Committee on Finance. - Social Welfare (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1955—Money Resolution.

I move:—

That it is expedient to authorise such payments out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas as are necessary to give effect to any Act of the present session to provide for the increase in certain cases, in respect of one week in the month of December, 1955, of pensions under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1955, pensions under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Acts, 1935 to 1955, and disability benefit under the Social Welfare Act, 1952.

On the Money Resolution, the Minister quoted Deputy Norton in a statement in the House on 26th October. I shall quote from the same statement reported at column 75 of the same volume:—

"The Government have been most anxious to see, therefore, what could be done, as evidence of their goodwill, of their sympathetic understanding of the difficulties of these people, as evidence of their desire to help them, to shelter them from the impact of this increase in the price of tea and they have decided that it will give to these persons, that is, to old age pensioners, widows, blind persons and long-duration disability benefit recipients, a compensatory payment of their basic allowance in one single payment which will offset the additional cash cost in one year of the increased price of tea on the assumption that the increase reaches 2/- per lb., which it need not do."

The main argument we put up on the Second Reading of this Bill was that the Government were niggardly in that they did not give a flat rate increase to every category of pensioner who became entitled to an increase, that they rigorously applied a means test down the whole line, with the result that certain people will get as low at 2d. per week, some 3d. a week and more 5d. We contend they should have followed the line we followed when we introduced the social welfare benefits under our Act, which in one year amounted to £3,000,000 in benefits. It should be borne in mind by the Minister and the House that the total increase at that time was not 1/6, that it was 1/6 plus 2/6, a total flat increase of 4/-, and whether you take the 2/6 or the 1/6, or the two together, there was no differentiation. It applied to the pensioner who had 6/6 a week as well as the men who had full benefits. In this Bill, in respect of which this Money Resolution is being moved, there is a rigid application of the means test down along the line.

The Deputy is really making a Second Reading speech.

If the Ceann Comhairle objects to my speaking on the matter here, I shall raise it on the Committee Stage.

I am not objecting to any relevant matter.

Seeing that the Minister intimated that the Fianna Fáil administration was responsible for an increase in the cost of living by the 1952 Budget, the Minister and his colleagues must take responsibility for the increase in the cost of living at the present time. The Minister is only dealing, in this Bill, with one compensatory commodity, the price of tea. The Minister knows that tea is only one single item. There are hundreds of items, the prices of which have been increased in recent months, which go to make up the cost of living. The Minister has only to refer to his colleague, the Minister for Local Government, to find out that notifications have been sent to the local authorities, intimating to them increases of from 25 to 40 per cent. in commodities which they have to buy.

Deputy Moran knows that he is making a Second Reading speech on a Money Resolution.

With all due respect to you, Sir, I merely want to keep the record right and to point out to the Minister that he must accept responsibility for the increase in every item in the cost of living. As far as this matter goes, he is giving these people compensation for only one particular commodity and he is leaving all the people who do not come under this Bill out in the cold, as far as all the other items that go to make up the cost of living to the nation are concerned. He cannot have it both ways.

The Money Resolution reads:—

"Go bhfuil sé oiriúnach pé íocaíochtaí as airgead a sholáthrós an tOireachtas d'údarú is gá chun éifeacht a thabhairt d'aon Acht a rithfear sa taiosón seo do dhéanamh socruithe le haghaidh méadú i gcásanna áirithe, i leith seachtaine amháin i mí na Nollag, 1955, ar phinsin faoi Achta na bPinsean Sean-Aoise, 1908 go 1955, ar phinsin faoi na hAchta um Pinsin do Bhaintreacha agus do Dhílleachtaí, 1935 go 1955, agus are shochar míchumais faoin Acht Leasa Shóisialaigh, 1952."

On the wording of that financial motion, I want to suggest to the Minister—and I hope those speakers who have defended this measure so vigorously and aggressively will take advantage of this Resolution and support me —not to go through all the bother of putting a Bill into an Act of Parliament for the sake of one niggardly payment of 20/- odd for one week. After all, the Minister's remarks have given us the impression that this payment has the character more of a Christmas present, rather than a compensation for the increase in price of any particular commodity.

I never mentioned Christmas.

If the Minister says he did not mention Christmas, I will accept his word.

I am sorry: I did not describe it as a Christmas box.

The word was used on a couple of occasions, if not by a couple of speakers, in the sense that the Minister, in his administrative handling of this particular provision, has so acted that the money will be made available to the people before the feast of Christmas, so I may be excused for regarding this particular provision as having something of an intimate association with the Christmas festival.

I ask the Minister now to take advantage of this Money Resolution to drop these penny-halfpenny and two-pence-halfpenny calculations which have been gone through on the Second Reading, to do the decent thing in this matter and give a lump sum of an equal amount to every beneficiary who, he has indicated, will benefit, due to this Bill. It is evident that nobody in this House, so far as we can judge from the speeches, is going to ask for any division on this. The humiliation involved in having to walk through the Lobbies of this House and vote for this measure would be far greater than the callousness displayed by the person who would vote against it. It is the meanness and miserliness of it that I am objecting to here.

After all, it is only one payment and the Tánaiste, at least, has some sense of humour and sufficient sagacity to avoid the grotesque by not having this payment made weekly. Seeing that it is to be made only in one lump sum, I think the Minister ought to do the decent thing, seeing that it is the season of Christmas, and increase that lump sum from £250,000, to £500,000. After all, the Government was able to find £1,000,000 of back money, which we said was not there, to pay several categories of public servants. The money was not there and the Government has had to put the State in pawn to find that £1,000,000 and other commitments. Here is a limited number of categories of very deserving people and I think this is a very mean way of dealing with them. It would be far better not to have brought them in at all.

That is what you wanted.

Would Deputy O'Leary try to stop his "cod-acting" for the moment? Does he not know that if he goes down to West Limerick or to any other place, he will have the decency not to mention a word about this measure from any public platform? I would expect that Deputy O'Leary would support me in this appeal to the Minister that he be more generous to this deserving class of people during the charitable season of Christmas. Double this amount of money. That is my appeal to the Minister.

I do not want to drag this out unnecessarily, but I do not know why Deputy O'Leary, or anybody else, should support a plea by anybody in the Fianna Fáil Party for increasing social services in present circumstances.

It is not an increase in social services. It is one individual payment.

It is £250,000—a quarter of a million—and that is what is annoying the Deputies on the opposite side of the fence.

And the Minister will not mention it on any public platform.

He mentioned it in Limerick three times last Sunday.

He must have had a hand-picked audience.

One does not get that in West Limerick, not for the Labour Party, anyhow.

Did we not bring in all the social services? Every darn one was brought in by Fianna Fáil. There was not one, except the old age pension, in 1932.

Deputy de Valera, speaking at the Árd Fheis last year, and he did not deny it, said it would be dangerous in present circumstances to increase social services.

He said no such thing.

He did not deny it.

He said no such thing.

Then he should have denied it.

It is on the record.

He said no such thing.

He did not deny it yet. It is on the record.

He said no such thing.

Let me repeat again that for the old age pensioners, the blind, the people in receipt of widows' and orphans' pensions and the chronically ill, we are providing £1,500,000 this year. I have expressed my views here many times on the means test. In principle, I am against it, but I cannot find my way at the present time to abolish it. I said if I had the money that would be required to do away with the means test at the present time I would devote it to people who, in my opinion, deserve a further increase in their allowances. There are people here who have old age pensions at the rate of 24/- per week; there are people who have old age pensions at the rate of 9/- per week; and these pensions are assessed on the basis of their means. I do not think it would be fair to apply the same lump sum payment to the person with 24/- per week in present circumstances, to the person with 4/6 per week and to the person with 9/- per week. We decided, therefore, to give them their single lump sum payments in accordance with the basic pensions they have.

My request to the Minister was to change his viewpoint on that very matter. That is all. He says he cannot do so.

I am afraid it cannot be done, but in over 90 per cent. of these cases the maximum payment is being made.

Resolution agreed to.
Resolution reported and agreed to.