Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Unemployment Assistance.

16.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will outline the circumstances which led to the disallowance of unemployment assistance to three residents (names supplied) of the itinerants settlement camp, Drumgoola, Enniscorthy, County Wexford.

The persons concerned were in receipt of unemployment assistance on the basis of low or "Nil" means assessments. Following a report received in my Department that the persons in question had acquired motor vans and were engaged in trading using the vans, re-investigations of their means were recently undertaken. As a result of these inquiries the deciding officer decided that each of the persons concerned, by failing to furnish particulars of his means as required by the Unemployment Assistance Acts and regulations, had failed to show that his means do not exceed the statutory limit appropriate to his case.

The effect of these decisions was that the qualification certificates were withdrawn and payment of unemployment assistance ceased in each case with effect from 16 February, 1972. Each of the persons concerned appealed against the decision in his case.

The appeals officer has allowed the appeals, and payment of unemployment assistance is being resumed in each case immediately with effect from the date of suspension.

I am advised, however, that the appeals were allowed in the absence, so far, of sufficient information to enable revised assessment of means to be made. Investigations into the means of the persons concerned will continue and the unemployment assistance position of the applicants may be subject to revision by the deciding authorities in the light of the outcome of the further inquiries.

17.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will arrange that no court proceedings will be taken against a number of small holders in South Kerry who were overpaid unemployment assistance under the small farmers scheme because they left their working capital for safety in a bank or post office and were not aware that it was necessary to disclose it; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Unemployment Assistance Acts provide that if, for the purpose of obtaining a qualification certificate or any payment of unemployment assistance or of avoiding the making of any repayment under the Acts, any person makes any statement or representation, whether written or verbal, which is to his knowledge false or misleading in any material respect or conceals any material fact, he is guilty of an offence under those Acts and becomes liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding £50 or to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three months. The Acts also provide that a person is liable to repay unemployment assistance improperly received and give power to recover the overpayment by court proceedings or by deduction from any unemployment assistance to which the person subsequently becomes entitled.

In accordance with those provisions, it is the responsibility of my Department to ensure proper disbursement of payments under the unemployment assistance scheme, and, consequently, to take all necessary steps to detect and eliminate abuses of the scheme. It is accordingly the long-standing practice to bring prosecution and/or civil proceedings where the facts so warrant and evidence to ground proceedings is available.

Having regard to the law and practice in the matter, to do as the Deputy suggests in the cases he refers to would amount to discriminatory enforcement of the law.