In Committee on Finance. - Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, 1935—Committee.

As the House is aware, Private Deputies may not move amendments which actually impose a charge or are of the nature of increases of charge actually or potentially on State funds. For this reason many of the amendments offered to the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill are out of order, since they propose either to relax the conditions and consequently increase State subventions, or to increase the rates of pensions or enlarge the number of beneficiaries. The amendments which may not be moved are numbers 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20 to 43 inclusive, 46, 69, 70, 71 and 72— 43 in all. There is some doubt about No. 73. However, that may be solved when reached.

Section 1 put and agreed to.
SECTION 2.
(1) In this Act—
the expression "the Minister" means the Minister for Local Government and Public Health;
the expression "the National Health Insurance Acts" means the National Health Insurance Acts, 1911 to 1934, as amended by this or any subsequent enactment;
the expression "appointed country" means a country
(a) in which provision is made by legislative enactment for the establishment therein of any scheme of pensions—
(i) which is certified by the Minister to correspond substantially to the scheme of pensions established by this Act, and
(ii) which includes provision for the payment of pensions to residents in Saorstát Eireann, and
(b) which is not a country with the proper authority of which the Minister has entered into reciprocal arrangements under the provisions of Part VII of this Act relating to reciprocal arrangements with other countries;
the word "pension" when used without qualification means any pension under this Act;
the word "soldier" means a member of the Defence Forces of Saorstát Eireann (including the Reserve), in respect of whom contributions under the National Health Insurance Acts are for the time being payable under those Acts;
the expression "contribution year" has the same meaning as it has in the National Health Insurance Acts;
the expression "the appointed age" when used in relation to a child means the age of 14 years, except in the case of a child who on attaining that age is under full-time instruction in a day school and continues under such full-time instruction after such attainment, when the said expression means the age (not exceeding 16 years) up to which such child remains under such full-time instruction;
the expression "public assistance authority" means the local authority charged by or in pursuance of any enactment with the administration of the laws relating to the relief of the poor in any area;
the expression "unemployment assistance" means unemployment assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1933 (No. 46 of 1933);
the expression "the Unified Society" means Cumann an Árachais Náisiúnta ar Shláinte;
the word "prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made by the Minister under this Act.
(2) Where the widow of a man has remarried she shall not for the purposes of this Act be regarded as the widow of her former husband.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In sub-section (1), line 50, page 4, before the word "and" to insert the words "or in a continuation school".

The section, dealing with the definition of "appointed age," states that when applied to a child it means 14 years of age, except in the case of a child who on attaining that age is under full-time instruction in a day school, and continues in such full-time instruction after such attainment. The object of the amendment is to insert after "day school" the words "in a continuation school," so that for instance, a child's attendance at a vocational education school might be deemed to qualify the child for participation in the allowance which would be granted to that child once the child so attended that school. It may be, of course, that in the interpretation of the section as drawn the Minister contemplates that the attendance in such a school will be deemed to cover a child up to 16 years of age. If that is so, of course the amendment is unnecessary, but I should like to hear the Minister's view on the matter.

We have had consultations with the Department of Education on this matter, and we are satisfied that the wording in the Bill as it stands will include continuation schools.

I should like the Minister to say what full-time instruction means? Is it full-time on a course, or is it regulated by any period of the clock as distinct from the course?

It would refer not alone to time given in the ordinary hours that a school usually is in session, but also to children who might be apprentices and would attend such classes as apprenticeship classes in the forenoon or afternoon. The intention is to give it as wide an interpretation as possible.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 2 and 3 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, under sub-section (2) I think the intention is that in respect of a person who had more than £160 per annum as a salary prior to the 1st July, 1919, the widow of that person will be ineligible to come under the non-contributory scheme set out in the Bill. I want to suggest to the Minister that at this stage, 16 years after the date referred to in the section, it is hardly fair to advert to the remuneration of a person at that period for the purpose of determining the eligibility of the widow to get a pension. Under the section as it is drawn, if a person had £162 per annum prior to the 1st July, 1919, the widow of that person would be ineligible for a pension now; whereas if the deceased person had £159 per annum prior to the 1st July, 1919, the widow would now be entitled to a pension under the non-contributory scheme. I suggest to the Minister that it is unfair, in view of the position in 1935, to assess the standing of the family in relation to this Bill on the remuneration which the husband, or the father, might have had at that period. Consequently, I think that the Minister might, on the Report Stage, bring in an amendment to provide that any widow whose husband at any time had less than £250 per annum will be eligible for a pension under the non-contributory scheme. After all, you will undoubtedly get cases such as the following: in the case of a deceased man who had £162 per annum as a salary prior to July, 1919, his widow will not come under the scope of the Bill; later in the year 1919, say in August, 1919, you may get the case of a person who died and who had £250 per annum. In the second case, the widow comes within the scope of the Bill, although the salary is £90 higher than in the previous case which I quoted, whereas the widow whose husband had £162 is excluded from the scope of the Bill. References to income in 1919 seem to be quite unrelated to the circumstances of those widows today, and I suggest to the Minister that he ought to meet that point on Report Stage.

Would I be in order in referring on this section to another matter which seems to have been overlooked?

If it is relevant to the section.

I want to refer to the widows of people who never came within the term "insurable work." The Minister, himself, who is aware of conditions in the country, will know of a number of most deserving people who will probably not come within the terms of the Bill for that reason. Take the case of a man in a small town or village, working as a carpenter, a tailor or a shoemaker, having no insurance contributions to his credit and unable to make provision for himself. He leaves his widow in a very bad way financially. I suggest that between now and the final stages the Minister might ascertain the extent of the liability that the covering of such people would impose and, further, he could examine how far very deserving people might be placed in a position to qualify for a pension. I suggest that the Minister might give these matters a little attention.

I would like the Minister to take into consideration cases where sailors are on a share system. In this connection the widows of such men are in receipt of home assistance. The men were not in insurable occupations, and their widows would be debarred from getting benefit under this measure. Perhaps the Minister will consider these cases sympathetically. The men concerned would be those connected with fishing fleets. There is another type of case to which I would like to direct attention. It is the case of a man in receipt of disablement benefit for the last six or eight years. I am aware that a couple of men of that type died recently, and I wonder will their widows come within the terms of this section.

Were they receiving benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts?

No, they were receiving compensation. They have not been insured.

I doubt if those cases would come within the scope of this measure.

I hope the Minister will give these cases his earnest consideration.

If the underlying object of this Bill is to relieve distress, to come to the assistance of necessitous widows and orphans, I think this section ought to be amended. We might find a widow with, perhaps, a great number of children, whose husband was in receipt of a sum exceeding £160 per annum on a certain date. She might be much more necessitous than a person whose husband had a lesser wage. If the object of the Bill is to come to the assistance of widows and orphans, I suggest a basis such as £160 will cut across the intentions of the measure. If our object is to relieve destitution and come to the assistance of people really in need, we ought to take care that this does not cut out the very worst cases. It may easily do so, and I think the Minister should earnestly consider the matter of suitably amending this section. I think it is unwise to insert a hard and fast rule with regard to £160.

I believe that whatever figure we fix and whatever date we arrange—and, of course, we must take some date—there are bound to be hardships inflicted; there are bound to be cases that will be a few days out or a few pounds out on the wrong side. That happens in all legislation. In connection with any Bill that I have had to deal with, relating to pensions and payments, we heard afterwards of cases with which we would have liked to have dealt. No matter what date you fix, or what your financial limits are, there are bound to be exceptions. Deputy Brennan suggests that we may be striking out persons much more deserving than some of those who will receive benefit. That is hardly likely to be the case. We had to arrange some figure and we have gone into this matter very carefully. Under present conditions, and with finances as we know them to be, I am afraid that until the scheme comes to be revised there is little hope that anything furthere will be done with regard to altering the date or the amount.

Under the First Schedule of the Bill have we not something to determine whether people are or are not entitled to a pension? If we are to bring that Schedule into operation it will determine whether or not a widow is able to get on without a pension or some other means of subsistence. Seeing that that Schedule is there to determine whether a widow is entitled to some assistance, I think it ought to govern the matter. If we find that a widow with a family, whose husband was in receipt of a sum in excess of the specified amount, is destitute, what are we going to do about it? Will not the first Schedule determine whether the people are in need?

The Minister seems to take the view that because the father of a family had £160 per annum prior to July, 1919, the family have virtually a passport to immunity against poverty in the event of the father's death. I would like the Minister to remember that under this section a family, the father of which had £160 a year prior to July, 1919, will be debarred from getting a pension—at least, the widow will be debarred. I should like to mention that in 1919 the cost of living index figure was very much higher than it is to-day. A person trying to struggle along on £160 in June, 1919, had a much stiffer problem than a person similarly situated has to-day. The cost of living index figure was higher then and to that extent one cannot assume that the receipt of £160 in 1919 meant this El Dorado which the Minister unfortunately believes existed. Under this section the Minister will be presented with a case where the person concerned is the widow of a man who had £3 3s. 0d. a week in June, 1919. Under this Bill the Minister can say to that widow: "You will get no pension under this Bill because your husband had three guineas a week in June, 1919."

He was not an insured person.

That is why the Minister will address the widow in these terms. But the Minister may meet another widow whose husband had £5 a week in August, 1919, and he can say to that widow: "Although there is only a matter of two months between the death of your husband and the other lady's husband, you will come under the Bill for a non-contributory pension, while the other person will be ruled out." The Minister can meet the whole difficulty by deleting the section, and then he will be empowered to consider applications of widows for pensions, even if their husbands had more than £160 but not more than £250. It is the need of the widow of to-day which is the really important matter, and not the salary which a man might have had fifteen or sixteen years ago.

Section 4 and 5 put and agreed to.
SECTION 6.
(2) If any question arises whether any particular employment is agricultural employment within the meaning of this Act, the question shall be referred to the Minister, whose decision shall be final.

I beg to move amendment No. 3:—

At the end of sub-section (2) to add the words:—

Provided that—

(a) any person aggrieved by the decision of the Minister on any such question may appeal from that decision to decision of the High Court.

(b) the Minister may, if he thinks fit, instead of himself deciding any such question, refer the question for decision to the High Court.

Under Section 6 it is provided that if any question arises whether any particular employment is agricultural employment within the meaning of this Act, the question shall be referred to the Minister, whose decision shall be final. The object of the amendment is to insert a provision to the effect that any person aggrieved by the decision of the Minister on any such question may appeal from that decision to decision of the High Court and the Minister may, if he thinks fit, instead of himself deciding any such question, refer the question for decision to the High Court. Under this Bill we are presented with the position that persons contract for certain benefits and, as a result of the passage of this measure, the Minister will constitute the deciding authority as to what is agricultural employment within the meaning of this section. I suggest that it is altogether too autocratic that a Minister should possess the sole right to decide what is agricultural employment and what is not agricultural employment. There is obviously a good case why the person concerned should be permitted to appeal to an authority outside the Minister, especially when the person concerned is being dealt with under the section of the Act which is a contributory section.

The amendment which I am seeking to have inserted is not new to legislation of this kind. In the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920 power was given to a person to appeal to the High Court if he is aggrieved by a decision of the Minister. The power is given to refer the matter in dispute to the High Court. As a result of the existence of that section certain beneficial decisions are being got and many persons have reason to thank that section for benefits they are getting under it, benefits that they would not have got if the sole power resided in the Minister. I suggest the Minister should accept that amendment so as to enable an appeal to be made when the person feels aggrieved against the Minister's decision. It is a good principle to allow appeals to aggrieved persons against the decision of the Executive. No harm can be done by allowing an aggrieved person the right of appeal. An additional point is that the courts possessed of superior legal knowledge in the matter will have power to construe the section, and this is preferable to having it construed by the lay mind.

My experience, both before I became a Minister and since I became a Minister, when dealing with old age pension cases, is that there has always been the utmost fairness on the part of the Appeal Board in dealing with matters of that kind, and these matters are analogous to matters that will be dealt with under this Bill. There was no attempt to strain the law or to keep out anybody from benefiting who was entitled to benefit. Whenever a decision was to be taken the applicant was always given the benefit of the doubt. That has always been my experience in the way in which these things have been dealt with by the Department. In these cases I do not see how any legal question could arise. It is a mere question of fact. Questions under the Housing Acts and matters like that are dealt with in my Department without any red tape, but with liberality in interpreting the Acts. I think this Bill will be dealt with in the same way and I do not think it will serve any useful purpose to have this amendment inserted. If it is a case of going to the High Court you have the strict interpretations of the Acts. When the decision is left to the Minister the Act will be given a generous and wide interpretation without being tied up with too much red tape. This will be for the benefit of the applicant.

I would like to point out to the Minister that in the Unemployment Insurance Act a similar difficulty arose as to the interpretation of the kind of unemployment in which the applicant was engaged. In that Act a gardener, for instance, is excluded. No contributions are payable in respect of men employed as gardeners. I remember cases where men were employed sometimes as gardeners and sometimes as agricultural workers. The question that came up for decision was whether the person was employed as a gardener or as an agricultural labourer. I have a distinct recollection of a case where the officers of the Department ruled that contributions were not payable. When a subsequent appeal was made to the umpire, the umpire ruled that the person appealing was a person to whom the Act applied; that contributions were therefore payable, and consequently benefit was bound to be paid. I suggest to the Minister that under this Bill cases of that kind might arise, and that there is a case for an overriding authority to determine matters of that kind. I have a personal recollection of a case I quoted.

My own view would be that if there was any doubt as to whether a person was a gardener or an agricultural labourer, or whether a market gardener was or was not employed at agriculture, I would say he was so employed. I do not know what the High Court would say. The Minister has power to deal with the matter in a liberal way; he is not tied down to any strict legal interpretation. That power is generally exercised for the benefit of the applicant. I do not think it would be wise to insert the sub-section proposed in the amendment.

What I am trying to suggest to the Minister is that experience shows the wisdom of putting in the Bill something similar to what was in the Unemployment Act of 1920.

We are setting a very good precedent in the Department for whoever will come after us.

Precedents are sometimes set to be broken. Strong men make them and weak men follow them. I suggest to the Minister, if he is going to be as generous as he says he will be and as the Department is going to be, then he may not have any fear of frivolous appeals being taken to the High Court. People will not go to the High Court merely for the sake of seeing the High Court in session. It is an expensive kind of pastime. I suggest to the Minister that if a person has a legitimate ground for appeal there is a very good case for enabling him to plead that appeal before the High Court. A similar section in the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920 has been found to be of benefit to the insured persons. The value of this Bill would not be lessened by the inclusion of a similar section here. It would, I think, preserve the precedent set in previous legislation if this were now included. I ask the Minister to accept this or an amendment similar in substance to it.

I think it would certainly not be to the advantage of the claimants for widows' and orphans' pensions that such appeal would go to the High Court.

Amendment put and declared lost.
SECTION 7.
7.—(1) For the purposes of this Act the Borough of Dun Laoghaire shall be deemed to be a county borough.
(2) In this Act the expression "urban area" means any urban district (not being a county borough), the population of which (as shown by the census of population which is for the time being the latest such census) exceeds seven thousand.
(3) In this Act the expression "rural area" means any area which is neither a county borough nor an urban area.

I move amendment No. 4:—

In sub-section (2), line 44, page 7, to delete the word "seven" and substitute the word "two."

Might I express the hope that the Minister has not said the last word in connection with this section, because it is one that calls for further consideration by the Minister? There are provisions in the Bill with regard to rural areas that represent very small rates of benefit. Between now and the next stage of the Bill I suggest that the Minister ought to go into this whole section again and see how far the altogether undue difference between what are termed urban and rural areas in the Bill can be changed. I think it is altogether unwise to describe as a rural area any area in which the population does not exceed 7,000. As we have no other way of expressing our views on this section, according to your ruling, Sir, I suggest that the Minister ought to go into the whole question of the section again and see how far he can improve it, because clearly it is one that very badly needs to be improved.

Section put and agreed to.
SECTION 8.
Question proposed: "That Section 8 stand part of the Bill."

Could we have an explanation from the Minister as to what he has in mind in the description of appointed days? What is the first appointed day; what is the second appointed day; to which section of the Bill does each appointed day refer; and what is the purpose of making possible changeable appointed days?

The first appointed day will be the day on which the non-contributory part of the Bill comes into operation. It is not possible to fix the date yet, or even to give an approximate date, until we see how the legislation goes in the Dáil and in the Seanad. Our ambition is to have it as early as possible. The second appointed day will be the day on which the contributory part of the scheme comes into operation, as referred to in Section 35 (a) and (b). The contributions under the contributory scheme are payable with the National Health Insurance contribution, and the second appointed day must be the beginning of the contribution half-year, and cannot be earlier than 6th January, 1936."

So that under the contributory section of the Bill the contributions will not be payable until 6th January, 1936?

Could the Minister give us any idea when it is hoped to apply the non-contributory portion of the Bill?

It is very doubtful if it will be any earlier than 6th January next. We will try to have it earlier if we can, but it is doubtful if it will be in operation any earlier.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 9 put and agreed to.
SECTION 10.
Question proposed: "That Section 10 stand part of the Bill."

My amendment to this section was ruled out of order, and I have no complaint with reference to that but I still take exception to sub-section (2). I should like to get back to the relevant factors which induced the Government originally to decree that the contributions from agricultural workers should not be as great as in the case of ordinary workers, because there were some factors which they took into consideration at that time. As I have already pointed out, the basis of this Bill ought to be to give assistance to widows and orphans, and I do not see any reason why there should be any discrimination between agricultural workers and other workers as to the basis of contribution. It strikes me as extraordinary that there should be this discrimination. Take the case of two labourers living in labourers cottages in the country, one working at agricultural employment on a farm and the other working on the roads. Both die and leave widows. The widow of the road worker gets a bigger pension than the widow of the other man, although both are living under similar conditions. Apparently that is because of the contributions paid. That ought not to be the basis of the Bill. The basis of the Bill ought to be to come to the assistance of widows and orphans in distress. There seems to be running right through the Government's programme in every Bill some method of attack upon agriculture, although we hear very differently from the Government Benches. It is now being brought down to the widows and orphans of the agricultural workers. They are to be deprived of what ought to be their rights as far as pensions are concerned. Consequently I am definitely opposing this section because of the inclusion of sub-section (2).

I take it amendment No. 7 is not being moved?

I am surprised to hear Deputy Brennan describe the Bill, which is to give some advantages, anyway—let the Deputy think as little of them as he likes—to necessitous widows and orphans, as an attack upon agriculture, and upon the widows and orphans of agricultural workers.

As distinct from other widows and orphans.

An attack upon agriculture, is what the Deputy said. The previous Government were a long time in office, and what did they give? Was that an attack upon agriculture?

That is not the point.

It is very much to the point. Although they are not getting all we would like to see them getting, they are getting something from this Government that the last Government were asked over and over again to give, and never gave. They are getting it not alone under this Bill, but under other Bills, and more is being done for agriculture than the Deputy or his Party ever dreamt of doing for it. And that is an attack, as the Deputy described it, on agriculture!

This is a contributory scheme. It is an insurance scheme, linked up with national health insurance, and in all insurance, public and private, those who pay the biggest premiums get the best value. The road worker whom Deputy Brennan mentioned, usually gets a better wage than the man employed on the farm. Usually the local authorities pay much better, and the Deputy knows that. He is a member of a local authority and has to pay a much better wage to the workmen under the local authority than he pays out of farming, in all probability. The road workers are able to pay better and, therefore, they will get the advantage. The agricultural worker, on the other hand, is getting a better bargain for the amount he pays in proportion. If you take the two sets of widows' and orphans' pensions paid to the agricultural worker and to the industrial worker, you will find, on examination, that on a purely actuarial basis, a purely financial basis, the agricultural worker, for a reduced contribution, is getting much better value in pure hard cash than the industrial worker.

On the Second Reading the Minister expressed regret that a type of Party issue was introduced into this matter. I am sorry that the Minister has introduced it now.

Why did the Deputy describe this as an attack on agriculture? It is a wonder he did not bring in the economic war—he would if he could.

I have not endeavoured to bring a Party issue into this. I think the Minister is going back very badly upon the view which he expressed in the House the other day. I had not any intention of doing that. I do say, however, that when the Government set out to treat the widow of an agricultural worker differently from the way in which they proposed to treat the widow of any other worker, it is, if you like, an attack upon agriculture. The Minister says that they are doing what the previous Government never did. I agree that they are. But it is required now more than ever it was required before. Because the agricultural worker is in receipt of less wages and can do less for his wife and family during his lifetime, is that any reason why his widow should be neglected, and why the widow of his next door neighbour should be better treated? The Minister says that the basis of this is contributory. Unfortunately, it is on a contributory basis, but I say that there is discrimination, and unfair discrimination, against the agricultural labourer, and I say that we have that right down along the line. I can assure the Minister that I did not want to make any Party capital out of this matter, but I assert that that discrimination is there, and the Minister knows it is there.

I should like to express my surprise also that the Minister has not made a better proposal in this connection. Not alone in recent years, but, as I think the Minister will admit, for a number of years, the agricultural worker has been badly paid.

Although an effort has been made to make this a side issue of the economic war, the fact remains that the agricultural worker has been a slave for years. I submit that that, in itself, makes a case for doing something, if not generous, at least just, for the dependants of the agricultural workers. The Minister has a proposal in the Bill to increase, after a certain period, the pensions payable to the widows of agricultural labourers. I suggest that the Minister might consider the whole question at a much earlier date than the date prescribed in the Bill; and, furthermore, I suggest that, if it is considered that the burden of additional contributions on the agricultural labourers, in order to make up for pensions, will be too heavy, the State should bear that burden. I think that the agricultural labourers have been outcasts in this country for a number of years. I am quite satisfied that the Minister wants to change that state of affairs, but I suggest that the opportunity that this Bill gives him of doing something in the way of making amends to the dependants of the agricultural workers is one that he ought not to miss, and I suggest that a more generous provision ought to be made before this Bill is finally passed.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.
SECTION 12.
Question proposed: "That Section 12 stand part of the Bill."
Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.

On the section, Sir, all the remarks that I made with regard to Section 10 apply with equal force to Section 12, and, accordingly, I do not suppose it is worth while repeating them. I still maintain, however, that the Minister has not made any case for discrimination against the agricultural worker.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 13 and 14 agreed to.
SECTION 15.
Question proposed: "That Section 15 stand part of the Bill."

I move amendment No. 17:—

In paragraph (d) (iii), page 11, line 48, to delete the word "of" and substitute the word "or."

This is merely a clerical amendment. I presume it was an error in printing.

Amendment No. 17 agreed to.
Section 15, as amended, put and agreed to.
Section 16 and 17 agreed to.
SECTION 18.
Question proposed: "That Section 18 stand part of the Bill."

On Section 18, Sir. Speaking a few moments ago, the Minister said that he would take the view that agricultural market-gardening was included in agricultural work. If the Minister will observe paragraph (c) of sub-section (2) of Section 18, I think he will find scope for bringing the section into conformity with the views he has expressed. From that point of view, I take it that the Minister will have no objection to bringing in an amendment on Report Stage to include market gardening.

I shall look into that point.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 19 agreed to.
SECTION 20.
Question proposed: "That Section 20 stand part of the Bill."

On Section 20, Sir. I cannot refrain from raising, in this connection, many of the matters raised on the Second Stage of the Bill, which I hoped the Minister would make some effort to meet on the Committee Stage. In this section we are enacting rates of benefits for widows under the non-contributory scheme, and, again, I want to make an appeal to the Minister to do something to raise the rates of benefit that are provided in this section. A large number of amendments which I submitted to this section have been ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle. Of course, I do not dispute the correctness of that ruling, but, at the same time, there is certainly a problem there to be dealt with. Under this section of the Bill, the Minister is proposing to pay rates of benefit which are grossly inadequate to maintain human existence in the areas in which these benefits are applicable. For instance, in a rural area—which, in fact, does not mean a rural area, because an area with a population of 6,999 is not a rural area in this country—the rates of benefit to be paid to a widow will be 5/- to herself, 2/- for the first child, and 1/- for each additional child; so that a widow with four children, in a place like Naas, Athy, Kildare or Mullingar, will be expected to exist, under this section, on a rate of 10/- a week. I say that it is quite impossible for a widow to try to exist on a miserable income of that kind. The Committee that reported on this whole question of widows' and orphans' pensions provided in its report that the rates of benefit should be, in the case of a widow with four children, 24/- per week on a non-contributory basis; but even in dealing with that portion of its report the Committee felt itself bound to express regret that that amount was so small, and also felt itself bound to express the view that the rate would do nothing more than to satisfy minimum requirements. That Committee, as I say, was of opinion that 24/- per week would do no more than satisfy minimum requirements, but under this section it is proposed to pay rates of benefit as low as 10/- in lieu of the 24/- which the Committee recommended should be paid on a non-contributory basis.

I say to the Minister that a rate of 10/- per week to a widow and four children cannot possibly be defended on any humanitarian or economic grounds. It is impossible to conceive the kind of existence a family would be compelled to live on an income of 10/- a week, out of which rent, clothes, food, school books and provision for the thousand and one other necessaries and amenities of life must be met. Yet that is the provision which it is proposed to make in this Bill. That is to be the extent of the State's recognition of what these people can exist on. I say to the Minister, and I am sure it is scarcely necessary to say it to him, that the rates of benefit in this section are unjustifiable on any ground —humanitarian or economic.

While, however, that is the rate of benefit applicable to rural areas—and again, I want to emphasise that these are areas with a population of 6,999— the rates in the other areas are equally low and equally indefensible on any reasonable ground. For instance, it is proposed to pay in the City of Galway 11/6 per week to a widow with four children. How is a widow with four children going to exist in Galway on 11/6 per week? If anybody thinks that a widow can exist on these rates, he owes it to all the widows in the country to give the recipe by which they can do it. Similarly, in the City of Dublin and in Dun Laoghaire and Cork, Limerick and Waterford, the maximum benefit allowed under the Act in the case of a widow with four children is 15/6 per week. The Minister knows the City of Dublin very well, and he knows the kind of life you could lead in the City of Dublin on an income of 15/6 per week. The rate of benefit in this case is much lower than is paid in the case of home assistance. The scale of benefit provided in the case of Dublin is lower than the rate of benefit allowed by the Dublin Union Commissioners, and the rate of benefit in rural areas is again, in many cases, greater than the rate allowed under this section.

I stated on the Second Stage of the Bill, and it is worth restating, that the Balrothery Board of Public Assistance grants to a widow and four children home assistance at the rate of 16/6 per week. When this Bill is in operation, a widow in the same area will get a pension from the State of 10/- per week—less by 6/6 per week than she would get from the Balrothery Board of Public Assistance. The Balrothery Board of Public Assistance, a local committee, with limited resources, limited powers and limited responsibility in a matter of this kind, says to a widow and her children "16/6 per week is our conception of what your minimum requirements are," but the State, which ought to exercise a more paternal care over persons such as these, expresses the view that 10/- per week is an adequate pension in circumstances of that kind. Either it is right for that Board to grant 16/6 and wrong for the State to grant 10/-, or the contrary is the position.

I would suggest that the scale of public assistance granted in that case is by no means generous, but the State ought to be not less generous, and I think that from the point of view of relieving local rates and from the point of view of making widows and fatherless children a charge upon one source; and one source alone, there is a good case, as I said on Second Reading, for treating the persons under the non-contributory section in the same way as we deal with those under the contributory section. Even if that is not possible at this stage, I hope the Minister will introduce some amendment to raise these rates because they are wretched rates. They are creating a new class of poor person. They are indefensible rates and I hope something will be done to raise them, because if the Bill leaves the House with these rates of benefit, I believe you will have a righteous yell of indignation from persons who are going to get these low rates of benefit in the form of State pensions. The Minister, I hope, will reconsider the matter, and do something on Report to raise the existing rates of benefit.

I should like to add a word to what Deputy Norton has said, and to point out to the Minister that one of the strongest reasons for a Bill of this kind is the opportunity it gives to wipe out the stain of poor law relief. I think that poor law relief and the manner in which that service has, of necessity, to be administered is about one of the most degrading features of our social life, but I am afraid the provisions referred to will make it inevitable that poor law relief will have to be given to supplement the pensions afforded under this section to a number of people. I think the Minister will regret that very much and I think it will be one of the main objects of the Bill defeated, if the pensions payable under the section were so small, as they will be, in a number of cases, that the local authority will have to supplement them. I would very earnestly ask the Minister to look into that section again and to obviate a condition of that kind arising. It would be most unfortunate if it did, and I think the Minister would regret it, because I think he will realise that one of the main purposes of the Bill would be entirely defeated.

I have a great deal of sympathy with what Deputy Norton and Deputy Murphy have said, particularly in regard to the rates for non-contributory pensions, but I am afraid there is no use in my holding out any hope of a revision, in so far as these rates are concerned, at any rate for the present. The Government have been anxious since we became a Government to get some scheme of pensions for widows and orphans put on the Statute Book. We did at one time think that our resources would have enabled us to do better than is proposed in the Bill as it stands, but after a full examination over a pretty long period, we decided that we could not, for the present, do any better than is proposed in the Bill.

It is set out in the Bill that certain sections are to be examined at the end of a period of five years, and it is possible that, with the experience we will have gained and the exact knowledge we will have then of the cost of the scheme, and, let us hope, with better revenues for the Exchequer as a whole, big advances will be made. The one great value I see in this Bill so far as it goes is that when the House finally passes the measure we shall have got the principle of widows' and orphans' pensions inserted in the State scheme of social services. There is no doubt in the world, as I said in reply to Deputy Norton on Second Reading, that almost every year there will have to be some reply given to the very imperative demand which I know will arise all over the country from probably all sections of the community to improve the scope of the Bill in regard to the class of people to whom pensions are to be given and to increase the value of the rates. That demand is bound to come and every Government is bound to hear it, in this matter and in other matters of social legislation, and as finances allow, I am certain that that demand will have to be given a very sympathetic hearing.

Section 20 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 21 stand part of the Bill."

Under this section, it is possible to pay a pension to a widow with one child, subject to the child being 14 years of age, but, as from six months from that date, the child's claim to a pension lapses and automatically the widow's claim to a pension likewise lapses. The presumption underlying that section is that it is possible for a child of 14½ years of age to secure employment in industry, but while that is the presumption underlying the section, we have already had introduced into the Dáil a Bill dealing with conditions of employment of which the object is to regulate the admission of children to industry and to prohibit the admission of young persons to industry. I should like to know from the Minister on what grounds it is assumed that a child ceases to be a liability on a widow when it reaches the age of 14½ years and on what ground especially is that assumed in existing circumstances. According to the latest official figures, there are 127,000 people registered as unemployed at employment exchanges, of which a large number are young persons. In the face of these figures, it seems to me absurd to assume that a child who becomes 14½ to-morrow, or next month, or next year, is likely to be able to get into industry so long as that barrier to doing so exists. Yet under this Bill it is assumed that the child will cease to be dependent on the widow when it reaches 14½ years. I should like to know from the Minister on what grounds that is assumed. It is impossible for children of that age to get into industry; notwithstanding the fact that, in my opinion, altogether too many of them are employed in industry. I should like to know from the Minister how a widow is assumed to be able to keep herself and a child of 14½ years of age, because that assumption is there once the pension is stopped in respect of the child when it reaches 14½ years, and also stopped in respect of the widow simply because the child has reached that age.

It does seem to be an extraordinary thing, when at the present time we have such a justifiable outcry against child labour, that the Minister should assume that a child, once it reaches 14½ years, ceases to be a liability on the mother. Unless the Minister really felt that, he could not introduce this section in the way in which he has introduced it. Consequently I would urge on the Minister that in the interests of decency as far as children are concerned, and in order to show that we are in earnest in regard to keeping out of employment young children who ought to be at school, he ought to make some alteration in this section. Certainly it is inhuman to think that a widow, because her child had reached the age of 14½ years, should cease to get a pension. I would appeal to the Minister to reconsider whatever influence has made him put down a section of that kind.

Mr. Murphy

Might I suggest to the Minister another set of circumstances that would arise? Leaving altogether aside the case that has been developed by Deputies Norton and Brennan I should like the Minister to consider the case of a widow with one child who has reached 14½ or 16 or 18 years of age, but who for many years after would not be fit for work. A member of a local authority comes across numbers of cases of children crippled or invalided for a variety of reasons. I suggest that there ought to be some provisions to ease the difficulties in cases like that. I think it is hard to contemplate the lot of a widow who receives for a certain period a pension under this Act, and then goes off the benefit for the years that will intervene before she reaches 60 years. I think the Minister ought to endeavour to meet in some form or another the points which have been raised, because clearly if the section remains as tightly drawn as it is at the present time there will be very striking anomalies and very striking cases of hardship.

The points which Deputies Norton, Brennan and Murphy have raised arise, I think, out of Section 22 rather than Section 21.

I thought we were discussing Section 22.

No; we are on Section 21. It is quite possible that anomalies will arise, but 14 is the school leaving age for children, although some of them may be occupied in school up to 16 years. However, we have to take some age and the school leaving age is 14 years. When a child reaches that age it has to be regarded as having left the school going age, and therefore, to a certain extent at any rate, the dependency age, although it is quite true that many children will still be just as dependent on the mother. That is, I think, a fact which we cannot ignore, but within the limits of the money which has been provided I cannot see that we can do any more. There are a whole lot of things to be considered. This is one of the points which will require looking into at the earliest possible date when the scheme is being re-examined, but at present, within the limits of the money made available, I cannot see any hope of doing it.

I am sure the Minister realises that the age of 14 or 14½ years is really a very impressionable age, and it is at that time that men are made or unmade. If you take away from the widow at that very crucial time the means of supporting her family I do not know what is going to happen. I myself think that a widow who would be very much in need of funds at that stage might easily go off the benefit at an earlier stage. Children at the ages of nine or ten would possibly be a less strain upon the mother than they would be at the age of 14 years. Consequently, I think the wrong age has been taken.

Would the Deputy suggest that we go down to nine or ten?

No. I suggest that you ought to go up. As a matter of fact, of the two, I would prefer that a widow with a child of five or six years would not have a pension at that time and would have it when the child is 14 years.

As the point has been raised may we discuss——

We will take Section 21 as agreed, and go on to Section 22.

Question proposed: "That Section 22 stand part of the Bill."

The Minister, in defining Section 21 or Section 22 as the case may be, suggested that the reason for taking 14 years was the fact that that is the school leaving age, and that consequently it was convenient to take it. Even if that argument could do service for fixing the age of dependency at 14 years, I suggest to the Minister that it is not a wholly valid argument in respect of depriving the widow of her pension once the child reaches 14½ years of age. Under this section as it is drawn a widow aged 50 with one child aged 13 will be eligible to secure a pension in respect of herself and the child. When the child passes from 13 to 14 years of age the pension will normally cease as from that date, but that would not take effect until six months after the child reaches 14 years of age. The result is that at 14½ years of age the child ceases to be entitled to a pension. The widow, still being under 60 years of age, automatically loses the pension, simply because the child has passed over the age of dependency. Whatever case the Minister may make that 14 years must be taken as the age of dependency, and whatever case he may make for excluding the child from the benefits of the Act at 14½, surely he would require to make a much stronger case for depriving the widow of the allowance? I regret very much that the Minister could not so amend the section as to leave the pension with the child until it attains a greater age. He ought at least to provide that where the child does pass out of benefit the widow ought to be retained. He should provide in the Bill that a widow with one child should be entitled to a pension even if the child passes 14½ years. It is impossible to contemplate that a child of such tender years can support itself. The only ground for excluding the widow when the child reaches 14½ is that the child can maintain the mother, or the mother can provide an income for herself. Where the widow is not able to earn an income to provide for herself and the child, the Minister should arrange that the widow, at all events, will be allowed to retain the pension even when the child has ceased to be a liability on the fund.

As I said earlier, we have to arrive at some definition as to when the child, from the legal point of view, ceases to be dependent, and the school-leaving age seemed to be the reasonable age to select. We have examined non-contributory pension schemes in other countries and, generally speaking, none of them provide pensions for widows without dependent children. I think the report of the Committee also recommended us not to give pensions to widows without dependent children. Children at 14½ being, at any rate in a legal sense, regarded as non-dependent, it follows that the widow loses the pension. It is quite possible that widows in towns might be considerably embarrassed by losing the pension at that time, and there is the possibility of the child not being able to get employment. In rural areas, however, I think it is a fact that children go to work on the farm and help their mothers, if they happen to be small holders or agriculturists in a small way. Even the sons of agricultural labourers go to work at a very early age and they help— whether the remuneration they get for the help they give is very much, or not, I do not know; I doubt if it is very much. At any rate, they are of some assistance at the age of 14, and even before 14 they give a good deal of useful help in agriculture.

I agree with the Minister that in the case of widows engaged in agriculture on very small farms perhaps the children may be of some use at 14 or 14½, but they will be a small proportion of the people who will need assistance. The really necessitous people are those in the towns. I ask the Minister, outside any definition of school-going age, what does he think is the age of dependency? Does he think it ceases at 14 or 14½? He knows perfectly well it does not. In the case of towns and cities it is really the dangerous age and the age when the widow most requires assistance. If the Minister, when the child is 14 years of age, withdraws from the widow the assistance she is accustomed to get, it will have a very bad and a very evil effect. The Minister ought to make some provision to meet at least the town cases.

Sections 22 to 27, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 28.

On Section 28, the Minister, in the course of his Second Reading speech, said it was necessary to include this section in order to prevent possible abuse of the Bill. I think he had in mind the case of a widow over 60 marrying. Apparently, the prevention of marriages at that time is deemed to be something calculated to stop abuse under the Bill. Could we have an idea of the circumstances the Minister had in mind when that portion of his speech was being delivered? What is wrong with a woman of 60 getting married?

I do not think that is a matter that I am qualified to go into.

But you stated it on Second Reading.

There might be a likelihood of widows getting married, women and men both agreeing to get married merely for the sake of qualifying for this pension. I am not suggesting that the pension is such an attractive one.

It would be a rather costly experiment.

But the pension would only be payable if the husband died?

Is the Minister afraid of the husband dying?

Stranger things have happened. I am not suggesting that our people are so mercenary as that, but it might happen that there would be a number of cases of young women marrying very old men whose prospect of life would not be very long.

They might be very healthy, if old.

I hope they are all as healthy as the Alderman at his age. It is to protect these people against themselves, and not show any encouragement of that kind of thing, that we have put in this section.

In the amendments I have been credited with something I did not ask to have done. I am credited with putting down a certain amendment to Section 63—amendment 66. In the case of Section 28 I did put down an amendment and it has not appeared. I really wanted to delete Section 28 altogether. I do not think the abuses which the Minister apparently is afraid of, will exist. We have in the country cases of men over 60 getting married to quite young girls. We have it in the agricultural community pretty frequently. If this is carried, and if a man over 60 happens to get married and there is a young widow, apparently she is not entitled to a pension. I do not think there is any danger that there will be the abuse which the Minister apparently wants to check, because getting married is a pretty costly experiment, and it is an experiment. I cannot imagine any girl tying herself up to an old man for the purpose of getting the pension which the Minister suggests in the Schedule they will get; I cannot imagine anybody trying that experiment. I really think the section is a blot on the Bill and it ought to be removed, because there is no necessity for it at all.

The Minister has made a very inadequate case for the section, whether because of his modesty or the fact that the subject is one on which he might not like to dilate. The Minister has assumed that the moment this Bill is passed there is going to be a nation-wide conspiracy on the part of young girls to marry old men——

And for what purpose?

That question should be addressed to the Minister for Public Health. The Minister is suggesting that if this section is not included in the Bill there is going to be a grave abuse of the measure, by young girls marrying men of 60 years of age and over. And all this conspiracy is to take place for the purpose of getting the reduced benefit provided in the non-contributory section of the Bill. Look at what the conspiracy is for—if the husband happens to die then the person becomes a widow, and of course in that case she will get no allowance under the Bill because she is under 60 years of age and she is childless. If there is a child of the marriage, or say the widow is left with one or two children, what is the objection to giving her a pension? Who is going to keep a widow of that kind? Is it any consolation to the widow and children to know that the husband or father was 60 years of age when he married, or is the memory of that enough to sustain the child until he becomes 14½ years of age? I suggest to the Minister that he need not by any stretch of the imagination fear that the girl marries the man in the hope that he dies quickly and leaves her with his pension. In the case I have just mentioned, where there are two children the widow is to get 5/- for herself, 2/- for the first child and 1/- for the second child. She gets 8/- altogether for herself and the two children. One would imagine from the section in the Bill that the woman was going to have Paradise. The Minister may rest assured that there will be no conspiracy to secure that 8/-.

I will look into the matter again.

Section 28 agreed to.
Sections 29 and 30 agreed to.
SECTION 31.
A sum shall not be paid on account of a pension if payment of the sum is not obtained within three months after the date on which it has become payable.

I move amendment No. 44:—

In lines 32-33 to delete the words "payment of the sum is not obtained" and substitute the words "a claim for such pension is not made."

Our experience in the case of old age pensions claims is that sometimes these take six months, 12 months or 18 months before they are determined. Sometimes it takes months to determine whether people are or are not agricultural workers. Are we to read Section 31 as meaning that if payment is not made within three months the case will be thrown out? Is that the interpretation to be placed on the section? Or is the Minister confident that all claims for pensions will be settled inside three months?

It means that if, having got the order for payment, it is not cashed for three months.

That is quite all right.

Possibly the wording is not too clear.

That is why I put down the amendment. It was not clear.

I will have the section examined.

Possibly the Minister will look into it. The word "obtained" is used in the section——

The word "obtained" is used in the Old Age Pensions Act in the same way. I will examine the wording again.

Amendment No. 44 withdrawn.

What has been said by the Minister applies to amendment No. 45 also.

Amendment No. 45 withdrawn.
Sections 31 to 36 agreed to.
SECTION 37.
A pension under this Act shall, subject to any directions of the Minister in special cases, be paid weekly in advance in such manner and subject to such conditions as to identification or otherwise as the Minister may direct.

On Section 37 I notice that the pension will be paid weekly in advance. I would like the Minister to tell us the advantage of the words "in advance" as used in this Bill. It seems to be a way of depriving persons who claim pensions of the benefit of one week's pension.

It means "in advance" of the date in the order. Say if the pension is for next Saturday it will be paid any time in the week before Saturday.

This order shall be in the form of old age pensions orders?

Sections 37 to 41 agreed to.
SECTION 42.
(1) Any sums standing to the credit of the fund which are not required to meet current expenditure shall be transferred to the Minister for Finance and by him credited to an account (in this Act referred to as the Account) to be called the "Pensions Investment Account."
(2) There shall be paid into the account, out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, in respect of the financial year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, and in respect of each of the next nine succeeding financial years, the annual sum of £250,000, and thereafter such sums as the Oireachtas may determine.
(3) Any sums standing to the credit of the account shall be invested and kept invested at the discretion of the Minister for Finance on behalf of the fund in all or any of the following ways, that is to say, in the purchase of any stock, fund or security in which trustees are authorised by Section 18 of the Adaptation of Enactments Act, 1922 (No. 2 of 1922), to invest trust funds or in the purchase of any stock, shares or security the principal and interest of which are guaranteed under statutory authority by the Government of Saorstát Eireann, and any interest received from such investment shall be credited to the account.
(4) Moneys liable to investment under the immediately preceding sub-section of this section shall be Government money within the meaning of the Approval Investments Act, 1933 (No. 34 of 1933), and that Act shall apply in regard thereto accordingly.
(5) If at any time the moneys in the fund are insufficient to meet current liabilities the Minister for Finance shall, out of the account, issue to the fund such sums as may be required for the purpose of discharging those liabilities.
Question proposed: "That Section 42 stand part of the Bill."

In the course of his speech on the Second Reading, the Minister indicated that if the amount raised by way of State contribution or contributions in any one year was inadequate to meet the pensions, there would be a sum advanced out of the Pensions Investment Account. I would like to know from the Minister what position will arise assuming that the State contributions and the contributions paid by the persons covered by the contributory sections of the Bill are inadequate? Is it assumed that the State contribution of £250,000 a year may be increased in order to make good any possible deficit? And is it contemplated also that in respect to the actuarial examination of the scheme the State will accept liability to make good the deficit in the operation of the scheme, or is it possible that additional contributions may be required from the employers and employees so as to make good the deficit?

As the Deputy knows, every year will have to stand on its own feet, but what the Oireachtas passes imposes certain obligations on the Government of the day. How that Government would deal with the deficit would be a matter for the Government themselves, who would be responsible for meeting that state of affairs. My own idea with regard to the obligations that will be imposed by this Bill, when it becomes an Act, is that any obligation arising out of the payment of pensions at the rate set out in the Bill to the people entitled to pensions must be met by the Government. Whether the sum be greater than the £250,000 set aside by the Government, or whether it is not, the Government will have to meet the liability arising out of the legislation passed.

Could we have an explanation as to what happened the £400,000 which the Minister for Finance indicated last year would be made available as the State's contribution to finance this scheme? The Minister told us last year that it was proposed to set aside £400,000 which was the normal cost of this scheme to the State. But, under this section of the Bill, the contribution is £250,000. Could the Minister tell us what has happened the remaining £150,000, which the Minister for Finance was disposed to give last year, especially in view of the fact that he only proposes to make a contribution of £250,000 under this section?

My recollection with regard to that money is that when it was found it was not possible to get the Widows' and Orphans' Pension Bill prepared and drafted in time for last year, the Unemployment Assistance Bill, which was in a more advanced stage, was rushed and the money was used for that. I was pressing very hard to get this Bill through, but with all the pressure and the anxiety of the Government and the officials concerned, we were not able to get this Bill through earlier. When I reported that, the other Bill, which was in a more advanced stage, was pushed on and the money which was then available, having been passed by the Dáil, was taken and used for unemployment assistance. That is my recollection of what happened.

I think that would hardly fit in with the facts, because the Unemployment Assistance Act was an Act of 1933, and was in operation long before the Minister made his Budget speech last year. The Minister for Finance was making provision for unemployment assistance benefit in the same Budget. Notwithstanding that fact, he was willing then to give £400,000 to finance this scheme.

He had not anticipated that it would cost as much as it did.

Possibly. At all events, the Minister thought that the State's contribution should be £400,000, and now we find that the contribution is to be only £250,000. If the pensions provided for in this Bill were adequate, one might not demur at the saving of £150,000, for use in another direction, but in view of the low rates of pension under the contributory scheme a saving of £150,000, apparently in perpetuity, is something which is making this Bill less valuable than we had hoped it would be. I should like to know from the Minister whether he believes he can still get that £150,000 from the Executive Council.

Not a hope. I might as well look for last year's snow.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 43 and 44 agreed to.
SECTION 45.
The Minister for Finance may, whenever and so often as he thinks fit, cause an actuarial inquiry to be made into the general financial operation of this Act, including an estimate of the value of contributions payable under this Act and the value of the benefits conferred by this Act.

I move amendment No. 47:—

At the end of line 38, to add the words "and shall cause the report of the actuary together with any observations of the actuary in relation thereto, to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas."

The object of the amendment is simply to ensure that the report of the actuary and his observations in relation to the working of the Act will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, so that both Houses will be informed of the position of the Act as revealed by the actuarial inquiry.

I accept the principle of the amendment, but the wording of it may have to be altered.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SECTION 46.
(1) There shall be established and maintained for the purposes of this Act a panel of such number of referees as the Minister for Finance may from time to time appoint.
(2) Every member of the panel of referees shall be appointed by the Minister for Finance and shall hold office during the pleasure of the said Minister.
(3) Members of the panel of referees shall be persons serving in the Civil Service of the Government of Saorstát Eireann.

I move amendment No. 48:—

In sub-section (3), line 1, before the word "members" to insert the words "One half of the"

There is a mandatory provision for the appointment of a panel of referees, and the purpose of the amendment is to provide that the panel will contain other members than civil servants. Without any disrespect to civil servants, I think a panel of this kind ought to contain the names of people who have been prominently identified with social work, or of some people who might be said to be more directly in touch with the interests of people whose claims will be under consideration by the referees. I think the Minister ought to give some accommodation of this kind. There is a very good case for making certain that this panel contains some people in whom the average person through the country, by reason of the fact that such people have been prominently identified with social work, will have full confidence.

I must say I do not feel disposed to alter what is in the Bill. I do not want to go over again at length what I said at an earlier stage about my experience of the appeal board in connection with old age pensions. I think they will deal with this measure, with all its implications, in the same broad way. They are people with a broad outlook and do not deal with a matter of this kind in what is usually accepted as the Civil Service red tape kind of way. I think they are men who know the conditions in the country and who are humanitarian in their outlook. If we get a panel from the Service, I am satisfied that they will not act unjustly and without feeling.

The bringing in of outsiders would, in all probability, rather cause delay and, of course, there would also be additional expense. I know there will be objection from Finance on that score, because you could not bring in people to do that work and not pay them and pay their expenses as well. On the whole, I think that we would get more expedition and at least as good a humanitarian outlook from within the Service as from any other tribunal likely to be set up.

With Deputy Murphy, I do not want to cast any aspersions on the loyalty, zeal and efficiency of civil servants in discharging their duties under this section, but the principle introduced here is a new one. Under this Bill, persons will be contributing for certain statutory rights. Obviously, representatives of the contributors should be put on the panel of referees who are going to decide matters of this kind. In the National Health Insurance Acts, for instance, it is admitted that the insured contributors are entitled to representation on the committee of management of the society. Under the Unemployment Insurance Act it is also admitted that representatives of insured contributors, or of workers generally, are entitled to representation on the court of referees, but here in this section it is sought to introduce an entirely new principle, namely, to give no representation whatever to insured contributors. I suggest that it is much more difficult for the Minister to defend a section of this kind and to plead that a section of this kind is normal than to show that the other precedents to which I have referred are abnormal.

It is not so long ago since the Minister piloted through this House a Bill for the unification of societies under the National Health Insurance Acts. In that case the Minister provided for such representation, but in this Bill the Minister proceeds to provide that insured contributors will have no right of representation on the panel of referees. It seems to me that these are inconsistent attitudes. If the Minister was right, as I think he was, in allowing for representation under the National Health Insurance Act, he is obviously wrong in putting in such a section in this Bill. There is a well-defined path already laid down in similar Acts to the effect that the insured contributors should get representation, but the Minister is seeking to deprive the insured contributor of such representation in this Bill. I think that the cost of adding outside persons to the panel would be negligible, and I do not think that there would be any serious delay in dealing with the matter. In any case, however, if the Minister wants to make sure that any such procedure will not cause delay, I suggest that he should pay a visit to the Department of Industry and Commerce for the purpose of ascertaining how unemployment assistance cases are dealt with in that Department.

We are the Department of Local Government and Public Health.

I agree, of course; but I suggest to the Minister that in the Department of Industry and Commerce we have an example of the way such matters are being dealt with and, if there is to be no outside representation on this panel to deal with appeals, I certainly say that it is a very sorry spectacle to see how similar appeals are dealt with in that Department. I think that if the Minister knew of anybody who was entitled to unemployment assistance he certainly would not be able to make them any promise of early relief once they have to go through that procedure. It is my opinion that if the people knew that there was such outside representation on the panel, it would give them an assurance that their interests were being properly looked after and I believe that it would have a very important bearing on the administration of the scheme generally and on the outlook of the community with regard to it.

Under the National Health Insurance Acts the appeal is to the Minister. There is also an appeal board, and that is where the question of civil servants enters. Sometimes also, medical referees—not necessarily civil servants—are appointed; but the appeal, under the National Health Insurance Acts, is to the Minister. So far as I know, there has not been any serious complaint made to the Minister in reference to any case decided on appeal. The appeal sometimes comes to the Minister but very often it does not come to him. Generally, the appeal comes to the civil servant dealing with the matter and, apparently, the decision is just, because we do not hear any complaint made in connection with such cases.

There is another important matter, in connection with this proposal, to which I would like to refer. The Minister for Finance makes the appointment.

Mr. Murphy

Yes, I think that the Minister knows that the Department of Finance has a very bad tradition in matters of this kind. It is quite possible that all the civil servants on this panel would be officials of the Department of Finance.

Mr. Murphy

Well, it is possible.

Mr. Murphy

Very well, but there is another matter in connection with this. While it is true that a number of civil servants were very prominently associated in the report of the Committee that inquired into this matter and into the proposals to grant pensions and who were prepared even to go much farther than the Bill itself provides, it is also true that there was at least one minority report with which a civil servant was identified and which ruled out altogether the question of pensions. I think myself that it was a very surprising minority report. However, my point is that it is quite possible that a civil servant with that particular outlook might be put on this panel and, if that were the case, I should not care to discuss the prospect of the success of a claimant's appeal with regard to a pension. I suggest to the Minister that a very good case has been made here for some accommodation and I think that the Minister ought to indicate to the House that he is prepared to give some accommodation in this matter.

The Minister quoted the National Health Insurance Acts as an instance where an appeal lies to persons who are civil servants. The Minister, however, should realise that in that case the appeal to such civil servants is only made after the appeal has been turned down by a person who was himself elected by the insured contributors. In the case of this Bill, however, the insured contributors will have no representation, and it will not be a question of an appeal being turned down by a person or persons elected by the insured contributor. In this case the appeal, if there is one, will be decided by the Minister. In the other cases the appeal is made to the society, on the committee of which are representatives elected by the insured persons themselves, and it is only where the committee turns down an appeal that the further appeal can be made. In the case of this Bill, however, there is no possibility of the insured contributors being able to get a voice in the consideration of claims or appeals. In any case, I think that there is a very good case to be made here for ensuring that there will be some persons other than civil servants represented on this panel of referees. For instance, suppose the Minister for Finance were to issue to this panel of referees—all servants of the Minister—the same kind of instructions in respect of widows' and orphans' pensions as have been issued recently in the case of old-age pensions, namely, "Save £100,000 per annum." Do you think that any of these people could stand up against the Minister and say, "I shall do no such thing, because I hold that the Minister's views on social legislation and matters of this kind run counter to my own"? I think it would be found that the civil servant who would take that attitude in regard to the Minister would be promptly removed from the panel and that the Civil Service authorities would take disciplinary measures with regard to him. I hold that this decision to save £100,000 in old age pensions kills whatever hope the Minister might have had of justifying a proposal of this kind. I suggest that the Minister really ought to agree to meet us on this particular point.

With reference to what the Deputy says about the instruction as to a saving in old age pensions, that instruction was merely to have cases re-examined. Cases have been brought to my notice where people were drawing old age pensions who were not entitled to draw them. As a matter of fact, a good many Deputies on both sides of the House have told me of cases where people were getting old age pensions who were not entitled to get them. The Minister for Finance, having heard of a number of these cases, thought that he would be able to save more than £100,000 a year. I told him, however, that, from my knowledge of the cases that came before the appeal board, his estimate was too optimistic and that if he succeeded in saving £100,000 as a result of the re-examination of such cases, he would be doing very well. However, in connection with that, I do not think that anything is likely to be done in the case of the old age pensions that will take one shilling from any person who is really deserving of an old age pension. In this case, I can only say that I go on my own experience. I go on the experience I have had, both before I became a Minister and since, of how appeals in regard to old age pensions have been dealt with. We deal with a great many appeals in this section of Local Government. I think about one-third of the pensions that are granted every year come before the Department on appeal and I have yet to hear a serious complaint or grievance with regard to the manner in which the appeal board does its work and with regard to how it examines and decides on the various issues put to them. I do not feel that we ought to change the principle. If I thought that the men to be brought in to do this work —the panel that would be employed— would deal any less generously with the widows' and orphans' pensions than with old age pensions, I would at once give way to Deputy Norton and Deputy Murphy, but that is not my feeling. Deputies regularly meet and discuss with the appeal board individual cases of old age pensions. Their arguments are listened to and notice taken of what they say; the evidence they bring along is weighed; and I very seldom hear a complaint against the decisions of the appeal board. I do not know yet who will be on the appeal board, but I should be very much astonished if any different attitude was adopted towards people applying for widows' and orphans' pensions.

But is there not a principle involved of giving the insured person the right of representation on the panel?

In the case of national health insurance, everybody is a contributor; that is not so under this scheme.

The vast majority of the people will be contributors.

They will, yes. I will look into it again. I am not holding out any hope, but I will look into it.

Amendment withdrawn.
Amendment No. 49 not moved.
Sections 46 and 47 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 48 stand part of the Bill."

Recently, I understand, an examination was held for the recruiting of investigation officers for the investigation of claims under the Unemployment Assistance Act. Is the same type of investigation officer envisaged in this section, or is it proposed to recruit a separate type of investigation officer for this purpose?

I do not know whether any of the people who have been taken into the service as a result of the recent examination will be available for this work or not, but I think that people of the same type will be employed to do it.

Is it proposed to recruit them through the ordinary Civil Service channels?

Question put and agreed to.
Section 49 agreed to.
Amendment No. 50 not moved.
SECTION 50.
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act and in accordance with regulations made thereunder, every claim for or in respect of a pension shall be made to the Minister, and every question (other than any matter as to which the decision of the Minister is by this Act made final and conclusive, or any matter which by this Act is matter within the discretion of the Minister, or any matter which the Minister has power to determine under Section 66 of the National Insurance Act, 1911, or under the said section as applied by this Act) arising thereon or in relation thereto shall be determined by a deciding officer.
(4) The decision of a referee or referees on any matter referred to him or them under this section shall be final and conclusive.

With regard to amendment No. 51:—

In sub-section 2, line 45, to delete the word "one" and substitute the word "two."

I do not think it is necessary to say very much. It is bound up with the proposal we were discussing a short time ago and is more or less consequential on that proposal. The Minister said that he was prepared to look into the matter and an amendment enshrining the same principle was not proceeded with a few minutes ago. I do not propose to move this amendment pending whatever decision the Minister may come to on the general proposal.

That will apply to amendments Nos. 52, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63 and 64.

Amendment No. 51 not moved.
Amendments Nos. 52, 53 and 54 not moved.

I move amendment No. 55.

In sub-section (4), line 53, after the word "shall" to insert the words "subject to the Minister's approval."

Sub-section (4) reads:

The decision of a referee or referees on any matter referred to him or them under this section shall be final and conclusive.

I should like to have inserted there the phrase "subject to the Minister's approval." We had recently an instance where a responsible Minister endeavoured to shed his responsibility by saying, "I left that to people in my office to decide." I think the Minister must take responsibility for decisions of the referees or deciding officers, and, accordingly, I move the amendment.

The referees are intended to be independent of the Minister.

Will the position be that, where this House or some member of the House strongly objects to some action for which the referees are responsible, the Minister will shed his responsibility and say, "I am not responsible; it is the referees who are responsible"?

He would, except that under Section 51 (3), power is given to the Minister to ask the referee to reconsider the case.

I think it is a dangerous principle. I think this House ought to insist on the Minister being responsible. I do not think it is fair, in view of the discussions we have had on referees generally, that the House ought to throw the whole matter into their hands and say, in effect: "We are going to ignore the Minister in this regard. We are going to permit him to shed his responsibility and in this House there will be no responsibility for the referee's action." I think we ought to retain the responsibility of the Minister in that matter.

I think the amendment which Deputy Brennan has moved will possibly have a different effect from that intended by him. I hope it will be possible to agree to put persons on the panel of referees who are now in the Civil Service. In that case the court of referees will be a much more independent-minded body than that contemplated by the Minister under Section 46. If it is such a body a decision of the court of referees should, therefore, be automatically put into operation. If Deputy Brennan's amendment were inserted it would mean that the decision of the referee or referees on a matter referred to him or them under this section would, subject to the Minister's approval, be final and conclusive.

You may have the Minister for Local Government as a matter of Party policy saying it is desirable to cut down expenditure on widows' and orphans' pensions, and what more effective machinery is there for enabling the Minister to do that than to say that all pensions granted are subject to his approval? I think it is the very way of putting into the Minister's hands power to put into operation economies in the matter of expenditure on widows' and orphans' pensions such as, I am sure, Deputy Brennan does not want to see wielded. I suggest to the Deputy that he should not move this amendment until, at all events, we see what will be the effect of the amendment which was moved and withdrawn, on an undertaking of the Minister to look into the question of allowing outside persons to be represented on the panel of referees. At all events, the only case made by Deputy Brennan for the amendment was that the Minister for Industry and Commerce stated the other day he had no responsibility for cases under the Unemployment Assistance Act.

I think that was the case which the Deputy quoted.

No. That is not the case which I quoted at all.

Perhaps it was a case on the Land Commission Estimate the other day.

I think the Deputy has a very effective way of raising those matters, and that it is hardly desirable to amend this Bill in that way in order to ventilate a complaint which he may have on the Land Commission Estimate. I think the amendment will possibly have undesirable reactions, even from the point of view which Deputy Brennan has in mind.

I did not raise this matter in order to ventilate any complaint in regard to any other Department, and it is very unfair of the Deputy to mention it in that way. I should like if Deputy Norton would look at this matter from the other point of view. He has certain hopes that the Minister will accede to his request in regard to the appointment of referees. But he may not. Deputy Norton himself has made it clear in this House that if the Minister for Finance, who is responsible for the appointment of the panel of referees, says to the referees "You reduce those pensions to a certain extent," they have got to do it or be fired. Suppose the Minister comes back with that, and that the Minister for Finance still has authority for appointing the panel of referees and does issue those instructions, we have no Minister to attack in this House.

Of course you have.

No. The Minister for Local Government tells us distinctly that he will shed his responsibility. If we accept that section, and if this House decides that the decision of the referees—whose appointment by the Minister for Finance Deputy Norton very strongly objects to—is final and conclusive, the Minister will simply stand up and say "Well, that is the decision of the referees whom the House agreed upon." I do not want to make any complaint which I may have in regard to any other Department, but I do submit that no Minister ought to be permitted to say "This is not my responsibility." We ought always to have a responsible Minister who will be responsible in reality, and who cannot stand up in the House and say "Well, the House decided that this matter was to be subject to decision by other people; other people have decided, and that is that." That is what I am trying to guard against.

Is the amendment withdrawn?

I should like to hear the Minister on it.

I do not think I have anything to add. I think as the section stands that the interests of the insured parties will be properly looked after. It would be wiser, I think, to leave it to the decision of the referees. It very rarely happens that an old age pension case is mentioned in this House.

Not so rarely.

If a case is mentioned, it is usually on a question of appeal or probably on a question of amount, but the number of cases raised is very small in comparison to the number of pensions granted. I think the number of new pensions every year is something like 17,000. How many questions would be on the Order Paper in a year with regard to old age pensions? Probably not a dozen in a year. They are left on the one hand to the Inland Revenue Department, and, in appeal cases, to my Department. The number of questions raised or the amount of discontent which is registered by questions is at a minimum. I think the same would apply in this case.

The Minister himself has lauded the system—and rightly so to my mind—with regard to old age pensions. I have the utmost confidence in the deciding officers, and it is, as the Minister said, very rarely that cases are brought to the House. That may be due to the fact that the Minister has got to answer for them in the House. The Minister, although he has authority with regard to old age pensions, gets very little trouble from them. His deciding officers are really the people who do the work, and I must say they do it very fairly. That is my experience of them, and I should like to pay tribute to them in that respect. I entirely agree with the Minister in regard to that matter. Having lauded that system—I do not see what objection the Minister has to its continuance. Here we have the Minister for Finance—whose Department has been pointed out as being niggardly; perhaps it is traditional with the Department of Finance to be that way—setting up a panel of referees, and I entirely agree with the Labour Party that there is a real danger of cheeseparing.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 50 to 53 inclusive put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 54 stand part of the Bill."

Under this section, and in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister indicated that where a person received outdoor relief or unemployment assistance benefit pending the receipt of a widow's or orphan's pension under this Act, power would be taken to make a refund to the local authority in that case. I want to raise on this section the whole procedure adopted in that respect. Under the non-contributory section of the Bill a widow with four children will get a maximum of 10/- per week subject to a means test. A person may make an application to a board of health for home assistance, and as a result may be granted an allowance of say 7/- or 10/- per week. During that period a claim is made for a pension under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, and a pension at a maximum rate of 10/- per week is granted to that person. I should like to know from the Minister whether, if a person gets 10/- a week from a board of health in the form of home assistance, and subsequently is awarded a widow's or orphan's pension at the rate of 10/- a week, it is proposed to garnishee the 10/- under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act and pay it over to the board of assistance. If that is so, of course, it is a definite assumption on the part of the Minister that it is possible for a widow to exist on an income of 10/- a week, and to maintain herself and four children. I should like the Minister to make it clear that it is not intended that this section will operate in such a way as to refund to the local authority or to the Department of Industry and Commerce a sum equal to the amount which a person receives as a widow's or orphan's pension. Otherwise there will be a definite hall-mark put by the State on the low rates of benefit provided under the non-contributory section, and a definite indication given that those rates are considered adequate to maintain a decent livelihood.

This was discussed on the Second Reading. There was a feeling in regard to unemployment assistance, a feeling on the part of a number of local authorities, that they were unfairly treated by being allowed, without any opportunity of being refunded, to continue paying outdoor assistance to people who were entitled to unemployment assistance but in whose cases delay arose in the payment of the unemployment assistance. At the end of the period, when it was decided that the person was entitled to the sum, the arrears were paid to that person and the local authority, it was represented to me, felt that they were not treated fairly in not being able to recover some, if not all, of the money that they had paid to the applicant for home assistance pending the hearing of his claim or appeal. I do not want it to be taken that we are stating the amount set out in the Bill to be paid to a widow for pension as the maximum amount that should be given or that it is meant to be an adequate sum on which a person can live. That is not my idea.

I do know that in some cases it can be argued that a person receiving a widow's and orphan's pension will not find it sufficient to live on and it is not the full assistance that we would all like to see deserving people getting. But if there is what might be regarded by the local authority as an excess payment of relief pending the hearing of the claim for a pension or the hearing of an appeal, and if the local authority makes a claim—it may be the local authority would not make any claim— this gives power to the Minister to consider the question and to decide what amount, if any, is to be refunded to the local authority. In view of the complaints made by local authorities with regard to unemployment assistance—and the complaints have been pretty vocal; there has been a good deal in the Press about it in the last few months—it is only right that the Minister should consider this matter and decide whether a refund is due if payment of excess relief has been made to a person during the hearing of a claim.

I think the Minister ought to drop this section entirely. It will fulfil no useful purpose and it will be a dangerous weapon to put into the hands of a minority on local authorities. The Minister must not be aware of the fact that, comparatively speaking, there were very few cases of substantial refunds in the matter of unemployment assistance. In the bulk of cases where delay occurred in connection with unemployment assistance—and, unfortunately, delay still exists in connection with means appeals, in which cases there is no retrospective payment—the delay was not very great, a few weeks one way or the other. In the case of an appeal against means the delay in some instances has gone on for eight or nine months and even if, at the end of that time, the appellant's case is proved up to the hilt, he does not get one penny benefit over the period.

I am aware that certain individual members of local authorities have been talking a good deal about this matter. The whole Unemployment Assistance Act has been made the subject of sneers by certain local authorities. The provision for free beef and milk has been the talk at cross-road meetings and certain meetings of local authorities. We have had to encounter them in various places. The Minister ought to realise that it would be very unfair to put power into the hands of such people to blackmail applicants who succeed in getting widows' pensions by threatening them with publicity. The best way would be to drop this section entirely, and I hope the Minister will do so. It can fulfil no good purpose.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 55; Níl, 36.

  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Geoghegan, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kissane, Eamonn.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.

Níl

  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Burke, James Michael.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John Aloysius.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Desmond, William.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finlay, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McGuire, James Ivan.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Minch, Sydney B.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Reilly, John Joseph.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies T.J. Murphy and Everett.
Question declared carried.
Question put—"That Section 55 stand part of the Bill.
The Committee divided: Tá, 54; Níl, 36.

  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kissane, Eamonn.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Geoghegan, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.

Níl

  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Burke, James Michael.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John Aloysius.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Desmond, William.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finlay, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Haslett, Alexander.
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McGuire, James Ivan.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Minch, Sydney B.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • Norton, William.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Reilly, John Joseph.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Everett and T.J. Murphy.
Question declared carried.
Sections 56, 57 and 58 put and agreed to.
SECTION 59.
In assessing damages in any action under the Fatal Accidents Acts, 1846 to 1908, whether commenced before or after the passing of this Act, there shall not be taken into account any pension or child's allowance payable under this Act.

I move amendment No. 65:—

In line 21, before the word "whether" to insert the words "or the Workmen's Compensation Acts, 1906 or 1934."

The object of the amendment is to ensure that in assessing damages for any action, not merely under the Fatal Accidents Acts, but under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, there shall not be taken into consideration any pension or children's allowance payable under this Bill. The Minister has gone a certain distance by providing that such a pension shall not be taken into consideration where a claim is made for damages under the Fatal Accidents Acts, but, strangely enough, he has made it possible, by the omission of reference to the Workmen's Compensation Acts in this section, for a pension received under this Bill to be taken into consideration in assessing compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. I should like to know from the Minister what is the explanation of this differentiation. It seems to me to be a case in which the benefits received under the Workmen's Compensation Acts should be treated in a like manner to benefits received under the Acts referred to in the section.

I understand that there is no differentiation. I understand that, under the Workmen's Compensation Act the amount is assessed by rigid arithmetical rules and that no account is taken of any income or earnings other than those of the man for whose case the Workmen's Compensation Act is being invoked.

That may be so in respect of the new Act, but I should like to know from the Minister whether or not it is so in respect of the Act that has been repealed, but which still survives so far as regards the payment of compensation for an accident which took place prior to the time when the new Act came in and, in which case, a pension granted under this section might be interfered with.

My advice is that no income of the widow and orphan will be taken into consideration in any case arising out of the Workmen's Compensation Act.

Perhaps the Minister will look into that section of the former Workmen's Compensation Act which was repealed by the last Workmen's Compensation Act?

I shall look into it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 59 agreed to.
SECTION 60.
Question proposed: "That Section 60 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, Sir, would the Minister say whether it is proposed to initiate reciprocal arrangements with other countries in respect of this Bill when it becomes an Act? Is it intended to open negotiations with the Governments of Northern Ireland and Great Britain to insure reciprocity in the matter of the payment of widows' orphans' pensions under this Bill and in the matter of the payment of widows' and orphans' pensions to Free State citizens who are resident in these other countries or who, while working in one country, may have their residence in another country and so on.

It is the intention, where similar laws exist and where similar payments are made in other countries, that reciprocity will take place.

When the Minister says "similar payments," does he mean similar amounts?

Not necessarily; but where similar laws are in existence we will try to get a reciprocal arrangement with these other countries.

I suggest to the Minister that he would get that reciprocity much more speedily if he were to fix all the pensions provided for in this Bill on the same basis as set out in the contributory section of this Bill, because there is no payment in Great Britain or Northern Ireland as low as the payment provided for here under the non-contributory portion of the Bill.

The Deputy knows very well that the revenues of the countries to which he has referred are very much greater than ours and that their general resources for the payment of such pensions are very much greater.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 61 and 62 agreed to.
SECTION 63.
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.
(2) No order may be made under this section after the 31st day of December, 1936.
Amendment No. 66 not moved.

I move amendment No. 67:—

In sub-section (1) to delete all words after the word "operation," line 14, to the end of the sub-section.

Section 63 says:—"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." My interpretation of that is that the Minister has authority to alter any and every provision which has been made by this House, even to the extent of the amounts which are allowed. In consequence of that, I am proposing in this amendment that all the words after the word "operation" be deleted. I think that the previous portion of that section is quite sufficient for the Minister's purpose, and I consider that there is real danger in permitting the second portion, which I propose to have deleted, to remain.

I think that if the Deputy agrees that the first part of this section should be allowed to remain, he gives away his case for the deletion of the second part. If unforeseen difficulties arise in the bringing of this Act into operation, it would be necessary to have the power that is sought in the part of the section that the Deputy desires to have omitted. As the Deputy knows, it sometimes happens that unforeseen difficulties do arise in legislation of this kind. It is not sought, however, to do anything to alter the Bill in principle. It says here that this power is only for the purpose of bringing the Act into operation. If a case were taken into court, if the Minister attempted to alter or modify or change the rates of pensions set out in the Bill, it could not be held that it was necessary to do that in order to bring the Act into operation, and the only power sought here is to enable the Minister to bring the clauses that will be passed under this Bill into rapid and effective operation. It does not give the Minister power to alter any substantial clause in the Bill or to alter the Bill in principle in any iota.

I do not want to impede the Minister in any way or to take from him any power which is necessary to make the Bill operative. The Minister, however, says that the intentions in connection with the section are such-and-such. Well, of course, fortunately or unfortunately, it is not always the intentions of this House that are taken as the legal interpretation that may be placed on such things. For example, suppose the Minister for Finance says to the Minister for Local Government: "Here is a certain sum of money and you will not get any more; you will have to fit in that section to meet that amount of money," would the Minister not be entitled, on the legal interpretation of the thing, to modify the provisions of the Act?

The Deputy should read the whole section.

The rest of the section says: "so far as they appear necessary for carrying the order into effect." Suppose that the Minister did not get from the Minister for Finance the amount of money which would give all the pensions which were set out in that Bill?

He would then come to the House.

I know, of course, that it is a very involved Bill and there may be very many things which the Minister may want to do, but I should like to guard against anything like that. I am not saying that the Minister's intentions are not right, but I am saying that in my opinion the wording of that section confers on the Minister rights which he ought not to have. That is my case. I do not want in any way to impede the progress of the Bill or to do anything which would hold up its administration, but, although other sections somewhat similar to this have, I understand, been inserted in other Bills, I do not think anything as wide as this has ever been inserted.

Oh, yes. The National Health Insurance Act is practically similar. The power was used once. This power will expire at the end of 1936.

Would the Minister say if any special difficulty is anticipated in connection with bringing the Act into operation?

I do not think so but one never knows. There was one case arose under the National Health Insurance Act in which we had to invoke this power to enable us to do something and if we had not had that power, we would have been held up to a considerable extent. I have a list of Acts here relating to the British Parliament which evidently initiated this scheme. We ourselves have used it in connection with the Local Government Act, 1925, Section 86; the National Health Insurance Act, 1933, Section 29; and the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930, Section 102.

Amendment No. 67, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 63 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 64 stand part of the Bill."

Can the Minister say at this stage in what manner it is proposed that pensions under the Act should be payable?

The system we are arranging for is a system similar to that in operation in connection with old age pensions.

They will be payable through the Post Office?

Through the Post Office.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 65, 66, and 67 agreed to.
SECTION 68.
For the purposes of the National Health Insurance Acts, the provisions of sub-section (1) of Section 13 of the National Health Insurance Act, as amended by this Act, shall apply and be deemed always to have applied to an insured person, within the meaning of the National Health Insurance Acts, who was not a member of an approved society or of the Unified Society, and who at the time of joining the Unified Society proves to the satisfaction of the Unified Society that his normal occupation is employment within the meaning of the National Health Insurance Acts.

I move amendment No. 68:—

In line 21 to insert after the words "Insurance Act" the figures "1918."

This is purely a drafting amendment. The date was left out, I think, by the printer.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 68, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 69 stand part of the Bill."

Might I suggest to the Minister, in regard to this section and Section 70, that in the case of persons who are voluntary contributors and persons who are eligible to become voluntary contributors, by reason of their having ceased to be in an insurable classification after having completed two years in that insurable classification, steps should be taken to bring to their notice the fact that they are eligible to become voluntary contributors for the purpose of this Act. It is quite a simple matter, since the national health insurance machinery is being utilised for the purpose of administering this Act, for the Society, when a person ceases to be an insured contributor, to notify him of his right to become a voluntary contributor and also of his right to become a voluntary contributor under this Act and the benefit to be derived, especially under this Act, from being a voluntary contributor.

Arrangements have already been made to have that done.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 70, 71, 72, 73 and the First Schedule agreed to.
SECOND SCHEDULE.
RATES OF CONTRIBUTIONS.
PART I.
ORDINARY RATES.

payable in Case of Employed Persons

Rate of Contribution per Week

By the Employer

By the Employed Person

Contributions in case of men

8d.

4d.

4d.

Contributions in case of women

4d.

4d.

Nil.

I move amendment No. 73:—

In Part II of the Table, to delete "2d." where it first occurs in the third column and substitute "4d.", and in the fourth column to delete "2d." and substitute "nil."

Under this section in the Bill, there is a contribution of 2d. payable by the employer in respect of persons engaged in agricultural employment and 2d. by the person employed, making a total contribution of 4d. in that case. In the case of women, there is a contribution of 2d. which is payable by the employer, the woman contributor paying nothing. The object of this amendment is to exempt persons engaged in agricultural employment from making any contribution and it asks that the employer shall pay the whole contribution of 4d. a week. The reasons which prompt the amendment are that at present, as everybody knows, agricultural workers are paid low rates of wages and that has been the unfortunate lot of that section of workers almost from the birth of the agricultural industry. It is a notorious fact that, under our present system of civilisation, the production of food for the community goes hand in hand with a wretchedly low standard of living. Under the Bill, agricultural workers will be required to pay a contribution of 2d. per week and the employer will be required to pay an equal contribution, but it will occur even under the operation of this Bill that the agricultural worker in receipt of 6/- or 8/- a week will be required to make this contribution of 2d. per week, but, under the Bill, a person in receipt of unemployment assistance benefit, which would be more in many cases than the rate of wages which an agricultural worker is receiving, will not be required to pay a contribution and the person in receipt of unemployment insurance benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act will likewise not be required to pay a contribution while in receipt of that benefit.

It seems to me, therefore, to be unfair that the agricultural worker, whose rate of wages is often less than he would receive as unemployment insurance benefit or unemployment assistance benefit, should be asked to pay a contribution of 2d. a week, when, in ordinary circumstances, a person in receipt of the higher rate of income, via the Unemployment Insurance Act or the Unemployment Assistance Act, is exempt from payment while in receipt of that benefit. I, personally, should have liked the State to pay this contribution for the agricultural worker, but an amendment on those lines would have met with the same fate as 42 other amendments met and, consequently, the amendment in the circumstances is moved in order to put the liability on the employer. It can hardly be said that the burden on the employer is a very heavy burden. The principle is recognised in asking the employer to make the whole contribution in respect of women, and, having regard to the fact that in relation to the agricultural worker, who is paid low rates of wages, the agricultural employer is very much better equipped to meet a contingency of this kind, I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.

There is a further anomaly which will arise if this section is not changed. The position will be that the widows of small holders—I think it is a very good proposal, and I think the Minister should go further along that road—would be able to obtain pensions without any contributions being paid in respect of such pensions, while agricultural labourers will be asked to pay what will be in the case of people on very small wages a fairly considerable amount. I think the Minister will see that that is a peculiar position, and I would suggest to him that he ought to take some steps to remedy it. On the one hand, the widows of small holders on a valuation of £8 are entitled to a pension without payment of any contribution, while there is the extraordinary anomaly that in the case of agricultural labourers, who are in very poor circumstances, a contribution has to be made. I wanted to direct the Minister's attention to that matter.

The suggestion to abolish the small contribution that is asked for in the case of the agricultural worker, would, to a certain extent, do away with the principle which I have tried to adhere to all through the Bill in so far as it was possible to do so, and that is the contributory principle. I know that it has not been adhered to 100 per cent., but, if it were possible to do so, that would be my idea. I think that the whole ideology of our country is in favour of giving a man or woman an opportunity of providing for contingencies which arise through death or illness, rather than having the State doling out what would be something in the way of charity. Although it is true, as Deputy Norton says, that the agricultural worker is poorly paid to-day and has always been poorly paid, still it is not too much to ask him to pay 2d. per week for the benefits which he and his family are likely to get. I admit that their wages are very low in most parts of the country, but, nevertheless, they are getting a very good bargain, compared with better paid workers who pay a higher premium; it may be called a premium. Judging the matter on purely financial grounds, the agricultural worker is making a much better business bargain. In proportion to his contribution, he is getting a much higher return. His payments are small. I know it is hard to ask the agricultural worker to pay anything when he is getting such low wages, but I should certainly feel disappointed if the House did not agree with me that it would be much better to ask the worker who is in employment to contribute money and be encouraged to provide—and, if necessary, enforced by law to provide— against the contingencies that arise. The necessity to provide for dependants will be brought home to every individual in one way or another to a greater extent as a result of the passage of this Bill. On principle I believe in the contributory system. I think it is better for the individual and good for the State to teach that doctrine. The taint which Deputy Murphy talked about will not then exist. The worker will know that he has paid something for any benefit which he gets. His dependants will get it as a right. Again, I agree that their wages are small, and that consequently one does not like to ask them for any contributions, but, on the whole, I think it is a better principle that they should be put in that independent position, and made to feel it is their right as citizens to get the benefits which they will receive, because they have paid for them. I think, on the whole, the case for asking the contribution is strong, even though their wages are as small as we know them to be.

I share decidedly the Minister's preference for the contributory system, but at the same time it is no use shutting one's eyes to facts. It is nothing short of a bad joke to talk of the independence of agricultural workers under present conditions. They stand as a class apart—almost the pariahs of the community. Their wages have not the same protection as is afforded by trade union organisations to the wages of other industries. The conditions of agricultural labourers here are nothing short of a scandal. I think that the House should recognise that situation frankly by not expecting them to make any contribution which they are palpably not in a position to afford. I should not at all like to establish it as a permanent principle that the agricultural worker should be relieved from the contributory system, but I should like the House to open its eyes to the fact that the agricultural worker is not receiving a living wage at the moment. As he is not receiving a living wage, to talk of establishing the independence of the agricultural worker by this Bill is little short of nauseating.

I had to admire the Minister for saying that it was in accordance with their conceptions of ideology that the agricultural worker should make a contribution under this Bill. To talk about ideology to people who are getting 4/-, 5/-, 6/-, 7/- or 8/- per week and expected to maintain themselves and their families is, I think, nothing short of humorous. The plain fact of the matter is that everybody knows that agricultural workers' rates of wages are extremely low, and that, so far, this House has done nothing in the way of either creating machinery to prevent their wages from being subject to further attack, or anything in the way of creating an economic wage for them. The result is that by commission and omission on the part of the legislature the agricultural worker is to-day, from the wage point of view, the outcast of the community. His rate of wages is wretchedly low. The standard of life which he is compelled to accept is a wretched standard of life, which is a reflection on any conception of civilisation. Notwithstanding that, we propose to treat the agricultural worker as if he were in a position to pay a contribution which is half as much as that paid by, let us say, the highest paid worker in the State.

Under this Bill, the worker with an income up to £250 per annum pays 4d. per week. We are going to require the agricultural worker, on 6/- or 8/- per week, to pay half that sum. There is obviously a serious disproportion there. We have heard a lot of talk about the agricultural worker being in a better position to look for those benefits if a contribution has been made, but first of all, before we impose that burden on the agricultural worker, we ought to give him the wherewithal to make the contribution. I object completely to the philosophy that, if the agricultural worker does not pay a contribution, those benefits will look like charity—like something for nothing. Good Heavens, do we not give judges and high legal luminaries substantial pensions? Are not considerable varieties of people in the country getting substantial pensions with not the slightest title or right to them any more than the agricultural worker would have? When it is a question of giving wealthy members of the community a pension there is no suggestion of charity, but when, in the case of the agricultural worker, we look for 8/- a week for his widow, people want to suggest that she is getting something for nothing. We are doling out hundreds of thousands for pensions in other respects and there is no talk about it.

If anyone has a claim to get a decent pension for the service he renders the community, it is the agricultural worker. The State that can pay its legal luminaries and other sections of the community substantial pensions ought not to object giving to the agricultural worker's widow a mere pittance of 8/- a week. The Minister apparently thinks that the agricultural worker will feel better if he pays something towards his pension, but, apparently, women in agriculture are not to have any such feeling; their contributions are to be paid by the employer. If the man in agriculture is to have that feeling why should the same not apply in the case of women? In the case of women the Minister has admitted the principle of the employer paying the whole contribution. There is no reason why that should not apply to men whose wages are only very slightly higher than the wretched rate paid to women. Such wages are only tolerated both by the men and women in the agricultural industry.

In this Bill a person with a holding not exceeding £8 in valuation will come under the non-contributory section. Some of these people would be ten times better off than agricultural workers. A person with a valuation of £8 in Mayo would be a much more wealthy person, if anyone can use the term wealth as applied to that community, than an agricultural worker in the same area. The agricultural worker is expected to make a contribution while the person with a valuation of £8 is allowed in without any contribution. Until such time as the agricultural workers enjoy a reasonable standard of wages, the Minister should provide that the employer will pay the whole of the contribution. I would personally prefer if the State paid it, but that is not possible at the moment. The Minister should accept the amendment, which may be subject to alteration in the light of changing circumstances, but, in the existing circumstances, there is no reason why all the impost should be put on the agricultural worker.

While I may agree on some points with Deputy Norton, I feel obliged to take exception to one of his lines of argument. I think it is a pity to spoil a good case by using a weak argument. He compares the claim he is making for the agricultural labourer to the case of a judge who receives a pension when he retires. We are not in this Bill dealing with old age pensions at all, and it is really only an old age pension that could be compared to the retiring pension of a judge. There is another weakness in that comparison, and it is this, that according to Deputy Norton's principles, every class in the community would be entitled to a pension, a stockbroker, for example, just as much as an agricultural labourer.

He should be abolished.

A stockbroker.

Stockbrokers should be abolished? I am sure we could think of some other class in the community. Shall we say an industrialist? I do not know whether Deputy Norton says industrialists ought to be abolished.

Some of them.

Are employers to continue to exist in Deputy Norton's ideal State?

If the Chair allows me to argue that on the section, I am prepared to do it.

In any event, there would be no difficulty in finding certain classes that Deputy Norton would allow to live in his ideal State and who on the basis of the argument he has just used would be entitled to pensions. I think one has to differentiate between such people and those who accept a fixed salary from the State, those who would be considered capable of earning a higher salary if they went out to work for themselves but who accept a lower figure because they regard the retiring pension as corresponding to what they would have saved if they were in business. I do not want to be taken as concurring with all the arguments put forward by the Deputy.

I would like to support Deputy Norton's amendment. There is a lot to be said for the doctrine of individual independence. If one contributes even the widow's mite towards certain objects one feels that he or she is paying towards benefits which may accrue afterwards and it does, I presume, give to some the feeling of lifting it from the slough of being charity. The tuppences and other little sums that are being sought for here and there accumulate. In view of the fact that in the recent Budget the tax on tea, sugar, tobacco and bread imposed additional burdens on the workers, this extra twopence might have a far greater effect at the end of the year. Once you break a shilling the remainder of it very easily disappears. I would like the Minister to give Deputy Norton's amendment the fullest possible consideration in view of the hard times the agricultural workers are going through and the poor rate of wages. It is quite a normal thing where I live, and I am surrounded by agricultural workers, because intensified tillage is going on, to have men out all the week thinning beet at 3d. a drill and getting 10/- a week out of it. There is no doubt every tuppence means something more to them than we can well figure out in this House.

I have not heard any arguments that impress me more than I was impressed before I heard any of the debate in this House as to the poorness of the position of the agricultural worker. I know what his position is as well as anybody in this House. It is not to-day or yesterday or since the economic war started that the agricultural worker has been in a bad position. He has always been in a bad position, but in some people's minds it is only since the economic war started that he is in that position. He has always been in that position.

He is worse off now than ever.

Not worse off now. He is better off since this Government came into office. If the late Government were in office this Bill would not have been brought in to help the agricultural worker, and he would not have many other things that he has been given since, such as the Unemployment Insurance Act. Deputy MacDermot can talk about the workers now, but the Deputy was not personally very long associated with the late Government when they were in office. The workers now have many benefits they never had under the late Government. At any rate we are doing something for the agricultural workers that they never dreamt they would get when the last Government was in office. There is that much practical sympathy with them. That is not the kind of sympathy that Deputy MacDermot has with them at the moment, and that is about all he has for them. The Deputy did not tell us whether he agreed fully with Deputy Norton in asking the farmers to pay this additional tax for the workers. May I take it that Deputy MacDermot speaks for his Party in what he has said?

I am speaking for myself.

That is a safe rôle to adopt. The Deputy has not asked any of the farmers in his Party their opinion on that matter as to whether they would pay the additional burden themselves. I would like to hear the opinion of Deputy Keating, who is a farmer himself, as to whether he would pay the additional sum for his workers?

I always paid good wages and was always a good employer.

That is not the question I put to the Deputy.

I want to tell the Minister that I am not the means of putting a tax of 5d. a lb. on their butter, or ½d. an oz. on their tobacco, or ½d. a lb. on their sugar, or a tax on their coal, or 4d. a lb. on their tea.

The last Government put a tax on tea.

That is not so.

On a point of correction, I want to tell the House that for five or six years before the Minister came into office there was no tax on tea. We took it off.

Now, that is not before the House. We will have all that on the Finance Bill.

I sincerely hope not.

Deputy MacDermot runs away as leader of his Party from a straight question.

What question?

I asked the Deputy whether he was prepared himself to pay, to recommend the members of his Party to take on their shoulders and the farmers of the country to pay the whole cost of the widows' and orphans' contribution to this pension?

We will do our part.

You will have to do that under the Bill, but will you agree to pay the whole of the contributions?

Yes, if you give us back our markets. If we get our markets back we will gladly pay it.

Now you are in a tight corner.

I am not in a tight corner. Is the Minister aware that the agricultural policy of the present Government places a liability of 10/- on each man in the country for every pig he feeds?

This is not a Bill to raise the wages of agricultural workers. What is suggested by Deputy Norton is that the additional cost or, I should say, the whole cost of paying the premium for widows' and orphans' pensions for agricultural workers should be borne by the employers. That is what Deputy Norton suggests and that is what Deputy MacDermot said he approved of. I took it for granted when he said that that he spoke for the Party and when I put the question to him he runs away.

I did not run away.

He said that was his personal view. He runs away now.

I have not run away.

I said Deputy MacDermot runs away.

Well, you will not catch me running away unless you put me away.

I am speaking of Deputy MacDermot.

Another thing I want to tell the Minister is that we are not raising the price of food-stuffs on the people or raising their cost of living.

I said that Deputy MacDermot ran away from his leadership.

Well, I am one of the non-runners. I do not run away.

A good run is better than a bad stand.

If Fianna Fáil kept all its promises this would be a prosperous country to-day.

Well, I think the agriculturists will not agree with Deputy Keating, and they will not agree with Deputy MacDermot in paying the whole of this premium. I am of that opinion. If the agriculturists were asked, I know they would not bear the cost of this. It is because we have a Fianna Fáil Government in office that the question of agricultural wages has been raised on this.

Fianna Fáil has surely raised the price of everything on the agricultural workers since they came here.

I think the contributory idea we have in the Bill is one that ought to be supported by the House——

I find it rather painful that the Vice-President of the Executive Council should be of that frame of mind, that he thinks that every question that crops up in this House, even on the Committee Stage of a Bill, should be dealt with purely on Party lines. I do not share that point of view. I am very far from sharing that point of view. I quite candidly concede that when I rose to support Deputy Norton's amendment just now I did so acting for myself and for nobody else, but I should be surprised if a good many members of my Party were not in agreement with me in the line I took. Deputy Norton himself said that he would prefer to place this burden, not upon the agricultural employers, but upon the State. Is not that so?

The rules of order, I understand, prevent an amendment being introduced by a private Deputy placing the burden on the State. As between the agricultural employer and the State I would a thousand times rather it was put on the State. I regard agriculture as being treated as the Cinderella of all our industries. I would welcome an opportunity of compelling the rest of the community to give that small amount of assistance to agriculture in the present state of affairs. It would be an injustice, I admit, to make agricultural employers pay this sum per week, but it is also an injustice—and of the two perhaps a greater injustice—to make the agricultural labourer pay it. Some agricultural employers may have resources left to them, even though they cannot make a profit out of their farms, they may have other resources left to them whereby they can afford to pay such a thing as this. We all know that the agricultural labourer cannot afford to pay anything in addition to what he is paying at the present time. We all know, despite the brave words of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, that the agricultural labourer's condition and his wages at the present moment, are very much worse than when the present Government came into office. Not only that, but he is being pauperised and demoralised as fast as the present Government can manage to do it.

The Minister twitted Deputy MacDermot with the fact that he was only expressing his own views and took a reply by Deputy MacDermot as indicating that, while he would probably support this amendment, the other members of the Fine Gael Party would probably vote against this amendment or not vote at all. That is a possibility. But I wonder if the Minister is in any stronger position in that respect than Deputy MacDermot. Does the Minister feel, for instance, that he speaks for all the members of his Party? After all, I think that a good deal of the revolutionary spirit has departed from some members of the Party since I used to know them in their Opposition days. I can imagine the Minister for Finance, for instance, making a speech in support of this amendment of mine. Now the Minister for Local Government is apparently quite satisfied that not only is he himself opposed to putting this burden of 2d. per week on the backs of the agricultural employers, but that even the Minister for Finance has now become so constitutional that he is going to make sure that this 2d. does not go on the backs of the ranchers of the country.

They do not employ agricultural labourers.

Even in your own statement you could say that they employ a man and a little dog. Certainly, there is nothing which produces greater constitutional thought and outlook than a period on the Government Front Bench or even on the back benches.

Wait until we see the changes in the Deputy when he comes here.

He will not evolve as rapidly as the Minister, in any case. If, however, the Minister for Local Government feels so confident that he represents the views of all the members of his Party on this matter, there is no better way of testing that than by leaving this to a free vote of the House. If the Minister would agree to leave the matter to a free vote of the House, and if he is satisfied that all his legionaries will follow him into the Division Lobby, there is no difference between that and putting on the Whips. But, of course, the Minister knows well that if he left this to a free vote of the House and the Deputies concerned understood the matter, a substantial number of them would gladly vote for an amendment of this kind. I invite the Minister,—as apparently he has some reason to believe there will be defections from the Party opposite on this amendment, and feels confident that he speaks for all the members of his Party, being sure there will be defections from that side, and that he has 100 per cent. support from his own side—to leave this to a free vote of the House. In that way we will see who really speaks for the Party in the matter. It is obviously a case of balancing the claim of the agricultural worker with the claim of the agricultural employer. It is obviously not a Party matter. The burden on the State is not increased or decreased by the amendment, and I suggest to the Minister that he might leave this amendment to a free vote of the House.

It is interesting to know that Deputy Norton has at last found out that members of the Government have different opinions as members of the Government from what they had in Opposition. It marks a certain amount of advance.

And the same applies to the Opposition Party.

It was rather amusing to hear the Minister speaking of the position of labour in the country to-day under the Fianna Fáil Government. He said they are better off. There ought to be some consistency amongst the Government Party. We have had the Department of Industry and Commerce publishing figures recently which showed that the wages of agricultural labourers have gone down in Leinster to the extent of 3/- per week, in Munster to the extent of 4/-, in Connaught to the extent of 2/6, and in the three counties of Ulster to the extent of 3/-. We have that highly subsidised county of which the Minister, I think, would like to boast, namely, Wexford, asking——

Why should I boast of it?

Because the Minister is a better agriculturist than I am. I am only a rancher from Roscommon.

I am not an agriculturist.

The Minister advocates extensive tillage, and he has it in Wexford. Notwithstanding that, we have had a resolution passed by the Wexford County Committee of Agriculture asking for an extension of the free meat scheme to the agricultural workers in Wexford as they are so badly paid there and agriculture is in such a depressed condition. We have these two things—the figures published by the Department of Industry and Commerce showing that there is a lowering of agricultural wages all over the country to the extent of 3/3 per week on an average, and the Wexford County Committee of Agriculture saying that their agricultural workers are so badly paid that they ought also to get free meat. Apparently, Deputy Norton and the Minister both forget what is responsible for all that and the attempt that is being made to put agriculturists in the position that they cannot pay wages.

There are two by-elections on.

There are two by-elections on and possibly Deputy Flinn will have something to say when they are over. At all events, I shall have something to say when they are over. However, this is not the place to discuss by-elections. Certainly it is not out of place to discuss the position to which agriculturists have been brought by the Minister and his Party, and that they are not able to pay contributions. I have been endeavouring to advocate, during the discussion of this Bill, that the widows and orphans of the agricultural labourers are not getting what they ought to get, namely, a fair deal in this matter. I still maintain that. Surely if any case could be made it should be this: that if the Government have pushed the agricultural community into the position in which they find themselves to-day, they ought to come to the assistance of the widows and orphans of the agricultural labourers.

It should not be forgotten when considering the frame of mind of the Government in drafting this Bill and in resisting this amendment that, according to them, the case for making the concession for which Deputy Norton has asked is enormously stronger than it is according to us.

I see the Deputy has been improving his mind.

Yes. I have here an interesting document about the agricultural prosperity which Fianna Fáil has brought to this country and the enormous aggregation of benefits which Fianna Fáil has conferred upon farmers. If the statements in this leaflet are to be taken as in any way sincere, the whole Fianna Fáil Party must be well convinced of the ability of agricultural employers to bear this burden, which Deputy Norton now asks that they should be called upon to bear in place of putting it on the shoulders of the labourers. Of course, I am far from considering that Deputy Norton is in a position to reap any glory from this belated concern for the interests of the agricultural labourers, because he has been every bit as responsible as the Ministry for bringing them to their present deplorable condition. The Ministry and the so-called Labour Party between them have brought——

What about your Farmers' Party that you allowed to be swallowed up 18 months ago—the feat of digesting that took place 18 months age?

What about the so-called Labour Party in Great Britain which the Deputy applied for membership of?

Let us go back to the amendment.

I will be very glad to discuss these questions on some suitable occasion.

Meantime the farmers have been digested.

The present situation is that the Government and the Labour Party between them have made both the farmers and the agricultural labourers incapable of bearing any burden whatsoever and, consequently, it is a gross injustice to impose this charge upon either of them. I do not think that many agricultural labourers will be so foolish as to feel grateful to Deputy Norton for his advocacy of their cause to-day.

Might I say one word in reply to Deputy MacDermot? The most recent opportunity we had of testing what the farmers thought of this Government was at the local elections less than a year ago. We had an opportunity then, and in the purely agricultural counties Fianna Fáil vastly increased its position as a result of the elections.

Is it not true that the Party opposite won the local elections? Their leader said so.

It is true that we are discussing, not what any Party thought of the Government, but the merits or demerits of the amendment.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided:—Tá, 20; Níl, 56.

  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Desmond, William.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Keating, John.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • McGuire, James Ivan.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Minch, Sydney B.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James Edward.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.

Níl

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Flinn, Hugo V.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Geoghegan, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kissane, Eamonn.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Everett and T.J. Murphy; Níl: Deputies Little and Smith.
Amendment declared lost.
Second Schedule and Title of the Bill put and agreed to.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 19th June.

If the Minister is proposing to move any amendment dealing with the matters which he indicated he would look into, I should be glad if he would circulate them at an early date.

We will circulate them in time and if there is not time to circulate them, we will give members proper time to consider them before taking the Bill.

Will the Minister arrange to have the amendments circulated in such time as will enable Deputies to move other amendments, if the Minister's amendments do not meet their points?

We will try to do that.