Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1969: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

Séard atá sa Bhille seo ná forálacha is gá chun feidhm a thabhairt do na méadaithe a fógraíodh sa Cháinfhaisnéis i rátaí sochar, liúntas agus cúnamh faoi na scéimeanna leasa shóisialaigh agus chun scéim deontas a thabhairt isteach, faoin córas liúntais leanaí, i leith leanaí cáilithe a saolaítear in ilbhreith triúr leanaí nó níos mó. Ina theannta sin tá forálacha ann chun an uasteorainn aoise i leith dílleachtaí agus leanaí cáilithe de bhaintreacha, a bhfuil pinsean leasa shóisialaigh á íoc dóibh, a ardú ó 16 go 21 bliain fad a bhíonn na leanaí ag fáil teagaisc lánaimsire.

Forálann an Bille go bhfaighidh pinsinéirí neamh-ranníochacha uilig-sean-aoise, daille, baintrí nó dílleachta —10/- breis in aghaidh na seachtaine. De thoradh na méadaithe pinsean seo is féidir leathnú ar na teorainneacha bliantiúla acmhainne agus na rátaí pinsean i dtreo is go mbeidh rátaí breise ag an bpointe is ísle de gach scála iníochta le daoine nach raibh in ann pinsean dfháil go dtí seo de dheasca acmhainne.

Táthar ag méadú ar na rátaí cúnaimh dífhostaíochta do réir 10s in aghaidh na seachtaine agus do réir 10s eile i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe, más iníoctha iad. De bharr na méadaithe leathmófar ar an dteorainn acmhainne i gcomhair daoine cáilithe chun cúnamh dífhostaíochta.

Forálann an Bille go méadofar rataí liúntas leanaí i leith an dara linbh cáilithe ó 15/6 go £1 10s in aghaidh na míosa agus ó £1 6s 6d go £2 i leith gach linbh cháilithe de bhreis ar beirt. Seasfaidh an ráta liúntas i leith an chéad linbh cháilithe ag 10/- in aghaidh na míosa. Ó Lúnasa amach beidh deontas íníochta de £100 i leith leanaí cháilithe a saoláitear in ilbhreith triúr leanaí agus £150 i leith leanaí d'ilbhreith ceathrar nó níos mó. Íocfar an deontas comh maith leis an liúntas míosúil i leith na leanaí, atá níos mó fé dhó i gcás mar sin ná an gnáth liúntas atá íochta.

Méadófar de réir 10/- in aghaidh na seachtaine na rátaí sochar dífhostaíochta, sochar míchumais, sochair máithreachais agus pinsean ranníochach i leith baintrí dílleachta agus seanaoise maraon le 10/- breise in aghaidh na seachtaine i gcás méadú i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe más iníochta é. Méadófar na rátaí ranníoca fostaíochta agus na ranníoca saorálacha san Bhille fresin.

Forálann an Bille méadú de 10/- sna rátaí do na príomh sochar agus liúntas seachtainiúil faoin scéim árachais diobhálacha céirde agus méadú dá réir 'sna rátaí eile. Ardófar an uasteorainn aoise do dhilleachtaíagus leanaí baintrí ó 18 go 21 fhad a mbhíonn siad ag fáil teagasc lánaimsire. Méadófar do réir pingin méid na ranníocha i leith árachais díobhálacha ceirde chun íoc as na méadaithe sna rátaí sochar agus liúntas.

Anuraidh cuireadh ar fáil den céad uair, faoi coinníollacha áirithe, méadú pinsin de 45/- do phinsinéirí sean-aoise agus baintrí thar 70 bliain d'aois atá éagumasach agus ar gá bangaol forordaithe fostaíocht inárachaithe a fhágáil chun cúram lán-aimsire a fhreastal ortha. Cuirfidh an Bille seo ar cheall an coinníoll go gcaithfidh an bhangaol forordaithe fostaíocht inárachaithe a fhágáil sul a n-íocfar an méadú pinsin. Ardófar ráta an méadaithe go 55/- sa tseachtain freisin agus tiocfaidh na feabhsaithe ar an socar seo i bhfeidhmin Eanáir, 1970.

Beidh na feabhsanna thuasluaite ins na scéimeanna neamh-ranníoca i bhfeidhm ó thosach Lúnasa agus formhór na méadaithe ins na scéimeanna árachais shóisialaigh i bhfeidhm ó thosach Mí Eanáir seo chuiginn.

It is necessary with this type of legislation to draft the Bill mainly by way of amendments to existing Acts. The explanatory memorandum which was issued with the Bill has, therefore, been made as informative as possible and I trust the Deputies will find it helpful in interpreting the various amendments. The Budget increases in the field of social assistance will give an extra 10/- a week to all existing non-contributory old age, blind, widow and orphan pensioners making the maximum personal rate of old age and blind pension £3 15s a week and the maximum personal rate of widow's pension £3 13s 6d a week. The increases in the personal rates of pension will enable the scale of means and rates of pension to be extended in each case to give additional rates at the bottom of the scales which will be payable to persons whose means are outside the present limits for pension.

The rates of unemployment assistsid ance for persons in urban and rural areas are also being increased by 10s a week for the recipient and by a further 10s where there is an adult dependant. The maximum rate will then be £3 1s 6d for a single person and £5 17s 6d for a married couple resident in an urban area; outside urban areas the corresponding rates will be £2 15s for a single person and £5 9s 6d for a married couple. These increases of unemployment assistance at the maximum will have the effect of automatically extending the means limit for qualification for unemployment assistance.

The rate of children's allowance for the second qualified child in each family will be increased from 15s 6d to £1 10s a month and the rate for the third and subsequent qualified children from £1 6s 6d to £2 a month. The rate for the first qualified child will remain unchanged at 10s a month. As the Minister for Finance announced in the Budget Statement, adjustments of the tax free allowances under the income tax code in respect of the second and subsequent children in families will, to some extent, offset the increase in rates of children's allowances for the children in families which are liable for income tax. However, the larger families not so liable will gain substantially from the increases in children's allowances —a four child family will get £6 a month as against £3 18s 6d at present and a six child family will get £10 as against £6 11s 6d at present.

The Bill provides for a new grant of £100 to be payable on a multiple birth of three children and £150 on a multiple birth of more than three children. This will be in addition to any monthly children's allowance which the family may receive in respect of those children, the rate of which in any such case is double the normal rate.

The increases in rates of social insurance benefits and pensions will come into operation at the beginning of January next and will provide an extra 10s a week for recipients of old age (contributory) pension, widows' (contributory) pension, orphans' (contributory) allowance, disability benefit, unemployment benefit and maternity allowance. There will also be an additional 10s a week for an adult dependant. A single old age (contributory) pensioner will get £4 2s 6d a week and a married couple £7 12s 6d while a widow without children will get £3 15s a week. The personal rates of unemployment and disability benefit will then be £3 15s a week for a single person and £6 17s 6d for a married couple. Certain rates of unemployment benefit which are payable where unemployment continues after 156 days are the same as the maximum rates of unemployment assistance payable in urban areas. As assistance rates are being increased from the beginning of August next, these particular rates of unemployment benefit are also being increased from then.

To meet the extra expenditure on the increased rates of benefits and pensions, an increase in the social insurance contributions payable by employers and employees is necessary. The increase proposed in the rates of social insurance contributions, where all insurance benefits are covered, is 3s 9d a week, with lesser increases where only some of the benefits are covered. The increase of 3s 9d in the ordinary rate of men's contribution will be shared by the employer paying 1s 11d and employee 1s 10d and the total contribution will then be 25s 1d a week. Consequent on the increases and improvements in the social insurance system generally being provided in the Bill, it is proposed to deal similarly with the benefits payable under the occupational injuries scheme. The increases proposed are 10s in the rates of the main weekly paid benefits and allowances with proportionate increases in other payments. These changes will not involve any charge on the Exchequer as all benefits under the scheme are met out of the occupational injuries fund which is financed by contributions paid by employers only. An increase of 1d in these contributions will be necessary to meet the cost of the increases.

The overall weekly employment contribution payable in respect of men in ordinary industrial or commercial employment will, from January, 1970, be 28s 3d made up of 25s 1d in respect of social insurance, 2s 2d in respect of occupational injuries insurance and 1s in respect of redundancy payments. Of this, the employer will pay 15s 5d and the employee 12s 10d. In the case of women in such employment, the overall weekly contribution will be 26s made up of 23s 8d for social insurance, 1s 7d for occupational injuries insurance and 9d for redundancy. Of this the employer will pay 14s 4d, the employee 11s 8d.

The increase in the rate of voluntary contribution covering widows' and orphans' pensions only will be 8d making it 5s 3d and the increase in the contribution which covers also old age (contributory) pension will be 1s 6d, making it 10s 10d. A table showing the present and proposed rates of contribution appears in the explanatory memorandum.

Last year, a new benefit for incapacitated old age pensioners, both contributory and non-contributory, and for contributory widow pensioners aged 70 and over was introduced. The benefit originally consisted of an increase of pension of £2 5s a week in respect of a prescribed female relative where the pensioner is so incapacitated as to require full-time care and attention and is living alone or has no other adult living with him capable of looking after him. It is proposed in the Bill to modify the scheme as from the beginning of January, 1970, so as to remove the requirement that the prescribed female relative must have given up insurable employment. The Bill also provides power for the general conditions of the scheme to be laid down in regulations. This will supplement the powers already in the scheme to prescribe the female relatives who qualify and the regulations which I intend to make will enable the increase of pension to be paid even where the daughter or step-daughter never left home. The rate of payment is also being increased to £2 15s a week under the Bill.

Another change affecting both social insurance and social assistance schemes is designed to assist widows and those having care of orphans in the education of the children. This involves the raising to 21 years of the age limit for orphans' pensions and for qualification for the increases of widows' pensions in respect of children, where the child continues in full-time education. The present age limit is 16 in the case of orphans' pensions, widows' pensions and old age pensions under both the contributory and the non-contributory codes. In the occupational injuries scheme, where the new age limit will also apply in the case of orphans and the children of widows and widowers, the present age limit is 18. Up to 1966 a person receiving old age (contributory) pension or widow's (contributory) pension was disqualified for receiving the corresponding non-contributory pension. In that year statutory provision was made to enable the contributory pensioners mentioned to opt for the appropriate non-contributory pension, if they satisfied the conditions for its receipt and it would be of advantage to them to do so. The necessity for this arose because, as a result of increases in non-contributory pensions, some of the higher rates of these pensions exceeded some of the lower rates of contributory pensions. From August next when non-contributory pensions are increased until January next when contributory pensions are increased, cases will arise where the non-contributory pension would be temporarily more favourable than the corresponding contributory pension. It was never the intention that the provisions of the 1966 Act should operate in such circumstances and the Departmental machinery is not geared for short-term switching from one pension to the other and back again. There is a provision in the Bill, therefore, to prevent such switching where the advantage would be a temporary one only. The right of a pensioner to switch where the advantage would be permanent will not, however, be affected.

A non-contributory old age pensioner who is detained in a mental hospital cannot at present get more than £1 of his pension as pocket money and then only if the hospital authorities think he is capable of using money. There is provision in the Bill to remove this limit of £1.

I do not propose to go into any greater detail at this stage as I feel sure that the explanatory memorandum will have given Deputies a good picture of the proposals in the Bill and of their effects. It might, however, be helpful to Deputies if I were to summarise the cost of the various proposals in the Bill. On the social assistance side there is £3,071,000 for old age and blind pensions, £507,000 for widows' and orphans' pensions, £1,280,000 for unemployment assistance, and £5,278,000 for children's allowances, the total cost being £10.136 million in a full year, all of which will fall on the Exchequer. There will, of course, be a recovery of some £400,000 of this by way of adjustments in the income tax code in respect of children. The gross cost of improvements on the social insurance side will be £6,969,000. Allowing for an increased annual income of £5,255,000 to be raised from the increases in rates of contributions, the cost to be met by the Exchequer will be £1,714,000 in a full year.

I have much pleasure in recommending the Bill to Dáil Éireann and I ask for speedy and favourable consideration of it.

Fáiltíonn Fine Gael roimh gach feabhsachán sa Bhille Leasa Shóisialaigh, ach san am gcéanna nílimid ar aon intinn leis an Aire atá sásta le gach rud atá sa Bhille agus a cheapann go bhfuil a dhóthain ann. Táimid mí-shásta nach bhfuil a thuilleadh ann.

This Bill is a most inadequate measure. If its purpose is designed to improve the standard of living of the less fortunate members of our community and to put them on a level consistent with 1969 costs and living standards this is yet another attempt to add a few more patches to the social welfare patchwork quilt which is threadbare in many parts, which lets in the cold and certainly does not keep out the rains of misfortune which afflict many people in our community. A fair indication of the gross failure of our State welfare schemes is the fact that nearly £2½ million yearly are voluntarily subscribed by people out of the goodness of their hearts for distribution through voluntary agencies to poor people in this country. Another fair test is the fact that in urban areas nearly 1,750,000 free meals a year— sometimes what are called the penny dinners, when the penny or twopence charged is available—have had to be distributed.

It is not unfair to say that if the State welfare schemes were sufficient to maintain proper standards it would not be necessary to distribute so much to supplement the State scheme to maintain the mere existence of life. We think it is unfortunate that the Government's approach to social welfare should be spelt out in theThird Programme: Economic and Social Development which was published in March of this year, in a way which indicates their anxiety to rely yet again, and forever more, on charitable organisations. The Government stated in that Programme:

The Government have no desire to encroach on private efforts, including those of voluntary societies, but rather welcome the contribution which these activities make to social welfare.

This may be a fair statement of Government policy, but it is one which we in Fine Gael repudiate for what it suggests. We consider it entirely wrong that the State should be trying to wash its hands of the responsibility which lies on it as the controller of our society to so distribute the income and wealth of this community that nobody need suffer in the way in which thousands of our people are obliged to suffer at the present time.

This Bill is certainly not the implementation of any social philosophy because the Government have shown themselves to be devoid of any social philosophy, of any social conscience. This Bill, like most other welfare Bills brought before this House by Fianna Fáil, is simply an exercise in vote catching. It is something done for the purpose of trying to persuade the people that a benevolent Government are giving something out of the Government's benevolence. The social welfare code of any country should be a conscious and deliberate reorganisation by society itself of its own resources so that nobody suffers unnecessarily, so that the many inequalities which mankind is called on to suffer under, imposed by nature or by man, are reduced as far as it is feasible to reduce them.

The social welfare code of Ireland is, to say the least of it, a disappointment to anybody who considers what is the function of a social welfare code and what ought to be the considered primary obligation of any Government to achieve. The outgoing Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Joe Brennan, when he was talking on the Budget, said the increases promised in the Budget, and now proposed in this Bill, were a performance by Fianna Fáil in one day of what the Fine Gael Party promised to do over five years. He spoke after me, so it did not fall to me then to indicate just how wrong he was.

Such increases as were given this year, which are a little more than has been the custom of Fianna Fáil to give, would certainly not have been given if it were not for the most detailed statement of welfare policy ever published by any party in this country which Fine Gael made on the 16th January last. But what is given in this welfare Bill is only one-sixth what we in Fine Gael hoped we would get an opportunity to do during our first four years of Government from 1969 to 1973. Even the Government's own figures, as announced in the Third Programme, show that the Government's target for that four year period is £30 million less for welfare expenditure than the figures which were offered by Fine Gael. When we offered our figures here we were told we were proposing something which was impossible, something which could not be achieved, something which in the Taoiseach's own words was "pie in the sky."

Despite this, within a matter of months the Government which denounced the Fine Gael proposals as unworkable proceeded to perform in the way which Fine Gael said was feasible. Therefore, if proof was required of the feasibility of the Fine Gael programme, this is it. The increases which are given here have been achieved, and are possible of performance, without a collapse of the whole economic, financial and social system, such as we were promised if Fine Gael ever got the chance of doing what so badly needs to be done that is, to make up for the last 12 years of neglect in social welfare matters. I know in his reply the Minister will probably once again indicate marginal, notional or nominal increases in welfare payments, indicating that the increases which have taken place in both the assistance and insurance schemes are greater than the increases in the cost of living.

We do not regard the cost of living index as a fair test by which to judge standards of social welfare which applied in 1957 and should apply in 1969. The gap between the level of income of the welfare classes and the standard of living of the rest of the community has widened drastically. In any country which allows the widening of the gap between welfare payments and the standard of living social injustices will grow. That is what has happened in our case and it is something we will have to take radical steps to overcome.

There are many points in the Bill which one would like to discuss in some detail but they are probably matters for Committee Stage. However, there are some important issues which I think we should discuss on this Stage. It is now four years since the £1,200 a year limit was fixed for insurable employment and in the meantime there have been several increases in wage levels. If £1,200 a year was the proper figure to adopt in 1965 and if there is to be a limit, quite clearly that should be substantially increased in 1969. We are very disappointed the Minister did not take the opportunity in this Bill to increase the ceiling from £1,200 to at least £1,400.

So far as we in Fine Gael are concerned, we do not believe in having any ceiling on the level of insurable employment. We believe as a larger percentage of our people are moving out of the self-employed to the employed category, as the State and public authorities are getting more and more information about individual people's incomes, as people are becoming more and more reliant on public authority in several ways for benefits and income, it is possible to have insurance for everybody.

The Government stated in their programme for development that they were going to consider the remuneration limit for compulsory insurance for non-manual workers. We think it is stupid to retain in 1969 a figure which was considered adequate in 1965. We believe that the simple method of bringing about a temporary improvement by, if you like, an arbitrary increase to £1,400 should have been adopted in this Bill. The Department of Social Welfare ought to be capable of devising ways and means of doing away with any limit whatsoever.

We are also disappointed that the opportunity has not been availed of in this Bill to introduce wage-related payments and benefits. Why is it that in this, as in many other aspects of welfare, Ireland must be the last in Europe to do the right thing? Why is it that we must drag behind everybody else? Why is it that, particularly in relation to welfare, we will do nothing until it has first been tried out in Great Britain? What was the purpose of achieving our independence? What is the purpose of having our own separate Government and institutions of State here unless we are prepared to study our own needs and answer our own needs according to our own means, without having to wait for Mother England to show us her example? If we do, in relation to many welfare matters, we shall, like England, be behind all the rest of the progressive democracies. But even England has found herself, in recent times, forced away from the totally wrong basis for insurance payments and benefits, a basis which is related to what the lowest income-earner can afford to pay and a basis which determines what an unemployed person will get when he is unemployed by what the lowest income-earner is able to contribute while he is working.

We should have wage-related benefits and payments. There is no difficulty whatsoever in doing this other than the reluctance of the Department of Social Welfare to change. For years past, it has been no more than a begrudging paying agency for the Department of Finance, concerned only with giving as little as it can to as few people as it can get away with giving anything to. Unfortunately, when the present Minister was in the Department of Social Welfare before, the Department showed little anxiety to get away from that appalling practice and image that it has. I am sorry to say that, from the nature of this Bill, we apparently cannot look forward to receiving anything better.

Between 1957 and 1968 the amount paid by way of social welfare doubled but that is nothing extraordinary and is nothing of which a government can be proud at a time when incomes of other people in the community were increased by a greater multiple than two. It is certainly not something which is particularly to the credit of the Government when you realise that the amount which employers and employees were obliged to pay during the same period for welfare benefits quadrupled. This indicates that what has been happening here is that the State has been reducing its contribution. The State has been slipping away from its obligation to assist the less well-off members of the community and has been turning the full responsibility over to the workers and employers. This is a wrong trend. What is particularly erroneous is that, while this is taking place, employees are required in Ireland to pay a much greater share of the cost than they are asked to pay in any other European country. We ought to be capable and I believe we are capable of determining our own social welfare standards and of working out our own practices and that is what we should be doing without looking over anybody else's shoulder to see what is being done elsewhere.

For several years past, in the course of the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Social Welfare, the Government have strongly criticised us on the Fine Gael benches when we pointed out that there would be a need for radical change in the social welfare code if Ireland ever became a member of the EEC.

We were told that we were arguing from figures which were not comparable with those which operated in other countries. Mind you, to the extent that figures in other countries include many people who were injured in the last war, it was a fair criticism but that was a criticism not against our figures but rather something in the nature of a condemnation of the Government themselves here. The Government'sThird Programme: Economic and Social Development does, as it so often does, acknowledge the veracity of what Fine Gael were saying. It states that there will be a need for a re-assessment of our whole social welfare code in the event of our becoming a member of the EEC. The interesting thing is that, in Paragraph 52 under the Welfare chapter, the Government state that the assistant services do not call for fundamental re-examination of policy but involve serious financial and budgetary implications in view of the costs involved. But they state that, in their view, they do not call for fundamental re-examination of policy. Yet, two pages later, we find that a re-examination of our general standards will be required if we join the EEC.

Mind you, I am not one of the people who are enthusiastic about our membership of the EEC. I believe it will bring far more problems than benefits, even though membership of it may be unavoidable in the event of our largest customer going in there. At least, however, it will confer one great benefit on our people. The government of the day, reluctant though they may be, will be obliged substantially to improve the welfare code because there is a clear obligation under the Treaty of Rome— which the Government have until now refused to accept or recognise as existing but presumably they do recognise it now that the Third Programme is published — to maintain in all member nations of the EEC similar social standards so that, in all countries, all employees are paying a similar amount towards welfare services, so that in all countries the costs of welfare services are similar and so that no country can succeed in the economic or financial race by avoiding its social responsibilities. This then, perhaps, is one of the benefits we can look forward to.

One can only hope now that the question of membership of the EEC is being reactivated, that the Department of Social Welfare will jump into the second half of the twentieth century. This will be a novel experience for it. I can appreciate that it will probably cause a shudder. However, that they will have to do, if we are not to find ourselves in serious difficulties which could certainly cause trouble in the course of negotiation and which might mean that we would be left outside when other countries would go into the EEC because our welfare services were not up to the standard required.

We are glad the Bill will provide for payment of non-contributory pensions in respect of orphans and qualified children of widows who are undergoing full-time education between 16 and 21 years of age. This is something we in Fine Gael have advocated for a long time. It is something which is certainly no more than common justice. Goodness knows the amounts which will be paid are grossly inadequate but it was certainly wrong, inadequate and all as they were, to take them from the widow who was trying to educate her boy or girl after 15 years of age. We are glad that this very necessary reform is now to be implemented as from 1st August. Similarly, we are glad about the suggestions we had been making for some time, namely that the payments to daughters or to step-daughters looking after pensioners should not be dependent upon a person giving up insurable employment. This is a recognition of what most of us know, that where daughters or others look after elderly people they frequently do so for so long that insurable employment does not arise in relation to them.

May I mention here, Sir, a problem which is arising in this modern age where people are tending to marry, particularly in urban areas, at a much earlier age, at an age which in many cases means that one or other of the parties to the marriage does not have 156 insurance contributions at the time they get married. One result of this in a couple of cases which have come to my notice, is that the bride did not get a marriage allowance. Perhaps, the Department will shudder at the idea of paying a marriage allowance to somebody who has not got the full 156 contributions but I feel that we must allow our welfare code to move with the times and if girls are now getting married in their teens and without having three years of insurable employment behind them the State ought to recognise this and give the marriage allowance, which is probably needed more by such young people than by people who might have been in insurable employment for a longer period.

Another rather tragic instance has also come to my notice where a young husband was killed in a traffic accident. Both he and his bride were in their teens. She did not have, and he did not have 156 insurance contributions. Although the young widow now has a child she does not qualify for the contributory widow's pension nor does the child qualify for the contributory orphan's pension. As she is relatively handy at needlework and dressmaking she is not getting any income whatsoever from the State. This is something the Minister should look at and if he is not prepared to give the full maternity grant or the full widow's pension in such cases at least justice would be done if such people were paid benefit related to the number of contributions which they had made. The number of cases, I suppose, would be very few and on that account this would not impose greatly upon the resources of the State. As in all cases where injustice is done or where hardship is suffered, we should be prepared to suffer whatever little inconvenience or cost may be involved. The cost, spread over the remainder of the community, would be absolutely negligible.

The Bill helps to emphasise also that the benefits are not benefits coming from a generous Government giving them out of their own resources. The Finance Bill reminds people that the taxation which is necessary to improve the maintenance of income for less well-off people can only be paid for by the remainder of the community. I do not think that is wrong or something that the remainder of our community are unwilling to accept. I believe our people are prepared to accept the burden of looking after the less well-off and in any modern society in which the citizens appreciate the obligations that they have to one another people are only too glad to do this as long as they are given the necessary lead by the Government. I feel the tragedy in this country is that the Government are behind the people. Instead of leading the people as they ought to be in welfare matters the Government are dragging their feet. The people are quite willing to do more but the Government are reluctant to harness the willingness of the people.

This Bill emphasises the fact that not only are we dependent on the taxpayer to pay benefits but we are also dependent on the workers and the employers. The increase in the insurance stamp will be 3s 11d a week, 3s 9d in respect of unemployment and disability benefit and twopence a week in respect of occupational injuries. I am quite interested to note that as little as a penny a week in respect of occupational injuries from employee and from employer will yield an increase of 10s in the benefits paid under the occupational injuries code. Yet it takes a great deal more apparently to offer similar increases under the other insurance benefits.

I want to protest against the inability or unwillingness of the Department of Social Welfare to remedy what is surely a glaring injustice which is tending to arise year after year under which the non-contributory pensioners receive their increases on the 1st August and those who are paying for the benefits must wait until the 1st of the following January before getting any increase at all. The irony of this is surely underwritten in statutory form when the Minister has to come along in this year, as in other years, and ask us to approve of a section in the Bill which denies to contributory pensioners higher pensions which would be their entitlement if they abandoned the contributory pension and took the non-contributory pension instead. It ought to be possible to work out a system under which the contributory pensioners would not have to suffer that yearly disadvantage. When there is a will there is a way. The tragedy is that there appears to be little will in the Department of Social Welfare for change, little anxiety on the part of Ministers for Social Welfare to develop a modern welfare system which would be concerned with the welfare of the people who are supposed to be helped rather than the convenience of the vast bureaucratic machine.

For very many years social welfare has been among the last of the Government's priorities. We were promised five years ago a programme for social reform comparable with the programmes for economic reform which had previously been announced. What did we receive when the long awaited programme was announced? Nothing, save promises for the consideration of this, that and the other thing. Perhaps, the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare indicates that this examination will now receive earnest attention. If that is so, we welcome the appointment of the Parliamentary Secretary. So far as Deputy John Geoghegan is concerned we wish him every success and happiness in his appointment——

Thank you.

——but we will be extremely critical, he will understand, if, after this appointment in a Department which normally does not require a Parliamentary Secretary, no progress is made in the introduction of worthwhile schemes and worthwhile measures. What we need to do is to develop a comprehensive welfare code, to have a family welfare fund, so that in no case is the income of any individual cut simply because of the number of people in a family, so that we will have a comprehensive national insurance system, so that so far as modern techniques permit and the ingenuity of man can remedy, nobody will suffer unnecessarily the inequalities and hardships which without organisation will be the lot of men, but organisation can improve these things. The will to do so can improve them. If man can get to the moon in 1969 it is not asking too much of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to stretch a little to give our poor people a little of the wealth which is around us and is not being fairly distributed.

I should like to congratulate Deputy Geoghegan on his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary. This is an important appointment because, as I know it, the Department of Social Welfare is the most inefficient Department in the Government. Many people must avail of its services and, as Deputies, we are all aware of the complaints against the Department which is oriented towards obstructing people and preventing them from claiming what are justly their rights. The Department have adopted a negative approach to everything. They are not positive or helpful and do everything to obstruct people attempting to claim benefits. More than any other Department this Department must be indicted for obstructing claims. That is why it is important to have a Parliamentary Secretary who will examine the problem and see what measures must be taken to gear the Department to meet the demands of modern times.

I say this in passing. I hope that even the telephone service in the Department will be improved because the Minister himself must know how bad it is. People constantly have to telephone about social welfare cheques which they do not receive on time. These are sometimes four or five weeks late. It is not as if we were dealing with other people; we are dealing with those who are ill or incapacitated and who need the money very badly. They are deprived of it. Because of this I should like to see this Department, more than any other, streamlined to meet demands and able to cater immediately for all the needs of the people.

The Government cannot boast of the fact that they are paying out tremendous amounts of money in social welfare benefits. I maintain that we have the lowest level of social welfare services in western Europe. A glance at the figures for the Common Market countries will show how bad we are in providing social welfare benefits. Our children's allowances are absolutely disgraceful when compared with countries like Belgium, Holland or other Common Market countries. I do not think the Taoiseach can honestly say that our social welfare services are equal to those of any Common Market country. The fact is that they are not; they are very much inferior to those of other countries.

I should have thought that the Minister would have taken this opportunity to remedy the flaws and anomalies in the present Social Welfare Act. These flaws have been there and apparent for a number of years. They were brought to the attention of the Minister for Social Welfare on numerous occasions. He had the opportunity to bring in amendments to remedy these defects.

I shall mention one or two and I refer first to the widows' contributory pensions. This is a burning question with the widows concerned. First, they receive a contributory pension as a result of contributions made by their husbands whose stamps provided for it but when the widows go to work to provide for their families they pay full insurance contribution and receive only half the benefits if they are ill or incapacitated. This is a glaring injustice and should have been remedied in this amendment of the Social Welfare Act. It is more important than anything else that widows who pay full social welfare contributions by virtue of the fact that they have the widows' contributory pension do not receive full social welfare benefits when ill. The Minister should make every effort to amend the existing Act and remedy this injustice.

There is another flaw in the Act. It concerns employers who are expected to stamp employees' cards. The employee trusts the employer to ensure that the card is stamped each week but has no way of knowing whether the employer stamps the card or not. The money for his contribution is taken from his pay packet and he trusts his employer. Like other Deputies, I have seen many cases in the past few years of companies going into liquidation without cards being stamped. The employee is deprived of unemployment benefit and his wife loses maternity and holiday benefits and so on. This is a grave injustice to employees. The Minister leaves the onus on the employee to take action against the employer. This may take months or even years. I have a case which is proceeding for three years and the man concerned has had no satisfaction yet. He must take his employer to court, engage a solicitor and pay full expenses.

I know that the Department may act against an employer but only after the employee has failed to do so or has not succeeded in winning the case. Only then will the Department Act. The obligation should not be on the employee. The Department have an obligation to see that the employer stamps the cards and these cards should be submitted more frequently. Where an employer fails to stamp the cards the onus should be on the Department to take action. The employee should be relieved of all obligation in the matter and should be given full benefit because he has paid his contribution towards stamping that card. This is one amendment I should have liked to see included in this Bill. These flaws have been evident for a number of years and should have been remedied.

I should have thought something imaginative would come from the Department such as an arrangement whereby employees would contribute towards the stamp according to wage or salary. Here we see the employee's contribution goes closer and closer to that of the employer, whether the wage is £10 or £20 per week. There is need for graded contributions by employees. There are only a few shillings in the difference between what the employer pays and the employee pays. This is very wrong. Employees should not have to pay so much. We shall have to fall in line with the Common Market countries in providing for contributions graded according to salary or wage.

The present injustices in relation to the non-contributory and contributory pensions are shown up very glaringly in this Bill. The contributory pensioners do not receive the increase until January, 1970, and the non-contributory pensioners received it in August. I do not think it would have cost much more money to provide both increases at the same time. In many cases the non-contributory pension exceeds the contributory pension and because of that people have opted for the non-contributory pension for a few months to get the few extra shillings. There is provision in this Bill to prevent that happening in case they might get a few extra shillings. It should be pointed out very clearly here that there is a need to synchronise the benefits and have them both payable at the same time. You cannot blame people for looking for a non-contributory pension for a few months when it is more than the contributory one. The Minister is taking steps to see that this does not happen.

Section 2 of the Bill deals with a daughter or a step-daughter who is giving full time care and attention to an incapacitated old age pensioner. I know many cases where sons have to provide that service and I would have thought that we might have included them in this provision so that they could benefit from it. It is not unknown for sons to have to provide this service for their aged parents. I should like to see this altered accordingly.

Just yesterday I heard the Minister for Finance say he had asked the Revenue Commissioners to be flexible in their assessment of the work of artists and writers. The Minister should say the same to the Department of Social Welfare about cases which come up for assessment. I came across a case recently of a widow who was homeless. She had a non-contributory pension. She sought a job as a caretaker at £1 a week and a free room. An inspector from the Department of Social Welfare called and looked into her case. He said that with £1 a week she had £52 a year, and he assessed the room which was provided free, at 1/a week or £2 12s a year and, because of that, her pension was reduced by 17s per week. This meant she was working for 3s per week and out of that she was paying for her stamp. This is the kind of rigidity there is in the Department. I approached the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Brennan, about this and he said there was nothing he could do about it, that the regulations were there. I should like to see a little more flexibility in the application of these regulations. As I said before, the Department should be trying to help people to obtain what is due to them and not be trying to obstruct them.

I am glad to see provision in this Bill for an allowance to be paid to a relative of a pensioner who is incapacitated when the relative was not previously employed. There are many cases in this country where daughters have given up their time and given up their lives to looking after their parents. They never worked and, because of that, they failed to benefit under this scheme. I am glad to see that from January next the Minister proposes to remove the requirement that the relative must have given up insurable employment. I saw a case recently of an old age pensioner who had £3 5s a week and her daughter was living with her. They were both living on a total income of £3 5s a week. Due to the regulation the daughter was deprived of this allowance. Malnutrition was so evident that this woman went into hospital every eight or nine weeks for a transfusion at a large cost to the State when it could have been provided in proper social welfare benefit. It is time we had this provision included in this Bill.

With regard to children's allowances, I think it might be wrong to assess the allowance on the fourth child and to consider just the first child when the other children have ceased to qualify. There have been a considerable number of complaints about this matter and I am wondering why the Department are so rigid about it. I appeal to the Minister to look into this problem. I should like to have seen provision in this Bill for an extension of the payment of children's allowances when the children continue in full-time education. I would ask the Minister to consider this in relation to some of the amendments he proposes to bring in. I am sorry it was not provided already in the present amendment?

Our attitude to social welfare is wrong. I do not think we should say we cannot afford to provide proper social welfare services for our aged and disabled people. I do not think it is enough to say we cannot afford it. I do not think it is good enough to see people suffering from malnutrition because of the petty amounts we give them and then to argue that we cannot afford more. We should consider first the need and make sure that we provide for it. We can provide for less essential projects and programmes. It is up to us to bring into this House a Bill which will provide proper social services for the people who need them.

The whole approach to this problem of providing for the under-privileged seems to me to be one which is still dominated by completely archaic notions and ideas. It is about time that we changed our whole attitude to it. I asked a question earlier today about the likelihood of an old person being able to get by on £3 10s or £3 15s or whatever it is the Minister chooses to give. The Minister replied and was apparently satisfied that it is possible to live on as little as £3 15s a week with the present cost of living in Ireland. I doubt if anyone would agree with him particularly if they have to try to live on that amount themselves.

During the years it increased by small amounts, eventually to reach the astronomical sum of £3 10s per week, but any increases were simply moneys paid to relate in some way to the increases in the cost of living because of the failure of successive Governments to institute any serious form of price control. Only by a proper system of price control can we ensure that whatever money is paid to people is worth receiving.

The general trend from direct taxation to the insurance principle, mentioned by several speakers, has been an interesting evolution in the whole fiscal policy of successive Governments in recent years. It was particularly notable in the earlier radical days of Fianna Fáil when the policy was to try to get serious redistribution of the community's wealth by putting the emphasis on getting money for services such as education, health, social welfare, from direct taxation. Under the direct taxation system the wealthier people paid the most and consequently they carried the greater burden. In the view of the Labour Party it is quite right that they should carry the greatest financial burden for the provision of services for the less well-off among us, but that policy is now being departed from in very many aspects of our lives.

I was surprised to hear Deputy Ryan in one breath saying that this insurance principle is being depended on more and more and in the next proposing, as they do in Fine Gael, that the health scheme shall be based on the insurance principle. This is merely another way of ensuring that money is being provided by the salaried white-collar worker and the wage earner and allowing the wealthier class to escape what I consider their just commitment in a community such as ours.

Deputy Desmond mentioned yesterday that in Ireland as much as 60 per cent of taxation comes in the form of indirect taxes. I understand this is the highest in Europe and is simply a process whereby the not so wealthy pay for the very poor and the wealthy get away fairly scot free. The practice of taking first of all the employee's contribution to the scheme is obviously making sure that he will pay for anything he will get. One of the other illusions is that there is such a thing as the employer's contribution. Of course, this is not so because what the employer does is that he simply takes part of the price of the goods he is producing for sale, be it ¾d, ¼d, ½d or any other amount, and he uses that increase in price in order to retrieve what is euphemistically called the employer's contribution. This is seen in microcosm in the well-known Guinness welfare system, in which the Guinness family lay on various benevolent schemes, pensions and so on, at the expense of the pint drinker—the consumer. The Guinness family get wealthier and wealthier and get great credit for having provided these services which, in fact, are paid for by the consumer. This is the practice we have now adopted in the community in order to leave the wealthy minority untouched for taxation purposes; we have adopted the extensive use of this so-called insurance principle.

Even if that were true, which I do not accept, it does not apply to people engaged in non-productive processes, people working in shops or in their homes. The Deputy stated it was a typical universal principle but it is not.

We cannot proceed with this debate on the basis of conversation.

The employer's contribution is paid by him but it is passed on to the employee who pays it by way of direct taxation, if he is in the taxable groove, which most of us are nowadays. He pays further indirect taxes in the form of wholesale and retail taxes, and he pays rates. There are five or six different ways in which a person gets what are frequently miscalled hand-outs from the State. He pays for these services which considerably reduces the burden of serious direct taxation on the very wealthy class.

The proposal for extension of this into the health services is simply an extension of the general principle. Those of us who believe in the socialist approach are convinced that where there is a general acceptance of the principle of public ownership, these services will be paid for by the wealth which is created from the services. The person is paid directly in wages and, indirectly, services are provided, the profits from which go to a small minority so that the total product of a person's work goes directly in wages and indirectly in the form of social services. One of the catchcries directed against socialists is their disregard for private wealth. We believe private wealth should be distributed in the form of social services—education, health, care of old people and so on. Yet every Minister for Finance and Minister for Social Welfare who asks for money for such services has no compunction in telling all of us that he will take part of the money we earn in the form of taxation and redistribute it to provide those services.

If we said we should like to take £40 million or £50 million which the Guinness family own and distribute it in the form of old age pensions, disabled pensions, help for the blind, for education and so on, we would immediately be accused of being communists. We would simply be doing something on a big scale which the Governments do continuously on a small scale, and inadequately on a small scale.

The interesting thing about this whole concept of the welfare society is that it has not led to any serious redistribution of the real wealth of the community, particularly in Great Britain where, since the introduction of the welfare society the total wealth held by a minority—I think it is a 7 per cent minority who hold about 74 per cent of the wealth—has increased by something like £113,000 million in spite of the so-called redistribution of wealth which has taken place under the welfare state. Therefore, all the Minister is doing is a sort of an accountancy juggling job in which he transfers money from the pockets of the relatively lower income group into the pockets of the very lowest income groups.

The care of the old people here is particularly scandalous. I have protested against it for many years. I have stated on many occasions, and I am prepared to restate it, that I believe our old people die of hunger on the £3 15s or whatever it is they receive per week. I am quite certain that if a serious scientific investigation was carried out on the nutritional needs and the state of malnutrition of the majority of old people living at home, particularly living alone, it would be found that they are suffering from severe malnutrition. I base this primarily on my own experience of seeing them and primarily on my own experience of knowing what you can buy for £3 15s a week, and also on papers published by doctors in England who showed that old people living in the London area on the allowance paid there, where it is much higher than here and where many of the prices of essential commodities are lower than here, suffered moderately severe or severe malnutrition. We are failing in our duty if we refuse to examine the serious consequences of handling to these unfortunate people this money once a week and then forgetting about them for the rest of the week.

My approach to this whole problem of the care of the old is not at all to suggest to the Minister doubling or trebling their old age pensions. I do not think that is the answer. If he could try to arrange an extension of domiciliary care services for old people, he would do very much more for them than he does by giving them an increase of five shillings or ten shillings a week from time to time. There are many different kinds of services required in their homes by old people, particularly those living alone, and by disabled or blind people.

Recently we carried out an investigation into this problem and sought information all over the world about the care of old people. It transpired that the best geriatric services in the world were in Nottingham, England, and they are run by a man called Doctor Macmillan. At the wish of an old person the local authority are able to lay on 29 different services, medical and nursing care, domestic help, help with allowances, social assistance of one kind or another, chiropody, people running messages, social visiting, clubs, all the different requirements of old people in the community. We have a tiny microfilm of it in Kilkenny where Most Rev. Doctor Birch attempts to deal with such problems. It is probably the nearest we will get to it in Ireland.

My approach to the care of the old would be on those lines rather than helping them to meet the cost of living by increasing the weekly allowance. I suppose it would take at least £9 to £10 to cover the cost of rent, clothing, sickness. Some of them, in spite of the statement of the Minister for Health, Deputy Childers, the other day are not beneficiaries under the medical card system, so obviously the food, rent, medical services, recreational needs and other small comforts they may require are not met at all out of the £3 15s. I do not know what the appropriate figure would be for the provision of proper health services for these people.

Some old people are put into mental hospitals as if they were psychiatric cases which in many cases they are not at all; they are simply social problems. One could be harsh about it and say the relatives are just dumping them there and being unkind about them, but I do not think that is completely true. If the Minister's Department would look into this whole process of helping not only the people who want to stay out of institutions but the people who want them to stay out, sons, daughters, and other relatives, they would find they would get much more help from the community in keeping these old people out of places like mental hospitals where the cost of keeping a patient is £9 to £10 a week. Therefore, at a rather low level of our services it still costs that amount of money to keep an old person in such an institution. It is probably the lowest figure at which you could keep an old person even in his home, which would make a good case for the suggestion that the £3 15s paid is grossly inadequate.

Consistently over the years when questions have been asked in relation to substantial increases in old age pensions one has had the recitation of the total cost. Every Minister for Social Welfare I ever had anything to do with had plonked down in his seat having given me some astronomical figure as to what it would cost, another £10 million in taxation. Successive Ministers seem to feel they have discharged their responsibility to the community when they say it would be much too costly and it could not be done. One gets the same answer from the Departments of Education, Health, and other social Departments. It seems to me that they are indicting the whole economic system in which they believe in claiming we cannot afford to educate our young people, we cannot afford to look after the disabled or the blind or to care for old people, to house people and so on.

It is this plea of poverty, if we are to take it seriously as the unanswerable case, that converts most of us into profound socialists. Certainly it has done so in my case. It has confirmed me in an unchangeable belief in the whole socialist concept for the organisation of society. The Government are, of course, correct when they say, as the Minister says: "That is all we can pay. We cannot give any more." They are completely factual. It is not the purpose of private enterprise capitalism to provide proper care for the old, the disabled or the blind. That is not the function of private enterprise capitalism. Its function is to create wealth and it does that. How successive Ministers can continue to adhere to this sort of pseudo-socialist philosophy which creates a situation in which the old must go hungry and neglected, suffering from malnutrition, or end their days, quite unnecessarily, in mental hospitals is something that I personally cannot understand.

The office of Minister for Social Welfare is one of the most important in the Government. The Minister carries on his shoulders the onerous responsibility of looking after the interests of those who are unable to look after themselves. All of us have the duty of looking after those who cared for us when we were too young to care for ourselves. The responsibility of looking after the old is a grave responsibility. It is one we must not shirk. Would anyone here argue that we are at the moment providing the underprivileged in our community with the comforts they deserve? Are we even providing them with the essentials of life? This Bill is a good Bill as far as it goes. My grievance is that it does not go far enough. The provisions are inadequate, very inadequate. If we fail in our duties and responsibilities towards the aged and the incapacitated future generations will look at us with coldly critical eyes because of that failure.

Section 2 provides an increase of 10s for old age pensioners, bringing the total pension to £3 10s. I believe that is wholly inadequate. I have had experience of working in Dublin, in the west and in the Midlands and I have met a broad cross-section of our society. I have met people eking out an existence on the pensions we provide. They are living below the bread-line, not on it. The extraordinary thing is that increased taxation imposed in the Budget comes into operation almost immediately while increases in pensions to the underprivileged, the old, the blind, the incapacitated, are deferred to a much later date. But the people in receipt of these pensions have to meet the increased taxation in the interim without any compensation of any kind.

The increases in children's allowances under section 7 are praiseworthy. These increases will help to relieve cases of hardship. I welcome the provision for an allowance to a daughter, who has never worked outside her home, when she is looking after an incapacitated old age pension parent. This may possibly lead to old people being looked after at home instead of being incarcerated in some institution. Some allowance should be made, too, in the case of an incapacitated old age pensioner who is living with a son-in-law or a daughter-in-law. That would also help to keep old people in familiar surroundings and amongst their own friends. The matter is worthy of consideration by the Minister.

The late Deputy Donogh O'Malley increased from 10s to £1 the amount payable to persons in county homes and other institutions. The institution takes the balance of the pension. This amount is not sufficient and the increases granted under this Budget should be paid to those people. This Bill is all right as far as it goes but there is a lot of ground which requires to be made up urgently.

Like many of my colleagues on these benches, I feel that while one welcomes the various palliatives in this Bill, nevertheless, one must say that one is surprised at the failure of the Government. One does not want to make a catchcry of continual failure allegations against the Minister and his colleagues but after 12 years in office and almost half a century of political power the Government continually fails to exercise even an elementary sense of imagination in terms of recasting the social security structure of the State. By a master stroke of imagination the Irish people had children's allowances two years before the English and we had a wet time insurance scheme which was somewhat unique but apart from these we slavishly followed Britain and are now far behind any of the normal security systems operating in more sophisticated countries in Europe. This does not reflect any great credit on the Fianna Fáil party.

Unlike my colleague Deputy Dr. O'Connell I draw a sharp distinction between the internal attitudes of Departmental staff and policy frameworks they are obliged to work within and implement. Therefore, I would strongly suggest that, notwithstanding what was said yesterday afternoon about the quality of Irish life by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the acid test in any Republic, so-called, is the extent to which we are prepared to devote money to social security. We now have well over £100,000 million in terms of gross national product in this State, in the context that we have a national Budget running into £400 million but yet we find that in a Budget of this nature all we can manage to squeeze out is an extra £5 million or £6 million for essential social security systems.

Indeed, I hope the Minister will drop the phraseology "social welfare". I do not particularly favour this terminology, this concept of a sideways charity to the public from Parliament, and I feel that it is preferable to call it our national system of social security, which embraces the whole range of benefits for the people. It is of crucial importance that we try to think in terms of raising the quality of life and at the same time appreciate the fact that almost 17 per cent of the population, or one-sixth of the total population, are now in receipt of weekly payments under our social insurance and social assistance systems scheme. Also, there are about 350,000 families in receipt of children's allowances in addition. This constitutes a major sector of the population and it is not unfair to say that we have operated that system with very little innovation, very little sense of the urgency of change. What has occurred in the last ten years has more than warranted the necessity for introducing major changes. If one wanted to analyse the extent of Government and national concern for the system of social security one can take just the expenditure on the Government side. I do not know if the Minister has given these figures but certainly we have learned them for ourselves. The expenditure on social welfare represented 19.1 per cent of total tax revenue in 1965-66; in 1966-67 it dropped to 18.6 per cent and in 1967-68 it dropped to 17.6. Therefore, we are not devoting more of our national resources, more of our tax revenue buoyancy to the social security system. The figure for 1968-69 shows a further drop to 16.6 per cent. Admittedly, it has received some slight upsurge in the recent Budget but overall it cannot be said by any responsible Government or Minister arguing across the Cabinet table and trying to obtain money for those in greatest need that we have obtained some growth in terms of allocation to social security from tax revenue.

Deputy Dr. Browne and the last speaker from the Fine Gael benches quite rightly referred to the utter impossibility of many recipients living on these social security benefits. Perhaps, it is within the traditions of this House that one goes to town on the inadequacies of the benefits but I do not think it can be repeated often enough because many of us never had to live on £3 10d a week or to see a widow or one's wife on £3 13s 6d a week. But it is because we have not had to go through this exercise that we can fob it off and say: "You worked it out in the context of a national system of social security and all will be well in the cynical review of the quality of Irish life."

The fact is that in September and October of last year the number in receipt of contributory and non-contributory pensions was 224,000 people. Of those, 6,600 had pensions of less than £2 a week and 91,000 had pensions, both contributory and non-contributory, of £2 to £3 a week. A total of 105,000 had pensions of between £3 and £4 a week and 30,200 had pensions of £4 to £5 a week while 17,800 had pensions of £5 to £6 a week. A total of 50 persons had over £7 10s per week. At least one-half of the 224,000 were in the £3 to £4 range which certainly does not reflect any credit on the Government or on the social conscience of the State. I do not think that one needs to expose to public gaze for the Minister's edification or, indeed, for his staff, the grave social hardship that exists in these cases. There is a popular assumption that in the constituency that I represent, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, there is widespread affluence but in the course of my political canvass there we met many pensioners who, due to social traditions, were not aware of what they were entitled to. This is a fact that I will refer to later on. In many instances they were living lives of quiet and desperate poverty in the hope that, perhaps, something would come but in practice they knew that very little would come because very few people cared very much about them. They live in hope with the memory of relative opulence in the past, with nice faded curtains on their windows shading the cup of tea and relative poverty behind. These are the realities in many areas of Irish life where people do not particularly wish to display their poverty or to go careering off to a Dáil Deputy to get something which they know quite well they will never get during the short span of their lifetime. We do not need unduly to stress this, particularly from Labour Party benches, but it must go on record that these are the realities of life in 1969 in Ireland.

I would suggest also to the Minister that in Ireland we are facing a considerable geriatric explosion. It has been described as such by Dr. J.J. Flanagan whom I heard recently addressing Dún Laoghaire Old Folks Association. He is the consultant geriatrician to St. Kevin's. He said that there was a considerable prospect of a geriatric explosion, as he put it, on the Irish scene and that it was now estimated that in 1981 there would be 372,000 people in the State aged 65 and over. It is not particularly to the credit of the social attitudes of the Government that they have done very little forecasting and very little anticipation of general needs and of the fall-out from this geriatric explosion which is forecasted. With the longer span of life, greater medical resources, the advances of medical science, the growth of assistance generally, it was to be expected that this would occur but I do not see any signs of a sense of urgency galvanising the Government benches in anticipation of this major challenge facing the Irish people.

There has been available both within the Department and to the Government a fairly considerable amount of internal evidence which would have warranted some initiative on the Government's part in relation to the social security system. It is now the best part of five years since we had this extremely important analysis by Desmond Farrelly, an officer of the Department, in his publicationSocial Insurance and Social Assistance in Ireland. This publication exposed the general system to the Irish people. Desmond Farrelly pointed out that in many areas of Europe and in Britain wage related social security systems have been introduced which certainly do not require any emphasis on our part. Yet, we have seen no such attempt here apart from a rather casual, rather cursory, rather dismissive, reaction from the Minister yesterday. For example, when I suggested to him that the current limit of £1,200 was far too low, was in need of upward revision, and so on, the Minister replied that, as indicated in the Third Programme: Economic and Social Development, the question of social security was being examined. They spent the best part of nine months careering around the country at the State's expense and the best part of five or six months arguing the pay about the reactionary proposal of the Minister for Justice in relation to the Criminal Justice Bill.

I would strongly suggest to the Minister that it would be the hope that Irish public life and those of us in this House would not be continuously disenchanted by some of the cod-acting that has gone on in the past few years on the Government benches, that at least he would consider setting up a select committee of the House on social security. The former Deputy MacEntee destroyed the Select Committee on Health. Certainly, he will not be around to destroy the committee on social security, if the Minister considers this to be a feasible proposition. In view of the complexity of the social security system and the tremendous ramifications that are developing, it is a rather difficult, almost impossible exercise for Deputies to stand up here and give detailed expositions of their views for general consumption and to have a 20minute reply by the Minister at the end of a debate.

I would recommend the committee system for this House, particularly in relation to such an important social aspect of our economy. I would hope that a select committee would be set up. If that is not done I would suggest the setting up of a commission of inquiry into social security. We could have one on income taxation; we could have one on growth centres; we could have one on industrial training; we could have them on every conceivable aspect of industrial and social life. Yet, we have not had one on the system of social security and it would be a useful innovation. I do not think the Minister's staffs would find the burden unduly heavy. I am quite certain that many of them would welcome such an innovation in ministerial thinking at this point of time. One of the major things to be considered by such a commission or such a select committee of the House would be the introduction of wage related system and the particular difficulties that we would be faced with in Ireland. The current systems in operation within the Department could usefully come under review also.

In view of the manipulation—and I use the word reservedly—of the social security system of the State by many members of the Government, it is a popular assumption fostered very diligently by many Government Ministers, that by some form of representation electors will receive that to which they are statutorily entitled, that they will receive it more expenditiously, that they will receive it in slightly greater measure and more effectively if representations are made to the Department through a Minister on headed Dáil notepaper, that then the slot machine will act all the quicker in looking after the constituent, be he of the Minister's constituency or of any other constituency. It has been a singular and unfortunate aspect of Irish life that down through the years all parties have tried to avail of this myth in relation to the availability of social services. It has certainly lowered the standards of public life. It has had one major outcome, that is, it has managed quite effectively for a good many years to keep the Fianna Fáil Party in power. I suggest that one of the ways of curing this would be an extension of the information services available to the electorate from the Department. I am conscious of the fact that any elector can receive without any great difficulty a copy of the summary of the social insurance and assistance services which is written, as it must necessarily be, in legalistic style, with tabulation and official terminology. We are grateful for the information and for many explanatory leaflets which are also available but the public service media should be utilised. It is not enough to insert in a national newspaper a complex, cryptic, rather short explanatory advertisement illustrating changes. There should be in many areas advise bureaux for the benefit of the public. The television service should be used as a public information service to indicate to people that as of right, and not due to any political intervention on the part of a local political representative, they can obtain these services. I hope that in the course of the next four years the Minister will undertake this urgent necessity of bringing home to people their basic entitlement and giving them effective public assistance.

The other aspects of the Bill have been covered by many of the speakers but I wish to refer to the general assumption on the part of the Minister and on the part of many of his colleagues that, since there has been a substantial increase in children's allowances in the Republic, it automatically follows that everything is superlative in the European context and that, in practice, we should be profoundly grateful.

I remind the Minister that although the rate per month, if one might use the term, for a three-child family in this country is now £4, as far back as the 1st January, 1967, in Germany, it was £4 10s and £6 15s for low income families; in Belgium it was £19 8s at the same date and in France the rate is now £21 10s for a three-child family. The rate in Italy is £9 15s and even Luxembourg can manage £12 6s a month. If we wish to make another comparison we can add the Netherlands where the rate is £9 18s. One would think from all the political hruhaha of the Taoiseach that we had a magnificently advanced social service system well above that of any other régime. We are about at par with the United Kingdom. Certainly, we cannot suggest that we deserve any major credit in respect of the changes that have been brought about with regard to children's allowances.

However, the allowances we are providing are in many ways a tremendously valuable social assistance to large families in particular, but I think the measure could be used more extensively on a selective basis. I know there are certain objections to the concept of selectivity—I personally have an open mind on selectivity—but I think a lot would depend on the approach to the question of selectivity.

I suggest also that there should be a reconsideration by the Minister in respect of special allowances for registered blind persons aged 18 and over. I am sure the social conscience of our people would be aroused in a very sympathetic way towards these persons. I have no doubt that this question is worthy of re-examination by the Minister. I say this in the hope that the Minister will not prove to be as obdurate in relation to these persons as he has been in other respects.

The increasing burden in respect of social security stamp charges is a matter of growing importance at present. These are by no means a diminishing factor in industrial costs. I would point out however that, although these charges appear to be relatively heavy, they are certainly not as heavy as the charges in Britain. As stated in the introductory speech this afternoon, the overall weekly contribution payable in respect of men in industrial employment will be 28s 3d from January next. In Britain the figure at present is 83s 7d. There is quite a substantial difference between the two figures, notwithstanding the fact that in Britain selective employment tax accounts for almost £2 10s of that charge. I suggest that Irish employers and, indeed many Irish people, have the relative advantage and that is a factor which we cannot ignore. The figure of 83s 7d in Britain is made up of 28s 7d in respect of social insurance while 1s 11d is paid towards occupational injuries and 1s 3d towards redundancy payments.

The one major reservation we must have about our contribution is the fact that it is a flat rate contribution and is in no way related to the general ability of the industrial worker to pay. This factor must be borne in mind. I must add that the employer in Great Britain pays 65s of the total amount and, therefore, the worker pays approximately 17s 8d. But these figures are becoming increasingly wage related and I have no doubt that the Irish system will get completely out of balance unless the Minister introduces this particular provision as soon as possible.

Finally, I suggest that the Minister might consider giving increased allowances to the many voluntary organisations who look after old people. I know that there is a sum of about £75,000 available for such organisations, but the Minister might consider giving an increased subvention, even if it involves some form of accountability on the part of such organisations. Many of these organisations—some in my own constituency, like the Dún Laoghaire Old Folks Association, the Sallynoggin Old Folks Association and others—put a tremendous amount of voluntary effort into looking after the needs of old people and are doing work which cannot be too highly commended. If the Minister could see his way to giving a greater national subvention to such organisations, I am certain that the money would be well spent.

The points I have made in regard to this Bill, therefore, are a request for a commission on social security or, alternatively, a Select Committee of the House and a request that this be done as urgently as possible, otherwise we will have to meet here on an annual budgetary merry-go-round.

I am concerned about the problem of the payment of widow's pensions to farm widows. I understand that, in deciding whether such a person qualifies for this pension, her means are computed on the basis of the rateable valuation of her land. I have been looking through the social welfare handbook to find out more about this matter but I have not been particularly successful. I should be grateful, therefore, if the Minister could give me any further information as to how the means of such widows are computed. Pending the Minister's reply and subject to it, I suggest that there may be some injustices in this area. For instance, I know of a woman who did not qualify for a widow's pension although she had a number of school-going children and 25 acres of rather bad land. I should be interested to know if the rateable valuation level above which one does not qualify for a widow's pension has been raised recently.

In view of the fact, that with a steady increase in the optimum economic farm size, the amount which one can earn on a farm with a valuation of £40 is considerably less in real terms now than it was ten years ago, I would ask the Minister whether, as the rateable valuation figure has been upgraded, he could take that into account. I would ask him whether this change in the income one can expect to derive per £1 of rateable valuation can be taken into account.

I should like also to endorse Deputy Desmond's suggestion that a Select Committee of the House should be set up on social security. It is my belief that Select Committees of this nature could perform a useful function and could assist the Minister considerably.

Deputy Desmond also drew attention to the exercise of what could be described as "pull" by politicians in relation to the obtaining of social welfare benefits. I would commend to Deputy Desmond and his colleagues the Fine Gael policy in this regard, which is that we should set up a Citizens' Advice Bureau. I believe such a bureau would go a long way to ensuring that people were not deceived into believing that politicians held all the power in regard to these matters and that the people would realise the full extent of their rights. I would suggest to the Minister that he should give the setting up of such a bureau favourable consideration in consultation with the other members of his cabinet.

It is not my desire to prolong this debate. I have a few points to make. Much of the ground has already been covered. Some reference was made earlier to obstruction. I hope it is clearly understood that there is no desire on the part of the Labour Party Deputies or on the part of the Fine Gael Deputies to obstruct this Bill. Rather, we are expressing our deepest interest in it.

Despite the smallness of the Labour Party in this House, I must remark that there have been continuously more Deputies on the Labour Party benches and on the Fine Gael benches than there have been on the Fianna Fáil Party benches throughout this debate.

It is unnecessary to dwell on the inadequacy of our level of social welfare payments, even at the increased rates. This point has already been made some years ago by Professor Kaim-Caudle who pointed out, at a time when I think the old age pension was 57s 6d, that a jail prisoner would be sustained on a more expensive diet than the old age pensioner could live on at that figure. Despite the increases which have taken place there have been parallel increases in the cost of living, making that statement of Professor Kaim-Caudle essentially true still.

In relation to the children's allowances increase we can assume that, in the case of what Deputy Desmond referred to as the average three-child family, where the parents of that family indulge in such permissible working class luxuries as the occasional pint of stout or packet of cigarettes, the increase in children's allowance will be rapidly eaten away by the increased expenditure due to the increased cost of living.

I support Deputy Desmond's statement in relation to the "tied" concept of social welfare benefits. Professor Kaim-Caudle has pointed out clearly how this could be done. Mr. Anthony Coughlan, Lecturer in Social Administration in Trinity College, Dublin, also pointed out how it could be done in the pampletAims of Social Policy. It seems to me quite ridiculous that these matters of increased social payments should be the subject of annual political debate and argument and that unfortunate people, who are least in the position to exert pressures on behalf of themselves, should look with hope and expectation to essentially political decision-making to see whether or not a few more shillings are coming their way.

I do not know why this sort of payment could not be tied to the cost of living or to the regular wage rounds. I should like the Minister to look at this again. The same applies to payments to all people on fixed pensions, such as the retired gardaí, civil servants or widows. They should not be made an annual budgetary football. The possible loss of political kudos to any Party from these marginal increases should be waived. We should try to devise a system by which the increases are automatic. It seems ridiculous in our society that, in effect, those who can exert most effective force by strike action of one kind or another, like the maintenance strikers earlier this year, are the ones who can gain results, and that the people who cannot exert force must tag along behind and write pathetic letters pointing out the weakness and inadequacy of their incomes.

I should like to point to the means test tables which appear in this Bill. One does not have to be a socialist to have the deepest misgivings about the principle of the means test. It penalises those who by their thrift have put something behind them during their working lives. This means test is, also, a matter of incredible complexity. I often wonder if a serious study has been made of the cost of administration of means test structures of the kind outlined in the table on page three of this Bill by comparison with the cost to the State of the abolition of the means test. In that extraordinary table on page three of the Bill there is quite an incredible catalogue of human misery. One reads about the means of the pensioner being "nil", or "exceeding nil" but "not exceeding £26 5s". There is a reference to an income exceeding £26 5s but not exceeding £52 10s, and so on at roughly £20 intervals. This places one whole category of human beings in the invidious position of being judges of their fellow men's pitiful little incomes. On the other side, it abolishes at a stroke the kind of privacy in our private lives which everyone in this House would regard as a natural right. We speak of freedom and of free society and of dignity and, as Deputy Desmond says, of the quality of life, but for every person for whom it is necessary to make a return of income under that kind of means test table, dignity, privacy and freedom have, effectively speaking, been abolished as if such a person were in a concentration camp or in a gold fish bowl.

I like to regard myself as a realist, even if I do not happen to be a member of the self-styled party of reality. I recognise that machinery such as that of the social services cannot be altered in a day. But while we must maintain these means-test, pauper, social welfare services, could we not at least maintain them with a little more dignity than the unfortunate recipients enjoy at the moment? I am thinking now of the delays which seem to be necessary from time to time. Perhaps it is merely a delay of days before signing-up periods but such days can be days of importance to people on the bread-line level, which many of these applicants are. I am thinking also of the mothers whom I saw queueing outside one tiny post office in West Finglas. They were waiting to collect their children's allowances, they were very cheerful because it was summer. What would it be like to queue for those payments in a rainy November or December morning? I would like the Minister to look at the question of how these admittedly small facilities, which we in the Labour Party do not think are adequate, might be extended to these people in an atmosphere of some dignity and comfort. They are their rights. If I may pay my colleague. Deputy Tunney of the Fianna Fáil Party, a compliment, I know that he is similarly concerned about that aspect, and is worried about the inadequacy of the Finglas Post Office. But this is more than a problem in one constituency. I am not speaking of one post office or of one incident. I am speaking about the question of preserving an atmosphere of dignity in which people could receive what is their right, not a hand-out to which they are entitled because they are told they are somewhat inadequate in the race of life. They are receiving a right.

I should like to point to a further way in which they could be reminded of this right, and I would support Deputies Desmond and Bruton here. It has never been made adequately clear to the people by the Department of Social Welfare and other Departments that the kind of things which are agreed in this House are to be had by the people as of right and they need not bow their knees to anyone, whether a Deputy or not, in order to get these rights. As Deputy Desmond pointed out, people can obtain booklets on these subjects, but they do not obtain them. It is necessary for them to show the initiative of seeking them out; those are the very people who, because, through no fault of their own they are deprived of the opportunity for education and self development, are the least likely to seek those rights and to understand and demand them. If Government Departments can produce, just before election time, glossy, simplified brochures on the educational benefits awaiting the people of Ireland, they can produce comparable, simplified brochures on their social rights. In supporting Deputy Desmond and Deputy Bruton I suggest that all of us try to make a self-denying ordinance against the kind of thing they referred to; an illusion of patronage which has lowered this country, and has given to the working people particularly the servile illusion that they must come cap in hand to some intermediary in order to get what are their rights. That is what the Reverend Dr. Harty pointed to recently.

I know there are vested interests for keeping things as they are. I am not implying for a moment that the utilisation of the present system of pseudopatronage is confined to the Government benches. It is not, of course. Great and famous practitioners have graced every side of the House. One of the reasons for the absence of Deputies listening to this debate at the moment is no doubt that many of them are sitting scribbling away furiously telling people how they can get them blue cards, this card, that card, the other card for benefits which are in fact their legal right. The Department of Social Welfare should undertake an educational campaign to try and ensure that our people are told that such limited benefits as we offer to them are their benefits as of right and not as the function of their inadequacy or failure in life.

I should first like to congratulate Deputy Geoghegan on his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Social Welfare. I consider this Department to be rather important in our society and I hope his appointment portends something better to come. Unfortunately, it has been the experience of many of us who serve on local authorities that the attitude of the Department of Social Welfare to the problems of the old, the problems of the underprivileged, leaves a lot to be desired. I hope the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary in this the Nineteenth Dáil will improve matters in this respect. After all, we are dealing with the underprivileged sectors of our community. It is those people more than anyone else whom we should represent, because it is they more than anyone else who need our protection and care.

I welcome the various increases in pensions and benefits, even though they are small and even though they do not add up to anything like the benefits and pensions which are available in most West European countries. Indeed, it has already been said here today that we are perhaps lowest on the scale of social security benefits in Western Europe. It is wrong to play about with pensions and social benefits. This year they have been made an election gimmick. They were announced in the election Budget but they will not be available in some cases until August and in other cases until next January. This is very poor treatment; it is very wrong of the Minister and the Government to adopt this attitude in regard to those benefits.

I welcome the new grant for multiple births and also section 16, which deals with increases for incapacitated old age pensioners who have a daughter living with them. Those increases are badly needed. I would ask the Minister and his staff, however, to adopt a more flexible attitude in dealing with such problems as appeals. An increase of 5s was given the year before last to old age pensioners but a pensioner I know, just because he had an apple tree in his back garden, was deemed to have an income and did not get the 5s increase. This type of narrow-minded approach to what I consider important matters is wrong and I condemn it here. I would ask the Minister to ensure that a more flexible attitude is adopted in his Department in this respect. I want to complain also about the attitude in employment exchanges. The people who are on unemployment insurance are not being dealt with in a proper and gentlemanly fashion. It is wrong for them to have to queue up.

This is a matter for the Department of Labour, not my Department.

This would be a matter for another Department.

I am well aware of the Department this comes under. I do not think the Minister's interruption should be taken into account. It is his Department which deals with unemployment security and unemployment benefits.

The Department of Labour deal with unemployment exchanges.

The Department of Social Welfare pay the benefits.

If it is a social welfare payment the Minister is responsible.

The employment exchanges are under the Minister for Labour.

It is the Minister for Social Welfare who is responsible for payment of benefits.

The Minister for Labour is responsible for employment exchanges.

The Minister for Social Welfare is responsible for paying the benefits.

This is a Social Welfare Bill and it includes increases in unemployment assistance and other social welfare benefits.

The attitude adopted by the people in employment exchanges is a matter for the Department of Labour.

Does the Minister accept increases in benefits for unemployment assistance are under his Department?

The employment exchanges have nothing to do with my Department. My Department is not under discussion in any event.

It is the Minister for Social Welfare who pays those benefits, not the Minister for Labour.

It is not the Estimate for the Department of Social Welfare we are discussing.

The Bill we are considering here refers to increases in certain payments, such as unemployment benefits and unemployment assistance. I know there are many unemployed people who have been dealt with like animals rather than human beings, under the various Social Welfare Acts and I condemn this here now. I am annoyed that the Minister should interfere in a speech which I am trying to make constructive and helpful rather than negative. I should like to continue, if I may. I would welcome the setting up of information centres throughout the country to deal with the many problems involved in getting social welfare benefits, unemployment benefits and children's allowances. This would be of great benefit to people who at the moment come to Deputies and local councillors for information and help. It is the Fianna Fáil Party and the Fianna Fáil régime who have propagated the idea that benefits and pensions are a matter of political patronage. It is not so. This is a right under the Constitution of our country and it is about time it was brought outside politics. Perhaps a good way to take it outside politics would be to establish information centres throughout the country. I would ask the Minister to consider this.

We are apparently hell-bent for EEC. I should like to make the point that under the treaty which established EEC, social security systems or schemes in each country will more or less be equal and, also, the movement of labour between countries will be free. We are a long way behind the European countries in matters of social welfare. I should like to support Deputy Desmond—indeed, I had intended to mention it myself — that a select committee of the House be appointed or, alternatively, a commission of inquiry be appointed to investigate our whole social security and our whole social welfare scheme. The Government in theirThird Programme: Economic and Social Development accept that there will have to be major revision of these schemes. The proper way to do it is by the establishment of a commission or a select committee.

Finally, I would recommend to the Minister some system to include the self-employed within our social security network. There are many small farmers, shop-keepers and even harbour board pilots who do not come within the present scheme. I recommend that some system be devised to bring these within the network of our social security system. While I welcome the Bill, I think it is far from what we should have in this Christian country.

Mr. J. Lenehan

I know it is quite difficult for the Minister, even the Chair and anybody else, to have to listen to some of the extraordinary tripe which has been put across in this House by political neophytes who come in here with brilliant ideas——

A change in terminology.

Mr. J. Lenehan

——ideas which, of course, can never be put into practice. It comes very badly from the people on the far side of the House to criticise this Bill in view of the fact that the lowest increase given on this occasion is, I think, 10s per head. I remember a time and I am not that old—I probably am older than I look —when the old age pension was only 10s and the geniuses on the far side of the House brought in a Bill here to take 1s off it.

Stay in this century.

Mr. J. Lenehan

It is rather amazing, then, that if this Bill is as bad as the Deputy who sat down before I got up said it is——

What about the Stand still Order on wages during the last world war? The Deputy might refer to that. It is a lot more recent.

Mr. J. Lenehan

If you want fun, there is not a better man for giving you fun than mé fhéin.

We are not here for fun. We came here to legislate.

Mr. J. Lenehan

We are here to legislate. We legislated before you came here and we will legislate after you have gone out of this House. Have manners in this House.

Each side of the House is allowed to contribute to a debate. There is no monopoly at all for the doctors. Both sides can talk.

Mr. J. Lenehan

And especially the fake doctors. If you cannot contain yourselves, you will have to put up with me whether you like it or you do not like it.

Deputy J. Lenehan is in possession and is entitled to speak.

If you cannot take it, get out. We listened to the nonsense from you and now Deputy Lenehan is entitled to talk.

Mr. J. Lenehan

You have the door. Let us go back over the history of social welfare. I will ask the geniuses on the far side of this House to answer a simple question. Before Fianna Fáil came into office, was ever a Social Welfare Bill put through this House except the one put through by the British Government in some house around here in, I think, nineteen hundred and what was it, when the first old age pension was given? Until Fianna Fáil came in again there was never a social welfare Bill put through in this country except that British one and, God knows, even in the worst of times, the British gave us 10s and the Cumann na nGaedheal Government took 1s off that. Is that not true? Is there anyone over there on any side who can deny it?

It is not very relevant.

Mr. J. Lenehan

There is nobody over there who can deny it. They know it is the truth, and that is that. From that date, no government in this country except Fianna Fáil has put through an effective social welfare Bill. It is remarkable that the front bench of the Labour Party are not here now to hear me say that in six years when they had control of social welfare in this country they gave an increase of 2s 6d a week to the unfortunate social welfare people of this country and let nobody try to deny that fact. If you want to be mud-slingers, you can start it and you will certainly find your match here.

Take a lesson from Deputy J. Lenehan.

Mr. J. Lenehan

Anything you do not know, I will teach it to you.

You are very good at mud-slinging.

Mr. J. Lenehan

It is well known that were it not for the fact that such social welfare legislation happened to be put through by Fianna Fáil, there would be practically nobody living in the west of Ireland today— and there is not any doubt about it. Down there today, if we find agitators or funny fellows—I think they are funny fellows we find at this game today—they are all rich people. You do not hear any dissentient note from the ordinary people of the west of Ireland. I think there must be many other Deputies here from the west who would support me in what I am saying.

How come so many empty houses in the west?

Mr. J. Lenehan

There are no empty houses where I come from. If you find one, I will get a buyer for it instantly. Do not make a "mickey" of yourself over there. Just you get one empty house where I come from and I will have it bought from you in the morning. Will that do you?

Mr. J. Lenehan

There is not one in it. Now, you have been told over there to interrupt me. I understand that these are standing orders from the Fine Gael Party — to keep interrupting me. You can keep at it. You need not worry. I am a pretty seasoned boyo at this game. The more interruptions I get, the more delighted I shall be. I found this out over a long number of years. I am 25 years or so in politics now. I am not like some of the neophytes who are over there making "eejits" out of themselves, When one is that length on the hop, one takes an awful lot of shouting down.

On a point of order, that is an unparliamentary remark.

This arises from the interruptions from your side of the House and I would ask Deputies there to allow Deputy J. Lenehan——

On a point of order.

Will the Deputy please sit down when the Chair is on his feet? Please sit down. There are Rules of Order in this House.

On a point of order.

Would the Deputy please resume his seat for the moment? The Deputy is not in order in interrupting Deputy J. Lenehan whether he agrees with him or disagrees with him. The remark made by Deputy J. Lenehan, so far as the Chair is concerned, is a political one.

Mr. J. Lenehan

We shall wait until the new university is built in Limerick, I think we will then be taught what parliamentary language is. I have been told I use a lot of unparliamentary language. I am sure that when we get the new university somewhere down the country that they will teach parliamentary language to us and we will become used to it. That appears to be the position at the moment. I think you should take your beating. You had all the newspapers behind you. You went out during the general election campaign——

We cannot discuss that on this Bill.

Mr. J. Lenehan

I think these people should take their beating and should not try to walk over me here now when I get up to make my speech. It has been fired at us that this was a political gimmick, that these increases were given as a political gimmick. They were not. First of all, we did not know that there would be an election at the time at which these increases were going to be given. The people of this country are no fools. Remembering the record of Fine Gael in 1931, they made damn sure to put us back to implement the terms of the Budget. They knew that if the Opposition got back this legislation would never go through, these increases would never be given and there would be no reason for them to get up here today trying to blackguard this Party because the increases are not greater. The increases are at least three times what the Opposition thought they would be, and that is what has got their goat. We all know that. We must be honest and realistic about it.

At least it is a happy augury for the future that we have reached the point at which we are able to give these increases. Let us think of the years from 1948 to 1951 and from 1954 to 1956. We know the type of social welfare increases which were given during that period, do we not? Certainly the people of the west of Ireland do. They have very good reason to know and they have not forgotten. I know that in this big town nobody appears to know whether a Dublin man is doing anything or not and these people probably do forget and have short memories, but the people of the west did not forget. The simple fact is, and it must be faced, the people of this country have given us a mandate; they have told us that what we informed them we would do before the election in connection with social welfare is what they want.

The people of this country are no crowd of mugs at all. They will not be influenced one way or another by geniuses who come out with fictional doctorates from certain universities or who get certain degrees by not drinking tea, by drinking water instead, as we know and we have seen, or by geniuses who masquerade as economists who have BA degrees.

This is scarcely relevant. This measure deals with social welfare.

Perhaps the Deputy would clarify his statements?

Mr. J. Lenehan

We have got the backing of the people and the Opposition should have the commonsense to take their beating. They have got it and God knows they will get it again. I would not like to be the first man in this House to shout for another election.

I have very few remarks to make on the Bill but they will be on the Bill.

Hear, hear.

I am disappointed that the children's allowances for large families have not been improved more than they have been. The Minister referred with some pride to the fact that a family of six will now get £10 a month as against £6 11s 6d formerly. £10 a month as an allowance for a family of six children does not make any great impression on me. A similar family in Britain would have children's allowances of more than double that amount. I am not one of those people who believe that we are a poor country and Britain is a wealthy country. There is a great deal of evidence the other way round. We allow many extremely wealthy people to pay no income tax in this country and that suggests to me that we are a very welloff country indeed.

Mr. J. Lenehan

Because of Fianna Fáil.

Order. Deputy Dr. O'Donovan.

Having expressed my regret that there is not a proper system of children's allowances here, I admit that £10 a month is better than £6 11s 6d. But has it a greater purchasing power than £6 11s 6d had when that figure was introduced? I very much doubt it. We need only give it a little while and it will have less value than the £6 11s 6d.

The second point I wish to make is that I regret to note the large contributions required from women relative to men. I am speaking on the pay of women relative to men. This is a matter on which there have been questions asked in the House in the last few days. In fact, it is a matter—if I might make a bow to Deputy Lenehan and talk about the election—that came up a good deal during the election, and quite rightly so. I believe that in this country we treat women extremely badly. Here we have proof of it in print. The Minister in his speech said that the contribution for men is to be 28s 3d from now on and the contribution for women is to be 26s. Is anybody on that side of the House—they were very talkative a few minutes ago —going to tell me that women's wages in this country compare on the basis of 26s a week for women to 28s a week for men?

Mr. J. Lenehan

Work it out.

The Deputies are honest and I am grateful to them. I do like honesty.

We will leave it until we are making our contributions.

I would recommend it to the Minister that, since this Bill presumably is going through now —we all know that the House will adjourn shortly—in the next Social Welfare Bill he has before this House he would consider this matter of relative wages when fixing contributions of men and women, unless in the meantime the Government should adopt the Convention which was adopted by the International Labour Office in 1948, 21 years ago, that men and women doing the same work should be paid the same wages.

It was suggested that the increases in children's allowances were not given because there was an election coming up. I am not particularly interested in whether they were or not. What I am interested in is that this was not done a number of years back. Whether it was done because of the elections or not does not matter a great deal. It is now being done. To that extent the Minister deserves credit.

I notice there is an admission in the Bill, a perfectly proper admission, that there should never have been adopted in this country an allowance for one child. I shall not use the language that was used on that side of the House, but I do not know who thought up that idea. An old lady will have a cat around the house. You will see the bachelor with his dog. Surely to goodness two married people who have one child have something that is a source of enjoyment to them. I do not believe that any genuinely Christian country should give an allowance for one child. If that had not been done the necessary money would be available to provide for the families in which I am interested, the families of four, five and six children, the families that really should be provided for. It is unfortunate that we can not go somewhere nearer the allowance in Britain, where it is £1 per child per week. The allowance here is going up to £2 a month, about 9s a week. That compares very badly with the allowance in Britain.

In France and in other European countries, when you get really large families you get very large allowances. On the few occasions that I have been on the Continent I did not notice any great affluence among large families: they were reasonably well off. In this country, large families have been very shabbily treated in relation to children's allowances up to this Bill, which is at least an improvement, provided that the value of money remains the same. There, I come back to the question of the increase in the cost of living last year. The cost of living index was supposed to go up five per cent last year; of course, it went up by something like 15 per cent: everybody knows that. The official figures suggested five per cent but, after all, sterling was devalued 14 per cent, export prices went up 15 per cent and import prices went up by the same amount. Yet, we were told that the cost of living index went up five per cent. I took great care to examine the question in the middle of last year and I found all kinds of commodities were rapidly going up in price. This is all an attempt at some kind of very short-term analysis of the figures in the Bill. This does not mean that I do not welcome the Bill and that the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary are not to be congratulated on it—they are, of course. I should, however, like that when the matter is again under consideration the position of women would be considered and also the position of large families.

Deputy O'Kennedy.

A Cheann Comhairle——

I have called Deputy O'Kennedy—Deputy Begley.

A Cheann Comhairle——

The Deputy did not offer. I had called Deputy Begley when the Deputy offered.

I thought that the Government side was entitled to the next speaker——

Yes, if he offered.

I did offer.

The Deputy did not offer.

Mr. J. Lenehan

I am sorry to raise this point but, in view of the fact that we hold a big majority, are we not entitled to have two of our Deputies speak as against one from the Opposition? I should like a ruling on that, as it is a very interesting point.

In this particular instance no Deputy from the Government benches offered. I understand Deputy O'Kennedy had offered and I called him. He intimated that he did not.

That is quite right. I did not offer at any stage. The Ceann Comhairle may be confusing me with Deputy Andrews.

We are much the same colour. However, let Deputy Begley carry on.

Cé go bhfuil rudaí maithe sa Bhille ceapaim go bhfuil easnamh mór air—na daoine a bhfuil cónaí orthu sna tithe contae ar fud na tíre. Tá daoine ansin ó 30 bliain go dtí 69 mbliain agus gan deis aca airgead d'fáil ó éinne. Níl de chumhacht ag an gcomhairle contae aon airgead a thabhairt dóibh. Sé Cumann Naomh Uinnseann de Pól a thugann cúig nó deich scilling dóibh anois. Sé mo thuairimse go bhfuil sé in am don Rialtas cumhacht a thabhairt don chomhairle contae teacht i gcabhair ar na daoine bochta sin.

I welcome the Bill which is a good one and if it had gone further I would support it very strongly. However, there is one glaring omission from it— the people residing in county homes throughout the country. Those unfortunate people, from 30 to 69 years, have no way of earning a shilling and the county council have no power to assist them. I ask the Minister to consider that point seriously and, if possible, give power to the county council to allow those people a few shillings a week. It is particularly unfortunate to see such people, in the different towns where such homes exist, standing on the street corners seeking a halfcrown or the price of a drink when, perhaps, if they got 10s or 15s a week it would make all the difference to them.

B'fhéidir, go ndéanfaidh mé tagairt ar dtús don mhéid a dubhairt an Teachta Ó Beaglaoich. Caithfidh mé a admháil gur rúd é nár cuireadh fém bhráid cheana. Féachfaidh mé isteach sa scéal. Tuigim go bhfuil sé ag iarraidh orm ceadú do na comhairlí contae deontas beag airgid a thabhairt do dhaoine atá sna tithe contae ar fud na tire agus atá fé bhun seachtó bliain d'aois. Féachfaidh mé isteach sa cheist sin, pé sceal é.

One thing must stand out in all the contributions that have been made from the Opposition benches and that is that the obvious fact that the magnitude of the exercise in redistribution of income that has taken place this year has been completely ignored. This Social Welfare Bill makes arrangements for an increased allocation this year of £17.102 million in a full financial year to the various income maintenance services operated by my Department. It results in an increase in the percentage of total national income devoted to social welfare of from 7.7 per cent to 8.4 per cent, based on the estimated national income from the current financial year and, of course, an estimate of the total social welfare payments that will be made in this year.

The estimated increase in the national income for this financial year over the last financial year is £103 million, so that what we are doing in this Bill is arranging that 16.6 per cent of the estimated increase in the national income will be devoted to the income maintenance services operated by my Department. I think that by any standard it must be agreed that this is, in fact, a substantial redistribution of income to make in any one year. I do not know if there was ever a similar percentage allocated in one year before now but it is certainly a substantial increase.

Deputy Ryan, and I think a number of other Deputies also, maintained that what has been done this year does not, in fact, compensate for the increase in the cost of living even in the past year. The fact of the matter is that, in the 12 months to mid-May, 1969, which is the latest date for which the consumer price index figure is available, the cost of living rose by 6.9 per cent and the increases that have been given in the social assistance and social insurance schemes this year range from 13.8 per cent to 17 per cent. So that in this year alone, there is obviously a substantial improvement in the rates of payment in all the income maintenance schemes over the increase in the cost of living.

The increase for the old-age non-contributory pension is 15.4 per cent. For the old age contributory pension it is 13.8 per cent. For the widow's non-contributory pension it is 15.75 per cent. For the widow's contributory pension it is 15.4 per cent. For the disability benefit or unemployment benefit for a single person it is 15.4 per cent and for the disability benefit or unemployment benefit for a married couple it is 17 per cent. This is all against an increase in the consumer price index figure of 6.9 per cent.

Of course, this is similar to what has been happening over the whole period of this Government's term in office. As we have been reminded, we have been in office now continuously for 12 years. In mid-May, 1957, the consumer price index was 11.5. In mid-May, 1969, it was 171, giving an increase of 54.75 per cent, over that 12-year period, in the consumer price index. In the case of every single one of the income maintenance schemes, the increase has been spectacularly more than the increase in the consumer price index. I say in every one of them, because this Government, unlike the alternative Governments we have had, have, in almost every year, dealt with the whole range of the income maintenance services and have increased them all. We have ensured that they have all gained over the cost of living, unlike the performance of the Opposition when they had control of the Government and, in particular, when the Labour Party, were in charge of the Department of Social Welfare.

During those two periods of government there was never an occasion on which all the income maintenance services were dealt with. One solitary increase was given in each of those two periods but given only on a selective basis, and dealing only with certain of the social welfare services. Others have never been touched by any hands excet those of Fianna Fáil. They have been introduced by Fianna Fáil and every subsequent development of them, both extensions of scope and increases in rates of payment have been given by Fianna Fáil. One of the schemes which has come in for the greatest amount of mention by both the Opposition parties, the children's allowances scheme, is a completely Fianna Fáil scheme which might never have existed so far as either of the Opposition parties were concerned when they were in government.

As I said, the increase in the cost of living during our period of office has been 54.75 per cent. The non-contributory old age pension in that period has gone from 24s to 75s, which is an increase of 212.5 per cent. In addition to extensions in scope, to extensions of the means scale; to such things as the addition to the scheme of allowances in respect of dependent children and to the provision of free electricity, free travel and so on, the actual cash payment has increased by 212.5 per cent in a period when the cost of living increased by 54.75 per cent.

As I have been saying, unlike the two Opposition parties, we appreciate that there is something more in social welfare, and that there are other income maintenance services which need to be dealt with as well as the non-contributory old age pension. I quite appreciate that it is mention of the non-contributory old age pension which evokes the greatest reaction in the public mind. That does not mean that it is justifiable for a Government to ignore the other sections of the community that also have to depend on social welfare provisions, as both of the Opposition parties did when it was their responsibility to deal with them.

We have arranged that the rates of all the income maintenance services have increased relative to the cost of living. The Opposition might like to forget that there are such things as unemployment assistance and unemployment benefit, for instance, as they did when they were in office. I am not prepared to forget them. These people require to have their position improved as the economy of the country improves as well as the non-contributory old age pensioners. Certainly while I am Minister for Social Welfare I will insist that that happens.

In so far as unemployment assistance is concerned, the rate for a single person in an urban area has increased from 18s to 61s 6d, which is an increase of 241.7 per cent. In a rural area it has gone from 12s to 55s 6d, an increase of 362.5 per cent. In the case of a recipient of unemployment assistance with an adult dependant, the increase has been from 28s in an urban area to 117s 6d, an increase of 319.6 per cent. In a rural area the increase has been from 20s to 109s 6d, an increase of 447.5 per cent. In the case of a recipient of unemployment assistance with an adult dependant and four children, the increase has been from 38s when we took over to 157s 6d in an urban area, an increase of 314.5 per cent and, in a rural area, from 28s to 149s 6d, an increase of 433.9 per cent.

In the case of non-contributory widows' pensions the increase in our period has been from 22s 6d to 73s 6d, an increase of 226.7 per cent and, for a widow with four children, the increase has been from 36s to 113s 6d, an increase of 215.3 per cent. All this was in a period when the cost of living has increased by 54.75 per cent. So, the social assistance payments have outpaced the cost of living since we took over in 1957 by at least four to one.

I am not suggesting for one moment that they have yet reached a satisfactory level but I do say that under a Fianna Fáil Government arrangements are made to ensure that these people take part in the general increase in prosperity that follows from Fianna Fáil's administration. What we do is that each year at Budget time we make the necessary arrangements to ensure that that happens. There has been this continuous and gradual improvement in the position of every recipient of social assistance relative to the cost of living during Fianna Fáil's 12 year period of office.

The position is somewhat similar in regard to the social insurance schemes. With regard to unemployment and disability benefits the rate for a single man in 1957 was 30s. It is now 75s, an increase of 150 per cent. For a married person in receipt of unemployment benefit or disability benefit, the rate in 1957 was 45s. It is now 137s 6d, giving an increase of 205.5 per cent. For a married man with four children the increase has been from 61s to 189s 6d, an increase of 210.7 per cent.

In the case of contributory widows' pensions, the increase in the case of a widow without dependants has been from 30s to 75s, an increase of 150 per cent, and for a widow with four children from 46s to 129s 6d, a percentage increase of 181.5. An innovation since 1957 has been the contributory old age pension which did not exist, nor was it contemplated, prior to Fianna Fáil getting back into office. That additional benefit was introduced in 1961 so that the social insurance benefits have since 1957 outpaced the cost of living by more than three to one.

We cannot be complacent about the levels of any of these rates of payment but there is ample evidence that it is only under Fianna Fáil that real improvements have been made. No new services have been provided except by Fianna Fáil. Since 1957 an annual exercise has developed of making arrangements at Budget time to ensure that the recipients of social welfare benefits of every class take part in the general increase in prosperity.

One of the results of this is that the expenditure on social welfare as a percentage of national income has been increasing because of the Government's attention to this matter. Contrary to what Deputy Ryan alleged, this Government have a social conscience and they have proved this not by words but by actions. Because of that, expenditure on social welfare has been increasing and increasing relative to national income.

In the last year of Coalition Government, expenditure on social welfare was 6.4 per cent of national income. In 1969-70, based on the estimated figures for expenditure and national income, it will be 8.4 per cent of national income, and this despite the fact that in 1956-57 we had a combination of two factors tending to raise that percentage. We had the highest ever level of unemployment——

It was not the highest ever level. Fianna Fáil have that record.

——the highest ever level of unemployment and, therefore, of inflated expenditure combined with a reducing national income, both factors tending to inflate the percentage which expenditure on social welfare represented of national income. In the 12 years of Fianna Fáil Government we have had continuously rising national income, continuously rising expenditure on social welfare and an increase in the percentage of expenditure on social welfare from 6.4 to 8.4 of national income. This is ample evidence that Fianna Fáil not only take care of the fundamental requirements of ensuring that the economy expands but that they also arrange to ensure the optimum distribution of increased production in the country.

In face of this evidence, to say that this Government are devoid of a social conscience but that the Opposition parties have this conscience is the limit of effrontery and hypocrisy. It is not difficult for anybody to draft a document, such as the phony Just Society document, and to list what is desirable to do, but to implement all these proposals is a different thing. That is what Fianna Fáil have done and the present Budget is an outstanding example of the implementation of this social conscience. I do not think there is any point in referring to such ridiculous statements as that of Deputy Ryan that this is an implementation of the Fine Gael programme.

Partial implementation.

It is a continuation of what has been consistent Fianna Fáil policy as has been demonstrated during the years. As Deputy J. Lenehan pointed out, there is not any social welfare legislation on the Statute books except what was there from the British or what has been produced by Fianna Fáil. Any expanded or new services have been provided by Fianna Fáil, often in the teeth of opposition from the two parties opposite.

However, the fundamental point is that the capacity of the people to provide the money should be increased, and Fianna Fáil have made sure that happens. Each year we arrange to collect an increasing proportion of this increasing prosperity for redistribution to the section of the community who, for one reason or another, are unable to play an active part themselves in the greater production, but to promise increases without reference to economic growth, as the Opposition parties do, is a complete fraud.

The question of the £1,200 limit for compulsory insurability of non-manual employees was raised. This figure was introduced four years ago and as I pointed out at the time it has been the practice to relate this figure to the preceding figure and to try to cover a few years in advance as well as whatever deficiency has come about since the last figure was fixed. I agree that the time has come to have another look at that figure and in so far as the Department of Social Welfare are concerned there is no reason why there should be any limit on this figure, but the fact that the yardstick of insurability under the Social Insurance Acts is used for other purposes is the only difficulty as far as my Department is concerned.

We had, of course, the usual and to be expected so-called comparisons with other countries. We had the cry "Why must we be the last European country to do this?" This is completely wrong. We have not been the last European country to introduce any of these schemes covering various contingencies. It is a typically inaccurate Fine Gael denigration of this country to allege that the whole approach of the Department of Social Welfare has been to give as little as possible to as few as possible, but the facts completely disprove this. The facts show that any new scheme which has been introduced has been introduced by Fianna Fáil, and every extension of existing schemes has been carried out by Fianna Fáil.

I could give a brief run over the various aspects of existing and new schemes which have been introduced even in Fianna Fáil's last 12-year period in office but this would take up too much of the time of the House. I am not really interested in a recitation of what has been achieved in the past, but I just want to demonstrate to the House that this overall improvement in the allocation of our resources to social welfare has been taking place consistently. It is not true to say that the amount of contribution in the form of social insurance stamps here forms a higher percentage of expenditure than in any European country. On the contrary, the figures show the amount of State participation in social security is highest in Ireland of all the countries in Europe. I quote from Table 9 inThe Cost of Social Security, 1961-63 which was published by the ILO in 1967, which shows that the extent of State participation in Ireland was 67.7 per cent as against the next highest which was the UK, 47.1 per cent; Iceland 45.6 per cent; and the lowest, Switzerland, 6.9 per cent.

Would the Minister have any figures for employers' contributions in those countries?

No, I have not got them. But, as I think Deputy Dr. Browne pointed out, it is the consumer who pays it all eventually anyway in any country whether you have a socialistic system or not. I do not see any virtue in an excessive amount of this being raised by way of general taxation.

Are we to understand that the Minister accepts Deputy Dr. Browne's point?

I accept that part of what he said, that the total cost of social security is paid eventually by the consumer.

That applies to everything then?

Yes, and I do not see any particular virtue in raising it by way of general taxation rather than by way of contributions to social insurance stamps. It is a fact that the percentage contributed by the State here —contributed of course by the general taxpayer — to social insurance benefits is considerably higher than in most other countries. I do not see why that position should not be changed and that we should not have a more normal relationship as between the amounts contributed in the three different ways to the cost of social insurance. There may be a case for increasing the employer's proportion rather than the employee's. I would be inclined to go with that idea myself.

In regard to the question of the delay in meeting the payments, as Deputies know, this is due to the technical arrangements that have to be made and the fact that new arrangements have to be made for the issue of new pension books and the printing of a new social insurance stamp. All these things take time and it has been found that to do the job properly it takes until August to deal with the social assistance scheme and until January to deal with the social insurance.

A Fianna Fáil Minister was far better than that. Within days of the general election he restored, by telegram, the shilling that was cut by Mr. Ernest Blythe.

That was merely restoring something the previous government took away. It did not involve the complicated technicalities that are involved in giving a positive increase, which is what Fianna Fáil have been doing. It is not true, as Deputy Dr. O'Connell alleged, that the Department of Social Welfare is — I quote him as accurately as I can — orientated towards obstructing people from obtaining their rights. Certainly, when I was in the Department of Social Welfare previously I made every possible effort to bring it home to every social welfare officer in the country that the positive aspect of his job was much more important than the necessary aspect of ensuring that payments were made only in accordance with the laws that were passed by the Oireachtas. That is something that has to be done in the interest of equitable distribution of a limited amount of money, but I made it quite clear that any officer in the Department should consider it a much greater dereliction of duty if anybody failed to get something to which he was entitled rather than if somebody got something to which he was not entitled; that I completely deprecated the approach that the claiming and allocation of any form of social welfare payment was to be looked upon as a contest between the social welfare officer, on the one hand, and the claimant, on the other hand; that the approach should, instead, be to see if the law, as enacted by this House, could embrace the particular case of the person who was claiming benefit. I intend to ensure that that attitude persists and that it continues to be recognised that the most important function of the Department of Social Welfare is to ensure that everybody who is entitled to benefits will obtain them.

Deputy Dr. Browne continued where he left off four and a half years ago with this suggestion that by departing from the archaic principles on which we are alleged to rely benefits of a desirable amount could be provided. I am well aware that there are Deputies who consider it an archaic approach to accept that expenditure must be related to production, that real improvement in social welfare must depend on increased production, and that increased production requires continued investment and reasonable taxation levels. The experience has been that economic disaster follows from failure to appreciate this. Whether it is archaic or not that has been the experience, and it has also been the experience that in these conditions it is the weaker sections of the community who suffer most.

I do not think that anybody on this side of the House has ever approached this matter of income maintenance payments on the basis that they were gratuitous handouts from the Government. Of course, they are not. They are simply an adjustment of the national income in favour of people who, through no fault of their own, are not in a position to acquire their due share of whatever level of prosperity there is, and there is no question of charity involved that I can see. It is merely a question of social justice. I think everybody on this side of the House would like to see the levels of payment under the different schemes substantially increased, but we are faced with the practical position in which they can, in fact, realistically be related only to the overall level of earnings and, whether you have a socialist régime or any other kind of régime, these payments can only be paid from the people's earnings and can only be related to them.

I have no doubt that for Deputies who would like to see these payments substantially increased what Deputy Dr. Browne describes as the "recitation of cost" is rather boring and frustrating, but, unfortunately, when one is in a position in which one has to deal with these things rather than just talk about them the matter of the cost is a very relevant one, indeed, and one which cannot be ignored. Both Deputy Dr. Browne and Deputy Corish found that when they were members of a Government and were not able to produce anything even approaching our performance in regard to these social welfare payments.

They should not depend entirely on production.

Some of the payments the Deputy's Government could not touch at all and the Deputy's Government certainly could not produce anything approaching the relatively spectacular increases in these payments over the increase in the cost of living.

I concede to Deputy Desmond that this Bill does not demonstrate any great flights of imagination by the Fianna Fáil Party. That is because we have found that there is no point in imagining you have more money than you actually have and there is no point in imagining that the community can provide more than they can. Even yesterday it was, I think, fairly generally agreed that the level of taxation on the community was just about as high as it could be. The Opposition parties are free to imagine what they like. They are free to imagine that these payments can be increased at will. But the people are not prepared to accept that; the people have had experience of what comes of accepting that type of approach and they are obviously not prepared to take the risk of a similiarly irresponsible approach again.

It is not true to say that our social welfare system is far behind the social welfare systems in other European countries. I know that Opposition Deputies fondly imagine that to be so and, because they would like it to be so, they have apparently come to believe it. The fact is that we have substantially complete coverage of the various contingencies that are looked upon as being appropriate to cover by income maintenance schemes and the major problem so far as we are concerned is to increase the rates of payment under these schemes and, possibly, also to remove some anomalies and increase the scope in some cases. But the major problem is to increase the rates of payment and this can only be done according as the national income is increased. This, as I have shown, Fianna Fáil have been consistently doing and doing in a way which has not inhibited further economic growth.

Fianna Fáil also took the precaution of getting the British to look after 1,000,000 of our people in order to ease the burden.

A substantial number of whom went out under the Deputy's Government. So far as that is concerned, we have reached the position now where, for the first time since, I think, the Famine, the total population in the country is at last increasing, and has been increasing for some time, perhaps, at a slower rate than we would like, but definitely increasing. There is still a certain level of involuntary emigration, but even that has improved and, so long as the country is spared another Coalition experience, we can expect to continue in that way.

It is, I think, well known that the introduction of wage-related benefits is, in fact, contemplated. My predecessor made that clear on a number of occasions and I do not see why Deputies should advocate now something that has, in fact, been decided upon.

Has it been decided on?

In so far as children's allowances are concerned, this is, of course, as I have already pointed out, a scheme introduced by Fianna Fáil and developed only by Fianna Fáil. In making comparisons with other countries, such comparisons are valid only if one compares like with like. In some of the countries mentioned what are classified as children's allowances are actually part of the wage structure and are paid not by the government out of taxation but by the employers.

Deputy Bruton raised the question of the assessment of farm widows' means. It is not true to say that these are based on the valuation of the farm. The means are taken to be the yearly value of profits which she receives either from the working of the farm or from the letting of the farm and the rateable valuation does not enter into the picture at all.

Deputy Dr. Thornley advocated that increases in social welfare payments should be tied to the cost of living. I think the figures I have given show that it certainly would not be to the advantage of the recipients of social welfare had this been done in the past. I do not agree they should be tied to the cost of living. I think instead there should be a conscious allocation of increasing national income to social welfare recipients irrespective of increases in the cost of living and that, even if the cost of living does not increase in any particular year and the national income does, this exercise in the redistribution of income should take place because we are all agreed, I think, that the rates of payment are not yet at a satisfactory level and there is need to increase them relative to the cost of living.

If children's allowances were taken into the cost of living they might not be applied——

The one thing which convinces me that a Deputy has no real interest in social welfare and social justice is when he advocates the abolition of the means test because there is no other way of equitably distributing a limited amount of money among deserving people other than by having a means test. When Deputy Dr. Thornley advocates that the means test should be abolished what he is advocating, in so far as the present position of social welfare is concerned, is that the Minister should raise an additional £17½ million and allocate this to the Department of Social Welfare and that this £17½ million should be utilised, without giving one penny increase to those who are most in need. If Deputy Dr. Thornley succeeds in getting the people to accept his philosophy, then he can proceed, if he can get £17½ million extra, to utilise it to give it to the people who are not in as great need as others, to utilise it without giving one penny increase in the maximum rate of the old age pension, in the maximum rate of unemployment assistance and in the maximum rate of non-contributory widow's pension.

That may be Deputy Dr. Thornley's philosophy. He may think that would be the proper way to utilise an additional £17½ million but I do not and while Fianna Fáil are in office and while I am Minister for Social Welfare if I can get £17½ million I will not utilise it in that way. Deputy Dr. Thornley can wait until such time as he can persuade the people to accept his philosophy in order to perpetrate this monstrous injustice on people who are in need. I will certainly have no part of it and I immediately lose interest in the contribution to a debate such as this of any Deputy who advocates such a short-sighted and inhuman approach as Deputy Dr. Thornley did.

He is young yet.

Speak up, Johnny.

This has been described by Deputy Collins as an election gimmick and the Budget was described as an election Budget. There must always be a Budget preceding or succeeding a general election. So far as this Government are concerned we feel that the responsible thing to do is to introduce the Budget before dissolving the Dáil, to face up to the task of imposing whatever taxation appears to be necessary and to do that before the election rather than do what the Opposition do, run away from their responsibilities, dissolve the Dáil before the Budget and leave the mess to be cleared up by the incoming Government. We introduced the Budget at the usual time and the Budget consisted of the normal exercise that Fianna Fáil have been carrying out at Budget time over the past 12 years, of an assessment of the capacity of the community to provide money for different social welfare services both in my Department and in others and of making the necessary fiscal arrangements to collect that money whether by way of insurance contributions or by way of taxation.

That is what we did this year, what we did last year and what we did every year and what we will continue to do and if Opposition Deputies think that that renewed evidence of Fianna Fáil's social conscience was partly responsible for their failure in the general election, well, that cannot be helped. We introduced the Budget at the proper time and then dissolved the Dáil in response, it can be said, to appeals from Opposition Deputies. Indeed, one of the inducements held out was by the leader of the main Opposition Party that he would act as chauffeur to the Taoiseach for his journey to the park to ask that the Dáil be dissolved. The Budget was introduced in the normal way and at the normal time.

The increase in children's allowances for a family of six children to £10 a month does not make any impression on Deputy Dr. O'Donovan but the increases in the allowance does make a considerable impression on the taxpayer because it is costing £5.278 million which is quite a considerable amount. Because the children's allowances scheme is such an expensive scheme, covering as it does the whole population, it is difficult to make adjustments to it as often as to the other social welfare schemes. Of course, the level of children's allowances has to be considered in conjunction with wage increases and with increases in the other social welfare schemes and also in conjunction with the fact that the rates of payment to other social welfare schemes are increased in respect of child dependants as well. There is no point in trying to allege that because children's allowances may not have kept pace completely with the cost of living the recipients of them have suffered in their standard of living to that extent. Of course, they have not because wages have increased and the other social welfare schemes have also increased.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 22nd July, 1969.