asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he is aware that James Dowling, Calverstown, Collinstown, Co. Kildare, Serial No. 3183, Droichead Nua Branch Office, who lodged a claim to unemployment insurance benefit on the 31st December, 1925, has been refused payment, although he has nine months stamps to his credit, on the grounds that in the interval between spells of employment applicant has little enough time to spare for the purpose of attending to his farm and that it cannot be said, therefore, that he is unemployed and unable to obtain suitable employment; whether he is aware that Mr. Dowling could not possibly live on this area of very poor land and that he was almost entirely dependent on County Council work, which has been stopped owing to shortage of funds, and whether, in view of the fact that he has had no money to live on for the last two months, and also that he was compelled to pay unemployment insurance, he will have the case reconsidered with a view to payment.
CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. ORAL ANSWERS. - COLLINSTOWN (KILDARE) UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT CLAIM.
A claim to unemployment benefit made on the 31st December, 1925, by James Dowling, of Calverstown, Collinstown, Co. Kildare, was disallowed by the insurance officer on the grounds that the claimant was not unemployed and not unable to obtain suitable employment. In exercise of his statutory right, the claimant appealed from this decision to the Court of Referees, which, having considered all the facts and circumstances, recommended that the claim should be disallowed. This recommendation the insurance officer accepted and consequently the claim remains disallowed. The decision could only be revised on the submission of fresh facts, which have not so far been before the insurance officer or Court of Referees.
The payment of unemployment benefit can be authorised only when all the statutory conditions for the receipt of benefit are fulfilled and the claimant is free from statutory disqualification. Two of the conditions laid down in Section 7 of the Act of 1920 are that the claimant must be unemployed and unable to obtain suitable employment. In the present case, Mr. Dowling was unable to satisfy the insurance officer or the Court of Referees that he fulfilled those two conditions. It does not fall to the insurance officer or the Court of Referees to ascertain whether a claimant is able to live on his land or not, but if the land which he occupies affords remunerative employment it cannot be said that he is unable to obtain suitable employment.
Would the land give him remunerative employment during the months of January and February, suppose he were working on the land? Surely a man is entitled to benefit when you take nine months' stamps from him and, as stated in the question, the grounds of refusal were that "in the interval between spells of employment applicant has little enough time to spare for the purpose of attending to his farm and it cannot be said, therefore, that he is unemployed and unable to obtain suitable employment." That is totally different from the reply the Minister has given.
I do not follow the last piece of reasoning. To deal with the earlier questions, there is a code—the Unemployment Insurance Code—and there are certain ways in which decisions made by the insurance officer may be tested. The claimant here availed of all his statutory rights in the way of appeal and in the way of getting the case taken further. He has been turned down pretty well at every step. The Deputy says he wants to know how it would be possible for the claimant to live on this land in certain months. Presumably that is exactly what the insurance officer and the Court of Referees had to be satisfied about. And they were satisfied on that point. As regards the question of the nine months' stamps, the applicant might have had stamps for 15 years back and it would add nothing to the case. He has either statutory disqualifications or he has not. If there are statutory disqualifications, no benefit can be paid. As far as the other matters are concerned, I have to carry out the Act. The Act lays down certain things. The claimant has availed of his rights and his claim has been disallowed.
In cases where people are compelled to pay for unemployment insurance stamps and then are not entitled to benefit, will the Minister have the amount paid refunded and will he exempt them in the future from this payment?
That is a misreading of the Act. A person is not entitled to have contributions paid for him if he is engaged in an occupation which is not insurable. This is a mixed case—the case of a man who has been engaged during certain periods of the year in employment which was insurable. He has land to which at other times he can go back, and it is there that the statutory disqualification arises. If the Deputy thinks that it is a case in which contributions have wrongly been paid, the man has his remedy. But he will have to prove that his occupation, right through the year, was not insurable, and in this case he would have a difficulty in doing that.
What is the valuation of a piece of land belonging to a man who works partly on the road and partly on the land which will disqualify him from receiving unemployment insurance benefit?
If the Deputy put the question in another way, and on a different occasion, as to what was the highest valuation on which there is a decided case holding that it involved disqualification, I could answer. This is a matter that depends to a great extent on circumstances. A 50-acre farm might be found not to be sufficient to provide statutory disqualification, while in other circumstances a five-acre farm might give rise to disqualification.
What I asked was in regard to the valuation. I quite agree that a 50-acre farm might not bring statutory disqualification, but in other cases you have a farm which only supports two young cattle which may bring disqualification. Will the Minister say what the amount of the valuation is which imposes disqualification in the case of a man working partly on the roads and on his own farm, when road work is not available?
I can only answer the query as it pertains to this case. The valuation here was £3 15s.
Will the Minister refund the money the man has paid?
If it can be taken from me by legal means, it will have to go back to the claimant.