Will the Parliamentary Secretary state what is to be gained by inserting in this section the date "14th day of June, 1946"?
National Health Insurance Bill, 1947—Committee.
That is the date provided for in the Emergency Powers Order. The section relates to that.
Is the Emergency Powers Order still in operation?
Therefore, nothing is to be gained by pushing through this section.
Is this section also covered by an Emergency Powers Order?
So that the same reason applies. There is nothing to be gained by pushing this through.
Why is the date "the 7th day of June, 1940", in the section?
It is the date provided for in the original Order.
In the original Emergency Powers Order, and that is still in operation?
Again, there is no reason for this.
Does the same argument apply in respect of Section 6?
Yes. It is permanently enacting the Emergency Powers Order.
Does the same argument apply to Section 7?
Yes. I should say, in reply to the Senator, that the policy of the Government is to enact permanently this emergency powers legislation. There is nothing strange in so doing.
We did not get that information before. I am trying to find out, by a process of elimination, under what section the great urgency arises. I can only get that by a process of elimination, and I will get it that way.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether the date "30th day of September, 1946" has any special significance?
The date in the section relates to Emergency Powers Order No. 381.
And that is still in operation?
Is the Emergency Powers Order, to which this section relates, still in operation?
I understood it was not, so that I have learned something.
This section also implements permanently in legislation an Emergency Powers Order.
Is it correct to say that the obligation which Section 10 imposes on the society is already on the society?
So that there is nothing new at all in this section.
I move amendment No. 1:—
At the end of Section 11, page 6, line 41, to add the words "but no further or otherwise".
I should like to point out that this section seems to me to be a very doubtful one. It enables the Minister to make such adjustments in the funds, relating to national health insurance, which are under his control as may seem to him necessary. The Minister is assuming wide powers in this. He is doing so consequent on the transfer of certain engagements and assets of the fund to the society. I want to limit his powers, and my amendment is directed towards that end. The Minister is seeking the power I speak of, and the House is being asked to give him authority to make these adjustments in the fund of the society. I have the gravest doubts as to how this section will operate. I have seen a most extraordinary incident occur in relation to funds under the Unemployment Insurance Act. There I saw an Order, one of these regulations made under statute, requiring the Minister concerned to make an examination annually of the accounts of the fund and to certify if there was in the fund more money than was required for the purposes of the provision. Then, I noticed that the Order was revoked after a period of 21 years. A member of the Dáil put a question to the Minister to ask him when, last, the Department made the return that they were required to make under this regulation. The reply was that they never made a return, not once in 21 years. In other words during these 21 years the State took from the insurance society money which did not belong to them. In certain circumstances, I want to protect the insured persons from any encroachment on their rights other than is authorised by the Oireachtas. I want to make sure that the Minister's powers will be confined to the powers mentioned in the section.
I do not see that these words have any force at all. The Minister gets power and he has no more power than he gets. I suggest that these words have no meaning good, bad or indifferent.
This section is really to facilitate accounting procedure. A number of items in connection with the position of debtors and creditors to the society are being watched and there will be a final balance in connection with the credit of the society.
I think myself that the words "as may be necessary" cover the words "but no further or otherwise." I think Senator Duffy's amendment is unnecessary. The words "such adjustments as may be necessary" are quite sufficient. A Statute must be construed strictly and there is no room for approximation. You can only make adjustments that are necessary, whatever the reason for the adjustments may be. Therefore, I submit that the words that Senator Duffy seeks to introduce into the section would be pure tautology. I think the amendment is unnecessary.
I think that is correct. I think that the words "no further or otherwise" is a matter for the opinion of senior counsel—that the interpretation of sub-section (4) of No. 4 of paragraph 10 is no further or otherwise if at all.
I think that notwithstanding the advice that has been given to us there is something to be said for putting into the section something to draw the attention of the Comptroller and Auditor-General to what the Oireachtas intends. When the Comptroller and Auditor-General makes a report that report is examined by a Committee of the Dáil, a Committee that is entitled to invite officials of the Department to answer any question it thinks fit to ask regarding the administration of the Department and its accounts. I was hopeful of the House inserting these words so that the attention of the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the attention of the Committee of Public Accounts would be drawn to the limits that the House intends to place on the Minister in regard to this administration. I am not going to argue with Senator Ryan or Senator Hayes who, also, I believe, has some remote association with the Bar that my interpretation is a better one, but I do think that the advantage to be derived from inserting those words would be that we would be emphasising the interpretation that we intend to be placed on it.
On the section, I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to explain to us what adjustments were made in the Order: whether these adjustments are still being made under the Order mentioned and if it is the purpose of this section to merely ratify existing steps that have been taken. As I read the section it is purely a machinery section consequent upon the fact that the Emergency Powers Order ceases to be operative when the Bill takes its place.
The Senator is quite right in saying it is a machinery section and that it takes the place of an Emergency Powers Order. The section in question deals with persons who have been serving in the British forces and who returned to this country and who were formerly eligible as members of a separate fund which is now being merged in the National Health Insurance Society. It is necessary to examine the records of these people and identify persons who have transferred their residence to Britain.
Are all these matters not dealt with in the Emergency Powers Order?
Has the Minister not got this power in the Order?
Question agreed to.
Is this another section on the same lines?
Question agreed to.
The date mentioned in Section 14 is June 14th. What is the reason for that?
It is the date of the Emergency Powers Order.
Which is still in existence?
So this again is confirmatory? Very interesting.
Question agreed to.
Does the same argument apply in respect of Section 16?
The same applies.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 8, before sub-section (2) to insert the following new sub-section:—
(2) Sub-section (1) of this section shall remain in force until the 31st day of March, 1949, and shall then expire.
This is a new section and so Senator Sweetman need not ask will the same consideration of urgency apply in this section as in the previous Section 16. This is urgent. This is the section which enables the Minister to interfere with the arrangements under which two-ninths of the cost of administration and two-ninths of the benefits provided by statute are refunded by the State to the society. Now if this were a temporary arrangement as suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary I could understand and accept that. All the arguments used by the Parliamentary Secretary in support of this Bill are centred round the one word "temporary". In order to meet the point that it is of temporary duration I want to limit the period during which this section will operate to the 31st March, 1949. That means that we propose to agree that the Minister should have a free hand in operating this section for a period of two years and that if the authority given in the section is not renewed in a period of two years it will cease. I urge the House having regard to the assurance that it is a temporary measure to insist on the insertion of this limitation—the limitation to two years of the discretion of the Minister. This of course reads: "Minister for Finance", not "Minister for Social Welfare".
I do not know why it is suggested that there should be this limitation. The only thing that worries me about the section is: Is Section 3 of the Act of 1911 being repealed by this Bill?
Section 3, no.
Do I understand that this is the original Section 3?
As amended, yes.
As I understand it then it does not alter the law at all.
Why interfere with the two-ninths at all?
There is a certain difficulty about that. It does not give any increased grants. Senator Hayes seemed to think it did. I understand the increased grants are to be given in the Estimates. I want the House to understand that position. That being so I do not know if Senator Duffy thought the increased grants were being given under the section.
This section is related to the State grant given to the society in respect of benefits and administration. Under Section 3 of the 1911 Act as amended, the State is required to provide two-ninths of the society's expenditure on benefits including additional benefits and two-ninths of the expenditure on administration. That section is operated up to the present. What is provided here is that in lieu of this sum of two-ninths another provision shall apply. To me it is incomprehensible. I do not follow it.
I understand that the Section 3 of the 1911 Act was amended by the Act of 1920 and that that made up for two-ninths. The Parliamentary Secretary will correct me if I am wrong.
The Act of 1911 provided that two-ninths of the benefits in respect of men were paid by the State and one-quarter in respect of women. The amending Act of 1920 made it two-ninths for all.
Yes, two-ninths, and it is two-ninths now as I understand it under Section 17. I do not see why Senator Duffy suggests it should be limited up to a certain date.
The section is a difficult one to understand. I want to explain to the House as well as I can what it means. Section 3 of the National Health Insurance Act as amended provides for the payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas and the State of a grant of two-ninths of the expenditure incurred for benefits and for administration. The remaining seven-ninths is payable out of contributions. Temporary supplements are now to be paid to recipients of sickness and disablement benefit, the full cost to be an Exchequer charge. The supplements, except in the case of persons on full benefit, will not be a fixed proportion of the amount of the benefit and accordingly if Section 3 of the 1911 Act continues to operate it will be necessary to break each payment into two elements, benefit and supplement. The work involved in such segregation is apparent when it is remembered that over 1,000,000 separate payments are made annually. To avoid the work and expense involved in such segregation which would be made solely for the purpose of fitting the scheme into the financial framework of Section 3 of the 1911 Act and to rationalise the accountancy procedure for the grant and supplements, it is proposed to pay in each financial year henceforth, instead of the two-ninths grant, the sum which in the opinion of the Minister and the Minister for Finance would be payable if the two-ninths grant system continued. I hope I have made that clear. The amount is capable of fairly accurate estimation and it is unlikely that the Exchequer or the fund will lose or gain. It seems inadvisable therefore to accept Senator Duffy's amendment. The whole point is that the amount should be paid and we hope that the temporary increased allowances will be replaced by a permanent comprehensive administration before 1949. I think the section should stand in its present form and when new legislation comes before the Oireachtas, the House can consider this on its merits. It would be most undesirable that the Bill should be passed with a limiting date attached to it.
Do I understand that additional benefits will be paid on the basis of 50 per cent. increase?
50 per cent. as a minimum. They will be more in certain cases. The benefits proposed will be paid as the Minister has made clear, 50 per cent. increase for sickness, and 100 per cent. for disablement.
Where is the difficulty in regard to the two-ninths?
The difficulty arises in the accountancy end of the business. The amount is not exact in each case and it would mean a great number of different calculations for the 1,000,000 persons who are affected.
I think I know a little about administration of health insurance and it seems to me a very simple thing if £9 is paid out in benefits to provide that £2 shall be refunded by the State irrespective of whether they are original benefits or supplementary benefits. This story does not make sense.
Does any part of it make sense? Does the Bill make sense?
If the total sum in benefits in the month of March is £9,000, whether they are original statutory benefits or supplementary benefits, as the law stands now the State will be required to refund £2,000 of this sum to the society—two-ninths of the payment for benefits and two-ninths of the expenditure on administration. Where is the difficulty, because there happens to be a supplementary addition to the benefit? It is the total sum paid that matters not the form in which it was paid.
I started out with one interpretation of this section. I have failed to see whether I am right or wrong. As I see the position, the National Health Insurance Society pays certain benefits. The method which the Government are adopting to increase these benefits is to increase the State contribution to the society. If the increased benefits were incorporated in this section of the Bill, I could have understood the point of view taken but, as I understand, the National Health Insurance Society are being told by the Government, notwithstanding the former restriction by only two-ninths being granted by the State, they are to get for 1947-48 a grant from the State of £xy. That grant is to be based on the estimate made that benefits can be increased in certain ways. I think that this is the interpretation of the section. Senator Hawkins knows more about this Bill than I do. I see him nodding and I can only take it that he agrees with my interpretation. If that is correct, I am amazed at the performance we had earlier to-night, because there is absolutely no reason why the National Health Insurance Society should be told that to-night any more than on the 15th April. If that is not the interpretation of the section, I should be glad if somebody would tell what the section does mean.
In the ordinary way, the benefits already arranged will be carried on and the Government will provide two-ninths for them. In their wisdom, they have decided to increase the ordinary benefits, in some cases by 50 per cent. and in some cases by 100 per cent. Whatever the increase, the Minister for Finance, as I understand, is making himself liable for the entire amount. The two-ninths will be continued for the ordinary benefits already provided while the entire additional benefits will be a charge on the national Exchequer.
That is right.
Could we not get some interpretation from the front-line troops?
We have had much discussion on this section and I can do no better than read what the Minister stated in the Dáil:
"The State will continue to contribute the two-ninths that they would have contributed to the ordinary benefits that were there already and, in addition, the State will contribute all the supplementary amount, whatever it may be, so that the fund will not be a penny worse off at the end of this coming financial year as a result of the supplementary allowances being paid."
I take it that, if Senator Duffy's proposal were adopted and we were to continue as in the original Act, there would be a bigger drain on the society's funds as a result of the new supplementary and additional allowances if this section were not enacted.
My idea was to deal with the period and not with the financial provisions.
I should prefer to speak on the sub-section to speaking on the amendment because I do not understand the sub-section.
It would have been better if you had voted with us and got to the 16th April to consider it.
The Senator would then have an opportunity of considering and, perhaps, understanding it.
I do not know whether or not I am in order in speaking on the section.
We must first dispose of the amendment.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary suggest that the section has the meaning mentioned by the Minister in the Dáil? I do not think that it goes so far as that. It does not refer to the increases. Those will be the subject of an Estimate.
I do not think that I can explain the matter any more clearly than it has been explained by Senator Hawkins and Senator Foran. In respect of the original benefits, before the new moneys are voted by the Dáil, the two-ninths contribution will continue to operate. In respect of the increased allowances, the Exchequer will bear the whole cost, amounting to about £500,000, as compared with a previous contribution by the State of £248,000. It is in order to avoid the complicated procedure of working out the proportion in respect of each person's benefit and allowance that we have inserted this section.
What is the amount involved?
A half a million pounds and the present State contribution is £248,000.
Is that not often done in the case of other services by Supplementary Estimate?
It is not generally done in the case of new services.
Is not this an increase in an existing service?
This is merely a new name for an old service. The amount in the National Health Insurance Estimate is £248,000. A certain amount of that has been voted in the Vote on Account. That can be used for any purpose deemed fit up to the 1st August. This is not a new service. It is an old service but the Ministry is a new Ministry.
It is a supplementary increase of an old service and to that extent is new.
That is usually the purpose of a Supplementary Estimate.
The money voted in the Vote on Account is available for this service without this Bill at all.
Is there not provision in the Supplies and Services Act of last year to cover a case such as this by Order?
Amendment put and declared negatived.
On the section, I have been trying to unravel this sub-section and I have found some difficulty in doing so. I have before me the National Insurance Act, 1911, and from Section 3 of that Act, as amended by the Act of 1920, it would appear, to put it in plain language, that the expense of administration was to be deferred as to seven-ninths from contributions, and two-ninths from the Exchequer with money voted by Parliament. I cannot understand why the section should contain the following words:
"...such sum as, in the opinion of the Minister and of the Minister for Finance, would be payable in respect of such year under the said Section 3, as so amended, if this sub-section had not been so enacted."
I cannot understand why there should be scope for the opinion of the Minister for Finance as to the amount that would be payable under Section 3 of the Act of 1911 as would be payable under the Act of 1920. There is no room for opinion. It is a definite and precise figure. The expense of administration of the benefits is what I might call a liquidated sum. The two-ninths is a liquidated sum and the other portion is a liquidated sum. Therefore, it is not what the Minister thinks or what the Minister for Finance may think. It is a question of accountancy, a question of calculation, in other words, a question of arithmetic. That is why I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to enlighten me. The section reads:—
"In lieu of the grant payable, under Section 3 of the Act of 1911, as amended by sub-section (4) of Section 1 of the National Health Insurance Act, 1920, out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, there shall, in respect of the Financial year commencing on the 1st day of April, 1947, and of every succeeding financial year, be paid into the National Health Insurance Fund, out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, such sum as, in the opinion of the Minister and of the Minister for Finance, would be payable in respect of such year under the said Section 3, as so amended, if this sub-section had not been enacted."
I take it that the grant is equal in amount to two-ninths of the expense of administration of the entire benefits for men and women. I cannot see where the scope for the operation of the opinion of the Minister or the Minister for Finance comes in. Section 3 of the Act of 1911, as amended by the Act of 1920, merely provides that two-ninths of the actual expense of administration of the benefits should be paid out of moneys voted by Parliament. If this section had not been enacted at all I take it that Section 3 of the Act of 1911, as amended by sub-section 4 (1) of the National Insurance Act of 1920, will continue in operation and two-ninths would continue to be payable. As far as I know there was never any scope either in Section 3 of the Act of 1911, or sub-section 4 (1) of the Act of 1920 for the opinion of the Minister for Finance. The only variation that this section makes in procedure is that whatever sum is payable in respect of any financial year might be payable as the Minister for Finance shall determine. That is a machinery section. It does not affect the total amount paid in respect of any financial year. That is why I was trying to make sense out of this section. I may not have particular knowledge of the procedure but I am relying upon the section in the Act. I can only see the exact sum, two-ninths of the expense of administration, to be voted by Parliament. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to explain why the opinion of any Minister comes into it, seeing that it is a question of accountancy and reimbursing the actual amount.
I found the same difficulty as Senator Ryan in ascertaining why it is necessary to bring in that sub-section, seeing that the sub-section of the Act of 1911 is not repealed. I do not know the meaning there of the words "not been enacted."
I might explain again that the Minister has to forecast what would be required in the coming year for national health insurance benefits and increased allowances, the sickness likely to take place and the number of contributors. He forecasts what he thinks would be required for the forthcoming year, first in respect of contributions, before the new allowances are paid. These are contributed in the form of two-ninths by the State and seven-ninths by the society. He also forecasts what will be required to pay supplementary allowances.
They are not supplementary allowances in sub-section (3) in the Act of 1920. Where do they come in?
In Section 17, sub-section (2) and part of sub-section (1).
We have a number of sections in this Bill which are already part of statutory Orders. They are already law and could be enacted next year as well as this year. This is a new section and it would appear to be unnecessary on the testimony of Senators who have spoken. What is all the pother about? Surely the amount of money voted in the Central Fund Bill and the Vote on Account is sufficient to pay any such increased benefits as may be determined by the Minister; and that he should get the authority of the Dáil to carry on the services and pay the money.
What are the different funds permitted in the Post Office Savings Bank?
These relate to investment of national health insurance moneys in Exchequer Bills and in Advances for Ways and Means.
That is the only difference.
There is no hurry about that.
I move the following amendment:—
In page 8, at the end of sub-section (2) to insert the following proviso:—
Provided that the date so fixed shall not be later than the commencement of the contribution year in 1948.
This section is one in relation to which urgency might be urged. It is one by which the insurance limit is raised from £250 to £500. I am endeavouring to ensure that the Order which the Minister will make will be brought into effect not later than the commencement of the contribution year 1948, that is, in January of next year. I am not rushing the Parliamentary Secretary in this matter. If the Bill is urgent, if it is going to confer benefits next Thursday, as we have been told by a number of people, it is not unreasonable to insert a provision that it will certainly operate not later than the first contribution week in 1948. I urge the House to insert that provision. As it stands, all we are told is that the section shall come into operation on such a day as the Minister shall by Order fix for that purpose.
I do not know why this amendment is put down by Senator Duffy. We have been told here that this Bill is to be rushed, and now Senator Duffy proposes an amendment that it should come into operation in 1948. That seems entirely unnecessary.
Senator O'Dea works on simple faith. The Parliamentary Secretary has told him as revealed truth without explanation that this is urgent and must be rushed. Senator O'Dea accepts that, but there are people in the world who do not accept the Parliamentary Secretary on that basis and do not feel that the Parliamentary Secretary is a channel for revealing the truth.
I do not think that should be said at all.
I do not think he is. I did not mean that as anything offensive to the Parliamentary Secretary.
It is very offensive.
I am very sorry. I did not mean that. I do not accept the Parliamentary Secretary's words that a particular Bill, which he has in hands and which he does not explain, is urgent. Senator O'Dea takes it that this Bill is urgent, but if he had gone to the trouble of reading sub-section (2) of Section 19, he would see that there is no date fixed. Therefore, there can be no urgency.
I have read it.
I am delighted, but apparently the Senator has not grasped its truth. I hope that is not an offence.
No, as long as the Senator did not say I was a liar.
That is reserved to the opposite side of the House.
The Bill is to come into operation on a day which the Minister fixes by Order for that purpose. We cannot say what day he is going to fix. Some opportunity should be given, between the passing of this Bill and the coming into operation of this particular raising of the level to £500, for people who are going to be swept into this insurance compulsorily to consider it. Some 40,000 or 50,000 people will be brought into this insurance scheme, willy-nilly, as a stop-gap arrangement and not as part of a general arrangement, which has been explained and which people understand and which may, in fact, put the level of insurable income up beyond £500. It would be advisable that there should be delay before that compulsion takes place, and a fixed period of delay, rather than leaving it to the opinion of the Minister. Senator Duffy was right in saying that the Bill could hardly be delayed beyond the 1st of July, 1947. If it could not, perhaps he would put this in.
It is the intention of the Minister that this section should come into operation on the first Monday in April, that is to say, on the 7th of April. We hoped to have it come into operation earlier, but in order to give employers an opportunity to make changes in their cards, it is the intention to make it the 7th of April.
Then the employers are not going to get a week to consult their staffs. They are to be driven like sheep through a gap, without consultation. That is the way the employers and the employees are considered.
If the Parliamentary Secretary says it will come into operation immediately, I am satisfied.
I move the following amendment, which has been circulated:—
New section.—This Act shall remain in force until the 31st July, 1947, and shall then expire.
The purpose of the section is to provide that the House will have an opportunity of reconsidering this Bill in adequate time. Before I say anything about that, I want to make one comment. It has been given to me to be in this House for about only three years. Never before have I been so ashamed of anything that has happened here, or anything I have seen happen, sitting as a stranger in any gallery of the Oireachtas, than I have been as a result of the dishonest tactics —and I use the word "dishonest" avowedly in respect of those tactics— that were used in regard to this Bill this evening. We had an allegation that it was necessary and that its urgency was overwhelming, that there were sections which could not wait a month. We went through the Bill section by section in Committee and we were told, in respect of each of the first 16 sections, that each and every one of them was in operation already under an Emergency Powers Order.
Of course, the Parliamentary Secretary did not tell us that when he was making his case for the urgency of the Bill. We were told that it was absolutely vital, that it had to be got through and, on that assurance alone, certain members of this House were influenced to give honest expression to the urgent need that they felt in regard to this Bill. It is an unfortunate thing that tactics of that sort should be used to decry and to destroy Parliament. If those tactics are used to rush Bills through without proper consideration, if no argument is put up from the Minister's chair and if the House is unable to know whether that argument is not, in another Bill, to prove to be false, without foundation, without any justification in truth or in anything else, it means we will have to sift every argument which is put forward every time the argument comes that a Bill is urgent and necessary.
Senator Hawkins earlier to-night very fairly gave expression to the manner in which we have made every effort from this side of the House to assist and help the Government in getting through their business. We feel we have a duty imposed on us to consider legislation in a proper and clear way. Without in any way trying to pat our own backs, the fact that very frequently amendments to Bills proposed from this side of the House are accepted by Ministers—as they were accepted earlier this afternoon—shows that the consideration which is given to those Bills is not valueless and has been worth while. In respect of this Bill, we were quite deliberately prevented from giving it any proper or adequate thought, care or consideration, and from ascertaining the views of the people outside. We were asked to be merely a rubber stamp and to give effect to the wishes and desires of the Executive. In the whole of the discussion, there was hung over our heads the threat that, if we did not pass this Bill to-night, the increased benefits could not be paid, yet it became perfectly clear in the discussion on Section 17 that that was untrue —untrue in substance, untrue in detail, untrue in fact—and that all that was necessary was that there should be a Vote on Account.
All that was necessary was to make available in the Central Fund Bill, passed by the House last week, a sum of £80,000 to carry on this service until when? The 16th April which was what we requested. Apart from that, no new service is provided so that an original Estimate was not needed. All that was necessary was the extension of an additional service, and there is the machinery of Supplementary Estimates in the Dáil to meet that situation. There was no justification either for Section 17.
The only apparent urgency that arises is in respect of Section 19, on which we had certain arguments from both sides of the House. We were not told early in the debate about the urgency in relation to this section, but at any rate it is the only section which now appears to be urgent, and about which two views are held in the city amongst employers and workers.
Senator Douglas adverted to the fact that certain employees, known to him, have an objection to being taken into the scheme. In my own small tin-pot way I have come across similar objections. Personally, I am inclined to think they are wrong. The point, however, is that when there is such a feeling abroad it should be considered, and a true and proper value put upon it. For that reason I am moving this amendment.
The exact position in relation to this Bill was detailed to me on the Committee Stage by the Parliamentary Secretary. He told me section after section that this was merely a reenactment of existing statutory rules and orders. He can, under my amendment, have his Bill for three months or four months, and if he is not then in a position to bring in the comprehensive codified measure of which he spoke at the end of that period mentioned he can, at least, give the Oireachtas the opportunity of considering whether this Bill had got the care, consideration and thought that it is desirable a measure of this kind should get in this House. It would have got that if it were not for the methods that were adopted, methods which, as I have said already, are based on something that is untrue. Untrue is the only word that can be used in respect of these methods. I am sorry that during my short period as a member of the House, I should have seen such methods employed here.
Like Senator Sweetman, I must confess that our experience this evening has been a rather rare one in this House. The Parliamentary Secretary is a rare visitor—a rare bird who is, perhaps, the herald of spring. I hope that the spring will be sweeter and brighter than the atmosphere which the Parliamentary Secretary has created here. I think it will be conceded that although he used the word "ill-will" early this evening there was no such atmosphere here at all in relation to this Bill.
Despite what Senator Hawkins and other members of the House who agree with him may think, we have here a certain number of Senators with some appreciation of their functions and of their responsibilities towards Parliamentary institutions. If one were to accept the views expressed earlier by Senator Hawkins it would appear that people like Senator Hayes, Senator Sweetman, Senator Douglas and one or two other Senators have no function here whatever, and that the sooner we get to the other side of the House and sit behind Senator Hawkins the better.
Will the Senator please say what views I expressed here that he is referring to?
The Senator supported the view of the Parliamentary Secretary that we could get through all stages of this Bill this afternoon. Our view was that the Bill required examination. I do not know what examination it got in the other House. Some Senators may have time to read the Dáil Debates. Frankly, I must confess that I am not able to keep au fait, through reading the debates, with all that goes on in the other House. The fact is that no matter what type of examination the Bill was subjected to in the other House does not divest us of our responsibilities. We listened to the Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon making a case for this Bill.
With all respect to him, may I say that it seemed to me he was very poorly prepared, or perhaps I should say poorly briefed? He was certainly not able to enlighten the House on the matters on which we needed enlightenment—the opportunity to study the Bill in relation to the previous Acts. The House was pressed into giving a decision. I hope that some of the members who supported the original decision are quite happy in their consciences about what they did.
On a point of order, what is the House discussing now?
The new section, which is the amendment moved by Senator Sweetman.
We ought to try to confine ourselves to that.
The House is doing so.
I will be prepared to take a ruling on order from Senator Foran when he is the Leas-Chathaoirleach, but he is not that yet. Senator Sweetman, in his amendment, proposes that this Act shall remain in force until the 31st July, 1947, and shall then expire. We here are satisfied from what we have elicited, or from what we have failed to elicit, that this Bill, with all its implications, is not understood in the country. I think the implications of Section 19 were a revelation to some members. The position is that we are making 40,000 additional people become insured members. We are doing that without consulting them and without knowing whether they desire it or not. This sort of thing is really making a farce of legislation.
From time to time there is a great deal of talk about democracy. The Parliamentary Secretary in his speeches up and down the country, especially when he goes down to address his own constituents, or the constituents of other members of his Party, seems to have some appreciation of the meaning of that word. I would imagine that people who talk about democracy would be anxious to give some study to the obligations which this section proposes to impose upon certain classes of people. That is not done. We are not quarrelling with what is in the Bill, but we are quarrelling with the case which was made by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Bill. His case was that he had to get every section of it this evening, and yet we find that every section of it, with the exception of the last three, is the law at present. We suggest that these last three sections could be implemented in another way. Why should the Parliamentary Secretary come in and make such a case? I have no doubt that there are a great many people who are going to be dissatisfied with this Bill. They will be dissatisfied because the Oireachtas is imposing obligations on them without consulting them. I strongly support Senator Sweetman's amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary has created an atmosphere in relation to this Bill that is not the sort of atmosphere which this House is accustomed to.
I can scarcely believe that Senator Sweetman has intended that this amendment should be taken seriously because it is really what I might describe as a wrecking amendment and would seem out of place altogether in relation to the other sections in the Bill. In Section 19 it is provided that persons having incomes of £500 should be brought into National Health Insurance and sub-section (2) of Section 19 provides that the section shall come into operation on such day as the Minister shall, by Order, fix for this purpose. If this Bill is passed into law within the next week or ten days, the Minister may, within the next fortnight, make an Order bringing in all those people. If Senator Sweetman's amendment is made part of the Bill it will mean that all those people will walk out again next July after all the expense and trouble incurred in bringing them in. It is an amendment which, to my mind, cannot be taken seriously. I have never seen an amendment like it.
Have you ever seen tactics such as you have seen to-night in this House or in any other House?
As regards tactics, they do not support this amendment. We are not going to cut off our noses to spite our faces. That is what this amendment asks us to do. I am not at white heat in connection with this Bill. It is true that certain sections of the Bill are contained in Emergency Powers Orders. Even if they are and even if this Bill is being rushed, as it has been rushed to-night, there is no justification for this amendment.
I think Senator Baxter mentioned that Section 19 was a very serious section. That is so. The position could have been dealt with by voting against that section or by protesting against it. But so far as I am aware, the section went through without a dissenting voice. I shall certainly vote against this amendment because I am not going to stultify myself, having passed the foregoing 19 sections, by voting for an amendment which would negative all the work done in connection with the Bill. That would make us a laughing stock even though we may not have acted perfectly this evening in connection with the procedure of this Bill. This amendment would make us ludicrous if it were accepted, and I, certainly, will vote against it.
Just like Senator Ryan, I had regarded this amendment as a joke when I got it passed across the House this evening. I still think it is one of Senator Sweetman's jokes although he has spoken very seriously on the matter. It seems perfectly absurd in view of the fact that we were told here that the Estimates referred to this Bill as an Act and that it is very necessary that we should pass it before the Estimates are reached.
Have you got the book?
I have, but I have not gone through it in that way.
We are asked to pass a Bill which is to be the subject of an Estimate for the coming year. The Estimate, if the amendment is accepted, will refer to a Bill which is to remain in force only until July 31st next. The position is idiotic and Senator Sweetman knows that perfectly well. If we pass the Bill in this manner we will be, in fact, repealing it in three months' time. Everyone who votes for such an amendment will stultify himself and make himself the laughing stock of the House. The Parliamentary Secretary has been abused. I think it is hard on him. The Minister fell ill and he has had to come in here and take up the cudgels and handle this Bill when he has not had the opportunity of giving careful consideration to it. It is hard lines on him having to do that. Senator Sweetman made very scathing remarks about the fact that we were re-enacting Emergency Powers Orders. I thought we were all hoping that this would be done. On previous occasions we referred here to the fact that it was difficult to get these Orders or to understand them and we spoke about the great advantage it would be if they were incorporated in Acts of Parliament.
Do you talk of this as an Act?
It will be an Act when it is passed.
A sort of one.
It will be on the Statute Book and people will not have to be writing to Easons for copies of Emergency Powers Orders and not even knowing the number of the Order they want. It is a definite advantage to have these Orders in an Act. Nobody knows that better than solicitors and barristers who have to ascertain the law contained in Emergency Powers Orders. It will be much easier to understand the law when it is in this form. Although Senator Sweetman criticised the Bill very severely he is, I am sure, very glad that these Emergency Powers Orders will go by the board and that they will now be in the form of an Act so that they can be seen and read by those who have to advise upon them.
I want to ask Senator Sweetman to stop being Punch for the Parliamentary Secretary's Judy. We have had a ridiculous performance here this night and I think Senator Sweetman's amendment excels in this connection. How he can honestly ask a House of the importance of this House to accept an amendment such as this is beyond me. Senator Baxter has been handing out credit to certain people in the House. I do not happen to be one of them and I have no desire to get encomiums from Senator Baxter, but I think we would be making ourselves extremely ridiculous if we seriously considered this amendment any further. I could say a lot on it, but I do not propose to do so.
I would like to say that in my opinion this debate has been one of the most unfortunate that has ever taken place in this House. Heretofore, there had been many battles fought in this House on legislation and amendments to legislation but certain standards have been established on both sides of the House and we have always endeavoured to meet Ministers as far as possible and accept their assurances. It has been, therefore, a great disservice to this House that the Parliamentary Secretary should come here and deliberately mislead us.
I think, therefore, that despite the remarks and the apology of Senator Ryan on the amendment this amendment is perfectly justified because it is inserted for the purpose of ensuring that this Bill which we have been deliberately misled into passing as an urgent measure, shall receive in three months' time further and more proper consideration. I therefore see nothing ridiculous about the amendment, and I am prepared to support it.
Senator Sweetman, Senator Baxter and the other speakers have referred on many occasions to-night to the manner in which this Bill was received and treated in the House and to the manner in which business was conducted generally this evening. Let us examine this. We find that the Bill was circulated and with it was circulated an explanatory leaflet or memorandum. The Senators and Deputies had copies of that, and had ample time to consider the various sections of the Bill. What was the procedure? The Bill was introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary, acting for the Minister for Public Health and Social Welfare, who explained to the House that the passing of the Bill was urgent. A certain number of the members of this House accepted that assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary—that it was important this Bill should be passed through all its stages to-night.
Is it wrong procedure for Parliament or a House of Parliament to agree to this where the majority of the members accept the statement of the Minister responsible for the passing of the Bill through Parliament and for the enactment of the Act later on? If the Opposition have an obligation, they have an obligation to act, not so much as opposing as to help, as they have helped, I must say, on every occasion here with a few exceptions. It is an extraordinary thing that to-night's discussion takes my mind back to one we had on a similar type of Bill and that was on the only other occasion on which there did seem to be disagreement in this House. On both occasions it related to social services. I remember some time before Christmas there was a Bill before the House to establish this particular Ministry. I hope I am not going to connect to-night's procedure with that. Senator Sweetman cannot be serious in asking the House to accept this amendment. He cannot be serious in asking the House, which has passed the Bill in all its stages——
It has not passed all stages yet.
Well, having passed all sections, to limit the scope of this Bill to the 31st July. Senator Baxter referred to the 15,000 new workers who would be brought in under the new Bill. Surely if Senator Baxter is going to vote that this Bill remain in force until the 31st July, he must understand the organisation that it is going to take to get these 15,000 people enrolled a contributors in the national health insurance. I think the object of this amendment, if the House is foolish enough to accept it, is to nullify the whole purpose of the Bill.
I am afraid, perhaps because of the hour and the circumstances in which this debate arose, that some people have not listened to what I said. I said the whole purpose of this amendment was to enable the Government to bring in a Bill that would have an opportunity of having more considered consideration than this Bill got. I am only some three years in this House, but even in those three years I have seen frequent occasions on which there have been amendments put down to various Bills shortening their lives solely for the purpose of getting the proper consideration of the Bill within a certain fixed and limited time. The whole argument of the Parliamentary Secretary was that this was only a very temporary and transitional matter, a stop-gap provision.
If the Parliamentary Secretary says that four months is not sufficiently long to remedy the stop-gap, if four months are not sufficiently long to have a considered Bill, then I am perfectly satisfied to have any other reasonable time. But I do want this. I urge it very strongly—that in some definite, limited time there should be before this House and before the Houses of the Oireachtas a Bill which would get proper consideration which this Bill did not get this evening, and could not have got in the circumstances. If the Parliamentary Secretary says four months is not long enough I am quite happy with six or eight, or even 12, but I want a time limit in which the Oireachtas will put on its records something that has been properly considered and something which it can afterwards stand up and defend, and not a Bill, 18 sections of which are merely machinery sections which could have been produced at any time and which would have been far better if produced in an atmosphere other than the atmosphere created this evening.
I do not propose to argue this question any further, and I consider that Senator Sweetman's amendment merely defeats the whole purpose of the Bill. When other plans are made later on in the way of comprehensive scheme of social insurance it is quite certain that raising the insurability limit will have been found to be justified. The memorandum was sent out some time ago to members of the Seanad. The Dáil has given full consideration to the matter. The Minister for Social Welfare has not, I understand, received any representations in regard to it. It has not been indicated that Section 19—the main section of the Bill—is in any way undesirable in its social or economic aspects. Senator Sweetman, when he reads the Official Report of this debate, will find that I clearly indicated that the important sections were those dealing with the insurability limit and the method of financing supplementary allowances. I clearly mentioned early this evening that the remaining sections related to permanent enactment of Emergency Powers Orders, and there was no need for Senator Sweetman to reiterate that they were not of an urgent character. They were added to this Bill, so that we might incorporate them in legislation in relation to national health insurance—legislation which was overdue.
If there had been any practical objection to the raising of the insurability limit we should have heard of it by now. The professional associations which are very active in matters of this kind would have protested and the trade unions, if they felt their members were adversely affected, would have sent hurried letters to the Minister, since the Bill was circulated, which, I think, was the week before March 19th. Apart from the argument as to what is or is not urgent legislation, the whole tone of this debate has become exaggerated. Having listened to this debate I think we are quite justified in enacting Section 19 of the Bill at short notice because no one has given any sort of concrete objection to it. They have said there may be objections. Certain Senators have suggested there are pros and cons as regards the desirability of Section 19 but there has been no general objection and no suggestion that it would be wrong to extend the general scope of insurance in this country. There is nothing wrong in suggesting that having regard to the needs of our economic life we should extend compulsory insurance and extend State services for the protection of certain classes of workers who up to now have not been included and maintain others where insurance status is jeopardised.
I feel, therefore, that there has been a great deal of exaggeration in the comment on the urgency of this Bill. It would be quite impossible for us to accept Senator Sweetman's amendment which, in effect, would wreck the Bill. Naturally, there are people who object to having to pay contributions. In any social insurance scheme of which contributions by employers and employees form part, there are bound to be objections. There are people who do not see the necessity for insuring themselves. Some of those who need protection most, through social insurance, fail to see the necessity for it and do not attempt to make a modest provision for themselves such as they might be able to afford from their own earnings. Therefore, I think that the Bill should go through in its present form. There has been a great deal of exaggeration in regard to the possible fundamental objection to Section 19.
Is it not a fact that, if this Bill were not passed to-night, a great number of cards, ready to be sent out, could not be sent out?
That is so. There are 23,000 pension books ready to be sent out.
What sort of pension books?
Widows' and orphans' pensions books.
That comes under the other Bill.
I am speaking about this Bill.
Is it correct that they are affected by the National Health Insurance Bill?
The finance in this Bill applies also to widows' and orphans' pensions. The two systems of insurance are linked together for many purposes. I shall not discuss at this stage the extent to which they are linked but the Senator should be aware that they are so linked.
Amendment put and declared negatived.
We have succeeded in a rather peculiar way in discussing this Bill without very much reference to its merits. That is one of the results that always flow from failure to give proper time for consideration of measures. One of the worst possible results of trying to rush a Bill is that it hardly ever gets fair consideration in these circumstances. The prestige of Parliamentary institutions depends on the people in those institutions and we stultify ourselves when we do not get proper time to do our work properly. Senator Hawkins is absolutely right when he says that the majority can decide when they are going to take a Bill. It is because the majority can do so many things that the majority ought to hesitate before it does them. A Parliamentary majority can reduce Parliamentary government to a farce. Nothing can be more farcical than rushing through Bills, discussing amendments not properly thought out, or listening to explanations which are not explanations at all. A case was made for urgency to-night. I say, quite honestly and sincerely and with a fair knowledge of Estimates and financial procedure, that I still do not understand what the urgency was. However, that is past now and the less said about it the better. We did succeed in discussing the Bill without any regard to its merits. It certainly has merits but they were hardly adverted to at all.
I take it that the idea is that we can sit after 10 o'clock to deal with the other Bill if there are no divisions.
Is it not Senator Hawkins' duty to move that we sit late?
If there is agreement, that is not usually required.
Agreement must be on the initiative of somebody.
I take it that it is agreed to sit later than 10 o'clock to dispose of the other Bill.