Public Hospitals (Amendment) Bill, 1990: Second Stage.

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

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Public Charitable Hospitals Acts, 1930 to 1932, and the Public Hospitals Acts, 1933 to 1976, so that unclaimed prize money and accrued interest arising from the operation of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes may be vested in the Minister for Health and disposed of by him in respect of service by certain former employees of Hospital Trust (1940) Limited, the private company which promoted and operated the Hospitals Sweepstakes.

All of you are familiar with the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes. When they were operating, the governing legislation required that, in relation to each individual sweepstake, sufficient funds were deposited to secure the total value of prizes in that sweepstake. Trustees were appointed to be responsible for these deposits. Inevitably some prizes, mostly small ones, were not claimed and the parties entitled to these prizes were never identified or did not submit valid claims. Over the years these funds remained on deposit and, now amount to approximately £480,000, consisting of prize fund deposits and accrued interest.

As the House will be aware, Hospitals Trust (1940) Limited was placed in voluntary liquidation in March 1987. In effect, this signalled the demise of the sweepstakes. The last sweepstake was run in January 1986 and all the company's employees were made redundant in March 1987. Following that, the trustees of the prize fund deposits indicated that they wished to be relieved of their trusteeship, largely because they felt that few, if any, of the unclaimed prizes would become legitimately payable in the future. In the circumstances the Government decided that the unclaimed prize money, together with accrued interest, should be taken over by the State and used for the benefit of former employees. Basically, that is why I am sponsoring this Bill.

The amount of money available for distribution, £488,000 approximately, is relatively small. Consequently, we have to be somewhat selective in our approach to deciding who will benefit. For this purpose the former employees can be divided into three broad groups. First, we have those former employees who completed their service and retired on pension in the ordinary way. Included in this broad category you will also have short service employees who worked in the sweepstakes for a period and then retired to go elsewhere. All of these employees received their full entitlement over the years. They could not be said to be disadvantaged in any way by the closure of the sweepstakes. Those who are in receipt of pensions are at least as well off now as they would have been had the sweepstakes continued in operation.

The next group are what I shall call the voluntary redundancies. These are employees who accepted voluntary redundancy on the basis of schemes drawn up in 1987 and in 1980. Many of those received the standard non-contributory company pension of about 14 per cent of their salary; plus a top upex gratia pension element which would bring the pension up to 50 per cent of salary in some cases; plus enhanced redundancy payments paid by the company — Hospitals Trust (1940) Limited; plus in many cases the promise of 13 weeks employment every year while the sweepstakes were operating. When the company went into liquidation the ex gratia element of the pension was withdrawn and of course the promise of 13 weeks employment was no longer relevant. This group of workers could certainly be said to be disadvantaged.

The final group comprise of what I shall call the compulsory redundancies. These are the employees who lost their jobs when the company went into liquidation in March 1987. A total of 147 workers was made redundant on that date and a small number on the days immediately preceding it.

The compulsory redundancies received only statutory redundancy plus, where the service was sufficient, the standard pension of 14 per cent. The Labour Court recommmended that something on the lines of two weeks' salary per year of service should be paid in addition. However, these workers never received this payment and it appears extremely unlikely that they ever will. This compulsory redundancies group has certainly been seriously disadvantaged.

We have had discussions with SIPTU and various staff representatives and, of course, we have had a considerable volume of representations on the issue. All the views put forward have been fully considered and they have been very helpful in our efforts to divide up this money. It is clear that there are two disadvantaged groups — the voluntary redundancies and the compulsory redundancies. What we propose to do is to give a flat rate payment of, say, up to £1,000 to the voluntary redundancies. These are the people who lost theex gratia element of their pensions. Where any of them have died the payment will be made to the spouse if alive. I am afraid that legal difficulties would rule out making payments to any other relatives of deceased persons. The balance will be shared out between the compulsory redundancies who are still alive.

Spouses of deceased persons will, of course, be catered for in the same way as those in the previous group. However, payments in the case of the compulsory redundancies will be calculated on the same basis as was used to calculate statutory redundancy, that is, weighted according to age and service. This would be fairer for this group because many had relatively short service. We will have to be allowed a little latitude in deciding who are in this group, as a number left some days earlier, that is, prior to the liquidation. In all equity I think that these must be regarded as belonging to this group. All of these workers will qualify for, I hope, at least 60 per cent of statutory redundancy. We may be able to put a floor or lower threshold on such payments of possibly up to £500.

I am afraid that we will have to ask for the submission of claims in all cases. However, we should be able to process them very quickly as most of the beneficiaries are probably located in Dublin. Our aim will be to have as many as possible paid out before Christmas.

There is one other issue which was a cause of concern, that is the question of taxing these benefits. My officials have consulted with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners on the taxation treatment of the proposed payments. The position is that the payments will fall to be treated as payments received in connection with determination of employment which are chargeable to income tax by virtue of section 114 of the Income Tax Act, 1957. However, section 115 of that Act exempts from the charge to tax the first £6,000 of the aggregate of all such payments received by an employee in respect of employment. In addition, Schedule 3 to the Act provides for the exemption level to be increased up to £10,000 or more in certain circumstances. Statutory redundancy payments which are specifically exempt from income tax by virtue of section 37 of the Finance Act, 1968, are not taken into account for the purposes of the exemption under the 1967 Act.

In the circumstances, while the proposed payments will be technically chargeable to income tax, it is highly unlikely that any of the former employees of the Hospitals Trust will actually be liable to tax in respect of the amounts received by them since it is likely that none of the proposed payments will exceed the threshold.

May I briefly run through the main provisions of the Bill. Section 2 provides that the deposit funds will be vested in the Minister for Health. Section 3 authorises the Minister for Health to disburse these funds, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. Section 4 indemnifies the trustees against future claims. Section 5 provides for the audit of accounts and their presentation to the Dáil and Seanad. Section 6 covers any future liabilities which may arise — these will be met from the Exchequer. Section 7 provides that future claims against the funds must be made within four years unless some legal disability is established.

Further sections provide that the expenses involved in disbursing these funds will fall on the Exchequer, that the Sweepstakes Acts may be repealed if there is no longer any need for the legislation, and in that event any moneys payable into the Hospitals Trust Fund shall instead be disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer.

As you will see, the Bill has emerged as a short one which provides a simple and easily managed system to take over and disburse these funds and one which will not give rise to any drain on these funds to meet distribution costs. I am very anxious, as I am sure is every Member of the House, that these funds be paid out before Christmas. For that reason I would ask for your co-operation in progressing the Bill to finality as rapidly as possible.

In that context I would like to make two points. First, many people have suggested that the additional funds be made available to assist the former employees specifically from receipts from the sale of the Hospitals Trust Board's premises in Ballsbridge or indeed grants from the Exchequer. It is not open to the Hospitals Trust Board or to the Minister for Health to direct that the proceeds of the sale of the premises in Ballsbridge be diverted for the benefit of employees of the private company which rented these premises. Indeed, virtually all the proceeds of that sale have now been used up, the bulk of it in supporting the Health capital programme.

In relation to Exchequer assistance, many people have suggested that funds should be provided to help the liquidator meet additional redundancy payments which have been recommended by the Labour Court. Here again, I have to point out that Hospitals Trust (1940) Limited is a private company. Therefore, neither I nor the Minister for Finance have any function in this matter and there is no action we can take to secure implementation of the Labour Court recommendations.

While I have every sympathy with the position of these workers, I am sure you will appreciate from what I have said that there is no other way open to the Minister for Health to assist them.

I have outlined the position in some detail and have no hesitation in commending this Bill to the House. I would again earnestly urge your full co-operation in progressing the Bill to finality so that the money can be distributed as soon as possible.

My party will not obstruct this Bill in its passage through the House because we share the concern about the position of the people who have been adversely affected by the liquidation of the Hospital Sweepstakes Trust. We are naturally concerned for the very adverse position these people are placed in and we, too, are anxious that the payments be made before Christmas.

The Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes fund was a major contributory factor to the relative success of the health system in the forties and fifties. The workers in the sweepstakes fund made their contribution to that. The sweepstakes fund was important in the capital programme and was important at that time in the fight against TB. That is something that should be remembered and is another reason why the legislation should be passed.

I want to make a couple of points. First, the sweepstakes are no longer in existence; they have been replaced by the national lottery. In the current year £10.6 million has gone from the national lottery to health. Roughly £2 million was spent on hospital beds, £3 million on the elderly, £1 million on the National Social Service Board, £800,000 on the mentally handicapped, £500,000 on child care, £100,000 on AIDS research, and £2.7 million was allocated to health boards.

Since the enactment of the national lottery legislation many of the voluntary agencies — the Wheelchair Association and the Multiple Sclerosis Association are, for instance, two organisations with whom I have a personal association — have had a major problem collecting money. I am absolutely certain I am not being alarmist in saying to this House that the collections by organisations such as those I have mentioned have been reduced by about 50 per cent to 60 per cent.

It is my contention that the injection of funds into the health services as a result of the national lottery in no way makes up for what has been lost to the voluntary organisations. Much of the funds from the national lottery goes to areas other than those which the voluntary groups are looking after. I would be very personally concerned about an organisation like the Wheelchair Association which does an incredible number of things in terms of back-up of disabled persons in wheelchairs, in organising annual holidays, driving schools, social centres and a range of activities. I do not propose to list them all to the House because that would be tortuous for the listeners as well as for myself. I make the point that organisations such as the Wheelchair Association do tremendous work. Many would argue they are doing work that should be done in the first place by the mainstream health services and by the Department of Health. Whatever about that debate, I make the point that they are grossly disadvantaged now by the national lottery and it is something I urge the Minister to consider. It must be a relevant consideration in future that we look at the degree to which we can compensate the voluntary organisations for their loss of funding through their own internal fund-raising operations. There is no way that a scratch card or ticket for any of the other voluntary organisations can favourably compare with the national lottery tickets either in terms of promotion, attractiveness, prize funds or whatever. That is something we have to worry about.

It is slightly extraneous to the discussion today, but only slightly, that we are basically remedying a matter arising from the demise of the sweepstakes and its fall-out for workers and we have to look at the new reality there. I am basically in agreement that this £480,000 should be distributed among the workers. I broadly agree with the delineation of the degree of need by the Minister. I would like clarification that there will be favourable or positive discrimination in favour of people who have a long spell of service with the sweepstakes and who at the age of 54 or 55 years are now out of work and are very disadvantaged in terms of the labour market. It would want to be clear to this House in accepting the legislation that there would be positive discrimination towards a person whose position is now very critical in terms of future employment. For example, there is a critical difference between a person in their early fifties who is now involuntarily retired and a person in their early and late twenties who would, we hope, be in a position to regain other employment. I would like a little more clarification on that question.

We are addressing the question today of channelling the prize fund to the workers who are the innocent victims of the liquidation. I would like in that context to mention here that £7 million is being lost at the moment to the health services. It is unfortunate that the £7 million of extra money collected this year will not be available to these services. I know that in a very strict sense it is not part of the Health Vote for this year, but more vigilance should have ensured that that money would go to a needy health service at the moment.

On that basis I make the point that we will be supporting Second Stage of the Bill. We may come back with other points at later Stages of the Bill. We support Second Stage in the hope that the money can be paid out for Christmas and that the workers who have suffered so much will in some way have their situations rectified.

I welcome this Bill. I commend the Minister and his Department for bringing forward the Bill and their very laudable wish that it would become law and have passed all Stages before Christmas.

The Minister has laid out the reasons for this Bill; specifically, to amend the Public Charities Acts of 1930 and 1932 and the Public Hospital Acts of 1932 and 1976. The prize moneys from the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes that have gone unclaimed over the years — the mind boggles to think that any prize money could have gone unclaimed, but somebody will benefit from it — may now be transferred to the control of the Minister and may be disposed of by him to certain former employees of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes in Ballsbridge.

All of us are well aware of the debt of gratitude we owe to these people who for many years gave sterling and dedicated service and then at the advent of the national lottery were made redundant when the company was placed in voluntary liquidation in March 1987. This Bill is now an attempt in some small way to rectify the injustice suffered by these people. The proposal from the Government is that this unclaimed prize money, with accumulated interest totalling nearly £500,000, should go to the former employees.

I say at this juncture it is unfortunate that, relatively speaking, it is a rather small sum. I was not aware of the Minister's address earlier on but I wonder if there is any possibility of augmenting it in any way? Thinking back to a year or 18 months ago, there was a lot of talk in the newspapers about the actual location of the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes offices and I know they were deemed to be situated on a very valuable site. There was a sizeable amount of money generated on the sale of these offices. I understand what the Minister says now that unfortunately neither he, his Department nor the Government are in a position to take hold of any of the remaining proceeds of that sale. I was hoping funds such as that could be available so as to make a more meaningful payment to these people.

I have referred to the national lottery which undoubtedly led to the demise of organisations such as the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes. I am the national chairman of GORTA, the freedom from hunger organisation and our organisation has no doubt that the national lottery has had a significant impact on our fund-raising activities. There are only so many pounds to go around. The national lottery's gain is a loss to various charitable organisations such as GORTA, Concern, Trócaire and all the other very worthwhile organisations. I would earnestly request the relevant Minister to make compensatory payments to charitable organisations such as my own, Trócaire and Concern and all the others.

At this juncture I would also like to say, as did Senator Joe O'Reilly, that the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes did an enormous amount of good work for our hospitals during the years, particularly in the forties and fifties, in the bad old days of TB. While I appreciate what the Minister and his Department are doing, I wonder if the national lottery has replaced the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes specifically. I know that the national lottery contributed an enormous amount — £10.6 million — to the Department of Health in some form this year but the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes were a rather more specific payment to hospitalsper se. I wonder if there is some way that we could get back to a similar situation?

To get back to the Bill before us, the Minister is to be commended for his decision that any future liabilities which may arise will be met by the Exchequer and that all expenses involved in the management of these funds will be also paid by the Exchequer. In other words, as the Minister rightly said, every single penny of this £488,000 will go directly to the former employees of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes. It proves his willingness to ensure that every penny available to him will go directly to the former employees. I take the Minister's point that the employees most seriously affected are those who were in employment when the company went into liquidation and that they should get the bulk of the funds. We agree with this and Senator Joe O'Reilly agreed with this proposal also. It would be silly to dilute the funds or benefits so that it would be of no value to any recipient. Restriction of the payment to those who suffered most from the closure will mean that they, at least, will get a meaningful sum.

In conclusion I am pleased the Minister is anxious to have these payments made by Christmas. We in this House should assist him in every way to ensure that this very laudable objective is achieved.

I welcome this Bill. We will support it and will co-operate with the Minister in his endeavours to get the Bill through the House as rapidly as is possible. It is, of course, a short Bill. It arises from the appalling treatment which was meted out to the people who worked in the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes, some of them with very long years of service. The Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes, as a number of Senators on both sides of the House have said, provided a very valuable funding service which allowed the hospital in this country to be built up when funding was very scarce and very difficult to obtain. The contribution of those funds played a vital role in the fight against TB, and indeed continued to play an important role for a number of years after the TB epidemic has been conquered.

All through those periods the workforce in the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes were an absolutely essential ingredient in ensuring the success of the sweepstakes and that is something which has not been given the recognition or attention it deserves. We find that these people who, in some cases, had given a lifetime of service to the development of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes were thrown on the wasteheap and were very badly treated financially arising from what happened. I have no doubt at all that they were given a very raw deal. Some, unfortunately, have passed on to their eternal reward.

The initiative which is being taken now is welcome but unfortunately as everybody concedes, it does not go the full way. When I say it does not go the full way, we have to recognise also that these people who worked in the sweepstakes for many years were rather poorly paid and even in the best of times did not benefit particularly well, given the type of work they were doing. Those who have fared worst of all in the shake-out when it did happen were the 147 or so people who were in full-time employment at the stage at which the sweepstakes collapsed. The Minister has very fairly acknowledged that there was a Labour Court recommendation along the lines that the workers would be given two weeks pay for each year of service and that unfortunately, is not going to happen. He also indicated there were very serious restrictions and reductions on the pensions which people can expect arising from the collapse.

The Minister also has made clear that it does not appear to be legally possible to direct the funding from the sale of the site in Ballsbridge to supplement what these workers would certainly be morally entitled to, in my opinion. While I accept the Minister's view on that, it certainly is very galling and painful for people who had given a life service to the development of the sweepstakes to find that the sale of the site nets £6.6 million and that they cannot get a penny out of it.

The other point which has been alluded to by a number of Senators is the fact that the decline of the sweepstakes was influenced to a significant extent by the development of the national lottery. I do not want to join willy-nilly in the quick political fix which some people go for when they say lottery funds for anything; I do not want to go down that road. However, there is a case to be made for the people who worked in the sweepstakes having as it were, their moral entitlements satisfied out of lottery funds. If that is not possible, it might be possible to introduce legislation which would allow funds in unclaimed bank accounts and similar type accounts for many years which, effectively are dead funds, to be liberated and released to supplement the entitlements of people who suffer very badly because of unfortunate events such as befell the people who worked in the sweepstakes.

In relation to the Minister's outline of what these people can expect, £1,000 is not a lot of money for those people who have had their pensions diminished and who got only 60 per cent of the statutory redundancy — a little more than half. I accept the restrictions under which the Minister is working but we must remember the type of people we are talking about. Very many of them are elderly people who do not have very many resources and who very badly need the money.

I am pleased to hear the Minister mention the fact that in effect practically none of this money will be taxed. That is very welcome. However, I would sound a note of alarm. He says it will not be taxed because of the fact that, in effect, it will amount to less than £10,000, the reality is that quite a number of the people who worked in the sweepstakes could legitimately expect to get redundancy money which would be greater than £10,000. While it is welcome that it will not be taxed, it is very unfortunate that the amount of money these people will receive is too small to be taxed.

I welcome the Bill but I am sorry and disappointed it does not fully compensate the people who worked in the sweepstakes over the years. However, to the extent that it makes a gesture towards satisfying their moral and legitimate rights, I welcome it.

I want to thank the Leader of the House, Senator Fallon, who very obligingly gave a commitment that this Bill would be taken before Christmas to allow the people who will benefit to get the money before the Christmas season.

There is one final point which I find disturbing, that is, the announcement by the Minister that the people who have claims would have to go through the process of making the claims. I hope that will not create any great difficulty for them. I hope the Minister will make every effort to ensure that the making of a claim will be a formality and that every assistance will be provided by his Department to allow them to make the claims rapidly and to formulate the claims.

I would like to thank the Minister, Deputy Treacy, for coming to the House this afternoon with this legislation which is important to a certain number of people. This ends an era in Ireland, and particularly in Dublin. I am anxious that the money would be distributed on a basis of need. I am concerned about the number of references made in the Bill to the Department of Finance or the Exchequer. I would hope that out of this small amount of money no money will be wasted in administration. As elected representatives, we are aware of the money that can be wasted in administration and I ask the Minister to see that this does not happen.

I would like to put on record my concern about the large amounts of money that are lying unclaimed in banks, insurance companies, and building societies and all financial agencies. There should be some way of getting these agencies to tell us as legislators the amounts of such unclaimed funds. We could find many ways in which they could be employed profitably.

There has been sadness about the delay in dealing with the employees of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes. That is now a thing of the past and I want to thank the Minister. I am sure the House will do its duty in its usual professional manner and pass this important legislation. I also hope the former workers will all be identified. Senator O'Reilly made reference to the older employees. I ask the Minister to see that they are all identified and catered for in an appropriate manner. Senator O'Reilly made reference to that point also.

There are companies that go out of business and leave employees with nothing. I hope that there will be some safeguards in the Companies Bill, to which there has been so much reference in recent times. It is employees who suffered because the Hospitals Sweepstakes was wound up. There was a lot of sadness and distress over what happened. We are aware of the upset caused to families.

I would like to refer to lottery funding. I do not refer to present company but there are people who like to talk about lottery money and what should and should not be done with it and the voluntary bodies that should and should not get funds. I have chaired the Clare Federation for the Mentally Handicapped for 26 years. That is a long time and I am not a new recruit to voluntary work. The lottery has affected our funding. I say this because I strongly believe that voluntary work in conjunction with the statutory bodies and the Departments of Health and Education has worked well. I pay tribute to the Minister for Health and to the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, for the extra money granted to the mentally handicapped, although we could well do with more. I thank them because I am aware of what was done for the mentally handicapped down the years. The national lottery has affected the money given to voluntary organisations because, as some of my colleagues have said in addressing this legislation this afternoon, there is only the same amount of money to go around. We have felt the upset of that.

With regard to section 3, may I say I have a horror of the clause, "with the consent of the Minister for Finance" in legislation. Section 3 provides that the Minister for Health may do something with the consent of the Minister for Finance. I have no trouble at all with the present Minister for Finance; he is great, but there are some boys in the Department and when I see "with the consent ...." I start worrying. I ask the Minister to make sure that those boys down there do not get their hands on any of the money that should go to the former employees of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes.

I also want to pay compliment and to thank the Minister for putting in section 9, which provides that expenses incurred in the administration of the Act shall, subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas rather than out of the undistributed prize money. He is here again. It is not really Albert Reynolds; it is the boys in the Department.

I want to thank the Minister for introducing this legislation. When we deal with health legislation here, regardless of the flak and all hell flying outside about what service is available and what service is not available, it is nearly always the same Senators who take part in the debate. There is an across-the-floor unanimity and a common sense approach to the legislation. Out there there are workers waiting for the few pounds that will come out of this Bill and nobody in this House will delay its passage.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Treacy, for introducing this legislation which is important to many families.

I would like to welcome this important Bill — the Public Hospitals (Amendment) Bill, 1990. As other Senators have pointed out, the basic purpose of the Bill is to amend the various Public Hospital Acts which were passed in the period 1930-1976, so as to enable the unclaimed prize money spanning over a period of 60 years and the accrued interest arising from the operation of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes, to be taken over by the State and to be vested in the Minister for Health and used for the benefit of the former employees, particularly, as the Minister of State has indicated here today, those former employees in the compulsory redundancy groups. Over the years these funds remained on deposit. Now, with interest, the Minister of State has indicated they amount to about £488,000. Indeed much of the £488,000 that is available for distribution is interest on the prize money. I hope, like Senator O'Reilly, that this legislation will have an expeditious passage through the House so that these funds can be paid out to the former employees, who, as all the speakers have indicated, are so worthy and deserving of these small payments; and that these payments will be made before Christmas.

Ever since the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes was set up in 1930 and the Irish Hospitals Trust was set up in 1940 they have carved out a very special place for themselves in the history of this country and indeed in the history of Irish hospitals and Irish medicine. They have made a very significant and important contribution to the promotion and development of our health services. I would like to pay public tribute to all the former employees who down through the years have made an outstanding contribution to the development of our health services. Indeed, without the dedicated and committed staff the Irish Hospitals Trust and the sweepstakes which they ran would have been nothing.

Reference has been made to section 9 of the Act. I would like to welcome the assurance given by the Minister in the Dáil that the cost of the administration and distribution of these funds will be met by the Department of Health and not out of the moneys that are now available.

Finally, I would also like to welcome the clarification that has been given by the Minister here today in relation to the taxation treatment of the proposed payments, particularly in relation to sections 114 and 115 of the Income Tax Act, 1967. If the occasion arises, I hope the Revenue Commissioners will be generous with these recipients and that they will not be liable for income tax in relation to these payments.

I join with the other speakers in paying tribute to all concerned in the running of the sweepstakes over the years, particularly the dedicated staff. I hope the Minister will make every effort to ensure that these payments are made before Christmas.

I, too, would like to welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister and the Government on its introduction. The Bill, as has been stated already, will allocate outstanding prize moneys not collected to the staff who were made redundant and to pensioners.

I would like to pay my tribute to those associated with the Hospitals Trust and the sweepstakes. They brought the health service out of the 19th century and into the 20th century and have played a great part in developing a proper and adequate health service. It is unfortunate that we have seen some dismantling of that health service over the past few years. We look forward to a change in that and a change in attitude towards the health service and in ensuring that proper funding is made available to ensure that there will be the health service our people deserve and should have available to them.

I also wish to pay tribute in particular to the employees of the Hospitals Trust and to empathise with them in their trauma of being made redundant. I am sure most of them joined the Hospitals Trust with the expectation that they had a job for life. It is unfortunate that when an organisation like the Hospitals Trust, a private organisation, goes into liquidation adequate funds are not there on occasions to give the employee's just compensation for having been made redundant. It is unfortunate that the Labour Court recommendation — an independent body arbitrating or recommending payment on the basis of what they see as just — was not implemented. Pensions are something that people look forward to; it is part of their remuneration and part of their right and when they are cut off it is very traumatic for the people concerned who feel rightly aggrieved that they will not receive a benefit which they assumed would be theirs in the event of the discontinuance of their employment or, as in the case of most of them, on their retirement.

That having been said, the approach that has been taken by the Minister is to be welcomed. No provision will be adequate to meet the full justice of the employees' situation; it will not meet the Labour Court recommendation but, that having been accepted, we must welcome the fact that some semblance of justice is being given to the employees and to the pensioners.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has clarified that the cost of administration will not be paid out of the fund. We welcome the fact that the £488,000 will go in total to the employees. My party and our spokesman has indicated our support for the Bill and I am glad to add my voice to that.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on bringing it before the House. It is an indication of the concern of Government and the Minister for the former employees who left their positions, some at some disadvantage and some at a very little disadvantage. It is an indication of where the Government stand and the caring nature of the Government in this matter. This little windfall could quite easily have been tucked away in the finances of the Government in some little slot, drawer or corner but the Government took on board the issue of distribution. Indeed, while the payment is not a major amount of money — indeed the whole sum is relatively small — it indicates that there is public awareness and a caring approach by Government to the people involved.

I want to be associated with the expressions of thanks to the Minister regarding the introduction of this Bill to the Seanad and I want to compliment him.

I welcome the Bill before the House and our spokesman, Senator O'Reilly, has pledged our party support for the measure and that we will facilitate its rapid progress through the House. I hope that as quickly as it goes through the House moneys will be paid to the various individuals involved. In principle we support the Bill but I would like to raise a few matters in relation to it and relevant matters.

We are all aware of the situationvis-a-vis the Hospitals Trust, how it closed down and the fact that quite a number of people were left in difficult financial circumstances. Some of them, unfortunately, are currently drawing unemployment assistance and were not fortunate to get alternative work. Others, thankfully, were more fortunate and did get work. The decision to award the national lottery to An Post was the death knell for the Hospitals Trust Fund.

I want to commend the Hospitals Trust Fund and the individuals who were involved in its throughout its years, those who directed it and all those who worked and participated in it both at home and abroad. In former days most of the moneys came from America and in ways it was a lottery which nearly preceded its time in relation to the moneys raised and the many hospitals who were assisted. At times there has been a begrudging attitude towards some of the people who were directly involved in it and much criticism was directed their way. However, without their foresight, work and vision many of the hospitals and health services which we take for granted today would not have assisted. It is important, even at this late stage, that that should be put on the record.

The reality is that when the franchise for the national lottery was awarded to An Post it sounded the death knell for the Hospitals Trust Fund and the people involved took a realistic attitude. Certain criticism can be directed at that decision but given its success and with the right approach, anybody could have made it a success. I believe that the Hospitals Trust Fund would have been the right body or group to run it. Nowadays when there is much talk about social justice; it certainly was not a socially just decision to award the franchise for the national lottery to An Post. While An Post have made great progress, in relation to horses for courses or sticking to what they should be doing, the Hospitals Trust Fund would have been the correct group to run a national lottery.

There is no doubt the national lottery has been a great success but at whose expense? Obviously, moneys has been raised and given out but there is no doubt that many of our hitherto renowned charities have been affected in various ways and some of the those charities perform vital works. Today there were St. Vincent De Paul carol singers at the Bank of Ireland in College Green. They have obviously been affected in relation to the contributions they collect and they do a lot of work, particularly at Christmas time.

In relation to the Lotto; will the Minister ensure that it is being run on an orderly basis because there seems to be an inordinate number of jackpot carryovers which, of course, means that more money is spent. Obviously, some people will spend more when it is carried over or when they think the prize is going to be bigger. All of us would secretly harbour an ambition to be a millionaire, on paper or otherwise. Will the Minister assure the House that there is no question of the Lotto being tampered with in any way. That is important for its successful running.

Will the Minister also give a categorical assurance as to how lottery funds have been spent? We certainly do not want it to be any sort of a slush fund or election fund for his or any other party particularly coming up to local elections or a general election. It is important that community groups and community interests be reflected in how the money is spent and that there are clear decisions and guidelines so that the people who spend the money will get some return, either in their area with some facility, or in the general region.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Will the Senator stay within the terms of the Bill. He might be straying a little there.

Thank you, I am glad you brought me back within the range of the Bill. In relation to the number of people benefiting — I understand under compulsory redundancy that about 147 people are benefiting and then there are so many spouses under the other group — will the Minister indicate the total number of people who will benefit and how much he expects them all to get? I welcome what he has said, that most of them will not be taxed. It would be a hypocritical attitude if people who have been left badly off indirectly through the establishment of the national lottery should see their sum further reduced. Will the Minister indicate how many people are involved? I was talking to a former worker and a number of 600 was mentioned. Will the Minister give a breakdown of that number? Will the various groups be treated any differently in relation to the amount they receive? As the Minister correctly and aptly said, those covered under the compulsory redundancy were by far the worse off and it is important that that should be considered. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the property could have been put towards helping them.

The Minister said that there are certain difficulties and he mentioned the difficulties in relation to the Labour Court. I accept what he said but some way could have been found of giving anex gratia sum or some sort of a payment which would have assisted these people. The Minister mentioned something about legal difficulties and I would like him to expand on that when he is replying. Will the Minister make a special effort to ensure that as far as possible the people who have been identified are paid forthwith? Will they have to apply, or provided they and their spouses have been identified, will the payments be made forthwith? What process will be used? Will the Minister — and I am sure he is concerned — ensure that the payments are made as soon as possible?

Basically I support the Bill. However, I regret that more was not done in the past for those workers, a small group, who were badly affected by the establishment of the national lottery. The fact is that one great success and benefit to the country resulted in a group, albeit a minority group, suffering severely. I support what Senator O'Reilly said and the various other points he made in his thought-provoking contribution and I look forward to the Minister making the payments speedily.

I wish to congratulate the Minister for introducing this Bill. I have had many representations from former employees of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes and I know they will be very happy about the introduction of the Bill and also hopefully they will get the money before Christmas.

I would like to pay tribute to the Irish Hospitals Trust Fund for the work they did over the decades in providing valuable funds for the Irish health service. At the time, the money they provided was badly needed for the building of hospitals and the development of the health service. My grandfather, who was Minister for Health for many years, was a great supporter of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes and as Minister they helped him out on many occasions.

I welcome the fact that the Bill provides a mechanism to transfer unclaimed prize moneys to the former employees of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes. Unfortunately, the sum involved is small and the ex-employees will not receive much money. The conditions in which the former employees worked would not be acceptable today. This must surely go down as a case in Irish labour history that should never be repeated. I appreciate that the Minister for Health and other Ministers, such as the Minister for Labour, were unable to provide moneys from the Exchequer. I am delighted they found some way of compensating the employees, small though it is, for their many years of work. I welcome the Minister's wish to have the money paid out before Christmas. This is a very humane approach and I know everyone will co-operate in this matter.

Finally, I want to make a point which was made by Dr. Hillery in the Dáil when he said that the case of the Hospitals Trust underlined the need for secure well-funded pension schemes where contributions were made to fund such schemes. He also said that there were still too many companies where pensions were paid out of current payroll, leaving employees particularly vulnerable when these companies went out of business. I support those remarks as they are very important and I hope they will be taken on board by the Minister for Labour. I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on finding some avenue to help the former employees.

I also welcome the Bill. I note the Minister said that he wishes a speedy passage for this Bill through the House today and I am quite certain that will happen. Everybody welcomes this measure. It is timely and I am particularly glad that the Minister has indicated that although there will be a fair amount of administration involved, there is an intention on the part of the Government to pay out as many people as possible before Christmas. That is a worthy objective.

I wish that something similar could be done for the people protesting today outside the gates of Leinster House about the SES schemes. I understand they have been deprived of a Christmas bonus. I do not want to be too niggling but this is another example where it would be possible to look at this matter. It is a very useful exercise in our democracy that people continually engage in peaceful registration of their point of view and brief Members of the Oireachtas as they come in. I am glad to see the Minister making a note. I could be incorrect and if I am I am sure that he will, in a very courteous way, put me in my box.

I would like to be slightly contentious and introduce another analogous matter, the question of Irish Shipping. Here, again, are people who have given the State a good deal of service and have not yet been rewarded in the way they should be. They have been deprived of their pensions and basically have been flung on the scrapheap. It would be inappropriate to go into the merits of the case because I understand that to a certain extent it issub judice. I hope the Government will look at this matter and do the decent thing with regard to the people in Irish Shipping.

I am particularly happy to speak on the question of the Public Hospitals (Amendment) Bill. Of course, it was not a grandfather of mine who introduced the original Bill and I cannot make the substantial claim that Senator Ryan was able to make. However, I was brought up in Ballsbridge, I remember the sweepstakes office very clearly and I remember the women who worked there. I often spoke to them at bus stops. They were extremely decent, conscientious, hard working people. I have to say, however, that because of the times that were in it when I first knew them in the fifties, the conditions of employment — and of course they were very grateful for the work — were not great. Their salaries were very low but were a valuable supplement to a household income or for someone who was widowed, as were many of those women.

Claims of the statutory redundancy of 14 per cent put the matter in perspective. Fourteen per cent of a tiny income is very little. The Minister has indicated that the sum of money that can be disbursed in this matter is also small. Senator Ryan also referred to this. I understand that it is less than £500,000. That, shared between some hundreds of people, will be very small beer indeed. The Minister indicated a scale of priorities and I do not envy him in having to make this sort of judgment. It is a judgment of Solomon to a certain extent but he is convincing in his arguments that a proper system of priorities has been established in this instance.

With regard to the sum of money, £480,000 of small unclaimed prizes going back to 1930. I would like to echo what Senator Cosgrave said with regard to the possibility of some additional financing. This is very small money. It is notable that the sweepstakes to a certain extent have been replaced by the national lottery and the national lottery has been successful way beyond the wildest dreams of anybody, including the people whose brainchild it was. Is it possible that some small allocation could be made from lottery funding to make a worth-while contribution to the lives, in retirement, of those people who worked so hard over many years? I say that particularly because the building in which they worked and the site on which the main office existed was always a very valuable site. It became considerably more valuable as a result of suburban developments in the Dublin 4 area and particularly because of the closeness of access routes into Dublin, especially the DART. This site was sold recently for an enormous sum of money. For technical reasons this money accrued to the Department of Health. I wonder if the Minister will be able to tell us if some of this money from the sale of the workplace could be given back to the workers who maintained that building. That would seem an appropriate device to use, that moneys generated by the sale of the workplace ought to go back to fund pensions for the workers.

I will not talk at any great length about this Bill except to welcome it, to congratulate the Minister on introducing the Bill but, typically, to end with just a little cavil which I hope will save the Minister's reputation as a grammarian. In his speech the Minister says: "the final group comprises of what I should call the compulsory redundancies". It would be more grammatically accurate to say: "the final group comprises". There is a confusion of number and the introduction of an unnecessary preposition. I am sure the Minister would not wish his reputation to be blemished.

Certainly not.

We are lucky to have Senator Norris in the House.

I wish to thank the ten Senators who have contributed to this debate and I concur completely with Senator Honan. I agree that the contributions in this House, particularly on health and welfare matters, are always positive, with great unanimity of purpose. It is indicative of the type of people we are, representing the various strands of society as we do in this House.

Senator O'Reilly made a very wide-ranging contribution as spokesman on behalf of his party. Many people blame the national lottery for the demise of the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes. That charge is frequently made. It is reasonably clear that, in fact, the growth of state lotteries in the United States of America, Canada, Australia and elsewhere was the cause of its demise and Senator Cosgrave referred to this. The final blow was dealt when the state lottery in California was established in the latter half of the eighties. At that stage union sources were claiming that over 40 per cent of sweepstakes ticket sales were made in California but when the lottery was established in California that 40 per cent was eroded.

The national lottery did not and could not have caused the demise of the sweepstakes. They went into decline because of international competition abroad. Eventually and, ultimately, the managing company of the sweepstakes, Hospitals Trust (1940) Limited, went into liquidation on 16 March 1987. Our own national lottery did not start their sales of tickets and other products until May 1987, two months after the liquidation. Therefore, it could not have affected the sweepstakes in any way.

The national lottery has hugely benefited organisations helping the mentally and physically handicapped and other voluntary and statutory organisations like the Irish Wheelchair Association who received £300,000 to date and the home care attendance scheme. The Multiple Sclerosis Society received £86,000 for respite care. The national lottery has assisted all of those and other organisations in developing community-based services and this could not be done without the lottery. A number of Senators referred to the various funds that have been distributed through the lottery to the various organisations.

Senator O'Reilly, and other Senators, raised the question of service. I want to assure the House that the moneys will be allocated on the basis of age and length of service. There are two distinct groups. The group who had retired before the liquidation and whose pensions were not up to standard, got only 14 per cent of their pension instead of 100 per cent and we propose to give them a flat rate across the board of £1,000. The other group, about whom Senator Norris spoke in such grammatical terms, comprise those who were forced into redundancy based on age and length of service. Some of those people were a very short time with the company but others had long service. We hope to give them a flat rate of a minimum of £500 and, based on age and length of service, some of them will qualify for up to £4,000. They are the group who lost everything. They lost their jobs, they lost their redundancy entitlements and had no recourse. They are the people who are really disadvantaged and we hope to be generous to them.

On the question of numbers which Senator Cosgrave mentioned, 147 people were made redundant through the liquidation on 16 March 1987. A few days prior to that, three or four people had left and they were also affected because they had expected to be compensated. They did not get the compensation so we must include them in a round figure of about 150. There were about 200 others who took voluntary redundancy and did not get a proper pension. In all, we are talking about 350 people. The figure of 600 has been mentioned. That would have been the total number of staff employed by the Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes throughout their duration. Obviously, those who had retired in the normal way could not be disadvantaged or affected so we are not proposing to give any money to them. The group who were disadvantaged as a result of leaving and their pensions not being paid as a result of the liquidation of the company — there were no resources to meet that pension fund — and the group who lost their jobs as a result of the liquidation are the two disadvantaged groups with whom we intend to deal.

Senator O'Reilly also referred to the surrender of £7 million. This has been talked about a lot in the past week and has alarmed the public, as if the Minister, Deputy O'Hanlon, and myself took £7 million and went back to the Minister for Finance and said: "We are good boys, Minister, we have come back with £7 million". That is not the position and it is totally unfair to misrepresent the legal position, the accountancy and appropriations position and what the Constitution imposes on the Government of the day and on the public service at large.

I was pleased to be in the Department of Finance with my colleague, the then Minister for Finance, Mr. Ray MacSharry, when we brought in a special tax amnesty for people who were in tax difficulties. We also brought in what was called a preliminary tax. The money that has been mentioned was arrears of taxes that were paid as a result of preliminary taxes. Consequently, there was a PRSI health charge and, as a result of that, in the normal accountancy appropriations position, the Revenue Commissioners transferred the health contributions to the Department of Health. A Government Department can only spend the amount of money voted to them in a budget or Supplementary Estimate. As a result of that, we had no option but to accept the money as appropriations-in-aid.

The Constitution makes it obligatory on any Government Department receiving money in appropriations-in-aid to return it to the Exchequer in the normal accountancy way. The money came in as appropriations-in-aid and there was a percentage of PRSI contained in the preliminary tax and arrears of tax payments. We could not touch that money. It was not voted for our Department. We had to account for it because it went through our books. Consequently, it went into the Exchequer. It must be shown and appropriated in the Exchequer because the Constitution is very strong on accountability and appropriations.

In no circumstances did we return money that we got to the Exchequer. It came from the Revenue Commissioners, through our Department, and went back into the Exchequer in the normal way. We did not return moneys voted by the Oireachtas in the budget or a Supplementary Estimate to the Exchequer. We spent every "bob" of it. We went to the House last year and introduced a Supplementary Estimate for £35 million to keep the services running and in order to improve services. Anybody who says otherwise is misrepresenting the position, alarming the public and creating an unnecessary fear among the people that we are not discharging our honourable, financial, medical and health responsibilities.

On a point of order——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator cannot interrupt the Minister when he is replying.

Should that not have been anticipated in the extra moneys?

It could not have been anticipated by us because we put forward our Supplementary Estimate one week, the Revenue Commissioners transferred the money the next week and the end of the year was the week after, so we had to account for it. If the Revenue Commissioners had informed us that the money was coming, of course the Department of Finance would have included it in the Supplementary Estimate.


To say that we returned money we got to spend on the health services is wrong. We did not get it to spend on the health services.

The Minister is blaming the Revenue Commissioners.

I do not want to leave out any point that was made by any Member.

The Minister should stay with Health and not mind Finance.

It was referred to and I have to respond to all the points. With regard to what Senator Upton said, we have to put an advertisement in the paper and invite people to complete the claim forms. We do not envisage that this will cause any considerable delay. The reason we feel we should advertise is, first, there are many people who do not realise they are eligible for benefit. Secondly, the lists we have from pensions trusts and the liquidator may not be fully up-to-date. A problem we see emerging is that some of the people may have moved residence and others have emigrated as a result of the 1987 liquidation. Consequently, while we have their names we do not have their locations. I gave a commitment in the Dáil that where we have names and addresses we will communicate with them and inform them of the position. However, in order to be fair we want to ensure that everybody is made fully aware of the position and in case they have transferred residence the advertisement will be placed. They may then make their submission, which will be considered. Also, if we divide the money among the 150 or 151 people who may qualify for payments, we may find that some are deceased and have no spouse, or some have moved from their residence. The money may get into the hands of somebody for whom it was not intended, to the detriment of others who would be deserving of it. We want to be absolutely certain that there is ade facto bona fide person to give that money to and when we confirm that situation, we will divide the money.

I have covered the situation pertaining to the numbers, and the employment numbers. Senator Cosgrave asked for an assurance that there was no tampering of any type with the national lottery. I have no personal responsibility of any type with the national lottery, but I am absolutely satisfied that the lottery is properly and professionally run. Questions of this nature were catered for in the Act and are handled by the Minister for Finance.

There are very obvious safeguards built into the operation of the lottery: accountants are always present and there are several other safeguards. This, indeed, was the whole purpose of the national lottery legislation, so I am absolutely satisfied that the lottery is being run to a very high standard in a professional way. I do not think there is any tampering or "upping of the ante" to ensure that there is a high, accumulated prize at any time. You will notice, at times, when the jackpot is not won and the figure reaches a certain target, the lottery company adds on money to bring it up to an even greater figure to ensure that the prize money is there and is attractive to the people. If there was any tampering with it, they would not be adding on the money, so I am very satisfied that this is the position. If the Senator wished to take this matter up with either the lottery company or the Minister for Finance, either the company or the Minister would be delighted to respond, but I am absolutely satisfied that everything is in order.

If there is any point I have omitted, I would be pleased to respond to it. Senator Norris talked about the social employment schemes, which have no relevance to this situation. The only thing I can say on that is that you cannot say that people who are confined to an unemployment situation and who cannot get work or do work because they are on the unemployed live register should be deprived of a Christmas bonus, while those who have the opportunity to work should be in the same situation as those confined to the dole queues or the unemployment situation. They get major bonuses for working, much greater than those who are unemployed. They have a week in lieu every second week to work and earn whatever they wish without impinging on their rights to collect the same money that week. It is ironic that somebody who might have been responsible for creating the social employment schemes and creating the system was out today protesting with them. I hope this confirms the situation.

I sincerely thank everybody who contributed to this debate. I am very grateful for their co-operation. I am confident that with their continued co-operation we can ensure that these funds are disbursed between now and Christmas.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Is Second Stage agreed?

On a point of order, before the Second Stage is agreed, I did not say that the national lottery brought an end to the sweepstakes. I pointed out that the national lottery was prejudicing the voluntary organisations. I know the Minister did not intend to convey that, but I want to clarify that for the record.

I accept the clarification.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.