Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Welfare Minimum Income Proposal.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he accepts the concept of a guaranteed minimum income for all; if so, the plans he has to introduce this concept into the social welfare system.

The concept of a guaranteed minimum income for all has been proposed as a way of integrating the social welfare and income tax systems. There are a number of ways in which this can be done. Generally speaking, however, what is involved is a guarantee to every person in the State of the certain level of income entirely apart from their tax liabilities.

The Commission on Social Welfare examined such proposals and assessed their relevance as strategies for social welfare provision in this country. They concluded, however, that any attempt to introduce such totally new approaches, even if desirable in principle, would raise intractable transitional problems, given the extent of the existing system and the accumulated rights and entitlements already in existence. They also considered that there are clear advantages in building on elements which already exist. Apart from these practical considerations, they referred to the inherent cost of such schemes and the fact that they constitute an inflexible method of meeting income needs. They also noted that none of these schemes has been introduced in other countries.

I am just saying what they noted. We have given a commitment in our Programme for National Recovery to streamline social welfare administration and at this stage I do not wish to rule out any approach to achieving this aim. However, my initial reaction is that an approach based on a guaranteed minimum income system irrespective of circumstances is unlikely to be a practical proposition in the immediate future.

I am increasingly depressed by the Minister's lack of interest in discriminating positively in favour of those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder. Would the Minister not agree that there is urgent need to discriminate positively and make special provision for those who are on £34 and £35 per week? Does he not agree that some steps should be taken to establish a reasonable minimum for the really poor?

That is a different question. It is not the one the Deputy asked. The Deputy asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he accepts the concept of a guaranteed income for all.

And you do not?

For all.

How could I do that for all? That is the question that was looked at by the commission.

It said nothing and nothing changed.

A different question would be one of a basic minimum for people on the lowest incomes or people in particular categories or circumstances.

Does the Minister accept that he is being semantic and playing with words in order to avoid the issue? I will ask a more precise question. Does the Minister agree that, as a matter of principle, a certain minimum payment for those on the social welfare code should be provided as soon as possible?

The Deputy did not ask that question——

The Minister is wriggling.

The Deputy put down the wrong question. Deputy McCartan had a question down about which possibly Deputy Mitchell is talking——

Will the Minister answer the question which I should have put down?

Deputy McCartan tabled Question No. 6 today which asks the Minister for Social Welfare if he will introduce a statutory right to a basic minimum level of unemployment assistance for all employed adults. That is an entirely different question from that of Deputy Mitchell. Furthermore, Deputy Mitchell's question has been considered and that is why a certain amount of confusion has been caused by the way the question is framed. If the Deputy is asking a supplementary question to the one he put down, I am very anxious to ensure that people on the lowest levels of income would have an adequate basic wage.

If that is the case why is the Minister proposing to delete the provision in the Social Welfare Bill of the living alone allowance for those over 45 years of age in receipt of £36 per week?

That is a separate question.

He should be concerned about that group of people.

Perhaps the Deputy can take up that matter in the context of the Bill.

The Minister has no concern for the poor.