Vote 67—External Affairs. - Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, 1935—Second Stage.

I move: That this Bill be now read a second time.

The general purpose to which all social legislation is directed is the alleviation of the hardships accruing from risks to which all persons are exposed, and to meet which certain classes of the population are of themselves unable to make adequate provision.

Of these risks the three which are most outstanding are old age, invalidity and death. In this country protection against old age has already been afforded under the Old Age Pensions Acts. Invalidity has been dealt with by the provision of sickness and disablement benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts, but there has hitherto been no adequate form of social legislation to cover the risk of death by assisting widows and orphans who on the death of the breadwiner have been left without means of subsistence and who in the nature of things are frequently not in a position to secure their own livelihood.

The object of this Bill is to supply that deficiency and to put these deserving and helpless people in a position of comparative security. In conformity with the principle which is now generally accepted that extension of the social services is best pursued along the lines of compulsory contributory insurance, the scheme for which the Bill provides has been framed mainly on the idea that during the working years of life contributions should be paid to provide for the protection of the worker's surviving widow, children or orphans in the event of premature death.

It has not, however, been possible to adhere altogether to the contributory principle. In the first place, there is already in existence a number of widows and orphans, who are the survivors of men who, if the scheme had been earlier in force, would have been insured under it and in respect of whose insurance, pensions would have been payable. It would be a great hardship on this class if, through a deficiency in the social legislation which is now to be remedied, they could never become entitled to the benefits of the scheme. There is, therefore, included in the Bill provision for the payment of non-contributory pensions to the existing widows and orphans of men who at their death belonged to the class which is to be insured under the contributory scheme. Secondly, schemes of compulsorily contributory insurance are suited, in the main, to the circumstances of the wage-earning classes. Starting with the idea that these are the classes for which protection is needed, it is reasonable to require from the employers and the employees, a weekly contribution payable with the same regularity as the cash wages are paid.

It is true to say, however, that out of the whole population of workers in the Saorstát whose means are little more than sufficient to provide the ordinary necessities of life, there is a large number of persons who are not in receipt of cash wages at regular intervals. The principal class of this type is the small working farmer whose level of subsistence is comparable with that of the urban wage-earner, and who requires, to the same extent at least, to be protected against the loss which his premature death might bring to his wife and children. No proper solution of the difficulty of applying a scheme of compulsory contributory insurance to persons of this class has yet become apparent. Their inclusion in the scheme is, however, regarded as imperative and it has been decided to include in the Bill provision for the payment of non-contributory pensions to the existing and future widows and orphans of agricultural "small-holders," where the valuation of the holding does not exceed £8.

In the application of the contributory scheme, certain conditions as to the number of contributions to be paid in order to qualify for pension are laid down. In some cases these conditions may not be satisfied. It would be inequitable to exclude the widows and orphans of such men entirely from benefit in view of the provisions made for the "small-holder" class in respect of whom no contributions are payable. It is accordingly provided that non-contributory pensions will be paid to the widows and orphans of men who, though insured under the contributory scheme at the time of their death, fail to satisfy the qualifying conditions as to contributions.

The Bill, therefore, provides for two separate classes of pensions:—

I. Contributory—applying to practically all the wage-earning classes whose rate of remuneration does not exceed £250 a year.

II. Non-contributory—applying in the main to three classes:—(i) existing widows and orphans of persons who were in the wage-earning class at the date of their death; (ii) future widows and orphans of persons in the contributory class who though insured persons at the date of their death failed to satisfy the qualifying conditions for contributory pensions; (iii) existing and future widows and orphans of persons who at death were occupiers of agricultural small-holdings not exceeding £8 in valuation.

In conformity with the general principles observed in such cases, certain conditions as to "means" will apply in the case of the non-contributory scheme.

The contributory scheme on the other hand applies to persons whose pensions are supported by contributions, and who, therefore, so long as the qualifying conditions laid down in the Bill are fulfilled must be regarded as entitled to pensions as a matter of right. There can, therefore, be no question of applying a means test for contributory pensions and they must be paid quite irrespective of what the pensioners' position in life may be or how they may be otherwise provided for.

The dates at which each of the schemes is to come into force are to be appointed under clause 8 of the Bill and may either be separate dates or the same date for both schemes. The actual dates so appointed will be as soon after the passing of the Act as is consistent with the making of the necessary administrative arrangements for dealing with the large number of initial claims.

Contributory Scheme.—The scope of the contributory scheme is practically identical with that of the existing National Health Insurance Scheme.

Every person who is at present insured for health insurance will become insured for widows' and orphans' pensions and the beneficiaries will be the future widows and orphans left by these persons.

The number of persons at present insured for health insurance is about 500,000—345,000 men and 155,000 women. Those members of the Defence Forces who are insured for health insurance will also be included in the contributory scheme.

Certain classes were excepted from the provisions of the National Health Insurance Acts, on the grounds that the terms of their employment secured to them sickness and disablement benefits not less favourable than those provided under the Acts, for example, Government employees, employees of local authorities, salaried staffs of railway companies, etc. It does not follow, however, that any provision has been made for widows or orphans of such persons and accordingly these classes will, if their rate of remuneration does not exceed £250 a year be required to be insured for widows' and orphans' pensions.

If in any of these classes the Minister is satisfied that the terms of the employment provide protection for widows and orphans not less favourable than is provided by the Bill, he may be order exclude them from the scope of widows' and orphans' pensions insurance.

Insured persons under the National Health Insurance Acts include voluntary contributors. These are persons who having left insurable employment after not less than two years' insurance elect to continue to be insured persons and to pay the whole health insurance contribution (both employer's and employee's portion). Existing voluntary contributors under the Health Acts can elect to continue to be voluntary contributors, but they must do so before contributions under the Pensions Bill begin to be payable and must pay the whole health and pensions contribution.

Persons who, in the future, cease to be compulsorily insured on leaving insurable employment, can, if they have had not less than two years' insurance elect to be voluntary contributors under the Health Insurance Acts. If they so elect, they become insured also for pensions purposes and are required to pay the full pensions contribution in addition to the full health contribution. The option to become a voluntary contributor is extended to persons in employments excepted under the Health Acts but insurable under the Bill.

Subject to the fulfilment of the qualifying conditions widows of persons insured under the contributory scheme will receive pensions of 10/- a week up to age 70, when they will become entitled to old age pensions without any means test.

In addition, children's allowances will be payable for children under 14, or under 16 if they are under fulltime instruction at school. The allowances will be 5/- a week for the eldest child and 3/- a week for each of the other children. If the widow remarries her own pension will cease but the children's allowances will continue until the statutory age is reached. A widow of an insured person who is over 70 when her husband dies becomes entitled to an old age pension without any restriction as to means.

Orphans' pensions at the rate of 7/6 a week are payable under the contributory scheme for each orphan of a man or of a widow, who was insured under the scheme.

Contributions will be at the rate of 8d. per week for a man (of which 4d. will be paid by the employer and 4d. by the employee) and 4d. per week for a woman, all payable by the employer. Voluntary contributors will pay the full pensions contribution themselves, in addition to the full health contribution.

The contributions will be payable as one with the National Health Insurance contribution, by means of stamps affixed to cards. The values of the stamps ordinarily used will be as follows:—

Men—1/4 per week, of which 8d. will be in respect of health insurance and 8d. in respect of pensions insurance.

Women—11d. per week of which 7d. will be in respect of health insurance and 4d. in respect of pensions insurance.

The arrangement for the payment and collection of contributions under the Health Acts will apply automatically to contributions under the scheme. The same contribution card will be used for health and pensions purposes and the employer will be required to affix to the employee's card a stamp representing the combined health and pensions contribution for each week for which a contribution is payable. The stamped cards will be surrendered as at present to the Unified Society by the members concerned.

Special provision for payment of contributions will be necessary in respect of soldiers and persons in excepted employments who are insurable for pensions. In the case of soldiers, the Minister for Defence will pay direct to the Pensions Fund contributions at the rate of 8d. per week in respect of each insured soldier, subject to a deduction not exceeding 4d. per week from each insured soldier's pay.

In the case of persons in excepted employments, pension contributions only (and not health and pensions contributions) are payable. Power is taken to modify the regulations made under the Insurance Acts for the collection of contributions, and the power will probably be used to allow of direct cash payment of contributions by the employers of excepted persons.

Contributions will cease to be payable on the attainment of age 70.

Persons engaged in agricultural employment which is insurable under the Health Acts are included in the scope of the contributory pensions scheme. As the rates of wages obtaining in agricultural employment are in the main lower than those of other wage-earning classes, it has been considered desirable to include in the Bill special provisions for dealing with them which can be reviewed if necessary at a later date. For a period of five years from the date of commencement of the scheme, the rates of contributions of such persons will be half the ordinary rates, i.e., 4d. for a man instead of 4d., and 2d. for a woman instead of 4d., and the rates of pensions payable in respect of their insurance will be:—Widow's pension, 8/- a week; Children's allowances, 4/- for the eldest and 2/6 a week for each other child; Orphan's pension, 6/- a week.

The qualifying conditions for contributory pensions involve a minimum period of insurance and payment of a minimum number of contributions before a claim to a pension is established. The person in respect of whose insurance the pension is claimed must have been at least two years in insurance, and must have paid at least 104 contributions. If more than four years have elapsed since the date of last entry into insurance, an average of 26 contributions must have been paid in each of the last three contribution years. If the person was over 70 at the date of death, the contribution test is to be applied to the period before the attainment of age 70 during which contributions were payable. When an insured person attains the age of 70 he remains an insured person until he dies, although contributions have ceased. This point on which there had been some doubt is made clear by the amendment of the National Health Insurance Acts in clause 67 of the Bill. Insurance for the purpose of the National Health Insurance Acts and contributions paid under these Acts before the scheme begins will count towards satisfying the qualifying conditions. In the case of excepted persons for whom contributions under the Health Acts were not payable, contributions under these Acts are deemed to have been paid before the commencement of the Scheme if the person was then in the excepted employment or within the prescribed period (which will probably be 12 months) before the commencement of the scheme.

These provisions make it possible for widows and orphans of insured persons or persons who have been in excepted employment and who die soon after the commencement of the scheme to qualify for contributory pensions.

Non-contributory Pensions.—I now come to the non-contributory pensions, and I might preface my explanation of this Part of the Bill by directing attention to the fact that no contributions have been paid or are to be paid in respect of these pensions, and consequently the entire cost must in the final resort be borne by the State. It is desirable, therefore, that payments should be limited to necessitous cases, and that widows and orphans who either are in a position to provide for themselves or are already so provided for should not be entitled to these free pensions. Acting on these considerations the Bill imposes two main limitations on the title to non-contributory pensions. Firstly, pensions are only payable subject to a test as to the means of the applicant. Secondly, widows under 60 years of age who have no dependent children will not be entitled to pensions. Dependent children are children under 14 years of age, or under 16 if they are receiving full-time school instruction.

The persons to whom non-contributory pensions will be payable may be classified as follows:—(i) Widows and orphans of men who have died before the date upon which contributions under the Bill become payable, and who were insured persons under the National Health Insurance Acts when they died. This provision covers also the existing survivors of men who were over 70 when they died, if on the attainment of that age they were insured persons; (ii) widows and orphans of men who had died before contributions under the scheme become payable, and who when they died were engaged in an excepted employment which would have been insurable if the scheme had been in force when they died. This provision covers also the existing survivors of persons in excepted employment who were over 70 when they died, if, when they attained the age of 70 they were in an excepted employment which is made insurable under the pensions scheme; (iii) the future widows and orphans of men who become insured under the contributory scheme, but who when they die have failed to satisfy the qualifying conditions as to contributions; (iv) the future widows and orphans of men who on the date when contributions under the contributory scheme become payable were not liable for the payment of contributions because they were over the age of 70, provided that when such men attained the age of 70 they were either insured under the Health Acts or would have been insured under the Contributory Pensions scheme if it had then been in force; (v) the present and future widows and orphans of agricultural "small-holders" the valuation of whose holding does not exceed £8. It is a necessary condition in this case for the payment of a widow's pension that the widow shall continue to reside on the small-holding.

The rates of pension payable under the non-contributory scheme will vary according to the locality in which the pensioner resides and also according to the means possessed by the pensioner. The maximum rates of pensions are as follows:—(i) Widow's allowance: (a) resident in a county borough—7/6 per week, (b) resident in an urban area—6/- per week, (c) resident in a rural area—5/- per week; (ii) children's allowance: (a) resident in a county borough—3/6 a week for the eldest child under 14 (or 16, as the case may be) and 1/6 per week for each other child, (b) resident in an urban area—2/6 a week for the eldest and 1/- per week for each other child, (c) resident in a rural area— 2/- per week for the eldest and 1/- per week for each other child; (iii) orphan's pension: resident in a county borough—4/- per week, resident in an urban area—3/6 per week, resident in a rural area—2/6 per week.

These maximum rates are reduced to 3/-, 2/- and 2/-, respectively, if the orphan is in an institution or is boarded out by a local authority. Provision is made to discourage cases of migration from rural areas to urban areas or county boroughs in order to qualify for pensions at the higher rates. As I have already indicated, non-contributory pensions are only payable subject to a test of the means of the recipient. The Bill provides that no pension will be payable when the net weekly means of the claimant are equal to or exceed the maximum rate of pension payable to the claimant. If the net weekly means are less than the maximum pension payable, the maximum rate of pension will be reduced by 1/- for every complete 1/- of the net weekly means.

The First Schedule to the Bill describes the manner in which the annual means are to be ascertained and their division into earned means and unearned means. The annual means of a widow include the annual means of any children in respect of whom allowances are claimable and the annual earned means include the annual earned means of such children. The weekly means and the weekly earned means are the weekly equivalents of the respective annual means. In calculating the net weekly means from the weekly means certain exemptions are allowed. These exemptions are as follows:—Residence in a county borough—an exemption of 5/- from the weekly means together with an additional exemption from the earned weekly means of 2/6 for each child with a maximum exemption in respect of children of 7/6. Residence in an urban area—an exemption of 4/- from the weekly means together with an additional exemption from earned weekly means of 2/3 for each child with a maximum exemption of 6/9 in respect of children. Residence in a rural area—an exemption of 3/- from the weekly means together with an additional exemption from earned weekly means of 2/- for each child with a maximum exemption of 6/- in respect of children.

If these exemptions exceed the weekly means, the net weekly means are taken as nil and the maximum pension is payable. If these exemptions are less than the weekly means, the net weekly means are taken as the difference, and for each shilling of net weekly means the maximum pension is reduced by 1/-. In the case of orphans the exemption from means is 3/- in all cases.

Widows' non-contributory pensions cease on re-marriage or on the attainment of age 70. It is to be noted on re-marriage the whole pension, i.e., the widows' allowance and the children's allowances cease, while in the case of contributory pensions, re-marriage of the widow does not affect the children's allowances. As already stated a non-contributory pension is granted only to a widow who is over the age of 60, or to a widow who being under 60, has at least one dependent child. In the latter case the widow's allowance continues for a period of six months after the right to children's allowances ceases. If at the end of the six months the widow has not attained the age of 60, the widow's allowance also ceases. On the attainment of age 60 she may again become entitled to a non-contributory pension.

Administration.—The administration of this scheme will be carried out by the national health insurance section of the Department of Local Government and Public Health, to which all claims for pensions will be made. The Minister has power, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, to appoint investigation officers for the purpose of investigating claims, means etc., and deciding officers who are to decide on the claims and make awards. Any claimant who is dissatisfied by the award or decision of a deciding officer may appeal to a referee or referees selected by the Minister from a panel of referees appointed by the Minister for Finance, and the decision of the referce or referees will be final. Books of pension orders of a type similar to those used for the payment of old age pensions will be issued, and the pensions will be payable weekly in advance at a post office selected by the pensioner.

The Minister for Local Government and Public Health will have control of the Widows' and Orphans' Pension Fund, to which will be carried all contributions payable under the scheme and out of which pensions will be paid. Moneys not immediately required for current expenditure will be paid over to the Minister for Finance for investment in the "Pensions Investment Account." An annual State grant of £250,000 will be paid into this account in each of the first ten years. Whenever the amount in the Pension Fund is insufficient to meet current expenditure, the necessary sums will be paid into the fund from the Investment Account. The Minister for Finance is given power to have an actuarial investigation made into the general financial operation of the scheme at such time or times as he may consider necessary.

Ordinarily contributory pensions will not be paid when the pensioner is resident outside Saorstát Eireann. Power is, however, taken in the Bill to arrange for the payment of pensions to persons who are resident in another country if that country has a contributory scheme of a similar nature, and if it provides for payment of pensions in Saorstát Eireann. Power is also taken to make reciprocal arrangements with such countries for the continuity of insurance and the maintenance of acquired rights. A non-contributory pension will not be granted unless the applicant has been resident in Saorstát Eireann for two years before the claim is made, and in no case will a non-contributory pension be payable outside Saorstát Eireann. In order to safeguard the scheme against abuse, the Bill provides that the widow of a man who marries after the Bill was introduced and was over the age of 60 at the date of the marriage will not be entitled to a pension. Certain exceptions to this provision are set out in clause 28 of the Bill.

A widow's pension, whether contributory or non-contributory, will not be paid while a widow is undergoing imprisonment or is maintained at the public expense in a mental asylum. The widow's allowance both cease. but children's allowances both cease, but the children, in such circumstances, are deemed to be orphans, and orphans' pensions (contributory or non-contributory) become payable to the guardian of the orphan or to such other person as the Minister may direct. Cases may arise where the child of a widow is removed from her custody by order of a court, or is sent to a reformatory or industrial school, or is deserted or abandoned. In such cases the widow cannot include the child in her claim for pension, and if the child is removed after the widow has been granted a pension, the pension will be reviewed. The child in such cases is deemed to be an orphan and an orphan's pension will be payable to the guardian of the orphan or to such other person as the Minister may direct. The Minister has power to pay a widow's pension to some other person for the widow's benefit, or to pay any child's allowance to a person other than the widow, for the benefit of the child. An orphan's pension will be payable to the guardian of the orphan or to some other person appointed by the Minister for the benefit of the child.

If a person who has claimed a pension receives outdoor relief pending the payment of the pension, which would not have been given if the pension were being paid, or if relief at a lower rate would have been given, the Minister will have power to repay to the public assistance authority granting the relief, the amount of such relief, or the excess payments of relief, and deduct the amount so paid from the pension. Similarly, if a person who has claimed a pension receives unemployment assistance pending the payment of the pension which would not have been given if the pension were being paid, the Minister will have power to repay to the Minister for Industry and Commerce the amount of such assistance and deduct the amount so paid from the pension.

Certain amendments in the National Health Insurance Acts and the Old Age Pensions Acts are required and these are contained in Part VIII of the Bill. Section 13 of the National Health Insurance Act, 1918, is amended to provide that a person who attains the age of 70 while he is insured under the Health Insurance Acts, remains an insured person thereafter until he dies. This section also grants to insured persons, who cease to be employed and who were members of an approved society or the Unified Society, a period of free insurance after the termination of employment known as the "Free Year." For the purposes of qualifying for pensions, this period of free insurance is now granted to persons who were not members of a society. Cases have arisen where persons have applied for membership of the Unified Society and have produced contribution cards relating to previous periods of insurable employment. Under the provisions of the Health Insurance Acts a person who was not a member of a society and who ceased insurable employment even for a week, was not entitled to a "Free Year" and was consequently regarded as a new entrant into insurance on subsequently becoming insurably employed. Periods of insurable employment separated by short periods of unemployment could not be linked up. In order to preserve continuity of insurance in the cases of such of these persons as are genuinely persons whose normal occupation is insurable, the "Free Year" is now deemed to apply.

The Old Age Pensions Acts are amended so as to remove the means test under those Acts in the case of a widow who reaches age 70 while in receipt of a contributory widow's pension, or in the case of a widow who is over age 70 when her husband dies, who if she was under 70 would be qualified for a widow's contributory pension.

Statement of numbers of widows and orphans and estimates of costs.—The Dáil will probably desire to have some indication of the number of persons covered by the scheme and of the cost of pensions. In making these estimates considerable difficulty has been experienced, as full materials were not always available on which to base calculations. The following figures have, therefore, been arrived at with some reserve but may be regarded as sufficiently accurate to give an approximate indication as to number and cost.

Taking first the contributory scheme, it is estimated that in the first year the number of beneficiaries will be 700 widows and 1,200 children, including orphans. These figures will rise gradually as insured persons die, leaving widows and orphans, until ultimately there will be 3,000 widows and 18,500 children in receipt of pensions or allowances. The cost in the first year will be £30,000, rising ultimately to £800,000 per year. Under the non-contributory scheme the persons covered fall into various classes.

Firstly, there is the class now existing of widows with dependent children, and of orphans of persons who had insurable status at their death. It is estimated that there are 6,700 widows and 16,700 children and orphans in this class and that the cost of pensions will be £180,000 in the first year, gradually decreasing year by year as the widows remarry, die, or attain age 70, and as the children and orphans reach the statutory age.

Secondly, there are the now existing widows between 60 and 70 years of age who have no dependants, and whose husbands had insurable status at their death. The number of these widows is 8,660, and the cost of pensions in the first year will be £125,500, gradually decreasing year by year as in the first class.

The third class comprises the now existing widows, with dependent children, and the orphans of small-holders. It is estimated that this class will include 4,000 widows and 10,460 children and orphans, and the cost in the first and each subsequent year will be £94,500.

Lastly, there are the existing widows between 60 and 70 years of age, who have no dependants, and whose husbands were small-holders. Of these, there are 4,750 and the cost in the first year and each subsequent year will be £62,000. Taking these four classes together, it is estimated that the non-contributory pensions will cover 24,110 widows and 27,160 children and orphans, and the cost in the first year will be £461,500. This figure added to the first year's cost of contributory pensions brings the total figure for pensions in the first year to £491,500.

As the years progress, the general effect will be that the cost of non-contributory pensions will decrease, and the cost of contributory pensions increase, until eventually a position of comparative stability is reached in which the total annual cost will be £956,500, of which £800,000 will be for contributory and £156,500 for non-contributory pensions. The contribution income in the first year is estimated at £402,000, rising gradually to £426,000. To this will be added an annual State subvention of £250,000, which it is estimated will be sufficient to cover the cost of benefits and administration during the first 10 years.

The financial position will then be actuarially examined and further consideration given to the future arrangements necessary for the operation of the Act.

That, I think, is a fairly full explanation of the Bill. I am sure many questions will be asked in the course of the discussion and I shall be very happy to answer them and to give any fuller explanations Deputies may desire. Before I sit down, I should like to express a word of very sincere thanks to the Chairman and members of the Committee who sat for a considerable period and at my request examined into the feasibility of a scheme of widows' and orphans' pensions. Members who have seen the report will agree that they gave us a very interesting and instructive document. There was not complete unanimity, although a very considerable amount of unanimity was achieved. There were majority and minority reports as is usual when matters of this kind are under consideration. I should like to express to Judge Meredith—who sat as chairman of the Committee for a period in the beginning but who later had to leave in order to take up other work of a similar kind—and to Sir Joseph Glynn, to every member of the Committee and to its very competent Secretary, my best thanks for the splendid report they gave us and for the magnificent information which they gathered from all parts of the world and set out here for us. I am sure Deputies would also like to express their thanks for the very fine report which they have submitted.

At the outset, I should like to congratulate the Minister upon the very lucid and explanatory statement which he has read to the Dáil. I think it rather a pity that a statement of that kind was not circulated with the Bill because if it had been, it would have enabled the Deputies to understand the Bill with greater ease and clarity than was possible in the absence of the clear and lucid statement which we have just now received from the Minister. I should like, for instance, to ask the Minister to explain Sections 1 and 2 of the Bill, if he had not got that statement and if he was not assisted by an abundant supply of wet towels. These are two of the most complicated sections of the Bill, and I think only persons familiar with its drafting and who have in mind the situation with which these sections deal could find a ready explanation of them. The Minister's statement as read to the House now makes clear what is intended by the sections.

I think the House will feel satisfied that this Bill has at last been introduced. I say "at last," because we had hopes that this Bill would have been introduced last year, especially since the Minister for Finance told us that he had set aside £250,000 in his Budget in order to finance a scheme of widows' and orphans' pensions, during the financial year ending 31st March last. The fact that that sum was allocated, suggested that one might reasonably expect that the State would have made that contribution towards widows' and orphans' pensions during the last financial year. While I welcome this Bill as the first, and a very important, step towards adding widows' and orphans' pensions to our code of social legislation, I should like to say to the Minister that I do not regard it by any means as the final step. I think many more steps will be required to be taken before this Bill could adequately deal with the problem of providing for the nation's widows and fatherless children. Recently there was circulated to Deputies the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the question of widows' and orphans' pensions. I agree with the Minister that the thanks of the House are due to the members of that Committee for presenting what, I think everybody who has read it will agree, is a very comprehensive document full of important information bearing on this all-important problem.

Looking at table 1 on page 141 of this report we find that the Minister was presented with the fact that there were 134,000 widowed families in the country. It was on the basis of this report, with such later information as it was possible for the Department to obtain, that this Bill was presumably drafted. We find in the table a declaration to the effect that there are 134,000 widows in the State. The table also gives information as to the number of dependent children and step-children under 16 years of age in the family when this information was last obtained, namely, in 1926. If we look at the Bill and study it in the light of this table, we find that the Minister, presented with the problem of providing pensions for 134,000 widows, promptly proceeds to eliminate 21,000 because they are childless widows under 60 years of age.

Not apparently satisfied with this sufficiently large deduction from that number, the Minister proceeds to take away 55,000 widows who are 70 years of age and over. By the elimination of these 55,000 and the 21,000 who are placed in the position that they can get no pensions, because they are childless, we find that 58,000 widows are left in the Bill. So that the Minister, faced with the problem of providing pensions for 134,000 widows, proceeds to say that 58,000 of them will be dealt with by the Bill and that 76,000 will not be dealt with by the Bill. So far as dealing with the existing problem is concerned, the problem of providing pensions for widows and orphans, the Minister is going to make it possible for 58,000 widows as a maximum—and that is a generous maximum—to get pensions, while 76,000 existing widows, so far as this table can be regarded as reliable to-day, are not going to get any pensions under the Bill. I suggest to the Minister that, so far as dealing with the existing problem of widows' and orphans' pensions is concerned, he is leaving outside the scope of the Bill more existing widows than he is bringing within its scope. Obviously, a Bill which does that is imperfect and unsatisfactory from the point of view of providing for existing widows.

While I have given the Minister credit under this table for bringing 58,000 widows within the scope of the Bill, one must make a further subtraction from that figure because some of the 58,000 would also be ruled out by reason of the fact that their dependants are over 14 years of age. They are shown to have dependants in this table because the age of dependency is shown as up to 16 years of age, but if you reduce the age of dependency from 16 to 14, you will find that the 58,000 will undergo a further process of shrinkage and that there will be a still smaller number of widows provided for under the Bill.

I was interested in the Minister's statement that the State would provide a subvention of £250,000 per annum towards widows' and orphans' pensions, but that seems to be inconsistent with the declaration we had from the Minister for Finance last year in connection with his Budget Estimate. On that occasion, the Minister, referring to the provision which he was making for widows' and orphans' pensions said:—

"It has been exceedingly difficult to prepare a practicable and satisfactory proposal. The difficulties, however, have been overcome and, in fact, the administrative details of the scheme are being worked out by the Departments concerned.... The proposal will cost about £400,000 in a full year and about £250,000 in this, and the latter sum is being set aside accordingly."

There we had a clear indication from the Minister for Finance that so far as the Exchequer funds were concerned, it was anticipated that the cost would be £400,000 in an ordinary year. Now we are told by the Minister, and, of course, it is clearly indicated in the Bill, that the normal maximum contribution by the Minister for Finance will be £250,000 instead of the £400,000 indicated by the Minister in his speech last year. If the State were not excluding a minimum of 76,000 widows, and if they were not under this Bill to pay low non-contributory rates, one might understand the Minister's reducing the State contribution from £400,000 to £250,000 but in face of the exclusion of at least 76,000 widows and in face of the low non-contributory rates provided for in the Bill, this decision, arrived at subsequent to the Minister's Budget statement, seems to me to have been based on economy and not to have been reviewed in the light of the adequacy or otherwise of the provisions which were being made in the Bill for the payment of pensions to necessitous widows.

I should like to know from the Minister when it was decided to reduce the contribution from £400,000 to £250,000; what considerations actuated that reduction; and whether the reduction was put into operation after the Government were satisfied that the rates provided in the Bill were adequate having regard to the problem to be dealt with.

I was interested in that portion of the Minister's statement which dealt with the question of contributory and non-contributory schemes. The Minister did not indicate for what reason the Government had decided that this scheme should be a contributory scheme, in part, at all events. The report of the Committee of Enquiry recommended a non-contributory scheme and, in 1927, the report of the Poor Law Commission recommended a non-contributory scheme. Here were two bodies, after a thorough examination of the problem, convinced that a non-contributory scheme was the most practical scheme and yet this Bill provides for contributory pensions without our being given any indication as to the reasons which induced the Executive Council to embark on a contributory scheme. I know, of course, that there are two well-known and well-defined schools of thought in respect of pensions of this kind, one favouring contributory schemes and the other non-contributory schemes. So far as this country is concerned, we have two authoritative declarations on the matter by the Poor Law Commission which sat in 1927 and by the recent Committee of Enquiry set up by the Minister himself to enquire into the provision of pensions for widows and orphans. These two authoritative declarations indicate that the respective bodies believed that the non-contributory scheme was the more practicable and the more advantageous in relation to the problem to be dealt with in this State, but, notwithstanding that, the Executive Council appear to have departed radically from the scheme of non-contributory pensions and to have introduced the contributory scheme, without, in my view, any adequate explanation for departing from the recommendation of these two bodies.

I agree with the Minister that the contributory pensions provided under this Bill will do something to relieve the appalling poverty and destitution which frequently follows in the train of the death of a breadwinner, but, while it will do something to relieve that awful poverty, it will by no means adequately deal with the problem of the family left without its breadwinner and compelled to fend for itself. If we take, for instance, the worker employed in the City of Dublin with a wage of £3 per week and with a wife and three children to maintain, we find that under this pensions scheme, in the event of his death and assuming that he fulfils the qualifications required under the Bill, his widow will be entitled, under the contributory section of the Bill, to make application for a widows' and orphans' pension. If she does, and is successful, she will receive a pension of 10/- a week for herself, 5/- for the first child, 3/- for the second and 3/- for the third, making a total of 21/- per week, but even that income will be £1 19/- per week less than what that family found necessary for its subsistence previously, so that even the new rates of benefit provided under the Bill will go only a very small way, in homesteads such as that, towards making provision for the problem of providing the family wants once death has claimed the breadwinner.

If we look at the position in respect of agricultural workers under this Bill, we find that the provision to be made is even more inadequate than that which is made in the case of nonagricultural workers under the contributory scheme. It is provided in the Bill that, for a period of five years, the rates of benefit to agricultural workers are to be reduced. The widow is to get 8/- instead of the ordinary allowance of 10/-; the first child is to get 4/- instead of the ordinary allowance of 5/-; and for each other child the allowance is to be 2/6 a week instead of the 3/- normally allowed. I concede that the rates of contribution are likewise reduced, but I should like to know from the Minister what special circumstances existed to justify the reduction of the rates of benefit to agricultural workers for the first five years under this Bill.

I should like to know what considerations prompted that reduction and whether the fear was that the burden on the agricultural worker in the matter of contributions which he will be required to pay would be too great during the first five years or whether it was felt that there was some special case for reducing the pensions payable to the widows and orphans of agricultural workers as compared with any other person who was not an agricultural worker and who claimed a pension under the contributory section of the Bill. It seems to me that the State might well have allowed the agricultural worker to receive the same rate of benefit as other persons under the contributory scheme, because I think that one of the objections to this whole Bill, an objection which could be forcibly and effectively urged, is that it creates too many separate classes. There is an obvious advantage in simplicity, more especially where that simplicity runs side by side with making better provisions for those particular classes. It is in my view very much better to adopt a uniform scale, which also has the advantage of being a scale that it is possible to administer with greater simplicity.

The Minister, in the course of his statement, referred at length to the rates of benefit which will be provided under the non-contributory scheme. Here I want to say that I think the non-contributory section is a very serious blot on the whole Bill. The rates of benefit which are provided under the non-contributory scheme are so low as to make it quite impossible for widows and dependent children to live on them. There must, of course, be a non-contributory section dealing with the cases of pre-Act widows, but there is no reason why the rates of benefit in the case of pre-Act widows should be reduced to what I can only describe as the pauperised scale set up in the Bill. If we look at the provisions of the Bill in respect of the pensions which will be paid under the non-contributory scheme we find that a widow in the City of Dublin will receive an allowance of 7/6 for herself, 3/6 for the first child, 1/6 for the second child, 1/6 for the third child, and 1/6 for the fourth child—a maximum of 15/6 per week—which is subject to a means test. I should like to know from the Minister how a widow and four children can possibly exist in the City of Dublin on 15/6 per week. How can she pay rent, provide food, clothing, school books, and other necessaries and amenities of life, for a civilised family, on an income of 15/6 per week?

If we go to urban areas, which under the Bill are towns with a population of 7,000 and over, we find that a widow with four children will get a maximum allowance of 11/6 per week, again subject to a means test. I should like to ask the Minister on what basis he considers it possible for a widow to live for instance in Clonmel or in Drogheda or in Galway, maintaining four children, paying rent and providing the necessaries of life, on an income of 11/6 per week from this source? It may well be of course that that income will be the maximum income of the family. If we go on to other areas, towns with a population of less than 7,000 at the last census, we find that under this Bill a widow with four children will presumably be expected to sustain herself and her children on an income of 10/- per week. I should like to ask by what process of reasoning is it considered possible that a widow can maintain herself and four children in a town like Naas, Kildare, Athy, or any town with a population under 7,000, on an income of 10/- a week. I say that this section, in respect of the rates of pensions which are to be provided, is a very serious blot on the whole Bill.

In the same section we find that a childless widow under 60 years of age is to get no pension at all. A widow of, let us say, 50 years of age, with one child, will if she lives in the City of Dublin get 11/- per week. When the child becomes 14½ years of age, no further pension is payable in respect of that child, although it will still be idle, it will still eat and drink and require to be clothed and sheltered. The expenditure on the child, because of its advancing years, will be greater, but notwithstanding the fact that the child will go off the pension fund the widow will go off the fund as well. The child goes off the pension fund six months after attaining the age of 14 years, so that a widow of 50 years of age with one child aged 14½ years will not get a pension under the non-contributory scheme. If a widow has three children, aged, let us say, 14½, 16 and 17 years, under the Bill she will not get a pension in respect of those three children, and will not get a pension in respect of herself until she becomes 60 years of age, whereupon she will come back on the fund as a childless widow entitled to a pension.

I suggest to the Minister that that section of the Bill is obviously unfair. It is bad enough to cut off the child of a widow at 14½ years of age, but, when that child is the only title to the widow's pension, to cut off the widow as well if she is not 60 years of age is going to impose a very serious hardship. Those rates of benefit which are paid under the non-contributory section of the Bill are, in my opinion, altogether inadequate to sustain human existence. Those rates of benefit are, in many cases, lower than the rates provided in the form of home assistance. When the Poor Law Commission was reporting in 1927 it said:

"We received a considerable amount of evidence in favour of removing destitute widows with children from the purview of the poor law. It is urged that the present system of poor relief for widows, even when administered sympathetically, is altogether inadequate; that the assistance allowed varies considerably, and except in Dublin there does not seem to be a regular scale; that it is hurtful to the self-respect of those widows, who have been reduced to destitution through the deaths of their husbands, to be compelled to parade their poverty every week at the office of the assistance officer. Witnesses were generally in favour of substituting for home assistance widows' pensions payable by the State."

I suggest to the Minister that those rates of benefit paid under the non-contributory section will not, as the Poor Law Commission hoped, result in widows being taken out of the disedifying position of having to parade their poverty before home assistance officers to try to obtain home assistance each week, because it is humanly impossible for persons to lead any kind of civilised existence on the rates of benefit which are provided under that section. To that extent we will still have the position where widows are compelled to seek home assistance in order to supplement the low rates of benefit which they will receive under this Bill. I have said that the rates paid under the non-contributory section are lower in many cases than the rates paid in the form of home assistance. If the Minister examines the position in the City of Dublin in that respect I think he will find that the rates of benefit paid under the non-contributory scheme here are in fact less than the outdoor relief which is granted in a great many cases in the City of Dublin, or if he goes on to the Balrothery Board of Assistance and compares the scale in operation there with the scale under this Bill he will find an enormous disproportion. If we take, for instance, a widow with four children living in Balbriggan, and compelled to seek home assistance from the Balrothery Public Assistance Committee, we find that under the scale of benefit in operation there she gets 7/6 for herself, 3/- for the first child, and 2/- for each additional child, so that a widow with four children living in Balbriggan would get from the Balrothery Board of Assistance 16/6 per week. That would be their conception of what it takes a widow to sustain herself and her four children. Under this Bill a widow with four children in Balbriggan coming under the non-contributory section would be given a maximum of 10/- a week as compared with the 16/6 which could be got from the Balrothery Board of Assistance in a case of destitution.

In its report, on page 38, the Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Minister, recommending the adoption of a scheme for the payment of widows' and orphans' pensions at a rate much higher than the rate set out in the non-contributory section— a rate which would provide 21/- a week pension for a widow with three children—apologised even for the small rate of pension thus allowed and in doing so used these words:

"In making this recommendation, we are fully aware that the scheme proposed will do no more than satisfy minimum requirements."

When the Committee was using these words they were proposing to pay a widow with four children at the rate of 24/- a week. They were then convinced that benefit to that extent would do no more than satisfy minimum requirements, but yet, under the non-contributory section of the Bill, it is proposed to grant a maximum pension of 10/- a week! If 24/- so shocked the Committee that they felt bound to apologise and to say that it would do no more than satisfy minimum requirements, one wonders what the Committee would have thought if they had been recommending a proposal to give a maximum of 10/- instead of the 24/- which they had in mind when they drafted the report.

The rather striking part of this Bill is the complexion it gets from a reference which was made by the Minister in the course of his speech. He said power was taken in the Bill to provide that if a person received home assistance or unemployment assistance benefit while waiting for the sanction of a claim for a widows' and orphans' pension, steps could be taken to have the amount refunded to the respective authority, either the Department of Industry and Commerce or the local county board of health. If it is intended by that statement to indicate that a person might, while awaiting sanction for a widows' and orphans' pension, go to the local board of health and seek home assistance, and the amount received by that person in that way has to be refunded when the widows' and orphans' pension is granted, then it seems to me to be postulating an assumption that the rate of benefit provided under the non-contributory section is to be regarded as capable of sustaining the persons concerned. I suggest that widows with four children living in towns with a population of less than 7,000 will find it necessary to ask for home assistance to supplement the rates that are set out under this particular section of the Bill. Any proposal to refund to the local authority moneys received by way of home assistance seems to imply that the Minister is satisfied that the amount granted by way of pension will be adequate for the sustenance of the person concerned. I hope that is not intended as a declaration of policy, because in my opinion many widows will find it imperative to go to the local authority to supplement the small income which they will receive under the non-contributory section.

I think a widows' and orphans' pension scheme which provides uniform rates of benefit has obvious advantages from an administrative point of view. There is a good deal to be said for the introduction of a scheme to provide uniform rates of benefit for all widows. This Bill suffers from the blemish, and it is a serious blemish, that it creates certain classes of persons. In some respects it creates new categories of poor persons, to deal with whose destitution this or some future Government will have to introduce legislation. I suggest that the Government should reconsider the rates of benefit provided under the non-contributory section. Instead of the low rates provided, they should give uniform pensions for all widows at the rate that is applicable under the contributory section. The obvious answer from the Minister is "Where is the money to come from?" I am sure if the Minister were responsible for dispensing the money, he would be much more generous than the Minister for Finance. But the problem of finding the money is not wholly insuperable. He will probably recollect that when the National Health Insurance Act was introduced it was given a substantial paper credit in order to send it on its way. It ought to be possible to provide a substantial paper credit for this widows' and orphans' pension fund, and that credit could be redeemed out of any actuarial surplus which the fund might show on a future actuarial examination, or loans so advanced to the pension fund might be met out of Budgetary moneys at some date in the future when, perhaps, there will be a greater amount of prosperity with us than there is to-day.

If the Minister for Industry and Commerce were here I have no doubt he would give us a glowing picture of the future of the country. In some of his rhetorical moments he might tell us the only danger threatening any of our citizens was that they stood the risk of being drowned in an avalanche of milk and honey. If the Minister for Industry and Commerce can persuade the Executive Council, and the Minister for Finance in particular, to believe that there is even a 50 per cent. chance of it being realised, would it not constitute a good case to give an advance to this fund in order to enable a uniform rate of benefit to be paid? Let such loan as is advanced to the fund be repaid out of surpluses which may be shown on actuarial examination or otherwise by the redemption of a loan from budgetary allocations each year. I suggest that aspect of the Bill might receive sympathetic consideration.

I believe once this measure is in operation that there will be a strong outery against the low benefits proposed under the non-contributory scheme. I believe this Government or some future Government will be compelled by pressure of public opinion to introduce at a later date, probably not far distant, a Bill to raise the rates of benefit to the non-contributory class. I would suggest to the Minister having regard to the obvious hardship which will be imposed by the rates of benefit paid under the non-contributory section and having regard to the obvious advantages of having a uniform rate of benefit, that at this stage the Executive Council might reconsider the matter with a view to overcoming such difficulty as resides in the shortage of money either by a better credit to the fund or by annual Budgetary allocations. We should have available still an extra £150,000 that the Minister for Finance spoke of last year. We had promises then that there would be £400,000 available for this measure and now there is only £250,000. At all events the extra £150,000 promised last year by the Minister for Finance would help to meet the problem of raising the existing rates of benefit. I hope the Minister will undertake to give sympathetic consideration to the question of raising the rates of benefit under the non-contributory scheme. That is the serious blemish in the whole Bill and it will only provide the motive power for a fresh and legitimate agitation to raise the low rates of benefit provided in the Bill. If the Minister will do that and raise the rates of benefit to the existing widows to the levels set out in the other sections of the Bill he will have done much to make the Bill acceptable from the point of view of assisting widows and fatherless children. If the Minister in replying would assure the House on that matter he would make this Bill a very notable contribution to social progress in this country to-day.

Let me at the outset join with the Minister and with Deputy Norton in conveying the best thanks of the House to the members who formed the Commission of Inquiry into the question of widows and orphans and who issued that very valuable report. The report certainly showed very careful study of the existing conditions. Only for that report we could not have advanced so far as we have advanced here this evening. The extension of the social services for widows and orphans is a thing that appeals to all Christian-minded people and personally I believe that the Minister is entitled I will not say to congratulation but to sympathy in his endeavour to deal with a matter of so much importance. I have no doubt that, like Deputy Norton, there will be many people disappointed with the Minister for Finance and the Government for not living up to their promises with regard to better and more generous provision for widows and orphans. Deputy Kelly tells us that we should not rely on these promises, that they are only promises and that there is a big difference between promises and performances.

What strikes me about this Bill is that while an attempt has been made to grapple with a difficult situation there is a certain amount of discrimination shown between the different classes. That is bad. It is particularly so with the introduction of the different scale of pensions for people who are engaged in agricultural occupations as against people engaged in other occupations. These appear to me to be entirely unwarranted. In the Minister's introduction of the Bill he gave no indication as to why that should be so. I can well understand in the case of non-contributory pensions—say, small farmers who would have something to get out of the place —that there would be some reason in saying "well, they are not dependent on these pensions; they have other means." In Section 10, here we have a scheme of pension rates from 10/-, 5/-, 3/- to 8/-, 4/- and 2/- in the case of agricultural workers. I would like to know what influenced the people who drafted this Bill to discriminate like that? We have the case of rural workers living in labourers' cottages. We have also workers, probably artisans, living side by side with agricultural workers in labourers' cottages. Under this Bill, the widow of the road worker will apparently get a bigger benefit than the widow of the agricultural worker. The Bill apparently was originally conceived with the idea of helping the necessitous widows and orphans. Though it is on a contributory basis, I do not think that it is fair to pay the agricultural workers a lesser pension because their husbands had been paid, if you like, a lesser wage.

It is quite possible and probable that the agricultural worker was paid a lesser wage and that his contribution was less than that of the artisans, but what he lacked in actual cash he was in receipt of in kind. Possibly he got milk, vegetables and other things. Why his widow should be deprived of her rights or why she should get less is a matter that is beyond me, except it is that the agricultural labourer's contribution to the fund was not as great as other people's contributions to the fund. But after all if this Bill was conceived for the purpose of relieving necessitous widows and orphans I do not see that point should carry the weight it has carried and why the man who happens to be an agricultural worker instead of a road worker should have his widow paid a lesser pension.

I entirely agree with Deputy Norton in the matter of the non-contributory pensions. I really do think that the Minister will have to mend his hand or you will have somebody else coming along and endeavouring to mend his hand for him. The rates of pension laid down here on the non-contributory basis are rates on which nobody could be expected to live. They are below what is ordinarily given by boards of health in the way of home assistance. The whole Bill appears to me to be a Bill that is relying entirely for its administration upon the operation of other Acts. To that extent, of course, it is largely involved for if we want to know the meaning of one section we have first to go back and see what section of another Act is repealed. The Bill is very involved in that respect, and it makes one feel that the Minister is entitled to a certain amount of sympathy in the matter, but he ought to have made some attempt to even up the pensions and to have less classes. I think in that respect the principle followed is wrong. The Minister must apparently realise the very difficult task that is in front of him in endeavouring to put this Bill into operation. Section 63 appears to be an extraordinary section. That section sets out:—

If in any respect any difficulty arises in bringing into operation this Act, the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may by order do anything which appears to be necessary or expedient for bringing this Act into operation, and any such order may modify the provisions of this Act so far as may appear necessary or expedient for carrying the order into effect.

That is really all-embracing. Apparently anything that this House does may be undone by the Minister if he feels it prevents the bringing into operation of the Act in any particular respect.

Again, I should like to say that the Minister ought not to have the pensions governed by conditions of previous employment or the contributions that happened to be previously paid. I think that really the whole basis of the agitation for a Bill of this kind was irrespective of the employment they were in, to provide for necessitous widows and orphans. That seems to have been departed from, and the pensions are now to rely to a very large extent on the contributions that people are able to make or have been able to make in the past. That is a departure from the general principle which had its effect upon the origin of the Bill. I should like the Minister to reconsider a good many of the sections in the Bill with regard to the pensions. Of course, the Bill as it stands is obviously very involved and, on the Committee Stage, we will probably have much more to say about it. The Minister ought seriously to reflect, however, upon the fact that the Bill has not met the demand, which was for provision for necessitous widows and orphans irrespective of what their previous employment was.

On the whole, of course, we welcome the Bill. It is an attempt to meet a crying need; but I am afraid it falls very far short of what was expected of it. As far as the allowances are concerned, particularly under the non-contributory portion, they fall very far short indeed of what decency would suggest should be given to these people to live upon. The fact that childless widows are debarred and that children when they come to 14 years of age, or 16 years of age if they are school-going, go out of the scheme and take the mother out with them, seems to me a very great drawback. I hope the Minister will endeavour to amend that either on the Committee Stage or sometime before the Bill leaves the House. I am afraid that this is a Bill which will be difficult to administer and to operate and that an amending Bill will be required very shortly. On the whole, we wish the Bill God-speed, and we hope it will meet to some extent the purpose for which it has been framed.

It is quite obvious from the information we have received and the reports we have read that this Bill has been for a long time under the consideration of the Government and their advisers. The Bill will create a great deal of disappointment. We realise that the all-important matter which this House has primarily to consider in connection with this Bill is the amount of money that the country can afford. We also realise that the next matter to be investigated is how the Bill, in fairness and justice, can be applied to those who would be entitled to benefit under it. The intention to bring in this Bill received such tremendous advertisement for the last two years that very big things indeed were expected from it by those who believe that they will come within its scope for benefit. I may say that the Bill will create, not only disappointment, but a certain amount of bad temper. In my belief, it is a Bill which falls so short of what the people were led to expect that it will act as a boomerang on the Government themselves.

Owing to the classifications that are being made, it seems to me that certain people who will come under one or other of these categories will feel very humiliated indeed. As a matter of fact, the Bill in some of its provisions is very humiliating. Under the non-contributory part of the Bill, people will be worse off than they would be under home assistance. When this Bill comes into operation, the widows' and orphans' allowances which were in existence under the home assistance scheme will be cast aside and under the pensions which they will receive now the people will be worse off. A widow with a small family living in a town down the country, who will come under the non-contributory part of this scheme, would be better off under the home assistance scheme. In other words, this Bill is going to lower the standard of living of such people and make them worse off than they were under home assistance. I am quite satisfied that the Minister did not belive that that would be the effect of this Bill and that he is sincerely anxious to remove the distress that exists. But, if the distress is to be increased by it, or if these people are to be worse off under it, then there is something wrong.

We have a definition of an agricultural worker and a definition of a road worker under the Bill and these two are to be classified separately. How is an agricultural worker to be definitely determined? Everybody knows that an agricultural worker sometimes gets six months' work on a farm and for the next three months is working on the roads or vice versa. There should be no discrimination made between a road worker and an agricultural worker. My belief is that the classifications might be reduced to two.

I am quite satisfied that this Bill, welcome as it is, is not going to meet the situation at all—that it is only a poor attempt to meet the situation. I am quite satisfied that this Bill is only a camouflage; that it is a smoke screen. I am quite satisfied that it is not the Bill that we were expected to believe was going to benefit the widows and orphans, and I believe it will meet with a very bad reception in the country.

I thoroughly agree with the remarks passed by the Leader of the Labour Party and by Deputy Brennan, in the Front Bench of my Party, in respect of the non-contributory part of the scheme, in which they deprecate the poor allowances which that part of the scheme gives. I believe that the end of this Bill will be many amendments. If it is not, it should not be received by the House and it should not even be brought outside the House on the pretence that it is an honest attempt by this House to give decent assistance to widows and orphans. My belief is that it will not be received as such outside the House and I believe that it should not be received as such inside the House. That does not mean, however, that I would oppose even a small step by way of advance towards relieving these people, and I shall not oppose the Bill; but I would advocate a better and more sincere attempt at relief of the widows and orphans of this country.

I think we might all congratulate ourselves on the fact that this Parliament is actually considering proposals for a measure of this kind after a very prolonged delay. If the measure is rather a poor and inadequate one, at least we can congratulate ourselves on the fact that it represents a principle that is very valuable in social legislation. I have not had the advantage of hearing the Minister's statement, and I must admit that, in endeavouring to understand the principles of the Bill, I have not been as successful as I should like. I tried to study it as carefully as I could but found it difficult to understand, and any summaries of the measure that have appeared have not been as illuminating as one would wish. If, however, we are to have a contributory portion of this Bill; if we are to have widows' pensions partly on a contributory basis, the provisions represented in the Bill seem to go some distance towards meeting the position. I should prefer, and I think it would be the real solution of the question, that widows' pensions should be payable entirely on a non-contributory basis, but if the contributory basis that is fixed in one portion of this Bill is to remain, it seems fairly reasonable, with the difference that exists between this and the same portion of a similar measure in other countries in regard to the age of 14 years, after which a child ceases to qualify as mentioned in this measure. That period is two years more—16 years—in similar measures in operation elsewhere. That seems to be partly made up for in the contributory side of this Bill by providing that, if children after the age of 14 continue to attend school, the provisions will apply until they reach 16 years.

When one turns to the other side of the Bill, one is very much disappointed. It is clear that there are very many deserving people who will not be included in the scope of the Bill, and when one remembers that the very large number of people who would benefit immediately, if the scope of the Bill was wider, represent a very deserving section of the population, one is very much disappointed. There are quite a number of widows with dependent children in this country at the present time whose breadwinners, in life, were not people who would normally be insurable. So far as I can understand the Bill, people in that position will not benefit as a result of the operations of this measure. The non-contributory portion of the Bill, in relation to the amount of pensions payable in rural areas, represents a very poor and meagre financial provision. When one remembers that it is proposed that the amount of the pension will be determined ultimately after a means test based, possibly, on the same lines as that in the Unemployment Assistance Act, one does not see very much prospect of anything like the substantial pensions that widows in rural areas would be entitled to.

I had the advantage of hearing portion of Deputy Minch's speech and I am in agreement with a good deal of what he said, with one difference, and it is one, I think, that I ought to emphasise. Deputy Minch states that in some cases some persons at present in receipt of home assistance will be no better off, and perhaps worse off, if they benefit by this measure. There is at least one difference, however, and I think it ought to be mentioned. Even if the people who receive pensions under the non-contributory portion of this Bill will not be better off financially, at least they will be better off in having the stigma attached to outdoor relief removed. I think that is a very welcome change. Some people, whose pensions will not represent very much financially, will be put into the better and happier position of feeling that the money they receive is not charity and that they are getting it at the hands of the State in the same manner as the old-age pensioners are getting their pensions under another measure. However, with much of what Deputy Minch said in other respects I am in agreement.

I regret that it is not possible for me, not having heard the Minister's statement and having, as I previously admitted, failed to understand the provisions of the Bill by reason of the numerous references one finds in its provisions, to offer a more detailed or helpful criticism of the measure. I feel that from all quarters of this House, where there is a desire to approach this matter with a view to doing full justice to the very deserving section of the people that will be affected by this measure, there will be an appeal to the Minister to reconsider the whole position so far as the non-contributory portion is concerned, with a view to seeing how much wider the scope of the Bill can be made. Members of this Party, and private members throughout this House, will be in a difficulty in having their desire expressed by way of amendments for the purpose of more generous provisions, by reason of the fact that they are precluded from moving amendments the effect of which would be to increase the charge on public funds. I hope, however, that whatever criticisms have been offered on the Bill, and whatever criticisms will be offered before the Second Reading of the Bill is passed, will enable the Minister to reconsider what are very obvious defects in the Bill.

I should like to say, in concluding, as I said in the beginning, that I think it is a matter we can congratulate ourselves upon when we reach the point of considering a measure of this kind which represents a very substantial advance; and though we may regret that the provisions of the Bill fall a good deal short of what they might be in certain respects, at least we have gone the distance of securing the principle. If we do not succeed in making the Bill all that some of us would wish that it could be made on this occasion, at least we can feel that we have taken some step on the road towards giving justice to a very deserving section of the people who have been denied for a long time the justice to which they were entitled and which has been given to other peoples by Governments throughout Europe for a number of years past.

I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill. All Parties are in favour of it, and I hope that no delay will take place in passing it into law. Of course, we all admit that the Bill has many defects, but some of these, I expect, will be remedied on the Committee Stage. I hope that before the Bill passes through this House the Minister will do all he can to make it acceptable to all Parties. I would be glad if the Minister, when replying, would give some indication as to when it is hoped to pass the Bill into law. Is it intended that it should become law before the adjournment for the summer recess? That is all that I have to say on the Bill. I again congratulate the Minister on introducing it. It is a measure that is very much needed and one, of course, that is long overdue.

The Minister to conclude.

On the whole, Sir, I think I may take the liberty of saying that the reception of the Bill has been more or less cordial. I was very disappointed with Deputy Minch's speech. I have often heard the Deputy here lecturing us on the desirability of avoiding bitter Party controversy. His speech in my opinion struck a very bad Party note. That was how his speech impressed me. I do not know how it impressed others. The language that he used in describing the Bill was not, I think, worthy of him or of the Bill. He said it was camouflage; that it was humbugging the people. I could sympathise with him, and so I believe could a great many other people, if he had stopped at saying that to him it was a disappointing Bill. I could understand reasonable criticism from him or from any Deputy, but the language that he used in describing the Bill, was, I think, quite unworthy of him, especially coming from a Deputy who tells us from platforms and, as I have said, in this House, that we ought not to make Party speeches, particularly on matters of this kind which are within our competence to deal with and on which Party considerations ought not to arise.

I did not expect that anybody would get up and say: "this is a magnificent Bill, we are glad to get it, it satisfies our demands and the people will be very happy to have it." I think a Minister introducing any Bill would be very foolish to expect anybody in the House to make speeches of that kind, and particularly on a Bill dealing with a question of social legislation that has been under discussion for a long time at public boards and other places where people interested in social problems meet. I know of my own knowledge that this question of pensions for necessitous widows has been advocated for at least 25 years in the City of Dublin. As Deputy Murphy said, we can at any rate congratulate ourselves in this House on this: that we are at last actually dealing with the principles of a measure to give some relief to necessitous widows and orphans. We can congratulate ourselves on this: that we have a Bill embodying practical suggestions for dealing with that problem before us, and that we have a large sum of money available to be divided amongst that very deserving and worthy class, necessitous widows and orphans. That much is true and that much cannot be denied. There is no camouflage in that. There is hard cash there provided by this Government, provided by the country if you wish, and I can say that it would be a long time before the Government which Deputy Minch supported would provide anything like the sum that we are providing.

The Minister is now doing the very thing that he deprecated in Deputy Minch's speech.

Well, Deputy Minch is getting what he was looking for. The Government which Deputy Minch supported was asked over and over again to provide money for this purpose, and did the people ever get any from them? The Deputy when he talks of camouflage should address that language to his own colleagues. After the speech that he made, he should, if he were honest, divide the House, or get his Party to divide the House, on this stage of the Bill. That would be the way to deal with a Bill which, according to him, is a dishonest Bill.

I do not claim, and if I were to do so it would be foolish on my part, that this Bill meets all the requirements of the situation. I think that if we were to do that, to do even what was outlined by Deputy Norton —he did not make the 100 per cent. claim that he might have made: he made a reasonable case—and were to make the provision that should be made for everybody who is a widow or an orphan, not merely necessitous widows and orphans, then I think the House could not provide the sum of money that would be required. It could not dream of doing so in present circumstances. So far as I can see, we are a long way from being able to provide the sum of money that would be necessary to meet not alone all the cases, but even a very considerable proportion of the cases, that might be regarded as on the border line of being necessitous. That is our position. I wish it were not so. It would be a very happy thing for me, or for any Minister in my position introducing a Bill of this kind, to be able to offer to the House something much greater and much more generous towards meeting the full needs of the situation. I would be very happy indeed if I were in the position of being able to come to the House with a generous measure of that kind. At any rate it can be claimed for this Bill that it is a big step in the right direction. Despite all that Deputy Minch said, we are here now discussing a practical measure to provide the money for pension for a very big percentage of the necessitous widows and orphans in the country. So far as that is concerned there is no camouflage, no dishonesty and no hoodwinking of the people.

Deputy Norton, in his speech on the Bill, commented on the fact that it ought to have been introduced a year ago. I would say that from some points of view it ought to have been introduced many years ago. It was promised a year ago and it is not the fault of the Minister for Finance and it is not my fault—of course, we are responsible—that it was not introduced earlier. Deputies have commented on the intricacies and difficulties of the measure. I may say that it has been a really difficult measure to draft, first of all to get the basis to go on, and then to get the official drafting of it done. That took much longer than we anticipated.

A Minister said a fortnight ago that it was a very simple Bill.

He had not as much to do with it as I had. I quite agree that this Bill does not cover all widows. It was not meant to. It does not cover the 134,000 that Deputy Norton referred to. This is a Bill to provide pensions for necessitous widows, and among the 134,000 mentioned in the report and referred to by Deputy Norton, there are widows who are over 70 years of age. They are already getting the old age pension. There are also widows who would not take a pension, no matter how much it was, if you offered it to them. What their number is I do not know, but they must represent a considerable number, taking the total of widows in the Free State. If I knew some of them, I might be able to introduce them to some of the bachelors of my own Party and other Parties. There must be a fair number of them about. I know that there are a few around Dublin. Mention was made by Deputy Norton of childless widows. If childless widows under 60 are to be entitled to pensions, one could, in the same way, argue that spinsters of certain ages would be equally entitled to pensions. In fact, some of the spinsters might be more entitled to pensions than the childless widows. It is very difficult to know where to draw the line. We might not have any line if we had enough money but, when we have not, we have to cut our cloth according to our measure. Deputy Norton properly emphasised—I do not object to his doing so—the inadequacy of the pensions in general. He laid special emphasis on the non-contributory pensions. He quoted instances to show that the pensions would not be sufficient to maintain the widow and her dependants. I know of no scheme of social insurance of this kind in which an attempt is made to provide the beneficiaries with such a standard of living as they might have been used to when the breadwinner was alive. I know of no such social scheme of insurance in any country. I do not say a word against that if we could afford to do it, but no country, rich or poor, that I have heard of offers such an example.

Deputy Norton, Deputy Murphy and Deputy Brennan asked why this was made a contributory scheme. The Department and I gave earnest consideration to the recommendations set out in the Report. I and, later, the Executive Council, in considering the matter, had particularly in mind two ideas. One was that I would rather see people getting something for which they had paid, or partly paid, and which they could demand as a right. We were anxious to get away from what Deputy Murphy described as the "stigma" of home help—to give it its more polite name. There is a certain stigma attaching to that. If the people feel that they are in a contributory insurance scheme, as this is, and that they have paid a certain amount, no hat-in-hand business will be necessary. They will have paid something for what they are getting and they can go to the Post Office and demand the pension as of right. That was one matter that carried great weight with me. It is merely a development of that argument to say that the old pauperising idea is not the kind of philosophy that I should like to see established and continued in this State. In looking over the Report, I found statements that helped me in coming to the conclusion to which I came. On page 11 of the Report, paragraph 12, I find the following statement:—

For the reasons set out in Appendix C., we consider that, on general grounds, the principle of contributory insurance is to be preferred.

That is the statement of the majority of this Committee. Having weighed all the evidence, they did unquestionably, in the end, come down on the side of the non-contributory scheme. The Minority Report is against that but the majority did come down on the side of the non-contributory scheme. Giving full weight to all the recommendations and considering what would be for the benefit of the nation as a whole and even for the recipients, I thought—the Executive Council were entirely with me—that a contributory scheme would be best for this State. We found it impossible to make the scheme completely contributory but we went as near to that principle as we possibly could. I find the following statement on page 91 of the Report:—

The principle of compulsory, contributory insurance, applied either on a national scale or to large sections of the population, has been accepted by the majority of European States and by several countries outside Europe. They include Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Cuba, CzechoSlovakia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Great Britain

and about 15 or 16 others. That shows that these nations, great and small, believed that, for their States, a contributory scheme was best. The last paragraph of Appendix C. states:

It may not be out of place here to refer to the implication of schemes where the burden of social protection is borne by the general resources of the whole community. In looking to the State alone for protection against all the contingencies of life, the tendency is to weaken personal and family responsibility and to strengthen correspondingly the conception of the overriding authority and responsibility of an abstract State. It is necessary to state that, in this country at any rate, such a tendency is not in accord with the type of social philosophy predominantly held.

With that view, I am in complete agreement. I think that it would be best for the people in general and best for the beneficiaries under this scheme that they should have the feeling that they have paid something for what they are getting, that they are getting it as a right and that they are not being pauperised by the pensions, as they claim, in many cases, that they are pauperised when they have to accept outdoor relief.

Deputy Norton raised a point about the power we are taking to refund certain moneys to the Department of Local Government and the Department of Industry and Commerce in connection with the unemployment assistance scheme and public assistance. The Deputy is probably aware that local authorities have complained frequently to me and to other Ministers—and the complaints have been voiced in this House—that where claims to unemployment assistance were delayed, and where months sometimes elapsed, these authorities continued to pay home assistance or unemployment assistance. They felt sore later on when what they regarded as large sums of money—although I have no proof, I heard in some cases it was as high as £30 or £40—were received as back pay by the claimants.

These have been very rare cases.

Probably, I heard that, whether it is exaggeration or not. Local authorities feel sore, when, say, £20 was paid to individuals, at having had to continue to pay home help for a certain time out of the funds of the boards of health. When large sums were received they stated the money was not spent very wisely, and that it would have been better if the amount had been refunded to local authorities or spent on some other deserving cases. That statement was made to me more than once.

Would your colleague agree with that statement?

That the money should be refunded?

That people got from £20 to £30 in back money.

Surely there is a mistake there.

It is probably an exaggeration, but that kind of statement has been made to me. I think it is right that power should be taken in the Bill, if there were such cases, that there should be authority to withhold payment and to refund to local authorities moneys that they may justly claim as theirs.

In all cases?

All cases brought to our notice would be examined, and in justice, as far as we could we would refund the money to local authorities. Deputy Norton made a case for uniformity in all pensions paid. That would be an excellent thing from some points of view, and would save a good deal of trouble in administration. While the amount paid out might be uniform, it would not be justice to give the same amount to a widow living in Dublin, having to pay in rent anything from 5/- to 10/- a week for a room, and a widow in a labourer's cottage in the country, where the State and local authorities continue to pay a considerable amount of the rent, which would be anything from 9d. to 2/6 a week.

Are you not doing that on the contributory side? Will not the widow of a carpenter, on the contributory side, living in a labourer's cottage in the country get the same rate as the widow of a carpenter in Dublin?

But they have paid for it. When they contributed nothing one has to consider the matter from a different angle. There would be uniformity, as far as the office and administration is concerned, but there would not be uniform benefit, because a person living in a small town, or a rural area, would be deriving much greater benefit than a person who had, fortunately or unfortunately, to live in Dublin or Cork, and pay the cost of living as we know it as well as the high rents that have to be paid in these places. Deputy Norton raised a point about the provision of funds for expanding the benefits of all classes of pensions, and probably emphasised the non-contributory pensions, by the provision of paper credits. I do not think that would find any sympathy with the Executive Council, even if I were so hardy as to suggest it. There is this much against it. Whereas Deputy Norton can suggest that such a principle was adopted when national health insurance was inaugurated; under national health insurance no non-contributory people were insured as will be the case under this Bill. Under national health insurance everyone likely to benefit was regarded as an insured person from the first week they were insured. That is the underlying principle in any insurance scheme. To provide paper credit for people who would never be able to bring anything to the credit of the fund is, I think, a principle that even Deputy Norton would not insist upon.

All who spoke agreed that this Bill will have to be amended and improved. I wonder if there was ever a Bill brought to this Parliament that had not to be amended some time. That is the fate of every Bill. No piece of legislation is going to remain the same for all time, least of all social legislation of an ephemeral kind. On all sides demands will be made that this piece of social legislation, as well as other social legislation on the Statute Book, be amended at some time. There will be a constant demand from all parties. Of course a lot will depend on which side of the House Deputies are on. Demands will come at any rate from the Labour Party and from the Opposition of the day for an improvement in social services, and for an increase in the amount awarded as pensions under this or any other scheme that is likely to follow. That is to be expected. I expect no sooner will this Bill be passed than there will be resolutions to that effect. I hope they will not be as strongly worded as Deputy Minch's speech. Denunciatory resolutions will surely be passed telling of the blemishes in this Bill and of a variety of ways in which it has failed to come up to expectations. Such demands will spread from the fact that the Bill has been brought into operation. When people realise the benefits that widows' and orphans' pensions will bring we will have demands from organisations for an improvement and an increase of the benefits in the future. They will then have realised what benefits are being derived under the Bill and will be very anxious to see them increased.

Deputy Nally asked when the Bill will become law. I expect there will be a long Committee Stage. I do not know when the Committee Stage will be taken, but if the House is willing perhaps it could be taken in a fortnight. I have been anxious to get the Second Reading through for the last three weeks, but I have not had a great deal of success owing to pressure of other business. I am anxious to get the Bill through as rapidly as possible. For administrative reasons I am very anxious about it, because there is a big amount of work to be done connected with the initiation of the scheme, as well as an enormous amount of organisation necessary to bring the machinery into operation. I will press it forward with all possible speed, and I ask the House to help me. The sooner we can get the Bill into operation the better I will be pleased.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for June 18th.