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.