Committee on Finance. - Vote 61—Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Assistance.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,005,987 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31 adh lá de Mhárta, 1936, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí i dtaobh Arachais Díomhaointis agus Malartán Fostuíoctha (maraon le síntiúisí do Chiste an Díomhaointis) agus i dtaobh Conganta Díomhaointis (9 Edw. 7, c. 7; 10 agus 11 Geo. 5, c. 30; 11 Geo. 5, c. 1; 11 agus 12 Geo. 5, c. 15; 12 Geo. 5, c. 7; Uimh. 17 de 1923; Uimh. 26 agus Uimh. 59 de 1924; Uimh. 21 de 1926; Uimh. 33 de 1930; agus Uimh. 44 agus Uimh. 46 de 1933) agus i dtaobh seirbhísí áirithe fén Acht um Beithigh agus Caoire do Mharbhadh, 1934 (Uimh. 42 de 1934).

That a sum not exceeding £1,005,987 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses in connection with Unemployment Insurance and Employment Exchanges (including contributions to the Unemployment Fund) and Unemployment Assistance (9 Edw. 7, c. 7; 10 and 11 Geo. 5, c. 30; 11 Geo. 5, c. 1; 11 and 12 Geo. 5, c. 15; 12 Geo. 5, c. 7; No. 17 of 1923; Nos. 26 and 59 of 1924; No. 21 of 1926; No. 33 of 1930; and Nos. 44 and 46 of 1933) and certain services under the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Act, 1934 (No. 42 of 1934).

The particulars of the Estimate are set out in the Book of Estimates. It will be noted there is quite a substantial increase in the provisions under sub-heads A, B and C for salaries, wages and allowances, and travelling and incidental expenses. That increase arises entirely out of the fact that the Unemployment Assistance Act is being brought into operation and it is necessary to increase considerably the number of employment staff clerks and employment clerks and also the number of temporary clerks engaged in the outside offices of the Department. In fact, the whole of the increase in salaries and wages arises practically in that connection. The increase in the staffs of these outstations and branch offices is necessary because of the additional work which has fallen upon them and in order to enable that work to be disposed of expeditiously.

There is an increase of £150 in the fee of the umpire, consequential upon the increased work which is falling upon him under the Unemployment Assistance Act. The original fee was based upon the work to be done under the Unemployment Insurance Act only. There is an increase of £10,000 in the contribution to the Unemployment Fund. The amount of that is fixed by statute. It constitutes a definite percentage of the total revenue of the Fund from the payment of contributions by employers. As the number of people in employment increases and the revenue to the Fund from the sale of stamps increases, the State contribution must also increase. In view of the increase in employment in recent years, which is likely to continue for the coming year, we are providing an extra £10,000 under that sub-head.

The Estimate for unemployment assistance is up by £100,000. The Act was not in full operation last year. The first payments of assistance were made after the beginning of the financial year and it was only towards the end of the year that anything like a full number of applicants was being dealt with each week. As Deputies are aware, there are substantial numbers of persons who have applied for qualification certificates and whose applications were rejected by the unemployment assistance officers. They have appealed against that and they have yet to have their appeals disposed of. The number is in excess of 30,000 and, assuming that some proportion of them will prove their claims to have qualification certificates, then these people, if unemployed, will be in a position to claim unemployment assistance. The Estimate, therefore, for this year exceeds the Estimate for last year by £100,000, which we hope will prove to be adequate.

There is very little change in respect of the Appropriations-in-Aid. These arise mainly out of the Unemployment Assistance Act, with the exception of No. 1—sub-head K (1)—which is a statutory appropriation from the Unemployment Fund to meet the cost of administration of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. The others arise under the Unemployment Assistance Act and are taken into account in this Vote as a set-off against the cost of administration of the Unemployment Assistance Act.

I am not quite clear that there are any points that Deputies want to raise concerning these services. I have not received from any Deputy an intimation that he desires to raise any particular matter, with one exception, and that is in reference to the decision given by me that certain workers employed upon relief works of a particular description were not insurable under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. These workers were employed on the Fergus in Co. Clare. I arranged to have the matter brought forward for a decision by me in the ordinary way as to whether or not they were insurable, the main question in that connection being whether the employment was employment in agriculture or of another description. I decided that the work was not insurable, but that decision was contested by representatives of the workers concerned. I agreed that we would arrange to have the matter decided in the courts. There has been some delay in implementing that undertaking on my part, but I think that delay need not be prolonged any more. The Minister for Finance has consented to the proposal and the matter is being discussed with the Board of Works who, as the employers, will be required to give a lot of information upon which the arguments pro and con the insurability of these workers can be based. There is an appeal from the Minister's decision to the courts.

Deputies will appreciate, in this case, that the particular workers could not meet the legal costs involved in taking that appeal and we are getting over that by having the costs of both sides defrayed by the State in order to have the case finally determined. We regard it as a typical case of persons employed in connection with drainage and relief works and the decision of the court upon the appeal from my decision will be regarded as binding on Departments of State employing such labour in future. That was the only matter which any Deputy intimated to me would be raised on this discussion.

I do not know that it is necessary to say more. I am sure Deputies will have other points to raise. I see Deputy Morrissey ready to spring and I hope when I am concluding to be able to answer any points he will raise or give him any information which he desires to procure. The administration of the Unemployment Assistance Act has been in a sense experimental up to this. That will be the main point on which Deputies are likely to be concerned. When that measure was before us I anticipated that we would have, not once but on a number of occasions, to amend it.

It was a Bill to bring into operation a certain social service which in its dimensions in respect of the number of people to be covered, and the cost of it is considerably larger than the Unemployment Insurance scheme. Since the Unemployment Act was first passed it has been amended almost once a year since the establishment of the Free State. Some years it was amended more than once. I do not expect in respect of this Bill any other consequences than those that arose in the case of the previous Bill. That Bill is intended to cover the anomalies that have arisen to date. Others will arise in future and they will call for further amendment. The main difficulty that has arisen is in connection with the consideration of appeals. The provisions in connection with the matter of appeals under the Unemployment Assistance Act prove totally inadequate. Everybody whose application for a certificate was rejected exercised his right of appeal, and some 35,000 appeals altogether were made. Of these only a very small proportion have been dealt with. We coped to some extent with that by providing for a revision of the decisions by the unemployment officers. In some 7,000 or 8,000 cases new awards favourable to the applicants have been made. Though these cases are still listed for decision by the Appeals Committee, nevertheless the applicants have got what they desired. The main problem that arose there was that an alternative system of deciding appeals should be established. Proposals in that connection are embodied in the Unemployment Assistance Bill now awaiting a Second Reading by the Dáil.

We have had some complaints concerning delays in making payments to persons who got certificates and who have proved eligible for receiving assistance. These delays were possibly justified in some offices owing to lack of staff or to a temporary rush of work which may have disorganised the consideration of these matters. But wherever these difficulties arose they have been removed either by the allocation of new staff or in some other way. A number of new branch offices have been established, and some of the old offices have been converted into exchanges. This year we contemplate that the cost of the staff will be increased to over £40,000, so that there need be no such delay in dealing with these matters in the future. In any event the provisions of the amending Bill which is now before the Dáil will, in many respects, remove some of the difficulties which in the past prevented some applicants having their claims disposed of rapidly. I have to ask the Deputies, in dealing with the Act, to bear in mind the magnitude of the task which the Department undertook. We received 257,000 applications for certificates during the course of the 12 months. All of these had to be considered, decisions come to, and these had to be checked. In addition, the issuing of certificates to the applicants following the assessment of means involved a huge volume of work, apart altogether from the work that arose in connection with the giving of assistance to those who received the certificates.

In the short time after the Act has been brought into operation almost 100,000 are receiving weekly payments under it. The number of cases where complaints can legitimately be raised constitute a very small proportion of the number where no difficulties are experienced. The average payment per week is about 7/-. That arises from the fact that the great majority of those receiving assistance are not unemployed persons in the sense formerly used to describe them. They are not persons depending solely upon their earnings for their livelihood. A great many of them are landowners whose means are sufficiently low to qualify them for a certificate. Consequently they came on the register and were able to claim assistance. The amount they were entitled to receive was comparatively small and this brought down the average payment far below the schedule rates provided for in the Act. The cost of the Act has worked out roughly at about £30,000 a week. That varies from one time of the year to the other. As yet it is impossible to say what the average cost for the year will be, because we have not as yet experience of a summer when the great bulk of the applicants had their claims considered. Further, the summer employment period which will operate in respect of single men for ten weeks until the middle of July, will account for a good many and will have an effect upon the total cost of the measure. Deputies will be inclined to argue in favour of various alternatives in our practice and these will increase the cost of the scheme. I see no way in which we can increase the amount to be distributed under this Act without imposing a charge upon the Exchequer in respect of what can be met under the present circumstances, particularly having regard to the opposition that has been offered from certain quarters. Any Deputy who suggests an increase in the grants under the Act should at the same time indicate the source from which the revenue can be secured.

Last week the Minister when introducing the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce spoke for a considerable time and he treated the House to a great mass of figures which he had got at his command. He gave us the benefit of what he had deduced from these figures. The net result of the Minister's examination of the figures was that he was satisfied that not only was there a considerable increase in the number of persons employed but that there was a very substantial decrease in the number of persons unemployed. The Minister on a few occasions here warned certain Deputies of the dangers of using statistics. He said, recently, that statistics in the hands of a certain Deputy were like dynamite in the hands of a child. One has only to look at this Estimate itself and to look at the enormous sum which the Minister is asking the House to vote to realise that the Minister in dealing with those figures was absolutely confused; that he did not know what they meant and that he drew absolutely wrong conclusions from them. The Minister told us that he was satisfied from an examination of these figures that such and such was the position. The Minister did not believe for a moment that that was the position, or, else if he did, he must be absolutely ignorant of the position. He said there were fewer people unemployed to-day than three or four years ago and that there is a substantial decrease in unemployment. Is there any Deputy in actual touch with the conditions in town and country who believes for one moment that that is so? The Minister does not believe it. If that were so, there would be no necessity for the Minister to come here and ask the House for a gross sum of £2,000,000 for the purpose of dealing with unemployment and unemployment insurance assistance.

The Minister is now roughly three-and-a-half years in charge of the Department of Industry and Commerce. He is the person primarily responsible for finding work for unemployed persons in this country. The sum he is asking for to-day is a very strange answer to the promises he made three-and-a-half years ago, and is a very strange commentary upon the statement made by the President three-and-a-half years ago that it was comparatively easy to solve the unemployment problem in this country. Does the Minister or any member of this House believe, leaving aside altogether the number of persons unemployed in 1931, that the figures put forward by the Department of Industry and Commerce to-day represent the total number of persons unemployed? I am not at all satisfied that the number of persons given as unemployed in 1931—31,000, or whatever it was—represented the number of unemployed in 1931. Neither am I satisfied that the figures given by the Minister as representing the unemployed to-day is the actual number. Is there any person in touch with the conditions this year who is not convinced that there are a class of people unemployed to-day that were not unemployed in 1931. The Minister made the astounding statement that there are more people employed in agriculture to-day than four years ago. Is there a single Deputy in this House who believes that? Out of his own mouth, five or six months ago, he contradicted that statement, because he told them that the reason we have 141,000 or 145,000 or 130,000 people signing on is because there are people signing on to-day who never signed on before? Of course there are. As I stated, there are farmers and farmers' sons signing on to-day and competing with workers in cities and towns, but who, up to the advent of the present Government, were able to get a living on their farm.

Were there no uneconomic holdings in previous years?

There were, but there was this important difference, that in the past, even off these uneconomic holdings, they were able to sell a beast for £10 or £12, and that made a very big difference. The Minister knows, and if he does not know let him consult the members of his own Party and he will be quickly informed, that what I state is a fact. I know from my own experience that agricultural workers are now competing with town workers, and that people are flocking into the cities and towns competing with the urban workers and offering to accept jobs at much lower rates than the existing rates. That is well known to every Trade Union leader and Secretary in the country. We have the President's definite statement that it was comparatively easy to solve the unemployment problem in this country. We have the Minister's definite statement, set down in writing, that they had a plan that in the case of a few selected industries they were going to absorb 84,605, or something like that, workers in employment. The only thing troubling the Minister then was the fact that he would not have a sufficient number of persons in this country available to take up the jobs that were going, and that he would have to call back those persons who had emigrated abroad. Now after three-and-a-half years, he has had to admit that he has only placed 25,000 persons in industrial employment.

In industrial employment?

In insurable employment.

I am talking of the 84,000 he was to put into industrial employment.

We have passed that long ago.

That is another of the Minister's promises. I would like to ask the Minister a further question with regard to the deduction he has drawn from the number of books and claims current, and the number of persons in respect of whom unemployment insurance is paid. Can he tell us to what extent greater compliance with the Act has ensured that? Has the administration been tightened up, and have the Inspectors ensured better compliance? The Minister said that 32,000 claims were held up in the past, and that Deputies should appreciate the magnitude of the task placed on the shoulders of officials. I appreciate that fact; it was a huge task to place upon the officials. But my quarrel is with the Minister. He had plenty of notice of this particular Act, and he did not take steps in time to ensure that when the Act came into operation there would be machinery capable of working it. The position we are in is that there were roughly 30,000 or 32,000 claims for unemployment assistance and that these claims were turned down. Appeals were made, some of them as far back as March 12 months ago, and these people do not know to-day whether they are to get that money or not. Further, I say I realise the difficult and almost impossible task it would be for the Minister to meet and answer every individual question. But these people are in this position: They write to their representatives and their representatives are not in a position to obtain information as to the position of these claims and whether they will be heard in three or 12 months' time. The Minister has given no indication as to when he hopes to have these 30,000 odd claims disposed of. Can he say whether they will be cleared in three months, in six months or in 12 months? Is he going to arrange for extra staffs to dispose of these claims in a reasonable time? I suggest the present position is grossly unfair to those people. We know quite well that many of these people were getting outdoor relief or home assistance and now, because of the coming into operation of this Unemployment Assistance Act, they are not getting either one or the other. I do not know whether those cases have been brought to the Minister's notice, but a number of them have been brought to my notice.

It seems rather extraordinary that the Minister should calmly tell us that there are more persons in employment to-day than ever before in this country and that there has been a great decrease in the number of unemployed, in face of the figures issued by his own Department. I suggest to the Minister that it is a positive danger to himself and to the unemployed to handle figures in this way. If he draws these conclusions from the figures placed before him, and believes his figures are right, the sooner the Statistical Department is scrapped the better, both for himself and the unemployed. There is very little hope for the tens of thousands of unemployed if he tries to convince himself by eating into it from both ends—that there are fewer unemployed and that there are more employed. If the Minister believes that, he is ignorant of the actual conditions in the country. I am satisfied from my knowledge, anyway—and I give it for what it is worth—that there are at least double the number of unemployed there were three years ago. The Minister's statement that there are more employed in agriculture than three years ago is too absurd, even to call for an answer from anybody in this House. The Minister must know it is absurd and if he does not, I am quite certain that if he took the trouble to ask any member of his own Party who lives in a rural area what the actual conditions there are, he would be told, very quickly, that so far from there being extra employment, there is much less employment than formerly. In fact, there is not sufficient employment for even the members of farmers' families. So much is that the case that they have to go out to compete with the ordinary worker for whatever work is offering outside their farms.

Speaking on the Estimate for his Department proper, the Minister told us that he had now been able to obtain information to the effect that the average weekly contributions paid by insured persons under the Unemployment Insurance Act was 17. 6d. per week in respect of contributions for stamps. If we look at that figure and relate it to 12 months' continuous employment, we find that a person continuously employed for a period of 12 months should contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund a sum of £3 18/- a year. Let us, for argument's sake, assume that the contribution is £4 a year. That is an over-estimate by 2½ per cent. We can deduct, or add, that 2½ per cent. in order to get at a figure which is approximately accurate. Assuming, therefore, that every £4 contribution to the Unemployment Insurance Fund represents one person employed for a period of 52 weeks, we get somewhat startling information which does not at all seem to square with the information which has previously been conveyed by the Minister to the House, which is conveyed by the Minister to the public on the hustings outside and which the Deputies of his own Party have an unfortunate habit of repeating, believing that everything that comes from the Minister is just as if it came from the Books of Truth and Revelation. I suggest to the Minister that he should try to cure his supporters of repeating statements which he makes and especially try to cure them of the habit of repeating these statements without even the qualifications which the Minister attaches to the statements himself.

If we look at the adjusted income to the Unemployment Insurance Fund in respect of the sale of unemployment insurance stamps for the year 1931 and compare it with the figures for 1934, the last year in respect of which figures are available, we find that the income in 1931 was £553,000 in respect of men and in the year 1934 the contributions income was £607,000, an increase of £54,000 in 1934 as compared with 1931. When we pass to the income contribution in respect of women, we find that the income in respect of the sale of stamps, adjusted to the new rates, in 1931, was £155,000 and in 1934 £176,000, an increase of £21,000 in 1934 as compared with 1931. In respect to men, therefore, we have an increased income represented by the sale of stamps of £54,000 from 1931 to 1934. In respect of the same years we have an increase of £21,000 in respect of the sale of stamps to women. As the Minister knows, this method of applying the test of additional persons in constant employment over the 52 weeks of the year is the most reliable test that can be applied, to find out the extent of the increased employment in industries covered by the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and in respect of full-time or regular employment for 52 weeks.

That is the weekly average employed.

Quite, the weekly average employed. A check on those figures which I may mention were supplied recently in the House, can be applied by reference to the contribution income in respect of national health insurance stamps. Of course, the National Health Insurance Acts cover much wider categories of workers and, to that extent, any analysis of figures representing those in employment in industries or services covered by the National Health Insurance Acts, will not be a reliable industrial guide, because the National Health Insurance Acts apply not merely to industries but to domestic service and to agricultural employment. The income derived from contributions under these Acts does not afford a reliable comparison with the income derived from the sale of stamps to persons insured under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. The figures, nevertheless, provide a picture of what the position really is. If we take the national health insurance contributions in respect of men, we find that the income for 1932 was £412,000 as against £436,000 in 1934, an increase of £24,000. In respect of women, in 1932 the income was £177,000 and in 1934 £190,000, an increase of £13,000.

Applying the test of dividing the increase in the contribution income in respect of the sale of unemployment insurance stamps by four, representing £4 for each 52 weeks' continuous employment, we find that the additional number of men who secured regular employment for 52 weeks of the year in 1934, as compared with 1931, was 13,500, and in respect of women 5,200. These figures give a much more reliable indication of the amount of regular employment provided during each of these years than any mere reference to the income in respect of the sale of national health insurance stamps. We might, of course, in normal circumstances, congratulate ourselves on the fact that even close on 19,000 additional persons found employment in industry over a period of 52 weeks in 1934 as compared with the position in 1931. But we have to remember that during the same period, according to the Registrar General's Return, the population of the country has increased by approximately 52,000.

If this test of ascertaining the number of persons who get regular employment in industry is reliable, and it is generally accepted as the most reliable kind of test to be applied, it will be found by a comparison of these figures with the increase in population reported by the Registrar-General that we are not to-day absorbing into regular employment even half the number of persons remaining in the country now as an increased population. So far, therefore, from being able to relieve the dead-weight of unemployment, that problem seems to me to be calculated to become still more grave by reason of the fact that we are not absorbing half the increased population into industry; unless, of course, anybody can find consolation in the fact that it is part of the destiny of workers to be content with one, two or three months' employment in every year, and to depend on such miserable income as they can derive from unemployment assistance for the remaining three, six, or nine months of each year.

I do not want to interrupt Deputy Norton, but I should like the Chair to give a ruling as to the scope of this debate. Ordinarily, I think the discussion upon this Estimate is confined to the administration of the Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Assistance Acts. I think it has been ruled before that a general discussion on unemployment cannot arise on this. I am not anxious to avoid a discussion, but I think that at this stage we should know whether it is going to be permitted by the Chair.

The Minister is right in stating that, except on the main vote for the Department, and particularly if there is a motion to refer back, the discussion on any Estimate is confined to administration and does not extend to general policy.

Are you ruling, Sir, that in discussing the general Vote here for unemployment assistance we cannot go into the question of the abnormal increase in unemployment?

In the circumstances which make it necessary to refer to this.

I am anxious to ensure that we do not establish a precedent for the future. In the past, we have been confined in the discussion on this Estimate to the narrow question of administration. The general question of policy is deemed to arise properly only on the main Estimate. I am anxious that that should not be departed from without advertence to it.

This is the principal Estimate.

The whole administration of the Minister's Department and the various sub-heads may be discussed, and usually are, when there is a motion to refer back the Vote of the Minister himself. The Deputy is aware of that.

I submit that the whole question of unemployment and the necessity for this provision of £1,500,000 for unemployment assistance can be discussed on the Estimate, as well as the continuance of unemployment and the policy which has led to it.

I am not for a moment stating that Deputies are prevented from referring to the extent of unemployment, but a discussion which might range over the economic war and industrial development would not be in order. I am not, however, preventing Deputies from adverting to the extent of unemployment.

I raised it because Deputy Norton was proceeding to refer to the effect which the industrial policy had on unemployment and employment. That is a matter which I dealt with in my speech on the main Estimate; and I do not know that it should arise here on this Estimate, which is concerned only with the administration of these two Acts.

That was the Minister's opening speech and he made no speech in reply.

Deputy Belton was not here to resume the discussion on that Vote. Everybody assumed that Deputy Belton was going to exercise his right. However, I will give a guarantee not to introduce the economic war on this Estimate. I submit that in considering these Estimates we are entitled to advert to the magnitude of the unemployment problem. I suggest also that we are entitled to remind the Minister that there is no reason, in view of the figures which he has supplied officially in answer to a question in this House on the subject of unemployment, to be as complacent as he appears to be on that very grave problem.

We are asked in this Estimate to make provision for the payment of unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance benefit to approximately 100,000 persons who are registered as unemployed at employment exchanges throughout the country. In the course of the information issued each week by his Department, the Minister states that approximately 73,000 of these persons have means. I suggest to the Minister, however, that the means debited against these persons are of a kind only arrived at by these strained mathematical calculations performed by persons whose duty it is to ascertain the means in the peculiar manner provided by the Minister in the Act, and that, in fact, there are no real means possessed by many of these persons. Cases have come to my notice where, for instance, the occupant of a labourer's cottage is assumed to have an income out of the small plot of land attached to the cottage, and income of that kind has in the past been taken into consideration in ascertaining the means of persons. To most normal citizens, means of that kind, however, are not really means within the normal definition which one attaches to means. It is not, for instance, the kind of income which is dealt with under the income tax regulations, and they are pretty stringent without any further intention of intensifying the definition of what are means for the purpose of the Unemployment Assistance Act.

I say to the Minister that he is now presented with the problem of providing work or unemployment assistance or unemployment insurance benefit for 130,000 persons. If you assume, for instance, that these persons have three dependents each, you get an unemployment problem measured by reference to the fact that there are about 400,000 persons, counting the dependents, actually in need of work or sustenance to-day. That is the very serious unemployment problem with which the Minister and his Department and the whole Executive Council are presented.

In 1932, commenting on the seriousness of the unemployment problem, which was then reputed to be 91,000 persons registered as unemployed, the Minister's own Party organ, the Irish Press, stated:

"It is a tremendous figure, a frightening one. It is a call to every section of the community to face this problem tirelessly and unremittingly. It is a challenge to the Government —one it must take up, no matter at what cost. It must reduce that 91,000; it must reduce it quickly. All its resources and power of organisation must be devoted to reducing it. That is its first task. That is the task which it must solve if it is to keep public sympathy and to survive."

These were very wise words and very commendable advice to the Minister when we had 91,000 persons unemployed. Now we have 130,000 unemployed persons. When we ask what provision is being made in this Estimate for relieving that gigantic army of unemployed, we are simply endeavouring to ascertain from the Minister what are his proposals for providing employment for those persons in lieu of the unemployment assistance benefit on which they are at present expected to exist. The Minister knows perfectly well that the rates of unemployment assistance benefit were grossly inadequate to maintain an unemployed man, woman and their dependents. The rates of benefit under the Unemployment Assistance Act are much less than the sum allowed to maintain a person, legally described as a "pauper", in a public institution.

And they are going to be much less.

And these rates of benefit are much less than what it costs to keep a criminal in a criminal asylum. Yet, these are the rates of benefit upon which upright, honest, respectable citizens are expected to eke out a decent means of livelihood. We have now a problem of 130,000 unemployed persons without taking into account their dependents at all. That is a gigantic army of unemployed persons. It is almost an unemployed State within a State. On an Estimate of this kind, surely the Minister for Industry and Commerce should give some indication as to what the Government's proposals are for dealing with that very great problem. The Irish Press rightly said: “it is a call to every section of the community to face this problem tirelessly and unremittingly, and that all the resources and powers of the Government must be devoted to reducing it.” Following the very wise advice that has been given to him by the Irish Press, can we have any indication from the Minister for Industry and Commerce that all the resources and powers of the State are being mobilised to deal with this very grave problem? Can we be assured that everything possible has been done to deal with it, and that no further opportunities offer for making inroads on the problem? Must we face the situation that the State will have to recognise that it has got to maintain 130,000 persons either in permanent unemployment or in some kind of endemic poverty. If that is the position that we must face as a permanent feature of our existence, then I submit that we, as a community, ought to face it in a much more Christian way than we are doing under the Unemployment Assistance Act. We ought to make sure, at all events, that being charged by the community with the responsibility of dealing with a problem of that kind, we do so in a much more humane and Christian way than is available under the Unemployment Assistance Act.

The question before the House is the administration of two Acts, and it seems to the Chair that the Deputy is trying to make on this Vote a speech which would be more relevant on the main Vote.

I submit, Sir, that I have discussed nothing on this Estimate except unemployment: the magnitude of the problem, the inadequate State provision made and the seriousness of the problem which the whole community is faced with. I do not propose to travel outside that extremely narrow limit, and much as I might like to make a speech on the general work of the Minister's Department, I refrain from being tempted to do so on this Vote.

The industrial policy of the Government and the method of facing up to its problems, apart from these two Acts and the provisions made under them, may not be debated at length on this Vote.

Surely the Deputy is in order in submitting to the Minister and to the House reasons as to why steps should be taken by the Department to reduce the numbers of unemployed in the country, and, thereby, the amount of this Estimate. The reason why the Deputy and other Deputies refrain from dealing with the question of unemployment on the main Estimate is because we would simply have to repeat our statements on this Estimate.

No steps the Department might take to reduce unemployment in any way, either by works or by industry, could be taken under any sub-head of this Estimate.

I submit that if the Minister carried out the promises he made to this House and the country we would not have this great army of unemployed to deal with. Therefore, the sum that would have to be asked from the House would be much less than what it is.

I have no disinclination to discuss that problem at any time, but it cannot be discussed on this Estimate. The Estimate now before the House does not provide the proper means for such a discussion. I am sure that the House will not depart from what has been the practice up to the present, and that is to confine the discussion to the Estimate before it.

The Minister is trying to get away from the practice.

On the question of the administration of these Acts by the Minister's Department——

Which is quite relevant.

That is the first commendation I got in this debate.

The Deputy does not deserve anything.

The commendation has now been cancelled out by what Deputy T. Kelly says. Early this month, in reply to a Parliamentary Question, the Minister for Industry and Commerce stated that the total number of appeals awaiting decision by the Unemployment Appeals Committee was 31,645, of which 23,250 were lodged before the 1st January this year. Therefore, the position is, that 23,000 odd appeals are now in the Department of Industry and Commerce awaiting consideration by the Unemployment Appeals Committee, and that these were lodged before the 1st January this year. In other words, 23,000 odd cases have been jammed there for the past six months, and, judging by the present rate of progress, unless something is done in a substantial way to expedite their consideration, many of these 23,000 odd cases will, as the Minister said, not be out of that Department with decisions for nearly two years. That is not a very creditable piece of administration. I do not attach any blame whatever to the officials in the Minister's Department. Anyone who is in touch with them must admit that they are sympathetic and courteous officials: that they have done everything possible to try and administer as sympathetically and as humanely as possible an Act which has many blemishes, and for which they, as civil servants, have no responsibility. The Minister was responsible for the introduction and the passing of that Act. Under it he set up a single Unemployment Appeals Committee.

The Act is functioning to-day on the basis of a single Unemployment Appeals Committee which, I understand, consists of three civil servants who are already very busy with the important details of the work in their own departments. These three civil servants represent the only piece of machinery for dealing with these 23,000 odd appeals which have been in the Department of Industry and Commerce for at least six months. Many of them have been there for more than 12 months. The Minister, of course, has responsibility for providing only a single committee of that kind to deal with the thousands and thousands of applications which have filtered through to it, in the main, because of the grotesque definition of "means" given to any small piece of chattel property that an applicant for unemployment assistance might have when lodging a claim to such assistance.

I should like to know from the Minister how many more months or how many more years he expects these 23,000 appeals to be in his Department. When are the 23,000 persons who are awaiting decisions on their appeals likely to receive these decisions? It is bad enough that there should be such delay in issuing decisions on these appeals but, when we know that payment of benefit in such cases is not retrospective to the date on which the appeal was lodged, there is, obviously, an outstanding case for complaint on behalf of those persons. There was a complaint by the Minister for Finance on the Budget, echoed to-day by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, as to the high cost of unemployment assistance benefit. He said that it was now costing £1,600,000, less what would be saved by the employment period orders. Any effort to expedite decisions on these 23,000 appeals—or 31,000, which represents the aggregate number of appeals in the Department —will mean that unemployment assistance benefit will cost more. Is that any explanation of the delay in dealing with these appeals? The more the Minister expedites the machine for dealing with these appeals, the greater the cost of unemployment assistance, and we know from the speech of the Minister for Finance that he does not want the cost of unemployment assistance to go up. Somebody ought to remember the plight of those 23,000 persons who have been waiting for six months for decisions on their appeals and who are denied the opportunity of obtaining benefit until such time as they get decisions on their appeals. Until then, they are compelled to eke out an existence on a substantially reduced amount. We ought to know from the Government what their proposals are for dealing with these 31,000 cases and when it is expected that these appeals will be disposed of. In view of the abnormal delay which has taken place in considering these appeals—a delay not, apparently, foreseen when the Act was introduced and a delay which has already cost the unemployed claimants a considerable sum in the form of forfeiture of their right to benefit—the Minister should introduce, in his proposed amending Bill, provision to enable such decisions to be made retrospective in their application. In that way, some atonement would be made to unemployed claimants in respect of the long delay which their claims to benefit have sustained.

The big question confronting the country is what are Minister's proposals for reducing the necessity for estimates for unemployment assistance. We are entitled even to wonder why we have an unemployment assistance Estimate at all. Speaking in the House on the 2nd December, 1931, the present President of the Executive Council said:

"The solution of unemployment is easier to find in this country at the present moment than it is in any other country facing that problem."

The present Minister for Industry and Commerce—he was subsequently selected to fill that important office because of his knowledge of this problem—said, on the same day, "Employment need not exist here."

Hear, hear!

Taking these two statements as an indication of what, with courage and determination and the organisation of the nation's resources, could be done by the present Minister in conjunction with the present President of the Executive Council, we are entitled to take stock of the real position. Notwithstanding these two declarations—that it was easy to find a solution of the unemployment problem and that unemployment need not exist here at all—we find that there are 130,000 persons registered as unemployed at the employment exchanges. I have no doubt that the Minister had some plans in mind when he made that statement. I have no doubt that the President had some plans in mind when he made his statement. In actual working out, the only plans I can discover are the plans for the imposition of tariffs and the imposition of quotas. I do not want on this Estimate to enlarge on the inadequacy of these plans. We are entitled to assume that there were in the mind of the Minister some plans when he made a declaration of that kind. I should like if the Minister would indicate on this Estimate what his proposals are for reducing the necessity for these unemployment assistance Estimates. Rising figures of unemployment provide no consolation to anybody seriously concerned with the solution of the problem. Low rates of benefit provide no consolation as showing that we are doing our duty for the unemployed in a Christian way. Faced, therefore, with the necessity for making adequate provision for the unemployed in the form of maintenance during unemployment, we are entitled to know what the Government's proposals are for eradicating the problem of unemployment or what plans members of the Government had in mind when speaking in this House in 1931.

I know that the Minister is faced with a big task, a gigantic task, a task which, in 1931, I did not believe would yield to the simple treatment to which the Minister then, apparently, believed it would yield. The problem of unemployment is a serious problem. In this country, its proportions are alarming. At the same time, we do not seem to be taking, in our efforts to find a solution to that problem, the steps which are readily available to us in a relatively undeveloped country, such as this. While I have criticised this Estimate, I realise that the problem is a serious one, that it is a problem which will try the best statesmanship which this country or the world in general can produce. It is not a problem capable of solution over-night. The Minister, I think, realises that now with greater clarity than he did in 1931. In view of the fact that the unemployment problem has lingered with us so long, that it is a growing and not a contracting problem, I hope the Minister will indicate that the Government propose to take courageous and radical steps to deal with it instead of the simple method of imposing tariffs and quotas. Even though these remedies may make some contribution, however slight, to the problem of relieving unemployment, I think the Minister can be assured of the goodwill of all Parties in any effort to face up to the State's responsibility to relieve the problem. If he does that, he may be assured of the support and goodwill of Deputies in every Party.

Deputy Norton suggested that the Minister has obscured the position by persuading himself, because he makes statements and assembles figures with regard to the numbers employed, and because he makes litanies of the new industries set up, that things are all right. I agree with Deputy Norton that the Minister is either doing that or, is doing a thing which is, perhaps, more likely, running away completely from any discussion of the unemployment problem and scattering amongst Deputies, and particularly amongst people in the country, a smoke screen behind him. The Minister went very elaborately into the figures showing the state of employment.

Not on this Estimate.

On the Estimate on which he declined to reply to any criticisms that were raised. When introducing the Estimate, the Minister stated that he had added 27,000 people to industrial employment. But a new set of figures was produced, and accepting for the moment that he added 27,000 persons to industrial employment, we have to take building out, leaving 23,000.

I find on reference to the report of last week's debate, that the Minister devoted 12 columns to employment and unemployment. The Deputy, and at least two other Deputies, participated in the debate, and referred to these figures. The Deputy is aware that a matter raised on the main Vote, to the extent of some 18 columns at least, should not be raised again on another Vote for the same Department.

I was pointing out that we have an Estimate introduced for £1,500,000 for the considerable numbers of people who are unemployed. The figures in certain areas have increased enormously during the last 12 months, yet the Minister has told us that 27,000 people have been put into industrial employment. He endeavours to create the impression that there is going on in the country a development which is going to absorb these people now scheduled amongst the unemployed. I want, in passing, to refer to the 27,000 and to show that the figure is fictitious from the point of view of indicating that there is development going on to absorb people who are in the unemployed lists to-day. When giving figures the Minister for Local Government said that 22,000 houses had been completed in three years; approximately 7,000 houses a year. It is generally agreed that the building of a house will give employment to one and a half men for 12 months. On the figures of the Minister for Local Government the number of persons employed annually on house building is, at least, 11,000. These, with 2,300 persons on relief, leave 13,000 that the Minister in three years has put into industrial employment, or something over 4,000 additional persons yearly compared to what was admitted in the Debate had been going on under the administration of the previous Government, where, even on the Minister's reduced figures, there were at least 5,000 persons going into industrial employment every year. With the quotas and tariffs and all that Deputy Norton speaks about, the Minister, on his best showing, on the third and fourth run of the Government, cannot show that there is any development going on now that was not going on before Fianna Fáil came on.

What we are faced with is some understanding from the Minister as to what is going to happen persons on the unemployment lists to-day, and that are there in increasing numbers. I am sorry the Minister is absent because there is a question I should particularly like to put to him. Deputies who require it are at present getting weekly a certain amount of information with regard to the number of registered unemployed in certain areas, and are able to examine the situation in different parts to see where the incidence of employment is. I want the Minister to say whether the provision of these figures is going to continue in the future. It has been suggested that the numbers on the weekly live register and in receipt of Unemployment Assistance and benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act should cease. If that is so, then the Minister is taking up an astounding attitude towards the question of unemployment. On his own estimate of the statistics, he is not in any way examining the root cause of the problem. On this Vote he does everything possible to hide behind the work of his administration in order to avoid a discussion of the unemployment problem. I suggest to the Minister that it is part of his ordinary administrative work, to explain to the House, on an Estimate like this, the figures that he accumulates from time to time, and to supplement the statements that appear from time to time in the Press and elsewhere, with regard to the unemployment problem and the figures of the unemployed. The most recent figures we have are not, of course, to be called unemployment figures now. They are the total number on the live register for the beginning of May. Nevertheless, 72 per cent. of the people on that register are in receipt of payments under the Unemployment Assistance Act, and an additional percentage is in receipt of payments under the Unemployment Insurance scheme.

It is a rather interesting thing that in carrying out the work of administering to unemployment, the Minister has issued a circular to the Press, saying that the list he issues weekly is not to be regarded as an unemployment register, although 72 per cent. of the total number on it have to be provided for directly by State assistance and Unemployment Assistance. In addition, the list contains all the people who have been out of employment, and who are in receipt of benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act. It is a rather interesting commentary on the Minister's attitude towards unemployment. We want to know from the Minister what is happening. Certain facts come to his knowledge in the administration of the Department. The actual percentage of people in receipt of Unemployment Assistance is fairly general over the whole country, although it increases in counties in the west of Ireland. The percentage on the live register in receipt of Unemployment Assistance in Donegal on May 4th was 83 per cent.; in Sligo, where Sligo and part of Leitrim meet, it was 84 per cent.; in Mayo, 81 per cent.; in Galway, 75 per cent.; in Clare, 76 per cent.; in Kerry, 84 per cent., and in the Bantry area of Cork, 83 per cent. So that, in that area, you have, substantially, over 80 per cent. of the persons on the register in receipt of Unemployment Assistance where the figure for the country as a whole is 72 per cent. But the west of Ireland has another phenomenon to show, and it is that, in the 12 months ending, say, the 1st May last, the total number of persons registered has increased enormously, compared with the rest of the country. The total number of persons that are registered has risen by 96.8 per cent. in Mayo—that is, in the Ballina centre; by 64.3 per cent. in Galway; by 74 per cent. in Sligo; by 106.5 per cent. in Kerry; by 160 per cent. in Bantry. So that, here we have a very huge percentage increase, as well as a huge increase in the actual number of persons, because the addition in Sligo is 3,645; in Mayo, 4,158; in Galway, 2,753; in Kerry, 5,237. We also have a very substantial increase in percentage in the number of persons added to the unemployment list during the last 12 months in the west of Ireland.

We would like to know from the Minister if he sees any hope in the present circumstances of any reduction in these figures in the West of Ireland that will enable him to present to the House next year a smaller percentage in the number of people claiming assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Act than at present. Surely, we are entitled to know what is operating in the West of Ireland to cause these huge figures. Particularly, where we have an area like the Athlone-Roscommon area, where there has been a reduction, I think that we are entitled to know what is happening there and what is the cause of the reduction in the number of persons that have registered there. If we knew what was happening there, we would be very anxious, naturally, to look around to other parts of the country so as to see in what other parts of the country that phenomenon is occurring. In the Athlone area, the reduction amounts to about 33 per cent., but we would like to know, in view of that, how it is that there is such an enormous increase in the west of Ireland generally; and we should also like to know what hope the Minister has of making any reduction in the numbers.

Again, as the Minister is there, I should like to say that I understood the Minister, perhaps in an incompleted reference, to say that he proposed to discontinue the weekly issue of information with regard to the number of persons on the live register and the number of persons in receipt of Unemployment Assistance. I ask the Minister now to tell the House that that is not so and that he does not propose to discontinue the publication of these figures. My reason for saying that is, that if the Minister does discontinue the publication of that information, it will create—if it were possible to add to the uneasiness of Deputies of the House and the uneasiness of members of the general public with regard to the statistical aspect of the unemployment position in the country—additional uneasiness and anxiety by reason of the Minister's attitude that he is going to refuse to publish these figures in future. Again, I sincerely hope that that is not the way in which the unemployment situation is going to be discussed, or the way in which it is going to be regarded by the Minister in future, because I think that there is nothing that requires a more detailed exposition, or a more careful examination on the part of the Minister, and a frank talk to the House, than this question of the unemployment position. To fob it off by a kind of statistical abstract, such as the Minister dictated to the House to-day on his own Estimate, is merely evading the issue. It only means fobbing the whole question off and leaving the House and the public in the position of feeling that the unemployment problem is so great that the Minister has to run away from it, and, in fact, it gives the impression that he is running away from it.

I do not propose to make a long contribution to the debate on this Estimate on this occasion. Speaking on it last year, I found it necessary, at the then inception of the Unemployment Assistance Act to pass some strictures on its maladministration, although it had only been working a short time then. I pointed out to the Minister the cases of the early victims of the maladministration of the Act and I tried to point out to him what I felt sure would eventually occur, and what had already occurred in certain cases, so that he might be able to prevent that scandal becoming worse. The Minister was inclined, when concluding, to think that my contribution had been made in a spirit of levity. I certainly was not speaking in any spirit of levity in drawing the Minister's attention to the very great hardship that might accrue to the people who were supposed to benefit by the Unemployment Assistance Act but who, in the meantime, were debarred from the ordinary assistance that they would otherwise have received. The Minister was quite confident then that the Act would work correctly, but he states to-day that it was purely experimental. I think that last year the Minister said the Act was quite adequate to meet all such cases. Now we hear that the Act was forced at too great a pace and that a sufficient time was not given to carry it out in all its implications, as far as our people were concerned. Undoubtedly, the administration of the Act was piled on top of officials of a Department already over-taxed. I agree with the Deputies from all sides of the House who have said that the officials of the Department should be excused from any blame in that connection, but I hold that those who planned the Act, without having regard to the magnitude of the Act, at least should have had regard to the magnitude of their responsibility for the Act, because, not alone were they depriving the people of home assistance and the other help that they would ordinarily be entitled to, but they were subjecting them to all this system of appeals, and delays, and so on. It will not be necessary for me to speak of the hopeless condition of the Appeals Committee. It is common knowledge that there are about 21,000 cases held up here in Dublin. That is a fact that has not been sufficiently noted by Deputies in this House. I know of cases—some of them going back as far as 12, 13 and 14 months ago —where they are still waiting for a decision. One would think that some of these cases would have been reached by this time. If these people knew that, whether through the application of the means test or other qualifications, they would not be entitled to unemployment assistance and would be turned down, they could seek help from their own local authorities, but, as things are at the moment, they are between the devil and the deep sea. They have been suffering hardships, and very severe hardships, and, up to October last, when decisions were taken their claims were paid retrospectively when the applicant was proven to have a right case. Since the month of October, some new regulations have been sent down from headquarters and since that date, a man is paid only from the date on which his appeal is decided. I wonder if that is justice or equity. If, owing to the failure of the machine to deal with a case, which is proven on inquiry to be a sound one, a man is as much entitled to the increased award on the day on which he made the appeal as he was on the day on which the machinery dealt with it. We have many cases of that kind in which, owing to the peculiar method of valuation that was devised, people have been suffering all that time. We spoke here last year of the fictitious values placed on hens and goats. They are still operating to the detriment of these unfortunate recipients and, when the tribunal comes to deal with these matters and make an award, it is paid only as from the date on which the decision is taken.

There are other little practices being carried out to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. I hope the new machinery to be provided in the Bill promised to us will remedy a glaring defect and have the congestion of appeals dealt with in a speedy fashion. There is no hope in the present machinery and in view of its complete collapse and failure, I hope that sane thought will be put into the new machinery to ensure that it will be effective to do its job. In doing that, I suggest that much wider powers should be invested in local authorities, courts of referees and local exchange officials, who are conversant with local circumstances and are in a better position to deal with the cases with responsibility decentralised, than they would be in waiting to have everything sent to Dublin, in this old round-robin fashion, which we complained of last year. It has not been improved and until it is removed and until more responsibility is vested in the local exchanges we can hope for no improvement.

I suggest to the Minister also that he might consider the wisdom of allowing some of the officials from the provincial exchanges—the manager or sub-manager, or some responsible representative —to go on appointed days to the various important towns in a county, notifying the particular date of their sittings, to hear grievances and complaints and in that way bring Mahomet to the mountain rather than have the mountain coming to Mahomet. We have cases of unfortunate people in a very parlous state who have to come long distances to make claims and present grievances. Deputies and public officials are being used as intermediaries and I suggest that it would be much better for the administration itself and for the applicants if it were possible to devise a system whereby a member of the staff would go on a kind of circuit periodically—say, once a month—to various towns and receive complaints and get firsthand information as to the grievances. They would be more in contact with the people and would have a readier understanding of the complaints and their causes.

There is another matter in respect of which I have very serious cause for complaint. It is the practice of acting upon reports made against applicants for unemployment assistance, whether anonymously or otherwise. If anybody thinks well—or thinks ill—of writing to the local labour exchange and stating that one of his neighbours is in receipt of unemployment assistance and that, in his opinion and in his knowledge, that person is not entitled to it and is fraudulently receiving it, whether that statement is well or ill-founded the officials automatically act upon it and the recipient is struck off as from that moment. The machinery for investigation in these cases is not by any means as alert as the Minister is inclined to indicate, or perhaps to believe, it is, and we know of cases—I have one in mind now which is three months under consideration— under consideration for long periods. In that case there has been no decision yet and I am perfectly certain that when the decision comes to be made the man will be found to be quite innocent and will be entitled to back payment, unlike the case of means appeals. He will be entitled to have his money paid as from the date of his being struck off. In the meantime, that man who has a wife and five children, and who is unemployed, unless he has happened to be lucky enough to get a few days' work, has no means whatever of subsistence. He was not entitled to get home help because the officers said that as long as he was attached to the labour exchange they had no right to give him money from the local rates.

That is one thing for which the Department ought not to stand—the encouragement of anonymous or unknown informers writing in about their neighbours from reasons of spite or malice perhaps. If a criminal is being tried he is held to be innocent until proven guilty, and what the Department ought to do is to continue paying benefit while making the necessary inquiries, and if the man is found guilty, inflict the necessary punishment upon him. There is hardly any justification for punishing a man first on any kind of testimony and investigating the complaint after a lapse of, perhaps, two, three or four months. In either case, the victim and his wife and children are bound to suffer hardship because of the institution of this practice.

I hope that the Minister in his new measure will take steps to prevent one of the greatest annoyances caused by the arrangement by which one stamp breaks a man's claim. This has been the cause of more friction than any other matter in the operation of the Unemployment Assistance Act. It is asking people not to take a day's work. We have cases of men drawing unemployment assistance, after considerable difficulty in getting to the state of being able to draw it, who are offered a day's or two day's work. If they take that work, their claim is immediately broken and they have to start again as if they had never been on unemployment assistance. I suggest that it would be wise on the part of the Minister and the Department to give the people more confidence in the friendly administration of the Act and withdraw that one stamp clause. Let it be an average of 12 stamps, for instance, so that people would not be intimidated from doing a day's work or a week's work, and would not have the fear of losing more than they would gain by going to work. That will be found very beneficial, and it will be a great easement to the Department's officials throughout the country, if acted upon.

I referred already to the fact that there was not sufficient confidence reposed in the local people—local courts of referees—and I should like to refer to a case which I knew and which I was interested in fighting myself. After several months the case came to be tried by the local court of referees, and a decision was given in favour of the applicant. That decision was notified by the local exchange manager, and I was notified that the man was about to be paid the money in pursuance of the court's decision. We next discovered that some local gárda had been told by somebody else that this man was not sufficiently strong or healthy to do any work, and the referees' decision was overruled by the local gárda. It took us ten more weeks to get that man his payment. I do think that it is necessary that very much more confidence should be reposed in the local court of referees and its chairman and in the local authorities generally, and that it should not be the job of every Tom, Dick and Harry in the country to help to maladminister this Act to the detriment of the people to whom it should be beneficial.

Before I sit down I should like to ask the Minister to look into the question of the remuneration of the temporary clerks in the Department. Some of those men have fairly long service. All are men of good education and fairly useful training in other walks of life. They are called on to perform very important, very useful and very onerous services. Notwithstanding all the complaints we are making, I have never found reason to complain against any employee of the Department, because, as Deputy Norton has said, they are always courteous to the public and to public representatives and willing to do the best they possibly can in trying to administer what was obviously an impossible machine. I think the Minister ought reasonably to consider that £2 5s. per week is not a fair remuneration for men with family responsibilities and charged with carrying out onerous duties, calling for the interpretation of sections of the Act. I suggest that the temporary clerks in the unemployment assistance and insurance exchanges are worthy of sympathetic consideration by the Minister. I trust he will see his way in the near future to remove the reproach which it is to his Department to have men doing this work at such a scandalously low rate of wages.

I should like to mention one aspect of this matter which I do not suppose comes very prominently under the Minister's notice. I stated before in this House that the more easily taxes are collected, and the more easily any services which have to be performed by the community can be carried out, the easier and simpler it will be for every Party. With regard to employees, as the Minister is aware, a stamp has to be put on a card every week; an addition is made to the wages and a deduction from them. In other words, it practically trebles the labour in connection with the making up of a wages book, in comparison to what used to be performed in the old days. That service has also to be carried out in connection with the national health —two additions, two subtractions, two stamps to lick, two cards to find, and two cancellations to make. I wish to make another request to the Minister, but I do not know whether it is strictly in order under this Vote. In connection with the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, I wish to ask the Minister if that fund is going to be raised by a stamp which will be put on a card every week. I do not want to labour the point, except to say that if there is to be a third addition, a third subtraction, and a third stamp to lick, as far as the commercial community is concerned I will omit, in deference to you, a Chinn Comhairle, the sanguinary and blasphemous adjectives with which the news will be received.

I presume that what I am about to say has already been mentioned, but that is not going to deter me from saying it again, because I know that the grievance is very genuine. The fact that there are between 30,000 and 40,000 people seeking to get decisions on their appeals is sufficient reason to induce every Deputy to say it as often as he can, in order to induce the Minister to take some action in the matter. In my own county there are between 1,500 and 2,000 appeals awaiting decision. I am not going to put the blame for the delay on the people who are immediately responsible for giving a decision on those appeals, because it would be impossible for them to deal with the large amount of appeals outstanding. The fault is primarily the fault of the Minister in the matter of policy. He should have taken steps to see that those appeals would be dealt with expeditiously. For the past 12 months and more, people have been coming to me and asking me to make representations to the Minister. I have done so. I have sheafs of stock letters telling me that so-and-so is being attended to. I have sheafs of acknowledgments. We had a request from the Minister asking us to postpone our questions. We have studiously kept the Minister's request in mind, and have not put down questions; but the amount of appeals is accumulating. The Minister told us about six weeks ago that the number of appeals outstanding was 30,000, and I think to-day or yesterday he told us that the number was 31,000 or 32,000. The appeals are accumulating rather than diminishing.

I pass from that to point out that there are several cases in which there is a good deal of hardship owing to qualification certificates being withdrawn for some reason unknown to the holders. In many of those cases the people have come to me in regard to the matter, and I know that they are in dire want. They will not get unemployment assistance, and they will not get home assistance. Those people are in absolute necessity on account of not having their cases looked after. There is no redress whatever, and no opportunity of having the unemployment assistance restored to them. Those cases are numerous. I have between 100 and 200 of those cases outstanding, and still there is no indication from the Minister that there are going to be any redressive measures. I am not now referring to appeal cases; I am speaking about cases where the qualification certificates have been withdrawn on the representation of some body unknown—unknown, at least, to the person entitled to the unemployment assistance.

There is another matter which I wish to mention—I do not know whether it has already been referred to—and that is the giving of employment to people who are holders of qualification certificates. I want to know if the Minister has a function to discharge in that connection, because I do know of cases where people who are holders of qualification certificates are not given preference for employment under public works schemes. Not alone in work immediately under the Government, but under relief schemes and work under the county councils, there are cases where holders of qualification certificates are left idle, while people who are not in possession of qualification certificates are employed. I suggest that the Minister should let two or three men loose on the country to make investigations. They should make unexpected visits to the various gangs employed, and discover whether all those people have qualification certificates. They should then make a visit to the local employment exchange, and see how many people who have qualification certificates are available for that particular work. I should also like to call attention to the delay in dealing with complaints as to noncompliance. There are a good many cases where people have their benefits withheld because of complaints in regard to failure to comply with the Act. The redress in those cases is very slow, and I suggest to the Minister that he ought to speed up that side of his Department. There is one matter on which I want to congratulate him, although the action on his part was rather belated. I refer to his stating a case in relation to the Fergus works, as to whether or not the employees are entitled to unemployment insurance stamps. I am not going to prejudice the case by saying anything further about it now, but I do want to express the hope that the Board of Works and the Department of Finance will not take into account the precedent set by the Department of Industry and Commerce in delaying consideration of the matter for two or three years. I hope they will deal with the matter more expeditiously than the Minister for Industry and Commerce did. He has saved his reputation a little by having a case stated, but it certainly is unfair that it should have been held up for two or three years.

The Minister to conclude.

A number of Deputies addressed themselves to the actual position in respect of employment and unemployment. I dealt with that at considerable length in introducing the main Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce, and I do not think it is necessary to deal further with it now. No matter how Deputies may argue, or what statistics they may try to produce in support of their contentions, they cannot get away from the essential fact that there are more people in employment in the Irish Free State now than ever before. All the arguments of Deputies cannot controvert that one fact, which is demonstrable from every known index of employment. I say that there are fewer people unemployed now than there were before. I agree, as I pointed out here in the earlier discussions, that it is not possible to produce conclusive proof of that fact because there is no information as to what was the volume of employment before this Government came into office.

And the Minister says there are fewer people unemployed?

There are only two possible indices of unemployment and one is the number of persons claiming unemployment insurance benefit. I pointed out that they are a lower proportion of the total insured population in the present year than in 1931 or 1930 and that the proportion has been diminishing for each of the years in which this Government has been in office. The only other information on unemployment you have is the Census of 1926. Comparing the position revealed then with the corresponding date in 1934, as revealed by the live register, and making all due allowance for the difference between the methods of compilation of the figures and the possibilities of error that undoubtedly exist, there were fewer people unemployed in April, 1934, than there were in April, 1926.

Deputy Morrissey disputes my contention that there were more people employed in agriculture on the 1st June this year than on the 1st June in 1931. 1929 or 1928. Deputy Morrissey cannot contest that figure. We have counted them; enumerators went around and counted the number of people employed in agriculture on the 1st June this year, just as they did last year and in previous years.

There are 1,630 agricultural labourers over 18 years of age.

There were 16,836 more people employed in agriculture on the 1st June this year than in 1931. For the first time in 100 years the area under tillage has increased. It will continue to increase and more people will be employed in agriculture. Deputy Mulcahy asks for an explanation of the increase in the number of persons registered in the western counties. The Unemployment Assistance Act is in operation and there is a free beef scheme in operation. Numbers of people have come on to the register who were never before regarded as unemployed and who were not employed in accordance with the usual definition, that is, people normally employed for wages who, through no fault of their own, are now unable to obtain employment. Those people are not normally employed as labourers; they are employed usually as farmers.

The Minister argues that the number of people in receipt of unemployment assistance is not an index as to unemployment?

No. The total figure includes persons on uneconomic farms, persons passing from one employment to another such as housebuilders and constructional workers generally, persons who have got small businesses or are engaged in fishing or other occupations which do not bring them in a total annual income in excess of the maximum permitted under the Act. They are all included in that figure. The number of people included who have no other means of livelihood except the wages they earn is much less than 40 per cent.

You will have to change the name of the Act.

That is a suggestion and I will consider it.

Change the rates of benefit and do not mind the Title of the Act.

I do not think we will do that for the present. Deputy Morrissey raised the old question whether the increase in the revenue fund was not due to better compliance with the Act. The whole administration of the Department since I became Minister is much better than ever it was, but I do not think there is any greater or any lesser compliance with the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act now than in the past. There might be some reason to expect that the same attention was not given in 1934 to that matter as in other years, because the officers of the Department were very busy bringing the Unemployment Assistance Act into operation.

There has been a question raised about the arrears of appeals. The arrears are very heavy. I have already admitted that the machinery provided in the Unemployment Assistance Act was inadequate for the preliminary period. It will, however, be quite adequate in a year or two, once the arrears are cleared off. By way of extenuation of my failure to realise in time that that would be the position, I may say nobody else realised it would be the position and nobody suggested that that particular method of dealing with appeals would prove to be inadequate. Since we realised that fact——

Did the Minister consult the Official Reports before he decided to make that statement?

I am relying on my memory.

The Minister's memory is very bad. He already accused a Deputy of having opposed a certain motion when, in fact, he voted for it.

The Minister is in possession.

He is misrepresenting people.

Those misrepresented might defend themselves.

He is misrepresenting persons who are not present.

There is a Bill before the Dáil now designed to set up a new method of determining these appeals and we will discuss the adequacy of that when the Bill is before us. Our aim is to secure that the appeals will be disposed of at the rate of 2,000 a week, so that the whole lot can be cleared away within six months.

Commencing when?

Mr. Hogan

Will the payments be made retrospective?

There is no power to do that. The assistance officer has already determined that the applicants are not entitled to qualification certificates or to the rate of means they claimed.

Does that apply to means appeals?

These appeals are only appeals against the refusal of qualification certificates or against the rate of means stated in the certificate. There are other classes of appeals, such as appeals by persons who have certificates, against the refusal of assistance and these are determined by the local court of referees.

Were payments made retrospectively up to October last?

There is no power to do so, and it has not been done. The Department is entitled to pay out to each claimant for unemployment assistance the amount specified in the Schedule of the Act, less the means stated in the certificate. If the means are changed either on appeal or because the means have altered, the payment of the new rate becomes operative from the date on which the change was effected.

What about the arrears in the delayed appeals?

If the appeal is against the payment of assistance and is made by a person holding a qualification certificate and is determined by the local court of referees, then arrears are paid, but not in the case of an appeal against the refusal of a qualification certificate. The Department becomes liable for payment from the date on which the qualification certificate is issued or the date when the change of means is stated.

Is that not unfair where appeals are being held up?

I do not think so.

I have in mind a means appeal directly, not an appeal over a qualification certificate. In cases where they were declared entitled to only 2/- or 3/-, on appeal it was decided that they were entitled to 9/-, as the case might be. I maintain that they have been paid retrospectively up to last October and retrospective payments have only been stopped since then.

I think the Deputy is misinformed. The Department would not be entitled to pay retrospectively any difference that might have been held to be due, because a change in the amounts stated in the certificate was effected. Perhaps the Deputy had better not bring any such cases to my notice, because I would be compelled to recoup to the Fund all that the applicant had been paid. A number of Deputies referred to the fact that the Department acts upon information supplied to it by other parties that a particular person receiving unemployment assistance is not entitled to it, or that he is in employment, or that in some way he is getting assistance contrary to the provisions of the Act. We must act on that information. I say here, deliberately, that this whole unemployment assistance scheme will break down unless the members of the public co-operate with the Department in ensuring that only those persons who are entitled to assistance will get it. I have appealed, time and again, to the public, to members of labour organisations and members of public bodies of one kind or another to bring to the notice of the Department any case in which a person who is not entitled to it is getting unemployment assistance. It is only when we have eliminated all such cases that the continuity of this Act will be guaranteed. If there is large-scale evasion of the Act it is quite possible that the cost of its administration will be such that we will have either to abandon the Act altogether or very materially to reduce the payments made under it. In all cases of evasion we are entitled to ascertain the facts as quickly as possible. The amount payable when the case is finally adjusted is payable retrospectively from the date on which payment was stopped—that is, if the decision on appeal is favourable to the applicant.

Deputy Mulcahy referred to the statistical tables which were supplied to certain Deputies, and he wanted to know if they were to be continued. The position is that the compilation was suspended on the grounds of economy, and these statistics are not now available.

Does the Minister tell us that in future we are not to get the figures showing the number of people on the live register?

The compilation of these returns weekly is being discontinued.

Are these made out monthly?

They may be, but I am not quite certain.

What figures are to be supplied in future in respect of persons on the live register in the various offices throughout the country?

The usual weekly figures that have been furnished to the newspapers will still be furnished, perhaps not weekly in future, but they will be furnished fortnightly or monthly. We have had to abandon a number of statistical luxuries because of a shortage of staff.

Will the Minister tell us how he can get the figures to give to the Press fortnightly or monthly, if he does not add Carlow to Athy and Athy to Kildare and so on?

That is a different matter. Preparing a report and having copies available for circulation is a different matter. I have no desire at all to withhold from the public information about these matters. The Deputy is aware that these figures were not published until this Government came into office. It was this Government initiated the practice.

They were published for 39 different centres, but we are dealing with a very different problem now.

Deputy Dockrell asked about the widows' and orphans' pensions. I am afraid he will have to ask the Minister for Local Government and Public Health about that. Deputy Keyes raised the question of remuneration of temporary clerks. That is a matter that is fixed by the Department of Finance, and no Department can by itself deal with this question.

Did not the Minister make an offer recently to regulate the wages?

I made an offer to regulate the wages if it were left to me. I think these were the only points raised by Deputies that affected the administration of the Act. The whole question will arise again in the course of a few days on the Unemployment Assistance Bill. I did mention to Deputy Keyes that the Unemployment Assistance Bill does propose to abolish that system by which a person is deprived of unemployment assistance because he has one stamp to his credit. We are proposing that a person can be entitled to claim assistance on his own, irrespective of the number of stamps he has to his credit.

Will the Minister say what are the present regulations with regard to the giving of employment on Government relief works?

The practice some time ago was that persons employed on works financed in whole or in part out of State funds were recruited through the employment exchange. Their selection fell upon the officers of the employment exchange, who had instructions as to the order of preference. On the inauguration of the unemployment assistance scheme we abandoned that method and gave power to the employing authority, whoever the employing authority might be in a particular case, whether the local county surveyor, the officer of the Board of Works, or the officer of the Forestry Department, to recruit for this work—subject only to this condition, that the persons employed should be persons with qualification certificates and in receipt of unemployment assistance. We could only enforce that rule in cases where there is State contribution in respect of the works. We have no power to enforce conditions of that kind upon local authorities, who are themselves paying the cost of the work. Where there is a State contribution, however, that is the rule. I would be glad to get particulars of where that has been departed from with a view to having the cases investigated. It was with some hesitation I agreed to the change. I would take it up with any Department that was not adhering to the decision made then with a view to ensuring that where there is only a limited amount of work in any one area the first preference will be given to people who, by some rough and ready method, can be determined to be most in need of employment.

I just want to ask the Minister one question on the matter of umpires. Is it reasonable to expect an unemployed man in Athy to be penalised by being forced to go to Carlow to present his case to the umpire?

It is not the umpire who sits in Carlow. It is the Court of Referees. If the Court of Referees ask an applicant to attend at a particular place they will pay his travelling expenses, but in the majority of cases there is no need for the applicant to be present. There are representatives of the workers on the Court of Referees, and they are familiar with the case to be made. Should they consider the attendance of the applicant necessary, they will pay his expenses.

Vote put and agreed to.