asked the Minister for Social Welfare if it is proposed to bring social welfare benefits into line with those payable in EEC countries and so allay the fears of old age pensioners, widows, unemployment benefit recipients, et cetera; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
I have previously explained that there is a wide variety of social security systems in the member countries of the EEC. There is, therefore, no single standard to which Ireland would have to conform on accession.
As I indicated to the House on 23rd March last, the Government will, so far as necessary, draw on the substantial net saving on agricultural subsidies which will result from entry to the Community, to cushion for those in receipt of social welfare payments the effects on living costs resulting from any increase in the price of essential commodities following entry, and, in any event, to improve the standards of social welfare generally.
Will the Minister have in mind the subsidisation of foodstuffs to our own people to bring about a reduction in the cost of certain items of food?
That is a totally separate question for another Minister.
Will the Minister not agree that, while there are significant differences between social welfare benefits in these countries, taken together the level of benefits is very much higher, in a higher range altogether, than they are here and that in the case of children's allowances, they are at such a different level that one can say that the share of national income devoted to them in these countries is two to four times what it is here and that, while one cannot bring our benefits into line completely with those of more wealthy countries, there should be some relationship between the wealth of this country and the benefits we provide in the form of social welfare?
Nobody disputes this. We totally agree.
Would the Minister take action to increase our children's allowances by something between two to four times to bring them into the same relationship with the GNP in which family allowances are in these other countries?
I have said several times here that we will take every action possible to bring all our services into line with something more in keeping with the average of the existing member states.
A characteristic non-answer.
Why did you not increase the allowances this year? You talked enough about it but did nothing?
I gave the answer and the correct one.