UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BILL, 1926—SECOND STAGE.

The Unemployment Insurance Bill, which is in the hands of Deputies, has for its object certain administrative changes. I presume it will be permissible to go through the Bill section by section, as the sections have very little relation one with the other.

Section 1 deals with the question of the benefit year. The position under present legislation must be understood to get the full effect of what is proposed under this section. At the moment, it is provided by the Acts in force that the benefit year runs from October to October, and that at the end of each benefit year the current authorities have to be revised so as to make certain calculations with regard to contributions made and benefits drawn by applicants. The result of that review falling for all books at the same time of the year means that there is very heavy work on the Department at a particular period and that a tremendous amount of overtime has to be worked at that period, which is avoided during the rest of the year. That pressure of work is not merely on the Headquarters Office—the Office of Claims and Records—but on local offices also, and if this section be accepted it will mean the setting up of what is called the individual benefit year. That is to say, each person will have a benefit year to himself, the year beginning as stated here, on the date on which the contributor makes application for benefit, next after the date of the passing of the Act, and then the years run on as stated by the last words of that section from lines 15 to 20—"every subsequent period of twelve months commencing on the date on which that contributor first makes an application for benefit next after the termination of his last preceding benefit year." In other words, you have the benefit year period running from the date on which, after the date of the passing of the Act, the contributor makes application. That runs on for a twelve-month period, his next benefit year runs from the next application, made after the expiry of that individual benefit year, whenever it does expire.

Is this only to come into operation on the passing of the Act?

Yes; it is so stated—"the date on which the contributor makes application for benefit next after the date of the passing of the Act." It is an administrative change. It causes no hardship to the applicant. There is no possibility of any hardship being caused to the applicant, and it relieves the pressure of work at a certain time and distributes the volume of work much more equally over the whole of the year. The second section is something more than an administrative convenience. The section is a proposal to repeal Section 25 of the 1920 Act. That section has been regarded as hostile to the principle of insurance. It has been accepted as hostile to that principle both in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland. The amendment proposed in this section is now operative in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I say it is hostile to the principle of insurance because that Section 25 of the 1920 Act provides for the return of unexhausted contributions, with compound interest, to any insured contributor reaching the age of sixty and having the minimum number of contributions to his credit. It involves this illogical proposition, that under a scheme of insurance a person who has been fortunate enough not to have to make any claim for benefit is entitled to have his premiums back. Naturally, it cannot be repealed without making compensation to all the contributors who are affected, and provision is made in this section for such compensation, for the payment of compensation in respect of the present worth of unexhausted contributions. How that present worth is arrived at is a very difficult calculation. It is an actuarial calculation. What it will be we would have to take a test case to show. That can be done on the Committee Stage if it is desired. It is an actuarial calculation to get the present worth of unexhausted contributions. The methods are indicated in sub-section 3. These methods may have to be increased by regulations to be made under this Act. The whole thing is purely an actuarial calculation, and as far as that is concerned this will cause no difficulty except there be a disagreement with the idea which is inherent in the whole section, of repealing Section 25 of the 1920 Act, which gives a right to the insured contributor to demand back with compound interest all unexhausted contributions when that contributor reaches the age of sixty, and has a certain number of minimum contributions to his credit.

The third section has to deal with two points of administration. The part lettered (a) is giving legal sanction to a practice which has been in existence for years. I do not mean to hint by that, that that practice has been unsound. The practice is sound enough if care has been taken to act in accordance with the law in every detail so far as possible, but this, at any rate, will give a quick way of dealing with the sort of case that will come under it and give legal sanction to that. B is a different point. It gives power to settle by regulation the position of casual night workers whose employment extends over midnight and consequently covers part of two days. The questions that arise at the moment are very difficult to settle, and if there were no legal rules such as we would be able to get under regulation here, it might be very difficult for the Department to prove cases of fraud that might be brought forward. There again I do not think it can be held to have any adverse effect upon a contributor or applicant. It simply means that you make a choice some way or other as to which of the two days count.

Can the Minister say how that is dealt with now?

It is dealt with in a somewhat haphazard way. It happens to work out all right, but in a case where a prosecution for fraud would be taken it might be difficult to get the umpire or the judge to decide what was the day. It leads to clarity of definition, and I do not think it can be alleged that anybody has been hurt by it.

Section 4 deals with a point that I am sure will be quite clear to Deputies on the Labour benches. It is intended to make clear the provisions of Section 17 of the 1920 Act as to the amount that will be paid the associations in respect of payments made to members who are unemployed and entitled to unemployment benefit. A similar provision was inserted some time ago in the code in Great Britain. The second portion of it has to do with the same type of association, but it is of a different nature. Under Section 9 of the 1923 Act we have power to recover by way of deduction from future benefit due to a claimant any benefit that has been obtained by him in the past by reason of fraud or misrepresentation when he was really not entitled to it. There is no provision in the Acts at present in force giving power to recover where money had been paid to an association where an arrangement of this type had been made with the association—that is the arrangement under Section 17 of the Act of 1920. In that case the benefit is not paid direct from the fund by us to the claimant. It is paid by the association and a refund is made afterwards to the association. It is now intended by this to put the association in the same position as an individual and to give the right to hold back from future benefit payable any-benefit that has been paid through that association to a person not entitled by reason of fraud or misrepresentation.

Section 5 gives power—it is not a power that we can see any likelihood of availing of for some time—to make a change in the position of the insurance year. At present the insurance year ends at a very awkward period, about mid-summer, when staffs are depleted owing to holidays and when a review has to be made of authorities for certain purposes with regard to seeing whether any contribution has been paid in the previous year or whether twelve in a series of years have been accumulated. That review has to be made for all claims at the end of the present insurance year, which occurs about mid-summer. We do not see at the moment any chance of changing the insurance year. The reactions of that would be rather embarrassing at the moment, but it is thought right to take power to achieve this desirable end, and to have regulations made prescribing the date on which the period constituting the insurance year is to end, and such regulations will consequently have to contain amending provisions with regard to the possible reactions.

Section 6 deals with the insurance year, but has a somewhat different application. I spoke already of the review that is to take place of the authorities at the end of the benefit year of every individual. A review has also to be made of the same book at the end of the insurance year in every individual case. By Section 1 we are aiming to have an individual benefit year and this is to be read pretty well with Section 1. The result will be not to necessitate the two reviews for the same person at different times—the review with regard to contributions exhausted, contributions paid out, and money still to credit, and the review with regard to how far the statute has been adhered to with regard to contributions being paid for the person inside of the insurance year, or if not inside the preceding insurance year, then an accumulation of twelve in a certain period.

Section 7 has a very special application. It is adding on to the exempted employments what is here described as "employment as a teacher of any person in an institution certified by the Minister for Education to be a secondary school." The whole position of the secondary school teachers is a peculiar one so far as unemployment insurance is concerned.

And otherwise.

At the moment I am dealing with how far they are affected by the Unemployment Insurance Act. In secondary schools which are under the control of the Church the majority of the teaching staffs are members of religious Orders who are not paid individually and for whom insurance contributions are ordinarily not paid. With lay teachers the case is different. Lay teachers in secondary schools are clearly insurable. It has been considered undesirable to continue a practice which puts a burden with regard to all those teachers upon those institutions which employ mainly lay teachers in comparison with institutions which employ mainly members of religious Orders and members of the Church. As I am informed, teachers do not consider they get much benefit through not being excepted. It is proposed here to except them.

Section 8 is a rather difficult matter. As Deputies will remember, a certain provision was made with regard to a transition stage for members of the National Army when demobilisation came on. It was decided that to ease the passage back to civil life certain advantages should be given to people who were discharged by June 29th, 1924. It was very definitely intended that a soldier not discharged by that date should not receive the special treatment prescribed under Section 4 of the 1924 Unemployment Insurance Act. It has turned out, however, that there were certain people who prior to that date re-enlisted for a period and carried on their Army period— that is to say, people who had enlisted for a period that ordinarily would have terminated before June 29th, 1924, and who if demobilised at that date would have fallen under the special provisions of this section of the 1924 Act, re-enlisted or else remained on and after some period re-enlisted. A question has been raised as to how far those people were intended to be covered by this section of the 1924 Act.

It was clearly stated at the time that special provision was made for people who were likely to be thrown on the labour market. At the time, to ease their passage back to civil life, certain provision was made for them. If a man due to be discharged or demobilised before that date was taken on again, and given a further period of enlistment, it was considered that that further period of employment in the army took him out of the class for whom it was considered that provision should be made. Accordingly it is intended to make that date, June 29th, 1924, rigid. The section is:—

Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 4 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1924 (No. 6 of 1924), no contributions shall, after the 26th day of March, 1926, be paid or payable under that section for any person who was employed on or after the 30th day of June, 1924, in the military service of Saorstát Eireann."

That is, any man who was, in fact, employed after that date does not come under the special provision. There seems to be some doubt as to what is the legal effect of the section. But the intention is fairly clear.

Would the Minister say whether this includes employees in the military service in the barracks? I mean civilian employees, such as typists and clerks?

No. It is only soldiers. Section 4 of the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1924 refers only to soldiers.

Does military service in Saorstát Eireann mean any person employed in the barracks, such as typists or clerks, or in any capacity like that in a civilian way?

No. It has only reference to persons under Section 4 of the Unemployment Act. If the Deputy will look at Section 4 of the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1924 and read it in connection with this matter it will be perfectly clear. If not he can raise it on the Committee Stage by way of an amendment. The other sections explain themselves. One might say that all but Sections 2 and 7 are for administrative convenience. I do not think that it can be alleged that any person is going to suffer from the changes proposed. Section 7 is going to except employment as a teacher from the operation of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. And that is desirable. Section 2 is then a different matter altogether. Section 2 deals with this question of amending Section 25 of the Act of 1920 by removing this absurd proposition with regard to the return of unexhausted contributions with interest after the insured person had reached a certain age. But this definitely recognises that that cannot be done without compensating people who are affected and who are going to be changed adversely by this section and a certain scheme of compensation is proposed.

Section 7 is entirely new here and is outside the unemployment code anywhere. The other sections have been included in the Unemployment Insurance codes of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Minister has told us that the main purpose of this Bill is to make administrative changes, and he assures us that, as far as he can see, there is no possibility of hardship to any applicant. As that is his intention, I have no doubt that if it can be shown that there is a possibility of hardship, that can be remedied in Committee. I think it is rather a pity that there should have been mixed up with a Bill which is intended to correct administrative defects, one very considerable benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act, and to deal with that at this particular time. I refer, of course, to Section 2, which deals with the refund of unexhausted contributions at the age of sixty years. It is asserted that that introduces a principle which is not insurance, that it is not an insurance principle, that it is outside the scheme of insurance. I am not convinced of that. I think it is fairly well known that within the schemes of insurance you have benefits within certain periods and in the case of death in the meantime a certain sum payable over at death. Or you have benefits of a kind which are dealing with accidents and the like, terminating at the period when if there is any accumulated credits on reaching a certain age, the insured person will be paid that sum. But I think that that principle is one involved in this provision of the Insurance Acts relating to the refund to unemployed insured persons of their unexhausted contributions. Whether it is paralleled by other insurance schemes or not is not of very great moment, if we can maintain the position that the scheme itself was a desirable one. I believe that it is a desirable provision to have continued. I think it is unsatisfactory to be attempting to deprive insured persons of that benefit in the present circumstances. The proposition that on reaching the age of sixty the unexhausted contributions would be refunded with interest, has had attractions for a very considerable number of men since it was introduced, and it has been put forward frequently by myself and by others as an argument why men should pay into this fund; why they should encourage their fellows to pay into the fund, and why they should not succumb to the temptation held out to them by employers and others to evade payments into the fund. I think I may have mentioned it before, in other circumstances, that a few years ago when there was a fairly widespread agitation against recognising British legislation, there were people in the country, acting without direction, no doubt, but stimulated by the prevailing feelings, who pressed upon trade unionists all over the country to refuse to allow their employers to deduct unemployment insurance contributions. Employers in these cases were very desirous of falling in with that advocacy at the time. We were often appealed to as to what should be done in such a matter. I may say the appeal very often came from men who felt that they were secure in their employment, and that there was very little likelihood of their ever having to draw unemployment insurance benefit. It was a great temptation to that particular class of worker to endeavour to evade the payment of insurance contributions in respect of unemployment.

We advised the men in all these circumstances to bear in mind the fact that there was this provision for the return of unexhausted contributions at the age of sixty, and that they were, by the provisions of the Act, by the payment of their weekly contributions, really paying into a thrift fund which would come to their benefit at a time when they would need it probably much more than they would feel the loss of a few pence a week.

I believe it is a valuable provision in the Act, and one that should be continued rather than abolished. I know it may be said that the abolition of this scheme was brought about in England during the régime of the Labour Government. Well, everything they did was not good, and I think it is particularly useful to us in this country to have such a fund. I want to direct attention, apart from the general principle, to the undesirability of introducing a deprivatory scheme of this kind in this administrative Bill, and to draw attention to the difference between the method adopted here and the method adopted in Great Britain. There the Bill which contained this provision for the abolition of the deferred pay fund extended widely, in many directions, the benefits in the Unemployment Insurance Act. In many ways there were extensions of benefits. There was an increase in the amount of insurance paid in respect of a man and his wife and their children. There was a continuance of uncovenanted benefits and a considerable number of improvements in the scheme from the workman's point of view. This particular provision was one which might be argued as not being desired by the workman or as not in conformity with the general scheme of insurance, but there was a difference in the presentation of this proposal, inasmuch as it might be said to be the balancing of increased benefits with the deprivation of this particular benefit that is in question.

What we are asked to do here to-day is to agree to the proposition that this deferred pay, the refund of contributions, should be abolished of itself without any question of any rearrangement of the insurance scheme as far as benefit is concerned. From that point of view I think it is a mistake psychologically, that it is a mistake in tactics, and that there is no necessity for it at this time even if it could be argued as desirable in the future when you are dealing with the revision of the whole scheme of unemployment insurance benefit. If that has ever to be dealt with, if there has to be a readjustment of it or an alteration in any general way, then it might be desirable to consider this question, and to consider it on its merits, but I think it is most unfortunate that we should be asked in a scheme which is intended to correct merely minor administrative errors to make this change in the scheme of benefits that has been handed down to us. On their merits, I think, and very many think with me, they are desirable benefits. I will not pretend at this stage to argue the merits of any further extension of the scheme, whether it is sound or unsound from an insurance point of view or any other argument of that kind, but I direct special attention to the unwisdom of introducing into a Bill which is a Bill dealing mainly with administrative defects a provision of this kind, which deprives a man of benefit, and benefit which very many men have looked forward to as worthy of their consideration. The Minister, in answer to a question yesterday regarding the number of persons who have made claims for repayment of contributions on reaching the age of 60 years in the Saorstát, stated that "the sum of £14,432 was paid during the period from the 1st April, 1922, to the 31st March, 1926, to persons resident in the Saorstát who lodged claims for the repayment of the excess value of their contributions over benefits."

That is a considerable sum, and it represents something of importance to the recipients. The Minister can argue quite fairly that there are provisions in the Bill so that, coming on to the age of 60, people may get certain repayment and so on. But the fact that there have been 2,800 claims lodged between April, 1922, and March, 1926, shows that there is considerable interest in this matter. These people may not know that the refund is waiting for them. I submit it is unwise to make this provision in this Bill at this time. There are no compensating advantages in the Bill, and it is merely a case of depriving large numbers of men of something that they were induced to look forward to.

Now in respect to the other portions of the Bill, I think it may be found on examination that the effect of Section 1 may bring hardship and mean loss in respect to unemployed insured persons. As the Minister has pointed out, the effect of the proposal is to make the opening of the benefit year what might be called a movable feast rather than a fixed date, and it can be shown, I think, that in cases there would be an actual loss of benefit due to a change in the course of, say, this current year, but as that is rather a Committee point I shall not enlarge upon it. There is also another Committee point that I might draw attention to. It is—Would the Minister consider whether there is any objection to the suggestion that is in Section 5: that any regulations which may in future be made under that section should be laid upon the Table and get the sanction of the House before they become operative? Section 8 deals with the question of soldiers. I think, as a matter of principle, we have to assume that men who reattested and are now by the operation of this section to be deprived of certain benefits, should be assumed to have been aware of this advantage when they reattested. If they had that in their minds when they consented to reattest, I think there should be no deprivation of that benefit unless they had given personal adhesion to the changed conditions.

I recognise that the greater portion of the Bill is acceptable, and will make desirable corrections in the present law, but I would press upon the Minister the proposition that Section 2 should not be proceeded with, and it is not fitting that it should be embodied in this Bill as it is a deprivation of benefits under the scheme. Consideration of it ought to be deferred until there has been, if there is to be at any time, a rearrangement of the whole scheme of unemployment insurance. That is the time when a proposal such as this ought to be brought forward, and not now, in a scheme which deals merely with administrative defects.

Like Deputy Johnson, I agree that the greater part of this Bill deals with the administrative side of the Unemployment Insurance Act, and, like him, I also disagree with the proposal to take away from the people who attain the age of 60 benefits to which they are entitled under the other Act. I think it is a mistake for the Minister to introduce that section into this particular Bill. I would ask him to reconsider his decision on the Committee Stage. Section 8, to my mind, is very controversial, and is not a section which should come under the description of an administrative section. There are a great number of cases of hardship amongst ex-National Army men because of a decision that has been arrived at as regards the application of the Unemployment Insurance Act to their service in the Army. I have in mind the case of a man who has just been demobilised from the National Army. He served with the Army from 1922 up to about one month ago. He had been employed in an insurable occupation from the year 1912, which, I think, is the year in which the Insurance Act came into operation. Up to 1921 he had nine years' contributions paid, and simply because his cards were not stamped from, I presume, June, 1924, that man is not entitled to one halfpenny benefit. I think the Minister will agree that is a great hardship. He had not drawn any benefit for seven or eight years he was paying into the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Now because his cards were not stamped during his period of service in the Army he is not entitled to benefit because he has not the necessary 12 contributions to his credit. This particular man, although he was actually a soldier, was a mechanic. I think in a case of that kind if the Minister cannot see his way to extend the provisions of the National Insurance Act to all National Army men the least he could do would be to consider doing so in connection with the mechanics in the Army. They have paid a great number of contributions prior to enlistment, and certainly, as the Minister can see, with the application of this section they are done out of their rights under the Act. I would ask the Minister to consider if he could bring in some kind of an amendment on the Committee Stage to meet that class of man.

There is another matter in connection with the insurance, though I may be told that that is not on the administrative side of the question either, and that is the matter of a reciprocal arrangement being entered into between Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Free State. There are a great many cases of hardship in that connection in the Saorstát. You have the case of sailors whose cards have English stamps, and that have been stamped for a considerable time. These men, at any rate so far as the English Act is concerned, should be entitled to benefit, but neither the English nor the Irish Government will pay them benefit. They are in the unhappy position of being on the verge of starvation, although they had their cards stamped during the period of employment. I ask the Minister if he cannot do anything under this Bill that he will, at least, make a statement and let the country know the exact position. On various occasions I put questions on the matter, and we were told that negotiations were going on between the different Governments to see if a reciprocal arrangement could be arrived at. I ask the Minister to take into consideration the points that have been raised in connection with Section 8, and also the question of a reciprocal arrangement.

I think the Minister should deal with Section 2 as he has dealt with Section 6 in the other Bill. These people, in paying contributions to the fund, were looking on them as a kind of life insurance policy, so that if at the age of 60 or 65 they were to enter another world their relatives would have some money to draw to bury them. The sum might be small, but it would be very useful to those people who would not be able to insure in any other way. Section 8, to my mind, is unjust, for the reason that a very large number of ex-National Army soldiers before they joined the Army pre-Truce, when they were Irish Volunteers, absolutely refused to pay any contribution towards the unemployment insurance fund because it was English. Deputy Johnson was perfectly right when he said that pressure was brought to bear on employers not to stamp the cards for their employees, because every halfpenny given in the way of these stamps was looked upon as helping to keep up the English Exchequer. At that time every man in Ireland, one way or another, was interested in the welfare of his country. These National Army soldiers who were in employment would not stamp their cards, or allow the money to be stopped from them for the stamping of these cards.

In other cases some of those men were in search of employment. I should like the Minister to pay particular attention to this case. Martin Tully, of Athlone, served in the National Army since 1922, and was demobilised in January, 1926. He had 82 stamps to his credit. A wife and five children are dependent on him. That man has had no food for those children notwithstanding the fact that he served in the Army over four years. If he were demobilised in 1924 he would be entitled to the full benefit of his stamps. I believe, according to the Act, if he could find employment and get 12 stamps extra he would be entitled to the 82 stamps coming to him. Where is that man to find employment for 12 weeks? He could not find employment. National soldiers are harder hit even than civilian workers.

I do not agree with Section 7 of the principal Act. According to that section if a man signs on a particular day when he is employed he is deprived of all benefit for 12 months. Some time ago I wrote to the Minister about the case of a man in Athlone. I raised the question about this case and the Minister replied that instructions had been given to a solicitor to take proceedings against this man. Proceedings were taken in Athlone. The Department of Industry and Commerce lost their case, but the man has not yet been paid. That is four months ago. What is the cause of the delay? I think Section 7 should be amended and that that man should get every opportunity of proving his case. He is called before a board of referees if the insurance officer objects to pay him. They have no jurisdiction whatever. They can only make a suggestion. They cannot grant benefit, and that suggestion can be turned down by the insurance officer. Then an inquiry is conducted in Dublin. The matter is kept going for two or three weeks or a month. Finally the claim is turned down, and this man, his wife and family have to suffer the result and live on air.

We were expecting a Bill to be introduced in the Dáil that would relieve this question of unemployment. I put it to any Deputy that if he walks up Dame Street and witnesses women with little children in their arms, the latter crying out for bread, they will expect to get some unemployment Act introduced which will give benefit to people in distress and not an Act that will deprive people of their lawful rights. I admit that, as far as the Minister for Industry and Commerce is concerned, any time I have written to him I have always got the utmost satisfaction. This is a letter written on the 7th April, 1926:—

"I am desired by Mr. McGilligan to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 6th instant regarding the Unemployment Insurance Benefit claim of James Reid, 5 Bridge Street, Athlone, into which he is making inquiries and will communicate the result to you as soon as possible."

That is the way you are treated. I ask the Minister to try and have things expedited. Surely if the claim comes forward from a man whose people are dependent on him the least he can expect is that it will receive immediate attention.

I should like to add that I am not quite sure about Section 8 of this Act. To my mind it includes all military servants.

"Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 4 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1924 (No. 26 of 1924), no contributions shall after the 26th day of March, 1926, be paid or payable under that section for any person who was employed on or after the 30th day of June, 1924, in the military service of Saorstát Eireann."

That means every person employed in a military barracks. I hope, on the Committee Stage of this Bill, three amendments will be put forward and that the Minister, if those people are not included under Section 4 of the principal Act, will accept an amendment to include them and to entitle them to draw unemployment benefit. I am looking forward to the day when no man will be working and every man will be unemployed. The big farmers themselves are primarily responsible. If those big farmers look to the true interests of the country—the small farmers are industrious people—they will withdraw the cash they have in the bank and give employment by tilling their land. This is an Unemployment Insurance Bill. I am asking for employment under this Bill, and consequently I think I am in order. I hope the Minister, when he comes to the next stage of the Bill, will be able to amend Section 2 so that those people will be entitled to have something to their credit.

I want to refer to a few points with regard to Section 7, in which the Minister exempts secondary teachers. I ask the Minister if he has given any consideration to the case of other teachers who, at present, come under the provisions of this Act. The people who are exempted are teachers to whom the National Teachers (Ireland) Act applies—in other words, teachers who are entitled to receive a pension. There are two classes of teachers engaged in National schools. There will be three when the Christian Brothers come in under the provisions of the Act, and I should like to know if the Minister has given any consideration to their case. I do not see any good reason myself why they should be continued under the Act, and I should like if the Minister, between this and the next stage, got some figures in order to show to the House how many of those teachers, engaged in National schools, have drawn unemployment benefit. I think the number must be small.

They help the others.

Mr. O'CONNELL

Which others?

The unemployed.

Mr. O'CONNELL

It was never intended that the Unemployment Fund should apply to that class of people who had permanent employment. I should like to know from the Minister whether he had any representation from the Department of Education with regard to those particular teachers or from the Association of Teachers before he inserted this section. I did not hear that any special representations were about to be made with regard to that. I would like to call the Minister's attention to what I think is rather an unusual thing in legislation. This is the first time I have ever seen an attempt made to summarise or paraphrase one Act of Parliament in another, and I do not know if there is any necessity for that. Section 17 of the principal Act, which provides for the making of arrangements, seems to be put in a paraphrased form in another section. I do not know whether that is a good precedent to create. I have never seen it before.

The Minister spoke of the Bill as making administrative changes, but I am sorry that some provision is not made to deal with the special class of case which has become very prevalent lately, especially in the West of Ireland. I speak of the case of the small farmer, or, rather, the labourer who is supposed to have a small farm and who works on the roads, pays unemployment insurance contributions, but who, if he becomes disemployed, cannot receive benefit. Because he has a few acres of land he is deemed not to be entitled to unemployment benefit, as he is supposed to have work to do on that land. If the Minister looks into this question I think he will find that the existing state of affairs is not equitable. In the case of the ordinary labourer in the midland or the eastern counties who has got an acre of good land no question is ever raised; when he becomes unemployed the fact that he possesses a cottage and an acre of land is never raised against him. But in the case of the Connemara or Mayo peasant, who has three or four acres of mountain or bog land, and who from that point of view is not as well off as the man with an acre of good land in Kildare or Meath, the position is different. The man in the West or Tirconaill is not as well off; he has just as little to do, and his small patch of land is of no more use to him than the acre of land to the man in the Midlands. I cannot understand why that point is always raised to the disadvantage of the smallholders in the western counties. Several cases of that kind have cropped up in recent months where the men, although they were asked to pay their contributions in the usual way, were not entitled to benefit. I am sorry that the Minister has not made provision to meet that particular case in this measure or in some other way. I would be glad if he could look into that and see if it is not yet possible to introduce a section to do so, because these are sections in the Bill that do not specially hang together, and a new section might be introduced, without changing the character of the Bill, to settle that particular grievance.

I wish to say only a word or two to emphasise the importance of the subject raised by Deputy Corish and spoken of also by Deputy O'Connell with regard to this class. Great numbers of people are suffering from severe hardships on account of the fact that they have had their stamps put on on the other side of the ditch. On account of that they are not able to get into benefit here. This applies also to people who go to England and Scotland as casual labourers. Surely the Minister could find some means whereby fair play would be extended to these people and prevent this hardship. I feel also that the insurance question in general requires to be overhauled altogether, because I think very few Deputies understand or are capable of following the legislation that applies to it. I question whether even the Minister himself —and he is fairly clever intellectually —can comprehend the full extent of the ramifications that attach to unemployment insurance. It should be made much more simple and should be made into one common scheme which would be intelligible to everybody and which would cover all cases. I would urge on the Minister to try to deal with such people as the Belleek workers, from whom we have a tremendous amount of communication with regard to their hardships, and all those affected, and to see if he cannot find some means, either by some insertion in the present Bill or by bringing in a general Bill to cover all insurance, of arriving at reciprocity that would ease the hardships that these people have to endure.

I want to refer to two sections of the Bill. Section 2 proposes to abolish the provision whereby a man on attaining a certain age receives a refund of his contributions, plus 2½ per cent. compound interest, less the amount paid to him in benefit. I think the provision is one very good feature of the Unemployment Insurance Acts inasmuch as it ensures to a person who does not become a liability on the fund the repayment of the contributions that he has paid, with compound interest. I think the Minister must be aware that a good deal of objection is taken by people who regard themselves as being in permanent or semi-permanent employment to the payment of unemployment contributions, and I think the provision for the refund of these contributions, with interest, is an inducement to these people to waive their objections and to pay their contributions. That provision induces people to become members when they have the knowledge that what they pay is not being frittered away to pay benefit to other people. I have in mind the case of the auxiliary postmen, who number a few thousand. They are more or less nominally a permanent class in the Post Office, although they are liable to be dismissed at a moment's notice, but that is only a nominal liability. A good deal of objection has been taken by them to paying these contributions, and I think there would be a great deal more if the Minister presses this section. An inducement to these people to pay contributions is the knowledge that ultimately the money will come back to them, and I think that that right should be preserved to people who are not a frequent liability on the unemployment insurance fund.

The second section to which I wish to refer is Section 8, and here I want to support the case made by Deputy Johnson. The men who reattested on the expiration of the time which they originally contracted to serve did so with the knowledge that they would be entitled to this benefit, and I think it quite unfair for the Minister to treat them exceptionally simply because they did undertake to serve a further period. Recently, I understand, there was considerable demobilisation from the National Army, and the policy of the Department seems to be to continue demobilisations. These demobilisations are taking place at a time when the labour market is flooded with unemployed workers, and I suggest to the Minister that this is not the time to tighten up unemployment insurance legislation in respect to people who have been, largely for economic reasons, in an uninsurable occupation. I would suggest to the Minister, if he persists in this action, or in some equivalent action, that he should give an adequate period of notice to people that they will not, after such and such a date, be entitled to benefit, and that he should not spring it upon them in this fashion. I firmly believe that some of those people are convinced that they should be entitled to some consideration for having served a further period in the National Army.

I will detain the House only a few minutes. I desire to add a few words to what has been stated by Deputy Norton regarding ex-soldiers. Recently I drew the attention of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to a number of cases where young men joined the National Army a couple of years ago and, when joining, they were in insurable occupations. In many cases they had twenty, forty, and in one case, up to eighty-four stamps to their credit. In the course of the big demobilisation which has recently taken place—men being demobilised on an average of thirty to forty a day—these young men were put out of the Army without their cards being stamped.

There was nobody put out of the Army and that statement is false. The statement is either true or false. It is false to say that men were put out of the Army to the extent of thirty to forty a day.

Either their time expired or they were legally discharged from the Army.

It is a good job we got that out of you.

If you want it that way you can have it. I know what ails you and the gang that is around you.

Say what is honest and do not be making false statements.

If I were not a member of the old Irish Parliamentary Party I would not have you or the likes of you abusing me.

Abusing you? I am not abusing you. I would not waste my time.

You are low enough for anything.

Is that statement in order?

Deputies must observe order.

I think the House ought to protest against the language used by Deputy Byrne. The language was most uncalled for.

You were not here a few moments ago, were you? If you were you would have heard something you might object to, too.

Deputy Byrne must resume his seat. The Deputy has made use of language that he must withdraw.

If it is too photographic to be polite, I withdraw it with due deference to the Chair, not to the President. I say these men, for some reason or other, were demobilised from the Army. They left the Army or were legally discharged. They were left on the streets of Dublin and were not in a position to draw unemployment benefit or, benefit from any source. When they joined the Army they were in insurable occupations and they had from twenty to eighty stamps to their credit. That is not the way to treat the men who served the country well. When these men are being demobilised they ought to have their cards stamped and they ought to be treated as Christians and allowed the same benefits as they would get if they were in ordinary employment in a huckster's shop in the city.

I think most of the points raised are points that we could easily deal with in detail when on the Committee Stage. It is a rather difficult type of Bill to have an ordinary Second Reading debate on. My duty is to make a prima facie case for the Bill. With the exception of Sections 2 and 8 there has been very little comment on the Bill. There was a statement by Deputy Johnson that it is possible the operation of Section 1 may bring hardship to people.

I can hardly conceive that being possible, but if there are cases, or if there is a likelihood of there being cases, indicated, then we will see what can be done to prevent any loss accruing. Deputy O'Connell asked questions with regard to primary teachers. I cannot now supply the figures he asked for.

Perhaps you could supply them on the next stage?

We can do it then. With regard to how far Section 7 has been called for by teachers, I cannot say definitely that it has been called for, but I have the authority of certain officials on that matter. In one case my informant did not pretend to bind the members of the association, but he said he thought this section would undoubtedly be acceptable by the majority of the lay teachers.

I believe it will, too.

I understood it was put before a convention held recently; I have not heard the result. If there is an objection I presume we will hear it before the Committee Stage.

There were certain comments with regard to omissions from the Bill. Deputy Corish raised certain cases with which I will deal when I come to Section 8. Deputy McGoldrick and others raised questions of reciprocity and reciprocal arrangements. This is a very old matter, one that caused considerable trouble before. Over and over again we have indicated to those concerned in Northern Ireland our anxiety to have some sort of reciprocal arrangement set up. I made a long statement with regard to that over a year ago. Since then the matter rather lapsed, but it was re-opened by a deputation that I received some little time ago. It was then indicated that the time now seemed to be suitable to have a further approach, with better hopes of achievement. The result was that I got into communication once more with a member of the Government of Northern Ireland, and officials of my Department were brought into conference with officials of his Department with the view of hammering out a solution.

Several schemes—I cannot say schemes absolutely in the fullest detail, but certain schemes worked out to a certain extent—were put before those officials for transference to their Minister for consideration. That has ended the matter so far as we are concerned. These things are under consideration. The whole thing was re-opened on a definite statement made to me that conversations held between the members of the deputation who called on me and the Minister of the Northern Government seemed to indicate there was every likelihood of a decent reciprocal arrangement being made. I am awaiting the result. Deputy Corish and Deputy McGoldrick may rest assured that these cases are recognised as involving some hardship, but they are cases in which it will be also recognised we cannot act unaided.

The old question of the small landholders was raised by Deputy O'Connell. I thought Deputy Hogan would have raised it, as he has so often raised it with me outside the House. It is quite wrong to say that people are definitely precluded from drawing benefit simply because they own land. Cases that most frequently come before this House by way of questions raised or cases that Deputies put to me outside are cases in which benefits have been refused; but Deputies do not get brought to their notice the cases of small landholders who do get benefit. It can be taken definitely as accurate that people are not refused because they have land of a certain area, of a certain value or of a certain nature. These three things were taken into consideration, but there is also taken into consideration the season of the year and the claimant's previous industrial history. After all these things are considered together there is the decision by the umpire as to whether the claimant is at the time entitled to the particular benefit.

It is clearly recognised that the possession of land should not be counted suitable employment for a man at certain periods. That is recognised and taken into consideration. The basis on which the decisions are made are broader. Equally the question of such claimant's industrial history is taken into account. If you have a man in the possession of land, which, to a man used to land and used to working upon land, would provide suitable employment, and if that man's physical condition was so deteriorated in some kind of industrial occupation, that he would not be considered a suitable person to work upon the land, he would be entitled to benefit.

Would the Minister say what season of the year a man having two head of cattle on a piece of mountain would be considered employed?

I could not. I do not decide these cases. There is a court of referees and an umpire, and all the facts are before them, and all I want to make clear is that there is no rigid rule that because a man has land of a certain acreage that that excludes him from benefit. I put it to Deputy Hogan, as I put it to him outside the House, to bring me a concrete case where a man having land of a certain type, and valuation, and so on, has been refused benefit at a season of the year when the land could not be worked and was not suitable employment for the man——

Mr. HOGAN

It was never worked. I mean the case of a man with two cows.

If that case is made, it can go before the court of referees or the umpire. I am outside it so far as adjudicating on the matter is concerned. The Deputy may put a case that may seem absurd, but there is no rigid rule as to the possession or ownership of a certain amount of land precluding a man from benefit.

Will the Minister say that there is not a stereotyped reply sent out from the Department to the effect that under a certain section of the Act a man is not unemployed and on analysis is it not always found that the reason is that he is not unemployed because he has a piece of land?

Undoubtedly a stereotyped reply goes out to say to a man "You are not under Section 7, sub-section (2), or some part of Section 7, entitled to benefit." But the Deputy is not arguing the case on the answer that goes out in a certain way that he is entitled to draw the conclusion that the possession of land of any kind at any period of the year is a bar.

When you analyse it fully you find the reason is that the Department thinks that the man has a few acres of land.

The Department does not rule him out. There is an appeal.

The Deputy wants the case established that farmers are entitled to get unemployment benefit.

That is not what they want.

That is a case Deputy Hogan is making.

Let Deputy Hogan analyse a number of cases and let these be raised in the Dáil or outside as to the ground on which the decision was given. I want to get it clear that there is no definite exception simply because a person has land, or has land of a certain valuation and has worked it up to a certain period of the year. You have these, no doubt, taken into consideration plus the claimant's industrial history.

There is a remarkable increase in the number of refusals in the last year as compared with some years before.

The Deputy may also find if he inquires that there is a large increase in the number allowed. What will result from the two statements is that there has been a large increase in the number of people having land who get insurable occupations on the roads and come in under the whole insurance code.

Is that the reason the Government is supporting contracts?

There is another point to be looked into. There are two ways of meeting this. One way would be to say that people having land should be exempt from payment of contribution.

That is what we want.

What would be the reaction of that on the county councils? They would employ only people exempt from contributions and for whom they would have to pay no contribution. Is that what Deputy Lyons wants?

No, but where a person is not eligible for unemployment benefit he should not be requested to pay contribution towards the Unemployment Insurance Act.

And when such a case comes forward possibly that would happen. Persons not due for benefit, under the Unemployment Act, are due for benefit when they fulfil the statutory conditions. Any person from whom contributions are taken is always due for benefit on fulfilment of the statutory conditions. That is clear. There is no denying it.

There are two sections complained of, one dealing with the question of the soldier. Again I will argue this with much more detail on Committee Stage. Remember when speaking of those soldiers that nothing is taken from them under Section 8. Provision was made by the Minister for Defence. The soldier paid nothing. It was a grant to him. So that Deputy Norton's phrase about tightening up legislation hardly applies here. What is happening is that you are not allowing looseness to prevail any longer. You will not allow any grant to be made by the Department of Defence to people in circumstances which were never before the mind of the Oireachtas when they voted it.

You have not allowed it at all. That is my complaint as to the particular people who contracted to remain on.

I would like to have it clearly shown that anybody contracted to remain on because of the Insurance Act of 1924.

We are to assume that.

It is easy to assume it, but I think the case for some amelioration of these people's lot would be easier if one could get some evidence that a man re-enlisted because he was going to get this provision. The circumstances were that there was going to be a very big number of men thrown on the labour market at a certain time, and to deal with that special situation and that special period of time provision was made that certain moneys would be paid. A man taken on beyond that period was not thrown on the market. He might still be thrown on a market over-crowded with unemployed people, but the special circumstances that warranted the special provisions of the Unemployment Act of 1924 were not there.

There is a big group of men who are thrown out all at once, and the provision made for them is intended only to apply to these people. We get back to what was the intention, but we are not getting now to the position of the superannuation funds on the railways. No one has been deprived of money which was put in at that person's expense. The only thing is that the Department of Defence is not going to be called upon to provide out of the resources of the State money for people to whom that section was never intended to apply.

Will the Minister deal with the case I referred to? I referred to a case where men who had seven or eight years' contributions prior to enlisting and, because they had not twelve contributions within the benefit year, were disqualified from drawing benefit. Surely there is a hardship there and something ought to be done?

If Deputies are going to object to the Insurance Act because there is that provision, that is one standpoint. Remember the whole insurance code is based on intricate actuarial calculations and there are certain things to keep the funds from becoming insolvent. If a man goes out of employment and has no stamps to his credit in a particular insurance year he must wait until there is some sort of entrance fee, having twelve stamps to his credit, before he can get benefit. A thing that is at the back of a lot of questions asked by Deputies here with regard to unemployment insurance is that they assume that if they can prove that a man has stamps to his credit he can get benefit.

That is a different case.

Deputy Lyons regards this as a sort of savings bank —you put money in and draw it out.

I believe that a worker who has twenty, thirty or forty stamps to his credit when demobilised should get credit for them if they were his property.

They were his property if he never went into the Army and if he failed to get insurable occupation, so as not to get one stamp in an insurable year.

He would not have lost his employment if he had not joined the Army.

That is what it boils down to. How many cases are there of people who lost insurable occupations because they joined the Army and who are now suffering hardship by reason of that fact?

Did you not appeal to them to leave insurable occupations to join the Army?

Has it not been put up by the Labour Deputies that for years past it has been almost impossible to get into employment? Is it put seriously now that any bulk of people were prevented from getting insurable occupation through joining the Army?

Then, unless that is the case, there is no case made for the ex-Army man. He is in as good a position as if he were in civilian life. If he went into the Army and was not in an insurable occupation for a particular period, he is not, until he gets twelve stamps to his credit, re-admitted into the insurance fund. That is the situation. Deputy Corish puts up a special type of case of a man who is a mechanic and who went into the Army and was employed at some sort of mechanical work and was in uniform. That is a special case and every time one makes an exception there is generally a breach made in the whole foundation on which the fund is built.

You would not have a great many cases.

It runs the risk of bringing insolvency nearer than it is at present. That is a special type of case and Deputy Corish can raise it on the Committee Stage and it can be examined, but I have not much hope that anything can be done in the matter. We can deal with Section 25 more fully in Committee. It is the section which Deputy Johnson pointed out was repealed by the British Government. He suggests that some extension was made in it, but I do not know where he gets the ground for that suggestion.

Read the Bill and the debate.

Surely there can be no suggestion that the concern was to run an insolvent fund for the benefit of insured persons and to render it insolvent by giving people, what was a very illogical type of return to give them, back their premiums because they were lucky enough not to make any claim on the fund. The fund here at the moment, making certain additions to it, is in debt to the extent of £1,600,000, and any moneys paid out hereafter will be paid out on foot of Section 25 for a considerable number of years on borrowed money.

The Minister for Finance said that it was likely to be made solvent.

He said that it looked a better asset this year than last year.

I think he put it stronger.

He said that this time last year it could hardly be counted as an asset, but that this year it was likely to prove solvent. It has to be remembered that the employment insurance code is very new and, so far as those people who fall under Section 25 are concerned, their period is somewhat distant yet. The whole scheme has not come to maturity and the calculation is that in six or seven years the payments under Section 25 will amount to about £50,000 per annum.

A few months ago the Minister explained that these various exceptions could not be dealt with because there was a general balance on the actuarial valuation and there could be no interference without upsetting the whole scheme. The Minister has upset the scheme because one is entitled to assume that there is an actuarial valuation in the exhausted contributions fund. That is also part of the actuarial valuation.

Yes, but the actuarial calculation has had to suffer a change by reason of what was seen in the operations during the early years of the code. There was a very detailed report in regard to this by a Committee on the other side of the water. There is a paragraph in it which is somewhat relevant. It says: "The present position of the Unemployment Fund points to another serious difficulty arising out of ... refund arrangements, namely, that of maintaining in times of stress reserves correspondent with the financial obligations of the Fund ... Even at this early stage of the scheme the liabilities in respect of refunds ... are such that a large sum should be in hand and properly invested at the present time. So far, however, is this from the fact that ... the Fund is not only exhausted but is heavily in debt to the Exchequer, and to pay this debt and restore the reserves required for the condition of actuarial solvency it has been necessary to impose the present abnormal contributions ..." The actuarial valuation was, in fact, found in the early years of the working of the scheme not to be sound and, in order to improve the fund for the benefit of unemployed people, this section was repealed in England and Northern Ireland, and we are moving on the same lines. We have a fund heavily in debt and the proposition to repay on that basis is illogical in an insurance scheme. We are going to repay to people affected by Section 2 of the present Act the present value of their unexhausted contributions. This is a matter which I am sure will be dealt with in greater detail in Committee. I feel satisfied that a prima facie case has been made to have the Bill go forward to the Committee Stage.

Question—"That the Bill be read a Second Time"—put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 11th May.
Sitting suspended at 7.20 p.m. and resumed at 8 o'clock,An Ceann Comhairle in the Chair.