I desire to express the hope that, whatever opinion the Minister may have on the amendments that are tabled regarding the compensation of those who have given good service in the working of the Insurance Acts, at least he will accept the principle outlined in these amendments advocating provision by way of compensation for the officials that may be affected by this Bill. I direct the Minister's attention also to the cases where the local authorities require to make an appointment for the carrying out of extra duties imposed by the Bill. They should be empowered to transfer existing officials and insurance committees to their service with the sanction of the Minister. I recollect that on the introduction of the National Insurance Act, 1911, it was necessary to secure the services of men of administrative ability in order to secure the working of the Act, and that notwithstanding whatever appointments that resulted most of these officials have done a considerable amount of voluntary work, and having given such efficient service for so many years, some compensation should be given them whether they are whole time or part time officials, many of whom would find it difficult to take up similar posts. I trust the Minister will favourably consider the views expressed in support of granting these officials compensation.
In Committee on Finance. - National Health Insurance Bill—Third Stage (Resumed).
I rise to support this amendment. I am not quite clear if Deputy O'Kelly's and Deputy Davin's amendments are being taken at the same time.
Yes, amendments 12, 14 and 16 are being taken, but amendment 13 is an alternative scheme.
I could not hear Deputy Doyle very well. Am I to understand that he is supporting amendment 12?
The Ceann Comhairle cannot answer that, of course.
In reference to amendments 12 and 16, in the one standing in my name there is a difference that might be called a difference in principle. It might be so looked upon by some. In the amendment in my name, there is a limit to the persons who can get compensation if the amendment were adopted, and also there is a further limit limiting the income. It would be difficult to decide the issues raised there. They are distinct issues. While in general principle, they are the same, there are still subdivisions of each that are not in the first amendment. Would it be possible, therefore, to get a separate vote if a vote were necessary?
Deputy O'Kelly's point is sound to this extent. On the face of it, his amendment is a more restricted amendment than Deputy Davin's. Therefore, while the Committee might reject Deputy Davin's, it might in theory accept amendment 16, which is not as extensive. An amendment in the name of the Minister, amendment 13, raises a similar question of compensation, but in a different way from amendment 12. We can have a decision separately on amendments 12 and 16.
We can take a separate vote.
I think that some of the things in Deputy O'Kelly's amendment would be decided by a vote on amendment 12, but we can take a separate vote.
The question is, is there maintained in amendment 16 a provision that is not in amendment 12?
Yes. We can take a separate vote. It is not quite the business of the Chair, but there are defects in amendment 16 that are not in amendment 12. Amendment 12 has added to it a schedule which makes it complete. I think I would have put amendment 12, no matter how it occurred, because amendment 12 is coupled with a suggested third schedule on the paper. Therefore, the amendment is quite complete. Amendment 16 has reference only to the Railways Act, and does not state exactly where the compensation is to come from.
I am certainly in favour of granting compensation to the men who lose office, but with this distinction that in the case of men already in possession of fairly remunerative employment from another source, I would not be in favour of giving them compensation. But if men were faced with entire loss of employment, it is a different matter altogether. They would certainly be entitled to compensation, in these circumstances.
I beg to support Deputy Davin's amendment, because of the number of men on insurance work who are not engaged in any other occupation. They devote their whole time practically to the administration of sanatorium benefit of members. They may have four or five thousand insured members in their area. It entails a large amount of time, four or five hours some days, and at other times it occupies the whole day, receiving people, giving them instruction, looking after the cards, finding out details in connection with various sanatoriums and hospitals and other regulations. It is not possible under Deputy Doyle's suggestion to transfer some of these over to the public bodies, because the public bodies would be dealing with non-insured persons. They will be in a different position. Some of them are already employed. The boards of health have already made arrangements with their clerks and assistant clerks to take over the administration of the tuberculosis scheme for non-insured persons. It is not likely that a public body will want other officials to deal with four or five thousand persons in their area. For that reason insurance clerks should receive the same treatment as other officials received when their positions were abolished. Some may have other positions already, but still when we consider the case in Dublin, say, where there might be anything up to one hundred thousand insured persons, it is a whole-time position. You cannot define part-time or whole-time or any other position there. I say there should be some arrangement made, and that those officials whose posts will be abolished should receive not less generous treatment than that received in other amalgamations by other public officials.
It cannot be admitted that the secretaries of insurance committees are whole-time officers. For instance, as well as being secretary to an insurance committee you have one who is a collector of income-tax; another who is secretary to a county council; another who is clerk to a county council and another assistant-secretary to a county council. Sixteen out of thirty-five hold positions such as that. So the position is explicitly regarded as a part-time appointment. I think I pointed out yesterday that the funds which are administered are very small. In nineteen cases out of thirty-one the amount of money administered by the Committee is less than £750 a year. Deputy Davin's Schedule proposes that compensation for loss of office should be given to the secretaries of these committees or employees of these committees, in the same way as compensation is given to whole-time permanent officials of local bodies. We cannot accept that at all. What my intention and the intention of the Minister for Finance and of the Insurance Commissioners in this particular matter, relying on sub-section (4) (a) of Section 22, is, whatever more explicit reference to compensation may be necessary, to deal with the employees of insurance committees in the same way in which employees of school attendance committees were dealt with under the 1924 Act. The 1924 Act, in connection with the abolition of school attendance committees, explicitly arranged that the officials of such committees, whether whole-time or part-time, would be given compensation to the extent of being paid a gratuity of not more than one-tenth for every year of office. An explicit introduction of provision for compensation into this measure, to give compensation to officials of insurance committees on being dispensed with, could not, in my opinion, give more advantageous terms in general to these officials than were given to the employees of school attendance committees. That would restrict the position to this: that the secretaries of these committees would simply get sums as gratuities amounting to not more than one-tenth of their annual salaries for each year of office.
Personally, I do not want to put that explicitly in the Bill, for the reason that I desire a little more latitude than that given to the different classes of officials that are to be dealt with here. There would be cases in which, because of the personal circumstances, if you like, or because of the fact that they had no other occupation, if funds were available, you would like to deal somewhat more generously than that with a particular employee of a committee who had long service and whose services were being dispensed with in this particular way. These officials were part-time. The nature of their work was such that they were appointed explicitly on the terms that their services were liable to be dispensed with on three months' notice. The salaries paid them for their services were comparatively high compared with the small amount of money they were administering. I want to say again that they cannot expect to be dealt with more generously than were the employees of the school attendance committees, but I do not want to be tied up completely in that particular matter, in so far as there may be funds available.
One of the amendments that we are discussing here suggests that it may be possible to transfer these officers to the boards of health. I think I have explained, with the exception of four or five counties, that what these committees do is to hand over the funds available for sanatorium treatment to the boards of health, and that the present machinery of the boards of health puts that money in with the tuberculosis money and administers the general treatment of insured persons through the same machinery as they administer their ordinary schemes. So that I can see no prospect that any employees of these societies will be required by the boards of health, particularly in circumstances that will prevent the boards of health appointing them directly if they so wish.
There are classes of appointments which it would be necessary to have filled through the Local Appointments Commissioners, but that could not possibly arise out of the present changed position in which one of these officers may be required by a board of health and may be required in a position that would have to be filled by the Local Appointments Commissioners. So that it is simply better to treat the whole class as a class whose services are being dispensed with and pay them such gratuities as will be coming to them on the lines I indicated. If the local circumstances are such that there is employment offered to them under the board of health schemes then the type of employment that would be offering would be such that there would be no restrictions on the board of health appointing them.
Can the Minister say whether in counties where they have county insurance committees and where no arrangement has been made with the boards of health whether an arrangement could not be made to transfer these officials to the boards of health?
The only case of the kind that could arise would be where you had a county in which there was no tuberculosis scheme—a county such as Wicklow. I do not know that we could force the board of health in Wicklow to take into their employment a particular person if that particular person did not appeal to the Board of Health. I do not think there is any reason why in the few counties that would remain like that—Wicklow, Longford, and Roscommon—where they have not health schemes—and to some extent Meath—we should force the boards of health to take into their employment persons. that there is nothing to prevent them taking, if they so wish. I see no reason for dealing differently with the employees in these four counties than the employees of committees in any other county.
If the employment is available will these men get preference?
It is a question entirely for the board of health. If you accept it that the boards of health are trying to do the best with their schemes and getting the best possible people to carry out their work you must accept it when these people with a certain amount of training are available that the boards of health will employ them. If you take Waterford, I cannot see that any additional assistance will be required because of this change. In Waterford, the insurance committee hands over the money already to the Board of Health and the Board of Health is handling the money to the extent, in fact, that it will handle it in the future, so that I see no prospect of an appointment.
Will there be any dismissals of any officials under these conditions?
In the case of Waterford, there is a secretary to the insurance committee. When the insurance committee is done away with, the secretary's services will be dispensed with.
There are two such officials, one in the county and one in the city. The one in the county has no other employment, and if he loses this, he will be absolutely unemployed.
I do not want to quote a particular figure. He occupies a part-time post under three months' notice of termination of service and has been paid for some years a salary that, compared with the amount of money actually administered, and, particularly, with the way in which that money is administered that is handed over to the board of health, amply repays him for his services.
But the man loses his entire means of living.
On conditions that he accepted when he entered the employment.
Take the case of Wicklow. You dispense with the services of one official and then you appoint another to do similar work.
The Board of Health will appoint another to do work which was formerly done by the secretary of the Insurance Committee.
The Deputy is a member of the board of health and probably knows more about it than I do. If the Deputy, as a member of the board of health, shouldering its responsibility, cannot influence the board of health to employ the person who has a particular class of experience, and whom he probably can speak for, I do not know why a person who is so far away as the Minister should interfere to force the situation.
The Minister has the power—the member is only one member of the board. The Minister says he knows nothing about public boards. I take that for granted or he would not make the suggestion.
The Minister's present attitude is certainly an improvement upon the Bill as it was originally introduced, to the extent that he has stated he is now willing to provide some compensation for those who are likely to be disturbed as a result of the passage of the Bill. In moving this amendment I was not bothering one jot what effect it was likely to have on this or that individual. I confined myself mainly, in the few arguments I put forward, to the point which has been put to this House on other occasions in support of a similar proposition, namely, that the individuals who are likely to lose their part-time or whole-time employment—and that particular matter has been stressed too much as far as I am concerned—should be compensated for the loss of their office, as a result of a Bill of this kind, in the public interest. The Minister and some Deputies have unduly stressed the question of part-time and whole-time employment. When the Insurance Commissioners were looking for suitable persons to be appointed as secretaries to insurance committees they laid down in almost every case that the individual concerned should have the administrative ability and experience which would qualify him for the part-time or whole-time position. That was particularly stressed in the case of those who occupied part-time positions, and they were appointed to these positions because they had rather considerable experience in other positions. They were paid an appropriate salary, and my proposal is merely that they should receive compensation, if they become redundant under the Bill, on the basis of their part-time or whole-time salary. I would much prefer, with other Deputies, that the individuals likely to be affected would be found suitable positions, based on their experience and knowledge, in some of the other public boards in the areas affected, rather than that the individuals would have to be compensated for loss of office if they cannot be found equally suitable posts by the local authorities.
The Minister did not give me any good reason, in fact he gave no reason at all, as to why he wants latitude in reference to the question of compensation. In the Acts passed concerning the amalgamation of unions, the amalgamation of railways, and in connection with matters of this kind likely to arise as a result of the Electricity Supply Act, it is clearly laid down not only in the Act itself, but in the Schedule, that the compensation should be on a certain basis. I want to know from the Minister why he is not prepared to give that effect in regard to this particular matter, which is on all fours with what has been done by his predecessor in the case of the Local Government Act, 1925, and by other Ministers in regard to the other measures to which I have referred. I am not prepared to give the Minister any latitude which will allow him by regulation later on to fix compensation, perhaps for one individual on one basis and for another on a more favourable basis.
I hope the Deputy understands my point in that. It is that if we are to be explicit in this, then I can make no more favourable provision in this Bill than was made in the School Attendance Act, 1924, that is, a sum not exceeding one-tenth for each year's service.
On the question of part-time employment, let us apply the argument to the position of Deputies. Many Deputies are forced, if you like, to give their whole time without any other occupation to the service of the country. I go so far as to say that about 75 per cent. of Deputies have other business to attend to. That does not prevent them, as far as I know, from giving equally good service to the country as those who have no other employment or occupation. That should, I think, from the Minister's point of view, dispose of the question of part-time as against whole-time employment. Let us apply the principle involved in this particular amendment to ourselves. I have not heard up to the present any good reason from the Minister as to why I should withdraw my amendment, which lays down in clear and definite language the conditions under which redundant officials shall be compensated as against the very vague promises made by the Minister in his speech.
We had better be clear on this matter and know where we are. Is the work of the insurance committees going to be done by the board of health as such, or is it going to be done by a committee of the board of health or a committee appointed from outside by the board of health?
What happens at present is, you have a tuberculosis scheme in Kilkenny—an ordinary scheme extending to whatever class of the population requires it. They spend a certain amount of money on that. I have not the figures at present, but I take it the amount of money spent publicly, as compared with the amount spent by the insurance committees in Kilkenny, can be regarded as being in the same proportion as over the whole country, that is, that four or five pounds are spent out of public funds as against one pound out of insurance committees' funds. What the insurance committees in Kilkenny do is this. They have approximately £525 or £540, and they hand that money over annually to the board of health and say to them:"Spend that money when you are spending your own, and with the same machinery that you spend your own, but we will tell you the people on whom it is to be spent." That is done at present. What this Bill does is, it wipes out the insurance committees, and the board of health in Kilkenny will get the £525 or £540, or whatever the sum is, annually to spend, and they will spend it with the ordinary money raised for the tuberculosis scheme. It will not add anything that I know of to the board of health's work in Kilkenny.
That is what we want to get at. Will it add anything to the work of the board of health, and is the board of health likely to transfer this work to a sub-committee of itself or to a committee outside? Will the claim be made, as is made in all these matters, that the secretary to the board of health will make an application for an increase because of an increase of work? That is usually what occurs in all these amalgamations. The moment amalgamation takes place a claim is made that extra duty has been put upon the officer, and he at once applies for an increase in salary, and gets it.
From the point of view of the secretary's duties, there is going to be less work, because it is going to cut out correspondence between the committee of the board of health and the secretary of the insurance committee dealing with cases that cover the £500. The cases that were made the subject of correspondence and reports between the board of health and the insurance committee will fall into the normal tuberculosis scheme, so there is a prima facie case for saying that there will be less work for the board of health. At any rate, the correspondence and reports between the board of health and the insurance committee will be wiped out.
Then there will be no such thing as a possible increase in salary of the clerk of the board of health because of additional work. I think the Minister has made it quite clear that in as much as it means less work than was formerly done by the clerk of the board of health his salary might have to be decreased instead of being increased and there is no chance whatever of the present official fitting in to any new scheme. Now there are two bases on which the question of remuneration might be considered— first of all, the salary he is in receipt of as clerk of the local committee, and then the question of bonus, which is a shifting sum that might disappear in four or five years. Certainly it ought to disappear if it is based on what the general public could afford to pay. The question of the bonus ought to disappear if the ordinary official is to come down to the level of the people in a very short period.
Where does the bonus come into this matter?
I am talking of one particular office in my own county (Kilkenny), the salary of which amounts to £125 a year, including the bonus.
None of the salaries paid by boards of health includes bonus.
The salary paid to the secretaries of the sanatorium committees does include bonus.
Does the salary paid to the local insurance secretary include bonus?
There is a basic salary, plus bonus.
In every case?
In every case.
I am talking of a case that I know something about.
Deputy Gorey is talking of a board of health secretary.
In every single case except the case of two assistant clerks—36 cases in all.
Does the Minister contend that a bonus attaches to the salary of the secretary of the tuberculosis committee.
To the salary of the secretary of the insurance committee.
I would like to be quite clear about this. I think I have cleared up a good deal and have done away with the hope that some of those people could be fitted in. There is no room for that hope here.
Are you supporting the amendment?
I hope the Minister will see his way to consider remuneration on the basis of actual salary apart from bonus.
Deputy Davin has wiped out, I should say, the distinction between those in part-time employment and those in whole-time employment. It is quite true that people in part-time employment may do as good work as Deputy Davin himself does, or as those in whole-time employment in particular duties, but it appears to me the remuneration received is an important consideration. If an insurance committee secretary is drawing the substantial amount of £150 or £200 per year out of some other business, it seems to me he is in an entirely different position from the man with a wife and family who has no other salary. The Minister says these people took the positions under certain conditions, and these conditions ought now to hold. It is fifteen years since these committees were set up, and in the course of that time these people, no doubt, began to regard themselves as servants of the State. I do not know whether they were right in that or not. I am sure they never contemplated that they would be taken as a particular class and then suddenly thrown out of employment without sufficient remuneration. I am glad that the pressure put up to the present has made the Minister advance so far as to offer a gratuity of one-tenth.
Deputy O'Kelly's amendment, which I support, would in effect give the same conditions as Deputy Davin wants, except that we only want to give compensation in cases where we feel that the person was really dependent upon it, that is to say that he or she had not an income from other sources of more than £200 per annum. The terms which Deputy O'Kelly's amendment seeks are substantially the same as Deputy Davin's. The schedule to Deputy Davin's amendment is based upon the Railways Act, and in that case the gratuity would amount to one-sixth per year. The Minister is willing to give one-tenth, and I hope that Deputies will press this matter strongly upon the Minister. Whatever the claim of those who are in part-time employment may be, I agree with Deputy Davin that because, as the Minister reiterated, they are only in part-time employment, is not a sufficient consideration. Officials in the Department have a habit of assuming that because a man has a little shop or something else he is getting a good income out of it. As a matter of fact, it is the salary that is keeping the shop very often. But however it may be in regard to the part-time people, we here are particularly interested in those who have no other means of subsistence practically, and in order to give a reasonable margin we have put down "where the income from other employment does not exceed £200."
There is another qualification— that is, that the individual should have at least five years' service, and a further qualification that in the event of equivalent employment being available he would get no compensation. Between those different qualifications I think the amendment is very reasonable, because there are only about 35 individuals, I understand, concerned. I ask the House to urge upon the Minister the necessity for making some further advance beyond the gratuity of one-tenth.
I rise to support the amendment. The Minister must certainly anticipate a surplus, because he is making provision for the manner in which any surplus standing to the credit of sanatorium benefit, etc., shall be expended. In this amendment we suggest that the position of clerks to insurance committees should be taken into consideration and that they should be compensated in some way. The nature of that compensation, whether it be by way of gratuity or pension, could be decided on at a later date. I think it is unfair of the Minister to suggest that he does not want to be tied up in any way. Surely he has a precedent in other Acts passed by the Dáil under which sums have been set aside for a purpose such as the one we are now debating. There is a whole lot to be said for Deputy O'Kelly's amendment. The Minister mentioned officials such as secretaries and assistant secretaries of county councils and other people drawing large salaries. I think some line should be drawn between these well-paid people and the persons referred to by Deputy Derrig. I know that in Cork the secretary to the insurance committee there is mainly dependent on the salary he receives. If he is not superannuated or compensated in some way—such, for instance, as the granting to him of a lump sum—it is the general desire of the people there that he should be taken over by the board of health and his services be continued. I know that these schemes differ in various counties. What may obtain in Kilkenny, Longford or Westmeath may not, and in fact does not, obtain in County Cork. There the board of health has more work to do at the moment than it can reach on. In fact it is overburdened with work. If that board, as soon as this Bill becomes an Act, has in addition to do the work now so well performed by the insurance committee, it will undoubtedly have to employ extra clerical assistance. Therefore, I think provision should be made in the Bill to the effect that when the board requires that extra clerical assistance, it should take over the existing secretary to the local insurance committee.
The Minister, I think, is asking too much when he suggests that he should not be bound down to a specific sum or to regulations governing the way which the surplus he anticipates is to be administered. I think the first charge on any surplus left over should be the claims of the people who are disturbed or thrown out of employment as a result of the change which this Bill will make. The Minister, I believe, means well in this Bill. He has yielded somewhat, and has come round a little to the views which were expressed, not alone in this Party and in the Fianna Fáil Party, but by members of his own Party. Perhaps this latter was the urge which has been the most insistent, and the one to which he has shown the least resistance. I suggest to the Minister that he should not divide the House on this matter, but that he should act on this amendment as he has done in the case of another amendment that came before him. I think the Minister should undertake to alter the phrascology of this section so as to meet the views expressed by members in all parts of the House. I know that in his own Party there are many members who, if they made themselves vocal on matters of this kind, would be altogether against the Minister.
I know that in the Minister's Party there are members from Cork, Tipperary, and Limerick who, if they made themselves vocal and were not tied up by the Party machine, would on this matter find themselves in the Division Lobby with us. If the Minister thinks that is mere conjecture on my part, I suggest that he should leave this to an open vote of the House and not put the Party Whips on. On a recent occasion, when the Minister for Justice stated that he was prepared to have an open vote on a matter then before the House, we found that the Party Whips were put on. Five or six Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies who came in for that division asked what way they were to vote. When they saw the Party Whips on, they voted on Party lines. I suggest the Minister who has already given evidence of a little liberality on this matter—I have no doubt that his intentions are of the best—should agree to have a real open vote of the House on this question. I suggest, further, to him that he should agree to the suggestions that have been put forward in support of this amendment and alter the section so as to ensure that the officials concerned will be compensated, and that the sum they are to receive shall be specified in the Bill.
took the Chair.
I desire to say a word with regard to the point raised by Deputy Gorey. The Deputy questioned the Minister as to the amount of work that will be thrown on the secretary of the board of health as a result of the abolition of the insurance committees. I understood the Minister to say that there would be less work for the secretary to the board of health to do than he has at present. Perhaps the Minister is right in one respect. There will be less correspondence, as the Minister has said, because one of the committees with which the secretary to the board of health has to be in close contact will not be in existence. Therefore, that correspondence will cease. But one other thing will happen when this work is handed over to the boards of health as they are at present generally constituted. The insured persons, who heretofore have been looked after by members of insurance committees, will not receive the same attention in the future. I know something of the work done by two or three of these committees, and I am aware that there were people on them who took an interest in the work to be done. They frequently visited the sick in their homes. They also met at fairly regular intervals to interview those who were not able to come before the committee. That work will not be done in the future, and as a result it will be a loss to the public health services in these counties. Unless boards of health in the future nominate voluntary or subcommittees to look after that work in the future in the same manner as some active committees that I know did it heretofore, then that work is bound to be neglected. Deputy Gorey is of opinion that the work will be reduced, and that it will be possible, as a result of that, to reduce the salary of the secretary to the board of health or of whoever looks after that work. I would like to see Deputy Gorey propose that at a meeting in the County Kilkenny.
I did not express any opinion.
I understood that Deputy Gorey accepted the Minister's suggestion that there would be a reduction of work, and that, therefore, there would be a chance of moving a reduction of salary. That was what I understood Deputy Gorey to accept.
I was anxious to know if there would be extra work and, in consequence, extra salaries paid. I was assured that there would not be extra work, and that instead of salaries being increased it would probably be the other way, which I think is unlikely. The question involved was one of more work and not a reduction of salary.
I think from his experience Deputy Gorey will agree with me that what will happen is that the secretary of the board of health will in a short time ask for an additional clerk to look after this work. We are abolishing the committee; well and good. Then we are to abolish the secretary of that committee so far as his services are concerned. I think we here on all sides are in favour of compensating those whose position is being abolished. They will get compensation, generous or otherwise. The majority of these people have been doing this work for the insurance committees for a number of years. They know the work they are doing, and they are to be dispensed with now and new and younger people will be employed to do this work under the board of health. We will be creating new appointments after two or three or five years when we are re-organising the health services and establishing a State medical service. The people appointed to take the place of those displaced under this measure will, when the re-organisation takes place, be given further pensions. I suggest that we should avoid that, and an effort should be made to find employment for the officials we are now dismissing. If that could be arranged it would be a saving to the rate-papers twice over by not having to pay these compensations. We would be doing an act of justice to those who are dismissed, and would prevent claims that will be made in nine counties out of ten for an additional clerk to do the work of the committees we are now abolishing. To provide employment in the way I have suggested would be the best way out of the difficulty, and it would avoid the payment of compensation. I think the Minister, in consultation with his officials, should be able to find a way out on the lines I have suggested. The Minister should, at least, compensate those part-time officials who have been a long time in the service, and who have given good service, if their services are dispensed with, bearing in mind the restriction we have in the amendment as to those who are deprived of their sole means of income.
I would like to know if it is possible to amalgamate the work of the insurance committee with that of the T.B. Committee. I would also like to know where exactly the work of the new medical officers of health in the various counties begins and ends as regards national health insurance. We know the position of the local dispensary doctors. Arising out of Deputy Gorey's speech, I think it will be agreed that amalgamation has saved the ratepayers thousands of pounds, and it would be wrong to give the impression that amalgamation is a waste instead of an economy.
In reply to some of the points made by Deputy O'Kelly, these committees that are being abolished are made up of representatives of the local bodies, representatives of insured persons, and nominees of the Insurance Commissioners. In abolishing the committees we are not abolishing the approved societies or the insured persons. We are not abolishing the local bodies. If on a committee made up of representatives of insured persons and of the local bodies are people who can give that kind of personal attention that would be described as visiting the sick and helping in the homes, the abolition of that insurance committee need not necessarily do away with such personal attention. I have said it so often that I feel shy about repeating it again—we are dealing with an expenditure of £27,000 a year. What has happened with regard to the expenditure of that sum is that £22,000 of it has been handed over in a lump sum annually to bodies, and it is estimated this year that we are going to spend in addition £118,000, so that in so far as the actual expenditure of the money and looking after the treatment of the people are concerned, the local bodies under the board of health dealt with expenditure to the amount of £140,000.
That happened in Deputy Kennedy's county. There is an agreement by which the insurance committee hand over their funds in a lump sum to the Westmeath Board of Health and nominate the insured people to be treated. The board of health in Westmeath is already dealing with them, and the tuberculosis scheme in Westmeath is operating to deal with the insured as well as the uninsured persons, so there is no reason in letting our imagination run on and saying that because of the fact that we are going to send an extra £5,000 after the £22,000 to join the £118,000 there is going to be a tremendous increase of work and a tremendous increase in the number of people employed under the boards of health. Deputy Kennedy asked where the county medical officers come in under National Health Insurance. I do not know what the Deputy has in mind, but they do not come in at all. The county medical officer of health undertakes the supervision of tuberculosis schemes in the county. Over and above the economy that would be brought about, one of the things that actuated the members of the Commission who recommended the abolition of insurance societies was the concentration of control and supervision which would result from having one scheme in a health service such as tuberculosis. That is the only way the county medical officer of health comes in.
Deputy Derrig, I think, makes my case to some extent in the matter of discrimination. I am asking to be allowed latitude, and not to be forced to put into this Bill a provision to say that employees of insurance committees should be treated in the same way as the employees of school attendance committees should be treated in the Act of 1924. Deputy Derrig makes the point that persons who have a certain income from employment should be discriminated against, but there is no question of discriminating against the person who has an income from shares or an interest in business. If a discrimination is to be made at all, let us have latitude of discriminating in so far as there are funds available. What I am asking the House to realise is that here you have officials who are subject to three months' notice for the termination of their services. Even if they had to deal with the whole administration of the funds, they were paid, in basic salary and bonus, a salary that was comparatively high, having regard to the amount of money expended. With the exception of five counties in the country, expenditure of the money was not by them, but by another body to whom they handed it over, and who nominated persons who were to receive payment.
I am asked, whatever provisions may be necessary to be put in here, to state that there will be definite compensation. I am asking to have it accepted that these people cannot be treated in the way in which whole-time permanent employees of local bodies were treated, as Deputy Davin suggested. The best thing that can be done is to treat them in the same way as employees of school attendance committees were treated and that I be left united in the matter, so that if funds are available and if cases require discrimination there can be discrimination.
Mr. Hogan (Clare):
If this Bill has one characteristic more than another it is its indefiniteness. The Minister wants us to give him more latitude for indefiniteness in this matter of compensation. He wants us to give him carte blanche and to let him do what he likes as regards officials whose positions are wiped out because of an act of the State. I do not know why he asks that particularly in this case. I do not know what his reason is in this particular instance. He suggests that there will be very little work to be done in future. I am half doubtful about the relevancy of this but it was referred to before. I hope it will pass now. The Minister doubted that. Secretaries of boards of health would have much to do. I do not want to suggest that the Minister has not made himself acquainted with the activities of insurance committees and has not the information about them at his fingers' ends, but does he know that an index has to be prepared of all insured persons in the county? Does he know that an index has to be kept and that the history of insured persons has to be recorded? There are a hundred and one things which a secretary would have to do.
The secretary will not have to do that.
Somebody will have to do it, and if the secretary to the board of health does not do it, who will do it? It means that you are putting extra work either on the secretary or on the staff.
What will it be required for?
I am giving a bare outline. Surely the Minister can tell us what has to be done. Is there only correspondence with the sanatorium committee?
That will not require to be done by a secretary of a board of health.
It will require to be done by an official of the board.
For what purpose?
For what purpose is it done at the moment?
It is done for the purposes of insurance committees, and these committees are being abolished.
Will there be an index of insured persons kept in the office of the board of health? Will there be any record of their illness?
So that anybody can come and ask for sanatorium treatment and the secretary cannot say "you are not an insured member."
He will have to be recommended by his society in future.
It is absurd to say that a board of health will not have some means of checking whether a man or woman applying for sanatorium treatment is an insured member. That record will have to be kept by the board. The Minister knows that, and there is no good in trying to evade it.
Does the Deputy see any objection to the board of health ascertaining from the society whether a particular person recommended for sanatorium treatment is a member of their body?
It does not matter twopence what Deputy Hogan objects to. It means that a certain amount of money has to be expended in connection with persons seeking sanatorium treatment. Tim Sullivan or Jack Murphy can come along and apply for treatment and the board of health will have no means of knowing whether he is an insured person.
Where is the record?
Reference to his society.
And the society will have to reply to every application from the board as to whether a person is entitled to sanatorium treatment?
Then if there is no extra official in the office of the board there will be an increase in the amount of work to be done by the society. That may give rise to a deficit in the funds that will have to be met by members. There must be some record to check applications. There is no use in the Minister smiling. I know that there will have to be a record, just as there is at present.
I think there is a general desire on the part of Deputies to do justice to those officials. I think it is also the desire, if it is at all possible, to avoid a division on Deputy Davin's amendment. If the Minister could give an assurance to the House that between now and the Report Stage he would be in a position to make some little advance on the proposals he has enumerated here already, perhaps it would be possible to achieve the desired result. So much has been said on the amendment that I think it would be a waste of time to continue the debate much longer. Suffice it to say that it is a well-recognised principle that where an individual loses employment as the result of legislation introduced by the Government, such individual should be entitled to compensation, and the officials and secretaries of the various insurance committees, who will, by virtue of the change effected in the Act, be deprived of their livelihood should, as a matter of justice, be entitled to compensation. The only matter in dispute is the basis of the compensation to be paid, and I think that it would be well if the Minister would make some advance to endeavour to meet Deputy Davin in some way so as to prevent a division on the amendment; otherwise I am afraid many Deputies who appreciate the position of the Minister, and also the economic position of the country in general from the point of view that it is not good to increase the number of pensioners already on the list, would be forced perhaps to vote for the amendment proposed by Deputy Davin. Perhaps the Minister would be able to make some statement that might meet the Deputies concerned and satisfy the officials, while at the same time safeguarding the finances of the State.
I am prepared to secure, in any way I can legislatively, that officials of these societies will get terms at least as favourable as officials of the school attendance committees got, and that where it is possible—here the Deputy will see that discrimination comes in—in deserving cases, where funds exist, to give more than that. My point is that that is secured in the Bill even as it stands, unless we introduce some more explicit statement with regard to the principle of compensation generally. Beyond that I cannot go. Whether Deputies want that to be explicitly in the Bill, or whether they would leave the position as it is, is a question entirely for themselves. If it is generally accepted I will endeavour to put it in explicit terms on the Report Stage, but it is quite impossible to go beyond that.
Would the Minister tell us exactly what he is going to put in more explicit terms? What form would the proposed amendment take?
I could not say yet whether it is possible to put it in any form because a certain amount of funds will be left. That amount of funds will ensure that these officials can be compensated to the extent of one-tenth of their annual income for each year of service.
Has the Minister any idea of what that would cost?
I have not the figures by me at the moment, but I am assured that the funds which exist will bear that. Deputies have argued that certain employees of this class are in a different position to others. If that is so and if there are funds available, I am anxious to discriminate in the matter of these particular people, but I would not like to say, when we come to the point of drafting an amendment, that I can bring forward an amendment that would be satisfactory from the legislative point of view. I think I have left Deputies under no misapprehension as to what my intention is, but beyond compensation on these particular lines we cannot go.
I think I stated last night that amendments No.12 and 16 could be discussed together and that the decision taken on No. 12 would govern No. 16.
On that point the Ceann Comhairle has already ruled that it is quite within the right of Deputy O'Kelly, in case my amendment is turned down on a division, to have his amendment subsequently submitted for decision.
I do not know what the Ceann Comhairle's ruling was on that point, but I do know that Deputy O'Kelly's amendment would not be of very much use, because it provides no fund out of which compensation could be paid. I think I made that clear last night.
The Ceann Comhairle gave us a promise that while the discussion would preceed simultaneously on the two amendments, if we wanted, he would give us an opportunity of putting my amendment to a division.
I do not know if the Ceann Comhairle intimated to the Deputy that his amendment does not provide for any fund.
took the Chair.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Allen, Denis.
- Anthony, Richard.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Boland, Patrick.
- Bourke, Daniel.
- Brady, Seán.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Broderick, Henry.
- Buckley, Daniel.
- Carney, Frank.
- Cassidy, Archie J.
- Coburn, James.
- Colbert, James.
- Colohan, Hugh.
- Cooney, Eamon.
- Corkery, Dan.
- Corry, Martin John.
- Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
- Crowley, Tadhg.
- Davin, William.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Doyle, Edward.
- Everett, James.
- Fahy, Frank.
- Flinn, Hugo.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- French, Seán.
- Gorry, Patrick J.
- Goulding, John.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
- Houlihan, Patrick.
- Jordan, Stephen.
- Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
- Kent, William R.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little, Patrick John.
- Maguire, Ben.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mullins, Thomas.
- O'Connell, Thomas J.
- O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.
- O'Hanlon, John F.
- O'Kelly, Seán T.
- O'Leary, William.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- O'Reilly, Thomas.
- Powell, Thomas P.
- Ryan, James.
- Sexton, Martin.
- Sheehy, Timothy (Tipperary).
- Smith, Patrick.
- Tubridy, John.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Francis C.
- Aird, William P.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Blythe, Ernest.
- Bourke, Séamus A.
- Brodrick, Seán.
- Carey, Edmund.
- Cole, John James.
- Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
- Conlon, Martin.
- Cooper, Bryan Ricco.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Craig, Sir James.
- Crowley, James.
- Davis, Michael.
- De Loughrey, Peter.
- Doherty, Eugene.
- Doyle, Peadar Seán.
- Duggan, Edmund John.
- Egan, Barry M.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Good, John.
- Gorey, Denis J.
- Haslett, Alexander.
- Hassett, John J.
- Hennessy, Michael Joseph.
- Hennessy, Thomas.
- Hennigan, John.
- Henry, Mark.
- Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
- Kelly, Patrick Michael.
- Keogh, Myles.
- Leonard, Patrick.
- Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
- McDonogh, Martin.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- Mongan, Joseph W.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Murphy, James E.
- Myles, James Sproule.
- Nally, Martin Michael.
- Nolan, John Thomas.
- O'Connell, Richard.
- O'Connor, Bartholomew.
- O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
- O'Higgins, Thomas.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
- O'Reilly, John J.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Shaw, Patrick W.
- Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
- Thrift, William Edward.
- Tierney, Michael.
- Vaughan, Daniel.
- White, Vincent Joseph.
- Wolfe, George.
I beg to move amendment 13:—
In sub-section (4), paragraph (a), line 59, page 8, to insert after the word "or" the words "the General Administration Fund or the credit of".
Part of the surplus money available for the administration of insurance societies is in the General Administration Fund, which is a central fund out of which the administration funds of the societies are filled. This is really a drafting amendment in order to make sure that the full surplus standing to the credit of the insurance committees will be available.
I think amendment 14 is not necessary now. If it proves to be necessary the Deputy can still move it on Report.
I will re-draft amendment 16 and bring it forward again on the Report Stage.
Amendments 20 and 21 have been ruled out. Amendment 22 is consequential on amendment 12.
The putting in of this amendment may throw a charge on State funds, but it is not quite clear yet that it will do so. I think we may accept it now.
Is the point that amendment 22 may throw a charge upon State funds?
There is no point of order involved.
I accept the amendment.
I am afraid that amendment 23 is outside the scope of the Bill.
Mr. Hogan (Clare):
I move amendment 24:—
In line 15, after the word "pay" to insert the words "and the amount of any benefit of which an employed contributor has been deprived by reason of such failure or neglect to pay contributions."
This amendment seeks to secure a greater amount of justice than has hitherto been secured under the National Health Insurance Acts. The National Health Insurance Commission has power to take into court people who fail to stamp insurance cards. It has power to secure that these cards are stamped and that the amount that is necessary for the stamping is collected. But there the function of the National Health Insurance Commission ceases. It will be perfectly obvious to anyone who has experience of the administration of National Health Insurance that a good many insured contributors suffer hardship because of non-compliance on the part of employers in certain cases. I have had some experience in different capacities of the administration of National Health Insurance, and I know that a good many employed contributors do suffer. Take the case of an employed contributor whose card has not been stamped for twelve months. Unless a free year operates on his behalf he ceases to be an insured employee and, if he seeks benefit, there is none to be got. The modus operandi is that the insurance inspector is called in and the ordinary machinery is put into operation. Some time elapses before the cards are collected, stamped and handed in to the society. The society can then refuse to pay benefit for a least a month. That is to say, the cards must be in the office at least a month.
One can see how that can work against the employed contributor, the insured person. It may take a fortnight or three weeks or a month from the time the person falls sick until the machinery of the Insurance Commissioners secures the stamped cards and another month may follow before benefit is paid to the insured person. The Minister will probably tell me that the loss can be recovered as a civil debt; that the employer can be brought into court and proceeded against by the employed contributor and the benefit secured. But I think it will be in the recollection of some people—probably it will be in the knowledge of the Minister's Department—that quite recently certain benefits were lost because a certain employer went bankrupt. Now, all these people—his employees— were entitled to benefit. The employer was brought into court not on a charge of not stamping his cards but on another charge. These people lost. If that can be pleaded—the failure to stamp cards because of his failure to meet his liabilities—what is the position of the employed contributor who gets 30/- or £2 a week? What is his chance of carrying the case to its ultimate issue and securing the benefit? I think the logical consequence of making the employer stamp the cards is to pursue the matter, and where the benefit has been lost because of the failure of the employer to stamp the cards I think the logical sequence of the prosecution is to secure benefit for the employed contributor. I ask the Minister to give this matter very favourable consideration in the interests of the employed contributors and in the interests of not a small number of people who have lost their benefits in this way. I appeal to the Minister to give this matter sympathetic consideration.
Hitherto the Commissioners have not had powers to prosecute for the recovery of contributions except for a period of twelve months. Section 27 secures powers to the Insurance Commissioners to proceed for the recovery of contributions over an unlimited period. In practice, the Insurance Commissioners do not desire to go back more than three years in the matter of the recovery of contributions. Under Deputy Hogan's amendment, not only could the Commissioners proceed against the employer for the recovery of contributions which had not been paid, but they could proceed against the employer for the amount that the employee had lost in benefits as the result of the non-compliance of the employer with the law. The position now is that under Section 40 (1) of the 1918 Act any person can proceed against his employer for benefits which he had been deprived of as a result of the non-compliance of the employer with the Act, or if that person is a member of an approved society and if that person does not himself prosecute his claim against his employer, the approved society can prosecute the claim.
What Deputy Hogan's amendment seeks to do is to give the Commissioners power in the particular case where the employee should have his card stamped to proceed against that person's employer for his failure to stamp the card in cases where the employee will not himself proceed against the employer. If the employee belongs to a society which itself will not take advantage of the powers it has of proceeding against the employer for the recovery of the benefits that person should get, had he been insured, the Deputy's amendment gives power to the Commissioners to step in and proceed against him. And all that is for the benefit of a person who will not himself move in the matter, and who belongs to a society that will not move in the matter of securing him benefit. That is seeking to give powers to the Commissioners that the Commissioners do not want, powers that the Commissioners will not exercise, because they would have to exercise them on behalf of a person who will not go to the trouble himself to seek what is due to him, and a person who belongs to a society that will not trouble to seek what should belong to its insured contributor.
Mr. Hogan (Clare):
Surely the Minister can visualise cases where a member would not be in the position himself of seeking from his employer the benefits he has lost through his non-compliance. There are many people who cannot proceed against their employers for the recovery of lost benefits. Then the Minister makes a good deal of play about belonging to an approved society which will not proceed according to the powers conferred on it by the 1918 Act. Does the Minister know that it is quite possible that a man would be insured for twelve months and at the end of that time cease to be a member of that society for insurance purposes, and then for the subsequent twelve months might not get his card stamped? The person has ceased to be a member of the society because he is marked on the books of the society. "Not in insurable employment." For twelve months after that the man gets no stamp. The society does not know anything about him, and perhaps they would not accept him at all. Then the contributor has nobody on whom he can fall back. For various reasons the employed contributor cannot proceed against the employer. Therefore, the statement about the insurance society not proceeding against the employer has no force, and I hope that the Minister sees that.
Another point in connection with this amendment is that employees, perhaps wishing to safeguard their employment, would not like to jeopardise it by proceeding against their employers.
That is the point I was striking at.
That is a point that would weigh very heavily with poor people, especially as employment is so scarce at the moment, and perhaps a man has to submit to certain things which on other occasions he would not submit to. I think it is only right that something should be done to safeguard this class of person.
I would also press upon the Minister the advisability of accepting this amendment. It is, of course, very probable that the powers it would give to the Insurance Commissioners would be exercised, if at all, in only a very few cases, but I can see no reason why they should not have the power, and I do not think that the Minister has made any case against giving them the power. It is probable that in a number of cases employees will hesitate to take proceedings against their employers to recover benefit. It might jeopardise their employment, as Deputy Coburn pointed out, if they did so. It is possible that such men will have no approved societies to take action on their behalf, and even possible that approved societies will not take action on their behalf, and if there is a clear case of injustice there should be somebody to take proceedings against the employer for the benefit that is lost in consequence of the employer's non-compliance with the terms of the Acts. I do not think any serious dislocation of the machinery of the Acts would be caused if the amendment were carried. I do not think that the power given to the Commissioners would be even exercised, but I think there is a strong case for giving the Commissioners that power.
It is almost impossible to see the powers being used, but I accept the amendment.
To add at the end of the section the words: "This section shall be held to apply to such debts only as shall be proved to have accrued since the date of the coming into force of this Act."
We accept in principle the idea that those who have failed in their duty to their employees should be pursued and should be made to pay. We are entirely with the Minister and with everybody interested in seeing the Insurance Acts properly worked in so far as that is concerned. But everybody here knows that there have been very considerable complaints in the last few years with regard to the action of another Department of State, the Revenue Commissioners, who are reported, at any rate, as having in many cases gone back six, seven and eight years; and it was with a view to putting a limit to the period of time over which the Insurance Commission might be inclined to go back on people who had neglected their duty in this matter that this amendment was put down. We believe that these people ought to be pursued, but we think that there ought to be a limit to the period of time. The Minister has said that as the law now stands the Commission has power to pursue people for one year only. We would have no objection to them pursuing them for two years, but if what happened in the case of the Revenue Commissioners were to happen in the case of the Insurance Commission we think it might lead to great hardship, especially as, in our view, there is a duty on the Insurance Commission and on the Government, as well as on the employer, to see that the law is carried out. We think that certainly they ought not to go beyond the period laid down in the Statute of Limitations for debt, which is six years, but if the Minister would say that they would not go beyond three years we would be inclined to accept it. I think two years is what the majority of our people would favour, with six years as an absolute limit, but if the Minister would accept three years we would be satisfied.
At the present moment the Commissioners like to ask for arrears of contributions after the 5th January, 1925. They have no legal powers to seek for any more than twelve months. I would agree to put in an amendment restricting it to, say, three years, which would then read:"This section shall be held to apply to such debts only as shall be proved to have accrued since January, 1927." I am afraid that the Commissioners would rather have January, 1926, but I would agree to take the difference between two years and four years, and to make it January, 1927, if that is generally accepted.
Is it suggested to do that now?
I will do it on the Report Stage.
To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
There shall be added at the end of sub-section (1) of Section 70 of the Act of 1911 the following words, that is to say:—"Provided that if the employer, being a company, fails to pay to the Insurance Commissioners any sum which it has been ordered to pay under this sub-section, that sum or such part thereof as remains unpaid shall be a debt due to the Insurance Commissioners jointly and severally from any directors of the company who knew or could reasonably be expected to have known, of the failure or neglect to pay the contribution or contributions in question, and proceedings for the recovery of the said sum summarily as a civil debt may be commenced at any time within twelve months from the date of the order for payment made on the company.
This amendment is intended more or less to safeguard insured persons whose employers fail to pay their contribution. It is with a view to making personally responsible directors who know, or who perhaps have reason to know, that such contributions are not being made to the insurance fund. I think it is only right that in such cases the persons responsible should be made to pay the contributions of their employees in the event of anything happening to the undertaking in which they are engaged.
I am afraid that there is some confusion with regard to this amendment. It refers to Section 70 of the Act of 1911, but that Section has already been repealed, and there is probably some confusion between Section 70 and Section 69. Perhaps the Deputy would withdraw this amendment, and I would look into it further before the Report Stage, because if he wishes to help the employee to recover from the employer benefit that he might have been deprived of by reason of the employer's non-compliance he will require an amendment of Section 40 of the Act of 1918; but if it is simply a question of contribution it will be to Section 69 of the Act of 1911 and not Section 70. If the Deputy would see me we might get clear as to whether this is a question of contributions or benefits.
It deals with the contributions and not with the benefits.
If the Deputy would desire to go further and deal with the benefits as well we could have it settled on Report.
That has already been dealt with.
Amendment 27, in the name of the Minister, and amendment 28, in the name of Deputy Coburn, are both out of order for the same reason, that they are outside the scope of the Bill.
I have a companion this time.
You cannot say that the company is good, though.
Amendment 29 is in the same position.
The provisions set forth in the First Schedule to this Act shall have effect with respect to the accounts of approved societies and branches thereof for the year 1930 and subsequent years and the audit of such accounts.
In line 23 to insert before the word "accounts" the word "administration."
This has reference to the audit of the accounts of insurance societies. I am informed that it would satisfy the Insurance Commission if they were restricted in this matter to the administration accounts, but I do not know whether that is correct or not. But at any rate the approved societies say that if this amendment were not adopted their proceedings would be hampered, that they would be tied up in many cases where they have liberty at present. Under the present regulations the management committee of an approved society has certain latitude in giving benefits to its members. They inquire into them, and the people concerned are usually well known to them, and where they know there is special need they often grant special benefits. They now feel that if this regulation is passed they will be held very strictly to the wording of the Act, and they will hesitate very much before granting anything that might be held by the auditor to be outside the strict limit of the law. They think that it will crib, cabin and confine their efforts to relieve persons who are sick, and that all that is necessary for the Insurance Commission would be the administration accounts, which the societies are quite willing to have scrutinised. In fact, all the accounts are scrutinised in the fullest way, but they do feel that the latitude that they are allowed in deserving cases will be denied, and in fact they will not be prepared to take a risk in these cases.
Very often when an official knows that a particular case is in special need the Committee take the chance and grant a little extra relief out of their funds. They claim that they ought to be entitled to do that without the risk of a surcharge. If the regulation stands as it is at present they will feel in every case that they cannot be more generous, by giving an additional shilling or two shillings, as the case may be, to certain deserving persons. As a rule they are not over-generous, I understand, but I do not think that it can be denied that they are careful in the management of the funds. They claim that they have this liberty at present, but that it will be now taken from them. All that is necessary, they say, is that the administration accounts should be subject to the right of surcharge. Of course, they are responsible if any funds are maladministered, and if there are any defalcations, and they have no objection to a surcharge in that case. It might reasonably be held by the auditor that they had gone beyond their power in giving a shilling or two shillings extra to some deserving person, but they think that it would not be wise to have approved societies subject to the risk of surcharge because they were a little more generous than the Act allows. Many people who have spoken to me are of opinion that the insertion of the word "administration" before "accounts" would cover all that is necessary.
We have had cases where a clerk of an approved society writes bogus cheques for maternity benefits one after another over a particular period, and so pays out under the heading of "maternity benefit" a sum amounting to a couple of hundred pounds under circumstances where the secretary signed the cheques. There were defalcations of that kind going on. If we accept Deputy O'Kelly's amendment, we will not be able to surcharge the secretary of such a society owing to whose gross negligence the clerk was in a position to steal a certain amount of money. Take a case like this, where the secretary of a society goes to a trustee with a cheque for £500 and says: "I want more money for benefits and I want you to sign this," where the trustee signs it and where the secretary takes the £500, which is put to certain uses and is never heard of again. If we accept Deputy O'Kelly's amendment, it would be impossible to surcharge that trustee. You might put the person who got the £500 in jail, but you could not recoup the money to the society by way of a surcharge. There is no question of in any way interfering with the discretion allowed in the matter of such payments of money as the Deputy spoke about. Very often cases arise in which the societies have difficulty in deciding whether payment should be made. They submit the facts to the Insurance Commission, who give permission for such payment.
The reference in Section 1 (2) of the Schedule provides power for remittance of a surcharge on the part of the Commission, so that all that is desired is to have power to surcharge where there is gross negligence or misconduct. I submit to the Deputy that the benefit funds of the societies require to be guarded, quite as much as the administration funds—they require to be protected against gross negligence or misconduct on the part of people who have to deal with them. I submit to the Deputy that there is no danger such as he suggests, and that we should take steps to safeguard, by the powers of surcharge, not only the administration funds of societies, but also their benefits which are, perhaps, in greater danger of being eaten into by gross negligence or misconduct.
To add at the end the following new Schedule:—
Rules for Payment of Compensation to Officials of Insurance Committees on Abolition of Office.
1. Every person who on the 31st December, 1929, is and was for a period of less than five years an official of an insurance committee, and who is not transferred to the service of a county or county borough council or a committee thereof shall be entitled to a gratuity calculated on the basis of one-sixth of the amount of his annual salary and emoluments for every completed year of his service.
2. Every person who on the 31st December, 1929, is and was for a period of not less than five years an official of an insurance committee and who is not transferred to the service of a county or county borough council or a committee thereof shall be entitled to receive compensation on abolition of office either by way of an annual allowance to be paid to such official during life, to be calculated at the rate of one-sixtieth of his remuneration and emoluments for every completed year of his service with an insurance committee, with an addition thereto based on the number of completed years of service and calculated according to the following scale:—
if he has fifteen or more completed years of service, an addition of seven-sixtieths of his annual remuneration and emoluments,
if he has ten or more completed years of service and less than fifteen such years, an addition of five-sixtieths of his annual remuneration and emoluments, if he has five or more completed years of service and less than ten such years, an addition of three-sixtieths of his annual remuneration and emoluments,
or alternatively (at the discretion of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health) a gratuity of one-sixth of the amount of his annual salary and emoluments for every completed year of service, calculated on the following basis, that is to say:—
if he has had fifteen or more completed, years of actual service, seven years shall be added thereto,
if he has had ten or more completed years of actual service and less than fifteen years of such service, five years shall be added thereto,
if he has had five or more completed years of actual service and less than ten such years, three years shall be added thereto.
3. No person transferred to the service of a council or committee under the provisions of Section 22 of this Act shall, without his consent, be by reason of such transfer in any worse position in respect of the conditions of his or her service as a whole (including tenure of office, remuneration, pension or superannuation) as compared with the conditions of service formerly obtaining with respect to him or her. If any person so transferred is, without his consent, in any such worse position as aforesaid by reason of such transfer and has thereby suffered any loss or injury, he shall be entitled to be paid out of the Insurance Committees' Officials Compensation Fund such lump sum as would reasonably compensate him for such loss or injury, the amount of such lump sum to be determined by the council or committee, subject to the approval of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health."
I take it that the amendment is automatically accepted, being consequential, as a result of the passing of a previous amendment.
I think it is consequential, but we may have to amend it. I think it is pointless to divide on it, so I accept it subject to whatever amendment we may have to make on the Report Stage.
Before we proceed to the Civil Service (Transferred Officers) Compensation Bill I have had notice from two Deputies of the introduction of Private Deputies' Bills to-morrow. As the House is not meeting to-morrow, I suggest that the Bills be taken in public time to-day. I propose to take them now. The long titles have been circulated.