Public Business. - Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1965: Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

Cúis áthais dom an Bille seo a chur ós comhair Seanad Éireann. Mar is léir ón mheamram míniúcháin a cuireadh ar fáil le téacs an Bhille séard atá ann ná forálacha is gá chun na méadaithe tathagacha a fógraíodh sa Cháinfhaisnéis i rátaí sochar agus pinsean árachais shóisialaigh agus freisin i rátaí pinsean seanaoise, daille agus baintrí neamh-ranníocach agus cúnamh dífhostaíochta a chur i bhfeidhm. Tá foráil sa Bhille, freisin, leis an dteorainn ioncaim chun árachais éigintigh faoi na hAchtanna Leasa Shóisialaigh a árdú ó £800 go £1,200 i n-aghaidh na bliana. Chomh maith leis sin tá forálacha tábhachtacha sa Bhille a bhaineann le módh nua chun acmhainn sealbhóirí feirmeacha beaga i gCeantair Chúnga d'áireamh i gcomhair cúnamh dífhostaíochta. Ina dteannta sin tá roint feabhsanna éagsúla ann ar na scéimeanna árachais shóisialaigh agus chúnaimh.

Fórálann an Bille go bhfaighidh na pinsinéirí neamh-ranníocacha uilig sean-aoise, daille nó baintrí, nach mó ná £26. 5s. 0d a n-acmhainn bliantúil, 10/- breise i n-aghaidh na seachtaine agus go bhfaighidh an chuid eile de na pinsinéirí 5/- i n-aghaidh na seachtaine. Tá uas-ráta pinsean neamh-ranníocach dilleachta dá mhéadú freisin do réir 5/- i n-aghaidh na seachtaine. De thoradh na méadaithe seo pinsean táthar arís ag leathnú ar na teorainneacha bliantiúla acmhainne agus na rátaí pinsean i dtreo's go mbeidh ráta breise ag an bpointe is ísle de gach scála iníoctha le daoine nach raibh ach díreach taobh amuigh den teorainn acmhainne d'aon phinsin go nuige seo.

Táthar ag méadú ar na rátaí cúnaimh dífhostaíochta do réir 5/- i n-aghaidh na seachtaine don fhaighteoir féin agus beidh 5/- breise iníoctha i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe nuair is ann dó. Chomh maith leis an méadú i rátaí cúnaimh dífhostaíochta beidh a chomhthrom de leathnú ar an dteorainn acmhainne i gcomhair cáilithe chun cúnaimh dífhostaíochta.

Beidh na méadaithe ar shochair leasa shóisialaigh i bhfeidhm ó thosach Mí Eanáir seo chugainn agus dá réir soláthrófar 10/- breise i n-aghaidh na seachtaine d'fhaighteoirí sochar míchumais, sochair dífhostaíochta, sochar máithreachais, pinsean ranníocach baintrí, liúntas ranníocach dilleachta agus pinsean seanaoise (ranníocach) maille le 10/- breise i n-aghaidh na seachtaine i leith cleithiúnaí aosaithe más ann dó.

Táthar chun na ranníoca fostaíochta a árdú dá réir freisin. Is é an méadú ar ráta gnáthach na ranníoca do fhear oibre ná 2s. 10d i n-aghaidh na seachtaine i dtreo's gurab ionann is 14s. 8d i n-aghaidh na seachtaine an ráta sin agus é rointe go comhthrom idir an fostóir agus an fostaí.

Tá beartaithe ag an Rialtas freisin an teorainn pá is cuí chun árachais éigintigh faoi na hAchtanna Leasa Shóisialaigh i gcás daoine atá i bhfostaíocht seachas i mbun obair láimhe a árdú ó £800 i naghaidh na bliana go £1,200. Cuirfear an t-athrú seo i bhfeidhm ar dáta a sochrófar trí bhíthin Órdaithe.

Rud a cabhróidh go mór le mílte sealbhóirí feirmeacha beaga i gceantair chúnga is ea an t-athrú a fhorálann an Bille, maidir le módh áirmhithe ioncaim ó thalamh faoi na hAchtanna Um Cúnamh Dífhostaíochta. Is ar éifeacht táirgiúil na feirme do réir mar a thaisbeánann luacháil measaithe na talún é agus ní ar an líon stoc agus barraí, & rl. a bunófar áireamh na h-acmhainne feasta. Is é cuspóir na h-athraithe seo go mbeidh ar a gcumas d'fheirmeóirí beaga ins na ceantair chúnga an toradh is mó is féidir a fháisceadh as a bhfeirmeacha agus páirt a ghlacadh go pras ins na scéimeanna uilig atá ceapaithe chun méadú ar thoradh talmhaíochta ach gan bheith imníoch faoi chúnamh dífhostaíochta a chailliúint de bhárr a saothair.

Tá mar pholasaí agam le linn dom bheith im Aire na scéimeanna leasa shóisialaigh a choimeád fé scrúdú d'fhonn iad a fheabhsú tré pé easnamh, aimhrialtachta, nó lochta eile a tcítear dom a bheith ionntu a leasú chomh fada agus is féidir é. Cuige sin, seo go hachomair cuid de na leasaithe atá sa Bhille: Tá cúig athraithe ann a bhaineann le h-áireamh acmhainne i gcomhair pinsean neamh-ranníocach seanaoise, daille, baintrí nó dilleachta a ligfidh do roint mhaith daoine cáiliú chun pinsean, nó chun rátaí níos aoirde, feasta.

Tá feabhsanna beartaithe ar na hAchtanna Um Liúntais Leanaí freisin. Faoi cheann díobh íocfar liúntas leanaí le h-oifigigh Airm le linn bheith i gcéin dóibh, agus faoin gceann eile íocfar liúntas faoi dhó i leith gach linbh a mhaireann i gcás breithe iolraí seachas cúpla.

Maidir le costas na bhforálacha éagsúla: ar an dtaobh cúnamh shóisialaigh de is é an costas iomlán ná £4,337,900 i mbliain iomlán agus £2,484,100 sa bhliain reatha. Ar an dtaobh árachais shóisialaigh de is é costas iomlán na moltaí ná £5,190,000 i mbliain iomlán. Is é an chuid de sin a íocfar as an Stát-Chiste ná £1,290,000 i mbliain iomlán agus £668,000 sa bhliain reatha.

This Bill as a result of which the gross expenditure on Social Welfare will be increased by £9.53 millions in a full year represents a considerable advance in the field of social welfare in this country. From the explanatory memorandum circulated with the text, it will be seen that the Bill includes the provisions to implement the decision announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget speech on 11th May last to give substantial increases in rates of social insurance benefits and pensions, and also in rates of non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions and unemployment assistance. The Bill also includes provision to increase the income limit for compulsory insurance under the Social Welfare Acts from £800 to £1,200 a year. There are, in addition, important provisions in the Bill for a new method of assessing means for the purposes of unemployment assistance in the case of smallholders in congested areas, and, finally, the Bill provides for a number of miscellaneous improvements in existing social insurance and assistance schemes.

Senators will observe that the explanatory memorandum issued with the Bill is much more detailed than has previously been the case. I have had this done to help resolve the difficulty in understanding and following amending legislation of this nature which necessarily must be by reference to the existing Acts. My aim has been to make clear, as far as possible, what each amendment really does, where the text itself is not self-explanatory.

The Budget increases on the social assistance side, to be effective as from the beginning of next month, will give an extra 10/- a week for all existing non-contributory old age, blind or widow pensioners whose yearly means do not exceed £26 5s. while all the remaining pensioners will get an increase of 5/- a week. It is estimated that some 71,000 persons who are old age or blind pensioners will qualify for the 10/- increase and 41,000 for the 5/- increase, while over 11,000 widows will obtain the 10/- increase, the remainder getting the 5/- increase. The maximum rate of orphan's non-contributory pension is also being increased by 5/- a week. The opportunity is again being taken to extend the scales of means and rates of pension in each case so as to add an additional rate at the minimum of each scale which will be payable to persons previously just outside the means limit for any pension. As a result the scale for an old age pensioner without a qualified child will be extended to £156 15s., as against the present £143 15s. and therefore a married pensioner without a qualified child can have means of £313 10s. and still qualify for the minimun rate of old age pension. The means limit, of course, increases with each qualified child.

The rates of unemployment assistance for persons in urban and rural areas are being increased by 5/- a week for the recipient himself and by a further 5/- where there is an adult dependant. This will have the consequential effect of automatically extending the means limit for qualification for unemployment assistance by equivalent amounts.

The increases in payments in social insurance benefits will become operative at the beginning of January next, and will provide an extra 10/- a week for recipients of disability benefit, unemployment benefit, maternity benefit, widow's contributory pension, orphan's contributory allowance and old age (contributory) pension, with an additional 10/- a week where an adult dependant's allowance is payable with a pension or benefit. The extra cost will be paid for, as are all insurance benefits, by increases in the contributions from employers, insured employees and from the Exchequer. The consequential increase in the rates of social insurance contribution will be 2/10d. a week in the ordinary rate for male workers, making it 14/8d. a week, to be shared equally by the employer and worker. Increases in the rates of contribution for other classes will be 2/10d. where all the insurance benefits are insured against, with appropriately lesser amounts where some only of the benefits of the scheme are covered.

Rising levels of remuneration generally as a result of successive rounds of pay increases over the past few years, has affected the social insurance scheme by giving increasing numbers of persons who are employed otherwise than by way of manual labour, pay which was in excess of the limit for compulsory insurance under the Social Welfare Acts. The Government have decided to increase this limit which, of course, applies only to persons employed otherwise than by way of manual labour, from the existing level of £800, fixed in 1958, to £1,200 a year. The Bill provides that this increase will take effect from a date to be determined by Order. This is necessary not only to give employers and persons likely to be affected, reasonable notice of the change after the relevant provision becomes law but also to permit regulations to be made for the purpose of awarding credited contributions to persons brought back into compulsory insurance by reason of the raising of the limit.

These credited contributions will enable a person brought back into compulsory insurance to qualify at once for disability benefit or unemployment benefit, provided he otherwise satisfies the conditions for benefit. They will not, however, count for purposes of old age or widows' (contributory) pensions as any person going out of insurance by reason of going over the remuneration limit could have maintained his insurance for pension purposes by becoming a voluntary contributor. There is provision in the Bill to enable future variations in the remuneration limit to be made by Government Order and in such a case it will be necessary that the Draft of the Order be placed before each House of the Oireachtas and approved by resolution of each House before the Order can be made.

Many thousands of smallholders in the congested areas will benefit from the radical change, which the Bill provides for, in the method of assessing income from land under the Unemployment Assistance Acts. Means derived from their land by smallholders in Congested Districts will, in general, no longer be calculated by reference to the actual number of stock, area and type of crops, etc. on a holding but by reference to the productive capacity of the holding as indicated by the rateable valuation of the land. Under this new system all holdings bearing the same land valuation will normally be deemed to produce the same fixed rate of means regardless of the extent to which the occupiers are in fact working the lands. The idea is that each smallholder in the congested areas should be free to work his holding to maximum capacity, and to participate readily in all schemes designed to increase agricultural output, without being concerned about losing some or all of his unemployment assistance as a result of an expanding farm income arising from greater effort and enterprise on his part.

The Bill proposes to give the Government power to specify by order the areas in which the new system will operate. It is proposed to apply it in the 11 full counties of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, Cavan, Monaghan, Longford, Clare and Kerry together with the congested portions of West Cork and West Limerick. Thus the scheme will embrace the congested areas in the widest sense of that term. The areas I have mentioned are substantially the same as the areas which have been selected for the purposes of measures recently introduced for the development of the West such, for example, as the county development teams and pilot area schemes. The essential feature of the unemployment assistance scheme will be unaltered, but in the congested areas income from a holding will be calculated on the basis of £20 a year for each £1 of net land valuation. The present disregard of 5/- per week in respect of a married smallholder will, of course, continue to operate so that, in effect, the means assessed in his case for a £3 land valuation farm will be £47 per year and £67 for a £4 land valuation farm and so on. The means figure thus calculated will stay unchanged irrespective of changes in the output of the farm. In this way, a person who neglects his holding will lose any advantage in the scale of unemployment assistance payments which he enjoys at present over his more industrious neighbour with a similar valuation.

Special transitional arrangements will enable existing smallholder recipients of unemployment assistance in the selected areas to adapt themselves gradually to the amended scheme. In any case where it would be to their advantage they may for a period of five years continue to have their means assessed as at present on the basis of current values, for stock, crops etc., but in no case will the assessment exceed the figure which would be arrived at by calculating their means by reference to land valuation. In the absence of actual experience it is not possible to say with any firmness how many smallholders will benefit from the proposals or what the additional cost will be. We have, however, estimated, that some 24,000 smallholders in the selected areas will be affected including about 8,000 who are already recipients of unemployment assistance and that the additional cost of the change, on the basis of these numbers, will be something over £1,000,000 a year.

I feel I can say with full justification that when these changes are brought into force in January next there will be no reason why a smallholder in the congested areas in receipt of unemployment assistance should not make an all-out effort to increase the production from his holding by making the maximum use of his skill and energy, and of whatever financial and technical aids and advice are available to him, and by enthusiastic co-operation with his neighbours and full participation in government schemes designed to raise income levels in these areas.

It has been my policy as Minister to keep the various social welfare schemes instantly under review and to seek to improve them whenever and wherever possible. In each Social Welfare Bill introduced over the past few years, provision has been made for a variety of improvements, some great and some relatively small, but each of them of considerable benefit to the persons affected. The present is no exception as it includes provision for a number of improvements or extensions of existing schemes.

Section 15, for instance, deals with five modifications of the means test as applied for the purposes of non-contributory old age, blind, widows' or orphans' pensions and will undoubtedly enable a considerable number of persons to qualify for such pensions or to qualify for a higher rate of pension. These include an increase in the amount which may be disregarded from the earnings of a blind person in assessing his means for pension purposes by £13 for himself, his wife, and each qualified child and the complete disregard for the purposes of non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions of all payments from charitable organisations.

Another concession will permit an annuity payable under the Land Act, 1965 to an elderly or blind person who surrenders a holding to the Land Commission, to be ignored in so far as it does not exceed £3 a week in assessing means for old age or blind pension.

The remaining concessions in the group affect widows' non-contributory pensions and are the extension of the present disregard of £39 from earnings from insurable employment in respect of each qualified child so that it will apply also to a widow's earnings from any form of employment or self-employment involving personal exertions and the limitation of the amount of a qualified child's means which can be assessed against a widow to £26 where she has one such child and to £52 where she has more than one.

The position of non-contributory old age pensioners detained in mental hospitals is also being improved. At present their pensions are appropriated by the hospital authorities towards the cost of their maintenance and treatment but if the person in charge of the hospital feels that the pensioner is capable of using money properly, the pensioner may be allowed up to 10/- a week out of his pension as pocket money. Section 11 of the Bill will increase the amount that may be so allowed to a maximum of £1 a week and will also permit the person in charge of the hospital, over and above any payment he makes to the pensioner or even where he cannot make such payment to the pensioner, to pay on behalf of the pensioner portion of the pension towards such liabilities as the pensioner may have for rent, mortgages, insuranceet cetera.

A proposed extension of the children's allowances scheme will enable allowances to be paid to State servants, including Army officers, who go abroad in the service of the State or Government, or of the United Nations or other affiliated or similar international body and who bring their children to live with them. Another extension of that scheme while not of very wide application, will be of considerable value to those who benefit from it. It will enable double the appropriate rate of children's allowance to be paid, in respect of the survivors of multiple births, other than twins, while there are at least three such survivors.

Finally, it is proposed to amend the unemployment assistance scheme in order that a qualification certificate may be granted with retrospective effect to the date of application thus enabling unemployment assistance to be paid for a period of unemployment prior to the grant of the qualification certificate. At present, unemployment assistance cannot be paid until the applicant, no matter what his circumstances may be, is the holder of a qualification certificate. This amendment is in line with that made last year in relation to a revised decision affecting the grant of qualification certificates.

I do not think that I need go into any greater detail now but it may be helpful if I summarise the cost of the various proposals in the Bill. On the social assistance side, the total cost will be £4,337,900 in a full year, of which £3,165,000 arises from the Budget proposals, £1,084,000 from the concessions for smallholders in congested districts, and £88,900 from the remaining provisions. All of this cost will fall on the Exchequer, but the amount to be met in the current year will total only £2,484,100, that is, £2,076,000 in respect of the Budget proposals, £350,000 in respect of the smallholders' concession and £58,100 in respect of the remaining provisions.

The gross annual cost of the improvements on the social insurance scheme will be £5,190,000, of which £5,120,000 arises from the Budget proposals. It is, however, estimated that the increases in rates of contribution, will bring in an additional £3,900,000 to the Social Insurance Fund, leaving the cost to be met by the Exchequer at £1,290,000 in a full year and £668,000 in the current year.

These are very large sums but I am sure Senators will appreciate that substantial improvements cannot be effected in social welfare schemes without appropriate increases in the contributions of employers, insured workers and of the Exchequer. I am satisfied that the proposed increased expenditure on our social welfare schemes is more than justified and that it is a measure of a further great step forward in the evolution of our social welfare system. I have much pleasure, therefore, in recommending this Bill to Seanad Éireann.

We welcome the provisions of this Bill and I may say, in opening my remarks on it, that never was a Social Welfare Bill presented to the Oireachtas in circumstances in which the public were better conditioned to its reception. One can look back over the years and find that certain newspapers, particularly theIrish Independent, have for a long time advocated improved standards of pensions for the people who are worst off in our society.

Then we had in recent months a general election in which the emphasis changed relative to the issues involved as the campaign developed. The subject of improved social welfare benefits was sparked off initially by the new policy statement of the Fine Gael Party in relation to its place in a just society. The Labour Party have been for a long time, in several manifestoes, advocating improved pensions for those people whose lot it falls to the community at large to assist. As I have said, the emphasis changed as the general election campaign progressed and we can say, therefore, that the newly-elected Government, irrespective of the side they came from, were given a clear indication from the electorate in recent months that one of the tasks to which they should immediately apply themselves was the improvement of the lot of the various categories who rely on our social welfare system to get the bare minimum necessary to maintain them in what we frequently hear described as our affluent society.

We have many vehicles of propaganda presenting the affluence of our people but we find in the Minister's statement today the cold undeniable facts that there are 71,000 persons in our community who, on investigation, have less than £26 5s. Od. per annum by way of income and that 11,000 widows qualify under the same assessment of means. Surely, with the tremendous increase in the cost of living, with the reduced value of money, these people must find it extremely difficult to contend with the ordinary demands upon them irrespective of the very least that will give them food and some measure of comfort in their homes in their declining years?

This year in the Budget Statement the Minister for Finance gave particulars of deliberate taxes which were imposed and accepted—in retrospect, we can say they have been accepted by the people—for the specific purpose of coming to the aid of these people. I do not speak of all the taxes but of many of them. I exempt the petrol tax and the fact that for the first time hard-pressed tobacco was not excluded from taxation. This indicated a certain cynicism in relation to the recovery of some of the money intended to go for the benefit of the male old age pensioner.

Reference has been made in recent times to the introduction of the human approach by the Minister for Social Welfare and the Department in the administration of the Department. This is very welcome, if true. The pronouncements made have been welcomed and we await their implementation. Since the Minister spoke in those terms, I have evidence of an instance in Dublin where an official of his Department was obliged to visit a family on the question of a means test. While he was there, an old lady was engaged for an hour or two to carry out some chores. She happened to pass through the hallway. The official asked the head of the house if she was in receipt of an old age pension and how much he paid her per week. The head of the house declined to give the information and the official returned during the week and again insisted on getting the identity of this poor person. Again there was a denial of information and the official said: "Despite your non-co-operation, I shall track her down."

Are these Gestapo methods to be continued by certain officials of this Department in relation to the possibility that this person might be in receipt of a contributory old age pension while engaged in some work to supplement her income by a few shillings a week? If the Minister implements his promise of a human approach on this question of the means test, it will be welcomed by all.

With regard to the methods employed to disburse the moneys the Minister says are available for improving the lot of those people in our society, we are entitled to question the arbitrary fashion in which the increases have been allocated. We have the figure of £26 5s. Od. and if a person has 10/- more he is denied the full increase of 10/- Would it not have been better to give particular attention to those aged people who live alone and have neither the ordinary comforts of life nor the company of their families around them to sustain them, to advise them, and to assist them— we read of the tragedy that occurs to many of those people living alone— and to evolve some system whereby the home assistance officers would be permitted to take pity on them and award an effective supplement to assist them?

We have an assessment of means in relation to medical card applications and it would not be too difficult a task to ascertain the numbers of those people and the conditions in which they live, particularly in built-up areas. I feel those people should be a first charge on us and should get an effective increase to assist them in maintaining some standard of dignity in their declining years. If has often been discussed among people with an interest in this aspect of administration whether it would be a wise course or not to spend the moneys available in other ways, relative to the old age pensioner, whether the means test should not be abolished and whether we should not reduce the qualifying age.

I am inclined to agree with the Minister, weighing up the pros and cons of this matter, when he states he would retain the means test. He provided very convincing figures regarding the cost of administering the means test, as it exists. I agree we owe the greatest debt to those among us who have the least. Consequently, the retention of the means test is desirable to ensure that the greater part of the moneys available goes to those most in need. Likewise, we note the social implications particularly in farming areas, of the retention of the means test. It has the effect of encouraging farmers of limited valuation to hand over their property to sons or daughters and so qualify for the pension. It encourages them to give over the reins of office to their families, with consequential benefit to all the community. If the means test were abolished, it might entail some diminution of this activity which is encouraged by the present arrangement.

A tribute is due, when referring to the human approach, to the members of the old age pension sub-committees throughout the country who apply their interest and time, quite often at considerable inconvenience, to attendance at meetings and who assist their neighbours in obtaining the pension. I would like to see better co-operation between the committees and the officers of the Minister's Department regarding the decisions taken by these committees. I feel the development of the human approach could be further implemented if more attention were paid to the views expressed by such committees.

I would like to see improved the position of some people who were unsuccessful in the past in their applications for assistance. I refer particularly to the section who may have small businesses. They have repeatedly applied in the past but have been rejected. They have given up the ghost in regard to their applications. We know, with the trend of affairs today, the diminution that has occurred in the turnover of these little shops, due to the development of multiple stores and other factors. Many of these people are entitled to the pension but they have really despaired, having tried so often and having failed.

With regard to the qualifying age for pensions, I would make a plea to the Minister to lower the age for spinsters to 65. It is not too often ladies will admit reaching that age but we know there are many of those people in our community at present. At the time some of those spinsters were of marriageable age, opportunities did not exist: the home circumstances at that time were not favourable to their securing a partner in life. Many of them have now very limited means! many are in failing health, incapable of providing for themselves and are finding it very difficult in the years up to the point at which they reach the qualifying age. A very special case could be made for those people. This would be a diminishing problem, but at the present moment there are many of those people among us who are very badly off. I would appeal to the Minister to consider lowering the qualifying age for this category.

I also wish to repeat an appeal I made quite frequently in the other House regarding another category of ladies. There are not many of them but nevertheless they are extremely deserving cases. I refer to those unfortunate ladies who have failed to satisfy the Department that their husbands are in fact dead. They cannot afford to avail of the legal process to enable them to qualify them for the widows' pension. Some of these people, despite their efforts over periods of 20, 22 or 25 years have failed to trace their missing spouses. Despite this, their claims are rejected on the basis that there is no conclusive evidence that they are in fact widows. Surely it should be within the competence of the Department, where such time has expired, to decide that payment be made and moneys paid recovered, if at any time the defaulter is proved to be alive and can be made to live up to his responsibilities. I make that appeal again and I would ask the Minister to look more favourably on it.

With regard to unemployment benefit, I find one very difficult situation regarding insured workers who own licensed premises in remote country villages. We know that these people could not possibly live off the income they receive. Their licensed premises may be their homes which have been handed down to them from their parents. A profitable business may have been transacted in these premises in the day at a time when the fairs brought so many people into those villages, but now, with the development of cattle marts, this business has gone and heads of families in some of these remote villages have to take up employment. It only applies, I understand, in the case of a licensed premises but it is permissible to engage in other business and draw unemployment benefit, although for some peculiar reason, a person is disqualified if his name appears as being the licensee of these premises.

The interpretation is changed now.

I am glad to know that because it was something about which I was concerned for some time and I am pleased to learn that it has been changed.

As I said at the commencement, I welcome the provisions of the Bill and the favourable atmosphere in which the people are prepared to accept the taxation necessary to provide more for the people who are unfortunate enough to require assistance from the State. There is one inclusion by the Minister which is somewhat arbitrary. It is in relation to the definition of areas for unemployment assistance. The Minister has defined that 11 full counties plus the congested portions of West Cork and West Limerick would be included for this purpose. Again, there are regions outside the named areas which could be classed as poor as those named. If an amendment could be effected in this respect I feel it would be merely applying justice all round.

It is unfortunate that this is one of an important group of Bills unloaded on us for discussion during these few days. No doubt the Minister will seek all Stages of the Bill and this may not give the House the time and opportunity it may well desire regarding amendment of the Bill. However, we welcome the general provisions, though they are belated. Furthermore, and on this note I shall conclude, despite improvements in our administration, we have the delay in implementing budgetary provisions in relation to the disbursing of money, while there is instant application of taxes. We have the situation of tax now but pay later. Is it necessary that so many months should elapse between the decision to implement these increases and the actual effecting of them? Surely we could progress to the point where, despite the fact that the taxation to meet this situation is evoked immediately after the passage of the Budget, so many months should not elapse and that so many people in our society should not have to wait so long for the benefits. Very many of them, as we know, tragically will not live to enjoy the increases.

I should like the Minister to deal with that point and to indicate whether or not it is the intention, in bringing in Bills of this nature in future, to effect any shortening of the administrative period so as to guarantee that the purposes of the Bill will be fully implemented within a reasonable time.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom comhgháirdeachas a dhéanamh leis an Rialtas agus go h-áirithe leis an Aire as ucht an Bhille seo a thabhairt isteach. Is eol do gach éinne an spéis atá ag an Aire i ngnóthaí a bhaineann le cúrsaí leasa shóisialaigh agus ní taise don ócáid seo é. Níor ghá aon ghríosú ó Fhine Gael nó ón bhFreasúra uilig chun an Aire nó an Rialtas a spreagadh le rud fónta a dhéanamh ar son na bpinsinéirí, na mbaintreach, na leanaí nó ar son na ndaoine atá gan obair. Ní inniu ná inné a thosnaigh nó a ghlac Fianna Fáil an dúngaois seo. Chomh fada siar le 1932 agus ó shoin i leith thug an Pairtí seo Billí os comhair na Dála a raibh sé de chuspóir acu feabhas a chur ar shlí bheatha na ndaoine atá aosta, tinn nó orthu siúd nach bhfuil mórán airgid acu.

D'éirigh linn na cuspóirí úd a chur i gcrích, fiú amháin nuair a bhí an cogadh ar siúl. Rinneamar amhlaidh nuair a bhí breis sa Dáil againn ar lucht an Fhreasúra agus gan brú nó spreagadh ó dhream ar bith. Ní h-amháin sin, ach is é an Pairtí seo, nuair a bhíodar i gcumhacht, a rith na hAchtanna uilig beagnach a thug leath-lá, laethe saoire agus tráthanna rialta oibre do na daoine atá ag obtair i siopaí, i monarchain agus sna comhairlí contae ar fud na tíre.

Is fiú go mór dearcadh anois ar stair lucht an Fhreasúra—go h-áirithe ar stair Fhine Gael, daoine a bhain 1/-dena sean-phinsinéirí. Is beag a rinne an Comh-Rialtas ach oiread agus ní gá ach féachaint sna hAchtanna chun sin a dheimhniú. Mar sin, ní gá do Fhine Gael aon chreidiúint a ghlacadh chucu féin mar, go deimhin, is suarach an méid a rinne siad ar son lucht leasa sóisialaigh.

Moltaí maithe atá sa Bhille seo agus cosnaíonn siad airgead. Tá an Rialtas sásta an t-airgead sin a chur ar fáil. Tá ár gcroíthe san obair seo agus tá a fhios againn nach bhfuilimid sásta agus ní bheidh. Fhad agus atá an Rialtas seo i réim agus staid eacnamaíochta na tíre ag dul chun cinn cuirfimid níos mó airgid i leataobh chun cabhrú leis na daoine bochta seo.

Molaim an tAire mar gheall ar an athrú a rinne sé maidir leis an módh áirithe ioncaim ó thalamh faoi na hAchtanna um chúnamh dífhostaíochta. Cabhróidh sin go mór leis na feirmeoirí beaga agus tá a lán acu sin im chontae féin. As seo amach ní bheidh scannradh orthu breis oibre a dhéanamh ar eagla go gcaillfidh siad pé airgead a bhí le fáil acu ón Roinn.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille agus iarraim ar an Aire leanúint leis an ndea-obair ó bhliain go bliain.

We are dealing again at this time of the year with a Bill to provide for increased social welfare benefits. These Bills are traditionally welcomed on all sides of the House. I should like to try to put this matter into perspective because I fear we are becoming rather smug in regard to social welfare benefits and the improvements we enact year by year.

It is true that benefits are being improved. It is unfortunately true also that traditionally, as is usual, we are waiting until this time of the year to provide certain benefits as from 1st August and others as from 1st January next. Are we not being a little too complacent when we remember that there have been thousands of old age pensioners trying to exist on 37/6d per week in the past 12 months, a period during which food costs have risen by about 14 per cent? We are glad that under this measure these benefits will be increased by 5/- and 10/- in some cases, bringing the figures up to 42/6d and 47/6d per week. We are all congratulating ourselves on these new figures, forgetting, for the moment, that, even with these increases, it is virtually impossible to exist on that sort of income.

I should like to attempt further to put the matter into perspective by drawing the attention of all sides of the House to the fact that I think we spend a lower proportion of our national income on social services than practically any other western European country. It is an appalling thought that we, a christian country, should have this situation that we are spending less of the wealth available to all members of our community, proportionately, than practically any other western European country. I think that we should, on all sides of the House, be ashamed of that situation.

Let me draw attention to the extent of the problem. It is calculated that about one in six of the population of the Republic is dependent upon some sort of social service—old age pensioners, widows and orphans, unemployment recipients, all these sorts of social services. About half of our population are involved and dependent upon these social services. They are a real lifeline to about one-sixth of our population. I am talking not simply of the recipients of these benefits but of their families as well. I think a rough calculation is that about one-sixth of our entire population is involved in these social services which, admittedly, are amongst the lowest in Western Europe. I think we should all—every one of us—be ashamed of that situation.

I should especially like the Minister to say what is intended in regard to the future of our social services. I think they are still largely based on the poor law concept. They have not changed fundamentally since 1911. We still have a flat rate benefit based on a flat rate contribution for many of our social welfare benefits and, again, I think we are unique in Western Europe in that matter. I think that in all Western European countries, they have the principle of a graduated benefit and a graduated contribution. It seems to me that so long as we have this flat rate contribution and flat rate benefit, we are tied back to what can be afforded by the lowest paid worker. I should like the Minister to say something of what is in his mind and what is his policy in this regard.

As I said, we welcome this Bill. We traditionally welcome any Bill which provides some improvement for social welfare recipients. It is terrible that we have to wait until this time every year to give these benefits. There may be administrative difficulties, but I am sure that if there were a will, these administrative difficulties could be overcome. The real difficulty, I know, is the spending of the money. We have had the situation that people have been trying to exist on these inadequate benefits and that we have been slow in making this improvement. Having said that, I may say, of course, that I welcome this Bill. We shall not oppose it and we shall give every co-operation towards having it passed through this House quickly and having the benefits implemented from the date set out in the measure.

There is one small point which I want to make—again, a note of welcome. It is that, at last, the Minister has increased to £1,200 the limit of £800 for social insurance purposes. It was last fixed in 1958. There have been quite a number of wage adjustments since that time. I think the Irish Congress of Trade Unions nearly gave up in despair writing to the Minister on this problem of urging that he adjust the income limit in view of the successive increases in wages and salaries. The Minister has been particularly slow in doing this. However, he has come, in this Bill, to make this change. He has also provided in this Bill that subsequent changes can be made by way of an order and I should like to press on him the importance of making these orders currently, when and if they become necessary. It complicates matters for people when they find they come out of insurance because their income has exceeded the limit, due to a round of wage increases, come back in again, after a gap of a few years, and again go out. I do not know that it is good administration at all on the part of the Minister. It creates difficulties for the workers involved. It must create an awful lot of difficulties for the Department as well. I think it would be sensible and good business if, in the future, the Minister made the necessary orders currently rather than to allow these sorts of difficulties to accumulate.

I welcome the Bill and would be quite agreeable to its passing all Stages in this House today.

I shall be brief. I echo what Senator Murphy has been saying. This is too little and too late in many cases. Nevertheless, I think we must recognise that the Minister is sincere in his desire to increase the level of assistance given. I think that, even in a short few years ahead, we shall look back with horror and shame at the notion that a person who has the munificent income of over £26 a year is precluded from the full 10/- benefit foreseen here for old age pensioners, for widows and for the blind.

I should like to have seen, with this Bill, a very definite raising of the limits of the means test if we cannot go as far as the removal of the means test because the notion that the increase for the blind, the aged and the widows is cut in half from 10/- to 5/- if their ordinary income exceeds 10/- a week seems to me monstrous. I imagine it seems monstrous to everybody here. It is something of which it would be well to be ashamed now rather than waiting for years to look back and wonder how we could have been so niggardly in the treatment of the very seriously underprivileged members of our community.

The Estimates indicate that there will be an approximate increase of ten per cent of expenditure on Defence while the increase on Social Welfare is something like six per cent. The Minister is well situated, as a former Minister for Defence, to know how one manages to get from the Government or the Department of Finance an increase of the order of ten per cent for Defence while it becomes possible to increase Social Welfare in the Estimate, by only about six per cent.

Mention has been made of taxation. I want to say only one thing about it. Tobacco has been mentioned. It always seems to me a curious contradiction that we spend a lot of money trying to discourage people from smoking, due to the danger of lung cancer, and so on. Yet successive Ministers are afraid radically to discourage smoking by putting on such a tax that all but the most inveterate will reduce their purchases, because this thing which is recognised by the Department of Health as injurious to health is seen by the Minister for Finance as a lucrative form of tax. It would, in fact, be possible to do double good by increasing taxation on tobacco to increase the intake of money and, perhaps, to decrease the intake of smoke and nicotine.

That is all I wish to say at this stage. I think the Minister's intentions are good. I think it is a pity—and I imagine the Minister feels the same way—that it has not proved possible to go far enough and it will not be very long before we feel very much ashamed of not being able to give the full 10/- increase, which is wretched enough, to all old age pensioners, widows and blind instead of putting up a barrier and cutting the increase in half if these unfortunate people happen to have an income in excess of £26. 6s.

We can all welcome this Bill in the spirit in which Senator Murphy welcomed it. We would all wish to see very much more provided. We recognise the necessity for this, and we hope that the Government in the next Budget will be able to move much faster than they have.

Some two years ago the Government set what could be a useful precedent. At that time they wished to give an increase of 1d per gallon on milk and put on a specific tax for that purpose. That tax was 1d on the packet of cigarettes. They linked the two closely together. There was a great deal of resentment by the smokers to it. I feel that if special selected luxury taxes were linked with direct increases in social welfare benefits, these luxury taxes would be much more readily accepted by the people concerned and would be a positive way of giving the real and direct increase that should be given in social welfare benefits to improve in some way the lot of those people.

Any payments transferred from that luxury section to the social welfare section would, by and large, reduce the corresponding demand on imports. The spending of the social welfare recipient is far more likely to be on the necessaries of life, on what is produced at home, rather than on articles that have to be imported. Consequently, at a time when we are feeling the strain of the balance of payments and seeing how difficult it is for us to keep imports within bounds, any transfer payment from the luxury section to the social welfare section has the added merit also of helping to curb excessive imports.

There is one other point. Sections 8 and 9 make provision for the much heralded scheme to enable smallholders apply for and avail of unemployment assistance without many of the restrictions that prevailed in the past. This was promised to us at the time of the Land Bill, and, on the surface, it appears something necessary and desirable. But the figure involved seems an extraordinary one on the calculations I have been making here —the figure of an income of £20 for each £1 valuation. By and large, an average acre of arable land has a valuation of £1. The total net agricultural production last year was just around £200 million from 12 million plus acres. Making some allowance for the 5 million other acres that make some contribution, you might say that the net output per arable acre is not more than £15.

How then in the congested districts can the Government hold that the net income to the person working the acre is to be valued at £20? To get a net income of £20 from an acre of agricultural land the gross output must be approximately at least of the order of £30 per acre. With a gross output of £30 per acre the net remaining as labour income on that would be about 60 per cent of the £30 or something under £20 per acre. Consequently, the Government in framing section 8 are assuming that there is a gross output of £30 per acre from each of the small-holdings coming within the scope of the Bill while the national output is about £18 an acre.

I should like to hear from the Minister how he can justify this present figure. It would seem to me extraordinary, using that figure, that it would prove of any benefit to the people concerned over and above having a direct valuation of their stock and assets and so on, which, of course, is a cumbersome and rather invidious way of doing it. A valuation of around £10 would be much closer the mark than the £20 being suggested by the Government.

Such as it is, I should like to welcome this Bill, particularly the increases and the new method of assessing the income of smallholders, which I feel owe something to the campaign by Peadar O'Donnell and the "Save the West" Committee, and also the higher limits. I should like to hear from the Minister why a limit on earnings is still thought necessary. What are the reasons which today make the Minister feel it desirable that our social welfare scheme in Ireland should not be comprehensive, as in many other countries similarly placed where it is comprehensive and without an income limit? I should like to ask the Minister in how many countries in Europe the social welfare scheme is not comprehensive and in how many countries in western Europe, if any, there is a system of having a limit of this kind.

As regards the postponement of the operative dates, I should like to make the point that it is not alone bad social justice to postpone the payment but bad finance. It has been a feature of our Budgets for a number of years past that the Minister for Finance imposes taxation forthwith and grants increases beyond what, in fact, he is prepared to provide the money for through taxation and produces these popular increases but gets out of the difficulty by postponing the payment until much later in the year, in respect of some increases, in fact, nine months later, so that he only has to budget for three months' increase in that year. One result is that when he comes to face the Budget next year, before providing any increase in services, he finds a large part of the buoyancy of the revenue has been pre-empted by the Budget decisions of the previous year. So that, not alone on grounds of social justice but on grounds of financial considerations and good finance, I think this is a practice which should be reviewed.

The main point I should like to make is that we do need to give serious consideration to the whole question of the share of our national output that we devote to social welfare. Over the years since 1957, this share has fallen, not fallen rapidly, but has fallen slightly and steadily year by year. This is contrary to what is happening in other countries. It is contrary to what one would expect to find in a country such as this, particularly during a period of relatively rapid economic growth, when it would have been appropriate to have allocated an increasing share of our growing wealth to social welfare, to what are called technically transfer payments. It is particularly disturbing that in theSecond Programme for Economic Expansion the provision made for these transfer payments or social welfare payments is shown to decline still further and that this still downward trend in the share of our resources that we allocate to this purpose is apparently to decline, and planned to decline still further when, instead, we should be planning to increase it.

I believe that this is unnecessary. We could, within the framework of the Programme, without going outside it, without over-straining our economy, but, by a reallocation of our resources, provide the means required, the resources needed, for a significant expansion of our social provisions beyond the limited provisions contemplated in the Programme.

If we examine the make-up or breakdown of public expenditure in the Programme in the years to 1970, we find that a very large increase indeed, over 50 per cent, and double the rate of our national growth, is provided for public consumption, for the type of spending by which the Government use up resources in paying salaries and providing the services but not redistributive expenditure. We find also the provision for subsidies shows a very big increase and here the Programme specifically mentions that this is liberal and has a contingency element. There is leeway here in the subsidy figure to allow for resources being reallocated to social benefits, as well as leeway in the figure of public consumption, of Government direct expenditure. Moreover, the revenue calculations for non-tax revenue in the Programme show an extraordinarily modest increase and, in fact, unless there are good reasons for it, it would appear on the surface that the Government have underestimated the growth of this kind of revenue. To my mind, the Programme should be reviewed with a view to reallocating the resources from Government consumption, from subsidies, to social welfare payments and taking credit for a rather more realistic growth in non-tax revenue. I feel, realistically, within these limits it would be possible to reallocate resources sufficient even to as much as double the growth of social welfare benefits proposed in the period.

I should like to emphasise that if we did that, if we went that far and attempted this reallocation of resources along lines much more appropriate to our social needs in this country, we would still only have brought the share of our national output that we devote to social welfare half-way up from its present level towards the level at which it stands in countries such as Austria and Italy. I suggest Austria and Italy because they are countries whose standard of living and national wealth per head are similar to ours and I am not comparing ourselves with Britain, Germany, Sweden and other countries which are much wealthier and can afford much more lavish social welfare.

I am saying that if we reallocated our resources in the way I have suggested, we might be able, by doubling the rate of growth the Government provides for in the Second Programme, to move halfway towards the level of expenditure which countries with much the same type of standard of living and the same national growth as ours at present afford. God knows what they will be allocating in 1970. Could we even achieve any reallocation of resources which would bring us half-way towards the expenditure that other countries have achieved which give a higher priority to social welfare than we have been doing and propose to do?

Finally, I should like to ask that something much more radical should be done about reviewing our social programme. It has been said here today that every year since 1957 the Government have brought in a Social Welfare Bill, and so they have. Every year there has been an extra half-crown, and this year something bigger. Every year there have been some improvements. But this is tinkering. This is not the kind of radical review of the social programme we require. In the general election campaign, under certain pressure, the Taoiseach, with what appeared to be some reluctance, admitted that it might be possible to prepare a social programme but it would be very difficult. I cannot see where the difficulty lies. If you have a Government Department doing its job and reviewing the whole area of its activity imaginatively and with dynamism, not alone could this be done without difficulty but it would have been done some years ago.

There are many things we need to look at. Senator Murphy has mentioned one—this absurd, antiquated system of flat rate contributions and flat rate benefits, a system which is unjust to the better off worker who finds his standard of living, not reduced, not even halved, but cut to a fraction of its normal level in the event of illness or unemployment, a system which also drags down the whole level of the social fees to that level which can be afforded in the form of contributions by the lowest paid worker. If one wanted to design a system which would inhibit an adequate social welfare system, which would ensure that you would not have it, you would have a flat rate system.

As far as I know, this system is not very common, for the good reasons I have mentioned. I know in one case that I have studied the particular area of social welfare, the official publication of the ILO shows only two countries as well as Ireland that apply flat rate contributions and flat rate benefits—the United Kingdom and Iceland. I cannot speak for Iceland but anybody who is familiar with social welfare matters and with social planning will know that, apart from the health service, Britain lies behind most European countries in social welfare. The system is antiquated. Its level of benefits in the form of family allowances and provision for redundancy and things of this kind are out of date and inadequate. Yet, we have persistently copied the British, copied the worst features of the British system and in this area we are still doing so.

I feel that the Minister must review this, must examine the possibility— and there is no serious problem about this— of introducing a scheme with varying benefits and a scheme under which, I would suggest, the contribution to be paid by the lowest paid workers should be somewhat reduced and the contribution paid by the higher paid workers increased, perhaps even significantly, in order to provide a range tribution now being imposed increased significantly, in order to provide a range of benefits, at the lowest, better than they are and, at the highest, very much better than they are, to ensure that skilled workers who find themselves unemployed or sick will not be reduced to a standard of living a fraction of what they are used to because of the absence of a civilised social welfare scheme. We lack such a scheme in this country.

This flat rate system is one away from which even the United Kingdom is moving as regards retirement pensions. They have introduced a graded system. So that, if we do not hurry up we will not be just the third last in Europe, but the second last, and for all I know the Icelanders may have moved since I last looked at the picture and we may even find ourselves the most backward in this respect.

I would also urge the Minister to look at the whole question of social welfare schemes, apart from payments of money. Here we are seriously defective. One of the great contributions which the Fine Gael Party made in the last election was in putting forward proposals for an adequate domiciliary welfare scheme to help people in their own homes and to keep them out of the institutions into which we push them against social justice and, indeed, against even good economics because there is no more expensive way to look after people than in an institution. This is something the Minister should look at, in respect of which I should hope to see appropriate proposals in next year's Budget.

The question of redundancy provisions may be something rather outside the scope of what we are talking about now. If we are to have an economy in which modernisation of industry is to go ahead with the full co-operation of the workers, adequate redundancy provision should be built into the social code so that workers are not, as at the moment, left to fend for themselves with very limited unemployment benefits when redundancy occurs. I know the Government are working on this and I would only urge speed. It is not only socially but economically desirable, if we are to achieve the progress we need to achieve in the modernisation of our economy.

To sum up, the Bill is useful. Everything it does is good and on that basis it should have our support. By and large, however, it is tinkering with the system and there is an absence here of vision, of imagination, of dynamism and constructive thinking. There is a gap which needs to be filled, a gap which the Minister and his Department should see about filling. If they are not able to fill it, some steps should be taken by the Government to alter the structures which are inhibiting the, development of an adequate social welfare programme.

I thank the Senators in general for the manner in which they have received this Bill and for the speedy way in which it has been dealt with here. It is, as Senators are aware, a matter of urgency that it should be passed today and I wish to thank the Senators on the opposite side of the House for agreeing to give all Stages today. The Bill was generally met in what I would consider a better spirit here than in the Dáil. There was some appreciation on both sides of the House of the difficulties involved in improving our social welfare arrangements to the standard which we would all like them to achieve.

It was stated, and I agree, that there was a clear indication at the time of the general election that the Government were expected to improve social welfare benefits. I will not pursue that but I could say with Senator Dolan that there was hardly any need for this in the case of the present Government because we have over the years given annual proof of our concern for the people who have to depend on social welfare. We have been giving increases in difficult times and effecting relative improvements in the rates of payment of all the schemes of social welfare having regard to the cost of living in so far as it is indicated by the Consumer Price Index. It was only to be expected that now that we have reached the stage where the economy appears to be expanding satisfactorily, we should increase the allocations of money for these purposes.

In regard to the case made by Senator FitzGerald that the percentage of our national income devoted to social welfare has been decreasing since 1957, I do not know where he got those figures.

From the national accounts.

But they do not tally with the information at my disposal. The gross expenditure on social welfare, exclusive of administration costs, expressed as a percentage of gross national product has not shown any great tendency to decline over those years. I have these percentages since 1955-56 and I think I should place them on the records of the House. In 1955-56, gross expenditure on social welfare, exclusive of administration costs, as a percentage of gross national product was 4.7 per cent; in 1956-57 it was 4.9 per cent; in 1957-58, 5.2 per cent; in 1958-59, 5 per cent; in 1959-60, 4.8 per cent; in 1960-61, 4.7 per cent; in 1961-62, 5 per cent; in 1962-63, 4.9 per cent; in 1963-64 5.2 per cent; and in 1964-65, 5.1 per cent. The forecast of gross national product in the year 1965-66 is £1,016 millions and at the rate of expenditure provided for in this Bill, the gross expenditure on social welfare expressed as a percentage of that amount in a full year will be at the rate of 6.1 per cent.

Therefore, I do not think there has been any significant or noticeable reduction in this figure. In any case one cannot very well decide that this percentage should be kept at any definite rate. Certain rates of payment are provided for the different social welfare schemes and expenditure will depend, to a certain extent at any rate, on the state of the economy, for instance, on the level of unemployment in the year. As I have said, the forecast for the coming year is 6.1 per cent and that is a significant advance to make in a single year. Apart from that, the total increased expenditure on social welfare provided for in this Bill in a full financial year is £9.53 million. In addition to that, there are the increases being granted in the other transfer income schemes, the disabled person's maintenance allowance, and infectious diseases allowance, which bring this amount up to £10 million. This shows that in this Bill we are making provision for an increase in the gross expenditure on social welfare of 19.3 per cent in this one year. That is a major step to take in one year in increased transfer of income to the people depending on social welfare.

I do not think it gives any indication of smugness or complacency, as was suggested. Certainly I am not in any way complacent about the level of our social welfare and I do not think this Government have shown any indication of that over the years. Even in the difficult circumstances in which we found ourselves on the change of Government in 1957 and in spite of the urgent and compelling necessity, in so far as it was possible to do so, of rehabilitating the economy and promoting economic expansion, we found it possible in every year except one to make substantial provision for increases in social welfare in our annual Budget, with the result that at every stage since 1957 it has been possible to show that the rates of payment under every one of the social welfare schemes had made some slight advance on the cost of living as indicated by the Consumer Price Index.

According to the Minister's figures, in five of the eight years, the percentage fell and last year it was lower than it was in 1957-58. Could the Minister say what the percentage is expected to be in 1970, according to his figures?

I am dealing with the Social Welfare Bill, 1965. In regard to 1970, our undertaking in relation to social welfare is very clear and explicit. It was expressed by the Taoiseach that it was our intention to devote an increasing proportion of the rising national resources to the expansion and improvement of social welfare. That is the principle on which we are operating and which we are implementing in this Bill. Senator FitzGerald will see further examples of our adherence to that principle in the coming years.

That is not what the Second Programme proposes, but, if the Government are proposing to review the Second Programme upwards in this respect, that is good news for us all.

I do not fully agree at all with Senator FitzGerald's interpretation of the Second Programme. However, the Second Programme is not before the Seanad at the moment; the Social Welfare Bill is. It is the immediate implementation of the undertaking given by the Taoiseach during the election, an undertaking which the people accepted because it was so much in character with the previous record of the Fianna Fáil Party.

It took an election to get the undertaking out of the Taoiseach, though.

I am glad Senator D. J. O'Sullivan agrees with the principle of a means test as applied to the assistance classes but I find it very hard to reconcile that with the indication—at least with what I think was an indication —of some objection to the giving of an extra increase to those whose means are under £26.5/- per annum. It is not a case, as I explained in the Dáil, of giving a 10/- increase and then deciding to give less to those whose means are over £26. 5/- per annum. It is a case of having a sum of money available sufficient to give 5/- all round to social assistance recipients generally and a decision then to give an extra 5/- increase to those in greatest need. Senator D.J. O'Sullivan mentioned the desirability of giving something more to those old age pensioners, in particular, who have no means and who are living alone. We are, I think, taking a first step towards that in this Bill in giving an extra allocation to certain categories whose need is greater than others.

With regard to the question of delay in implementing the increases, Senators will surely realise that there is a difficulty in implementing them straight away. It takes time to make all the necessary administrative arrangements. Even now we have to take special steps to have this Bill enacted and signed by the President in time to make the social assistance payments on 1st August as provided in the Bill. It has only been possible to bring the Bill before the Seanad today. Payments are due to be made as from 1st August. Obviously then, we are acting with the greatest possible expedition. If I could have been here last week, I should have been here, and I would not be here today. It is unavoidable that this delay should take place.

In regard to social insurance payments, the new stamps have to be printed and put on sale. Employers are entitled to notice as to the new stamping arrangements. There is also the question of printing books and so on. All these take time and it is not administratively feasible to make these payments any earlier. It is a fact, of course, as Senator Garret FitzGerald said, that this results in some of the buoyancy of revenue that would occur at the beginning of the next financial year being already foreclosed on by the Department of Social Welfare, but that is not an unsual feature. State servants have also managed to foreclose on quite an amount of this buoyancy of revenue by means of conciliation and arbitration awards. That has been one of the difficulties, in my experience as Minister for Social Welfare, in trying to get money for social welfare purposes at Budget time. The fact is the buoyancy on which I had been counting was to a large extent swallowed up and I do not think there is anything particularly objectionable in the Minister for Social Welfare, as well as others, having to get some of this buoyancy in advance.

The question of wage related benefits is one which has to be considered. It is all very well to say that the flat rate benefits provided now are miserable and represent a drastic decrease in the standard of living for all but the lowest paid workers, but the fact is that these benefits were as much as could be provided, up to this at any rate. We have now reached the stage at which the unemployment or disability benefit for a person in the lower wage group, £8 a week or under, will represent something over 60 per cent of the wage for a man and his wife; for a man, his wife and two children, the benefit will represent 77.6 per cent of the £8 wage taking account of the insurance contribution.

It may be that we have reached the stage now where further increases in benefits and contributions might be related only to the higher wage rates. Perhaps we can gradually move towards a wage related scheme. That is obviously a desirable thing but, while the decrease of the standard of living for a single man, or a married man with no dependent children, is fairly severe, it is lessened in the case of those with dependent children because of the structure of the benefits which provides for increases in respect of dependent children. While I admit there is a serious lowering of the standard of living in certain cases, it is not as bad as some people allege in the case of those with families, and they are those most in need.

Reference was made to this statement, which is bandied about, that we are the second worst country in Europe in so far as the percentage of our national income devoted to social welfare is concerned. First of all, it is a fact that the information available is completely out of date. The latest figures are those for 1960 and in addition it is by no means certain that we are comparing like with like in every case. It could be fairly easily established, in fact, that that is not so, and, if a full comparison were made between this and other countries, we would find that statement one that cannot be substantiated.

The question of delay in raising the limit for compulsory insurance of non-manual workers from £800 to £1,200 was raised. There was a delay. Senator Garret FitzGerald asked what was the reason why there should be any limit at all in this matter. Strictly speaking, from the point of view of social welfare, there is not any reason at all. The Social Insurance Fund would benefit, in fact, by the inclusion of people in the upper wages brackets, but the difficulty that arose in regard to this matter was the fact that the middle income group, or one section of it, was described, for the purposes of the Health Acts, as people who are insured under the Social Insurance Acts. As Senators know, for the past two or three years a Select Committee was sitting on the health services and a decision on the raising of the limit for compulsory insurance of non-manual workers was postponed while that Committee was in session.

Sitting? It was recumbent.

It was in session, as far as I know, for practically the full period of the previous Dáil. The repercussions it would have on the health services was the only reason for the delay in raising this limit. In future the position under the provisions of this Bill is that this limit can be raised by order, the order to be laid before the two Houses of the Oireachtas for confirmation. That should make for speedier adjustments in future. It should be possible to keep pace with the increase in rates of remuneration.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill considered in Committee.
Sections 1 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 8.
Question proposed: "That section 8 stand part of the Bill".

Could the Minister indicate how the figure of £20, as a reasonable net income remaining from land valued at £1 poor law valuation, was arrived at because, in my Second Reading speech, I showed that it is substantially above the national level.

I am sorry I forgot to refer to the Senator's remarks on this matter. A national farm survey was carried out in 1955/1956, and 1957/ 1958, and in Table 3 of that survey figures are given for family farm income per £1 valuation of land and buildings for subsistence farms. The figure there per £1 valuation of land and buildings for subsistence farms in the 5-15 acres group is £17.9 and in the 15-30 acres group, £18.4. Under this Bill I propose to take a figure £20 per £1 land valuation only. I think that is reasonable. The figures I have given were for ten years ago and they were for lands and buildings. Therefore £20 per £1 land valuation seems reasonable.

It should be observed that agricultural prices for the type of produce coming from the small farm have not changed in that period, certainly not in any way commensurate with the increase in money valuations. Neither have output figures changed. The latest figures given in the Budget Statistics of 1963 show there was only ? per cent change between 1958 and today so that it seems that the £20 figure for £1 valuation is the maximum. In other words, there is certainly no concession in that figure and therefore if any investigation of income has been made by other means and if that investigation were to establish the true income, that true income should be substantially in accord with the figure revealed by the national survey. Therefore, on the Minister's statement, it should be substantially in accord with the £20 per £1 valuation as revealed by the Minister. How then, can we say that anything has been done or anything given or that any increased cost should be incurred by the Government due to this concession?

The figures I have given were the average family farm figures, not the maximum. I think it should be clear that there are probably some who are producing less. Some of these may be people who have fallen victim to the disincentive effect of the existing system of assessing means for unemployment assistance purposes and there are also obviously a number who are extracting more from their land than the figures suggested here and they are probably people who, by their own industry, have put themselves outside the scope of unemployment assistance and, as I said earlier, people who have succumbed to the disincentive effect will now lose the advantage they gained in the scales of payment of unemployment assistance. Also, as I have pointed out, this is based on the per £1 valuation of land and buildings. The £20 per £1 valuation I am taking in this Bill is for land only, excluding the valuation of the buildings. I think it would have been a reasonable figure to accept even at that time when the National Farm Survey was taken and I think it is a fairly favourable one to take at present.

If people are to be penalised under this, they have a five-year period in which they can opt for the old system. On the Minister's presentation of the case, it would seem that most of those on the western seaboard will opt for the old system. The Minister has rightly said that averages are very dangerous, but in this case I think it should be conceded that we have several very fine farms in regions where milk production is possible, where creameries and other facilities are supplied, but in the congested districts, such facilities are not available, and if the Minister were to examine the farm survey tables by regions, he would find that the regions in the west, in Connacht and so on, had an output very much below the output in Munster, due to the presence of these facilities for intensified working. Therefore, I contend that the figure of £20 is likely to be very much in excess of what the average smallholder in Connacht or in the congested districts is earning today from his land.

The Government should use the provisions of this Bill to have another look at this figure which can be altered by order. The Minister may have to invoke the order within the next year to alter this figure which should be drastically altered. I suggest that not more than £10 per £1 valuation is likely to provide any incentive and likely to get people away from the old system and on to the new system which is preferable in every way.

These average figures, as I said, relate to subsistence farming, that is, the lowest pattern of farm working, not to the more intensive pattern of farming to which the Senator referred. I am aware that many smallholders are drawing unemployment assistance at the moment who are not earning £20 per £1 valuation from their land, but in view of the fact that side by side with them there are smallholder neighbours who have placed themselves outside the scope of unemployment assistance, it appears to be reasonable to assume. initially at any rate, that it is possible for them to raise their production to this level. It is a reasonable figure to take, for a start at any rate, and as Senator Quinlan says, it can be reviewed in the light of experience, but personally I doubt if there will be any strong case that can be made for a reduction of the figure.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 9 to 19, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.