to-morrow, would destroy all these benefits. The difference between the old scale of benefit and the existing scale would disappear overnight. Obviously something had to be done about that. You cannot carry on under a provisional scheme under which only a portion of the benefits is guaranteed by statute and the rest provided merely by the will and pleasure of the Government. These supplementary benefits are provided simply because the Government is willing that they should continue on a temporary basis.

We heard nothing as to the intentions of the Fianna Fáil Party, had they come back into office, regarding the temporary benefits. Was it their intention to continue the temporary war legislation permanently? We were assured that it was not. The Taoiseach of the Fianna Fáil Government pleaded in the year 1946 for the extension of the temporary legislation then in force for one year only, and made it perfectly clear that it was his intention that the Act of 1946 would disappear as soon as possible. A great deal of the temporary legislation kept alive by that Act has been abandoned from time to time, and I think it was the intention of this House, certainly long before the last general election, that temporary legislation should not be continued under the guise of a temporary measure. A habit grows up with some Governments of getting something for a temporary purpose and making it permanent. There was an Act in 1932, giving power to a Minister to impose a temporary increase of taxation. That Act is still in force and, under that Act, orders are being made imposing tariffs, imposing taxation. I do not know whether or not Senators on the other side of the House regard that as a desirable practice but I regard it as a political trick. I think the proper action has been taken here. Get rid of these temporary measures. Put these benefits on a permanent basis so that the people, when they come to 70 years of age, or a woman when she becomes a widow, will know at once to what benefit they are entitled and that the scale of benefit will not be determined by some transient provisions which may be changed overnight.

Senator Hawkins was probably correct in one statement that he made— it could be deduced from what the Minister said—that if the Minister were speaking on behalf of a Labour Government this is not the measure he would have introduced. The proposals of the Labour Party in relation to social services were set out two years ago. They were made public. They are available for anybody to read but in many respects, fundamentally, they do not disagree with what is in this Bill. For instance, the point has been raised here as to whether or not benefits should be provided on a contributory basis. The Labour Party take the view that certain benefits should be on a contributory basis and in the scheme which they published they set out a table of the benefits which would be provided in respect of contributions as well as a scale that would be provided for non-insured persons.

Obviously, in this country the question whether or not a particular kind of benefit or pension should be on a contributory basis presents great difficulty. One class of beneficiaries referred to by Senator Hawkins is the small farmer. His case presents great difficulty. Obviously, his pension cannot be related to contributions. It is quite different with a wage earner who can, of course, become insured and whose contributions can be checked. There is no similar method of dealing with the small farmer.

Senator Hawkins, I think, went astray very much in referring to the position of the farmer. He spoke of the man with the £10 valuation being regarded as having no means for the purposes of the Old Age Pensions Act. That is a most fallacious method of calculating means. I know a case of a person the poor law valuation of whose land is £2 10s. 0d. and the value of whose house is £6 10s. 0d. I am speaking of a rural district in Connacht. This is a quite wealthy person. You can form some estimate of his position locally when you realise that the value of the house is three times the poor law valuation of the land. There is another case in which the valuation of the house and land is £7 10s. 0d.—that is, only two-thirds of the valuation which Senator Hawkins mentioned— but the occupier of that holding has completely stocked two neighbouring farms which he has on a grazing agreement. When that man reaches 70 years of age he will probably be better off financially than neighbouring farmers whose valuations would run into £20. I do not make any case about this except to draw the Senator's attention to the fact that taking the valuation as a basis for assessing means is wrong and will not stand up to any examination that a measure of that kind is subjected to.

If this measure is of a temporary character, it confers considerable advantages on many people. Take, for instance, the old age pensioner in rural Ireland. Senator Hawkins mentioned 15/-. There is no pension of 15/- for rural Ireland. The maximum pension, including the temporary supplemental allowance of 2/6, is 12/6. It is true that the local authority may pay an additional 2/6. Bear in mind that additional 2/6 paid to a pensioner by the local authority is paid under the Poor Law Acts. I think it is not unfair to say that provision is made for people under the Poor Law Acts only because they are destitute. If the local authority thinks fit, if they think that the person with the 12/6 is destitute, they may supplement his pension by an additional 2/6—not by 5/- or 10/- —bringing the total receipts in that case to 15/- a week. I understand that a very large proportion of old people who are getting 12/6 have not succeeded in inducing the home assistance officer to give them anything additional. Under this Bill they are going to get 17/6 right away. So that, for the great majority of the old people in rural Ireland there is going to be an immediate increase of 5/- a week in the payments made to them under the Old Age Pensions Acts. That, surely, is an achievement. Surely it was worth while to bring in this Bill as an interim measure pending the preparation of the comprehensive scheme in order to provide these people, now at the end of their days, with an additional 5/- a week. That is not all.

As the House is aware, the old age pension is payable on a non-contributory basis and, therefore, the means test operates, but the means test is substantially modified under the Bill. Instead of having the steps of the stairs valued at 1/- a week under the existing scheme, the new steps will be 2/6 each. Take the case of an old couple in rural Ireland with, let us say, an income of 17/- a week between the two—8/6 each. To-day they are receiving in benefits altogether 9/6 each which, with their personal income, gives them a total of 36/—in other words, 17/- as personal income and 19/- for pension. That is (including the supplementary allowance), a total of 36/-. Under the Bill this old couple will get 47/-. If the Senator will look at the figures and take various interim groups, he will find that the increase is often more than 5/- per week. In the case I have just stated it is 5/6 each for the old couple.

I should like to remind the Senator that if the income of both parties is taken into consideration, both would not receive the full pension.

I think that is wrong. But take an individual case. Say a person has an income of 8/6 and that he has a pension of 9/6. Under the scheme in this Bill he will get 15/- plus his 8/6, so you see, that no matter how you regard it, his income under the Bill is increased by 5/6 a week but that is not all. Look at the provisions of section 44 of the Health Act. The benefits he may receive under sub-section (3), Section 44 of that Act will not be taken into account, if he is in receipt of an old age pension and these benefits may be very substantial. Sub-section (3) provides:—

"The Health Authority in whose functional area a person to whom this section applies ordinarily resides shall on application being made to them make provision in respect of the maintenance of that person and his dependants by doing either or both of the following things."

It then sets out the things it may do such as the maintenance of that person and his dependants. The expenditure incurred under Section 44 of the Health Act by a health authority will not be counted against that man's means and will not affect the pension of 17/6 to which he is entitled.

Senator Hayes referred to one important matter in relation to the old age pensions section of the Bill which I think requires a good deal of thought and which I think will receive consideration before the final measure is proposed, if we can ever speak of a final measure in relation to pensions or social services. That is the case of the person who is entitled to a superannuation allowance as the result of contributions made by himself, a man who is a member of a trade union or who may be working in an industrial concern. A number of concerns in Dublin provide pensions at a retiring age of 65 or 70. We have one very big concern, Córas Iompair Éireann, for instance. Its employees are entitled to a pension of, I think, about 35/- a week at a retiring age of 60 or 65. A person who gets 35/- pension in that way cannot get at present the old age pension. People so situated are at a disadvantage in relation to every other section of the community, in relation to a farmer who can give up his holding and can become entitled to a pension, or in relation to a shopkeeper who can retire from business and who, if he has no assessable means, also becomes entitled to a pension or in relation to a person who has not been in a superannuation scheme or a person who has not been thrifty. Such persons are entitled to receive 17/6 a week, but the person who qualifies for a superannuation allowance from a former employer for which he contributes himself cannot get a pension, if his superannuation exceeds £1 a week.

I am sure everybody in the House, with the possible exception of Senator Hawkins will feel very much gratified by the additional provisions which are made for blind persons. The fact that the age limit is reduced from 30 to 21 is very important. Of course, the increase in benefits provided for old people also apply to blind persons. Take the case of a man who becomes blind at 25 or 26 and assume that he is married and has some children. I have made a calculation as to how he stands at present and how he will stand under the Bill. Under the Bill he can earn 20/- in respect of himself, 15/- for his wife and, if he has four children, he will be allowed 40/- in respect of them. That would make a total earning of 75/- a week which would not interfere with his pension. On top of that 75/-, he will get a pension of 17/6, giving him a total income of 92/6, plus, I assume, children's allowances. That would give him an income of £4 17s. 6d., plus any additions that might be made by a local authority under a scheme for the welfare of the blind. I am sure every section in the House will be gratified to realise that this very substantial provision is being made for the blind. They are not a very numerous class but they present very often a pathetic problem. They are often neglected and they belong to a class of the community who are not able to do very much for themselves.

Again the provision which is made in the Bill for widows whose husbands had not an insurance qualification is very substantial, particularly in the rural areas. Take, for instance, the widow of an uninsured man residing in a rural area. If she has six children, she gets a pension of 38/- and she is entitled to earn 10/- a week, say keeping lodgers, or she may get a job as a school attendance officer from which she could have an income of 10/- which would not be calculated against her for pension purposes. If she has a voluntary contribution from a son or daughter not exceeding 10/- a week, that is not counted against her. So in that case she can have 58/- a week. If any local authority is prompted to give her 2/6 by way of assistance she can have 60/-.

And she gets a means exemption of 15/- by reason of the fact that she has got two or more children.

On the calculation I make she could have an income of 68/- a week as against an income of 30/- under the present law. These additions are very substantial. Having regard to the fact that this Bill has been introduced within less than six months of the Government's taking office, and to the fact that a good deal of preparation had to be made for a Bill of this kind, it does mark a great achievement. Let us not forget that notwithstanding the fact that the British Labour Party had an overwhelming majority in 1945 and that they had experts preparing social service schemes long before they took office, their new health insurance scheme, which was one of the big things in their programme, only came into force on the 5th July this year.

They might have been quicker if they had an inter-Party Government.

I should not like to express any view on that, but certainly, I say they did not suffer the disadvantage of having a hostile Minister for Finance. They had hopes of office long before 1945 and had prepared their schemes in anticipation of being elected but yet it took them three years to bring their health insurance scheme into force. I am hoping that, say in two and a half years from now, the present Minister will be able to present us with a scheme which will receive the applause of Senator Hawkins. If he achieves the purpose which we all believe he is aiming at, and know that he is working towards, I am hopeful that two and a half years from now we will have made tremendous progress towards a policy not merely of social welfare but of social security because I think there is a great distinction between the two. You can increase benefits so far as paper currency is concerned almost without limit, but what you buy with the benefits is completely another story. Unless we commence with the social security angle, making sure that there will be jobs for everybody and that the standard of wages will be increased considerably so that there will be a greater amount of wealth in the community and that that wealth will be more fairly divided, I do not think it much matters what figures we put into the old age pensioner's book. Whether we make it 20/- or 50/-, the real standard of life for the pensioner will not have improved merely by changing the sign on the pension book unless we have, what must be our ultimate aim, a planned policy of social security which will raise the standard of life for the whole community.

After all, when the present Labour Government took office in New Zealand in 1935, they started giving security, giving employment, and making sure that everybody was able to contribute a fair share to the nation's pool of wealth, and, having achieved that, and having got rid of unemployment, they then commenced to expand their pension and other schemes by which they have now reached the point where, I think, the ordinary citizen gets a higher income from the State than in any other country in the world. Still, we are making great progress; it is slow, perhaps, but it is progress. When the first Act of this kind was introduced, away back in 1908, the rate of benefit provided for an old person at 70 was 5/-. You could have got 5/- if your personal income did not exceed 8/-. Well, up to this, the maximum you could have got if your income was 8/- was 9/6. That was not even doubling the sum provided in 1908, notwithstanding the depreciation in the value of money since then. Under this Bill, the 9/6 becomes 15/-, so that we are at least keeping up with the original scheme where it had fallen behind substantially for years. Our standard of pensions for old people, measured in terms of purchasing power, was, up to now, much lower than in 1908. Now we have caught up with it. The 15/- will at least provide as good an income in terms of purchasing power as the 5/- did in 1908. It probably will provide a bit more, so that I think Senator Hawkins and those who are in a hurry may take some consolation from that fact. May I say to them, using the words from St. Luke's Gospel: "Many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you have seen and have not seen them, and to hear the things that you have heard and have not heard them." We will hear more of them later on.

In so far as this Bill proposes to make more adequate provision for the most needy and helpless sections of the community—the old age pensioner, the orphan and the widow, the blind person, for the breadwinner who loses his employment, and others who are not able to provide for themselves—I think that all Senators, no matter what Party they belong to, will welcome it. I congratulate the Minister on introducing it. We have all felt for a considerable time how inadequate, in face of the ever-rising cost of living and the ever-lessening value of money, has been the scale of old age and other pensions and allowances. Therefore, we are glad that an increase is to be given, and that this Bill provides for a modification of the means test. It stops short—and I think it is right that it should—at the total abolition of the means test. I am one of those people who think that the Government and the Minister were wise in not unduly hastening at this stage—in providing for a too complete scheme of social welfare. That has to be done gradually. Social welfare, rightly understood, does not mean only the welfare of the working classes. It means the welfare of the whole community. Therefore, the Minister and the Government must be very careful not to overload—Senator Hayes made that point, too—because all the money required comes from the producing part of the community. Hence, we must be careful not to break their backs in an endeavour to keep up with other countries with elaborate schemes. From various platforms during the winter election campaign speeches were made about bringing up our social services to the level of those of the Six Counties and Great Britain without taking any cognisance of the power of the producing part of the community to do so. There are other people—I am glad to say they are not very numerous—who think that social services, if not a social evil, are at least not a good sign in the State. When Fianna Fáil used to boast about our social services it was repeatedly pointed out that social services were a bad sign.

That was very wrong. In the first place, they are a necessity. The poor —I speak of these needy people as the poor—we have always with us and the social services mean more than giving help to the poor. They are an indication of the strengthening and the broadening of the social conscience. In the olden days it was left to a few compassionate souls, to guilds, to pious confraternities and religious congregations to do what the State does now. Thoughtless people have blamed the State for interfering. I think we ought to clear up what we mean by the State. I mean by the State the Irish people acting together through their freely elected agents and Ministers. When the Irish people give charity, which was only the perquisite of a few in the olden days, that is a great credit to us. At the same time, we must remember that social services are at best only a crutch or artificial limb. What we must aim at is to preserve the healthy human limb. We must try to provide employment, provide good houses, adequate health services and, above all, we must train our women to run their homes properly, to rear their children properly and to cook their food properly. These are the things we must aim at.

So long as human nature exists there will always be need for social services. I am glad that both Parties have done very much to secure that. At the same time, we must hesitate before, through any sense of rivalry, we rush ourselves into any huge costly scheme of social services such as is in existence at present in the neighbouring island and in the part of this country which does not yet belong to us, because we have had practical experience of taking over a social scheme devised for another country. I speak of the national health insurance scheme. Everybody knows that it was imposed upon us— we had not much to say about it—at a time when we had not much opportunity of expressing our views or our needs. Therefore it was inadequate and very unsuitable. Bad and all as it was, it was worse when the medical benefit was omitted from it. I have had considerable experience of its administration during the nine years in which I had the honour to serve on the Committee of the National Health Insurance Society under the enlightened chairmanship of the Most Revd. Dr. Dignan—nomen clarum et venerabile. We always felt how inadequate this national health insurance scheme was and how it calls out for improvement, and I think all thoughtful people will be behind the Minister if he faces up to its improvement.

While I am on my feet I must speak to the Minister of something which it brought home to me during those nine years when I was on the committee. There is one class of the community for whom no social service has been devised, namely, women in the late forties, fifties and sixties, so many of whom are past their work. No social service is provided for them until they come to the age to claim the old age pension. During those nine years I speak of we found the claims of these poor women a heavy drain on our disablement benefit fund. They were past their work, so to speak. They were ill simply through want and malnutrition and they were constantly on our disablement benefit fund. It occurred to me that the Minister might give thought to providing some sort of pensions for such women at the age, say, of 55.

I have a proposal to make in that respect to which I should like him to give sympathetic consideration. As we all know, the employers of women, whether married or single, have to pay 4d. per week in respect of widows' and orphans' insurance. Those women can never get any good out of that. It is more or less a levy in support of the Widows' and Orphans' Fund. It has now been increased to 5½d. The women can get no good out of it, because when they marry they leave insurance. Take an unmarried girl for whom it is paid every year during her years of service. If she gets married, she goes out of insurance and gets no good out of it. The misfortune for many of these women is that they never get a chance of being married. I do not see why out of this 5½d. something could not be done to provide a pension for these poor spinsters. I commend their case, which is a very pitiable one, to the Minister. I am sure there is hardly anybody in this House who does not know of cases of women past their work who have no social service to which to turn. If pensions could be provided for them, it would be a feather in the Minister's cap.

I should like to compliment Senator Mrs. Concannon on her contribution. As usual, it was very intelligent and constructive—critical if you like, but that is the sort of debate we ought to have on such a Bill as this. Her criticism was impartial, unlike that of colleagues in her Party. Perhaps we must expect that also. Senator Hayes, however, dealt with the approach made by Senator Hawkins to the Bill. Senator Hawkins said some quite remarkable things, however. I think there was a great lack of reality about his speech. I was wondering, if the Party to which he belongs were back again in office, what they would do. I could not help thinking that, if one of his proposals was put into operation, it is only somebody with the kind of reckless disregard for expenditure of some of his colleagues who would undertake the responsibility. He made the suggestion that all people with holdings under £10 in valuation should automatically come within the scope of this Bill and that it is only under a Fianna Fáil Bill that these people could ever hope to come within its scope. Some years ago I examined the figures in relation to my county and I found that out of 19,000 holdings in County Cavan 13,000 were of £10 valuation or under. If the Senator's suggestion were to be put into effect almost everybody in the county would be a pensioner.

I am inclined to agree with Senator Mrs. Concannon. Social services are essential and there is, and always has been in our community and in every community, a limited number of people who through their life have not been able to provide sufficiently for their old age. There are, on the other hand, others who, for one reason or another, seem prepared to make a contribution to ensure that they will have security in their old age. That being so, there is an obligation on the community— acting through the Ministers for the time being who control State affairs— to give these people security.

There is a great deal to be said for the point of view expressed here on one occasion by the Minister for Finance. He said that the attitude of the State in making itself responsible for the collection of moneys which afterwards will be disbursed to the community is a rather expensive attitude. Before we can finally embark on a very elaborate scheme it is very important that all of us who have responsibility for such a matter should have an opportunity for full, frank and free discussion of it. A Bill such as this is an inheritance and if we decide on a principle in this connection we should remember that it will be passed on to posterity. Posterity may alter or graft other ideas to it but I believe that we should be very careful, for that very reason, in making our decisions. Senator Hawkins, like the rest of us, works hard in this House but there is no use in approaching the problem in the spirit in which he approached it to-day. He castigated the Minister because he is not prepared to give much greater benefits and because he is not ready to disburse the benefits under this Bill to-morrow and he castigated others because they are not carrying out the promises which they made during the election period. He himself belongs to a Party which made no such promises at all and which was not prepared to do that sort of thing. He cannot have it both ways. If he believes that this measure will be of benefit to the poorer sections of the community why does he not, like Senator Mrs. Concannon, give credit to the Minister who has in the very short space of time done a good job of work?

It is all right to talk about social services and to boast about them but there is an inclination on the part of some people to deplore the fact that there are so many poor people and that they can only be provided for by this type of joint action on the part of the community. It is important that those who are responsible in this State should face the problem of raising the standards of living of the people by increasing their productivity and their incomes and, at the same time, leaving to them more of their incomes when they earn them. Many people are poor because taxation is higher than it ought to be and because of the inflationary conditions which were created by the war and which still continue in the postwar period; because of these conditions and because our production throughout the State has been falling continuously during the war years and since there is an essential need for extended social services. I did not hear Senator Ó Buachalla speaking and I cannot say, therefore, whether he addressed himself to that aspect of the problem or not. It is, however, one of which we should be ever-mindful when discussing social welfare and benefits to the community and when we are contemplating just how much we can afford to contribute. There is no doubt that unless this nation becomes seriously alarmed at the decline in production which has been going on year by year under the régime that has just passed out of office, I do not know where we shall find ourselves in a short time. It may well be that when the Minister is trying to prepare the basis of a new scheme we shall have arrived at the point when everybody in the State will want to benefit under it because there is too much instability.

As Senator Hayes and others have stated in this House, the principal aim of the Government—the Minister for Social Welfare, and the people charged with the responsibility of social security—should be to give security to those who are engaged in production; to give them what facilities they need to enable them to increase production and, when they have produced the goods, to create such conditions here as will permit to be left with them a much higher proportion of the value of their goods when they put them on the market than is the case to-day under our present scheme of taxation. If we do that we shall have more social security. In my opinion, conditions such as these would reduce the numbers amongst us who are poor and destitute and who require the assistance of this State at some period in their existence to keep them from what, in the old days, we used to call the workhouse or the county home to-day. We must recognise that, collectively, society has a responsibility in this matter. In so far as the Minister has introduced this new measure as an addition to what has gone before I think he is to be complimented. It should be a matter of pride—especially for him and for the Party to which he belongs—that in such a short space of time after the formation of this new Government he has been able to wring so much out of his colleagues—some of whom Senator Hawkins would like to represent as being against such a plan as this. That is not true. The whole spirit animating the people who are in Government to-day in this State and who are in control of our affairs is to raise the level of the standard of living of all the people. There are some people whose standards of living we can afford to lower—that may be unpleasant but it is true. There are some who can afford to give away a good deal so that the position of others may be improved. The Minister and his colleagues are to be complimented and, in justice to all of us who have to make our contribution to this Bill, that is the spirit in which a measure like this ought to be approached.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

Most of the points which I wished to raise have already been dealt with by other members on both sides of the House as to the merits or demerits of the present Bill. I shall not advert to these points again or bore the House by repetition. I have no contentious matters to raise myself. I accept the Bill as another steppingstone to greater things in the future. The increase in the income ceiling from £39 5s 0d. to £52 5s. 0d. is very desirable; so also is the increase in pension from 12/6 to 17/6. I think that is merely as it should be in view of the increase in the cost of living. At the same time I think that the increase to 17/6 is not as valuable at the present time as was the increase to 12/6 in 1945. But it is a temporary gesture and, as such, it is of some consequence.

Most of the points to which I wish to draw the Minister's attention come more or less on the administrative side of the Bill. There are a few objectionable anomalies in connection with the administration of old age pensions. First of all, let me take the case of parents who gave up their place to a son and who may have £400 or £500 set aside for another member of the family. They are probably awaiting a suitable occasion on which to make use of that money to the advantage of some member of the family for whom no provision has already been made. I understand that such money is calculated by the pension officer in the income of the old people who are applying for old age pensions. I think that where it can be proved that that money is definitely earmarked for another member of the family it should not be taken into computation to the disadvantage of the applicants.

I understand also that a legal transfer of property from the old people to a son is not accepted by the pension officer. So far as I understand, in order to qualify for pension under the Acts, the transfer must be by way of a marriage settlement. Sometimes that is used unfairly by the old people to compel the son to marry the lady of their choice instead of the lady of his choice. If a legal transfer were recognised the son would be perfectly free. Another point to which I would draw the Minister's attention is where a husband and wife are both drawing pensions. One or other of them may die and the pension is then halved for the survivor. To that extent the survivor is at a disadvantage in having the pension reduced. I am not quite clear upon this point and I speak subject to correction. Perhaps the Minister would look into the matter, as well as dealing with the points I have already raised.

I confess I do not share Senator Hawkins's feeling of disappointment about this measure. I rather feel inclined to congratulate the Minister on the manner in which he has met the difficulties that faced him. In one sense I expect I felt rather like Senator Hawkins after the recent election. I did not conceive it possible that the Minister could achieve what he has achieved; that he could have allocated such a sum as £2,500,000 for the relief of old age pensioners, blind persons and our unemployed—even though it is represented as a mere bagatelle by Senator Hawkins. I suppose I am not million minded. A £1,000,000 would mean a good lot to me, if it does not to Senator Hawkins. Considering the evidence there is of the retrenchments carried out by this Government in various ways and the other difficulties they have faced, this is certainly a great achievement, particularly in view of the short period in which they have been in office.

Most of the things I would like to say have been said by other speakers, but there are one or two matters to which I will draw the attention of the House. What pleases me most in the Bill is the provision made for the blind. I have always had a particular interest in the people who are probably the most afflicted of all in our country. The fact that we are enabling those people to get pensions at 21 instead of 30 years is something to be proud of. The Minister has gone further. He has improved the conditions of these unfortunate people. One would like the Minister to go further with regard to the means test, but I am satisfied that he has gone as far as he could go for the present. One hopes that in the comprehensive measure he hopes to bring forward in the near future a little more will be done on the subject of the means test.

As regards the means test, I am sure the Minister is as anxious to improve conditions as I am. I hope he will see that the inspectors will not proceed in a harsh way when assessing the means of these unfortunate people. There were instances in the past, not confined to any one Government, where pensions officers were extremely harsh in administering the regulations.

A point arises out of a remark by Senator Hayes. He appealed to the labouring people with reference to production. He suggested that there should be increased production, and that applied to the worker as well as to the farmer. I quite agree, but I submit that there is no inducement to a labourer to increase production if the means test is carried out as it was during the past few years. If a labourer has an acre or two with a valuation of £2 or £2 10s. 0d. the pensions officer proceeds to calculate that man's means in a manner totally different from that in which the income-tax people assess the means of a farmer. If I have 50 acres or 100 acres, the income-tax officials, who are reputed to be rather harsh in their method of administration, will assess me on my valuation, whatever it is. When it comes to the unfortunate old age pensioner or labourer with a two-acre plot and a valuation of £2 or a little more, the land becomes so valuable that the officials will assess the man's income at £20 or £25.

I make this suggestion to the Minister, that whatever little land an old age pensioner may have, the means should be assessed on the valuation of that land, just the same as it is in the case of a farmer and his income tax. It should not be made more valuable. Under existing conditions the goats, hens and eggs are taken into account— whatever happens to be on the little holding. Let the officials accept the valuation as the basis. I am sure the Minister is anxious to facilitate those unfortunate people. The suggestion has been made that he might abolish the means test altogether but I doubt if he can do that. I dare say the Minister will go as far as he can go.

Notwithstanding the difference in pensions between the country people and the people in the cities and towns, I doubt that there will be any danger of what Senator Hawkins fears, that the labourers and the widows and other pensioners will flee from the country into the cities and towns to get the larger pensions. I cannot see a widow or an old age pensioner, who may be living in labourers' cottages with an acre of land attached at 1/6 a week, throwing all that up and going to the city to pay £1 a week for accommodation. The Senator may have some cases of that sort in mind, but I cannot see that happening. I cannot see people from the country invading the cities and towns because of the small difference that exists between the rural and the urban rates of pension.

When we had the Minister for Finance here the other day dealing with the Appropriation Bill, I made a remark which, unfortunately for myself, he misconstrued. I said I hoped, within the limits of our economy, that we would have social services that would be a model. The Minister put a different view on that when he was summing up. I do not retract one word of what I said.

I for one welcome the Bill that the Tánaiste has put before this House. At the same time I think that in the outline he gave us we have to recognise at least one very definite danger. I will divide the people for whom this Bill is intended into two distinct classes, the helpless and those who can help themselves. Everybody in the community will welcome what this Bill intends to do for the blind, the old and the widows and orphans. But the Bill does more than that. The Bill gives a new interpretation of what is continuous employment in relation to unemployment benefits. Let us realise at once that this is by no means now a land of saints and scholars, that we have our share of human frailties. There has grown up in recent years more than a safe percentage of that type of person who is content to live upon the sweat of the other fellow's brow rather than on his own. I suggest this to the Minister in a friendly and not in a carping way that, by making continuous employment a more easily understood thing, we will, in addition to helping the man who ought to be helped—and I am glad to say that the vast majority of our working men are in that category—be giving another loophole to that type of shirker, or in another word, a very expressive one, "scrounger", who will go to all efforts to avoid doing work. I feel from my experience that it is going to be made easier for him not to work in future than it is now. We have all met that type of man who because of his peculiar mentality will not work if he can get anybody else to keep him. I put it to the Minister and to the House that the benefits given under this Bill are not the only benefits availed of by this type of man. This type of individual manages to get help from charitable organisations. He will admit himself that he has no incentive to go to work in a regular job because he would get very little more by working than by staying out.

In so far as this Bill provides better benefits and better help for those unfortunate members of society least able to help themselves, the Minister is to be congratulated on what he has done and I do not think that any section of the community will wish to burke their share of the cost. He has indicated that if his plans mature this is only a forerunner of a much bigger scheme of social services for the country. That is something to look forward to. May I suggest that when that Bill is prepared and presented, because of its cost, the Minister might consider giving to this House and to the other House details of the cost of administering the social services. If we are to have a comprehensive Bill, let us have the comprehensive all-in cost and see how much of the amount provided for social services gets to the persons for whom the social services are intended. That is ordinary business, to find out what percentage of the cost goes in running the business. I put it to the Minister that to help the success of the schemes which he has in mind, he must break with tradition and prepare for the House a scheme showing who and how many will be engaged in administering the various social services which he contemplates and those services now and what they get in relation to the total amount of money which is ultimately made available for the needy.

I do not want to say much more on this stage because I have no criticism to offer. I congratulate the Minister and I know that he will forgive me for pointing out the loopholes open to the type of person, for whom I am sure he has as little time as the rest of us, so that he will close those loopholes. Otherwise I welcome this Bill.

I am not going to detain the House either because, as some other Senators have said, on general principles the Bill has been pretty well discussed. I would like, however, to reinforce what Senator Hayes and Senator Summerfield have already said. Social services must be paid for by work and if we take that as the basis for our operations we will not go far wrong but it is very necessary that it should be borne in mind. We are all in favour of helping those who cannot help themselves—widows, orphans, the blind and old age pensioners—but we should not go further than that. We must be careful that our social services are not an incentive not to work or that they will keep people from work. There is a great danger in doing that as it has been done in other countries and in the end no real effort would be made to foot the enormous bill which is mounting up for social services in this country. As a businessman, one of the employing community, I am concerned on all occasions to find out how things are going to be paid for. It is all very well for people who have nothing, who have no responsibilities, to call out continually for more and more help and more social services of all kinds. I felt that Senator Hayes hit the right note when for this much-used word "production" he substituted the word "work", for that is the operative word. If we are to have social services we must work for them. Those who are fit to work must produce the wealth for those who are not fit to work.

It was my intention at the outset to be rather critical of this Bill, but on hearing the Minister state that this is, as it were, something on account, I feel that we should congratulate him on his efforts to do something for this the poorest section of our community. Before I proceed I would like to say in reference to the remarks of the two previous Senators that the question of the work-shy in this country has been unduly stressed. I do not believe that to any great extent there is a disinclination to work in this country if work could be got at a proper rate of pay. Senator Summerfield put his finger on it when he said that some people felt that they were as well off unemployed as they were working.

The answer to that is that if they were paid a decent wage the difference between what they would get from social services and what they would get as a wage would result in doing away with very many of these work-shy people who are supposed to be in this country. I do not think that there is a greater share of them here than in any other country, not to the extent that we should take undue notice of them.

The Minister stated that this was the forerunner of a more comprehensive Bill and I am glad to hear that. I was also very pleased to hear—I knew it beforehand—that he has in mind the abolition of the means test. If there is anything that has caused dissatisfaction among working people generally it is, as the Minister knows, the means test. I have been looking up the records of the Irish Trade Union Congress from 1934 to 1944 and without exception every year the means test has been condemned. Many Senators have attended these congresses and will bear out what I have said. It hits the trade union movement very hard. In many craft unions there is a superannuation scheme to which the members pay a certain subscription and out of these subscriptions a certain amount is allocated to a superannuation fund. At the end of their days when the workers are no longer able to work they are entitled to superannuation. They are, however, debarred from receiving the old age pension if they get the full superannuation benefit. Take this case which is a glaring example. A man died in January last at 89 years of age. He had joined the trade union in 1880, 68 years ago. For the last 19 years he had been receiving superannuation from the union but he was debarred from getting the old age pension. The superannuation benefit that he was entitled to from us was 30/- a week but we did not think that sufficient to keep him and we gave him a supplementary benevolent grant of 10/- so that he had a total of £2 a week.

Even under this Bill he would only be entitled to get at the outside 25/- but he would be debarred from receiving his superannuation if he had more than £1 a week. The point to be remembered is that these men pay for that superannuation all their lives and were paying for it when there was no old age pension scheme. It was a trade union benefit designed to secure that a certain amount of money would be set aside for these men when they would be no longer able to work and you will appreciate that the amount that could be set aside was not very great. The men who are hit hardest by the means test in practically all cases are men who have subscribed to trade union superannuation benefit and who are deprived of it. People who subscribed nothing towards their old age, who were thriftless all their lives get the benefit while men who were thrifty all their lives get nothing more.

The question of the means test and the application of the means test opens up another difficulty. The law is there, and the best intentioned investigation officer has to carry out the law. I was a member of Dublin Corporation Advisory Committee, which advises old age pensioners how to apply for their pension and helps them in case of their being deprived of benefits. There was one case of a beggarman who was denied his old age pension. The young lady who was investigating the case was a very conscientious person and had been engaged in social work. We asked her how she came to assess the income of this beggarman at £39 a year. Her answer was that if he did not get £39 a year by his begging activities he probably would have died. I believe that the only way of remedying the position is to abolish the means test and I am glad to hear the Minister saying that he hopes to do that.

Unemployment insurance is in a different category from other benefits because it is paid for. Often, when a strike takes place persons who have no connection with the strike are denied their insurance benefit. I am generally called on the Court of Referees when there is any strike case to be heard. We came across a case arising out of the bus strike some time ago. This woman happened to clean the offices in the bus company and she was dismissed as a result of the bus strike and she did not get unemployment insurance. I know the Minister is sympathetic. At least, if he is not, he is a changed man from the man I knew of before he came to his exalted office. I am sure that he will be sympathetic and see that people who are not directly involved with strikes that take place will not be denied their insurance benefit.

I was very pleased to hear the Minister say that he was in favour of contributory old age pensions. I suggest that it is the only remedy for all the difficulties associated with claims for old age pensions. The old age pension should be given as a right because it has been contributed to, and not as a charity. The position that we have to face up to is that our income is limited and that we have a greater number of old people than there are in other countries. The old age pension should be worth while. It should be something that will keep the wolf from the door, that will allow people a better standard than semi-starvation. The only hope I see of establishing the old age pension scheme on a proper basis is to have it on a contributory basis. Otherwise there will always be the difficulty of not having enough money to pay all the people who should get it with consequent trouble for those who have to enforce the law and for those on whom the law is enforced.

In April, 1947, unemployment insurance and national health and other benefits were increased by a supplementary allowance. Unemployment insurance in the case of men was increased by 7/6 to 22/6; in the case of women, by 5/- to 17/6; and, for each dependent child, from 1/- to 2/6. I think the Minister has forgotten the child because nowhere in the Bill do I see reference to the amount paid for a dependent child. The Minister, in the Dáil, stated that there was always a possibility of this supplementary allowance being taken off. I believe that was possibly a debating point because once these benefits are paid it is very difficult to take them off. Under this Bill, in the case of men and women, these payments are to be statutory payments, but I see no reference to the extra 1/6 that has been given since April, 1947, to an unemployed man in respect of each dependent child.

It is covered in Section 29.

I am glad of that. I thought it might have been omitted.

These supplementary allowances that have been paid since April, 1947, have been coming out of the Central Fund. There is £1,500,000 to be paid to old age pensioners and £1,000,000 to be paid to widows in respect of non-contributory pensions. I must congratulate the Minister on his efforts for the non-contributory widows because the fact that they were non-contributory did not make it any easier for them to live than it was for the contributory widows. The point I want to make is that there must be a considerable saving to the Exchequer in making these statutory allowances which will be paid for by the insured persons. I suggest that the amount that is saved ought to go a long way to compensate for the figures the Minister has quoted as being the amount the Government is giving to old age pensioners, widows and orphans.

I agree with the opening remarks of Senator Hayes that this Bill is a step in the right direction. Although it does not go as far in that direction as many of us would like, still it is evidence of the fact that certain assurances that were given during the recent election as to improvements in the conditions of old age pensions and others, are being implemented and that the people who made those promises were honest in making them. References from time to time from the other side of the House in regard to the promises that were made and that were not implemented are becoming monotonous. The promises that were made were carried out as far as the circumstances of the State at the present time would permit of their being carried out. I am quite satisfied that with the securing of the conditions which the Government Party intend to achieve it will be possible and easy to go the whole way in so far as these social services are concerned, that is, if the improved conditions warrant the extension of these allowances.

In that connection, I liked to hear Senator Baxter answer the challenge made that some Ministers are opposed to certain social reforms and to the extension of them. That is not so, as Senator Baxter pointed out. These Ministers spoke of a time when they hoped that conditions would be such that they would make the extension of such reforms no longer necessary. Our people are a proud people—at least they used to be—and they do not take kindly to relief of that particular kind except when it is absolutely necessary.

I consider that one of the most important and helpful features of this Bill is the modification of the means test. That was a test that imposed a penalty on thrift and I am personally aware of many cases where people, who happened to put some capital aside, as a result of their own labours, or to whom contributions were made by their children, many of them in exile, were deprived of benefits when they reached the statutory age that automatically came to some of their neighbours who were not quite so careful or thrifty in their earlier years.

The reduction of the qualifying age for pensions for the blind from 30 to 21 is, too, a very desirable feature, as is also the easing of the impediment whereby blind people who happened to be skilled in any art or craft were penalised as a result of any earnings that might accrue from the exercise of that craft, which, apart from the earnings, must have been a source of consolation and lessened in some degree the handicap which these people suffered. When they were able to turn their hands to good account in the making of certain articles, it was certainly unfair that any earnings accruing as a result of that occupation should militate against a successful application for a pension when they reached the statutory age.

The increased sickness and disablement benefits payable under this Bill are also welcome. They will go a long way towards making the conditions of those who are sick and disabled less trying.

The benefits are not increased.

I think they are.

Not sickness and disablement benefits.

I understood that sickness and disablement benefits were increased by one-third and one-half respectively.

If I am wrong, I hope they will be increased at some future time. I should like to compliment the Minister on the manner in which he introduced this Bill and more especially on the energy he has devoted to its preparation. Referring to the promises which we are challenged from time to time with not keeping, I say this Bill is evidence that those who made these promises were serious in making them. I am not going to refer to promises made at another time which were never implemented but I should like to refer to another form of political tactics adopted by certain people whereunder, not promises but threats and warnings, were issued, I will not say publicly but in a nice quiet canvass, as to what would happen if there was a change of Government. Though I did not happen to be in the West of Ireland—I was in Dublin—when the change of Government came about, on returning home I heard that it was pitiful to hear the plaints of some old age pensioners as to what was going to happen as a result of the terrible change that had taken place.

Has something that happened some time ago anything to do with the Bill?

The Senator might deal with the Bill.

The Senator is merely making a comparison of one type of promise with another type of promise.

When the day for the payments of the pensions came about and they were paid as usual, their minds were considerably eased. I can say for a fact that from the old age pensioners generally—and I meet quite a number of them—I have heard nothing but the highest terms of commendation for this measure. I am quite satisfied that there is no one against it. We all agree that it is a considerable improvement. Some of us feel that it does not go as far as it should or as far as we should like it to go, but I am quite satisfied that the people in whose interests it was drafted, and who will benefit by it, are very grateful for it and will show their appreciation for the Administration which brought it about.

I should like to say, first of all, having listened to this debate, that I sympathise with the Minister in the preparation of his comprehensive insurance scheme. Judging by the form of the debate here, he certainly cannot expect a unanimous reception for his comprehensive insurance scheme. I might say, as many Senators have said, that we did expect better terms in regard to the modification of the means test. But, of course, a man must always cut his cloth according to his measure and, if the Minister cannot afford to give anything better, we are glad to know that he has done that much anyway. This question of a means test is a very difficult one. It would be very foolish for any man to say that the means test should be abolished or should not be abolished. There are cases where the abolition of the means test would bring justice to many people. But there are cases— and they could be quoted—where the abolition of the means test would put an unjust burden on certain people.

Take the case of a man in my county which I came across last week who was semi-State employed over a number of years in what, at any rate, I could describe as a non-productive capacity. On his retirement he was awarded a pension, superannuation or gratuity, whatever you like to call it, to which he made no contribution whatsoever, of £500 a year. Under the recent Superannuation Act that has been increased by 27.5 per cent. to £638 odd. I would not be prepared to recommend that that man should be granted an old age pension.

That is one instance which comes to my mind. I am sure there are several others which could be quoted. The whole question of the means test will have to be very seriously considered. When it has been, and when every member of the Oireachtas has given serious consideration to the matter, I think you will find very few people to support a whole-hog abolition of the means test.

I do say that in the administration of old age pensions there is need for much improvement. Senator Honan referred to certain specific cases, and I could quote similar ones. There is one thing which has deprived certain deserving people of the old age pension in the past which, to my mind, is a great injustice. There is scarcely a home in the West of Ireland from which some member of the family did not emigrate to Great Britain for work. By their industry these people have saved a certain amount of money. There are temptations in England to spend money. These people did not want to spend any money and, to avoid that temptation, they sent money home to their parents to be lodged in the Post Office. Where that money has been lodged in the Post Office in the names of the parents, the parents when they come to 70 years of age are deprived of the old age pension, although the money does not belong to them. There are also cases where persons have given over their places to their sons, but not in a legal way. A certain prominent official of the Department stated to me in reference to one of these cases: "Was it not quite obvious that that man gave over his place in order to get the pension?" Even if that man had only given over his place in the preceding six or 12 months, he should not be deprived of his pension. It is in the administration of old age pensions that the greatest fault lies. The Minister should ensure that there will be more generous administration of old age pensions in the future.

Some Senators referred to the way in which incomes are calculated. It is positively nauseating the way in which investigation officers try to puzzle an applicant for an old age pension when questioning him. A hen is regarded as the source of a magnificent income for any householder. In view of the recent pronouncements of the Minister for Agriculture, I suppose the hen will now be regarded as a perambulating biped on the farm. I think investigation officers should be instructed by the Minister to use common sense in the investigation of means and that no injustice should be imposed on any persons living on a farm or in a town when they have attained the age of 70, that after a life of toil they should qualify for an old age pension unless they are in receipt of a good substantial pension from State sources.

In preparing his comprehensive scheme the Minister would be well advised to take note of the remarks made by Senator Mrs. Concannon and Senator Baxter. There is a limit to which this country can afford to go in the matter of social services. Practically all those social services must be paid for by the middle classes. They appear to get nothing out of the social services and have to pay for them all. The very poor are fairly well catered for and the rich are well off.

The middle classes, who constitute the big majority of the people of the country, must bear the burden of these social services and they will have to be considered. It is not wise, I think, to embark on any scheme in competition with other countries, adjacent or otherwise, unless we find our financial position permits it. I may be described as being sectional in this regard, but I hold that there is only one source of wealth in this country, the soil of the country, and that the people who must produce that wealth are the people who reside on the land and work it. In the final analysis, they, and they alone, must bear the total national expenditure. No matter what may happen in other countries, we must remember that our expenditure or the standard of our social services depends on the national income and must bear some relation to what the country can afford to put up out of its national income. I know that strong cases can be put up on behalf of certain people. I know the Minister has done a good day's work in regard to old people and the blind and the widows.

But, after all, that is not the way to build up a State. The way to build up this country is to make it more attractive to young people to live in, to get married and bring up families and increase the population, and to place more people in insurable occupations so that by their insurance contributions they can pay for the social services of the people who cannot afford to pay. To my mind, that is the only way to build up the State and measures such as this are merely palliatives. What we want is a good, healthy, virile scheme to encourage young boys and girls to settle down and bring up families here so as to bring the population up to something like what it should be, not a mere 3,000,000 people after 25 or 26 years of native government. I congratulate the Minister on the energy he has thrown into the production of this measure. While I shall welcome anything he will do in the future in regard to social welfare, I should like to reiterate the warning that the Minister should always bear in mind that the country can only afford so much.

I had thought that in a Chamber vocationally based this Bill would have been approached in a calm, dispassionate way and that we would have as little political tint in the discussion as possible.

Senator Hawkins, however, apparently felt that there was some special obligation on him to pick up the political flag, which he did rather enthusiastically and which for the duration of his speech he waved rather vigorously. Therefore, in the course of replying to the points raised it may be necessary to put in juxtaposition with Senator Hawkins's speech some political considerations surrounding this. Bill. Senator Hawkins said that he was keenly disappointed with this Bill. I know he is, I know his Party are profoundly disappointed with the Bill, which has cast gloom and depression over them because they know that this Bill is a political malady from which the Fianna Fáil Party will not recover for many a day. As Senator Hawkins knows, during the last election an effort was made—it was, of course, a hopelessly abortive effort—to try to induce the people to believe that when Fianna Fáil went out of office gloom and disaster awaited the people. Fianna Fáil has gone out of office and the people have seen neither doom nor disaster. What they see now is that under this Government old age pensioners are going to get a better rate of pension than they got before and that the widow and the orphan in receipt of a non-contributory pension will get more under this Bill than they ever would have got under a Fianna Fáil Government. It is because you cannot induce people of that kind to believe the doom and disaster story, nor sell them the doom or disaster dope that Senator Hawkins and, I think, Senator Ó Buachalla are profoundly disappointed with the terms of the Bill.

I do not mind that. I can quite understand that. It is just the normal feeling which Senators in the Fianna Fáil Party would display on such an occasion. But there is one thing that is clear, and it is that the old age pensioners are not disappointed, the widows and orphans are not disappointed and the blind persons are not disappointed. All are in glee over this Bill because they know that not only is it a substantial step forward but that it is a payment on account of some of the better things which are going to come, and which, I hope, will come with the utmost possible expedition. I say to Senator Hawkins and to Senator Ó Buachalla that there is no reason why this disappointment should consume them for long.

The disappointment also consumes the members of the Minister's Party.

A different type of disappointment though.

I am sure they are all in very good fettle over this Bill. Naturally, those people want more, and while one can sympathise with them for wanting more that does not blind them to the fact that they know they are getting under this Bill something which Fianna Fáil had the opportunity of giving them over a period of 16 years, and which it did not give.

I say, therefore, to Senator Hawkins and to Senator Ó Buachalla that they should cheer up, and that there is no reason why this depression should continue too long: that there is no reason why they should continue to be in gloom and despair over this Bill.

I was never more hopeful in my life.

I am perfectly satisfied that the beneficiaries under this Bill are gleeful at what they are going to get under it.

Until they see what they do get.

I hope it is just an instalment of what they are going to get in future. Senator Hawkins says "until they see what they do get". Let me tell him what they are going to get. Under this Bill, 103,000 persons, at present getting a normal maximum pension of 12/6 a week, are going to get a pension of 17/6 per week; and 25,000 more persons, in receipt of a normal maximum pension of 15/-, are going to get 17/6.

There is no question whatever but that these people are going to get the sums that I have mentioned—103,000 persons will get 17/6 when this Bill becomes an Act, persons who at present have a normal maximum pension of 12/6, while 25,000 more with a normal maximum pension of 15/- will get 17/6 a week. These substantial numbers of persons are going to benefit to that extent. I say that it is not too bad: that within five months of this Government coming into office 103,000 persons are going to get an extra 5/- per week in their pensions, —that is on what they had been normally getting—and that another 25,000 persons are to have their normal pensions increased from 15/- to 17/6 a week.

Let me put against that the achievement of the Party to which the two Senators belong. In January, 1909, the British Government granted old age pensions in this country at the rate of 5/- per week. About the year 1916 that pension was raised to 10/- a week. We are now in the year 1948. Senator Hawkins represents a rural area in the West of Ireland. In the year 1909, an old age pensioner there got 5/- a week which, as I have said, was increased to 10/- a week about the year 1916. From 1916 to 1948, a period of 32 years, the old age pensioners got an increase——

In 1931 they had 9/- a week.

It was not as bad as the 12/6 which Fianna Fáil gave them because, bear this in mind, that with the 9/- which the old age pensioner had in 1931 he certainly could buy more for it than he could for the 12/6 which he was getting in 1947. Let this be said at all events, that if Senator Hawkins had 9/- in his pocket in 1931 he must know perfectly well that he would get more for it than he would get for 12/6 to-day. But, as I was saying, after 32 years—from 1916 to 1948—all that was done for the old age pensioners in the rural areas was to give them an increase of 2/6 a week. This Bill, within five months, is giving them 5/- a week instead of the 2/6 which they got in 32 years, during 16 years of which Fianna Fáil was in office. I think this is a good Bill. These are the mathematics of it. The Senators may try to doctor the figures any way they like, but they cannot deny the fact that within five months we are giving the old age pensioner an increase of 5/- a week, whereas Fianna Fáil gave 2/6 after being 16 years in office.

Senator Hawkins raised a question about certain contributions being used to pay non-contributory benefits. I thought that hare had been run to earth in the Dáil, but apparently Senator Hawkins wants to give it another canter here this evening. In order that there should be no misgivings about this whole matter, let me tell the Seanad what the real position is. In the Dáil, Deputy MacEntee said that I was using one fund to subsidise another, as if this was the first time that had happened.

Deputy MacEntee in the Dáil delivered himself of a long dissertation on that question and in reply to him— he was Minister for Local Government in 1945 and he was responsible for the administration of the provision of the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act— I read this letter from the Governmentappointed actuary who looked into the finances of the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act. This letter is from the Government actuary's Department, London, and is dated the 8th of December, 1945. In the course of the letter the Government actuary says:—

"It appears, therefore, that not only has the contributory section so far derived no benefit from the State subvention but that it has, in fact, subsidised the non-contributory section during the last four years of the period."

So that while Deputy MacEntee was in charge of the Department of Local Government and the Fianna Fáil Party were in office, according to the Government-appointed actuary, the contributory section of the widows' and orphans' pension scheme was financing the non-contributory side—and the actuary ought to know—"during the last four years of the period". Later in the letter, let us see what the actuary says as to what was the effect on the finances of the widows' and orphans' pensions and the investment account. He says:—

"The amount in the combined Pension Fund, which is estimated to amount to £3,900,000 by the 31st March, 1945, is, in effect, the result of the operations of the contributory section, and would have been larger by a sum of £300,000 but for the non-contributory section which, in recent years, has been under-financed even after allowing for the assistance of the whole of the annual State subvention of £450,000.

Is that not an argument for keeping up the subvention of £450,000 until that deficit is made good?

Let me say that I do not see anything very seriously wrong in the contributory side contributing substantially to the non-contributory side. I think that Senator Hawkins regarded that as a cardinal sin. I do not see anything very much wrong with it. In any case, I hope that under the comprehensive scheme, all these separate schemes will go, and that we will have one national "kitty" which will pay all the State's liabilities. If Senator Hawkins wants to charge me with using contributions to pay benefits to persons who do not contribute, I want to tell him what the actuary—he was appointed by the Minister for Local Government to examine the account of the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Fund—says. He says that this thing has been going on since 1941, but he does not get terribly worried about it. I am not either, but I would be rather disturbed if I thought Senator Hawkins was disturbed about it. His leader in the Dáil was certainly very worried about it, notwithstanding my assurances that it was not an occasion for any special grief or sorrow. I think it is a normal phenomenon, and I think I can leave it at that.

A question was raised about the fund being raided for £450,000. The fund was not raided for £450,000. What we decided was that we would not put £450,000 into the "kitty" this year, and we did that because of the fact that we were advised by the actuary that it was not, in fact, necessary to put it into the fund. This is what the actuary said in his report dated November, 1944, during the Fianna Fáil period of office:

"Under the Acts the amount of the Exchequer grants is prescribed until 31st March, 1945, and thereafter is to be such sums as the Oireachtas may determine. As indicated in paragraph 16, the sum paid during the last eight years, viz., £450,000 per annum, is substantially larger than will be needed in future, and an equalised annual grant, during the next decennium, commencing on 1st April, 1945, of about one-half of this sum, say £220,000, is estimated to be sufficient, together with the contributions at their present rates and the interest on the accumulated assets, to meet all expenditure out of the fund for contributory and non-contributory pensions and the cost of administration thereof, and to secure that in ten years' time the invested reserves of the scheme will then be substantially equal to the present balance, viz., £3,900,000."

The position at the moment is that our reserves are £4,500,000 without putting in the £450,000 this year. Bear in mind what the actuary said—in the ten-year period commencing 1st April, 1945, it will be sufficient if you put in £220,000 per annum. In other words, it will be sufficient if you put in £450,000 every second year. I think the actuary is best qualified to express an opinion in this connection. I do not propose to be wiser than he is and I am sure Senator Hawkins does not either. I cannot understand on what grounds Deputy MacEntee claims to be wiser than the actuary is. However, if we want any authority we have the actuary who says that it is enough to put £450,000 into the "kitty" every second year.

The actuary's calculations did not work out. Fortunately it is on the right side but it could quite easily have been otherwise.

The actuary's report in this matter——

The actuary has referred specifically to the difficulties in coming to a firm conclusion. These difficulties have been aggravated in the last few months.

So far as the actuary is concerned in this matter what he indicated has been justified by the position of the fund. He is concerned to get £3,900,000 ten years from 1945—and we are now at £4,500,000.

The margin is very great. It shows that the actuary, in spite of all his care, was not able to arrive at a really firm figure.

If you take that line of argument we can take the £450,000 out for the next two years.

I am afraid the Minister misunderstands me.

If we get on to a comprehensive scheme I take it we are not going to have half a dozen different pension funds. We will have one national pool in which all the funds will be lodged and which will meet claims in respect of the whole range of social, welfare benefits. In that way we give not merely solvency to the lot at any particular point but even to the sections on which, for the time being, there would be the heaviest draw and which would need the greatest measure of assistance. We ought to have one national pool. There is no purpose in worrying about the position ten years hence. The fund is there and it is available for every claim made upon it. It will not be there ten years hence because it will be absorbed in a comprehensive scheme. Worrying in 1948 about the position of the fund in 1960 is a profitless occupation. The fund, I assume, will go in about two years, when it will be merged in a larger fund. In the meantime every widow and every orphan in the country will get every penny they are entitled to from the fund and we need not worry further on that score.

Senator Hawkins made some rather touching references to his desire to have the means test modified much more drastically than is done in this Bill. The Senator will pardon me if I ask him why, seeing that Fianna Fáil did not modify the means test between 1932 and 1948. That is a fair test.

The Minister is overlooking the fact that a scheme was in preparation by the Fianna Fáil Government and was due to be introduced this autumn.

I shall come to that point in a moment and then we shall see this scheme and I shall astonish the Senator about the inaccuracy of his information. A fair and legitimate point to make in a debate is—if Senator Hawkins wants the means test modified in this Bill why did his Government not do so in the 16 years from 1932 to 1948?

That is not an answer to my point. We have before us a Bill dealing with the particular matter of the means test but we are not satisfied that it meets all our wishes.

I am sure that the Senator is not convinced of the cogency of that matter. He knows that at best his statement is an evasion of my question. Suppose you never thought of it from 1932 to 1947, had you not a glorious opportunity last year? A motion was introduced in the Dáil last year and its purpose was to seek a modification of the means test. There was no question of asking for an increase in the pension.

When that motion was discussed in the Dáil the then Minister for Social Welfare stated that it would cost £500,000 to concede the request made in the motion. Bear in mind that Fianna Fáil had lifted £6,000,000 in additional taxation under the Supplementary Budget before that. They were asked in this motion to give back £500,000 in a full year to modify the means test. Not only did they keep the whole £6,000,000 they were raising in the form of a Supplementary Budget but the Fianna Fáil Government declined to make available £500,000 out of that extra £6,000,000 for a modification of the means test. That was last October.

The Minister for Social Welfare was then engaged on the preparation of a comprehensive scheme.

The Senator seems to know more than the Minister knows.

I know what I have read in the Dáil debates. I regret that I did not have the reports of the Dáil debates for last week——

We could leave this Bill over until next week——

I would be quite happy.

——if it would not cause too much confusion. Last October, therefore, Fianna Fáil had a magnificent opportunity—after 15 years of office—of going out with flying colours for a modification of the means test but it was not done. It sounds a bit hollow now to tell us that you are bursting to see the means test modified when last year you would not do so at a cost of £500,000. I am putting £2,500,000 at the disposal of the old age pensioners, the widows and orphans, the non-contributory pensioners and blind persons. You did not do that last year.

We spent £2,500,000——

You did not. That is one of these common delusions that descended on you since the 18th February. Senator Liam Ó Buachalla says that Fianna Fáil intended to do this, that and the other. I am saying publicly that they did not intend to do so. I am saying that Fianna Fáil did not intend to step up, as I am doing, old age pensions and non-contributory widows' and orphans' pensions. I assert that publicly now. There is not a scrap of evidence in the Department that——

The statement of the former Minister for Social Welfare that the statistics had been gathered and that a considerable amount of the material for the White Paper——

The Senator is mixing up two things.

I shall try to unravel it for him because I do not want to take an unfair advantage of him. The last Minister was working on a comprehensive scheme. It is not correct to say that decisions were taken on it. It was a tentative kind of document.

I accept that.

There was no intention in that scheme of increasing old age pensions for those who at present have old age pensions. There was no intention in that scheme of increasing old age pensions for the 150,000 persons who now have old age pensions.

Was a decision taken against that?

The whole scheme was completely against that.

A decision had been taken against it?

I am saying that publicly; and I will debate it with Deputy Dr. Ryan anywhere in this city or outside it. I say, too, that there was nothing in the scheme that indicated in the slightest degree that it was intended to step up non-contributory widows' and orphans' pensions; and there was a strong view prevalent in the Department that these things might be left over until a later date and dealt with then. I did not take that view. I took the view that the need was so urgent and the necessity for action so great that we ought immediately to step up old age pensions and widows' and orphans' non-contributory pensions and, at the same time, modify the means test.

Would I be in order in making a point clear? My reference to the ex-Minister for Social Welfare was to the effect that he had stated that a good deal of statistical work had already been done and material obtained for the preparation of a White Paper. I did not indicate that decisions had been come to one way or another. That is understood.

I am asserting that there was nothing in any document in the Department which would indicate in any way—in fact, the contrary is the case—that it was ever intended to stepup old age pensions or widows' and orphans' non-contributory pensions under the comprehensive scheme. I am asserting that and I challenge contradiction on it.

But that does not rule out——

The Senator will accept the Minister's statement.

Yes. I was going to remark that that would not have prevented the preparation of a scheme for the other section of pensioners.

Of course not.

Is this a duet or a solo? It seems to me to be a duet.

The question of the imposition of a means test, what should constitute such a test, what should constitute means and the range over which means should be spread has been referred to by a number of Senators. There have been suggestions made that the valuation of a holding ought to be taken as the basis of ascertaining means. In the Dáil a suggestion was made that the principles underlying the application of the income-tax code to agricultural holdings should be taken as well. Whether there is virtue in one that is not in the other is a matter for examination. But, way back in 1925, an old age pension inquiry committee, in its report in that year, reported against taking the valuation basis to determine the means of an applicant for an old age pension and the basis of its objections was expressed in these terms:—

"Poor law valuations are not uniform throughout the country. Even if they were, a valuation made 70 years before might, owing to intervening circumstances for which the present occupant of a holding might in no way be responsible, be no test at all of present earning power; and (2) purchase annuities arose under different Acts of Parliament and were calculated at different times under different economic and financial conditions and on different principles".

But it is a fact that poor law valuations are taken into consideration by investigation officers. That is a fact that cannot be ignored.

That is not the point. The point made here, and to some extent in the Dáil, was that persons resident on a holding below a certain valuation ought automatically qualify for old age pensions. In the Dáil it was suggested that £10 might be taken as the datum line and any person on a holding with a valuation below £10 ought automatically get an old age pension. In my Department last week I handled one case in which a person with 44 acres of land with a valuation of £29 10s. 0d. and seven acres of tillage got an old age pension of 5/- per week.

How far that is typical is a matter for examination and investigation. Having regard to the tillage acreage and the valuation, those on holdings of a valuation of £10 or less, without any other income, would quite clearly automatically get a pension if the case I have referred to is typical of any number of cases in that category. My difficulty in that matter is that various suggestions are made and will no doubt be made for an examination of the means test and as to the best grounds upon which to base the assessment of means. Some Deputies suggested that the administration of the Act may, in fact, result in a jerking up of means or perhaps an uneven application of tests as to what constitutes the means of an applicant in one part of the country as compared with another.

The best I could do in that matter was to promise the House that when this Bill had been cleared away I would get down to an examination of the question as to what is the easiest and most equitable and the simplest way of ascertaining the means of an applicant for an old age pension. I would like to see matters simplified. I would like to see matters put on a basis that would give mutual satisfaction. I would like to have the problem examined from the point of view of seeing what can be done generally to eliminate as much as possible obnoxious inquiries by investigation officers into the private circumstances of applicants for old age pensions.

Senator Colgan referred to the case of the thrifty worker—the member of a trade union which provides, as his own union does, comprehensive social benefits—who, when he retires, earns a pension on the basis of his contributions and then finds that his pension is taken into consideration against him when he applies for an old age pension.

I think we are all familiar with that type of case. I have considerable sympathy with the point of view expressed by Senator Colgan and others on that subject. To abolish the means test entirely would cost £3,500,000 in addition to the £2,500,000 expended under this Bill. That is certainly not possible this year, or next year, even if it were desirable. I think Senator Finan referred to the case of a person who retired from the public service with a pension of £500 per year, which was subsequently stepped up by another £125, making a total pension of £625 per year. He put the question —and it is a question which will have to get an answer from the State and from the people: "In our circumstances here and on the basis of our productivity here and the general standard of life here are we going to abolish the means test to such an extent as to provide that person with an old age pension?"

In a condition in which we never appear to have—certainly we never appeared to have in the past—sufficient money to satisfy reasonable demands for an improvement in our social services are we going to abolish the means test and give an old age pension to a person with £600 a year? Or are we going to say: "No, we cannot do that in our circumstances and we will utilise that 17/6 in every effort that might normally go in that direction to improve the lot of those people who have not got £2 a week." Frankly, my view is in favour of letting the well-off for the time being do without an old age pension and letting those who are pretty well circumstanced in life stand back a bit in the queue and utilise whatever money we have to distribute to those in the greatest need; in other words, to apportion whatever benefits we can distribute to those who stand in greatest need of such benefits. Bear in mind, too, that when you give the present old age pensioner 17/6 per week you are giving him what is the equivalent of an investment of £1,000 per year. Any person with £1,000 who puts that money into a Government security will only get 17/- a week on it. That is what we are giving when we give the old age pensioner now 17/6 a week.

What we have to decide is, what are we to do in respect of the means test? Its complete abolition, without any qualification, would cost £3,500,000 and would result in giving well-to-do people an income at the expense of improving still further the lot of weaker and more helpless sections of the community.

I think the best line of approach is to deal with it on the basis of insurance. If persons properly insure themselves under a comprehensive scheme of social legislation, if they pay contributions for an old age pension and their employer pays the same, they will be entitled to get a pension at 65 irrespective of their means at that time or irrespective of any source of income they have, in the same way as if they similarly insure with a private insurance company and they can draw benefit without any test by the State. I hope, when we have the comprehensive scheme of social welfare, that we will be able, by putting old age pensions and all the other services on an insurance basis, to give a person not merely a statutory right to benefit, but to get rid of means tests of all kinds for that range of benefits, giving the person an automatic statutory right to draw whatever benefits he contracted for when he enrolled himself under the insurance scheme.

I think Senator Colgan is right when he says that from the point of view of the worker it is better for him to have his contributions on an insurance basis, because then, with his head up, he can claim a statutory right and not have his benefits dependent on vagaries, political and financial. Once he has a statutory right to benefit he can claim, and no Government dare interfere in the matter of reducing his rights or bringing his claim to them into question. It is for that reason in the worker's own interest. It is the widely held view of trade unions and working class movements throughout the world that it is better to pay insurance contributions and get a statutory right to benefit than to get doles and charities and subsidies. In fact, the workers would prefer to pay so as to get their rights recognised automatically.

Senator Mrs. Concannon referred to spinsters, and I should like to be permitted at this point to express my appreciation to Senator Mrs. Concannon for the broad and statesman-like way in which she approached this question. It was obvious, listening to her contribution to the debate, that her desire is to see what best can be done under this Bill for those most in need of assistance. I can assure her that it is only from that standpoint that I approached this matter. I am glad to have the sympathy and support of a lady of such undoubted talents and broad outlook as Senator Mrs. Concannon is well known to possess.

She made inquiries as to what provision is being made for spinsters. I do not know whether I am one of a numerous class or not, but I have considerable sympathy for the point of view expressed by Senator Mrs. Concannon, namely, that some effort should be made to provide sustenance for spinsters. Quite frankly, I acknowledge there have been anomalies in our past legislation and there are anomalies even in our existing legislation. For instance, under the Windows' and Orphans' Pensions Acts a widow of 55 without a child can get a pension, but a spinster of 69 cannot get one. The anomaly is probably greater in this Bill, because a childless widow of 48 can get a pension, but a spinster of 69 cannot get one. There is a very obvious anomaly there. One can see no special characteristic or asset held by a widow which would entitle her to a pension, while a spinster of 69 who is not able to work will not be given State aid in the form of a pension. I must express my sympathy with Senator Mrs. Concannon's point of view and I will undertake to have the matter specially examined in order to see whether it is possible on an insurance basis to provide some sort of cover under a comprehensive scheme when we come to deal with that problem.

Senator Honan referred to trust money held by applicants for old age pensions. I am sure the Senator is as conversant with human nature as I am and he knows how easy it is, if you were to admit that there is no means of applying any check at all, for persons to say that money in a bank is trust money and they intend to give it to Mary Kate or John Joe when some particular event takes place. If a man or woman seeking an old age pension has money in a bank in his or her name you must assume that that man or woman owns the money and, however notionally they intend to assign it to either the son or the daughter, they are free to use it and draw whatever interest accrues. We would be opening a very wide door if we were to say that all the money of an old age pensioner, man or woman, must be assumed to be trust money unless we can prove to the contrary. I am afraid I can see no light along that line. It might be considered from the angle whether there could not be a modification of the means test so as to give money in the bank in that way a lesser weight for means purposes than it has to-day. I will undertake to see that that and other related difficulties are examined.

Senator Honan mentioned the case of two persons receiving pensions, one dies and that deprives the other of the pension. That was the position originally, but it is not the position now; the death of one does not deprive the surviving member of a pension.

Senator Summerfield referred to unemployment tests. We are simply continuing by normal legislation here what was done under Emergency Powers Acts by the last Government during the war. There may be an easement of the test of unemployment in certain circumstances, but I still consider it is a rigid test and in so far as I am asked to pronounce on the thing I will pronounce that in my view it is still a bit too rigid; but this is not the time to have it examined in detail. Such an examination must remain until we get a comprehensive scheme.

Senator Summerfield, speaking in connection with the proposal for a comprehensive scheme for social services, asked me to provide the House with an estimate of the cost of administering these services. I shall endeavour to have that embodied in the White Paper so that the people may realise the problem that confronts them.

Senator Colgan raised the question of the strike section of the Unemployment Insurance Act and quoted the case of a cleaner who was employed cleaning the offices of a bus company and who was dismissed because of a strike in the bus company. As the Senator knows, this is an old bone of contention in the trade union movement and I have a lot of sympathy with the point of view he expressed in the matter. I would be prepared to meet the Trades Union Congress in order to discuss the matter and see if we could arrive at a reasonable modification of the present position. I do not want to see a person deprived of benefit because he is remotely connected with a strike although he is in no way involved in the strike. Yet Senator Colgan will appreciate that my first duty is to safeguard the unemployment insurance funds. I do not want to create a position where one person goes on strike and his position is so vital that others have to go out, too, but that he can then go to the employment exchange and get unemployment benefit instead of strike pay. This is a matter of balance, of very delicate balance in this case, and I would be prepared to accept representations regarding the matter because I understand all the difficulties that are involved.

I think that covers the main points raised by individual Senators on the Bill and I want to make some general observations on the Bill as a whole. I am not offering this Bill to the House as a major discovery, creating new principles never previously known, nor am I offering it to the House as being the last word in social welfare legislation. I am offering it to the House for what it is, a magnificent step forward, in my opinion, in the matter of our social welfare legislation. I am offering it to the House for what it does. Here is what it does and nobody can deny it: It provides an additional £1,500,000 for old age pensioners, £1,000,000 more for widows and orphans and blind pensions at 21 years of age instead of at 30 years of age. It modifies the means test and provides a special modified means test for blind persons. It provides an amalgamated basic benefit and cash supplements giving insured contributors a statutory right to amalgamated benefits in the future. It qualifies an additional 7,000 widows for pension benefits by reducing the age at which widows are entitled to receive pensions from 55 to 48. In addition, it provides for the payment of old age pensions, widows' and orphans' and blind pensions to persons who are not entitled to these benefits under the Acts as they stand at the moment.

I think that is a substantial advance in a very short time. I can imagine that if Senator Ó Buachalla had this Bill with the Fianna Fáil stamp on it there would not be enough white horses to take him into Galway City this week-end he would be so proud of it.

I have complimented the Minister on the Bill.

It seems to me that there were a number of boots in your bouquets.

I raised the criticisms of the Minister's own Party.

If the Senator will look after his own Party I will look after mine. My Party is in very good trim on the matter.

They do not seem to be.

They are. They have the feeling that we have left "Bleak House" and are making for "Great Expectations". They have the feeling that they now have a Government that is going to examine the question of social services with a sympathetic mind and I want to say candidly that as long as I am charged with the responsibility of providing social services I will examine the matter, day and night, sympathetically with the desire to do the best I can to improve them.

I wish you every success.

Every view that I held when I was in opposition I hold to-day, and I will continue to fight to-day for the things I fought for when I was in opposition.

If it is not possible to do all the things one would like to do in six months, Senators will understand that this is not the last Social Welfare Bill. This is not the last day of the Seanad nor the last day of the Irish race. There will be more Social Welfare Bills and I hope that every one of them will put brick upon brick to build up a decent edifice of social legislation in this country and I will wish good luck to any Minister who is responsible for improving the lot of the weak and helpless. This year we are making a start by granting an additional £2,500,000, and I hope that next year we will have a comprehensive scheme. The implementation of that will mean a very valuable step forward in providing social benefits.

Senator Mrs. Concannon and others were concerned about avoiding any efforts to copy the social services at present existing in Britain and the Six Counties, but bear in mind that, if we decline to step up our social services and ensure our people against the hazards of life in a better way, we may, by neglect of that responsibility, provide a magnet which would attract our people to the Six Counties and across the water where they would get social services, and very valuable social services in relation to their costs. One of the things we should be able to say to our people is: "You do not need to go to Britain for social services. You will get them at home." And we should also be able to say to our people: "You will get decent employment at home." By building up a good scheme of social services, we can at least give the lie to those people in the North who get a malicious satisfaction out of saying: "Why should the Six Counties join the Twenty-Six Counties when by doing so all they would get would be a debasement of the standard of living?" Building up a good code of social services here has much to commend it from every point of view, and if we can even exceed the British and the Six Counties scheme I hope that we may endeavour to do so. It will cost money and contributions from employers and workers, but I say to the workers: It is better to pay when you are able to work in order that you may get benefits when you are not able to work and to provide security for your wife and children, because before Almighty God and the law you are morally responsible for providing for them to the uttermost of your resources.

I was faced with the problem of having £2,500,000 which the Government agreed to make available for the purposes of this Bill and of deciding what was the best way to utilise the £2,500,000. After a very considerable amount of anxious thought, I came to the conclusion that, by modifying the means test and stepping up benefits, we could achieve greater benefits over the widest number of pensions and give the greatest measure of assistance to those who are in need of it. That is what is done in this case and that is what every penny of that £2,500,000 is to be used for.

I would like to assure the House that I would take a dozen amendments on this Bill that would have the effect of substantially increasing expenditure, but all of that £2,500,000 is absorbed in the Bill and that is all I have got for the purposes of the Bill. For that reason, it is not possible this year to spend more than the £2,500,000 that is being spent, but I would ask the House to regard this as something on account. I would ask the widows and orphans to accept it as an earnest of our efforts to improve their lot in the future. I am sure that if we put political considerations into the background, Senators in this House, no matter what their political affiliations, no matter what views they have given expression to in the House, in their hearts will warmly welcome this Bill, because I know that in their hearts they must regard it as a very substantial step forward in the code of social legislation.

May I ask the Minister one question? In the remarks I made I wished to lay emphasis on the point that where there is a perfectly legal transfer of property from a father to a son the father should be automatically entitled to claim the pension.

If it is done in pursuance of a marriage settlement it is accepted as a valid transfer or if it is done three years prior to the application for the old age pension.

That is a long time to wait.

It is nothing, provided that the potential applicant realises at 67 years of age that in three years' time he will have reached the age of 70.

We never like to think that.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is it proposed to take the remaining stages?

To-morrow, Sir.

Regarding this matter of taking the Committee Stage and the following stages to-morrow, may I ask whether the Committee on Procedure and Privileges had regard to certain protests that were made here on occasions when the House was asked to give all stages of a Bill at very short notice? Protests were made on occasions when important Bills came before the House that, as a matter of principle, at least a fortnight should elapse between the Second Stage and the following stages. Did the Committee on Procedure and Privileges advert to those protests?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We are acting on the decision of the committee. We presume that these considerations were taken into account.

Yes, they were taken into account.

In other words, there does not seem to have been very much point in the protests made on past occasions.

There is no use in going into all this again. We had all this over before. This is a remarkable situation. We have a new Government coming in at a very difficult point in the financial year and the committee was unanimous in feeling that owing to the nature of this Bill we might do the Second Stage to-day and take the other stages to-morrow and, if necessary, on Friday. There is no doubt at all about that. The considerations that Senator Ó Buachalla mentions were present to our mind, but we did unanimously take the particular decision. There is no doubt about it.

Agreed to take Committee and remaining stages on Thursday, 12th August.