Social Welfare Bill, 1951 (Certified Money Bill) — Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Sé cuspóir atá leis an mBille seo ná pinsin sean-aoise agus pinsin do dhall d'fheabhsú.

The Social Welfare Bill, 1951, has as its object the improvement of our old age and blind pensions legislation. Under Section 4 of the Bill, it is proposed to raise the standard old age pension from 17/6 to 20/- per week and to raise the other rates of pension as well. We also propose under that section to bring into the scope of the Old Age Pensions Acts persons whose means lie between £52.5 and £65.5 per annum. They will be eligible for 5/- per week pension. It is anticipated that the improvements effected under Section 4 of the Bill will cost approximately £1,172,000 per annum.

An important change is proposed in Section 2 of the Bill. At present if a farmer assigns his holding to a son or daughter and claims old age pension he is assessed with means as if he remained the owner, unless he is able to satisfy the pension authorities that the assignment was effected for some reason other than to obtain a pension. Under Section 2 of this Bill a farmer whose valuation does not exceed £30 will be able to assign his farm to one or more of his children and his motives for doing so will not concern the pension authorities. This provision is estimated to cost £200,000 a year.

Section 3 of the Bill provides for the disregarding as means for old age pension purposes of any sums up to £80 a year received by way of disability or wound pension or other allowance under the Army Pensions Acts. The same section proposes that assistance received by a person from charitable organisations will not count as means for pension purposes except in so far as the assistance received exceeds £52.5 per annum. It is estimated that the additional cost of this section will be £50,000 per annum.

It is anticipated that the enactment of this Bill will increase by about 7,000 the number of persons receiving pensions under the Old Age Pensions Acts. It will be seen that the total increased cost in a full year is estimated at £1,422,000.

The Bill was passed by the Dáil without a division and I hope it will be equally well received in the Seanad. It will be remembered that the former Minister for Social Welfare intimated in the Dáil on the 2nd March that he intended to introduce provisions of this nature on the Committee Stage of the Social Welfare (Insurance) (No. 2) Bill, 1950. At that time, we intimated that if those provisions were introduced as a separate Bill they would have the unanimous support of the Dáil, and the old age pensioners would thus get their increases all the earlier. It is with this object in mind that we have introduced this Bill at this stage rather than include it in a comprehensive Social Welfare Bill. As has already been stated, the preparation of a comprehensive scheme is proceeding and it will be introduced without avoidable delay.

In the meantime, I would ask the Seanad to approve of the present Bill and so enable the machinery for the adjustment of the old age and blind pensions to be brought into action right away. I should like, in fact, if it could be arranged, to take all stages of the Bill to-day.

Mr. O'Farrell

We must welcome this Bill, and we welcome it, because, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, it is now giving legislative effect to something which was promised before the general election and something which it was contemplated to do in another way. Whichever way it is done, it is desirable that it should be done and should be done as quickly as possible. I think, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will find no criticism of the Bill or of the principles involved in it.

My remarks will be very brief and they are not made by way of criticism of the Parliamentary Secretary or by way of criticism of the present or the previous Government. They are a criticism of Governments in general. They amount to this, that, even with the increase which is being provided in this Bill, and even with the considerable advantages given by the change in the means test, the whole thing amounts to no more than that the State considers that, when a person comes to the age of 70, he or she should be allowed no more than 25/- to 28/- per week to live on, including any income he or she may have from any other source. Taking the table in the White Paper at the bottom of page 1, we find that, if a person's income exceeds £65.5 per year, that person gets no pension. If the income is under £65 and above £52, he gets a 5/- pension which means approximately 28/- per week to live on, whether he has £22 or £65 income. The State will make up the difference in either case, but will never bring that person above the 28/- or 30/- per week level.

I am not blaming this Government, and I am taking into account what the Parliamentary Secretary has said that the changes proposed in the Bill will impose on the taxpayer almost £1,500,000 additional in the year and will bring 7,000 more people within the old age pension scheme, but I cannot see why the State, when it comes to assess what it costs to maintain a person who is 60 years of age, says, as we are in effect saying, that 28/- or 30/- per week is sufficient to keep that old person, to provide him or her with all the food, clothing, shelter and luxuries which he or she has a right to demand. It may be said by the Parliamentary Secretary, and will, if necessary, be said by him, that this is much more than the State ever offered before, but, much more as it is, it is much less, in my opinion, than it ought to be. It is much less than it would cost the State to keep any of these old people if they were in a county home, in a mental hospital or prisoners in one of our jails.

The State it self cannot maintain a prisoner in jail or an old person in a county home at the rate at which it expects the individual outside to maintain himself and that means to maintain himself after he has got from some insurance society, some trade union or from some of his children, a certain contribution. The child's contribution, the pension that may be got, anything he has, will be supplemented to bring his total income up to 28/- or 30/- per week. When people talk, as they will talk, about the extra burden which this imposes on the State—£1,500,000 more to bring the old age pensions up by a few shillings—we still are not acting generously towards the old and the blind, and, even if it cost the State more than £1,500,000, we, or those of us who survive the election and have the right to talk, should press for still more and more in the way of old age pensions and concessions to the poor and helpless, because the State will gain in the end. If they cannot live in decency outside the county homes and the asylums, it will cost the State more than £1,500,000 to maintain them as paupers in these institutions.

Bhíomar ag déanamh comhgháirdeachais tráthnóna le Aire nua a tháinig ós ár gcóir, agus bhí údar maith againn leis an gcomhgháirdeachais sin a dhéanamh. Seo ócáid eile anois ar cheart dúinn comhgháirdeachas a dhéanamh, ní amháin leis an Rúnaí Parlaiminte ar a theacht ós ár gcóir an chéad uair, ach mar gheall ar an teachtaireacht atá tugtha aige don tSeanad tráthnóna. Is é teachtaireacht é sin go bhfuíl, sa deire, reachtaíocht á dhéanamh ag an Rialtas le foirthint á dhéanamh ar na sean-daoine agus na daill sa tsaol cruaidh aisteach atá anois ann.

Is fada atá an chabhair seo tuillte, agus ag dul do na sean-daoine agus do na daill. Tá fhios againn an chaoi bhfuil an costas beatha imithe suas le blíanta. Tá fhios againn, mar an gcéanna, an chaoi a bhfuil an brí imithe as an airgead. Ní anois ba cheart é a dhéanamh ach blianta ó shoin. Ar chaoi ar bith, is fearr deireannach ná go brách. Tá lucht an tSeanaid an-tsásta go bhfuil an Bille seo ós ár gcóir, agus beidh sean-daoine na tíre, agus daill na tíre, lán-tsásta go bhfuil an difir seo déanta le foirthint orthu.

Níl fhios agam an comórtas ceart é an comórtas atá déanta ag an Seanadóir Ó Fearghail idir cás na seán-daoine agus cás na ndaoine atá sna príosúin agus i bhfondúireachtaí nach iad. Níl fhios agam cé mhéid ba chóir dúinn a thabhairt do na sean-daoine le go mbeadh saol chomh suaimhneach, sona acu agus ba cheart a bheith acu. Pé ar bith ceard a tabharfas muid dóibh, tá mé cinnte nach dtabharfaidh muid dóibh leath an oiread atá tuillte acu, agus a bhí tuillte acu, ar son na hoibre agus na seirbhíse a bhí tugtha acu don tír.

Má tá sé níos costasaí maireachtáil i bpriosúin, agus in institiúidí nach iad, tá fáth leis. Bíonn a lán lucht freastail ag teastáil le aire a thabhairt do na daoine a bhíonn sna hinstitiúidí sin. Bíonn a lán costais nach mbaineann le sean-daoine agus daill taobh amuigh. Chomh maith leis sin—tá súil agam gurb amhlaidh atá sé ar fud na tíre— i gcás ar bith a bhfuil clann fós ag na sean-daoine, go mbeidh cabhair éigin ag na sean-daoine ón gclainn sin. Tá súil agam, pé ar bith a dhéanfas an Stát ar son na sean-daoine, nach ndéanfaidh an chlann dearmad ar a ndualgas cuidiú leis na tuismitheoirí, nó cuidiú leis na gaolta a bhfuil sé d'ádh agus de rath orthu maireachtáil chomh fada sin go bhfuil siad i dteidil an pinsean d'fháil.

Cinnte is mór linn ar fad an t-athrú atá déanta ar leibhéal an ioncaim nó leibhéal na maoine is ceadmhach do dhaoine a bheith acu agus pinsean d'fháil. Bathrú ar fónamhé, athrú go mbeidh chuid mhór daoine fíor-bhuíoch den Rúnaí Parlaiminte as ucht é a eagrú agus a thabhairt isteach sa Dáil agus sa tSeanad.

Is Bille é go bhfuil fíor-fháilte againn roimhe. Is maith é, agus is mithid, agus is rí-gheal liom gurb é an chéad rud é a thug an Rúnaí Parlaiminte isteach sa Dáil agus sa tSeanad, agus go bhfuil sé ag tabhairt faoisimh do dhaoine a thuilleann faoiseamh—na sean-daoine agus na daill.

I think Senator O'Farrell is right when he says we should accept this Bill as an agreed measure. I have never been in favour of making Party points about old age pensions, but I wish to ask one explanation about a matter which puzzles me in the Bill. I cannot find any defination of "charitable organisation" and I would like to know if there is any other legal definition of "charitable organisation" which could be used as a test. If there is not, then I take it that it is necessary to provide one.

The principal reason why I am drawing attention to this is that it is not clear to me why an £80 income if it happens to be a pension from the State or a £52 income if it happens to be from some charitable organisation should not count, whereas other income will count, for the purpose of assessing the means. I know from my experience of cases where firms would have been quite willing to make a charitable allowance of, say, £1 a week to old employees of 70 and over but did not do so as they said: "We are only paying it to the State; the employee does not get it." I would like to know whether a charitable payment made by a company—which is not based on any insurance right or any agreement but which is made voluntarily—would be charitable from the point of view of that section. I think it is important.

We are all very pleased to see a pension rate of 20/- but we know perfectly well that there are many cases where that is quite inadequate and although the State may not feel they could pay an all-round pension we do not want to do anything that would prevent say another £1 being added by a firm to an old employee. As it stands at the moment, they are only relieving the State of what the State would do. I know there are many cases where that is not done. It would be highly desirable to provide not just a "charitable organisation" but "where it is of a charitable nature." In other words, where it is not based on a legal agreement or insurance. If any firm chooses in a charitable way to give that amount, it should not count. I am not satisfied that the word "charitable" meets the case and I think the Bill may require amendment.

I would first like to welcome the Parliamentary Secretary here and congratulate him in that on his first visit he has brought a measure that has found general agreement in the House. Senator O'Farrell mentioned that in his opinion the provisions were not generous enough. With that we may all agree to an extent, but no group of persons has yet told us what the figures should be. The old age pensioners are not just all one type or class. There is provision made here for quite a number of groups. They are all in different categories of life. You have the small farmer who assigns his holding to his children, you have the worker in the town, you have other people who reach the age of 70 practically destitute. I would like at this stage to express the, hope that any State assistance between old age pension or blind pension would not entirely eliminate the family responsibility of the child to its parent, that that tie should not be broken. If, as has been pointed out, we should make provision for the complete maintenance of people when they reach this particular age, I am afraid we would be seriously interfering, and that should not be the intention of this or any other Government.

One section of this Bill amends a section in the other Bill in that it makes it easier now for the small farmer or large farmer under a certain valuation to transfer his property without having to given a reason, as the Parliamentary Secretary has put it, to the pension officer for doing so. I have a grave doubt as to whether or not this is a step in the right direction. We know full well from experience that our aged people are very reluctant to pass their property on to the younger generation. They are even more reluctant still to allow a stranger into their homestead and while there was a provision in the farmer Act whereby a man transferred his property to his son, it is essential that there should be at least an undertaking given that it was for the purpose of allowing his son to get married and bring in a wife and start life anew. As I have said, there are arguments one way or another.

I have a grave doubt as to whether or not, in the interest of the maintenance of our rural population, this is an improvement. It has been accepted in the other House and all we can do is accept it, too. I doubt that this Bill, no more than any other Bill that may come before this or any other House, is the last word. In something less than eight or nine weeks the present Government has presented us with a measure which makes provision for an increase in the old age pensions. At the same time, we are promised that this is only a step in advance of a comprehensive social welfare scheme to be introduced and which, we all hope, will make more generous provision for all classes of persons who will come under such schemes. Senator O'Farrell made a reference to a provision of something over £1,000,000, but that is not a true picture. The fact is that this is an addition to a sum of about £15,000,000 which has already been expended for assistance of one kind or another on social security.

There are just a few words I should like to say. In the first place, I wish to welcome the Parliamentary Secretary on the occasion of his first visit to this House. I should like to congratulate him on his appointment because I believe that, as a result of his experience over a long number of years on public bodies and as a result of his work on various organisations and societies of a rural nature he is specially qualified to deal with the type of work with which he will naturally be faced in this particular Department. I feel that, as a result of that experience and because of his outlook and background, which are entirely rural, we, who may have to approach him on various items from time to time, will always find him a man full of sympathy for those problems which are the problems of rural Ireland.

I certainly welcome the Bill for two outstanding reasons, first, for its beneficial provisions for the farmer not exceeding £30 valuation and, secondly, for its provision for the men who are in receipt of sums not exceeding £80 under the Army Pensions Act. I believe that both those provisions will do a lot of good and will fill a long overdue need in the country. I generally agree with Senator Hawkins, but I am afraid that I cannot agree with him as to the provision in the Bill which tends to induce the small farmer to hand over his holding to his son. Senator Hawkins states that it is an established fact that the old people do not like to let them the holding. That is so, but to my mind they were influenced to a great extent because of the fact that if the farmer of £30 valuation and under handed over his farm to his son, he was aware of the fact that he might, by so doing, disqualify himself from getting the old age pension or other pensions. As a result of this measure that position is cleared up. If he hands over the farm to one or more of his children he will not be disqualified from benefiting so far as the old age pension is concerned under this Bill. To my mind that is an ideal situation. The only thing I say is that it is a pity that this could not be introduced into some other type of legislation which would operate right through the whole farming industry in the country.

If there is anything more than any other thing wrong in this country it is that it is not practicable in a good many cases for the farmer's son to get married until his parents have both died. That is a bad thing from a national point of view. It has been suggested on a number of occasions that the matter might be overcome by making provision for the building of an extra house on the farm. That was suggested several times, but it was turned down. I merely mention this now because of the provision in this particular Bill which will enable the son or daughter of a small farmer as the case may be to get married and settle down in life at the normal age. They will not have to wait until they reach the old age pension stage. That is not a joke. It is a very serious matter. I know that in rural Ireland as well as in other places in the country it is not unusual to find men and women of 40 to 45 years of age still seriously contemplating marriage and facing the same problems with which they were faced 20 years before.

This Bill is a start. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will use his influence to bring about some type of legislation to deal with old age pensions and matters of that kind which would make some provision whereby the old people would be enabled to live out their own lives to the end and put the young people in the position of being able to get married and settle down.

The provision of old age pensions is a perennial topic. Everyone will welcome this addition to what the old people have already being given. I think it is important that we should not exaggerate the measure. I am sure that no one would admit more quickly than the Parliamentary Secretary himself that with the continued depreciation in the value of money and in the purchasing power of money this is not going to leave the old age pensioner very much better off than he was a year or two ago. All the evidence points to the fact that the £ is going to buy less and less because prices are climbing. The net result is that people will not be able to buy with the £ as much as they were able to purchase for 5/- less than a year ago. However, it is a good thing to be able to do as much as this. It has been stressed that provision was made in the social security measure introduced by the previous Government to provide so much. One comment I want to make about this. It is always difficult to administer any scheme where you have a means test. There are one or two considerations to which I want to draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention. The first one is contained in clause (b) of Section 2 of the Bill. This is:—

"as respects which the property comprised therein consists of a farm of land (together with or without the stock and chattels thereon) the rateable value of which (including the buildings thereon) does not exceed £30..."

I should like to see that portion enclosed in brackets deleted. That is, leave the buildings out. I think the buildings ought not to be included in the valuation. The land is the basis upon which you value your productivity and your income. I think that it is with the land you are dealing primarily. I think, as a result of recent developments, that you are going to have very strange anomalies arising from this position. In a number of our counties—in the Parliamentary Secretary's own county and in my county also—we have taken a decision to assist in the better housing of small farmers.

In addition to the Government grant, provision is being made by a number of county councils by which they will supplement the Government grant by a grant from the local authority. This, I think, is going to have a very healthy effect on the housing conditions of small farmers. I think we are going to see a considerable addition to the number of houses erected on small holdings. You are going to have a situation, therefore, as I see it, with the valuation of the buildings included in the total valuation of the holding for pension purposes, where one man with a poor piece of land, but a good house, will not qualify for the pension, while his neighbour, with good land but a poor house, will qualify for the full pension. I think that is going to be a very unfortunate situation.

I do not know what the Parliamentary Secretary's views are, but I believe it would be very unfortunate when a man has provided good housing that he should be penalised in the matter of his pension because the buildings are taken into consideration in assessing the valuation of a holding for pension purposes. I suggest that this is a matter to which consideration should be given because it is one which affects many people throughout the countryside.

Another point which requires careful consideration is that I believe the pension should be given at an earlier age than 70. Reading the debates in the Dáil, I understood from them that the Minister does not regard the provision of a pension at an age earlier than 70 as desirable and it appeared to me that he was not disposed to make such provision. I think this is a matter which deserves consideration and discussion. My view is that it ought to be possible for a man to continue to work as long as possible. I think it is a tragedy for the country that a great many people do not do as much as they could do, and the country suffers in consequence. I do not think that men should be knocked off when they could do something in the field of productivity, especially at a time when we need all the production we can get.

I believe that a man at 65 is not as well able to do work or as useful to his employers as he was at 60 or 55. I do not believe that if a man has worked the best part of his life on a farm that the farmers want to let him go without any provision for his future. There is a spirit of Christian approach in this matter. On the other hand, the Government compels the farmer to pay a certain wage to his labourers and when he finds that position he will be more inclined to take on a younger man. That will mean that the older men will be driven from their employment and the State will make no provision for them. The State itself provides for a man to retire at 60 or 65 and that also seems to be the trade union point of view. I suggest that the payment of the old age pension at an earlier age is a matter requiring reconsideration. My view is that the State ought to make some provision. I do not suggest that the State ought to make the same ample provision for a man at 65 as it will for a man of 70, but I think that some State provision should be made for a man at the lower age and it should be of such a nature as will enable the man to continue in employment at a lower wage because from the point of view of strength and capacity he is not worth as much as a younger man.

The position to-day is that if a man is over 70 and he wants to stay in his employment the difficulty is he can get a full pension and yet if he is kept in employment he must get the full rate of wages. The whole position is one that ought to be examined. People ought to be able to work as long as they want to work, but if legislation is prepared in such a way as to prevent that, then the very thing the Minister has in mind is destroyed because of the nature of the legislation.

Nobody is going to oppose this measure; it is only something the Minister's predecessor had proposed in a more comprehensive measure, but it does not go so far as that comprehensive measure, which made provision for pensions at 65.

There is nothing in the comprehensive scheme that Deputy Norton proposed giving pensions to men retiring at 65

No, but the principle was in the legislation. As far as I know, judging from the speeches of the Minister, he does not accept that principle, and I say that our social legislation ought to be reconsidered in the circumstances of to-day. We know it will mean additional burdens. We know that these will have to be met. No matter who is in power that must be faced. Taking the situation by and large, the attitude of the country to such a proposal as this, and the burdens which will be imposed as a consequence, is that we have no alternative, that it is overdue, that the reduction in the purchasing power of money means that even when the old age pensioners get this they will not be very much better off than they were before.

I would like at the outset to welcome the Parliamentary Secretary and also to welcome the Bill. We are all in agreement that, at any rate, the Bill sets out to improve the position of old age pensioners. I was surprised at Senator O'Farrell taking the line he took because none of us ever agreed or ever was satisfied that the old age pension was given to people in order to enable-them to live on it. At no time was sufficient money given to enable old age pensioners to live in any kind of comfort. It was given to help somebody else to keep them. I agree that an old person is entitled to live the same as anybody else, but I do not think that we should go on the assumption that the old age pension was ever meant to be sufficient. At least, it never was sufficient for an old person to keep himself.

Until such time as people are prepared to contribute to an old age pension scheme, there will not be a sufficient amount of money guaranteed to secure anything like frugal comfort for an old age pensioner. While I say that, I want to say that I was not in favour of the provisions of the Social Security Bill introduced by the last Government. I am opposed to the welfare State because there are dangers inherent in it that would obviate any benefits that would be derived from it. It was never intended that an old age pension was a sufficiency. If we are to give old age pensions in sufficient amount, we must be prepared to have something in the nature of a contributory scheme.

I am secretary of a trade union. We have a superannuation scheme under which men, if they want to get a pension, can get it at 65. Very few of them ever get it at 65. We pay £2 a week. These men never qualified for full pension. I just wanted to say what I had to say about the old age pension—I said it before—that I believe there should be a contributory scheme and until we agree to that we will never be in a position—we must have a mind to our resources—to give a sufficient amount to allow old people to live in anything like even frugal comfort. They never got it and they will never get it under the present system.

Senator Baxter raised the question of pensions at 65. In the Bill introduced by the last Government there was a question of retiring allowances. at 65 years of age. The trade union movement favoured retiring workers at 65 for the sole purpose of creating employment for the younger people. When I was a younger man, of course, I was greatly in favour of it but now that I am pushing on to the 60 mark, I think it was a callous and most retro grade thing to suggest. Seriously, I have seen men retire at 65 years of age who had another ten good years in them. In our own business, the bookbinding trade, which does not, I admit, involve heavy, laborious, manual work, very rarely do men go out before 72 or 73. I have a man working at the present time who is 78 years of age. I do not agree with Senator Baxter that a man is past his labour when he is between 65 and 70 years of age.

I did not say he was.

You said that he was not worth what he was worth when he was younger. I find that many of the older men are worth more than some of the younger men we are getting to-day because they work more conscientiously.

I will not challenge that.

Let us get away from this question of pensions at 65. Pensions were not promised at 65 in the last Bill. There were retiring allowances. I think it was a retrograde step. Nobody should be compelled to retire. Once you have it in an Act that people can be retired at 65 they will be retired in many cases. Statisticians tell us that the prospect of life is becoming longer so that possibly we will be better able to work at 70 than was the case two or three years ago. I want to put my finger on that point, that the trade unions favoured it because there was a big section of unemployed in the country at that time. At the present time the general position is that you cannot get men.

That is true.

It would be foolish in the extreme to say that we will retire at 65 men who have at least five and possibly ten years' work in them when you have not labour to replace them. I welcome the Bill. It is something. It is a help. But, until we get a contributory scheme which will abolish the very objectional means test, and objectionable it is—I am a member of the Dublin Old Age Pensions Committee and I know how objectionable it can be—you will always have the old age pension. I look forward to the day when old age pensions, at any rate, will be given under a contributory scheme.

Like other Senators, I welcome this Bill to increase old age and blind pensions. I agree with Senator O'Farrell that the amount given is inadequate. In 1908 we had the first Old Age Pensions Bill. At that time the pension was fixed at 5/- per week. We all know that in the country areas the average wage at that time for farm workers was 10/- a week. Therefore, an old man and woman who got the full pension got the equivalent of a farm worker's wage. In 1916 the British Government increased the old age pension to 10/- a week. If an old man and woman got the full old age pension they got £1 a week, which was still equivalent to the wage of a farm worker in 1916. Since that time, there have been two small increases.

It took practically 30 years before the next increase was given. The Fianna Fáil Government, in 1947, increased it by 2/6 a week. There was a proviso that the county council could give a further increase of 2/6 a week. I cannot understand why the full 5/- increase was not given.

Those of us who are members of county councils know that if the county council were to give 2/6 a week extra it would mean giving it in home assistance. Many persons who draw old age pensions refused to go to the home assistance officer to draw that 2/6 as home assistance. Therefore, such persons got only 2/6 extra per week. In 1948, under the last Government, the old age pensioners got a further increase of 5/- a week, bringing the old age pension to 17/6 a week. They are getting a further increase of 2/6 now. It is a pity that the old age pensioners did not get a decent pension some years ago instead of getting 2/6 here and 2/6 there. Now, if the old age pension is £1, a man and woman who get the full pension will get £2 a week whereas the present wage in a country area is £3 7s. 6d. a week. Therefore, the old age pensioner to-day is not as well off as the old age pensioner was in 1908 when he was getting only 5/- a week.

I welcome the provision in the Bill relating to military service pensions. An allowance of up to £80 will not now be taken into consideration in the calculation of the old age pension that is to be paid. That is a very important matter for Old I.R.A. men who are drawing allowances. I have had some dealings with those men. Heretofore, when they reached the age of 70, their allowance was cut. Now, when the pension is increased, the allowance will not be cut up to a maximum of £80. I know that in the past, when the pension was increased, the allowance was cut. In fact some of them lost their full allowance and had nothing to get only the old age pension.

I also welcome the provision in regard to small farmers. They can qualify for the pension under the conditions laid down. Heretofore, the investigation officer put a very high valuation on a man's land or on his stock. It was so high that even very small farmers could not qualify for the old age pension. There is also the provision with regard to charitable organisations. There, again, men who have been in receipt of some help from these organisations were victimised, even though they were really entitled to a pension. There was also the position with regard to railway men. When they reached the age of 70 they only got 6/- of a pension, and had then to apply for the old age pension.

Senator Baxter referred to the question of old age pensions for people at 65. It is a pity that, after all the years that have passed since the original Act was passed, the age of 70 still stands in order to qualify for an old age pension. Even though one Senator said that some men are able to work at 65, we all know that there are very many who are not able to work at that age. As a member of a county council, I know that we have to give home assistance to large numbers of men between the ages of 65 and 70. You also have large numbers of men between these ages in the county homes. They have to be maintained out of the rates because they are not entitled to the old age pension until they reach the age of 70. If they were so entitled and could get the pension at the age of 65, it would mean relieving the rates of a big burden.

The present Bill is really a copy of the proposals brought forward in the other House by the former Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Norton. I believe it is a great pity that the present Government did not agree to a retiring allowance at 65, especially in the case of men who are not able to work beyond that age. If a man is able to work, is in a good job and is getting good wages, he is not going to ask for a retiring allowance at 65. We have quite a number of men and women who would be entitled to retire at 65 because they are unable to work beyond that age. I think it would be a good policy on the part of the present Government to give them a retiring allowance at 65.

I agree with Senator Colgan that, at present, we have practically full employment. Some years ago the position was otherwise. We had mass unemployment. As Senator Baxter has pointed out, any man can get work now, especially in the rural areas. We all know that if we had mass unemployment, men at the age of 65 would not be taken on as long as employers could get younger men. As I say, it is a pity that the present Government did not agree to give a retiring allowance at 65, especially to men who are unable to work beyond that age. I welcome the Bill. I hope that in the future the present or some other Government will take the matters which I have raised into consideration.

Like other members of the Seanad, I welcome our new Parliamentary Secretary. I have known him for a great many years. I know how admirably suited he is for his present post. He has strong common sense and an intimate knowledge of life in rural Ireland. Though we have a good impression of the Parliamentary Secretary—most of the speakers stressed that—I do not think he can have got a very good impression of us. This debate seems to me to be rather unreal. It reminded me of the old King in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera who said "They give me this, they give me that, I have nothing whatever to grumble at." That seemed to be the great fault with, I think, most of the speakers—that there was not enough to grumble at.

The Title of this Bill is "An Act to amend the existing enactments relating to old age and blind persons' pensions." I do not think anyone can deny that it does that; that it does amend the existing enactments in ways that have been crying out for amendment. However, I am going to voice a real grievance. It is in relation to the position of women. Under this Bill, women are treated just the same as men. The working woman who is employed has a very much harder fate than men. Men, without much difficulty, can get employment at 70 years of age. I had the privilege of serving for nine years on the committee of management of the National Health Insurance Society. We found that there was a heavy drain on our funds for disablement benefit in the case of women from the age of 49 up. As regards most of them, their health broke down. It is a critical time in a woman's life. Their health broke down and they had to go on the disablement fund due, mostly, perhaps to malnutrition or other causes. They were not in employment and had to wait until they had reached the age of 70 before they could get the old age pension.

I would like to think that when things improve, when we can meet our social obligations with more ease than perhaps we can at the present moment, that the position of women, and the particular difficulties associated with them, will be taken into consideration. That is one of the things which I would like to put before the Parliamentary Secretary. The former Minister for Social Welfare made provision for retirement allowances at 65. I think myself that was a very good point. We all realise, I think, that women lose their capacity for work, and find it harder to get work, than men do. For that reason, and if it were possible, I would like to see them entitled to the old age pension at an earlier period. I think there was a good deal in what Senator Douglas said about the definition of charitable organisations. I think that was a point that is worthy of consideration, because it is quite possible that people will be deprived of help from such sources as the Senator indicated.

On the whole, we welcome the Bill. It is an advance. Social services are, at best, a crutch or artificial limb. If the State were completely healthy and people were able to earn, to set aside money and provide for their old age, so many social services would not be required, but this is an imperfect world and our own country has its share of imperfection and so social services will always be necessary. The whole stress should be on the relief of people like the old and the blind and the poor people with small wages who have big families. These are the people we should help and I plead once more for the poor lonely old woman, the person who is referred to as the old maid, and especially the poor old things who perhaps have no friends and who must live most miserable lives until they come to the age of 70.

Táim fíorbhuíoch dos na Seanadóirí a chuir fáilte romham agus á rinne comhgháirdeachas liom.

I will try to confine myself to the criticism of the various sections which has been made. Some of the things said were provocative, inasmuch as they opened up a discourse on the social aspect of everything, and, if one tried to answer all the points raised, I am afraid that on this, my first, visit to the Seanad I should be roaming a lot. Senator Smyth dealt with the first Old Age Pensions Acts and traced the history of the old age pension from the time when it began at 5/- until it reached its present rate of 17/6. The means test under those Acts was much more severe because board and lodgings, maintenance, were taken into account. These disappeared in 1932 and they are no longer taken into account.

Senator Smyth and other Senators dealt with the value of money at present, but I should like to put it to the House that very few of us can say that we have doubled whatever our income was in 1939, and, in a State like this, we must cut our cloth according to our measure. It is not a matter of £1,500,000 we are dealing with now. We are putting a burden of £1,500,000 on what we already expend on old age pensions and other social services, and that has to be got from the taxpayer.

Senator Baxter dealt with paragraph (b) of Section 2 and said that we should exclude the phrase "including the buildings thereon." I am making an understatement when I say that 70 per cent. of the agricultural holdings, including buildings, have a poor law valuation of £20 and under. The Senator referred to my own constituency. I will take my own county. Of the holdings in County Westmeath, 74 per cent. are £30 valuation and under, and over 60 per cent. of the population of Westmeath live on holdings of £30 valuation and under. We are bringing them all within the scope of this Bill. As Senator Baxter knows, the valuation of the ordinary holding is very small. If a man avails of the grants and builds a new house, I assume that the valuation will be about £7 or £8, which still leaves him with a land valuation of £22, which is not taken into account at all in this Bill.

The Bill is very liberal in that respect and it benefits that big proportion of our population who need benefit most. I think the House will agree with me on that because these are the people whom we are anxious to keep there, because, while the population of the cities and towns is increasing, they seem to be disappearing.

Senator Douglas raised a point with regard to the interpretation of sub-section (2) of Section 3. That sub-section sets out:—

"In sub-section (1) of this section, "charitable organisation" means a body whose activities are carried on otherwise than for profit (but excluding any public or local authority) and one of whose functions is to assist persons in need by making grants of money to them."

That is a fairly good definition of a charitable organisation and I would remind all Senators that this is only an interim measure, pending the introduction of a comprehensive social. security scheme. I do not think there would be any objection, unless we are to establish the welfare State, which we all unanimously oppose, to any body, such as Senator Colgan's trade union or any big industry, carrying out social welfare schemes. The more of that we have, the better. The less regimentation we have the better. I feel that "charitable organisations" is very generously defined in the Bill in allowing a beneficiary to benefit to the extent of £52. As Senator Quirke has said, the Bill also allows Old I.R.A. allowances or pensions up to £80. Like Senator Quirke, I have not got the doubt that Senator Hawkins has. The door is left wide open for the old pair to retire and to allow the young person into possession and all the legal clauses in respect of maintenance which were hitherto an impediment in the way of getting a pension can be inserted.

With regard to the question of retirement at 65, in answer to some points made by Senators, it has been stressed that, in the Bill put forward by the previous Minister, he was dealing not-with old age pensions but with retiring allowances. This Bill will affect immediately 157,000 old age pensioners who have their pensions on the basis of a means test. I think I would be making a safe statement when I say that we have the largest group of people over 70, strong, able-bodied people, of any country in Europe. In my own locality, on estates, I have met case after case of people who have been hiding their age at 70, so as to be allowed to continue working agriculturally. If we are going to compel them to get off the national health insurance list and retire at 65, it will create a rumpus in the country.

I did not suggest that.

Senator Baxter knows well that men in his own county do it. I saw them riding on bicycles at that age. It would not go down well in his county. Senator Mrs. Concannon made the point about spinsters at 65 and that is a very humanitarian plea on her part. I will recommend it to my chief and I am sure it will be dealt with very sympathetically. They are in a category by themselves and I will recommend it to my chief.

What Senator O'Farrell suggests is that people in institutions, whether in county homes or similar places, can apply for and get the full old age pension. They could heretofore apply and get it and will be enabled under this Bill to get the full pension and apply for it.

I was delighted with the help I got from Senator Colgan. He made a sound, commonsense approach to the whole matter and I reiterate every sentiment he expressed. It helps me in keeping out the welfare State and keeping democracy in this part of the world.

Mr. O'Farrell

I have been misunderstood and therefore unintentionally misrepresented in what I said. I did not contend that we should have a welfare State. I did not criticise what is in the Bill. It is merely the legal adoption by the Parliamentary Secretary of proposals put forward by his predecessor in office.

Suggested to them.

He is starting a debatable point.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator should not go beyond that.

Mr. O'Farrell

Senator Colgan said I stood for the welfare State.

Mr. O'Farrell

I do not want the welfare State. I did not say the State should contribute the whole pension, but I did say that if the children contribute to the support of their parents, or old people get the contribution by way of pension or allowance from charitable organisations, it is taken into account and the State will only contribute enough to bring their whole weekly income up to 28/- or 30/-, including those voluntary contributions; and that the State puts too low a value on what it costs it to live.

I know Senator O'Farrell well enough to know that his views on the welfare State are the same as mine.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the remaining stages now.
Section I agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary misunderstood me or not in regard to my point. I was trying to point out, in regard to what is in brackets here, the anomalies that will arise as a result of proposals which make it possible for a number of people to improve their homes and holdings. The net result is that we will have a number of people availing of State grants and local authority grants and improving their holdings and by doing that they will be putting themselves outside the provisions of this Bill, while their neighbours who have done nothing and who accordingly do not increase the valuation of their holdings—the valuation increase will be on the house—will be within the provisions of the Bill.

I think that is unfortunate. I know the Parliamentary Secretary is not going to alter it now, nor do I want to go into a long discussion on it or hold up the Bill, but it is something which should be considered. It has the effect that the whole social approach to the improvements of the conditions under which our country people live are to a certain extent being vitiated by the type of legislation which we pass. I think it is undesirable. I always regarded it as undesirable that simply because a man may improve a holding and be trying to carry on, the valuation of his property is raised in such a way that he is penalised for doing something which his neighbour did not do. I suggest that that must be approached in a different way.

If a man builds a new house on his holding and brings it up to £32 or £33, that does not exclude him when he assigns it to the son, when he applies for the pension. It may prevent him getting a full pension.

Another thing he might do would be to assign the holding at once to the son and let the son build the new house.

It is worth studying.

I will consider it.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 3.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

The Parliamentary Secretary explained one point satisfactorily when he quoted the definition of "charitable organisation", but did not at all explain as to why it should be confined strictly to charitable organisations. It has nothing to do with this Bill, though in a sense it is carried on here. The principle always seemed to me to be bad. You are depriving certain people of additional income, at no advantage to the State. Certain firms would and could give 10/- or 15/- or 20/- to employees over 70, but do not do it because all they would be doing would be giving it to the State and there would be no benefit to the employee. I do not understand why you exempt a pension paid by the State but do not exempt a voluntary payment given by a firm to an old employee. It seems to me that it should be the other way round, that you might want to discourage pensioners from the State from benefiting but want to encourage payment made by others. It may be that if firms were very keen—which a few may be, but I am afraid it will not apply to all— they could form a committee which would become a charitable organisation to which they would pay the money and which might make the payments.

It is just possible there may be a way out. I am not referring to any particular case, but over several years I know there have been cases where payments would have been made, and certainly cases where suggestions would have been made for payments, but the firms concerned, who have spoken to me about it, said: "What is the good; if we pay £1 a week to that old employee, his pension is reduced and we might as well pay it to the State; and we think we can do with the money better."

Mr. O'Farrell

On this section, Senator Douglas and myself agree. He says the thing in a different way and therefore gets that accepted, whereas I say it in another way and am misunderstood. He is making the point I am trying to make. The law as we are re-enacting it means that they will get the pension only up to a certain level. I am not arguing that the State should bring it above that level.

The means test has been altered but you still exclude certain people, who have been mentioned by Senator Baxter, who ordinarily would have qualified for some pension or retiring allowance from the firm with which they work or from the railway company or the ordinary commercial company with which they were employed. If the company gives them a pension of 30/- or 35/- a week and considers that they have earned it, the State steps in and says: "That will be the limit to your income." If my sons or daughters give me 30/- a week to live on when I am 70 years of age, the State says that is enough for me, but if I get nothing from anybody, the State says I will get £1. My argument and that of Senator Douglas is that where a person has an income from any source, which imposes no burden on the State, the State should raise the maximum allowance and the means test should not take that into account. Myself and Senator Douglas are arguing from different angles on something that would mean a still further improvement in the modification of the means test and which would impose very little, if anything on the State. It might impose a little extra on the State. If some firm decides to give its employees 25/- a week, the State will see that he will get no more. The fact that the employer is contributing a sum will prevent the setting up of a welfare State.

I am afraid that Senator Douglas and Senator O'Farrell are both off the mark. There is no question of giving them anything. As a result of legislation introduced by the Fianna Fáil Government in 1932, it is quite possible for employers or firms to give help in kind.

Mr. O'Farrell

Sacks of spuds.

It is quite possible to do that, but that was not possible until 1932. I stood up in a rather hesitant way to ask the Minister—I may get into trouble for it—whether he considers a trade union to be a charitable organisation. Am I to take it that a trade union will come under the heading of a charitable organisation for remissions under the Act in so far as superannuation is concerned?

While I may have an amount of sympathy for the point made by Senator O'Farrell, I was not making nearly so wide a point. The point raised by him dealt with all questions of pensions. I was dealing with a much smaller point. I was dealing with the point that the Bill exempts a charitable payment not exceeding £52, which will not be taken into consideration—and that is £1 a week. I cannot see why that charitable payment should be confined to a charitable organisation, if it is made for any charitable purpose and is not a case of pension or of right. It is a pity that difficulties should be created for the making of those charitable payments. I am neither agreeing not disagreeing with Senator O'Farrell, who raised a much bigger point. I have sympathy with Senator Colgan with regard to the point—I saw it myself—he raised about trade unions, but the point I am getting at is relevant to this Bill. I am suggesting that it is a great pity that charitable payments should not be payable by anybody—an individual, a company or anybody—provided there is proof that it is a purely charitable payment, even if it is made every week, and is not a part of any conditions of employment of any kind. The time will come probably when most of the larger companies will have pension schemes. At the moment, however, very many employees who reach 70 do not come under any scheme. Firms would pay them a weekly sum, but do not do so as it would be taken into account by the State. If the Parliamentary Secretary will consider the point I am making, he will see that it is a very good point and one which requires consideration.

Would it not be possible under the section as it is, for the firm to set up within itself a benevolent fund that would be recognised by the Department as a charitable organisation for the particular purpose?

I have already said that there might be a way out, but that presupposes a strong desire on the part of the firm to do so. I am looking at it that I would be striving to persuade them.

All I can promise Senators Douglas, O'Farrell and Colgan is that I will submit their points to the Minister for consideration.

Fair enough.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 4.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

On Section 4, there is a fixation of means test which will affect a big number of old people that I know who are drawing a pension of 10/- from some source in England. In the section an amount of £22 2s. 6d. is mentioned. I wonder would it be possible to increase that to £26 and thus bring within the provisions of the Act those people who are in receipt of a pension of 10/- from some source in England. The fixing of the maximum at £22 2s. 6d. would deprive those people of the 20/- a week.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That could not be done right away.

That could not be done by this House at all.

The Parliamentary Secretary has power to consider the matter and power to recommend it.

Give him a chance.

This is an entirely different matter.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 5 and 6, and the Title, put and agreed to.
Bill reported without recommendation, received for final consideration and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.

I understand that the arrangement was that we would meet this day fortnight to consider the Appropriation Bill.

We had better adjournsine die and if the Dáil carries out its arrangement we will meet this day fortnight.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.20 p.m.sine die.