Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 31 May 1932

Vol. 42 No. 1

Old Age Pensions Bill—Second Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on motion: That the Bill be now read a Second Time.

It appeared from the questions put towards the adjournment on Wednesday last, that further elucidation of the method of calculating the means of claimants for old age pensions would be necessary. Owing to the many amending Bills to the Old Age Pensions Law, the position had become rather confusing, and, although I had not a lot of sympathy with Deputy Mulcahy at the time he put the question, when I looked into it afterwards, and realised the amount of research that was necessary in order to get a clear understanding of the various things that are taken into consideration, in estimating the means of a claimant, I had to admit that there was a good deal of justification for the question. Consequently, to-day, for the information of Deputy Mulcahy, and for the information of the House I propose to outline the method of calculating the means, and to indicate, briefly, the proposed changes in relation to existing legislation which the present Bill will bring about. The Act of 1911, Section 2, sub-section (1), paragraph (a), as amended by Section 4 (1) of the 1919 Act, and Section 5 of the 1924 Act, says:

In calculating the means of a person for old age pension purposes account shall be taken of the yearly value of any property belonging to that person (not being property personally used or enjoyed by him) which is invested, or is otherwise put to profitable use by him, or which, though capable of investing or profitable use, is not so invested or put to profitable use by him, the yearly value of that property shall be calculated as follows: (1) the first £25 of the yearly value of the property shall be excluded, and (2) the yearly value of so much of the capital value of the said property as exceeds the sum of £25 shall be taken to be one-tenth part of the capital value thereof.

Under Section 5 of the Bill before the House, it is proposed to substitute one twentieth for one tenth, as the proportion of the capital value in excess of £25, which is to be taken as the yearly value. It is generally assumed that such property consists of invested money, but I am not so very much concerned with the class of people who have £500 or £600 invested, and whose income would be calculated under this particular section. What I am concerned about is the case in which the capital value of property, other than money, is taken into consideration in estimating the means. Take the case of a farm which is capable of being operated, or being put to profitable use by a claimant, but which is not operated or put to profitable use by the owner, for the reason that he is physically unable to cultivate the farm himself, and that he cannot afford to pay a labourer to cultivate his farm for him. The result is that instead of cultivating the farm or having it cultivated, he lets it annually. In such circumstances it is open to the pension authorities to estimate the capital value of that farm rather than the actual income from it. Let us take a farm with a capital value of £325. The man who is unable to cultivate that farm, and lets it annually, might only make about £15 or £16, out of which he would have to pay land annuities and rates. For old age pension purposes such a farmer would be credited with having an income of one-tenth of the capital value, namely £30. That always appeared to me to be a considerable hardship, and it is because that particular class of people are affected by taking one-tenth of the capital value, instead of one-twentieth, that it is proposed to have this amendment inserted in the old age pensions code.

In the same way the capital value of house property is very often taken into consideration rather than the actual value in cash receipts from the letting. Let us take the case of a man who has put his whole life savings into building a house, or buying a house, who, in his old ago finds that it is not possible to live up to the same standard of respectability as he lived when younger, and who has to let the house to increase his income, perhaps taking lodgings in a room or in more modest surroundings. A house the capital value of which might be £500 might only bring in a rent of £15 or £16 to the claimant. Under the existing law if the capital value were £500 the amount that would be credited to the old age pensioner would be £50 yearly, while the actual income would be only £15 or £16. That appears to me to be unfair, and these are the class of cases we hope will be covered by the amending legislation.

I quite admit that theoretical cases can be made against this amendment. It is quite possible that we will be told about the terrible injustice to the taxpayers if people with £600 or £700 in the bank get a few shillings of an old age pension. Such theoretical cases may be met, but in actual fact we do not find people with £300, £400, £500 or £600 cash in bank or invested getting old age pensions, and I do not think we are likely to find them in future. The number of people with over £100 in cash, or invested, in receipt of old age pensions, at the present time, would not exceed fifty. I do not think that figure will be more than doubled as a result of this Bill. At any rate I think we should approach this matter, rather from the point of view of the cases of hardship that existing legislation brings about, than from the point of view of the possible abuses that the amending of the law may bring about. Personally I am prepared to risk giving a pension to an undeserving case in order to ensure that all deserving cases will secure the pension. Section 2 (1) (b) of the Act of 1911 says that in calculating the means of claimants there shall be taken into consideration:

The income which that person may reasonably be expected to receive during the succeeding year in cash, excluding any sums receivable on account of an old age pension under this Act, and excluding any sum arising from the investment or profitable use of property (not being property personally used or enjoyed by him), that income, in the absence of other means for ascertaining the income, being taken to be the income actually received during the preceding year.

We do not propose to make any alteration in the present Bill in that particular section. Account shall be taken of "the income which that person may reasonably be expected to receive during the succeeding year in cash." That will mean taking into account income from the estimated profit from a farm, a shop, or wages— in fact the entire cash income which a claimant may reasonably expect to receive during the coming year.

The Act of 1911, Section 2 (1) (c) as amended by the 1909 Act, Section 4 (1) (c) provides that account shall be taken of the yearly value of any advantage accruing to a person from the use or enjoyment of any property belonging to him which is personally used or enjoyed by him. It is not intended to make any alteration in that. That section will stand in the old age pension code when this Bill is passed. Such a section might come into operation for example where a claimant assigned his property, but reserved to himself a definite and specified portion of that property—a certain room, or a certain section of the house for his own use in his old age. The yearly value of such reserved portion could possibly be calculated and included in his estimate of means for old age pension purposes. Under the Act of 1911, Section 2 (1) (d) it is laid down that account shall be taken in estimating the means of a claimant to an old age pension of the yearly value of any benefit or privilege enjoyed by the person. It is proposed to repeal that paragraph completely. It is admitted quite frankly that the repeal of that section will have very far-reaching effects. The yearly value of charitable donations maintenance, food, clothing and shelter at present extended to the aged or the blind is estimated as means for old age pension purposes under this paragraph. In repealing this paragraph we intend to secure that nothing will be taken into account in estimating the means of a claimant to an old age pension unless what these people have in the form of cash income, or unless what they derive from investments, or what they have in their own legal right. I think this section will have a particularly far-reaching effect in so far as blind pensioners are concerned. I cannot conceive that many blind persons in this country will go with less than the full 10/- per week blind pension in future, as a result of the removal of this section, for the reason that the earning capacity of blind persons, or persons whose sight is so defective that they cannot follow their ordinary occupations, must be very limited indeed. When we secure that maintenance, food, clothing and shelter extended to them by friends or relatives or charitably disposed persons will no longer be taken into consideration in estimating their means, it is highly probable that most blind persons will be entitled to receive, and will actually receive, the full old age pension.

I was never satisfied that this particular section could be followed out and administered to its logical conclusion, if there is any logical conclusion to legal enactments. There does not appear to be any logical conclusion to this section. The means schedule under the recent amendment of the 1924 Act, provides that if a person's means from all sources exceeds the sum of £15 12s. 6d. he shall not be entitled to a pension of 10/- per week. The "estimated means" includes the estimated yearly value of any benefit or privilege enjoyed by the claimant. It appears to me that any claimant who did not enjoy benefits or privileges, such as food, clothing or shelter exceeding in value 6/- per week, could not exist. Consequently, if an accurate return were being made of the benefits and privileges, as well as the other sources of income which these people have, nobody could receive the full old age pension, because every claimant would be in receipt of income in excess of £15 12s. 6d. It was a physical impossibility to give a 10/- pension and logically administer that section of the Old Age Pensions Act. I do not believe that it was ever intended to include free maintenance or charitable donations but, whatever it was intended to do, what we have to consider is what it was actually doing. It was doing a number of things that we did not like to see being done. The safest thing to do is, I think, to remove the section.

In that connection, it was sometimes argued that there is a moral obligation on children who have been successful in life to maintain their parents in their old age. It appears to me that there is a moral obligation on the State to maintain people who have no means of maintaining themselves or who have reached an age or a physical condition when they are no longer capable of maintaining themselves. It is seriously argued by some people that if children succeed in life, have homes of a certain standard of comfort and take in the old people, that that standard of comfort should be estimated as "means" against the claimant. If that is maintained, the people who put forward the argument ought to be logical and should argue also that the pensioner classes who have been in a position to educate their children and place them in key positions, with a high earning capacity, should be maintained in their old age by their children just as well as the parents of the labourer or the farmer. It has never been argued that the children of people with salaries of £1,500 a year who can, at 65 years of age, retire on a pension of two-thirds their maximum earning capacity—£1,000 a year—it has never been argued that the children of these people should have any obligation to them or that they should be maintained by their relatives. If it is not argued in the case of the wealthy, it should not be argued in the case of the poor.

I think that practically covers the entire method of calculating the means of the claimant. Sub-section (2) of Section 2 of the Act of 1911 provides:

In calculating the means of a person, being one of a married couple living together in the same house, the means shall be taken to be half the total means of the couple.

I have already dealt with and explained that in some detail. Put in a nutshell, the amendment means that if one of a married couple dies, no question will be raised to deprive the survivor of the pension that that survivor enjoyed while he had his partner. It is also proposed, as I mentioned before, to repeal completely Section 7 of the Act of 1924. That section provided that if within three years before, or at any time after a person received an old age pension, property or income was assigned "such property or income shall be taken into account in calculating for the purpose of the Old Age Pensions Acts... the means of that person unless it shall appear that the assignment was a conveyance or transfer by operation of law or was a conveyance or transfer on a bona fide scale for valuable consideration in money or money's worth amounting to not less than four-fifths of the value of the property or income or ...that the property comprised in the assignment consist only of a farm of land the poor law valuation whereof (including the buildings thereon) does not exceed £10...." Leaving aside altogether the various interpretations of that section and the draftsmanship of the section—I do not think we need waste the time of the House in discussing that—the section, at any rate, conceded the right to the farmer to assign his farm. If the farm was under £10 valuation, the farmer could apply for the pension immediately after the assignment and not have the income from that farm taken into consideration in estimating his means. If the farm were over £10 valuation, the farmer could, at the expiration of three years, apply for the pension without having the income from that farm taken into consideration in calculating his means. I cannot see— I am open to conviction on the matter—that a case can be made, once the principle of assignment is conceded, for making a man wait three years after the assignment to qualify for the old age pension without having income from the farm taken into consideration. In practice, the section has always meant that the farmer who was well up in the law, or who could afford legal advice or who had people well up in the law taking an interest in him, assigned his farm at the age of 67. When he became 70 years of age, he became, if otherwise qualified, entitled to the old age pension without having the income from that farm taken into consideration. But if he were an unfortunate man without friends to advise him—he might, perhaps, be illiterate—he did not assign his farm until he was 70 years of age and he discovered then that he had to wait three years until he was 73 years of age—before he could get the old age pension without having the income of the farm charged up against him. If the principle of assignment is conceded at all, I think we should not put up barriers, and we should certainly not put up barriers which will operate against the most defenceless of this particular class of the community.

Probably again it will be said that the principle of assignment should not be conceded at all. Again, that is a question that is open to debate and it can be freely granted that there are two sides to it. But, again, if the State can afford to pay a two-thirds retiring allowance to people paid a sufficiently large salary, perhaps, to make provision for their old age, and if all public officials can retire on a large pension reaching two-thirds of their maximum earning capacity, I think that that class of the community who put up these pensions, and who put up these salaries in the form of taxation, ought to be allowed to retire when they reach a condition of life that they are no longer able to look after themselves.

I hope that during the course of the debate on this Bill Deputies will approach the matter in a reasonable spirit, and that they will not take up the time of the House advancing the theoretical arguments that may be advanced practically against any common sense suggestion, either in the way of legislation, or in any other form. I would be sorry that advantage would be taken of this Bill by any section of the House to make political capital out of it, or to try to approach it from the political point of view. We are trying to do the best we can, as we see it, for the most deserving section of the community, and I venture to hope that this Bill will have the support of a majority of the House.

The Parliamentary Secretary covers over the case he makes on this Bill by a kind of suggestion that this measure is to deal with the most deserving section of the community and with the most defenceless of the particular parties who are connected with old age pensions, and by suggesting that this is being done in respect of a particular class that ought to have been attended to long ago. We are dealing here with a class of pension which absorbs one-eighth of the whole taxable revenue of the State. If we take the revenue for the last five years, and the demands made in respect of old age pensions during these five years, we find that for every £8 of tax revenue collected, £1 has gone in old age pensions. The proposal is put before us now to increase the amount of money that is to be spent on old age pensions, and to increase it in respect of a particular class who are not without means; to increase it by a sum that the Minister says will, in his opinion, be not less than £300,000, and in respect of a class who are of such a kind that he sincerely hopes is going to be more. The tax revenue for the year 1931-32 was £21,286,000 and the estimated expenditure in respect of old age pensions out of that was £2,750,000. The year in which there is proposed to be added another £300,000 at least in respect of these old age pensions, is a year in which the Minister for Finance has accepted and put before the House an estimate that the taxation which last year brought in £21,286,000 would only bring in this year a revenue reduced by about 6.5 or £1,933,000. At the same time, the general circumstances are such that about £4,000,000 extra taxation is being imposed.

As I say, it is in these circumstances that this Bill is put before us. The Parliamentary Secretary says that it deals with a class who have no means of maintaining themselves or who have reached an ago, or who are in such physical condition, that they are no longer capable of maintaining themselves. That is the kind of gloss put over the proposal. A Deputy belonging to the Parliamentary Secretary's Party last week at Ballinderrig cross-roads, County Galway, said:

Old age pensioners will get the pension irrespective of means so long as they are of age. There was no reason why an old man or woman having reached the age of 70 years should not get the pension because they may have a couple of cattle for which they would not get £8 in the fairs to-day. These things will not come against old age pensioners unless they are extraordinarily rich, so that, when this Bill is passed, anybody enjoying a pension of 5/- or 6/- can be looking for an increase and getting his application filled now, because they are sure to get it, and those refused a pension entirely can get their forms filled at once because the money is already provided for and can now be got.

That is the position that a Deputy of the Parliamentary Secretary's Party puts before his own people. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that there may be a very considerable increase in the amount of money going to be paid under Section 6 in respect of blind pensions. I think he will be able to find information with regard to particular areas where some time ago there might have been a certain looseness in respect of the granting of pensions to blind pensioners, and he can see a sample of the figure to which the blind pensions can run if there is not careful supervision over them. But, with the relaxation of the description of blindness, the reduction of age and doing away with a certain part of the means test, I quite agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that there may be a considerable increase under Section 6.

It is under that part of the schedule which says that paragraph (d) of sub-section (1), section 2, is repealed, that I think the Minister will admit the great incidence of this additional burden is going to fall. The fact is that the whole of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech and most of the pronouncements of various members of the Ministry at present in connection with this matter are an appeal, at any rate in rural areas, to persons over 70 years of age to get rid of their holdings and hand them over to their children and to continue to live with their children on the farm while drawing the old age pension. The proposals in the Bill put no restriction on the circumstances in which persons over 70 years of age can live on in a farm as long as they have no cash means or income from some property. The motto is that we must have early marriages and persons over 70 years of age must hand over their farms to some of their children, and they are going to get the old age pension in return. As far as I know, there is nothing to prevent persons in any other walk of life, besides farming, disposing of their property to their children before or after 70 years of age and drawing an old age pension. The Parliamentary Secretary, I am afraid, has not fully opened his mind to what may happen in this matter. He objected to my looking for some information with regard to what the means were exactly going to be estimated at, but he admitted, after he looked into the matter, that he found there was something in the question I was putting to him. I feel that after he has looked into the matter further as the result of experience, he will find that he is putting a very unnecessary burden on the already over-burdened taxpayers in this matter and putting, to a large extent, a burden on them in respect of a class that cannot be described as in any way in want.

There is nothing in this Bill to prevent a mother maintained by a son, rather than by a husband where he is in receipt of £500 or £600 a year, drawing the old age pension or a father in similar circumstances drawing the old age pension. Where you have increased taxation for purposes such as this and where you have cuts in this or that or the other way, certainly there is a reason to expect that a class who in ordinary circumstances might never be tempted to look for the old age pension for their parents will feel that the State and the political Parties in the State now regard them, from an entirely different point of view, and will seek for that payment from the point of view that it has been well earned as a result of the work they have done for the State in their long lifetime. So that you find it in Mayo, or Sligo or Roscommon or Donegal to-day old age pensions paid amounting to £1 8s. in Donegal and more than £1 8s. in Mayo. But in respect of each member of the large population you have in the County Dublin there is only 8s. paid per member of the population in respect of old age pensions; in Kildare 14s. and in Meath 16s. You have whole sections of the country to the East and South where you will find that, as compared with the population, there is a great discrepancy between the amount of money paid out in old age pensions. If the Minister will refer to the last report issued from the Revenue Commission, I have only the second last one here, it would give some idea of the matter. In Donegal the amount of old age pensions paid if raised on the rates would represent 11/11 of the total rateable valuation; in Mayo, 13/5; in Leitrim, 10/8; whereas in Kilkenny, 2/9; in Kildare, 2/3; but the figures per head of the population would perhaps give a better idea of the results. You are certainly going to have in urban districts and in counties such as Dublin, Wicklow and Louth, in these new circumstances, because their children are paying taxes, they are going to pay these additional moneys, a demand for the old age pensions, in respect of the class of people you never had before.

The way is completely open, because no matter what the circumstances of the person as to their living, if he has no property or income of his own there is nothing to prevent him getting the full 10/- old age pension. When the various calls are taken into consideration that are laid on people to-day in respect of public purposes for taxation or rates it will be very easy for many classes of people who have not availed of the old age pension up to the present to avail of it.

The Minister makes a certain amount of play about the anti-Irish and unfair way in which certain property is assessed against married couples for old age pension purposes, and that the pension of the remaining one is liable to be reduced if the other dies. The proposal to leave the pension stand in this case is a thing I do not question very much. It is one of the inevitable things that arises. For instance, under the Minister's proposal, if we accept what he is doing in regard to the means of a man whose wife died when, say, he was 69, he might avoid getting a pension he would have if she only died when he was 70, even under the Minister's proposal. But if the Minister's policy, as running through a lot of his discourse, is that he wants the older people to hand over the farm to the children so that the property will be better managed and will be in younger hands and that he can have his early marriage policy fully gone ahead with, this proposal is cutting across his policy in that it contemplates the farm being held by the couple. One of them dies and the other, being over 70, continues to hold on to the farm. His proposal here makes it easier for that person to hold on to the farm, and entirely cuts across the proposal to have the land, in so far as it can reasonably be put into the hands of the younger people at the present moment.

I would like to ask the Minister, in regard to Section 4, if he would say what kind of mutual arrangements there are between the Free State and Northern Ireland in connection with this matter. As I understand, the change he proposes to make in Section 4 is that if an old age pensioner born in Fermanagh and living in the Free State and enjoying the old age pension in the Free State, decides to visit the scenes of his youth for a month or two his old age pension will be stopped while he goes to see his friends in Fermanagh and to see his native surroundings for the last time, probably, before he dies. So that if he is getting sentimental about the old age pensioner he might consider whether there is not something wrong in Section 4.

Deputies must get very clearly into their minds that when we have a condition of affairs where we are spending one-eighth of the whole taxable revenue upon old age pensions, that whatever margin of hardship there may be among the class looking for old age pensions, as a result of the legislation that exists at the present moment there cannot be very much hardship as regards old age pensions when we are spending one-eighth of our whole taxable revenue upon them. Whatever hardship there is, certainly, in my opinion, does not warrant opening a door which is being opened by this particular measure here to bring in, on the old age pension list, every person over 70 years of age who can claim that he has no private income, no matter what his circumstances of living may be.

I would like to say that I welcome this Bill, and I think that the Government are to be congratulated not only on introducing it, but on introducing it so early in the Session. I think that most of the points made by Deputy Mulcahy are points which will arise more properly in Committee. If there is one blot in the Bill, to my mind, it is that it is about the finest example of legislation by reference that we have had for a long time in this House, and it is very difficult for the ordinary member, unless he has the whole old age pensions code of Acts of Parliament before him —Acts passed both by this Parliament and the British Parliament—to follow the Bill. I agree that the Parliamentary Secretary has done his best to give us an idea of what the effect of the repeal of the different sections of the different Acts will mean. But undoubtedly, in my opinion, one of the most undesirable and unjust Acts of the late Administration was the introduction of the Old Age Pensions Act of 1924. In my opinion it was never desirable, and I believe to-day as I believed then, that it was not necessary to do so, even at that time. I am glad that the Minister is going in some way to remedy the position which was brought about by the 1924 Act. But I do not know that he is going far enough, and going far enough in particular for the poorer classes of old age pensioners.

I would like the Minister to tell us, when he is replying, what is the position to-day with regard to the maximum income. Following the introduction and passing of the 1924 Act, it was commonly said that the effect of the Act was, to reduce old age pensions by 1/- per week, but those of us who know anything at all know quite well that in very many cases it meant a reduction of 4/- per week instead of 1/-. Under the Old Age Pensions Act, prior to 1924, a person who had an income valued at 10/- per week was entitled to the maximum old age pension of 10/- per week, bringing it up to £1 per week; but immediately the 1924 Act was passed that pension of 10/- a week was reduced not by 1/- but by 4/-, because the maximum under the 1924 Act was 16/- per week.

I would like the Minister to tell us also what the position would be with regard to that type of person when this amending Bill goes through.

Following the introduction and passage of the 1924 Act there were many old people in the country, say, an old person who had a son killed during the Great War, and that person had, say, a pension of 10/- per week for the loss of his or her son from the British Government and also 10/- per week old age pension. Immediately the Act was passed in 1924, the old age pension was reduced by 4/- and we found our own Government here taking advantage of the pension that had been granted to one of our own citizens by the British Government. Of course, after a short time, the British Government began to see what was happening, and they said if there were to be reductions at all or savings made they were going to make them, and they reduced their pension to this particular person by 4/- per week, so that we had to pay the full 10/- a week. But in any case between the two Governments the old person lost not 1/- but 4/- per week.

I welcome in particular the Section dealing with blind pensions. I was a member of the Old Age Pensions Commission which sat, I think, in 1926 for over six months. Our Terms of Reference were rather restricted, but one of the matters to which we gave very careful consideration was the question of blind pensions, and we were satisfied that it was almost impossible for any applicant for a blind pension to get a pension unless he or she was stone blind. As a matter of fact, one pension officer who was being examined before the Commission admitted that in every case when an application was made for a blind pension, accompanied by a certificate from the local doctor, he automatically appealed that case to Dublin without any consideration whatever. And it was admitted that a person who had, as the-Parliamentary Secretary explained the-other night, been engaged in a certain occupation all his lifetime up to, say, the age of 60 years, and at 60 years of age became so blind as to be unable to continue in that occupation, would not be granted a pension; in fact, so long as the pension officer or the medical officer employed by the Department in those cases was satisfied that that person had sufficient eyesight even to shovel mud into a cart he was not entitled to the pension. Therefore, I am glad the Minister has introduced this particular Section, not only with regard to the question of the degree of blindness but with regard to the question of the reduction of the age.

I would like to return just for one moment to this question of means, and I am not thinking altogether now of the farmer. But let us take two men—for instance two working men. One man has been an industrious, hard-working, thrifty man, has lived carefully all his lifetime and put a bit by for a rainy day. He has saved his little mite week in and week out in order to provide for himself, and when he comes to apply for the pension, whatever he has saved is brought up against him and the pension is granted of anything from 1/- to 10/- a week in accordance with his savings. But take his next-door neighbour, who has not been so thrifty, who has wasted his money rather than saved it, and when he comes to 70 years of age he is automatically entitled to the full pension. Now I do not say that a man who reaches 70 years is not entitled to the full pension because he has nothing, but I do say it is unfair to penalise thrift and to penalise the man who has been industrious, hard-working and saving.

The Minister, in the course of his speech on, I think, Thursday night, mentioned that they proposed to take certain powers regarding pensions clerks. That is a matter, of course, into which we can go later on in the Committee Stage. I wonder if the Minister had thought of the recommendation made by the Commission and under consideration I understood by the late Government regarding the conditions under which those clerks should be employed in the future and whether they should be salaried officials rather than paid, as I think they are at the moment, by results? I would like if he would give some information on that point when replying.

There is another matter on which I am very anxious to get some information. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will be only too glad to give me this information because I know that for a long time he was anxious to get the information himself. I wonder has he had any talk with the Minister for Finance regarding what are known as secret instructions issued to pensions officers, and would he tell us if there are such secret instructions? If there are instructions issued to pensions officers with regard to old age pensions and in particular with regard to the assessing of means, would he tell us why they should be secret? I was going to say would he tell us what they are, but if he did they would be no longer secret. I suppose that I will get no more information on that point than I got from the late Minister.

They are secret to me, too.

Whatever about the secrecy or otherwise there is no doubt that they are very effective. It might be no harm, during the course of this Bill through the House, for the House itself to consider whether it is desirable that in the administration of this old age pension scheme two departments should be brought into the matter. I think it leads to a good deal of confusion. We have the Local Government Department coming in at a certain point. We have, as a matter of fact, the case against the old age pensioner compiled by an official of the Finance Department and all the steps taken, up I think to the final appeal, are taken by officers of the Finance Department, but the appeal itself is decided by the Local Government Department on information supplied by an officer of another Department. I do not know whether that is desirable or not Personally, I do not think it is.

Another matter that most of us are concerned with is this, that in nearly every case, unless an applicant for an old age pension is practically destitute, the pension officer appeals against the granting of the pension, and even when that case comes to be considered by the local pensions subcommittee and is threshed out there, when a decision is given in favour of the applicant in practically every case there is an appeal to headquarters.

There is another matter that I would like to bring before the Parliamentary Secretary. It was one of the recommendations, as far as I can recollect, of the Commission; that is with regard to the question of appeal and the forms which are sent out to old age pensioners. I would suggest, first and foremost, that there are too many forms. When an applicant applies for an old age pension he gets a very complicated form. He has to answer almost as many questions as a farmer who applies for a loan to the Credit Corporation. He is then informed that the case will be heard on a certain date. He is next informed that his pension has been granted or disallowed and that the pension officer has appealed. Very many of these old people are illiterate. They are living in remote places where they are not in a position to consult a person who would be able to put them on the right road, so to speak. I suggested at the Commission—I think it was contained in the report—that these forms be simplified and reduced in number, if possible. Further, I think in every Post Office or Garda barracks in the country, there ought to be a poster giving simple instructions to old people as to how they are to frame their application or suggesting what the Department requires. That is very essential I think with regard to affidavits and cases where old people cannot get documentary proof of their age. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, there is quite a large number of those at present, and old people are told that if they get two people as old or older than themselves who are able to vouch that they are over 70 that that would be accepted in lieu of a baptismal certificate. We know that that is not the case. We know that for every affidavit that is accepted as proof of age there are twenty turned down, and the reasons given by the Department are that the affidavits are too vague, that they are not definite enough. It is very often the case that persons making the affidavit cannot make a definite affidavit because they do not know what is required and they do not get any information either from the pension committee or the pension officer.

Is the Deputy discussing the principle of this Bill or suggesting amendments that should be moved on the Committee Stage?

I think, sir, with all possible respect, that I am keeping as close, if not closer, to a Second Reading speech than either the Parliamentary Secretary or Deputy Mulcahy.

It seems to me to be developing into a speech on the administration of existing legislation, and more suited to a debate on the Estimates.

With all possible respect, the Bill before us is a Bill to amend not only existing legislation but, to a certain extent, the administration of existing legislation. Of course on the Second Reading, I think if I may say so again with all possible respect, I am entitled to discuss not only what is in the Bill but what I would like to see in it. There are very many things that I would like to see in the Bill that are not in it. However, as I have said, I welcome the Bill. I think it is a step in the right direction and I think the Government is to be congratulated on introducing it. So far as I am concerned, I will give them any assistance that I can in putting it through the House.

I rise to oppose this Bill, not because I am opposed to the principle of giving pensions to persons who have reached old age—more particularly I am not opposed to giving pensions to blind persons at an earlier age—but there are times both in the history of individuals and of countries when we cannot afford to do the things we would like to do. One would like to see in this country social services brought up to levels at which they are in other countries, but the question at once arises "Can we afford these things?" That is the aspect of this particular question that I would like Deputies to concentrate more on. As to the principle, I think on all sides of the House we would like, if we possibly could afford it, to do better for those poor people than we are doing at the moment, but on this question as to whether or not we can afford it, I would like to remind Deputies that a great portion of the wealth of this country comes from our agriculture. If we put on this additional burden of some £400,000 to £500,000 which seems to be the amount that will be incurred if we pass this Bill, is agriculture at the moment in a position to carry the major portion of that burden? If agriculture is not in a position to produce this money will some Deputy interested in economics tell me where the money is to come from? I think in a House like this and at a time like this it is essential that we should devote a considerable portion of our inquiry to this particular aspect of this problem.

As I understand the case put forward by the farmer or those agriculturists who are represented in this House, they tell us that at no time in the past fifty years was agriculture so depressed as it is at the moment. At no time during the last fifty years were prices in the agricultural industry in relation to costs of production as low as they are to-day. In fact if one were to sum up from what one hears in this House and elsewhere, from representative members of the farming community, one might fairly gather that agriculture is in any condition at the moment but a profitable one, in other words, that it is being carried on at a loss. Let those Deputies who represent agriculture stand up here and contradict these facts, if they are going to support this measure, and tell us that agriculture is in a position at the moment to carry this additional burden. If they can prove this to my satisfaction they will carry my vote, but if what they have said here in the immediate past is true they will have some difficulty in satisfying me and this House that agriculture is in a position at the moment in which it can carry this additional burden. I shall await with interest some of the spokesmen on behalf of the agricultural community who may speak on this particular aspect of the question.

When the Parliamentary Secretary was dealing with this matter a few nights ago, he said that the only objection he had to this measure came from a body known as the Associated Chambers of Commerce. I think he told us that that was the only objection he had. I did not happen, although I am a member of that body, to be at that particular meeting when this resolution was passed. I have in my hand, however, a recommendation that appeared on the agenda of that particular body and it was in the following form:—

The Council (that is the Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce) expresses the opinion that in the present state of national finances the addition of a sum estimated at £400,000 to annual expenditure is unwise and more than the country can in the present circumstance afford.

I think every agriculturist in this House and in the country, if I know them aright, if they were expressing their views on this Bill and on this proposed burden, would express them in identical terms to those expressed by the Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. They would not, as I said, object at all if the country were in a financial position to afford these additional pensions, these additional social services, to give money when it is able to give it, but the position at the moment is that it is called upon to grant moneys and to carry burdens which it is unable to carry.

There is only one other point to which I would like to draw attention in connection with this Bill. Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary might be able to give us some information in regard to it. I note that in Section 2, these pensions are to be given to persons who have not less than 30 years' residence in the Saorstát. That is qualified in sub-section (3) of that particular section by the following words:—

Any absence from Saorstát Eireann in such period during which such person has maintained or assisted in maintaining any dependent in Saorstát Eireann shall be reckoned in and form part of such period.

The point that has been mentioned to me in connection with that section is this: supposing a person, a member of an Irish family, has been absent from this country for a number of years, in America, Canada or Australia, and has sent during that period a contribution of, say, £5 or £10 to some dependent in this country, would that entitle that person return to this country after the lapse of a number of years to become entitled to a pension under this pension scheme, having spent practically all his life out of the country and given his services to build up the wealth of some other country—to come back to this country and enjoy a pension from this country? I do not know whether that is the intention, but it appears to me that such is the intention if we are to judge by the present wording of the Bill. I should like to have some information on that point from the Parliamentary Secretary.

I think it is a matter of special pride to all those who were in the House in 1924, and who are here at the present time, to take part in a discussion arising out of a Bill that seeks to remedy the position that was given effect to in the 1924 Act. The 1924 Act was the biggest blot on the legislation enacted in this House since it was set up. I am specially glad and proud to have the opportunity afforded to me to assist the passage of a Bill that seeks to remove that blot. This Bill will remove practically all the obstacles that have been built up under the Act of 1924 and that have operated so unjustly and so harshly in hundreds of cases throughout the country. The widening of the definition of blindness is going to be a tremendous advantage, and, of course, it is unnecessary to say that that also obtains in the reduction of the age period, but to my mind the most important and far-reaching provision in this measure is the one that abolishes the means test that existed in this country. One heard a great outcry in the last five or six months about a means test that existed in a neighbouring country, but we have a means test no less severe in this country since 1924 and I am glad we are going to see the end of it.

There has been no criticism of this Bill. One would not expect that Deputy Good would make any speech other than that which he has made. It is a speech that I have listened to since 1922 or 1923 on every conceivable occasion, on every measure, seeking to do in some way, great or small, the things that we are attempting in this Bill. I can find no other description for the speech of Deputy Mulcahy than that he felt it his duty to say something. His criticism of the Bill was the most feeble criticism I have ever heard directed against any measure. That was inevitable because, of course, no case whatever can be made against the Bill.

On the question of the state of the national finances, which was the basis of Deputy Good's speech, he need not have any worries whatever about what the agricultural community will think about the Bill. Not one member of the agricultural community in my opinion will object to paying for a service of this kind.

Has the Deputy any authority for making that statement?

Far more than you have.

I have much more authority for making the statement than the Deputy had for making his statement, inasmuch as I come from a constituency that is almost purely agricultural, and inasmuch as I have had an opportunity of finding out the opinions of the people concerned who were mentioned in the Deputy's speech. I do not believe, as I said, that there will be the smallest complaint against the provisions of this Bill, and I believe that the people of the country, irrespective of Party or Party affiliations, will join in welcoming it, and that they will unite in admitting that it removes the greatest series of injustices that were ever condensed into any single measure passed by this House—the Act of 1924.

I regret that I have not had an opportunity of hearing the opening portion and the major portion of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement. I only mention this because I read the newspaper reports very carefully—the official reports are not yet available— I read the newspaper reports of what he said as carefully as I could. I should like to ascertain from him in the course of his reply whether there is to be any change—of course, it is a matter of administration, but he will not mind giving us the information if he has got it as to whether there is to be any change in the method of approaching cases where a doubt arises on the question of age. Deputy Morrissey has dealt with this matter to some extent. Clearly there has been very great difficulty that has been accentuated by reason of the fact that people with a little education, a great many of them illiterate, were asked to provide in a special manner and under a certain form indisputable evidence as to age. The evidence necessary in cases of that kind ought to be simplified. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary has referred to this matter or whether it is the intention of the Department to give attention to it, but it will probably remove the remaining difficulty.

Deputy Morrissey referred to certain instructions issued by the Department of Finance to the Pensions Officers. There can be no doubt whatever about the issue of instructions of that kind, because in this House several years ago I asked the Minister for Finance if he was willing to lay a copy of such instructions on the Table of this House. He declined. I do not repeat that invitation to the Parliamentary Secretary, but I ask him, as soon as he gets the opportunity, to scrap them entirely. They should have gone long ago, or rather they should never have been in existence.

There is only one other aspect of matters arising under this Bill that I should like to refer to, and that is that here and there through the country and particularly, so far as I know, in my own county there are some cases pending between the pensioners or claimants for pensions and the Revenue Commissioners with regard to over-payments, perhaps I should have said, alleged over-payments. I do not know whether this is a matter that I ought to mention at this Stage or not, but I take the risk of mentioning it and of asking the Minister for Local Government to go into the cases of that kind. Some of them have been already brought in to the Courts and they have been scouted out of court by the Circuit Judge in my own county.

The Deputy has got a fair opportunity of referring to these regulations without continuing on that line.

Mr. Murphy

Perhaps I shall get another opportunity of mentioning that matter. I believe that this Bill wipes out practically all the obstacles that arose to block the way of genuine applicants for old age pensions; and I am entirely with the Parliamentary Secretary when he says—and this is the most effective answer that can be given to some of the opponents of this Bill—that he would rather risk one or two undeserving people or more getting pensions than seeing one genuine applicant debarred. This is the spirit in which the Bill should go through this House. I believe that it will have a speedy passage through this House, and a hearty welcome in the country.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill in its general principle. But I should like to refer to some of the things that the Parliamentary Secretary said in the course of his speech dealing with the Bill. One thing that struck me as quite misleading was his suggestion that there is any real connection between the principle governing old age pensions and the principles governing the pensions of Civil Servants. Part of the remuneration of a Civil Servant is his right to a pension when he retires. Were it not for that right, presumably his salary would be larger. The same principle does not govern the two things at all. We shall have an opportunity of dealing in greater detail and in a different way with this measure on the Committee Stage, and I want to avoid, as far as possible, making a Committee speech now. Everybody knows that this Old Age Pensions Bill is a Bill about which it is very easy to wax enthusiastic and to rejoice in it, and the more you rejoice about it the more popular you will be in the rural parts of your constituency. But I think a greater responsibility rests upon Deputies in this House than to cultivate popularity by rejoicing in a measure of this kind. Instead of doing that they should carefully examine such measures and make constructive and, I hope, helpful suggestions to the Minister in charge.

With regard to the means test, that means test that was imposed by the 1924 Act undoubtedly wrought great, and, in my opinion, unjustifiable hardship on a large section of pensioners in the country. But there is no use in jumping from the frying pan into the fire; and if we correct these hardships and alleviate the sufferings of deserving pensioners whose pensions were unjustly reduced, there is no need to give pensions to a vast number of persons who can have no claim on the community whatever for old age pensions. There is no necessity to forsake moderation, because we have endured injustice for a considerable time, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take steps during the Committee Stage of this Bill to mitigate the completeness with which he has dealt with the means test. There are certain sections of the community who have no claim upon the taxpayer for old age pensions. There are other sections of the community referred to by Deputy Murphy who have exercised thrift and who have been putting a little by for a rainy day, and it would be obviously a gross injustice that such a man should be victimised as if he was a person thriftless and extravagant and who found himself without means in his old age and without anything to his name. I quite agree that if a man has been thrifty there ought to be no objection against him when he applies for an old age pension. But on the other hand I say that it seems to me as far as I can understand this Bill—it is rather a difficult Bill to understand because half of it consists of the repeal of sections of other Acts and one would have to have a reference library by one before one could get a grip of it—but as far as one can see, in its present form this Bill opens the door to pensions to a number of persons to whom I do not believe this House would wish to give pensions at the expense of the already heavily burdened taxpayer.

Deputy Good said that in the present condition of agriculture it was unjustifiable to lay further large additional burdens on it. That was immediately repeated by Deputy Murphy, as I have often heard other remarks repeated, in such a way as considerably to alter the significance of Deputy Good's remark. I do not say for a moment that it was Deputy Murphy's intention and I am sure it was not, but it struck on Deputy Murphy's ear in a special way and he reproduced it carrying with it a very different sense to what Deputy Good implied. But my answer to Deputy Good is this: That in the Budget recently introduced with I thought very many good points, there was one resolution—the Tariff Resolution— which is going to mean £900,000 of a burden on the backs of the agricultural community. I welcome the Bill that is going to appropriate £400,000 of that £900,000 and so return a very large part of the latter sum to the agricultural community from whom it is to be taken. I would sooner that the Minister responsible, not the Minister in charge of this Bill, had not put that blister on the agricultural community. We hope to get rid not of all that blister but I am glad of having an opportunity of getting a portion of this diverted to the people from whom it is going to be taken.

I would expect to be reproved by the Chair for saying now something that should be said on the next stage. The great difficulty—to my mind, one of the greatest hardships on the old are pensioners all over the country—is this: That they do not know and a great many people who ought to know and who would know if the matter were simple, do not know what proofs the Department of Local Government and Public Health will take as evidence that an individual is entitled to the old age pension. The moment the claimant for an old age pension gets into the toils of the Department of Local Government and Public Health when he has made an application for an old age pension, he is up against this problem; he is questioned about this and that and he is asked for affidavits, records and testimonies as to age and so on and he is completely bewildered. I am not ashamed to say that sometimes when I have taken part in the task of trying to secure an old age pension I am completely bewildered and I virtually despair as to what I am to do in order to convince the Department that the claimant is the age which he alleges himself to be.

On a recent occasion I advanced what I thought was a conclusive proof that a man was 70 years of age, whereupon the Department came back and said that they had conclusive proof that the man was 69 years of age. I then went to the man and I said "There is no use in getting further into the mess; will you wait another year?" And he said "Yes, very well." I wrote back to the Department and said to them "You have now asserted to me that the man is 69 years of age. Will you promise to give him a pension in a year's time?" They said "Not at all." They would probably start discussing it again. I have the papers here and I will show them to the Minister. These are the papers which bear out that statement that I have made. That sort of thing simply exasperates the claimant for an old age pension.

I do think it would be a very good thing and of great assistance if a schedule were introduced into this Bill stating the proofs which the Department would accept as final when a pensioner is before them. Such a clause in the Schedule would be a great blessing and of great assistance. I think I am entitled to suggest a thing that might be included in the Schedule in the Bill. At present a birth certificate will be accepted as conclusive proof of age. I would suggest that a certificate from the school roll where such was available, particularly the certificate from the manager of the school, would be accepted by the Department——

It is accepted at present.

Deputy Wolfe speaks with emphasis. I can show him a letter I received to-day telling a man that it would not be accepted.

Do not mind that.

Well, I shall take courage from the experience of Deputy Wolfe. That is only one instance. Secondly, I suggest that if an affidavit is forthcoming from two pensioners who are prepared to swear the applicant is 70 years of age, unless the Department of Local Government and Public Health is prepared to prosecute these pensioners for perjury, any such affidavit taken before a Commissioner for Oaths ought to be accepted as conclusive proof of age. Deputy Morrissey suggested a poster setting out simple instructions to pension claimants. I suggest that the Department would set out a Schedule of certain things which they would accept as proofs of the claim for a pension. These would simplify, as far as it is possible to do so, the routine through which the old age pensioner must go when applying for a pension.

In the next place, I would suggest that the present system of appeals be altered and that a Commissioner or some official should hear those appeals and not necessarily in Dublin. I do not see why a Commissioner of appeals should not attend in the areas served by the Pension Committees and hear the pension claimants themselves. At present, I do not quite know who puts the pensioner's case for a pension. I suspect nobody does. I think a pensioner is entitled to a personal hearing before his case is turned down, and I think the responsible official would find, if he had the opportunity of hearing the pensioner himself and not depend on a formal report from any Civil Servant, that the claimant would be able to lay before him much fuller information than could be extracted by correspondence.

Now, with reference to blind pensions, I do not think there will be any very serious opposition to that part of the Bill. There will be, and there should be, the gravest possible consideration given to the steps that must be taken to ascertain that that social service is not abused. Any reaction that arises in any country against social services has its foundation in the abuse of these social services. Deputy Murphy referred to the means test in a country close at hand. But the principal reason why the means test is at present being used in the unjust way in which it is being used in portions of England is because of the abuse of the transitional benefit and the unemployment benefit in England. These abuses were scandalous, and the result is that a violent reaction arose and the people who ought not to be suffering now are suffering injustice as a result. The Minister, I am sure, will endeavour so to construct this Bill that no person will receive a blind person's pension under circumstances which would give honest men an opportunity of saying, or an occasion for saying, that there was grave abuse of this social service.

I suggest that the Minister should consult competent members of the medical profession and get their advice as to what would be a reasonable test of virtual blindness. In that way he would be able to exclude from the benefit of this Bill people who are suffering from nothing more than serious deficiency of vision. It is manifestly not the purpose of the Bill to relieve such persons, and it would be impossible to extend the social services so far. I do not know if the Minister has consulted the medical profession. I am sure if he does he will find that a test can be devised, which will not be subject to abuse, by the Department of Finance, and will secure that everyone who ought to get a pension will get one and those who ought not will be properly excluded.

Other questions will arise at a later stage and opportunity will be given, on looking into them when in Committee, of making suggestions to the Minister. I only hope that when we reach the Committee Stage the Bill will be considered by the Minister in the same spirit as the Minister for Agriculture considered the Butter Bill recently. The House then resolved itself into Committee for the purpose of improving the Bill, and the Minister showed himself anxious to meet any legitimate objections that were raised and quite prepared to accept suggestions from those who criticised the measure in a helpful spirit. I hope the same spirit will prevail when we consider this Bill in Committee.

I wish enthusiastically to support this Bill. I am, and have always been, in favour of the principle underlying it. I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon the fact that he made no delay in bringing in this measure. He brought it in at the earliest possible moment in order to get rid of a long-standing grievance amongst the most deserving and needy population of this country. I could never understand the morality that lay beneath the Act of 1924 when, at a time when economy was needed, the first attempt to bring about that economy was made at the expense of people who ought to be immune, people who had nothing between them and the grave except the workhouse or the old age pension. I could never regard the 1924 Act as other than an immoral Act, an Act which ought to be got rid of at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Parliamentary Secretary suggests that this measure is going to cost £300,000 a year. Deputy Good thinks it is going to cost £400,000 a year. If I might venture a suggestion, I would be inclined to say that we could add another £100,000 and make the total £500,000. That, however, does not get rid of the principle underlying the Bill. I have no doubt that it will cost £500,000 a year. I think the Parliamentary Secretary has underestimated the cost and I think Deputy Good, with great deference to his views on economy and finance, has also underestimated it.

I am glad to observe that Deputy Good is coming round to our way of thinking. He displayed a very enthusiastic interest in the agricultural population. We are glad to find he is saying good-bye for the moment to the commercial interests and he is going to look after agricultural interests, interests that affect some of us very strongly. Deputy Good is afraid the agricultural interests will suffer. He does not mind what will happen to commerce. He is afraid that this Bill will overtax the agricultural community of which, unfortunately, I am one, and a rather heavy taxpayer at that. We are very glad to find we have a new recruit. I am sure Deputy Good, now that he has joined our ranks, will remain with us as long as he remains in this House and that, I hope, will be a long time.

Deputy Good forgets one point, and that is that agricultural ratepayers will not have to pay rates on agricultural land so long as the present Government remain in power. The Fianna Fáil Party has pledged itself to grant complete agricultural derating. Deputy Good forgot that we, agriculturists, are entirely immune from rates. I think when the Deputy was speaking of agricultural interests he was really thinking of commercial interests. If he wants to join the agricultural party we would be very glad to have his support, but let him clearly remember that so far as we are concerned we are going to pay no rates. I am with Deputy Murphy in saying that if we had to pay a little rate for the old age pensions we would not mind very much or have any great objection to doing so.

I hope the Deputy is quite clear that rates are not wealth. I said that the country derives its wealth very largely from the agricultural community.

I am afraid the Deputy forgot that the agricultural community will not have any rates to pay. He overlooked that point.

I hope Deputy Wolfe has not forgotten that this is the Second Stage of an Old Age Pensions Bill.

I will try not to. I agree that there are certain portions of this Bill which should be subjected to revision. I think that this revision would be better carried out by a Select Committee than by a Committee of the Whole House. The only objection to a Select Committee is that there might be too much delay. There are certain questions as to cost and means which could not be debated satisfactorily across the House. Nobody wants to deprive the old age pensioner of what has been taken from him or her since 1924. I think it is generally recognised that a grave mistake was made in 1924 and the sooner that is put right the better.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the present method of appeal. There is a suggestion that there should be some alteration. It has been suggested the question of age is a very difficult one to prove. I quite agree, but I will not stand by anybody who says that under the present system you do not get from the Local Government officials a full and fair hearing. I have had experience of the fact that if you put up a reasonable case they will give you, to use a popular phrase, the fall of the trick. They will do all they can to help. My experience of the Old Age Pensions Department— and it is considerable—is that their methods do not give any grounds for a single grievance. I will say the same with regard to means. I do not know how Deputy Dillon or anybody else could suggest a court of appeal more favourable than the one that exists. It costs nothing to go there. I cannot conceive, and I would like to hear from Deputy Dillon in Committee, how he could suggest a method of appeal more favourable, less expensive—there being no expense attached to it—than the present method.

I have got a sympathetic hearing from the officials in the Department of Local Government, before whom I have appeared in connection with old age pensions. They did everything they could to facilitate me: not only as to the question of means but also that of age. Somebody has told Deputy Dillon that there was some difficulty about school certificates. I want to make it clear that from officials in the Department of Local Government I have got suggestions to produce these certificates. I have produced them where they were available, and they looked upon them very favourably. The officials certainly give the appellant a fair run for his money, and if he has a prima facie case showing that he has reached the required age then his appeal succeeds. Deputy Dillon suggested that instead of school certificates there should be affidavits from two people as to an applicant's age. I am not going to say anything against affidavits. The preparation of them is one of the methods by which I make my livelihood. I much prefer the present system of school certificates to compelling people by set rule to produce two affidavits, and that when these are produced the old age pension is to be granted. If that procedure is to be followed, then there is no applicant for an old age pension that I know of who will not be in a position to produce affidavits from two reputable people. I think we should stick to the present system. I suggest this to the Parliamentary Secretary and to the Minister, whom I am glad to see present: be sympathetic to the old age pensioners, try your appeals as you are doing at present and in a sympathetic manner. If you do, there will be no grievance at all as regards age.

On the question of means, I think that also has been fairly dealt with by the officials. I am not at all sure that in getting rid of the section in the 1911 Act you are not landing the officials into a more difficult position than they are in at present. I agree that this is not the time to discuss that, as it is a Committee point. On the question of means, I found that the officials in the Department of Local Government, in every case I came across, dealt fairly with it, subject to statutory limitations put upon them. They have to decide on a question of fact. My experience of them has been this: that if the evidence enabled them to do so they decided in favour of the applicant. I would impress on the Parliamentary Secretary that he should be very slow before making any change in the present system or agree to send roving commissions around the country. If such commissions are sent out, they will mean that the unfortunate applicant for an old age pension will have to go before a court and produce his witnesses. He will have to get some sort of an attorney to appear and make a case for him, and before all that is done these old people will find themselves committed to a lot of expense which under the present system they are saved from incurring. I do not think the present position, so far as the hearing of appeals is concerned, can be improved on at all. I have always found it to be an extremely fair system. Without any reservation whatever, I have very great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of the Bill.

The criticism of this Bill has so far been very mild. With one exception, the criticism that I have heard of it indicates a feeling of support for the measure. There may be "buts," but it seems to be generally agreed that the Bill is a good one. Some Deputies, in supporting the measure, have made advances on the recommendations contained in the Bill. Appeals have been made to the Minister to improve the measure so that further facilities may be given to old-age pension applicants. The Minister has also been appealed to to interpret the Bill in a sympathetic manner so far as the old age pensioners are concerned. I myself believe that this Bill is a good one. If it were possible to do so, I can see directions in which it could be improved as a medium for giving assistance to those in need of it in the country. If a spirit of kindliness is displayed in the House towards the Bill generally I suggest that is due not so much to love for the Bill itself, or to the kindliness that Deputies would extend to those concerned with the measure, but rather to a love of wooing the electorate in their various constituencies. It is that I suggest that is at the back of their minds.

Hear, hear.

Mr. Maguire

Everything that has been said in approval of this Bill is in reality approval of the Budget passed here a few weeks ago, a Budget of which we heard such strong condemnation. This Bill is an interpretation, or part interpretation, of a Budget that met with such severe criticism from the benches opposite. Deputies who opposed the Budget here, in the Press and down the country since have come in here to-day and approved of this Bill, which, in reality, means putting into effect part, at least, of the proposals that the Budget contains, proposals which at the time we were told were to bring such terrible consequences on the country.

Deputy Good, at least, was honest. He has consistently advocated that this is a wrong thing to do. He opposed the Budget and he opposed this Bill. He says this Bill is going to damage the farming community. I do not agree with him there. Of course, it is going to mean increased cost, and that will have to come out of revenue. Revenue will have to be raised somehow from the community. I am rather surprised that Deputy Good has discovered now that the agricultural community are the people who are going to bear the cost of this. Two years ago or so we discussed in this House the estimate for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. On that occasion I referred to the very fact that Deputy Good dealt with here to-day: that the cost of the services of that Department was ultimately borne by the farming community, and that the people in the city of Dublin were getting far greater facilities under that Department than they were entitled to. Deputy Good challenged my statement, and said that the city of Dublin was quite independent of the farming community and that my assertion was quite wrong.

I said that each service should pay its own way.

Mr. Maguire

The Deputy on that occasion said that it was nonsense— nonsense was the actual word used— to suggest that the business people of Dublin were in any way dependent on the farming community. Now we find, when it is convenient for Deputy Good to do so, that he discovers that increased expenditure for social services in the form of old age pensions is going to fall directly on the farming community, and he asserts that the farming community is not able to bear any additional expenditure. I agree with the latter part of his statement. They are not able to bear it, and I am sure they are not going to bear it, nor are they going to be asked to do so. The Budget that was criticised so severely by Deputy Good and Deputies of his sort on the benches opposite will find the revenue required, not from the farming community, who are not able to bear it, but from that portion of the community who can afford it, such as Deputy Good and others of his ilk.

Deputy Dillon also said, I think, that the farming community would have to bear the cost of this. The reply that I have made to Deputy Good extends to him. He said that it was not fair to draw a parallel between the civil servant who receives a pension and the farmer or labourer down the country who will receive a pension under this Bill when it becomes an Act. I entirely disagree with him. I maintain that the farmers and the labourers whose production and work contribute in such a large degree to maintain the services of this State, if they are forced to produce at an uneconomic price and to live on the standard of living far below what is regarded as decent in any of the services referred to here, should at least, out of their own resources, get something, small though it be, in the form of a pension such as is contained in this Bill.

The improvement in this Bill is welcomed by the farming community, despite Deputy Good's opposite opinion. It is welcomed by them as a good thing, because they know the value of that service in their own homes or in their neighbour's homes, and I say that this Bill should be interpreted widely enough, that every person in this country who has worked up to the age of 70, be he labourer or farmer, should get a pension at the end of that service, and that that should be a first consideration and not a secondary consideration to any other service. Deputy Dillon believes that the money will come back to the agriculturists in the country, and will be a sort of recompense, or reward, for the sum of money that the agriculturist is going to pay through tariffs. I do not believe that the agriculturist is going to pay any such sum through tariffs. Personally, I do not believe that he need pay an extra penny in tariffs, because he can buy Irish manufactured goods, and if he does so, he will pay very little in tariffs. I suggest that the sum of money required to finance this service will come out of the economies that are being effected by the Government, and that out of these economies, there will be saved enough to carry through this essential service.

I do not like people to become alarmed over things they have not seriously considered, or, if they have considered them, have considered them from a partisan point of view, and to come and ask this House to consider their individual point of view as opposed to that of the general community. I believe, as I say, that Deputy Good is, at least, honest in his criticisms. Deputy Wolfe, when he appeals to the Minister to interpret this Act generously, is certainly not speaking his honest opinion. I heard him, not much more than six months ago, in this House, denounce, in the strongest possible manner, an amendment introduced by the present Parliamentary Secretary to provide facilities to enable old age pensioners to have their case put in the best form before the Appeals Officer in the Local Government Department. He opposed that as wrong, and he was bigoted in his opposition, and now, when this Bill is introduced, despite his opposition, he is not satisfied with its contents which are certainly generous, as compared with the Bill it amends, and he wants it to be more generously interpreted. That is his appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary. That sort of criticism and approval is the sort that is misleading and of no use.

This Bill, I repeat, is a useful Bill, and it is a good Bill. Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister responsible, have not been able to include all the classes that I am sure they would like to have included, and the classes that we would all like to have included. These are the cases that are just as deserving as the cases of the blind people or the old age pensioners—the mentally defective, and chronic invalids. These are people who should have this social service, but I am sure that it is not the will that has prevented their inclusion, but the resources available. With this Bill, wide as it is, I think the least that we could expect would be, at least, a cessation of that mock hypocrisy of asking for a wider interpretation. The Bill satisfies the general farming community and for that reason I approve of it.

There are two aspects of this Bill, at least, that appeal to me. One—the major one, so far as my constituency is concerned—is the inducement held out to fathers and mothers, to assign their lands to some one or other of their sons. If this Bill did nothing else, irrespective of its other provisions, I would approve of that aspect of it, so far as many areas in my constituency are concerned. I have observed, in going around that constituency, entire townlands, in which the major portion of a large family has remained at home, while the father still persists in clinging on to the legal title to the piece of land. He dies ultimately between the age of 70 and 80, and the entire family is left without any settlement or arrangement. When the father dies, equity proceedings are brought to apportion the shares, and the whole thing winds up in law costs, and nothing is left for the next-of-kin.

If this Bill acts as an inducement or a tonic to the old men to part with their title, I welcome it, and I think it will have that effect. If it has that tonic effect, it will mean that large tracts of quasi-barren land, which, by the industry of generations, have been made to produce something in the nature of crops, will be prevented from becoming derelict. I can visualise large areas of County Donegal which, in fifty years' time would have gone barren again, if this did not take place, because what would happen is, that while three or four sons remain at home, the father retains the legal title to the holding, and when the father dies, none of the sons would get anything, and there they would remain until they all died of old age, and the homestead toppled down and all the land became waste. That may appear, perhaps, an extravagant statement, but I assure the House it is absolutely correct.

The second part of which I approve —and I am open to conviction as to whether or not the distinction should be drawn—is the question of means. In a constituency like mine, you have perhaps industrious families, the members of which, owing to economic conditions at home, had to strike out for themselves. You have the case of one family which had an adventurous spirit, and which struck out, and made good, and the parents, out of money which their children sent home, renovated their existing house or built a new house—a house, in many cases, completely out of proportion to the size and value of the holding. When the old people became of age to qualify for a pension, and applied for that pension, the pension officer, knowing the house, which has been provided through the generosity and good-will of their children, in America, perhaps, comes to the conclusion that these people are in comfortable circumstances, and lodges an appeal against the decision of the Pensions Committee to grant the application, knowing the actual conditions of the household. In many cases, it is very difficult to dislodge that appeal. In County Donegal, there are thousands of cases where that applies, and if this Bill abolishes that line of demarcation and that handicap, I welcome it.

There has been a lot of muddleheaded talk here with regard to the conduct of the Old Age Pensions Department. I do not know whether Deputy Dillon was actually talking about that Department, or whether he was dreaming, but I say that it is not fair to make this onslaught on civil servants in this House, when they are precluded from defending themselves, and I join with Deputy Wolfe in saying that, in any contact I had with that Department, when I had a reasonable case that convinced myself, I was able to convince the officer, and any time I have not a case that would convince myself, I do not want to convince anybody. I must say that I have put forward cases of the kind Deputy Dillon referred to and succeeded, and I cannot say that in any case I put forward to the Department there has been any cause for complaint by reason of the attitude of the officials. I want to put that on record as against what Deputy Dillon says. In so far as the small farmer in County Donegal is offered an inducement to assign his land to one of his sons, and to give him the right to this quasi-barren land, and in so far as the line of demarcation that was previously drawn is cleared away, I approve of this measure.

If there is anything that will cause a wave of rejoicing throughout the whole country it is the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary on this Bill. A very great tribute has been paid to the Parliamentary Secretary, because those who voted against this Bill when it was introduced two years ago are now silent. When I heard Deputy McMenamin speaking I was wondering if he accepted all the implications of the policy of the Cumann na nGaedhael Party when he was standing as a candidate at the General Election, seeing that that Party, after this House voting for the Bill, refused to find the money to relieve old age pensioners. This Bill will undoubtedly benefit the farmers and I am glad that there is a Government in power that is going to give them fair play, despite the wails of the Chambers of Commerce as echoed by Deputy Good. The Deputy stated that the country could not afford this measure. We heard the same thing before, and particularly that the agricultural community could not afford it. Deputy Good represents a County Dublin constituency, and I would remind him that he supported here proposals to give pensions to individuals who are not as badly off as the farming community. At that period Deputy Good did not show any sympathy with the poor farmers and say that they could not bear this extra burden. We did not hear that proposal from Deputy Good when the Military Service Pensions Act was being passed, or when the Act giving pensions to civil servants was being passed. Not a word did the Deputy say then about how he felt.

I did not vote for the Military Service Pensions Act.

You were missing. I call the attention of Deputy Good to these matters, and I would remind him that he consistently supported the Government that gave Military Service Pensions. Pensions, superannuation, and retired allowances amount to something like £2,000,000 yearly. It is about time the state of affairs was ended when the ferrets—I cannot describe them as anything else—were going around the constituencies.

I think it is about time you called a halt.

It is about time we turned to the money bags of someone other than the farmers. I can assure Deputy Good that his turn will come. Anybody who has been in any way connected with the administration of old age pensions during the last few years will welcome this Bill. They will be glad the time is ended when a gentleman visits a poor old man to find out how many hens he had, how many eggs they laid, and inquires if he got any money at Christmas from his son in America. At the end, the man would nearly be persuaded that the cocks would lay. It is rather amazing that in the whole House only two Die-hards raised their voices against this measure, Deputy Good and the ex-Minister for Local Government. Deputy Mulcahy, who, whether he likes it or not, was a member of a Government that refused to provide the money for this Bill two years ago. Of course Deputy Good represents the old Diehard class, and will never be converted. I ask Deputy Good, as he was a fairly consistent supporter of the last Government, to remember the actions of that Government, and to remember that any farmer or man who works on the land up to seventy years of ago is much more entitled to a pension than a civil servant, no matter who he may be. Work on the land is tougher and the hours longer than in the civil service. It is only last year that I saw the system that was being adopted to prevent an agricultural labourer, on reaching 70 years of age, getting the pension. In this instance a gentleman came round in a motor car and inquired if the labourer had worked anywhere during the previous twelve months, what he was paid, and whether he got food and lodgings and an ounce of tobacco on Saturday night. The value was totted up and, between the food the man got from the farmer, the couple of shillings he got once in a while, and the ounce of tobacco, it was decided that he was only entitled to a pension of 6/- That was the state of affairs under the régime of the late Government, which was supported by Deputy Good. I am sure the country, is glad as I am, that that régime is finished. If there is one thing that we can congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on it is, that, within three months of this Government coming into office, he is carrying out the, pledges that were given to the old age pensioners. I am glad that the House practically unanimously endorses these pledges, considering the fate that the Bill introduced two years ago met with, preventing old age pensioners getting their right, and considering the fact that the Executive Council of those days, which refused to find the money, went out of office rather than give any relief to the poorest section of the community.

As one who supported the Bill introduced by the present Parliamentary Secretary when he was a Deputy, I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill. It follows, more or less, along the lines of the one which was then introduced and is, I feel, an attempt to deal in an equitable and in a generous way with a very deserving class of the community. It removes very many anomalies which were present in the old Acts and I believe will have the whole-hearted backing of the citizens of the State. One would think by the way some Deputies have spoken that when this Bill becomes law no inquiries whatever will have to be made into the circumstances of an applicant for the old age pension. I am in entire sympathy with the Bill, and I intend to support it in all its Stages, but I want to get rid of the false impression that must be pretty generally accepted in this House—if I am to judge by the speeches recently delivered—that when the Bill becomes law no inquiries whatever will be made, and all that an applicant will have to do will be to walk up to the pension officer or the Pension Committee and state that he is 70 years or over, and, hey presto, the money will come from some unknown source and everything in the garden will be lovely. That is a kind of criticism that one would not expect from a House constituted as this is. I deprecate that kind of criticism because it gives a very false impression to the country. I fear many people will be disappointed when they go to look for pensions if the class of speech to which we have listened is delivered at the cross roads. I have said that this Bill attempts to deal in an equitable way with a deserving class. I will mention at random one section, the young man or woman upon whom was cast the grave responsibility of supporting an aged parent. I want the Parliamentary Secretary, to make that perfectly clear in the Statute. I hope that there will be no ambiguity about it. Where an aged parent has a son with the sense of filial affection so well developed that he is prepared to maintain the old person, the cost of maintenance does not debar that old person from getting the old age pension. The Parliamentary Secretary has made the matter fairly clear, but I should like to see it freed of all ambiguity. That was one of the greatest blots on the old Act.

Another feature of this Bill will be welcome to many thrifty persons. Many persons make provision, through the medium of trade unions and other agencies, such as insurance companies, for benefits or allowances when they reach a certain age. In the majority of cases, they are struggling workmen or workwomen who pinch and scrape to make provision for old age. Under the old Act, if the sum payable amounted to 10/- or 12/- weekly, a person of 70 years of age would get only a small allowance up to about 6/-. I understand that the effect of this Bill will be that the person who is thrifty enough to make provision for himself to the extent of 8/- or 10/- a week will not be debarred from receiving the full pension of 10/- when he reaches the eligible age. Another useful feature of the Bill is the extension of the pension to blind persons of 30 years of age. I came across many cases of blind persons who were forced to enter county homes or unions, as they were then called. They were unable to follow their usual occupation owing to early blindness. In many industries here, men and women lose their sight quickly. This is so in the tailoring and lace-making industries. Many persons engaged in those industries become blind very early in life or their sight becomes so imperfect that they are unable to follow their usual avocations. Those people have to be maintained by the community, somehow, and I think that this is an attempt to enable those people to live in some kind of decency and to maintain their self-respect rather than to have them seeking entry to the county homes. There are many features of the Bill with which I should like to deal, but I do not want to delay the House. The section dealing with assignment of farms should have very useful effects in many directions but, particularly, in the direction of encouraging members of the farming community to marry at an earlier age than at that which they are marrying at present. There is an abnormal number of bachelor farmers. They are precluded from marriage until a very late age, the result being that there are numbers of women widowed at an early age, sometimes with young families. That is not a desirable state of affairs in this or in any other country. The fear is ever-present with the old people that if they make over the farm to one of their sons they will be no longer masters in their own house. This measure is calculated to relieve that position somewhat and to lead to a reduction of the number of bachelor farmers.

I welcome the Bill, as I welcomed the former measure introduced by the Minister. I hope that it will get the support of the majority of the House. The kind of criticism directed against members of the House, who may be as sincere as the Parliamentary Secretary and as sincere as I am in supporting this measure, is not helpful. It should not be said that members of the Opposition who intend to vote for this measure are acting with motives other than those of the best interests of the country. If we are to be told that members support this or that measure because of political considerations at times of election, it will not be good for politics nor will it be good for the tone of the debates in this House.

Seán Ua Guilidhe

Ar son na sean daoine sa nGaeltacht, ag a mbeidh seans an pinsean d'fháil anois, cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo. Tá ceist amháin ná fuil réidhtithe go fóill. Tá sé ana-dheacair dos na sean daoine seo, as Gaillimh agus as Ciarraighe, teistiméaracht d'fháil i dtaobh an aois atá acu. Níl aon chuntas ar fáil san áit in ar rugadh iad agus níl aon rolla scoile ar fáil ach oiread. Mar gheall air sin, bíonn na seandaoine seo i geruadh-chás. Ní bhíonn siad in ann beirt eile d'fhail mar fhiadhnaisi. Conus is féidir leis na daoine seo an pinsean d'fháil? Dubhairt an Teachta de Bhulbh go mba chóir daoine a chur go dti an chomharsanacht chun iad d'fheiceál. Níl aon dabht ná go bhfuigheadh siad an pinsean da ndéanfaí sin. Duine ar bith a bhfuil aithne aige ar na daoine seo, tá sé sásta go bhfuil an aois cheart acu ach níl siad in ánn testiméaracht d'fháil. Dubhairt Teachta eile go mbeadh seanduine in ánn an pinsean d'fháil anois gidh go mbeadh a mhuinntir compórdach agus saidhbhir go leor. Ní dóich liom go mba cheart sin. Ní dóich liom go mba cheart pinsean do thabhairt do shean-duine atá, in a chomhnuidhe le n-a mhuinntir i mBaile Atha Cliath fhad agus atá na daoine seo saidhbhir——

Caidé an deifriocht atá idir Baile Atha Cliath agus Port Lairge, maidir leis sin?

Seán Ua Guilidhe

Níl aon deifriocht idir Port Lairge no Corcaigh agus Baile Atha Cliath. Ní dó liom go mba cheart an pinsean a thabhairt dos na daoine seo in áit ar bith.

I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill, and I welcome it for the help that it gives with regard to such things as the question of means. Those of us who have been connected with old-age pension committees have experienced very considerable difficulty in getting over the impediments put forward by local pensions officers in connection with deciding what are the correct means whereby to estimate an applicant's right to an old-age pension. I must candidly say that the impediments that have been placed in the way and the value put on means have certainly been illuminating from our point of view. Every impediment that could possibly have been put on a person getting an old-age pension has usually been put by the local pensions officer when overruling the views of the local sub-committee. An old woman living in a labourer's cottage has been debarred because she did not happen to be the mother of the occupant. The god father of a small farmer's wife has been debarred because the estimate of means carried him beyond what was laid down by the regulations as interpreted by the local pensions officer. This Bill is certainly giving a very elastic interpretation to the question of means. I believe that it is rectifying what was undoubtedly a grave injustice to those people in denying them the right which they were morally bound to get under the Act of Parliament. Blind people who are debarred by their affliction from earning their livelihood deserve our greatest sympathy. I think this Bill is removing a very great disability under which many of these people laboured in connection with the question of means.

I think that that part of the Bill which deals with the question of the farmer who would be induced to assign his farm to his son requires the exercise of the greatest caution. In a great many cases farmers put their eldest son to work—they get him a position. These sons are a very great help either in keeping the farmer in his farm or educating the younger brothers. I have not come across the difficulties enumerated by other speakers with regard to them, although I daresay they are as eager to retain their farms—refusing to go out and let the younger generation take possession of their holdings—as a shopkeeper is to retain his shop. I feel that this is one part of the Bill in regard to which caution should be exercised, as it would be most liable to abuse. At this time when agriculture is subject to such disabilities I can foresee that a very large number of farmers, even those holding large farms, would be very likely to hand over their farms, in order to get another 10/- per week added to the income of the household at the expense of the State. We have an aged population very much out of proportion to the younger generation in this country owing to the tremendous volume of emigration in the past, and I think we would be very wise to explore very carefully that side of the Bill and insert certain safeguards.

I know one case where an elder brother of a small farmer was denied an old age pension because the estimate of the pensions officer was very much exaggerated with regard to the means. I think that this Bill will be of great help in such cases. There will also undoubtedly be a very great amount of good done in the case of an old age pensioner who has to enter a county home or hospital in giving him the right when he comes out to get his old age pension again. It will certainly be an act of justice and Christian charity and it ought to be welcomed by everyone. Even if it involves a little more taxation, it will certainly help the rates and certainly help to do what I believe to be right.

There has been a good deal of criticism of civil servants receiving pensions. I think the two cases are not exactly on all-fours. It would be impossible to hand over every section of the community to the rates and taxes for pensions. If we did we probably would have to tax the community very much beyond the extent to which we are taxing them to-day. The reduction of the age of the blind person for pension meets with my approval, and I believe it is a step in the right direction. However much we may have to increase our taxes we have to do this act of common justice.

There is another side of the Bill and that is that in the past those in receipt of pensions from the British Government, for certain considerations, were debarred from getting old age pensions because of the size of the allowance that was given them in respect of certain losses that they had sustained. That I believe was a wrong principle, and I believe it could be rectified in the Bill it would be a great act of justice. I do not think any of us that have to do with the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act could fail to be gratified at the assistance this Bill is going to give in obtaining for those entitled to the benefit of the Old Age Pensions Act the privileges to which they are entitled. I think the fact, that after a long life of usefulness in the State those people are being remembered and helped, is something that every one of us will welcome. I for one heartily welcome the Bill for the help it gives.

I welcome this Bill as a measure that will alleviate the sufferings, privations and hardships of a large number of people in their old age. It seemed to me that there was something wanting in the previous Old Age Pension Acts to make them the success they were intended to be. As far as I can see, this Bill will, to a very great degree, remove these defects. As regards pensions for blind persons of 30 and over I think that the phrase "so blind that they are not able to earn their living at their ordinary occupations" is the only one that is justifiable. I do not wish to go into details on the Bill except to say that I approve of it, and I am sure if the financial circumstances permitted it there would be a greater degree of support to the aged. I hope to see the day when an arrangement between the Department of Local Government and the National Insurance Societies will be arrived at whereby every person not able to earn his own livelihood will receive a pension at 65 years of age.

I want to make a few remarks, particularly because some Deputies challenged the direct representatives of the farmers as to what their attitude upon this Bill is. As one who has experience on pension committees I would say this: this Bill is removing a barrier that is depriving and has deprived a good many deserving applicants from the relief they are entitled to. It will certainly put an extra burden on the taxes but I am quite satisfied that the advantages which will accrue will more than counteract that. The only thing I ask is that in the Committee Stage of this Bill care would be taken that it should not be left open to any one to take advantage of the taxpayers. I welcome principally the provision in this Bill which gives independence to the poor, unfortunate person who has to seek the county home or the hospital, and at the same time comes to the assistance of the ratepayer. I welcome this Bill in its entirety. As a direct representative of the farming community I say it is supplying a long felt want and I believe that whatever sacrifices the farmers have to make in the way of extra contribution will be more than counterbalanced by the good that will result from this Bill when it becomes an Act.

I support this Bill but I wish to impress if possible upon the Parliamentary Secretary the delay which occurs in the case of applicants. Now that this Bill will bring about a dual departmental system in which the Departments of Local Government and Finance will be in a way interlocked I suggest that may cause more delay. I suggest to the Minister that he might use his influence in the Committee Stage to make this a purely departmental affair under the direction of the Minister for Local Government.

It is pleasant to hear the approval with which this Bill has been received on all sides of the House. At the same time, it should not be necessary for us to emphasise our approval except for the fact that Deputy Corry would tell us that if we remain silent we should be showing signs of a guilty conscience with regard to the administration of this Act. On the other hand, Deputy Maguire tells us that if we approve of it in an outspoken manner our approval is either hyprocisy or is misleading. At the expense perhaps of offending both these Deputies, I wish to approve of the Bill on behalf of a portion of the country where its advantages will be very great and where it will be very well received. Its cost will have to be borne by another portion of the community. I say on behalf of that portion who will have to pay the cost that they will be very glad to do so because they will feel that the advantages that will accrue from the Bill will more than compensate for the expense that it will entail.

We have been told here this evening that approval of this Bill means approval of the terms of the Budget. I do not see that there is any connection. I do not see that one proposition is the converse of the other. I maintain that whatever party came into power and would be in power and whatever Budget would be brought in or whatever financial regulations would have to be made for the administration, of this State for the next twelve months, this Bill would be necessary because the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act has come to such a degree that it is overloaded and bristling with objections and disadvantages for those who should be in receipt of the old age pension. You will see that the Parliamentary Secretary has found it necessary to frame this Bill practically altogether on amendments. That shows us that in the past the old age pensions have not been administered with sympathy towards the deserving class that it was intended to relieve. I have been connected with the administration of old age pensions for nearly a quarter of a century—since they were first instituted. Originally, the Bill was brought in for the purpose of providing pensions for those who had attained the age of 70, after working until they were no longer able to work. I think that every amendment that was brought in since was brought in for the express purpose of preventing those needy and deserving people from getting relief. I think, on that account, that this Bill comes at a very opportune time. It is intended to bring this Act back to what it was originally intended to be, to bring relief to the most deserving class of our people who have worked hard and who are unable to work any longer. It is necessary to emphasise the word "deserving" because whatever you do there will be undeserving persons who will try to avail of the clauses of it. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will see that the Bill will in no way cover the claims of those who will be undeserving and who may have deliberately deprived themselves of their own means in order to get the pension. There is a class in the community who I am sure at all times are only too ready to avail of such Acts as this.

During the debate to-day there was a good deal of criticism of the present administration. Some of it was levelled at the pensions officers. I think if there is any charge to be levelled at the pensions officers it is owing to the fact that they were tied up by restrictions, and any blame there may be cannot fairly be attributed to them. I think they did their best in most difficult circumstances, and often went to a very great deal of trouble, outside their official duties, to help claimants in getting the pension.

With regard to the notices that Deputy Morrissey suggested should be put up in certain offices, I think that case would be met by the issue of instructions to the pension officers and the Old Age Pension Committees.

Another matter that I might raise here is that in some cases old age pensions were granted to people over 70 and it was found after some time that some mistake had been made in the granting of them. These old people were brought before a Court on charges of fraud, and orders for the recovery of these sums were made. In cases of that kind, if not in all cases, I think very often the trouble was due to some technical error by the Committee or the pension officer. I think in future these cases should not be pursued. I think the Bill on the whole is a good one, and if it is worked properly it will do very much to smooth the administration of the Act as it was originally intended, and to provide for a deserving and helpless portion of our population who had worked hard, and who were unable to provide for themselves when they could no longer work.

Táthar tar éis an oiread san a rá i dtaobh an Bhille seo cheana féin ná fuil puinn fágtha agam-sa le rá. Ach tá cúpla puínte ba mhaith liom a chur os cóir an Tighe. Nuair a bhí an Tóghachán Generálta ar siúl, bhí daoine ag gabháil timpeal na tíre á rá leis na daoine, dá gcuirtí Fianna Fáil isteach, go gcaillfeadh na daoine a gcuid pinsean sean-aoise. Ní mar sin atá an scéal anois, agus tá áthas orm a chur in úil do sna seandaoine seo go mbeidh feabhas mór ar an scéal. Is mór an tairbhe dhéanfaidh an Bille seo do mhuintir na tíre, go mór mór do mhuintir Chiarraighe mar gheall ar an méid daoine atá ansan go mbeidh neart dóibh pinsean d'fháil fén mBille seo nuair a bheidh sé ina dhlí. Is mór an congnamh a thabharfa sé do sna daoine seo. Táimíd go léir ag súil leis an am go mbeidh an Rialtas ábalta ar phinsin do thabhairt do dhaoine nuair a bheid cúig bliana is trí fichid, agus tá súil agam nách fada go bhféadfaimíd cógháirdeachas a dhéanamh leis an Rialtas mar gheall ar é dhéanamh ach tá a lán constaicí rompa fós. Dubhairt an Teachta O Néill ná raibh aon bhaint ag an mBille seo, agus ag an mBudget le na chéile. Deirim-se go ghfuil, mar beidh ar an Aire Airgid an t-airgead is gá i gcóir costaisí an Bhille seo a sholáthar.

Traosluím leis an Rialtas nua agus leis an Rúnaí Páirliminte mar gheall ar an mBille seo a chur os cóir na Dála. Cuirfe sé glionndar ar chroidhthibh Gaedheal agus taisbeánann sé gur ar son na mbocht agus gnáth-dhaoine na tíre atá Rialtas Fianna Fáil ag obair agus nách ar son na daoine ngustalach go bhfuil a ndóithin acu cheana.

There are a few blemishes in previous Old Age Pension Acts that I do not think the provisions of this Bill are going to remove. For instance, the value of maintenance was always considered against an applicant even though the person is maintained in the house of some person who is no blood relation at all. Their maintenance there was taken at a certain assessed value and their claim to a pension was lessened accordingly. I see nothing in this Bill to remedy that. I do not know whether this is the proper place to do it.

The Deputy is arguing on a wrong assumption. The section by which free maintenance is taken into consideration is being completely repealed.

If it is repealed I will be very pleased. There is another matter. It is the case of two or three people on a small farm who have reached the age of 70. Although the vesting order has been made out in the name of one member of the family and he is in possession for 37 or 38 years, the rest of the family are debarred because of the means clause. I say it is an evasion of the terms of the Act. It may not be possible to remove that disability in the case of one person but certainly it ought not to apply to any of the others. A man is in possession for 37 or 38 years. A vesting order is in his possession for 20 or 21 years. Still every member of his family would have, according to the pensions authority, an equal claim to the means derived from this smallholding. I say that is cruel, and if this Bill removes it I welcome it for that alone if for nothing else. I do not see, however, where it is done.

A Chinn Comhairle, it is a very pleasant task to conclude the debate on a Bill that has been received with such general approval as the Bill at present before the House. For all practical purposes, there has not been any real opposition to the Bill. There were two or three Deputies who made some kind of a case against it, but I think it could be observed that they were more or less halting about the case, and they did not have their heart in it. I presume some people in this House have to take up the position of opposing certain measures whether they approve of them or not. In the course of Deputy Mulcahy's remarks on the Bill, he complained that this particular class of the community absorbed one-eighth of the tax revenue. That may or may not be so, but I am not particularly impressed by, that. When one considers the amount of tax revenue absorbed by the old age pensioner class in this country, one must also take into consideration the contributions that that particular class of the community makes towards State revenue, and I think it will be generally agreed that the class affected by this Bill contribute at least three-fourths of the tax revenue of this country, and in that way I think they are morally entitled to a retiring allowance when they have reached the time of life when they are no longer able to earn a living.

Deputy Mulcahy was critical of the effects of the repeal of Section 7 of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1924. I think that on Wednesday night, and again to-day, I dealt with the effects of Section 7 in considerable detail. Under Section 7 a farmer could assign his farm regardless of the valuation or size of the farm, and after a period of three years the income from that farm would cease to be taken into consideration in calculating his means. That is the law at the present time. What this Bill proposes to do is to remove the three years' limit so that if a farmer does will or assign his farm he will not have to wait three years after assigning, until he is 73 years of age, before that farm would cease to be taken into consideration. It appears to me, apart altogether from the other arguments advanced regarding the right of a farmer to retire from business after his 70 years of contribution to the State service in taxation, direct or indirect, that the son, who, by the time the old man has reached 70 years, has himself reached the age of 35 or 40 years and has worked on the farm for a period of 20 or 25 years, and has given his labour free—it seems to me that the son has established a moral claim on that holding that would be sufficient to buy out the average holding, and that the old man when he has reached that age has thereby to a great extent forfeited his moral claim—at any rate, to a considerable amount of the income from the holding.

Deputy Mulcahy complains that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent a mother maintained by her son from drawing a pension. Well, there is not. There is no intention of preventing this. That is the very case that Deputy Gorey referred to where the father and mother remain on in the holding after it has been assigned and they are still maintained by the son. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that. As a matter of fact, the Bill has been deliberately aimed at securing that the free maintenance that is at the present time taken into consideration in estimating the means of a claimant, will cease to be taken into consideration. At the present time, if a farmer assigns his place to his son and remains on under the roof, the benefit or privilege of remaining under the roof will accrue to him. And though he has no legal right to be there, though he is there by virtue of sentimental ties binding a son to his parents and not by any legal claim that benefit or privilege is estimated at being worth so much per week ranging from 10/- to £1 of income. That, I think, is the most far-reaching section in this new Bill—the repeal of paragraph (d) of the Act of 1911 that up to the present has operated to take into consideration charity and free maintenance.

Deputy Mulcahy said that the amount spent on old age pensions in County Donegal would represent, I think he said 11/11 in the £ of rates.

About that, yes.

And 13/- odd in Mayo. That appears to me to be an indication of the poverty of the people in Donegal and Mayo. Under the present Bill I believe and hope that in these poor counties where there are so many small holdings and where free maintenance would no longer be taken into consideration the amount per head of the population in these areas that will be spent on old ago pensions will be considerably increased. I would like to point out in that connection to Deputy Mulcahy and Deputy Good and the other Deputies in the House that the effect of this Bill merely brings about a distribution of the country's resources.

Three hundred thousand, four hundred thousand, or half-a-million pounds in the year—whatever the sum may be, we are not able to estimate it with any degree of accuracy at present-that money is going to be distributed amongst the poorer section of the community. It is going to be taken from the people who can afford to part with it, namely, the people who will now pay 5/- in the pound income tax and the people who will pay super-tax. The Deputy, of course, will not like that, but the destitution which now exists amongst the poor must be relieved and the people who can afford the burden of relieving that destitution will have to shoulder that burden. I might mention in connection with this expenditure that the money will not be hoarded, and it will not go out of the country. The 10/- a week that certain people will get as a result of the Bill will be spent in this country, and will be spent on providing the necessaries of life for those pensioners, their dependents, or the children of their dependents.

A point has been mentioned about the possibility of mutual relations between the Free State area and the Six-County area. The fact is that we have not had any such relations up to the present regarding old age pensions. Any person can come into the Twentysix County area and can claim a pension, but a person going from the Free State into the Six-County area could not make such a claim. It is merely to regularise the position that this question of residence and nationality has been brought into the Bill.

Deputy Morrissey makes the complaint that the Bill is largely legislation by reference. That is so and I suppose the time is approaching when, if there are many further Amending Acts to the old age pensions code, a codifying measure will be necessary. Short of a codifying measure any Old Age Pension Bill must be naturally legislation by reference. I think Deputy Morrissey also made the point that the thrifty man who has amassed or saved a certain amount of money and put it into banks or otherwise invested it, is going to be penalised or that he is penalised under the existing law. Apparently he is under the impression that we are going to penalise him under this Bill. I do not think Deputy Morrissey has read all the sections of the Bill very carefully. Under the section of the Bill that deals with this particular class, the section that alters the method of calculating means in the case of money or property invested or capable of investment; at the present time, such property or such income is estimated to be one-tenth of the capital value after setting aside a sum of £25. We propose under this Bill to take one-twentieth of the capital value of such money so that instead of such income being calculated at the rate of 10 per cent. under the Bill, it will be calculated at the rate of 5 per cent., so that the accumulation of a couple of hundred pounds by a thrifty man, the accumulation of, say, £200 will not operate to deprive him of a pension under this Bill.

I think it was Deputy Morrissey also raised the question of the status of pension clerks. The status of pension clerks is at present under consideration and on the question of remuneration, so far as I am aware, pension clerks are now being put on a salaried basis and the other basis of remuneration is being discontinued. The question of secret instructions does not arise under this Bill. I think it was Deputy Morrissey referred to that. I am not aware that there is any reality in the phantom of the mysterious instructions alleged to be given to pension officers, but I think if there are such mysterious instructions Deputy Morrissey will have to tackle the Minister for Finance on that particular issue. There is not any doubt that appeals in future will be much fewer than in the past because we are removing by this Bill all the clauses that have created confusion in the minds of pension officers and claimants. The result of the Bill will be to simplify the administration of the old age pensions laws, and I anticipate that the necessity for appeals will be very greatly diminished and that the number of appeals will be considerably less after the Bill is in operation for a short time.

I believe that Deputy Good in his heart feels some sympathy with the old age pensioners. He complains here that we cannot afford to do the things that we would like to do. I assume from that that Deputy Good would really like to be more generous to the old age pensioners but that he feels that we cannot afford to be more generous. If it comes to that, it is a matter of making up our minds as to whom we can afford to be generous. The Deputy says that there are other classes in the community, the people he represents here, and he would naturally stand up for them, the people who pay income tax and super-tax and, I presume, the members of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, who deserve consideration. He thinks we should be careful of their interests. Frankly I am more concerned with the people affected by this Bill, the poor and the old age pensioners, and if anybody has to go to the wall, as I said before—I do not know if Deputy Good was here then—if anybody has to go to the wall in finding the finances for the Bill, the people who least feel the sacrifice are the people who will be called upon to make it.

Deputy Good talks about the agricultural position being depressed. We all agree with Deputy Good in that. He says that the agricultural community cannot carry the burden, but the two most far-reaching clauses in this Bill are meant to secure and will in actual operation secure, that a very considerable sum of money will be taken from people who are not agriculturists and distributed amongst the agricultural community by allowing the farmers to assign their farms to their children and by taking out the clause whereby free maintenance on the farmstead is counted as income for old age pension purposes.

Portion of it will have to be borne by the agricultural community.

Take over the super-tax.

Yes, and the income tax. Deputy Murphy raised some other questions that could be more appropriately raised on the Estimates, questions of over-payments and the question of evidence of age, but at any rate I think it will be admitted that so far as old age pensions appeals are concerned on the ground of age, any reasonable evidence of age, anything that will indicate in a reasonable manner that a person has reached the statutory age, is being accepted and has been accepted in the Appeals Department and will continue to be accepted.

Deputy Dillon hopes that later, on the Committee Stage, there will be some amendment that will mitigate the sweeping effect of the means test. I do not know if Deputy Dillon understands the natural consequential reactions of this Bill any more than Deputies who have no knowledge of the law. Means will still be taken into consideration. This Bill does not propose that old age pensions should be awarded in future regardless of whether people have means or have not. Means will still be taken into consideration, but charity will no longer be taken into consideration, nor will the things that a person gets, the various benefits and privileges such as free food, clothing and shelter, be taken into consideration. Income will be taken into consideration, income from cash, income from investments and anything that can be looked upon as constituting income in the ordinary common-sense interpretation of the term.

Deputy Dillon has also mentioned the question of accepting school records and affidavits as evidence of age. School records are accepted as evidence of age unless there is something extracted from a school record that would go to indicate that such school record could not be relied upon. School records very often operate against a claimant for the reason that children were registered considerably younger in school records than they actually were as a general rule. When you find such obvious inconsistencies in a school register as that two children were born in the same family within a period of six months of each other, then obviously that school register cannot be relied upon. Deputy Anthony was worried that the means test was being abolished. I think that between this and the Committee Stage, when the Deputy gets a better opportunity of studying the clause, he may realise that we have not put an end to, or abolished, the means test.

Deputy Goulding seems to have been worried on the same point. He was enquiring whether anyone cannot get a pension. It is not true that anyone can get a pension, and when Deputy Goulding begins to advocate the giving of pensions in the County Waterford he will realise that we have not been so sweeping in our amendments as he seems to think. Deputy Brooke Brasier is terribly upset about Section 7. He apparently does not understand the section. I would not blame him for not understanding Section 7, but he does not even understand what the effect of repealing Section 7 would be. He warns us that we will require to approach the administration of old age pensions law with great caution if section 7 is taken out of the old age pensions law. Deputy Brooke Brasier should realise that we are not compelling any farmer to assign his farm at the present time. We are not compelling him to hand it over to his son, but we are providing that if he wants to hand it over to his son he will not have to wait three years in order to qualify for a pension. At the present time, as has been pointed out repeatedly in the course of the debate though apparently it has not sunk in, a farmer can assign his farm and if he waits three years after the assignment he can apply for a pension without having the income from the farm taken into consideration in calculating his means. What we are now doing is to enable such a farmer without having to wait for three years to assign his farm and apply right away. He can divest himself of his property for family reasons or for other reasons other than purely to enable him to apply for an old age pension. Deputy O'Neill was telling us that any Government would have introduced an Old Age Pensions Bill such as this. So far the debate had been conducted, as one would like to see a debate such as this conducted, and the Bill has been examined and approached purely on its merits, and we had to wait for Deputy O'Neill to introduce a political element. When Deputy O'Neill does that we must reply in his own way and we must point out to him how a much less far-reaching Bill was introduced in this House and passed in this House, and that the Government of the day, the Government of the Party to which Deputy O'Neill is now attached resigned rather than give effect to the terms of that Bill. And it is nonsense for Deputy O'Neill to come in now and try to cover up his political face, to make political capital out of it and say that he cannot oppose this Bill. It is going to be carried whether Deputy O'Neill opposes it or not. Deputy Gorey raised two points. He understands the position now in reference to the first point he raised.

The other point he raised was that if there were three members of a family to one of whom the place had been willed and if the person to whom the place had been willed did not take out probate, then no one of the three could get the old age pension in such a case. The only possible explanation of that would appear to be the interpretation that is given to paragraph (d), namely, that account shall be taken of any privilege or benefit enjoyed by the claimant. The free maintenance that was extended to the other two members of the family by the person benefiting under the will was estimated as being worth so much that neither was entitled to an old age pension under the existing enactments if that interpretation is correct. Under the present Bill both those old people who did not own the place, but who lived with the person who did own it, would become entitled to pensions.

In the absence of the will or in the absence of being able to produce the will.

In the absence of any will and of evidence that the place belonged to any particular member of the family, in all probability each would be credited with one-third of the estimated income from the holding.

They would have to be, as a matter of law.

It would have to be a very big holding that, when divided into three parts, would deprive all of them of the old age pension.

The Parliamentary Secretary did not reply to my question in reference to sub-section (3) of Section 2: Whether a man who had been away say for fifty years in America and who had contributed some small sum annually to some dependent here could come back at the end of that time and claim a pension.

I am sorry that I overlooked that point raised by Deputy Good. Apparently Deputy Good is on new and strange ground in a discussion about old age pensions. Deputy Good is altogether unaware of the fact that this very enactment is a repetition of the existing law. This very enactment of which he complained has been the law since the first Old Age Pensions. Act was passed and a person who, while in America had contributed to the upkeep of a dependent relative here at home, would have the time during which he contributed taken into account as residence for old age pension purposes. That was the law even before the Free State came into existence and while England administered the law here.

Quite irrespective of the amount?

Quite irrespective of the amount. I presume that if say £5 was sent for one year and that then for seven years nothing was sent, the Revenue Commissioners would use their discretion in deciding whether that could be reasonably said to be contributing towards the upkeep of the dependent living in this country.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary say whether it is not a fact that under the Bill, as it now stands, a man owning a substantial farm, say in Waterford or Dublin, of 150 acres and having no capital invested and having passed over the farm to his son living on that substantial holding, could on reaching the age of 70 years apply for the old age pension and get it?

It is a fact that in theory such a farmer could apply for an old age pension and get it, and it is equally a fact that under the Act of 1924, which we are now amending, if such a farmer assigned his farm when he was 67 years of age, if he was well enough informed to do so, when he reached 70 years the income from the farm would not be calculated against him in the calculation of means.

I am not talking of income; I am talking of the fact that he was maintained on the farm by his family. What the Parliamentary Secretary speaks of as theory is actually a fact.

The Deputy's point appears to be that a farmer can assign his farm regardless of the size and immediately apply for an old age pension and get it under the terms of the Bill. My reply is that he certainly can, but under the Act of 1924, for which the Deputy had some responsibility, a farmer was empowered by Section 7 to assign the farm, but he was compelled to wait at least three years before applying for the pension; otherwise the farm would be taken into consideration in calculating his means. There could be no point, that any common sense person would advance anyhow, in allowing a man to assign his farm if it was intended to deprive him of the old age pension, following the assignment, by reason of the fact that he got free maintenance, food, clothing and shelter from the person to whom it was assigned.

This Bill requires that if a farmer assigns his farm, free maintenance, food, clothing and shelter from the son will not operate to prevent him getting the pension. The reason ought to be obvious. A farmer assigns his farm under the existing law and waits three years. The position is if the son takes him by the shoulder and puts him outside the house, he gets a pension of 10/- a week immediately, but if the son does the christian thing to his father and gives him food, clothing and shelter, which his 70 years in that home entitle him to, he loses his old age pension. We want to preserve the christian conditions.

The assignment of the farm is simply obscuring the situation. Under the Bill, no matter what luxurious circumstances a person may be living in on a farm or in a city house, if that person has no means directly coming to him he becomes entitled to the pension.

Quite right.

I want to emphasise a point raised by Deputy Mulcahy. I was not referring entirely to farmers. I meant my remarks to apply to all classes of the community. Take a person living in a city house. Can that person claim a pension, on attaining 70 years, if living with wealthy relatives in Dublin, Cork, Waterford or anywhere else?

A claimant can divest himself of any property, whether house or farm, regardless of what the property is, so long as he does not divest himself for the purpose of securing a pension. A man can divest himself of a farm by way of family settlement. Presumably he can also divest himself of other property by way of family settlement, but I think this will not operate to any great extent outside farms.

But the fact remains that he can?

Yes, he can. He could divest himself of any property before this Bill was introduced at all, but he would have to wait for three years before it would cease to be taken into account.

But he could not escape paragraph (d).

Question put—"That the Old Age Pensions Bill, 1932, be now read a Second Time."

I would like to move an amendment, subject to the approval of the Parliamentary Secretary. I will not press it if he is averse to it. I move:

To delete all words after the words "Bill, 1932" and substitute "be referred to a Select Committee consisting of 15 Deputies to be nominated by the Committee of Selection.

If the Parliamentary Secretary thinks that a Committee of the whole House would be preferable, I will withdraw the amendment. I suggest, however, having regard to the many questions involved here, that it would be much wiser to leave the Bill to a Select Committee.

I really think the necessity does not arise for referring this Bill to a Select Committee. Judging by the discussion that has taken place on the Bill to-day, there is nothing to indicate that we need the assistance of any Select Committee in dealing with amendments. I think we will deal with the Bill in the ordinary way.

I readily agree with whatever the Parliamentary Secretary says.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 8th June.