Social Welfare (Occupational Injuries) Bill, 1965—Second Stage (resumed).

When the debate was adjourned I was making a case that the extension of the Social Welfare Acts does not meet modern requirements. It improves the benefits that existed more than ten years ago. It is now only changing the scale in relation to wage levels, higher living costs and higher standard of living.

The proposed scheme will impose a burden of an extra £3 to £4 million on employers and that still will not relieve them of the major liability which exists in connection with workmen's compensation, that being, of course, the common law liability portion of the indemnity which is required for an employee. The extra charge per stamp will amount to more than £5 per man per year and more than £4 per woman per year in addition to the heavy cost of the social welfare card at the moment jointly borne by employers and employees. I should like to know from the Minister, when he is replying, whether the State will be making any contribution towards the scheme for the payment of compensation or whether it is purely and simply being financed by the employers' contributions, amounting to something around £3 million per year.

The Minister has indicated that although he gave, if you like, rough and round figures, he has indicated that, in fact, this scheme will be reviewed. He must have the feeling that, in fact, the extra £5 per man and £4 per woman will not be sufficient to pay the proposed scale of benefits under this extension of the Social Welfare Scheme.

Now this all comes at a time when we have in this country the lowest number of wage and salary earners in recorded history. This small number of people will come in for this benefit and it is a set benefit, not related to the wage levels or earning capacity of the workers involved. Under this scheme apparently no lump sum settlement is envisaged and workers will not have the option of seeking a lump sum settlement as they had under the existing legislation. They were able to sue for a settlement on a lump sum basis after the expiration of a certain period of incapacity. Now they have no opportunity to seek a lump sum settlement in relation to loss and incapacity resulting from an accident.

This lump sum settlement was of great advantage to certain classes of employees particularly if they were practical enterprising people who might be able to invest the money in worthwhile projects and provide employment for others. This imposition on employers is a double burden so far as insurance is concerned because when they have paid £5 per man on the insurance card for their employees they will still be required, so far as prudence is concerned, to go to an insurance company and pay a premium which will cover their common law liability and, in fact, the common law liability is a major portion of the risk so far as employers are concerned.

Many employers would not insure themselves against workmen's compensation if they had only to pay weekly compensation. They usually pay insurance premiums to cover themselves, their property and their interests against a heavy claim brought against them under the common law. They have not been relieved of that liability under this scheme. The Government have not taken over this portion of the liability for employers and the result is that when a small deduction is made from the premiums, where weekly compensation is concerned, they will be required to pay premiums now to cover their common law liability of almost 75 per cent and I should like to think of the premiums they are now paying as covering all their liabilities.

In addition to paying 75 per cent on the premium which they have normally paid, they will be required now to pay £5 per man and £4 per woman per annum under this extension. It is stated according to statistics that this scheme will actually withdraw from the insurance companies a premium income of almost £3 million. That is a considerable withdrawal when we remember that insurance companies have supported the State very handsomely throughout the year by making substantial contributions towards various national loans which were designed for our economic development and expansion. This £3 million per annum will be withdrawn now from the insurance companies in spite of the fact that they have made a major contribution to the building up of our industrial economy. I was disappointed not to see in the Minister's statement that any compensation for insurance companies was envisaged. He must know losses will result from this transfer of premium income. Staffs which were employed on the administration of the employers' liability insurance will become redundant, except in so far as the common law liability section of insurance is concerned. There is nothing in the Bill to say that compensation will be paid to employees who may lose their employment with insurance companies, possibly after a long number of years' service owing to the fact that this £3 million per year will be withdrawn from the insurance companies.

I should like to know from the Minister whether any suggestion has been submitted to him from the insurance companies regarding the question of compensation, and whether he has considered the number of persons who will be left without employment in the commercial insurance companies as a result of the withdrawal of this annual premium income of approximately £3 million. It is bound to have repercussions. With the shrinking number of people in employment we can only assume it will be compensated by an increased number of civil servants in the Department of Social Welfare who will be required to administer the weekly compensation section.

When this scheme is not prepared to give lump sum settlements to employees, it is most unfair to have the provision that a deduction will be made from common law damages if they are received by an employee having taken his case to court and won it. Now if he wins his case the Department apparently will have the first claim on the amount of damages awarded to the injured man and his damages will be reduced by the amount of weekly compensation or other benefits paid to him in the meantime, up to a maximum of 5 years. There, again, we could calculate what a heavy loss it would be to an injured workman if five years' compensation paid to him by the Department of Social Welfare is deducted now from the common law damages which he receives independently of the Department, through the courts, having made a successful case for recovery of damages resulting from an accident.

These aspects of the changes should be made known to us. Possibly it will arise on Committee Stage of this Bill but there will be repercussions which are not immediately envisaged in this extension of the social welfare code. It is a major change in so far as workmen's compensation is concerned. We will now have the injured man dealing with Departments in the usual red-tape manner, rather than the more personal manner of dealing with him which exists under the present system of employers' liability insurance where he is immediately in contact with his doctor, his employer, his solicitor and, through him of course, with the insurance officials. I am sure we can expect that this scheme will be administered on much the same basis as the other social welfare schemes at the present time. As has been mentioned by a Senator, it frequently becomes necessary for these employees, or recipients, to contact their local TD or Senator regarding delays in the Department. Very often the delay is not the fault of the Department but the man does not understand that and he finds it necessary to consult the TD or Senator who immediately finds out the reason for the delay. That is because dealings with the Department are less personal than with his insurance company, his employers, local doctors,et cetera.

Possibly this scheme will also encourage malingering because it has a flat scale of benefits and there are circumstances where, in fact, if the benefits were added up, taking into consideration the wife, dependant children and others, the total amount to which a man would be entitled could be more than his actual wage level. He will not get more than he was earning in the ordinary way. It says the compensation he is to receive will not exceed his weekly earnings. In other words, the man on the lower scale of wages or salary will now be as well off receiving compensation under the social welfare scheme as if he were working. There was always the arrangement whereby the compensation was something less than the actual wages received in the course of employment. That was, of course, to encourage the man to go back to work as soon as he was fit to do so but if a man is receiving compensation equal to his normal weekly wage, or near it, I have no doubt there will be very little anxiety on the part of that man to return quickly to his employment, whereas under the present scheme, the injured man is always anxious to get back to work as soon as he has recovered from his injuries and is certified fit for work.

It will need to be a very carefully operated scheme if, all over the country, the condition of injured persons is to be kept up to date on the files in the Department. It is possible they will be overlooked for a number of weeks or months and will be receiving compensation from the Department of Social Welfare equal to the wages they would normally be earning if they had not qualified for the payment of the weekly compensation. It may be suggested that employees are honest, and, of course, they are. The point I am making is that an injured employee will probably convalesce for a longer period after the injury if his wages are about the same as the amount of compensation to which he is entitled, whereas the ordinary man is anxious to get back to work as soon as he is certified fit to begin work again.

I feel this arrangement is a stopgap measure only. It is designed only to improve the benefits which were decided in 1955. Of course, it is time that those benefits were brought up to date in relation to wage levels and costs, and the increased cost of living and higher standard of living. So, in fact, the Minister is merely effecting a remedy which is long overdue. It has been overdue for ten years, because costs have increased considerably during that time, and the compensation payable to injured employees should have kept pace with them, but no legislation was brought in to ensure that that was the case.

It must be said that the system of compensation for injured employees so far as administration is concerned was probably satisfactory. As it stood, the worker had the right to go to court. His case could be heard in the open, and it could be seen that he was fairly treated. Under this Bill an injured person has no right to take the Minister for Social Welfare to court, and to fight his case in court. Apparently he is bound by regulations, and that is the answer he will get. He is now purely and simply a cog in the wheel, and one of a list of persons to be treated in a certain manner under certain regulations. The human aspect never comes into it when it comes to enforcing regulations or determining regulations. That is the difference between the situation in which the injured man will now find himself, and the situation he was in before when all these things could be taken into consideration in open court.

I shall be brief. I should like to congratulate the Minister on bringing in this Bill which is undoubtedly a great advance on anything we have had previously. It is in line with the humane and progressive attitude which the Minister has adopted since he became Minister for Social Welfare. This is obviously an advance on the workmen's compensation system we have at present. It is also a considerable advance, in many respects, on the proposals set out in the Majority Report of the Commission.

The most obvious improvement is the one which is welcomed by everyone, the increased benefits which will be payable under this Bill. We also have new schemes such as the provision covering loss of faculty and the provision for rehabilitation. This also ends the system of lump sum payment and that is a very satisfactory part of the Bill. There have been some complaints, but I think on the whole that there is very little doubt that that was a bad system. It was a bad system in that these payments could be commuted into lump sums without the sanction of the worker. It is an extraordinary proposition—and it is surprising that it should have existed for so long—that a worker's payments could be ended in exchange for a lump sum without his sanction, or even against his wish.

I know there are some cases where a lump sum could be very useful. I know of one case where a small farmer who was working for the county council was injured. He was paid a lump sum and he made, and is continuing to make, extremely good use of it. It is obvious that in the vast majority of cases a worker would not be fitted to deal with sums of this kind. He would not know how to go about it. The lump sum would be frittered away on non-essentials, or put into some form of business activity for which he might not be fitted, and the result could be that in a very short time the money would be gone and he would be left without anything. I think it is very satisfactory that lump sums have been done away with under this Bill.

A question which has exercised people a great deal, and particularly lawyers on both sides of the House, is the question of the removal of workmen's compensation from the courts. I think a great deal of unnecessary excitement has been caused by this. It seems to me that this is a case where no real matter of principle is involved. The only thing to be considered is how will this work. We have been told by several people that 99 per cent of workmen's compensation cases do not go to court. Such cases as do go to court hang on questions of fact. The real question is whether the officials of the Department of Social Welfare or the courts should decide questions of fact. That seems to be purely a matter of convenience and I do not see that there is any real question of principle involved.

I think Senator O'Kennedy rather minimised the fees payable in workmen's compensation cases. I agree that workmen's compensation cases are not by any means the most remunerative part of the activities of barristers or solicitors and they will not really lose anything by this Bill. I accept that they are not worrying about fees, but I feel that lawyers have an attitude about the courts which perhaps is not shared by the average layman. Lawyers appear in court very frequently and I do not think they realise that to the ordinary man in the street, and particularly to less well educated people, appearing in court is an ordeal to be avoided at all costs. People look on the courts with dread, and I do not think lawyers understand that.

Senator Ryan said yesterday that he felt there was a tendency in recent years for the State to whittle away the matters that go to court and that things which were formerly decided in court were no longer so decided. He said this was a bad thing. There has been this tendency, but I think he is going about it the wrong way by complaining about it. Rather than complaining that arrangements have been made so that certain matters need no longer be referred to the courts, he should consider how our present courts system could best be reformed so that there will not be this general public dread of going to court, and particularly that there will not be this general feeling that the courts are extremely slow and extremely expensive. This general attitude has led to the introduction of this Bill. The trade union community on the whole feel very strongly that workmen's compensation should be taken away from the courts and dealt with by the Department of Social Welfare.

It is entirely a matter of convenience. It is entirely a matter of how best the business can be done. The trade unionists have been doing it for a number of years. They feel apparently very strongly that by and large leaving those matters to the Department is a more reliable way of doing things and much quicker although there would always be individual cases which could not be dealt with in this way. That is the feeling of the workers and, as they are the people who will be affected by this Bill, it is unrealistic for people to say that this will in some way deprive the workers of their rights.

This is purely a matter of convenience. It is undoubtedly more convenient to deal with those questions through this system than through the courts. When 99 per cent of those cases are already settled out of court surely this is the best way to do it. The feeling of the workers is that they will get on better with the officials of the Department of Social Welfare than being left to the mercy of insurance companies to deal with those things. It is better that this particular aspect of the matter is taken away from the courts.

A number of criticisms have been made of my proposed solution to this problem with which I have to deal. Senator FitzGerald, predictably, started off, first of all, to convict me of the unspeakable crime of having replied in Irish to a Parliamentary question addressed to me in that language by a Deputy. As I say that was a predictable thing. I knew that would be his approach. Apparently, his belief was that having first of all established me as a transgressor in this regard, that is as a non-conformist with Senator FitzGerald's standard of behaviour, it would then be easier for him to demolish the Bill.

Apparently it is a crime for me to reply in Irish to a question addressed to me in Irish. Senator FitzGerald does not like it. I did not have to wait until I came here yesterday to learn Senator FitzGerald's feelings with regard to the Irish language. I am well aware of them but Senator FitzGerald assumes tacitly that because he does not like the Irish language, therefore it must be universally accepted that it is wrong to use it. Unfortunately, there are people who do not accept that that is necessarily so. It is quite obvious from his remarks on this subject that he confidently expected that I would beat my breast and say "mea culpa, I will not do it again”. That appears to be his whole attitude, not only with regard to Irish, but with regard to every subject. Once he has spoken the matter is ended, the matter is decided.

Unfortunately, the Senator will have to face up to the situation that there are awkward and unreasonable people like trade union leaders and Fianna Fáil Ministers who do not accept his modest assessment of himself as the ultimate authority on every subject under the sun. Those people exist and Senator FitzGerald cannot just will them out of existence. As I say, I did not have to wait until yesterday to learn what the Senator's attitude was with regard to the national language. But the Constitution is there. The Constitution is there admittedly against his wishes and against the wishes of his Party.

It is the subject of criticism by the present Taoiseach.

The fact of the matter is that the Constitution is there and it was enacted by the vote of the Irish people against the tooth and nail opposition of the Senator's Party.

It was democratic criticism.

Whether Senator FitzGerald or Senator O'Sullivan like it or not it is the fundamental law of the land.

We had fundamentals long before that.

Until such time as the Fine Gael Party can succeed in getting the Irish people to change the Constitution I have no intention of accepting that it is a crime to answer in the Irish language questions which are addressed to me in that language, as Senator FitzGerald objects to me doing.

I never said that.

It might be no harm if Senator FitzGerald remembered that even at the time when the situation which he desires to bring about was there, when it was officially a crime to utilise Irish for public purposes, there were people even then who were prepared to incur penalties for using it. With regard to the question that this answering of a question in Irish was a subterfuge, that this was an effort to make an announcement and not make it at the same time—it passes my comprehension why anybody should want to do that—anybody can verify this fact by looking through the Dáil debates at the time and they will find that since the date of the submission of the Commission's Report to me roughly on an average of once per month some Deputy of the Labour Party put a question as to what was the Government's intention in regard to the question of workmen's compensation.

The Dáil session was coming to an end. Surely I had no reason to suppose that the Labour Party representatives in the Dáil would let the session end without asking another question. I had had a series of questions from Deputy Corish, Deputy Kyne and Deputy Tully, all people who had a genuine interest in this question of workmen's compensation. I do not know how they happened to let the session come to an end without putting down a further question, particularly in view of the fact that I had indicated to them that it was coming near the stage when I would be able to make a decision in principle on the matter. I was not particularly anxious to make an announcement since all I had at the time was a decision in principle.

It was purely a matter of luck that there was not a question down in English before that particular Dáil session ended. I suppose it is unfortunate that the use of Irish by Deputies should so offend and outrage Senator FitzGerald. Unfortunately, this is a matter which is likely to happen again. He will have to try to live with the position that there are some people who are prepared to incur his wrath by the use of the Irish language. In fact, so far as I am personally concerned, he may as well know that so far from feeling regret in regard to this matter, I get some personal satisfaction from the knowledge that this incident aroused his fury.

The Minister might learn to spell the word "Aras".

I know how to spell it.

Apparently the Aras do not know.

Obviously, in dealing with this Bill, Senator FitzGerald was continuing his wrangling with the trade union representatives which apparently took place during the Commission's consideration of this matter. It was quite obvious he was carrying that a stage further here in this forum where the trade union representatives on that Commission were not present to contest his description of the attitude they took up in regard to this matter. They again dared to disagree with the oracle and they have been suitably chastised here and admonished as to their future behaviour.

They may feel that their years of experience in dealing with workers' affairs give them some particular authoritativeness in expressing the workers' point of view and looking after their interests, but they have been told and, indeed, in no uncertain terms, that this attitude displeases Senator FitzGerald, and the implication apparently is that they should now decide to cast aside their attitudes and beliefs which have arisen from their years of experience and learn their job anew from the master. It is nothing new for Fianna Fáil Ministers to have the opposition of Fine Gael for any measure for the improvement of social welfare. Fianna Fáil Governments have introduced every expansion in our social welfare services since the British days here, and always in the teeth of Fine Gael opposition. We have had this experience on every social welfare scheme with the exception of the noncontributory old age pensions and the rudimentary form of unemployment benefit which was in existence in British times. The fact of the matter is that Fine Gael were always wrong regarding social welfare, and the reason is that they do not really believe in it. If I did not face Fine Gael opposition I would be inclined to doubt if I was on the right lines at all.

Do thug an Seanadóir MacGearailt fúm, freisin, toisc go ndúirt mé gur chéim mhór ar aghaidh an Bille seo i gcúrsaí leasa shóisialaigh. Deirim arís é. Is chéim mhór ar aghaidh an Bille agus táim mórálach as é thabhairt isteach. Anois. béimíd ar cheann de na náisiúin is fearr maidir leis an gné seo de chúrsaí leasa shóisialaigh, ach ní aontaíonn Fine Gael go mbaineann cúiteamh do lucht oibre le leas sóisalaigh ar chor ar bith. Sin í an dhifríocht mhór atá eadrainn.

With regard to the question of the delay in bringing in this Bill and making this change in workmen's compensation, I do not agree that there has been any excessive delay on my part. It is a fact that the Commission sat for a period of six years before producing these two Reports to me on the 19th February, 1962. The present Bill was introduced in the Dáil in July 1965, and it is alleged that this was an excessive delay. This was quite a bulky Report containing a great deal of information and a great deal of argument on one side and the other, and when this was received it was studied thoroughly in my Department. There is also a certain Cabinet procedure that has to be gone through in regard to the initiation of new measures.

This document had to be printed first of all and circulated to other Government Departments for their observations. When the matter had been thoroughly examined in my Department the question of what decision we should make had to be considered, and eventually I decided that it would be right for me to make a recommendation to the Government to make the type of change I am proposing in this Bill. This was a radical change that I was proposing should be made. I had then to prepare a submission to my colleagues giving the reasons why I thought this change should be made, and again it took some considerable time to have this dealt with. At this stage I had not prepared a detailed Bill. I first of all put forward the reasons as to why this change should be made and obtained a decision in principle, and only after that the question of the detailed proposals arose. It was only when these had been submitted in the normal way to the Government that the drafting of the Bill could be undertaken. The Bill was eventually introduced in July, 1965. I do not accept any responsibility for the preliminary six years taken by the Commission in dealing with the matter, and I think that subsequent to that the Bill was introduced in a reasonable time.

We have the question of what Senator FitzGerald describes as the four vital features of a workmen's compensation or occupational injuries scheme. Here, again, there is no question of saying that in his opinion these are the four essential features. He just says that these are four essential features and apparently that is that. His brief says so, so we must all click our heels and agree. In fact I do not agree that they are. There are arguments for and against risk-rating, and I think the arguments against the principle are more convincing than those in favour of it. I deliberately took the decision to eliminate risk-rating and to spread the load. Of course, the Fine Gael attitude is that this is not a matter for social welfare insurance at all, that it is not social welfare legislation. That is where we disagree. That is the fundamental disagreement. I believe that it is. It was later admitted by one of the Fine Gael speakers that agriculture was, for instance, one of the more highly risk-rated occupations in this country, and the view was expressed that this risk was a fairly serious load on that important industry in the country, so that if we were to continue with the idea of risk-rating the load on our primary industry of agriculture would be excessive. I think it is a good and justifiable principle to spread this overhead for insurance against occupational injury or disease over the whole economy rather than that some of our more vital industries should have to bear an excessive overhead in regard to this matter which is a liability created by legislation.

We then have the principle of wage relation. I agree that wage relation is desirable subject to the provision of minimum basic compensation to be available to any injured worker, and that it is not by any means impossible to have that. There is, however, a certain amount of difficulty attached to it. My proposal is to make this matter of occupational injury and disease part of the social welfare code and I should prefer to consider this question of wage relation in the context of the whole of our social welfare code rather than in one isolated instance. Apart from that, the two sections of the Commission who reported—the Majority and the Minority—had apparently roughly the same idea as to the total load which it was feasible and reasonable to put on the economy in relation to this question of insurance against occupational injury.

Working roughly within that amount, I think the benefits that are provided within this Bill are about as good as we could do. If we were to have a clearly wage related scheme, utilising the same amount of money, obviously we could only give more to those who had higher incomes when they were at work at the expense of those who had low incomes, so that while I do not preclude the possibility of wage relation being introduced at some future time when it appears to be feasible, working with the amount of money which I decided it would be reasonable to ask the economy to provide, I do not think it is feasible to provide an adequate basic amount for everybody at the same time in a scheme involving wage relation.

One of the most frequent epithets used by Senator FitzGerald in his attack on me, on the Bill and on the Department of Social Welfare was the word "spurious". If the word "spurious" can be applied to anything, it is to the so-called wage related scheme Senator FitzGerald submitted to me in the Report of the Commission on Workmen's Compensation. If ever there was a spuriously wage related scheme it was that. The recommendations in that document were that for people earning up to £4 per week the benefit should be at the rate of 80 per cent of their wages; for people earning between £4 and £6 per week, the rate should be 75 per cent of their wages; and people earning more than £6 per week should get 60 per cent, but subject to a maximum of 140/- per week. Now, £7 is 60 per cent of £11.13.4. Senator FitzGerald spoke here about the inadequate provision made for the decline in the standard of living of all who earn higher wages, but his idea of wage relation for people earning higher wages was equated in this document to 60 per cent of a wage of £11.13.4. That was his submission to me.

In regard to his proposal that for those who were earning £6 per week the benefit provided should be at the rate of 60 per cent of their wages, it might be no harm to point out that this was a deliberate proposal made by Senator FitzGerald after long and intensive study of the matter which failed to measure up to the relevant recommendations of the International Labour Organisation which was to the effect that benefits should be at least 66? per cent of workers' wages if they were provided in this way. I realise very definitely that there is a good case for the provision of benefits in proportion to wages but I certainly cannot agree that Senator FitzGerald's proposal comes anywhere near to that.

Would the Minister say——

I shall reply to this debate in my own way. The Senator made his speech without interruption by me and I shall make mine as I see fit. I wish to make some comparison between the benefits I am proposing in the Bill and the benefits Senator FitzGerald would like to give. Senator O'Quigley alleged that the benefits I propose to provide in the Bill are not as good as would be an increase in the present maximum of £4 10s. per week proportionate to the cost of living, which he said would require an increase of £6 10s. per week. Senator FitzGerald went beyond that and recommended there should be an increase to a maximum of £7 per week.

I should like to make a point. The Minister has referred to something as my recommendations. He will find that the addendum to that document was made in 1960 prior to my work on the Commission.

Senator FitzGerald's recommendations are here. I am well aware of the fact that during his speech on Second Reading of this Bill he made vague references to other things that might have been done, but his considered opinion after a long study of the matter, when he had to be serious and responsible, is here in this Report of the Commission on Workmen's Compensation. He can be as wild and irresponsible as he likes now when he is merely a Fine Gael Senator.

In my addendum to the Report, which recommended that the figure of £7 should be increased pro rata with wages from 1960 onwards——

Not only did he sign the Report——

And the addendum.

——but he gave further reasons as to why these recommendations should be accepted. With regard to a maximum of £7 per week for every man, whether married or single, no matter what wages he had in the past, with the benefits that are being proposed in the Bill a single man who suffers a severe disability but is still able to go back to his employment and earn his full wages, will get a weekly payment of £5 15s. If, in addition to suffering this disability he is also unable to earn his living, he will get £8 7s. 6d per week, a figure which exceeds Senator FitzGerald's recommendation by 27/6d a week— the figure the Senator gave as the absolute maximum for anybody, irrespective of family commitments or previous wages.

Even the single man in my proposals would get more than that. If he were a married man with two children, the total available to him through my proposals would be £11.13.6 per week plus, if in need of constant attendance, something up to £2 and, in special circumstances, £4 per week, so that the total possible amount for a married man with two children is £15.13.6 per week as against a maximum recommended by Senator FitzGerald of £7 per week.

If the man had six children, the total that will become available to him under the Bill is £13.5.6, but if in need of constant attendance that would be increased to £17.5.6 per week as against a maximum for a man, irrespective of family commitments, of £7 per week in Senator FitzGerald's recommendations.

Even if it were adjusted since 1960 what Senator FitzGerald proposed would still be less than my proposals in this Bill.

Not for a single man.

Yes, for a single man. While, with the amount of money I felt it was feasible to ask the employers generally to contribute, it has not been feasible to introduce wage relation, we have been able to introduce a scheme which bears some relationship to need as reckoned by family commitments. The proposals submitted to me by Senator FitzGerald are wage related in theory only but in actual fact the degree of wage relationship is just illusory.

The next question was that of appeals.

Is the Minister withdrawing his misleading statement in the Dáil that the Commission recommended a flat rate benefit instead of wage related benefits?

What I intended to say was that there was this difficulty in arriving at pre-accident earnings which led the Commission to seriously consider it but they did, in fact, recommend wage relationship. It would be a desirable thing, and nobody would claim that it is impossible to do it, but it is a difficult thing and at the rate of imposition on industry that was proposed was just not feasible to do and at the same time ensure that even a lowly paid worker would get adequate compensation.

On this question of appeals, there seems to me here to be a determination to try to ensure that some of the income into this occupational injuries fund will be swallowed up in legal costs. What Senators do not seem to have grasped is that there will not be any need for these legal battles in future. The question of whether an accident, injury or disease arises out of employment, and in the course of employment, is clarified in this Bill and that question will no longer depend on the relative degrees of skill and knowledge of the matter displayed by the counsel for the injured workman, and for the employer or for the insurance company, as the case may be. The type of matter that will fall to be decided by Deciding Officers will be similar to the type of question they have to decide at present. That, I take it, is why the workers' representatives on the Commission were satisfied that this type of decision and appeals machinery would be the best type to recommend. The type of case, for instance, which Senator O'Quigley referred to, where the injury was due to "skylarking" is now clearly within the scope of the legislation and it will not be necessary in a case like that in the future for the workman to depend on the employers' or insurance companies' case not being adequately put to the court.

A judge may, and I am sure normally was, predisposed in favour of the workman, but still in this contest between the two teams of legal men he had to score the contest in accordance with the rules. However much he would favour one side there would not be much a judge could do about it if the case against the workman were established.

A lot has been made about this suggestion that it is wrong that the appeal should be from one civil servant to another civil servant. I do not see that there is anything particularly outrageous about that. If you were to have an adjudication by the courts the appeal will be from one judge to another judge and it is a fact that in existing social welfare schemes Appeals Officers do in quite a reasonable number of cases vary decisions given by Deciding Officers and the proportion would be just as high as the proportion of decisions of lower courts which are reversed on appeal to higher courts.

This Bill I am introducing here is a proposal to amend and extend the existing social welfare Acts, so that when Senators argue for the introduction of the courts procedure into the decision and appeals machinery of this particular aspect of social welfare, it would have to be brought in for the whole social welfare code. While I accept that fees in general were not by any means excessive in regard to workmen's compensation cases, it is a fact that the only tangible result of doing this would be to fritter away some, at least, of the occupational injuries Fund so far as this Bill is concerned and the social insurance Fund in so far as the other benefits are concerned in legal costs.

Of course, nobody whose appeal is rejected is ever satisfied and the fact that his appeal would be rejected by a judge rather than by a civil servant would not sweeten the pill for the applicant and, particularly, it would not be sweetened by the fact that he got the rejection of his appeal at some cost to himself. I think we are entitled to accept the opinion of the workers' representatives that by and large the decision and appeals machinery of the Department of Social Welfare has worked well up to now and there is no case for now handing over this to the courts with the inevitable expense that would be involved and thereby not alone eating into some of the money at present available for benefits but also making it more difficult in future to effect further improvements in social welfare.

My Department and I have been assailed for not having more imagination in regard to social welfare. In so far as this particular issue of workmen's compensation or occupational injuries is concerned, I have a proposal here before the Seanad for the employers of this country to provide a Fund with an annual income of £2.5 million. There is no point in my imagining that I have more money than that in order to do this job, or that I can do anything better and provide higher benefits without increasing the load on industry. Both the Majority and the Minority Reports had roughly the same idea of the total amount of the load which it was reasonable to impose on industry.

Fine Gael Senators have been adopting the traditional Fine Gael line of expecting the people to believe that better benefits for everybody can be provided at the same cost. I know people are capable of realising that if an existing definite sum of money is re-allocated in a different way and if some people get more, then others will get less. This is the old unsuccessful Fine Gael confidence trick to try to pretend that every social welfare recipient's position can be improved with no extra expense if only the Department of Social Welfare officials and Government Ministers had this supreme quality which Fine Gael have in such abundance—imagination. Unfortunately, I have to pay for any benefits I provide and there is no use my imagining I have the money if I have not.

I was asked, rather surprisingly, about this Convention of the International Labour Conference, to which I referred. Apparently Senator FitzGerald had not heard of it, despite all the research into this question he would ask us to believe he has conducted. This was Convention No. 121, a Convention concerning benefits in the case of employment injury. I cannot undertake to give the Seanad any great idea of what it contains now. There are 39 Articles, two Schedules and an Annexe but it is available for anybody who wants to study it. As regards the standing of this Convention, which was adopted by the International Labour Organisation in 1964, it lays down the highest standards to date in respect of provisions for employment injury and disease by Conventions of this organisation. The ratification of the Conventions of this body represents a more far-reaching net-work of international obligations than have been created in any field of economic or social welfare policy. The provisions of the convention and recommendations of the International Labour Conference are in the international labour code. The standards of policy embodied in the code have the unique prestige of having been approved by a two-thirds majority of a world industrial Parliament in which governments, employers and workers are all represented, so the fact that this Bill enables us, if we so decide, to ratify this Convention is something which entitles me to describe this Bill as being a major advance in social welfare.

But it will not implement the Convention.

That is a question for a Government decision as to whether or not to ratify it. But we are in the position of being able to ratify this if we do decide to do so because of the provisions of this Bill.

We are in that position in regard to every Convention.

Indeed we are not. If Senator FitzGerald would look at the Report which he signed—this Commission's Report—he would see that what I said in my opening statement on this Bill was correct in regard to the then existing Convention of the International Labour Organisation, which provided for much lower standards in regard to this matter, and we were not in a position to sign them in regard to workmen's compensation. The recommendations Senator FitzGerald made to me in this respect, which were so inadequate that no Minister for Social Welfare except possibly, a Fine Gael one, would accept them would not enable us to sign this Convention now.

This Bill is still in arrears by two-thirds. How many Conventions are we in arrear now?

We are providing a lot more in most cases.

But we are still in arrears.

We are not. We are in a position to sign this and, I would say, possibly one of the comparatively few countries which are.

Senators have been talking about EEC standards as if there was some definite EEC system of social welfare. Of course, there are very diverse systems in the EEC countries and there is no question of our deciding to adopt the EEC system. There is no such thing.

To finish the key points I mentioned.

There is no reason either to suggest there is anything particularly desirable in the EEC systems as distinct from the system we have here. Admittedly, there is need to increase the standards in a number of our schemes and that is being done in so far as it is possible for the economy of the country to support those improvements.

The question of small farmers was raised here. It was suggested that they should be admitted as voluntary contributors to this scheme, which is so deficient and so unfavourable to the insured people! I have under consideration the possibility of making some parts of the social insurance scheme available on a voluntary basis to people other than those who are compulsorily insurable at present. The question as to whether this particular aspect of the social insurance scheme could be made available in that way will be considered also. In the meantime the self-employed people have available to them what some Senators here have claimed to be greatly superior compensation for this hazard which is provided by private enterprise.

It was alleged here that, in this Bill, we were taking from the insurance companies a sum, which was variably expressed from £3 million to £4 million. The Majority Report of the Commission—and this was not disputed by the Minority—estimated that the amount of premium income of insurance companies from common law liability was £657,000 and from workmen's compensation £1,534,000, which is a total of £2,191,000 of which, of course, only the workmen's compensation element will no longer be available. One insurance company representative estimated there would be an increase of 25 per cent in the common law premiums, so there is no question of taking £3 million or £4 million from the insurance companies. But it is a fact that, as a result of this decision, there will be some diminution in insurance companies' turn-over. That, I agree, is a regrettable feature of it.

I think that is a decision which the Government were entitled to make in view of the fact that this is social welfare legislation. This liability was created in the first instance in the interests of the workers and with the development of the concept of social welfare and social insurance over the years, I think it was inevitable that this would eventually come within the scope of social insurance.

While I am on this question I think Senator Rooney was one of those Senators who made the allegation that I was taking £3 million from the insurance companies. He also said last night that this Bill was imposing an extra load of between £2½ million and £3 million on the employers. By this morning that sum had grown from between £2½ million and £3 million, to between £3 million and £4 million. In actual fact, the total liability on the employers for workers' compensation insurance will be £2½ million. As I said, the Majority Report gave £1,534,000 as the figure for the inadequate rate of benefits provided at present, so the extra imposition for the much greater benefits which are being provided in this Bill is something less than £1 million.

Senator Murphy wanted to know the proposed date for the operation of this scheme. Well, the delay will be only so long as it takes to make the necessary administrative arrangements. I cannot give a definite undertaking as to when it will come into operation, but I have in mind the beginning of the contribution year, January of next year.

Both Senator Alton and Senator Jessop referred to the fact that Deciding Officers can make mistakes in regard to the assessment of medical evidence. Of course, that is quite true. That can happen and has happened in the past in regard to disability benefits, but the thing about the proposed method of dealing with decisions and appeals is that matters like this can always be re-opened. There will never be such a definite irrevocable type of decision as would result from a court decision in this matter.

With regard to the provision of rehabilitation facilities, I am asking for power in this Bill to make contributions out of the fund towards rehabilitation services, and possibly also for research into the cause of accidents. I am satisfied that the Department of Health is the appropriate Department to organise rehabilitation services. I propose to utilise this fund to assist in the provision of such facilities. Also in regard to research into the cause of accidents and diseases, I do not think my Department would be the most suitable Department to do this. I agree that in the organisation of any such research it would be necessary to get the services of experts of the kind mentioned by Senator Jessop. I should imagine that either the Department of Industry and Commerce or the Department of Education would be the more appropriate Department to deal with this.

Some Senators seem to think it is a retrograde step not to have lump sum settlements still available. That is a point of view but, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Government, these lump sum settlements are not desirable. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the individual to provide himself with an adequate income for the rest of his life from a lump sum. I think it would be a retrograde step not to eliminate these lump sums and provide a weekly income instead, which is what is generally required by a person who meets with this type of misfortune.

I do not think there is anything else I need say. As I said before, I think this is a significant advance in social welfare legislation in this country, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to Seanad Éireann.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 25th May, 1966.