Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 6 Jun 1923

Vol. 1 No. 24


With your permission, A Leas Chathaoirligh, and the permission of the Seanad, I wish to raise a question as to the manner in which this Bill has come before the Seanad certified as a Money Bill.


I suggest to Senator Linehan that it is not strictly in order to discuss the certificate of a Money Bill when we are taking a Bill in Committee. I expect that the Cathaoirleach will be present in about half an hour, and it is quite likely that as a matter of urgency he will allow a discussion on the matter. In any case we could discuss the matter now if we liked, but we have no power of appeal, as the three days have elapsed since the passage of the Bill. We have no constitutional power to do anything in the matter, and I would suggest to the Senator that he should leave the matter over and raise it as soon as we have taken the Committee Stage. We can then consider whether a way can be found of discussing the matter.

I am quite willing to adopt the suggestion, but I would point out that it was the seventh day after the Bill had been passed by Dáil Eireann that it was received by the Seanad, and that it would be physically impossible for the Seanad to avail of the provisions of Article 25 of the Constitution and lodge an appeal, which they would have, in my opinion, lodged had they sufficient time to do so.

Sections 1 to 9 agreed to.
(1) For the purpose of securing that like rates of benefit shall be payable under any Special Scheme made under Section 18 of the Principal Act as are payable under this Act, and that the benefits under such Special Scheme shall otherwise be not less favourable than those provided by the general provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1920 to 1922, as amended by this Act, but for no other purpose, the Minister may, by Order made after consultation with the body charged with the administration of such Special Scheme, alter the terms and provisions of any such Special Scheme in such manner as shall appear to the Minister to be necessary to carry out the purpose aforesaid.
(2) Wherever any Special Scheme made under Section 18 of the Principal Act and before the passing of this Act applies to or includes persons employed in Saorstát Eireann as well as persons employed elsewhere, the Minister may by Order exclude from the application of such Special Scheme persons employed in Saorstát Eireann, and thereupon every person so excluded shall become subject to the general provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1920 to 1922, as amended by this Act in such manner as shall be prescribed by such Order.

I beg to move the recommendation standing in the name of Senator Jameson:—Section 10, Sub-section 2, to omit the words "and before the passing of this Act" in the second line.

Recommendation put and agreed to.

I beg to move:

Section 10, Sub-section (2): To add after this Sub-section a new Sub-section (3), as follows:—

(3) The Council of any County, County Borough or Urban District, that prepares and puts into operation a Scheme of Public Utility, e.g., housing, drainage, sewage, hill cutting, or road repairing, having the approval of the Minister of Local Government, shall have refunded to them out of the unemployment fund the benefits that would be paid to workers employed under the Scheme, had no such Scheme been in force.

Any such Scheme shall be carried out by direct labour, and men on the unemployment list shall be given first preference of the work.

I do so for the purpose of seeing that employment is given to the men drawing the dole instead of having them standing at the corners. I am satisfied that 80 per cent. of the men drawing the dole are really looking for work, and I think it would be much less demoralising if employment such as is suggested were given rather than to have them standing around. The Monaghan County Council have prepared a scheme—it is at their request that I set down this recommendation—that will provide for a good deal of drainage in the county. Drainage is a very serious question in County Monaghan, and I think that a scheme such as this, that will make this money available for some public work, instead of having it distributed as it is at present, is a thing that should meet with the approval of the Seanad.

I must oppose this recommendation. It is an attempt to bring back into the Bill provisions which were dropped out of the Bill in the Dáil. It is true that they are brought back in a different form, but the objections to this are almost equally as strong as they were to the original provisions. The proposal here means that a worker should hand over to the County Council or any other public body the benefit to which he is entitled under the Unemployment Insurance Act without any guarantee of the permanency of the employment at which he is asked to work. That would mean that between now and October a man might get a maximum of 15 weeks' employment. He would, by that time, have exhausted his benefit, and he would have nothing to carry forward to his credit after the 17th October. When that time arrived the public body could dispense with his services and he would be left absolutely penniless. There is also the great danger that public bodies might take advantage of this in order to draw upon the Unemployment Insurance Fund for the purpose of effecting improvements or doing work that should rightly be burdened upon the rates—for instance, road-repairing. The Monaghan Co. Council or other bodies might take advantage of this to draw upon this Fund to relieve the rates of liabilities from which they have no right to relieve them. I quite agree that some assistance should be given for the purpose of promoting schemes of a public utility character in order to give employment, but that money must not come out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. For that reason I hope the Seanad will turn down this recommendation which, even if it were acceptable, is a very loose and dangerous one, and one which it would be extremely undesirable to pass.

Senator O'Rourke possibly may not have been aware that in the Bill, as originally introduced, there was a Section which read as follows:—

The Minister may by Order approve of any agreement between an employer and an insured contributor or contributors whereby such employer agrees to take into or retain in his employment the insured contributor or contributors on work which in the opinion of the Minister is work of public utility, subject to an amount equal to the weekly amount which each such insured contributor would, but for such agreement, be entitled to receive as Unemployment Benefit, being paid weekly by the Minister to the employer for so long as each such insured contributor would otherwise be entitled to receive unemployment benefit, and such Order shall provide that the period for which each such insured contributor would otherwise be entitled to receive Unemployment Benefit during the first benefit year shall be reduced by one week or part of a week in respect of each week or part of a week in which such amount is paid by the Minister to the employer.

Owing to very strong opposition in the Dáil that section was withdrawn from the Bill. Now, Senator O'Rourke's recommendation would be that the Dáil should adopt a section which would make still more stringent demands on public funds for while he would have us paying out of the Unemployment Fund for works of public utility he would, at the same time, leave the Unemployment Fund liable to pay unemployment benefit to those people who, on the completion of the works, might be disemployed. We would still be held liable for unemployment benefit. As the Senator will see that would involve a further increased demand on public funds, and I am afraid in the Dáil the Government would hardly be able to recommend its acceptance.

I do not quite grasp the situation. Senator O'Rourke suggests that men who get this public dole or benefit should do something for it. It would appear to me that that is only reasonable. The Minister stated that the Fund would be depleted in the first instance. If Senator O'Rourke's suggestion is carried out it means that the Fund could not be depleted, because if they do not do some work they would have to get the dole all the same. I think in the national interests it is expected that every man, if he is a healthy man, and physically fit, ought to do something for the money he receives. I am a long time in this world, and I never yet found that there was any substitute for work, and I do not believe that with all the experiments and all the artificial means that there are that there is such a substitute. I think Senator O'Rourke's suggestion is a very wise and a very prudent one. We find that this dole has a demoralising effect, and my experience as an employer is that a man who has been six months out of work is very little use when he resumes. I think though the Dáil has had the power to take out of the Bill the section the Minister referred to, the Seanad is still left with some fragment of power, and that they ought to refuse to accept the Bill as it stands.

I must again point out to Senators that the Unemployment Benefit received by people unemployed is not a charitable dole When Senators are talking about doing work for the dole I want them to understand that when an unemployed worker receives unemployment benefit, he is receiving what he subscribed to receive. Workers insure themselves against unemployment just the same as people insure themselves against any other risk, and there is no question of a charitable dole at all. The people who happen to be unemployed receive insurance that they provided for against unemployment. The proposal before the Seanad is to enable Co. Councils, or other public bodies who would undertake works of public utility to be refunded from the Unemployment Insurance Fund the amount of contributions or insurance benefit that would have to be paid to the workers if they were unemployed.

It means, as Senator O'Farrell has pointed out, that during a period when a man would be working under such a scheme he might be working the whole period during which he would be entitled to receive unemployment benefit, and then be dispensed with and have no unemployment benefit to receive. That is the danger. From the Labour standpoint we could not accept any scheme that would introduce such a system. Senator O'Dea spoke of there being no substitute for work. Well, there are a great many people thriving pretty well without working. Senator O'Dea also stated that a person six months away from work, in his experience, never applied for work again.

I did not say that.

They were unfit for work. That must be the reason why people who are fortunate enough to escape having to work never wish to go to work. I hope the Seanad will not pass this recommendation. It is only a recommendation, as in this Bill we have no power to amend. As the Minister has pointed out, in the original draft of the Bill provisions of a somewhat similar kind to those we are now discussing were embodied, but they were even more far-reaching than the present proposals, because, if I understand it aright, there was underlying the proposal in the original draft Bill a provision whereby not only County Councils but private employers could take advantage of such a scheme. In my opinion it would be a very dangerous practice to put into operation. You cannot do business on subsidies. A business has either got to be a paying concern or, if you start to subsidise one particular industry, we will have to live like the Chinese by taking in one another's washing.

With reference to the remark of the last Senator, that this contribution by the workers is paid in the light of an insurance, that it was analogous to any other ordinary insurance against risks of fire and life, I do not think that is so. It would not work out at all, as the figures work out in either life or fire insurance. They work, as we know, on a system of averages, and premiums are put on accordingly, with the result that these life and fire offices make a very considerable profit. I hope it is not intended to suggest that the State is making very considerable profit in connection with Unemployment Insurance, considering that we have had figures given to us at the last session that, over and above the contributions by both employers and employees, the State has to find £250,000 a year, and a further £100,000 for administration. The total contributions were given here at £35,000 per month, which would amount to £420,000 a year. I suppose, roughly, one-half of that is paid by the employers. If the employers pay a couple of hundred thousand pounds, the figures then would be that as against about £200,000 paid by the employers, the whole cost to the State would be £350,000, and with the employers £200,000 it would be £550,000, as against £200,000 paid by the employes. So that from these figures it would appear the workers' contributions are subsidised by the State, or the employers, or both, to the extent of about £350,000, or nearly 2 to 1.

In regard to the other questions of inducing capitalists, land owners, and others, in some way to engage in remunerative work, work in connection with their farms and their estates, which will not be immediately remunerative and which ordinarily they would not enter upon, such as drainage works, reclamation of waste land, and tree-planting, I think, in the present distressed condition of the country it would be entirely to the interest of the workers that the State should, in some way or other, give some margin to induce land owners and capitalists to engage in this class of work and to open up work which will otherwise not be opened up. I have in mind some large tracts near populous centres where unemployment is very rife, and where I can see no difficulty in the State entering into arrangements with the owners of, say, a tract of waste or marshy land, which can be drained by gravitation, and making some advance to the owners which could be repaid—the interest and redemption— over a period of years, so that it will eventually cost the State nothing at all. Some arrangement could be made with these land owners for reclaiming these tracts, giving immediate employment on a very large scale, and relieving these centres of unemployment, which are on the margin of these tracts, or within a short distance of them. I said here before that you could not expect men to walk 6, 8 or 10 miles to such work each day, but with motor lorries the difficulty would be overcome at once. A few motor lorries would transport these men there and back to their homes in the evening, leaving them at a central point where they would be within very easy reach of their homes every night. There does seem to be a great opportunity of breaking the back of this unemployment problem by schemes such as I have mentioned being undertaken by the State in co-operation with capitalists, whose property would benefit. I think that in their own interests and the interests of the State there ought not to be any great opposition to any suggestion offered by way of a contribution towards that scheme, from the unemployment fund or otherwise.

Recommendation put, and on a show of hands, declared lost by 14 to 12.

Have we the power to ask for a division in the ordinary way?



I think it is desirable that the names should be recorded.

On a point of procedure, this motion, by general consent, has been put and declared lost on a show of hands. I take it, that inasmuch as the matter is decided it is merely for the purpose of recording the names that the Division is now asked for?


The Senator is under a misapprehension. When a Division is called, the matter is not then decided, and the Division on the calling of the names is the actual decision, and will be the record of the Seanad. If you read the Standing Orders you will see that the Chairman may declare the matter carried or lost in his opinion, and he may if he chooses under our Standing Orders ask for a show of hands, and if any Senator then challenges that and asks that there be a Division it is obligatory on the Chairman to have a Division. That Division will be a record, and will be binding on the Seanad.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 15 15; Níl, 15.

  • Barrington, William
  • Butler, Richard
  • Counihan, John C.
  • de Loughrey, Peter
  • Keane, Sir John, Bart.
  • Kenny, Patrick Will ams
  • Linehan, Thomas
  • Love, Joseph Clayton
  • McEvoy, Edward
  • MacKean, James
  • MacLoughlin, John
  • Molloy, William John
  • O'Dea, Micheal
  • O'Rourke, Bernard
  • Power, Mrs. Jane Wyse


  • Bennett, Thomas Westropp
  • Costello, Mrs. Eileen
  • Desart, Ellen Odette, Dowager Countess of
  • Duffy, Michael
  • Everard, Sir Nugent Talbot
  • Farren, Thomas
  • Griffiths, Sir John Purser, M.A.I., M. Inst. C.E.
  • Guinness, Henry Seymour
  • Irwin, Cornelius Joseph
  • MacLysaght, Edward
  • MacPartlin, Thomas
  • O'Farrell, John Thomas
  • Poe, Col. Sir William Hutcheson, Bart., K.C.B.
  • Wicklow, Earl of, D.L.
  • Yeats, William Butler.
Recommendation declared lost.


I give my casting vote against the recommendation.

I move: "To insert after Section 10 a new Section 11, as follows:-11. ‘The Minister shall have power by Special Order to exclude from the operation of the Principal Act employment under any County Council where such Council have formulated a scheme to be approved of by the Minister under which the employees of such Council shall obtain weekly benefits of not less amount on the whole than the weekly benefits provided by the Principal Act or by this Act, and when any such Special Order is made after the passing of this Act such Special Order shall apply and take effect as from the 8th day of November, 1920.'"

I have been asked by the Co. Council of Cork, which is the largest area of any County for administrative purposes in Ireland, to put forward this recommendation. This body is composed of a considerable number of Labour representatives as well as representatives of other sections of the community. According to a letter which I have received from them, and which I will read, they appear to be unanimously in favour of this Clause being inserted in the Bill, so that they may take up the question of unemployment themselves, and provide their own insurance scheme for dealing with the question of unemployment. The letter which I got is as follows:—

"I am desired by the Cork County Council to request you kindly to use your influence towards having the Unemployment Insurance Bill, 1923, altered or amended by the insertion of a Clause exempting County Councils from liability under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, provided that they formulate schemes that will give weekly benefits to their employees at least equal, and not less in value, than the benefits conferred by the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and submit said scheme for the sanction of the Ministry.

"The Cork County Council having gone very fully into this matter, and considered the views of their employees and the members representing Labour, are convinced that a scheme can be submitted for this county that will be more advantageous to both employee and ratepayer, and cost much less in the aggregate than the contributions under the Act would entail.

"In this connection I am desired to state that the bulk of the employees of the County Council on the Roads and Public Works in the Rural Districts are persons who, from time to time, are engaged in agriculture, and live in labourers' cottages. Some work in the spring and harvest seasons for farmers, others at their own acre plots, and there are also a number of small farmers' sons who work on the holdings of their parents, and all these are exempt from the provisions of the Unemployment Acts while engaged at agricultural work.

"I presume it is unnecessary for me to state that the County Council do not desire that any person in their employment should be placed in any worse position, but, quite the contrary, for the Council are convinced that the contributions under the Unemployment Acts would be out of proportion to the wages the men are receiving in the Rural Districts, that these contributions would not confer any practical advantage on them, and would be a tax they could ill afford to bear.

"Trusting that this matter will receive your favourable consideration and support."

I think that explains the object with which I proposed this amendment, and I respectfully submit it for the favourable consideration of the Seanad.

My idea of an insurance scheme is that it is similar to any other insurance scheme, accident or otherwise, and that the employees, as well as the employers, contribute towards it. Therefore, I think it would not be in the power of Parliament to appropriate the fund for any purpose other than the purpose for which the scheme is designed, without the consent of the parties contributing. It is true that the State, owing to the exceptional amount of unemployment that existed, have had to contribute to make up the deficiency. They contribute in the form of a grant, and anybody opposed to the grant, at the time it was made, could have opposed it; but, on the other hand, the grant having been made, it is a matter entirely for those who are contributing to see how the money should be applied and whether any deviation is to be made from the regulations as regards the scheme between employers and employed. A way out of the difficulty, to my mind, so as not to have a tax on the State, would be to appeal to public bodies and employers, large and small, who have in their minds necessary schemes of work to be carried out, that now is the time to carry them out, because in carrying them out you would be conferring a great benefit on the State in general by relieving unemployment; they would also be conferring a benefit on those to be relieved by taxation, because if the amount of unemployment is lessened it will not then be necessary for the State to come to the aid of this insurance fund which, probably, will be, as it was originally designed, sufficient to bear the burden that would be thrown upon it. If the Oireachtas took up the question by making this appeal to employers and public bodies, railways, and all the big and small institutions to endeavour to give all the employment possible, I think it would have a good effect. A large number of schemes have been withheld within the last six or seven years, withheld for various reasons so obvious to us that it is not necessary to recount them. One reason in particular was that the cost of materials was so high—it was excessive, I might say, until recently—but now it is down in many cases to almost pre-war level. There are a large number of buildings that require to be rebuilt and railway roads to be repaired. It would be not only a good and a proper thing to do these works, but it would be a patriotic thing to endeavour to carry out all the work possible. This would help to do away with the unemployment question. The unemployment that would continue in existence could be met out of the unemployment fund, and not out of a grant from the State.

I think we must all agree that every effort should be made by the Government to make this unemployment fund balance its account and, so to speak, make it self-supporting. The readiest way to do that is to relieve the claims upon it by finding profitable forms of work. I do not refer to the moral, the ennobling, value of work, important as it is. I was very much surprised to hear it voiced from the Labour benches that subsidies are now intended to be encouraged. I do not know whether that will also apply to housing, which cannot be made practicable at all except by a large measure of public assistance. With regard to this fund generally, I would urge that the Seanad labours under a great disadvantage from insufficient information, and that the question of full information has an important bearing upon a statement recently made by Senator O'Farrell when he stressed the point that this dole, or whatever you like to call it—payment for unemployment—is in no way in the nature of charity or subsidy. Of course, if the fund balances itself, it is not. I would like to point out, in connection with the fund, that it is receiving very large sums. I understand, subject to the correction of the Minister, that the amount received last year was half a million of money to enable the fund to be carried on, and that it is to receive another two hundred thousand pounds this year. There is another point that would have a bearing on this question. That is, the cost of the working expenses which we may expect will stand in the region of another one hundred thousand pounds. That is another avenue that might be explored, whether these working expenses are not inordinately high. They take chiefly two forms, clerical labour and office investigation. I suggest that in some cases the information, or the want of information to verify cases under investigation, is of a somewhat perfunctory and inadequate character, and that as a result, an evasion of the provisions of this Act is very often possible, and that the supervision on the part of the local inspectors wants a tightening up. I wish the Government would give the Seanad some indication of its policy in the direction outlined by Senator Kenny, because that is the method which is in operation in England. I do not say it is right or wrong. In England a large amount of unemployment has been relieved by grants, or whatever you like to call them, in aid of productive work. In some cases, I think, the grant in aid is as much as one-third of the total cost. As regards schemes for water supplies, drainage, afforestation, etc., which appear to be satisfactorily and properly done, the State will contribute a certain proportion of the cost of such sums as appear to be sensible and right. I am sure the Minister will feel that it is due to the Seanad to give us an indication of what the Government policy is on that main issue. It would not be fair, under the circumstances, to call a contribution in aid of productive work by the name of a subsidy. It would be far better—I was surprised to hear the opposite view from the Labour benches, a view which I do not think is supported by Labour throughout the country—that labour should earn its wage, and earn it by actual work rather than be paid an inadequate wage for doing nothing.

The recommendation of Senator Linehan commends itself to me very much indeed, that is that the Ministers shall have power by certain Orders to do certain things. Apparently the county, to which Senator Linehan refers, has in mind a large scheme, a large reproductive scheme for employment in the County of Cork. They feel apparently that for that purpose it would be within their power to have a local endowment scheme which, in the course of events, would contrast itself with a National scheme, and for that purpose would be very instructive.


at this stage took the chair.

He pointed out that there were a great number of labourers in Cork who were employed for a very short period of the year in occupations that bring them under the aegis of the Unemployment Act, and that in that way the tendency of the Co. Council will be, as far as possible, not to employ men who are insurable under the Unemployment Act, and to limit themselves to people who are not so insurable. That, to my mind, would be disastrous for the labourers of the Co. Cork. There is another element in it that appeals to me. Local initiative is, to my mind, very advantageous in Ireland at the present moment. Here you leave it in the power of the Minister to allow a Council that is progressive and determined to keep its "end up," so to speak, to procure in its area a fund that will relieve unemployment, and to endow a scheme and make it workable which will be to its advantage to prevent unemployment, because if there is employment there will be no dole. Consequently, the local scheme will be most advantageous from the money point of view. That being so, I think it is well we should recommend that these schemes should be put forward. There can be no danger in this, because the final arbiter of the value of the scheme would be the Minister, and if the Minister and his advisers are not satisfied that the scheme is sound he will not put it forward.

Unless I am greatly mistaken, the main provisions of this recommendation are provided for already under the principal Act. At all events, I think it gives power to the Minister to exclude the employees of Public Boards or authorities whose permanency of employment is guaranteed, except in the case of misconduct, etc. I do not see what the effect of extending this provision back to the 8th November, 1920, would be, particularly in the case of counties like Clare, where they have not been paying unemployment contributions, and making any special provision for men unemployed. Also what would be the effect in the case of men employed in Cork who eventually went to another county where no such provisions were made? If, through force of circumstances a man was obliged to go to another county and was unable to find employment immediately, I take it the Cork Council would not accept responsibility once the man had left Cork, and there would be no provision for such a man during the period until he got work. I am sorry that Senator Sir John Keane should take the opportunity of making a speech on this recommendation that rightly applied to another amendment, and used it for the purpose of misinterpreting the statement made by a Senator on this side, I want to state distinctly our objections to certain proposals are that any work should be found in the way in which it was proposed it should be found, that is, by robbing the Unemployment Insurance Fund by taking away from it. We are anxious, and have advocated, that unemployment should be relieved by the promotion of works of public or national utility, and every man who is out of work would prefer to have employment and draw an ordinary reasonable wage rather than be unemployed, and paid out of what is popularly and wrongly termed the "dole." Why that should be interpreted as meaning that we are against a man working at all I find it hard to understand. We do object altogether to unemployment contributions, or benefits to which a man is rightly entitled because of the contribution made on his behalf, being handed over to employers for the purpose of securing cheap labour. That is the ground-work of our objection. It is really beside the amendment under discussion, but Senator Sir John Keane was allowed to proceed on that ground, and I think it only right to put forward arguments from our side in the other direction.

There are just a few remarks I should like to make in reference to the statement made by Senator Sir John Keane before dealing with the principal recommendation moved by Senator Linehan. Senator Sir John Keane left me to understand—and I hope I may have misunderstood him, but the public might misunderstand if I have not misunderstood him—that the schemes of productive work in England are largely schemes financed from the funds available from Unemployment Benefit. That is not so.

I never meant it I only meant that public moneys were used to finance those schemes, and so indirectly to ease the strain upon the Unemployment fund. That is what I meant.

Then I must apologise to the Senator. I did misunderstand him. That makes the matter quite clear. Moneys made available for those productive works in England are not moneys provided from any fund which the scheme of National Unemployment Insurance is meant to set up. The Senator made another statement which would affect the staff of our Ministry very directly. He said he understood investigations made when Unemployment benefits were sought were of a perfunctory nature. I assure Senator Sir John Keane that the several cases which have come directly under the notice of the Ministry with regard to complaints about procedure in investigating certain cases made it quite plain that investigation had not been perfunctory but that the allegations made by certain complaining parties were very perfunctory. We have not been able to discover any discrepancy worth speaking of; and I should like to bear testimony to the efficiency of the staff of the various Labour Exchanges throughout the country. With regard to the point which Senator O'Farrell mentioned, he said he did not understand why it was sought to make the recommendation of Senator Linehan apply back to November 8, 1920. I think we can understand that. Certain of the County Councils owe, and are liable for, something between £50,000 and £60,000 to the Unemployment fund. That possibly would be the reason why it was sought to make the recommendation apply back as far as November 8, 1920.

Now, what is the position. The unemployed under these County Councils have been receiving benefit from the Unemployed Fund. We have not closed the fund against people down there owing to the abnormal state of the times. But are County Councils who have loyally subscribed to the Fund during these difficult couple of years through which we have passed, and are private employers who have subscribed to the Fund during these two years, to be mulcted in order to make up for the deficiencies of County Councils such as Cork and some few others? I do not think that would be fair or equitable treatment. The fact is we have here a scheme of Unemployment Insurance, national in its scope, extending to the whole nation. I think if it be examined it will be found that such a scheme as that is likely to work out far more economically than if we had a number of local schemes working. How did the scheme work out when employment might be considered normal? In 1919, it may surprise Senators to learn, there was a surplus of £22,000,000 in the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The abnormal unemployment resulting on the cessation of European hostilities and because of the abnormal situation that has existed in Ireland, depleted that Fund in Ireland for a time. The Fund has what we may call an overdraft, but we do hope that with the return of normal conditions to Ireland the Fund will again become a Fund with a very large margin to its credit. At the present moment, while things are bad enough here in Ireland— we have an overdraft, I think, of £750,000, or shall have when this Bill is put into operation and we have extended all its benefits—what is the position in England? If I mistake not, the overdraft on the Unemployment Insurance Fund in England runs into £15,000,000. I do not think after all that the outlook is too dark for us here. With regard to Senator Linehan's recommendation, I cannot take the view that the recommendation is so innocuous as Senator O'Farrell would think it to be. It goes much further than the Principal Act goes. The Principal Act contains, in paragraph 2 of the First Schedule, power to the Minister to except from the operation of the Act certain employees of local authorities, "where the Minister certifies that a person employed under a local authority is not subject to dismissal except for misconduct or negligence in the performance of, or unfitness to perform his duties, and that the terms and conditions under which he is engaged make it necessary that he should be insured under this Act, such person is excepted from the operation of the Act." In other words, employees of a local authority whose employment is of a permanent character are liable to be excepted. That is the case at present. Senator Linehan's recommendation goes further than that. His recommendation would apply the provisions of Section 18 of the Principal Act to each County Council and put a County Council in the position in which, under Section 18, a whole industry may be put of having a special scheme of insurance of its own and of contracting out of the Principal Act. Under Section 5 of the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1921, power to allow any such special scheme under Section 18 to be made is suspended during the period over which the Unemployment Fund remains in debt, and the considerations necessitating this suspension apply with equal force to such contracting out as is contemplated in Senator Linehan's recommendation. The rates of contribution under the Act and the rates of benefit have been fixed with a view to restoring the solvency of the Unemployment Fund as rapidly as possible, consistent with the possible rate of reduction in unemployment. To narrow the section from which contributions to the Fund are drawn, by excluding County Councils, would involve an increase in the contributions from other contributors, employers and employees.

The whole scheme of Unemployment Insurance embodies the principle that it is reasonable that employers and employees, in cases where unemployment is relatively small, should bear their share of the provision that has to be made for others less fortunately placed, from the point of view of work and economical work, than they are. The whole scheme is a national scheme. One part of the nation is more happily circumstanced than another, and that part of the nation, or that section of the community which finds itself so happily circumstanced can hardly complain if sections of the community less favourably circumstanced insist that they should fall into line in a National Insurance Scheme. We must look at this Unemployment Insurance Scheme from a national point of view. Reasonable exceptions are made for people who are permanently employed by County Councils, and I am afraid that I shall have to oppose Senator Linehan's recommendation very strongly.

As I was interested in this matter I should like to ask the Assistant Minister if he could let us know if the £22,000,000 he mentioned is in English or Irish funds. He also said that certain County Councils which had already robbed, so to speak, by withholding their just contributions, would by this amendment of Senator Linehan be empowered to withhold grants, or that it would render them not liable for the grants already withheld. I am astonished at the Minister's statement, as what Senator Linehan simply asks is, that the Minister shall have power by special order to do certain things. Is it likely that Ministers are going to authorise certain people who owe £50,000 to get out of their liability? I should like to hear if that £22,000,000 is English or Irish money.

With regard to the £22,000,000 that Senator Bennett inquires about, I stated that in 1919 the scheme was one extending to Great Britain and Ireland. I do not think that I used the word "robbing."


I do not think you said "robbing." I think it was Senator Bennett's paraphrase of the effect of what you said.

I do not like paraphrases of that nature. I fail to see what the object can possibly be to make this recommendation retrospective otherwise than the desire on the part of the County Councils to have it made operative so that they may be relieved from their liability.

I would like to ask the Minister if Ireland has received a proportionate part of the £22,000,000 that were in hands at that particular date.

As I mentioned, in 1919 the scheme extended to Great Britain and Ireland. The transfer came in 1921, and between 1919 and 1921 there was a debt—the whole fund was in debt. The extraordinary thing which will, no doubt, appeal to the Senator is that while we by the middle of next October will be in debt to the extent of £750,000 at most, in England at the moment they are in debt to the extent of £15,000,000.

I would like to ask the Minister if the deficit on the Unemployment Fund was accounted for by the fact that after the Great War all the soldiers returning were put on the Fund, and if all the people who were engaged making munitions, and who had not contributed to the fund, were also put on it? Was not this largely responsible for the surplus being turned into a deficit?

Of course military occupation was not an insurable occupation, and soldiers could not be put on the Unemployment Benefit fund straight away. Some of those soldiers possibly did return to their insurable occupations, and got insured for a couple of weeks and ultimately came on the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Again, a large number of munition workers were immediately placed on the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

On the transfer there was a deficit; what was Ireland's proportion?

Naturally we are expected to pay our proportion of the deficit, but the Ministry is working steadily to have that proportion as small as it possibly can.

Could the Minister say roughly what our share of the debt will be?

I can say within certain limits what the figure would be, and if the Senator insists I shall state it. Does the Senator think it diplomatic while we are endeavouring to have the sum reduced that we should commit ourselves to a statement?



I would like to remind the Seanad that this recommendation would still leave the Minister for Industry and Commerce with full control over any scheme. He would still be able to see that any County Council that owes anything to this Fund will have to pay before the scheme would be sanctioned.

Recommendation put and lost.
Section 11 put and agreed to.
"Sub-section (1) of Section 6 of the Act No. 2 of 1921, is hereby repealed."

I move: To delete this Section, and to substitute therefor the following:—

Sub-section (2) (a) of Section 7 of the principal Act after the word “profit,” and Sub-section (1) of Section 6 of the Act No. 2 of 1921 are hereby repealed.

The section I wish to have repealed reads as follows:—

"A person shall not be deemed to be unemployed on any day on which he is following any occupation from which he derives any remuneration or profit, unless that occupation has ordinarily been followed by him in addition to his usual employment and outside the ordinary working hours of that employment, and the remuneration received therefrom in respect of that day does not exceed three shillings and fourpence, or, where the remuneration is payable in respect of a period longer than a day, the remuneration does not on the daily average exceed that amount.”

The meaning of this section is that a man earning 3s. 4d. a day, or £1 a week under the principal Act is not deemed to be employed. He is entitled to the unemployment donation. I think that is very fair both to the State and to people who are contributing by stamps to this fund.

In making this recommendation Senator Linehan must have overlooked one very important point in the Sub-section of the principal Act. He represented that a person was not to be deemed unemployed any day on which he is following any occupation from which he derives any remuneration or profit, unless that occupation has ordinarily been followed by him. Now, I want to call the Senator's attention to this clause, "in addition to his usual employment." The Senator by this recommendation in other words would propose to penalise an industrious person, and penalise a man who, say, having been engaged during the day, in order to supplement his weekly or daily earnings, would in his hours of leisure at night pursue some occupation which, incidentally, might prove profitable. For example, a carpenter may work all day, and on returning to his home at night he may take, as they do in some countries, to the making of toys. Now, is the carpenter to cease to enjoy the benefits of the unemployment scheme simply because when he returns to his home at night he avails of his leisure hours to make some increase on his income? I do not think that Senator Linehan can have fully appreciated the meaning of the words in that section, "in addition to his usual employment." The Section provides for an exception in the case of a person who makes not more than 3s. 4d. a day out of an occupation which he has ordinarily followed, even while he was fully occupied. Because he ceases to be employed in his ordinary insurable occupation must he also cease to be employed in what we shall call a hobby, which he pursued at home at night? That is precisely the case that Senator Linehan would recommend. It must be remembered that under this Bill all uncovenanted benefit terminates, and workers will only receive benefit for which they will have paid their contributions. The conditions of the contract under which a worker has paid his contributions or premiums to insure himself against unemployment should not be altered in any essential condition without good reason, and obviously a worker pays his contributions in order to ensure himself against unemployment. Now, if while that worker is employed in his insurable occupation he had been able to earn some increase of income, must he cease to enjoy the fruits of his own industry on ceasing to be employed in his insurable occupation before he can come to enjoy the benefits of the Unemployment Insurance Scheme? This is exactly what Senator Linehan has proposed, and that I am afraid we could hardly deem equitable or fair. If Senator Linehan had understood that there was nothing to prevent a man already earning 3s. 4d. a day, or 20s. a week from drawing the benefit, I could quite understand his opposition to the Section, but that is not the case. He must have been earning that 3s. 4d. a day, or 20s. a week while he was already employed in an insurable occupation, otherwise he could not have the benefit.

Arising out of the Minister's explanation, I should like to point out that I think the effect of Senator Linehan's amendment would not be quite what he says. It would not prevent a man working at night if he used to do so, but it would prevent him, supposing he was earning 15/- or 18/- a week in his ordinary employment, from getting the dole in addition. I have several times called attention in the Seanad to the abuses that exist down the country, and I am afraid I have not earned too much popularity by doing so, but I think it is my duty. I am afraid that perhaps some of the Ministry, and a great many of the public in Dublin do not realise the amount of corruption that goes on. There is no use in concealing the fact from ourselves that we are not all angels, and although there are some people, I am happy to say who, as the Minister explained, work and make a little money in their overtime, there are a great many people who do not. I have heard cases which, if I may use a vulgarism, would make your hair stand on end of people who are drawing this dole when they were not entitled to it. Unfortunately I am not in a position to prove it, because people will not come forward and give you the actual facts; the state of the country is such that they do not like penalising themselves. We have heard of cases, and I am sure a great many of us here have no doubt whatever that they occur. There are such people, and this Section in the Act, as to a man not earning £1 a week being entitled to the dole opens the door to an immense amount of corruption. It is very difficult if a man is earning something or other to say whether it is over or under £1 per week. I have heard of the case of men who worked a certain length of time in order to qualify for drawing a certain amount of wage and who still drew the dole, although, as a matter of fact, they are in receipt of a great deal more than £1 per week. I have heard of people who were in receipt of £2 or £3 a week, and I have heard of people who were working hard all the week breaking off work on a Saturday to draw the dole. I am sure my friends here have no sympathy with that kind of thing, and would like to put a stop to it I think it is up to every honest Irishman to try and put an end to this corruption. The reason I support the motion of Senator Linehan is because of the fact of this addition being in the Act which opens the door to corruption that it is almost impossible to prevent.

The last speaker has read an altogether different and more beneficent meaning into this amendment than is really in it, but the Minister put the absolutely correct interpretation on it. It is what might be termed a shabby amendment, and it is one of the strongest encouragements to that idleness which is so eloquently condemned by every right-thinking man and woman. It means putting the reverse of the position, as told us by the Minister, that in order to get unemployment benefit a man must be completely idle during the period of his unemployment. It means, in other words, that he must not even work at his plot lest that might be calculated as bringing in certain profits during the year. He must not work at any little hobby he has that brings him in any increase of income lest by that means he may forfeit the unemployment allowance to which he is otherwise entitled. It is an encouragement to idleness rather than an encouragement to work, and it places a man in that position of unfitness to work which Senator O'Dea declares a man will be in after six months enforced idleness. I hope, therefore, that for the sake of common decency the Seanad will reject this recommendation. Senator Barrington has, in company with others, come on with those vague charges about corruption under the Act, but no one has been able to come forward with any direct evidence in support of it. The officials who administer the Act and know most about it are most emphatic in saying that this corruption does not go on, and that it is not attempted on any scale that would be worth notice at all, and that it is not of any material consideration. Some people seem to be always living in an atmosphere of dishonesty, or they seem to look upon every man as being dishonest until he has proved himself honest. They have any amount of information on it, but I have met no one who can prove to any case of it. I think it should not be trotted out to us so often unless there is some tangible evidence in support of the charge levied against a large section of the community, a charge of dishonesty of this kind.

I feel I ought to apologise to the last speaker for rising to refer to this matter again, but when I raised it before I was rather taken to task by the Minister. I felt properly humiliated, because I had not been very much in touch with the country lately and I was relying to a certain extent on what I have heard, which was corroborated by Senator Barrington. I do not think the Government should rest satisfied with the assurances of their officials that the amount of dishonesty under this Act is of very small proportions, because there is a good deal of talk about it, and after all, you cannot have smoke without something underlying it. I do suggest, in the interest of the taxpayer and in the interest of all the parties that a special effort should be made, and I do not believe it is beyond the wit of the Government to devise special efforts whereby they could check and make more difficult this evasion, whatever its proportions may be. Perhaps I am speaking now without accurate knowledge of what goes on, but would not it be possible when any employer gives casual payment that a card should be produced and some suitable endorsement made on it? I only make that suggestion, but I certainly put before the Seanad and before the President, who is here now, that it is up to the Government to be perfectly satisfied that every possible loophole for evasion under this Act is stopped.

Senator Sir John Keane finds corroboration from Senator Barrington about corruption in the administration of this Unemployment Insurance Act, and there has again been references to the officers of the Exchange. Attached to every Exchange of the Ministry there is a Special Investigations Officer, whose business it is to inquire into the working of this Act in particular, and the payment of unemployment insurance benefit in a very special way. As long as uncovenanted benefit did obtain—it ceases to obtain when this Bill becomes law—there were certain possibilities of irregularities occurring, and irregularities did occur. These irregularities were detected and during the past six months there have been a number of prosecutions. As for the statement of Senator Barrington that there has been a lot of corruption, the difficulty of the Ministry is this, that the people who will make the charges of corruption to some of our officers will never substantiate them. We can never get any of them to come and make a charge in such a way that we can take proceedings. If they do not do that, which is their obvious duty, they must not blame the Ministry for failing to prosecute. It is the duty of the citizen to the State, if he finds that public monies are being given away through irregularities on the part of those who receive them, to come to the aid of the State and to have the criminal brought to justice who receives public money fraudulently. But we have not been able to get people to substantiate these charges, and that is our difficulty. I do promise him that as we have had a number of prosecutions during the past six months we shall prosecute in every case where we find any irregularity occurring. The Senator, I am afraid, must not have been quite conversant with the Section when he was speaking of the people who received benefits. No benefit is given to people who earn, while in their ordinary occupation, sums of money of 3/4 per day. It must be on some work apart from their ordinary occupation at which they had been working, while employed in their ordinary insurable occupation. I think that is a point which both Senator Linehan and Senator Barrington did not seem to have fully appreciated. They must earn that money in some employment which they had actually carried on during the same period that they have been employed in ordinary insurable occupations; in other words, it was an extra effort at industry on their own part, and I am sure Senator Barrington would not have them penalised by pressing this recommendation of Senator Linehan's that they should be excluded from the benefits of this Act because they were more industrious than their neighbours.

Certainly that is not my idea for one moment. I have been informed, and I think it has been acted on, in the country at all events, that the rule is this, that where a man in his uncovenanted employment does not earn £1 a week, he is entitled to this dole. If that is so, by eliminating this Clause I do not want to interfere with anything a man earns outside, because that is a most desirable thing that he should do. But if that Clause were eliminated it would get rid of an immense amount of corruption, and you will never get people to come forward to give that evidence. They will come and tell me and they will tell others. People have asked me to bring this matter forward but no one will give any aid.

This Bill follows absolutely on the principal Act. I must plead ignorance on my part. I have never seen the principal Act, and I do not know where to get it, and not having the principal Act, I find it difficult to follow the debate. I find it very difficult to know how to make recommendations. If the principal Act is not available, I beg to suggest that every Bill that comes to us relating to a principal Act ought to have the principal Act tabled at the same time. It is ludicrous to ask us to criticise an Act we know nothing about.

I remember when the Seanad was being opened up first an age limit was fixed for the members, and I thought at the time that age limit was fixed so that each member would have lived sufficiently long to have acquired some commonsense. I think when people do acquire commonsense they do not believe everything they hear, and most of the statements and the charges that are made here against the working-classes of dishonesty are all based on something heard from somebody else. There is nothing definite at all. Senator Barrington heard about these terribly dishonest people who were robbing the public through this unemployment benefit, but no one told us about the claims that are in for destroyed property, although the President stated in the Dáil that some of these claims were outrageous.

There is no charge of dishonesty brought against rich people during that time, and here now we hear a miserable few cases of work people, and these are held up to show that the whole working classes of the Free State are dishonest and should be condemned, even although the officials paid for continually going round and inspecting those people have reported that there is no dishonesty in connection with this work. It is all very well for people who do not know anything about the work to make these charges, but do these gentlemen know that the investigation officers go round through the people and know the work. There are people here who know the work and who have had to draw unemployment benefit and who were refused unemployment benefit when they really had a perfect right to draw it. All this complaint now is to prevent a man who earns a very paltry sum getting the unemployment benefit, and it is to prevent him planting a few heads of cabbages in his garden. You could only expect this complaint to come from the country districts, and I am very glad it does not come from the city.

With regard to the point made by Senator Barrington. I would point out to him that the Act takes cognizance of unemployment. If a man is unemployed for a day he is entitled to benefit. If he gets employment for two days and then is unemployed, the next day he is regarded as unemployed and, having paid a contribution with a view to having himself insured against unemployment, he is entitled to receive unemployment benefit for the time he is unemployed.

I simply rise in the interests of goodwill and of harmony in this House to ask Senator Linehan and Senator Barrington, in view of the debate which has taken place, and the very satisfactory assurances given by the Minister as to the very small amount of corruption that exists, and in view, also, of the repudiation by the Labour Party of those charges levelled against them—to ask both Senators to withdraw their amendments. I feel what the Minister has said, and I have great sympathy for him, but he can get no support from the public generally No one would come forward to support charges of corruption. The fact is that during the last few years there has been such a lack of civic spirit and civic responsibility that no one could be found to come forward to substantiate such charges. We are, I hope, at last returning to the moods of sanity and courage and commonsense which seem to have left us during the past few years. I hope the people have recovered their senses by now and that they will come forward and put down corruption wherever it shows itself. Whether it has been my good fortune or not, I have not found any of it among the people in my own county, where I have lived for many years. I do not join in the general charge of corruption against the working classes. I never found them so, and notwithstanding the cases that Senator Sir J. Keane and Senator Barrington brought forward, I ask them, in the interests of peace and harmony, not to press this amendment. I hope the day is near when the public generally will support law and order in every shape and form, and that we will see the institution of peace, order, good administration and efficiency established in the country in the interest of all parties.

May I explain, in a few words, what it was I meant to convey. I have a great many friends among the working classes, and I did not accuse them, the working classes, of any greater share of original sin than anyone else, but I think that Senator McPartlin and others will agree there are a certain number of unworthy members among the working classes as there are among all other classes. The whole object of my remarks was not to stigmatise the whole of the working classes, for whom I have a very great respect, but to try and put a stop to those disgraceful acts which are a disgrace to them, as well as to all of us. As far as I am concerned I am quite willing to withdraw the amendment.

I would like to remind the Seanad that a large section of the people of this country get no benefit whatever under this Act. The Agricultural community—labourers and farmers —have to contribute their share of the £350,000 a year in taxes to make up the deficiency in this fund, and from all I have learned from various sources amongst those people, they have the strongest objection to subscribe at all to the funds from which they get no benefit, and they have the strongest possible objection to having their taxes go in payment of doles to men already earning a certain amount per week. With these views I leave the matter to the Seanad to decide whether they are in favour of continuing the law as it stands at present which entitles a man earning up to £1 per week to receive the unemployment dole.


Do I understand you to say that you wish your amendment to be put to the Seanad.


Question: "That Section 12 be deleted, and that the new sub-section be substituted," put, and negatived.
Sections 12, 13 and 14 were agreed to, and added to the Bill.


That concludes the Committee Stage, and for the moment I think we will make no recommendation or order as regards the concluding stages.