Committee on Finance. - Vote 66—Office of the Minister for Social Welfare (Resumed).

Friday, 28 March 1947

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 105 No. 4

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Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  In so far as these proposals seek to give some measure of urgent and temporary relief to the aged who are incapacitated for work, to the [489] widow and the orphan who have been deprived of the bread-winner, to the blind who are in present circumstances unable to earn a decent livelihood and to the unemployed who, because of our economic disorders, are unable to find gainful employment, the measures before us are worthy of support, but, as to whether they are going to give any substantial relief to all these beneficiaries, I have very grave doubts. The difficulty that I find myself in in discussing these measures is one which has been expressed by other speakers. We have not had from the Minister a comprehensive statement of social welfare policy. In the absence of a comprehensive statement, it is difficult to address oneself fully to the problems which we see in the country to-day. At the same time, there are certain aspects of this problem that strike me, and to which I have given expression before.

I am wondering if we are not beginning at the wrong end when we embark upon a vigorous policy of social welfare. In round figures, we are providing £12,000,000 this year for social services of all kinds. That sum is approximately one-third of the revenue derived from customs, income-tax and excise, and represents 20 per cent. of the cost of our entire supply services. To my mind, instead of regarding that as a satisfactory feature of our economic life, we should regard it as a most deplorable feature of our economic life. As I have said before here, I regard these social services as temporary expedients, temporary palliatives for the economic disorders in our body politic.

I regard all expedients of that kind as being due to the fact that our economic system here is not able to provide a full life for our people either in industry or on the land. It is well we should realise that we are not doing anything in a practical way to solve our economic difficulties by increasing social services. To my mind, we are working in the reverse direction, and are really creating a new problem for ourselves. If we had a system of, shall we say, full-blooded socialism of national socialism or a full-blooded employment policy here, it might be a healthy sign that expenditure was advancing, but under our present [490] system it works the other way. It might be quite healthy for us if we had in being a system under which all classes in the community were contributing their due meed to such expenditure over a long period of their lifetime. That has not taken place yet, and, therefore, it is essential to my mind to sound a warning note as to the road on which we are travelling. I believe that the Minister for Finance, on the Vote on Account, gave expression to the same belief, that there is a certain amount of doubt as to our capacity to bear an increase in taxation for any purpose, and that that doubt can only be resolved if we immediately get increased production. If we fail to get that increased production, and particularly if we fail to get it this year in the peculiar circumstances in which we find ourselves, then I say emphatically that we are providing services which we cannot afford.

Deputy M. O'Sullivan stressed a point with which I am in entire agreement, namely, that you cannot take more out of the pool than you put into it. I would go further on that line and remind the Minister that we have a very peculiar situation here, one in which we have, roughly, 1,100,000 people in gainful employment. Of that number, less than a half are engaged in agriculture. and a little more than a half are engaged in industry, in administration and in rendering various services to the community, but of both numbers only approximately 800,000 are producing wealth in this country. The rest may be providing services which an economist would regard as being of a utilitarian nature, but the fact is that the producers of real wealth at the moment do not exceed 800,000. These are the people who have to bear the burden of all taxation, local and central, and who, in a measure, have to bear a large share of the burden of social services. For that reason, I doubt if we can embark upon extended schemes until we have had a complete review of our economic and financial position. I said here on a previous occasion that I think it is essential to have some form of economic council set up to examine all the various problems which hinge upon the [491] major problem of our economic condition.

I was glad that the Minister did say that he intended eventually to introduce a unified system which would operate upon a uniform card, the holder of each card being entitled to the various services upon the one card. That will make for simplicity for the individual beneficiary but, above all, it will make for simplicity in administration—local and central—and must eventually lead to a reduction in the cost of administration. The cost of administration for social welfare is roughly in the neighbourhood of 10 per cent. at the moment and to my mind that is too high, having regard to the object of social welfare. I was also glad to note that the Minister did intend to base this uniform system upon a contributory basis. He did express the view that there would be considerable difficulty in extending the system to the agricultural community.

I appreciate that there will be considerable difficulty in bringing farmers' families within the system but I do say to him no matter what the difficulties may be it is essential that the farmers' families should be brought within the scope of the social welfare scheme. I do not know what the percentage may be but we all know that we have too many uneconomic holdings in this country. We all know that the farmer's family cannot get a living on the land. We all know that only one can settle down on the home farm and the rest must go away. We all know that in certain areas in the country farmers, in order to live, must engage in seasonal employment either at home or in Great Britain.

It will, therefore, to my mind, be essential to bring the small farmer and particularly the farmer who has to make ends meet by engaging in seasonal employment—either himself or the members of his family—within the scope of the system. There will be difficulty in arriving at contributory rates for members of farmers' families but I think the problem will have to be tackled because we have now, from the figures of the National Income and Expenditure Tables, a fair vision of [492] what the farming community is. Even to-day, despite the alleged prosperity which is supposed to have taken place during the war period, the average earning of persons engaged in agricultural occupations—rich farmers, large farmers, poor farmers and agricultural labourers all included for purposes of calculation in the one lot—is £3. Pre-war it was 30/-. When we realise that that is the fundamental economic position of our agricultural structure it is clear that they above all must be included in some form of social insurance upon this contributory basis. A large percentage of the other classes of the community are under £3 also and very few of the community are above the £3 level at the present time. That is the picture of our wage-earning community and I think no Deputy, having regard to the present purchasing power of money, will be prepared to admit publicly that a £3 wage to-day is sufficient to enable a man to run a household and to rear a family. I think it will be admitted that the wages to-day, taking them all round, are below the level of subsistence having regard to the high cost of living and the peculiar economic circumstances at present prevailing.

It will be admitted also, I think, by most Deputies that the fixed income earner and the white collar worker is put to the pin of his collar to carry on and that many of the lower salaried officials have had to lapse insurance policies, have had to mortgage their title deeds to their homes, have had to cut their children's education, have had to give up many of the amenities which they enjoyed pre-war in order to carry on. Their position, too, has fallen rapidly since the war and they, too, will have to be considered in a scheme of this kind. It is clear to my mind that instead of levelling up in social welfare either in this country or in any other country the tendency is to level down; we are levelling down all the time rather than levelling up. If that tendency cannot be checked it is obvious that the Minister must address himself to the problems created by that tendency and bring as many as possible of the salary earning community and the working community, including farmers, within the scope of the eventual [493] welfare scheme. That to my mind cannot be done unless there is some graduation of contributions. There will be cases where we will probably have to accept a position where no contribution can be accepted below a certain income level. There will be cases where a small contribution will have to be taken up to a certain income level, and so on up to the higher income levels. To my mind it would be better if the entire community were to contribute to a scheme of this kind so that we will remove any stigma of relief— call it what you will—from the system. I do not agree at all that the State should be a universal provider. We will eventually have to change our views in relation to State activity and particularly in relation to the extent to which the State will be expected to take over all these services. I think that a new outlook will probably develop—as a new outlook is developing in other directions—particularly in the business and industrial world and in the labour world.

I think that the present class struggle where the businessman and the industrialist, on the one hand, are endeavouring to make the most profit for themselves and their company, and the wage earner on the other hand, who is endeavouring to drag out of them the highest wages for himself and his family, cannot continue; and that the businessman and the industrialist, on the one hand, and the employee on the other hand, will have to realise that they are complementary and not antagonistic to each other; that they are both taking out of the same pool, that they are both entitled to a fair share according to their contributions of capital, time or labour and that, basing their claims on the equity of their contributions, some system will have to be evolved whereby each will have a fair return either for his money or his labours. The system which they both operate will have to bear some share of the burden of social service. I have in mind the many large industries which already have their own pension scheme, their own social welfare schemes, their own medical and sickness benefit schemes which are, generally, selfsufficing and independent of the State. If we could develop on these lines, particularly [494] in industry, to the relief of the State and of State taxation, I think we would be developing on better lines than by encouraging these people to look to the State for every measure of benefit or bounty.

Therefore, both the employer and the employee will have to be brought to realise that they are both engaged in activities for the community, that they are both serving the community and that service to the community and not the profit-making motive or the wage-earning motive must be the major consideration. In other words, both classes have a duty and responsibility to the community and must realise that they are serving the community. The industrialist, manufacturer and large businessman must realise that they are merely servants of the community and that it is because of service to the community they are permitted to recoup themselves for their money and time. If we could get that spirit in industry, we could rid ourselves of many of the problems with which we have to deal here.

I do not desire to discuss the means test. We have a motion under discussion at the moment and what I have to say on that subject I shall reserve for the motion. I shall content myself with remarking now that it seems an extraordinary anomaly that blind persons, to whom Deputy Byrne referred, should be treated on this basis at all. The time has arrived when the State should regard it as its duty to train the blind in different trades and employments and, having trained them, to provide suitable, gainful occupation for them and take steps to ensure that the produce of their labour will be taken from them and sold to the community. We should realise that these are a peculiar class of our citizens who, through no fault of their own, cannot carry on without aid. Their incapacity in many cases dates from birth and they should be the special charge of the community.

The whole policy in relation to provision for the blind should be radically altered and the blind should be put upon some system by which they could get a means of living. I think, too, that the test in all these things should be the capacity of the individual seeking [495] benefit to work. If he has the capacity to work and if the local authority, the State, or private business can provide work, according to his capacity, then there should be no benefit. Even in the case of old age pensioners, if the pensioner were able to continue work and we could keep him in gainful employment, it would be much better for us as a community than giving him a birthday present at 70 years of age. In the same way, I think that the widows' pension should not be regarded as a permanent solatium for widowhood. If we can provide an opportunity for the widow to go into gainful employment, we should do so rather than leave her to carry on on a pittance.

When the Minister comes to evolve the comprehensive scheme which he has in mind, many of these problems will have to be tackled from a new angle. I want to see the position reached when doles and benefits will not be the desideratum of the individual, that the reverse will be the case and that the individual will be looking for something to do and something to give rather than for something to take. Our fundamental attitude to these seekers of doles should be: “You will get nothing for nothing and damn little for a half penny.” I should say that it is the duty of the Government, in the altered economic circumstances of to-day, to create, so far as possible, an opportunity for employment at home for these people. Where employment can be found, these people, provided they are fit, should be compelled to work. I think that there is a high percentage of shysters, or work-shy gentlemen, amongst the unemployed. I say that from personal observation in many small towns and villages. I think that these should be treated as a special problem and that the chronic idler and malingerer should have no consideration from the community. Furthermore, we should regard in a strictly anti-social light the attitude of these gentlemen to work.

It is time there was some plain speaking on these things. We are moving too far in the direction of making it easy for many of these gentlemen to carry on without having to work. I, for one, am certainly perturbed at the [496] idea of giving these gentlemen a rise of something like 50 per cent. in their allowance because, if you narrow the margin between the lowest level of wages, particularly in the rural communities and small towns, and the allowance which these gentlemen will receive, I am afraid a high percentage of these people will never work. Therefore I think that, even to the extent of straining every regulation against them, we should not encourage that type of individual to get anything. The problem, I know, is a difficult one. There are areas in the country which present special problems and, of course, I am not referring to those areas. Everybody knows the type of individual I have in mind. There is a percentage of these individuals everywhere and I think it would be in the interests of the community that they should be cut off the dole, offered work and, if they do not take it, take the consequences.

On the general question, when tackling social welfare, I should rather see the Government do so from the point of view of the family, as Deputy McCarthy has already advocated. As a first principle, the Government should establish the family wage, by which I mean that the head of the household should have sufficient income to have a proper home, ample accommodation for his family, proper clothing, a high standard of food and something over and above all that to provide for his own personal and family needs.

If we could arrive at that position, I believe many of our social problems —ill-health, malnutrition and disease— would disappear. That may be a very difficult problem in the immediate circumstances confronting us, but, as I see it, we will eventually have to face that problem in order that we may raise the purchasing power of the working-class community. If we do not do that we are only fooling ourselves when we talk of increasing production. You cannot increase production unless you raise the purchasing power of the community and you will not do that to any appreciable extent unless you treat the community on the family wage basis.

I agree with many economic experts [497] who say that prices should be regulated by wages and not wages by prices. We should not be in the position here of having to adjust wages to increasing prices. The reverse should obtain. Our conditions should be such here that we would be able to keep prices within the wage level. It is the duty of the Government to ensure a steady flow of purchasing power to the community as a whole, but it is the particular duty of the Government in the present crisis to ensure that the purchasing power is raised so that the production which we hear so much talked of here may eventually come about.

It is futile to talk of production unless we have people with the means to purchase the commodities that are likely to be produced. In other words, as I see it, there is considerable under-consumption here of goods and commodities and these goods and commodities will have to be produced here, and in order to get that situation you must raise the purchasing power of the community before production actually takes place. Then the industrialist will realise that he has the market and he will go ahead and produce, but it is very improbable that an industrialist will increase his production to any appreciable extent if he feels the goods will be left on his hands and there is nobody in the community to take them.

Major de Valera:  You can only increase purchasing power by increasing production—it runs in a vicious circle.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  You have to do the two.

Major de Valera:  You put one as a condition precedent to the other.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  I do. I say the purchasing power must be raised in order to induce the manufacturer to produce.

Major de Valera:  And you cannot raise your purchasing power under present circumstances without increasing your production—it is a vicious circle.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  It may be a vicious circle, but I cannot see one happening without the other. I cannot see production taking place until the community have the purchasing power. Moreover, I cannot, in agriculture, see [498] increased production until the producer gets a guaranteed increased price, and how can he get that price if the community are not able to take the produce from him?

Major de Valera:  I admit the force of the argument, but where is the increased purchasing power to come from unless you increase production?

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  The Government will have to find ways and means.

Major de Valera:  I am not suggesting there is anything wrong in your contention about the purchasing power, but I suggest that in putting one in sequence to the other, you are running in a vicious circle.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Eamonn O'Neill  Zoom on Eamonn O'Neill  I think we should get on with the debate and not have this dialogue proceeding across the floor.

Mr. Coogan: Information on Eamonn Coogan  Zoom on Eamonn Coogan  I know the problem is a very difficult one. Some agree that production must take place before the purchasing power is raised, and others take the view that income should be raised first in order that the necessary production will follow. In any event, the Government's job is to get that balance between production and consumption and, at the same time, raise the purchasing power of the community and keep the two balanced afterwards.

That is the Government's problem and until we solve it we are simply chasing ourselves like the dog chasing his tail—we would be in a vicious circle. I do not profess to have expert knowledge of these things and we do need expert advice from many sources to enable us once and for all to decide our policy in these matters. But that is the fundamental national policy that must be formulated.

The banking system has to come under review, too, if we are to take advantage of our entire resources. I have a letter before me which I received this morning and in which I am asked to raise certain matters more appropriate, perhaps, to agriculture, but it bears on the point Deputy de Valera has raised. I am asked to direct attention to the fact that dairy herds are disappearing to an alarming [499] extent and, as a result, the milk being supplied to the creameries is decreasing to an alarming extent. The reason given for this is the uneconomic price of milk. I am asked to raise these matters in the hope that the price of milk will be increased because the cost of production is increased and I am warned that, if this does not take place, the milk will disappear. It is futile to provide cash for our people for milk and butter under a social service scheme if the milk and butter will not be there. That is why these social service problems are hinged closely with our vital problem of finding a means of increasing our agricultural and industrial production and until we find that means we are beginning at the wrong end and the expense we are incurring now will simply result in further inflationary tendencies here.

That is what I fear and, therefore, I appeal to the Minister that when he comes to tackle these problems he will endeavour to get his colleagues, particularly the Minister for Industry and Commerce, to review our whole economic system so that as far as possible we will have, not a maximum community depending upon social services, but the very minimum, and as many of our people as possible who can be fitted will be fitted into profitable and gainful employment.

Major de Valera:  I am glad to see that the Minister is considering the implication of a contributory method for raising the moneys necessary for catering for the services for which his Department is designed to cater. On a previous occasion, and even in this debate, it was pointed out that the present system of financing social services out of direct taxation has now come to the stage where a very serious burden is imposed on lower scale salaried workers, on people in that class generally, and, of course, there are tradesmen and craftsmen who are paying income-tax and who are affected too. Expenses which have to be found out of general taxation are also passed on by way of taxes on commodities and fall very hard on these two classes. You even have the paradoxical situation that the very poor, [500] the destitute, may be reasonably well catered for, but the next grade are actually, in fact, poorer and in more straitened and difficult circumstances than the people of no means at all, owing to the taxing of that group for the benefit of the lower and admittedly deserving group. In other words, you run the risk, when you come to a certain stage, of substituting one set of hardships for another.

It is for that reason that this question of the method of financing all these public services is so important and, in particular, if you go on in the present way, you are leading logically to what the previous speaker more or less suggested, and that is that you extend the range of your services and then you will find that you will be trying to pay people with money you raise from themselves. In other words, it will be the camel trying to live off his hump.

My own view, expressed already— and it may not be a popular view—was that, even before the stage we have reached now, we had already come to the limit of the sum of money assigned to such services that the community could afford, and exceeding that by giving further gratuities and benefits, with no return to the community, would only mean the shifting of the burden of hardships and would mean, perhaps, actually an increase in difficulties of precisely the same nature as those that these services were designed to eradicate. That peculiar situation cannot be ignored and, again, particularly from my knowledge of what you have in Dublin, the junior civil servant, the clerk in the business office, the honest tradesman who is paying his income-tax—and most of them are doing that—are paying unduly now. These men, the skilled workers, whether manual or clerical, in the lower grades—it is upon these now that the difficulties of the present economic situation are falling, and it will be no real advantage to them to bring them within the scope of such social service schemes; it will merely involve them in a cycle of taking from them and, perhaps, giving back to them again. It will effect really nothing.

Therefore the whole question arises as to whether an equitable contributory scheme can be designed to meet [501] the needs of our country, a scheme in which all sections of the community will contribute duly towards bearing the burdens of their own disabilities, so to speak, and carry their own liabilities, to some extent; a scheme which will avoid unduly passing on the liability from one grade to another, as tends to happen at the moment. It is all very well to say that, as a matter of general principle, it is easy to agree on a principle of that nature, and it is very easy to suggest, as certain people in another Party have suggested, that a solution has been got elsewhere; but, when you come to the practical job, you find that any scheme must be designed to meet local circumstances and you will have local difficulties that are not met with in the schemes provided by other countries.

Therefore, whatever ideas you get from schemes from New Zealand and elsewhere, we can only consider them if they are practicable in this country. The difficulties I see are connected with the problem of the agricultural labourer and the farmer and how you are going to arrange contributory schemes in these cases. That might not be a major problem for another country but it is a major problem for us. Frankly, I do not see any very definite solution that would convince me to the extent of recommending it to the Minister here. The problem of how you are going to arrange for contributions in such cases is very involved and must be faced up to in itself. Secondly, there is the fact that there is a certain percentage of the population, in our cities, anyway, who perhaps would not come within the scope of these schemes and would, therefore, be outside the machinery for collecting contributions. At the same time, they are people in a class who are sufficiently benefiting indirectly from the remainder of the community to carry some liability. The problem must be thought out as to how to impose that upon them. They cannot be very numerous and care will have to be taken in framing a contributory scheme to see that you do not allow that section clear away without any liability at all. These are two problems which the Minister will have to consider if he is considering the possibility of financing [502] these schemes on a contributory basis. We shall all admit that it is the duty of society to try to carry the burden for individuals who, through no fault of their own, are unable to look after themselves.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  But only for them.

Major de Valera:  Just let me go on. I agree with the Deputy. The duty should be limited in my opinion to the case of people who through no fault of their own are unable to provide for their own needs. That is very wide and, may I say, I am taking it in its widest sense for the following reasons. When a man who has been a good citizen becomes ill, mere humanitarian considerations demand that he should be looked after. Then we have the aged, a class who have done their job in their day. The case there is unanswerable. The blind—these are unfortunate people who have suffered a disability which is peculiarly incapacitating and puts them in a category by themselves. They are a proper charge on the community wherein they were born. Then we have widows and orphans. Quite obviously the State must step in, as it is attempting to do, when it comes to the case of widows and orphans who are not able to fend for themselves. These are clear-cut, definite categories whom there is a liability on the community to support as best it may. In the case of services of that nature, I would suggest to the Minister that the principle should be that the financing of these services may be legitimately regarded as a charge on the community. Theoretically it may not be practicable to arrange for a contribution from the rest of the population according to means but that should be the basis. These charges are clear and definite and admit of no argument.

We now come to the question of sickness and of national health insurance. Say you have a poor man with a family who gets ill and cannot support them, or even a girl from the country in employment in Dublin who gets ill and has nobody to whom she can immediately look. All these cases indicate the need for an adequate service to provide for sickness, quite apart from the problem of the maintenance of a [503] proper standard of health for the community as a whole. There you have something for which the State should cater because it is unavoidable. You have also the problem of malingering and a wide problem of administration. All these services call for organisation by the State. All this leads up, on my part, to asking the Minister: Is it possible to operate such schemes vocationally or even through firms? Instead of a general State machinery for employed persons, is it possible to save expense and to be more efficient by operating these services through existing organisations? I am not suggesting that it is; I am not in a position to do it, as I have not the figures which would enable me to do it, but it is a point which I would recommend to the Minister. Similarly, in regard to pensions for the aged, in very many cases could not the liability on central funds for pensions in the first instance be reduced through industry providing pension schemes? Of course, you could decrease the burden on industry, perhaps, by reducing the taxation you collect from it. I am making no effort to suggest clearly what should be done in regard to that.

Lastly, as far as I am concerned, the question at issue in this debate comes to this—there is a limit to what we can pay, that is, if the money we are paying is to have value and is to enable people to get something definite or something tangible for it, in so far as they can. We can only meet increased liabilities of that nature by increasing the production of the things that we can produce here for ourselves. To do that will involve in the initial stages a considerable amount of hard work for all sections of the community and whereas every effort should be made to improve the standards of workers, their home conditions and their food, to give them services sufficient to enable them to live under the most favourable conditions, we must also demand an increased standard of work and output from everybody in the community. That is the secret. We are apt at the present day to think of values in terms of money, forgetting that while that was all right in the days when money was a true picture or equivalent of actual [504] values, nowadays through the effects of the war, restrictions in currencies and things like that, money values are not quite what we thought they were and money does not represent what so many people in the street think it represents. Mankind has never been able to get away from the curse laid on Adam, that man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. When it comes to feeding, providing shelter, getting all these things that are essential to life, in the last analysis, it is human effort, labour, endeavour, organisation and all these things that count. I am pessimistic about what the Minister can achieve here with the scheme of social services unless these schemes can be financed out of the surplus wealth available to us, out of something real. Social services here, their efficiency and expansion will largely depend on whether we face up to producing for ourselves as far as we can our necessaries in the present situation.

That aspect leads to this, though it is not perhaps a proper subject for this debate, that stoppages in our production and such things cannot be compensated for by any payments in money at the moment and that difficulties in getting industries restarted, which are due to lack of effort on our part, cannot be compensated for by social services. These matters are outside the debate on this Estimate but they are still fundamental to a consideration of whether you can extend further your social schemes. I suggest to the Minister that it can be done only with due regard to the organisation of both our industry and agriculture and that no readymade scheme from anywhere else can help us to solve this particular problem.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I feel that the speech to which we have just listened is certainly one that demands consideration inasmuch as it touched something that is real. It dealt with the problem in a practical way without any attempt at playing to the gallery. I, like Deputy de Valera, have very little confidence that these schemes are going to have the result that the Minister thinks they will have. As I have often said, we must make up our minds that every [505] man has to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, that is every man who is able to do so. I am excluding sections of the community such as the sick and infirm, widows and orphans and the aged. Those who are unable to fend for themselves are entitled to help from the State but the help should stop there. I am guided by my own observations for the last 40 years as to how things are run.

There are many families at present living on small holdings and on small earnings and rearing their children well, and there are other families, with better incomes, who are starving and whose children are a drag on the State, so that the whole thing boils down to what our men are worth. For the past 25 years, the whole period of selfgovernment, we have spoiled our people and we have done that with a political slant. Everybody played to gain popular support, with the result that almost everybody, from the biggest farmer down, is looking to get something for nothing. I want to see all that dropped, because this country is carrying on in a slipshod fashion. The national effort from 1916 to 1921 was made for the uplifting of all the people and huge sacrifices were made towards that end. We have departed from that objective and it is time we told the people that we have spoiled them. Our nation at the moment is like a spoiled child. What a spoiled child needs is a bit of a “skelping” from time to time, and our nation at the moment needs a telling-off. If every one of us did a little more work, and did it contentedly, we could lift up this nation and there would be no need for any of these social services.

There is no use in tinkering with the problem; what we have to do is to get a proper balanced nation here and to realise that what we want for our people are houses, work and wages, and concentrate on these. If we do that, many of our problems will solve themselves. In my county we have hundreds and hundreds of houses built at a cost of £500, £600 and £700, in many of which single men are living, or, rather, merely sleeping at night, men who work casually until they reach the age of 70. These houses are more or less a loss to the State.

[506] We should abolish these workhouses, as we know them, and set up in each county a scheme of institutions in which these people at present living in a miserable way could be housed in comfortable circumstances. Let us build decent institutions, with a few hundred acres attached, and with the various amenities of life, into which these people can go and to the running of which they could contribute by means of trades, work on the land or some occupation which will keep them in health. There are all over the country people living in miserable conditions. They have got into a groove and they take the line of least resistance. If we made it clear to these people that we could do something for them and get them to leave these old houses, giving them comfortable surroundings to live in, we would immediately release thousands of State-owned properties for young families who would take off their coats and earn their living by their own initiative. As we are going now, we are approaching the stage at which we will have a socialist State in which everybody will be tied to the strings of the State and will not be free men. I want to see every little home in the country a man's castle, with no strings pulling that man. I am satisfied that we are preparing the way for Communism here.

We have heard about the Beveridge plan and the Dignan plan, but we need have no such plans at all if every man would realise that he was created as an individual to solve his own problems, and that, from the day he is born until the day he goes to his reward, he has to answer for himself. We should get back to that old position in which an individual has to live his own life, in which it is his duty to marry and rear his family, always keeping in mind that his family is his responsibility and it is his duty to fend for them.

We cannot say that this country with its 2,500,000 people is over-populated —we can say definitely that it is underpopulated—and there are not such a lot of problems here, if we face them in a realistic manner. What is wanted is not pandering to the lower instincts but a touch of dictatorship in certain spheres. I dislike using the word, but it has to be used, because, in order to [507] get people who are in a groove back on to the road of fending for themselves, it will be necessary to do many things that may be unpopular but which will make for the good of the people in the end.

The honest, thrifty man who marries a young local girl and who works hard from Monday to Saturday, and who, after 25 years, is a good solid man with a family growing up, does not look to the State and does not look for insurance. He is the man we should cater for and not the man who is always looking for something for nothing. I know several young men around my area who scarcely ever do a hand's turn, and yet I see them very well dressed and with cigarettes in their mouths. These men are a drag on the community and we should not stand for it. There is work for every man in the country and the State will have to set up a work corps here for these men who are shy of work. I would not mind a man being shy of work, if he is sick or infirm in any way, but I know these hefty young men. They are able to get money for dances and to dance all night, and then to travel ten or 12 miles on a bicycle to see the girl home. These people should be working in their own interest.

There is no use in blaming the State —the blame rests on all of us—and, from the highest ecclesiastical authority to the ordinary Deputy, we will have to speak from pulpit and platform and tell them that this country will never be great or noble until our people get back to common sense. It can be done. We have the grandest little State on the face of the earth if we work it and show our people the way to work it. That way is the way of honest sweat. Our problem at the moment is not so much a wage problem, because I know houses into which a sum of £5 a week is going and the people in which could be comfortable, but instead of spending their money on comforts and the improvement of their homes, they squander it on all classes of nonsense—amusements, cigarettes, and too much drinking in many cases, as well as playing up to their children. I often see them coming home on Christmas Eve with [508] Santa Claus toys, a whole week's wages having gone on a few toy horses and dogs not worth 2/-. The youngster plays with the toys for a week and then they are thrown aside and the child gets more amusement out of playing with a stone he finds in the yard. It is that kind of nonsense which has us where we are. No man should spend a penny of his money, except on the improvement of his family, and, if that were the position, we would require none of these schemes.

We have a reasonable climate. There is no need for us ever to be idle. We should try to get our people back to the old ideas of knitting, sewing and mending and doing the things that our grandparents did. I am satisfied that most of our families could be semi-self-supporting as we claimed that we could make our State semi-self-supporting. At the present moment most of the people that I know, from the farmer to the ordinary worker, are running to the shop and buying everything they need, instead of producing it. They could produce their own eggs and poultry and could have a pig in their backyard. That home industry has vanished. You will not find a hen or a pig in a cottage garden or even in many farmers' backyards. That is an unfortunate position. It means that there is a great need for the reorganisation of our economy. Output is far too low. I am satisfied that it is not so much a question of increasing prices to the farmer for cattle and for crops— prices are not too bad—as a question of having the policy of the late Paddy Hogan put into operation, that is, having one more plough, one more sow, one more cow and one more acre under the plough and to try to get two blades of grass to grow where one grows at the present time. If that was our aim, there would not be this spiral caused by wages chasing prices.

In the council of which I am a member there is a constant demand for increased wages. We nearly always fall for it and the wages are increased with the result that the farmers clamour for an increase in the price of wheat and beet. We find that our last stage is worse than our first. We are deliberbe [509] ately creating inflation and trouble for ourselves.

Social welfare is all right but you can go too far with it. I agree with aiding in every way possible the old, the sick, the infirm and the widows and orphans, who have to fend for themselves. But we are doing too much for other sections of the community out of the State pool and it is all coming out of the people's pockets. There are schemes for farm improvements and land reclamation. These should come out of the farmer's pocket and he should be allowed to fend for himself. The money saved on these schemes would be left in the farmer's pocket. I do not think the State should drain land for any man who has 30 acres. He should do it himself. But the farmer sees doles and sops and subsidies being given to everybody. There is a clamour for these things and at a time of election we all say the popular things and if a Government is in power and wants to keep in power, it must fall for that clamour.

The biggest problem in this country is the slum problem in the towns and cities. It is a pitiable sight to see, in Gloucester Street, one of the worst streets that I know of, hundreds of men and women and children living in filthy, dirty conditions. We are letting that position grow. If I were a semidictator I would wipe out the slum problem. I would not allow people to be congested in cities like Dublin.

These hundreds of men and women are living there in misery and bad health because we have not the initiative to cut the canker out and to remove those people to places down the country. There is plenty of work for them to do. There are thousands of acres to be reclaimed and new homes to be built. These families in Dublin are a drag on the State and a misery to themselves. It is creating corruption and dirt. We should invest money heavily in wiping it out and should bring these people down the country, where they are needed. If they do not want to go, I would make them go. The State is spending money in the form of free milk, food vouchers and other ways, in maintaining festering sores. That is where a semi-dictatorship [510] is needed. It will have to be done.

Drainage is necessary in the whole country and we could employ hundreds of men on that work for the next 25 years and it would be good reconstruction work. We do not do these things because we do not control money but rather money controls us. Until we control money and use it for the betterment of our people we will not get the State that we want. I want to see a properly balanced State, not one with too many rich men on top and too many beggars at the bottom. I want a happy medium. I want to see the small and thrifty farmer, the rural worker and the industrial worker, who is proud to work for his living, getting a fair crack of the whip. They do not get it. The burden is too much for them and each man cannot carry his own share. Let Christian charity be carried out by all our people, from the top to the bottom. If Christian charity did its duty, we, who call ourselves a Catholic and a religious people, would have very little need for social services.

There is too much pandering to the lower instincts of our people. I shall not say on the part of Fianna Fáil because we are all doing it. We all like to get the votes, if we can. We will have to get rid of that idea, even if it means throwing out half of us. It might be a good thing if men who are honest and who tell the truth were thrown out at the next election so that the people would see what the molly-coddles who would take their place would do. We have reached the stage when many of the old nonsensical differences we had in the last 25 years should be forgotten. I see grand men on the Fianna Fáil Benches, the Fine Gael Benches and the Labour Benches, who could handle things. Why should not they work as a team, in the same way as the old team worked from 1918 to 1921? They could do the work we want done. Can we not come together again? I am satisfied that men like Deputy Major de Valera and myself, Deputy Dillon and Deputy Mulcahy, could do grand work for this State but we would want to be harnessed together in a Christian endeavour to do the right thing.

[511]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy is rather wide of social welfare.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I know. I am sorry. Social welfare is all right but you can bring it too far. It is a vicious circle. The more you give, the more people want. I would prefer to see a conservative effort made to get work for the people. We should concentrate for the next ten years on housing and we should spend money on housing for the small farmer, the cottier and the young man who is getting married. If we concentrated on these things I think we could do splendid work.

Let social welfare be for the old, the aged, the inform, the widow and the orphan, and let us try to do all we possibly can to wipe out tuberculosis and cancer. I think we have reason to regret that we went on with too much damn nonsense in this country, and must admit that that is the cause of our national decay. We see our finest young men leaving the country to work in dirty coal mines. We should do everything possible to keep them at home and find employment for them not at big wages but at a reasonable wage. Our farmers, too, should be satisfied to produce at a reasonable price. What we need in this country is that every man would, so to speak, take off his coat and do a little more. If all of us were to do 50 per cent. more than we have been doing, that would go a long way to solve all our problems. Stern measures would be required to get that done, but that is the solution I see for many of our problems.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  As usual Deputy Giles, when you listen to him, talks very sound sense. I shall be interested to hear from the Minister what his views are on the general question as to how far social services should be carried, and at what point they materially diminish that incentive which all of us require to give of our best. I remember discussing this problem once when driving in a car with a very intelligent man. I put the question to him: as between the approach of Mr. Willkie, then a candidate for the Presidential election in the United States of America, and that of the late President Roosevelt, to which philosophy do you [512] incline? He replied that, unreservedly, he accepted President Roosevelt's view: an extension of social services, the removal of insecurity for old age and relief for every contingency that might reasonably be anticipated in the average man's life.

I could not help feeling that the attitude adopted by Mr. Willkie, in which he said that there was a very grave danger that those who had never experienced deep adversity would be so moved by the spectacle of distress in which people who had not succeeded in life were weltering that, in their desire to relieve distress of a character they had themselves never experienced, they might go so far as to turn a percentage of these people into chronic dolees, people who simply gave up the fight and reconciled themselves to living for ever on the very exiguous livelihood provided by social services inexpertly designed for the relief of want, but, in fact, creating a reluctance to make the necessary effort in some people, which really did those individuals far more harm than the adversity they were spared would have done them if they had been allowed to experience it.

Nothing is more difficult than for a man, any one of us, who is not himself destitute, to try to argue for a reasoned approach to this problem, because it is a rather disgusting spectacle to find someone who is well-fed, well-clothed and competently circumstanced pontificating about what should be done in the case of someone who is probably a much better man but who happens to be in miserable poverty in Lower Gardiner Street or Gloucester Street. The fact that what one says may be open to misrepresentation and rebuke should not deter us from facing the problem frankly. There is one aspect, I think, about which there can be very little doubt, and that is, that the giving of unemployment assistance —I distinguish between assistance and insurance—to able-bodied men without family responsibilities in rural Ireland is wrong. I think that unemployment assistance comes within the ambit of the Minister for Social Welfare.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Yes.

[513]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The plain fact is that, in my experience of rural Ireland, a substantial majority of the unmarried men in receipt of unemployment assistance have no valid claim to such relief at all. They are collecting the dole under false pretences because they are not in the true sense of the word unemployed at all. That has had a most peculiar reaction, the key to which I found it very difficult to discern until a remarkable book was published called The Irish Countryman. You find in that book an anthropological study made by a very distinguished scientist, and made in a spirit of complete detachment. He there proceeds to draw a picture of the social conditions of the people living in rural Ireland. He comments on a fact well known to us all, that the economy of the small holding was dependent on the employment of family labour. The holding was not large enough to pay labour, and it was too large for one man to work alone. Then he examined again with cold detachment, how it was that an elderly or middle-aged farmer could persuade his adolescent sons to labour on the land. He pointed out that the family unity operated by the acknowledgment that the father was head of the household, and that the pocket money for his growing sons was dependent on his goodwill. Therefore, when Saturday evening came, if the boys wanted to go to a dance or to plan some jollification for Sunday, the financing of that enterprise was dependent on the approval with which their father had seen them work during the week. If they had been recalcitrant or lazy, or refused to bear their fair share of the family burden in working the farm, the father had at his disposal the sanction that he could withhold the pocket money from them on Saturday night.

If he had a face on him they knew there was no use in asking him for anything. Gradually, it came to be known that if you were lazy on Tuesday you could look out for storms on Saturday night. Therefore you had to do your share of the work if you wanted to keep the old fellow in good humour and knock a few shillings out of him when Saturday night came round. You have there a pattern of family life among families raised on small holdings. When [514] the father of the house was a young man he could bear the burden himself. As he grew older, and as his sons grew up, they shared the burden. Then came the dole. Now, what happened? The boys went in to register at the labour exchange. On Tuesday they would not get up and would not go to work. On Saturday the old fellow had a face on him, but the lads told him that they did not give a damn, that they were going into town to get 7/- at the labour exchange, and that he could keep his blooming money. They went in and got it. It slowly began to dawn upon them that there was no longer any reason, once the old fellow was unable to chastise them, why they should do anything at all and some of them proceeded to evolve the theory that it was not safe to do anything for fear a neighbour might report them and, therefore, in order to be sure of getting the few shillings for Saturday night, the rule was not to work, to keep the old fellow in good humour but above all not to work as the neighbours might report the matter.

Finally, we reach the fantastic position of which I was myself a witness on one occasion in the Rosses when an unfortunate fellow footed it out into Dungloe, a journey of about five miles, to pay his land annuity of 28/- which, no doubt, he had borrowed. He had a wife and several young children in the house and he was hard put and did not want to get a sheriff's certificate against him. Having lodged the 28/-in the bank, he started to walk home and was overtaken by a motor car which stopped. He was offered a lift, and when he put his head into the window he discovered, to his surprise, that there were four neighbouring boys in the car and he said: “In the name of God, what are you doing in a motor car?” They said: “We went into Dungloe to collect the dole”. He had walked in five miles to leave 28/- in Dungloe while his four neighbours could come in a motor car, collect 28/-and offer him a lift home. That occurred about 1937. I suppose a car could be hired then for 1/- a mile but I am sure the remainder of the money was sufficient to purchase enough porter and drink for the rest of the night. If the truth were told, I suppose there [515] was a quarter barrel at the back of the car but I did not hear that part of the story. When we have reached that point we have reached a stage where instead of providing a social service we are creating social difficulties. I am obliged to say this, with due deliberation, that I believe that that criminal wrong was done in rural Ireland for a purely political motive—that of buying votes for the Fianna Fáil Party and I know that it was a common thing in general elections which were held after that system was instituted to hear—“if you put out de Valera you will lose the dole and the only chance of keeping it is to put in Fianna Fáil”. Maybe that is true, because if any Party of which I was a member was returned to office—within its limits—I would agitate most earnestly for the amendment of that law so as to ensure that no unmarried man, without family responsibilities in rural Ireland or in urban Ireland would receive money for doing nothing.

We could have the Construction Corps or some analagous body and when a young fellow with no family responsibilities—that is important— applied for the dole, I would hand him an application form to join the Construction Corps.—“If you cannot get any other work, we will look after you and feed you until you find some suitable job in civilian life and the day you do you will be released at an hour's notice, but you will get no money for doing nothing.”

Far different is the case of a married man with a wife and family where the important point arises that we do not want to take the father out of the home and leave an unfortunate woman trying to control boys of perhaps 11, 12, 13 or 14 years of age, who need a father to control them. I would go a long way indeed to keep that man at the head of his household until he could get a job to keep his family together. In defence of that I think a great deal can be said of some form of unemployment assistance which would tide him over after his unemployment insurance benefit had ceased. I would declare the social service of unemployment assistance for the young man in rural Ireland [516] without family responsibilities to be one of the greatest curses that fell upon our people in my recollection and I do not believe there is a single Deputy sitting on the Fianna Fáil benches who does not know that as well as I do, but they do not think it expedient to say so because they are afraid that if they do the dolees will not vote for them and will not work for them.

I would not be hard, in regard to the provision of social services for the aged or for the sick and infirm, or for the afflicted because, no matter what money or relief we can provide for the normal human being, a man would sooner be young, vigorous and poor than old, senile and comfortable. The normal human being would sooner have his health than be pinned to a hospital bed. So that, though there might be microscopic abuses in connection with assistance for the afflicted, there are very few people who would exchange freedom and health and strength for the dole which would be made available to them. I would much prefer to ensure that every person thus afflicted would be spared financial anxiety than to try and make water-tight a scheme of social service so that no undeserving person could conceivably derive benefit from it.

I have deliberately picked out one point of view of unemployment assistance for the unmarried man without family responsibilities in rural Ireland on which to concentrate my remarks and I do not propose now to embark on a wide discussion of the underlying principles of social service, but I entirely agree with Deputy Giles that the correct policy is the middle of the road. There are some people so foolish as to imagine that society would be better if we abolished such services altogether. There are others with a foolish paternalistic outlook who would like to be managing everybody's life— teaching them how to brush their hair, what to give the children, how they should run their homes, and controlling their every hour and day. The right course, as advocated by Deputy Giles, is, keep to the middle of the road and try to do what is fair without making the fatal mistake of destroying the incentive to work.

[517] Some people think it is crude and wrong to speak of the incentive to work. The Communists laid down the doctrine: every man to work according to his ability and every man to receive according to his necessity. Then they discovered a gentleman who was prepared to do a little more work than his neighbour. They did nothing so crude as to raise his wages. They made him a national hero and carted him round the country in luxury trains. He got more victuals than his neighbours and everybody was told to emulate his example. Then the difficulty arose—were they going to cart all the people who imitated his example around in trains and pin decorations on their breasts? Some sensible person suggested that it would be better to give them a little more money and let them spend it as they would. That was a revelation to the mighty minds of the Kremlin. There is now a system in Russia which is more ferociously competitive—a system of piece-work payment—than would be tolerated in any civilised, democratic society.

Let us bear in mind the danger. If you get too soft-hearted to-day, the reaction from that may turn you into a kind of monster, bowing before the Moloch of efficiency. Better keep to the middle of the road, not trying to do too much and vigilant lest you do too little, frequently making mistakes but always ready to correct them, meeting social evils as they arise and abating them to the best of your ability. One discovers in all human problems that life in this world cannot be turned into a paradise by legislation, that the Lord meant this world to be a vale of tears for all of us and that nothing we can do is going to make it other than that.

Subject to that general divine proviso and bearing in mind the obligations of justice and charity, we can arrange that the State shall, in its own limited sphere, do its part, provided we constantly bear in mind that there is a sphere of work for the relief of human suffering which is not the sphere of the State at all but the duty of charitable neighbours. No matter how many civil servants you have to administer matters, unless those civil servants continue to join the St. Vincent de Paul [518] Society, as they have done so splendidly in the past history of this country, to do that kind of work after office hours, and unless we join with them in that work, social services will accomplish little.

The last matter with which I shall deal is really that which is nearest my heart. When we have Estimates providing for this service and that service, there is a great danger of our growing complacent. I used to be a member of the Roscommon Board of Health and my duties there not infrequently brought me into the county home. Most of the occupants were unknown to me. Then one day an old friend of mine from Ballaghadereen, a bachelor living alone, fell ill. He was a bit cantankerous. He could not be got to allow any woman to come in to look after him. If you went there yourself, he would blow you out through the door. His condition became more distressing and, ultimately, he was prevailed upon to go to the county home for a while and allow the nuns to look after him. I happened to be passing through Roscommon and I went in to see him. Suddenly, when there is somebody you knew yourself in the county home, it dawns upon you what an appalling place it is. May I make a suggestion to the Minister for Social Services? Summer is before him. Would he place upon himself, as an introduction to his new duties, the obligation of visiting the 26 county homes, just going in and looking at the old men and women who are lying there waiting to die? A stone floor, rows of narrow beds, with inmates mainly looking after the occupants, two or three harassed nuns doing, each of them, the work of three women, struggling with the most ludicrously inadequate equipment to provide for a peculiarly difficult type of patient.

Deputy Cafferky and Deputy Commons referred to the unsuitable table-ware for the prisoners in Sligo Jail. Did they ever see the table-ware offered to the decent old men and women in a county home—enamel plates, enamel mugs, chipped and broken? Rows of narrow beds filled with old dying men, dark and gloomy, no attempt at segregation, but clean, mind you, as a result of the herculean labours of those [519] amazing women. Mother Paul, who has just retired from the position of matron, struggled for 30 years with the incredible conditions in the Roscommon County Home, on occasion finding herself confronted with armies of rats which ate up the provisions, trying to handle large bodies of people, because the county home is always packed, in premises which were built as a workhouse by the British Government over 100 years ago on the ground that the only place you could shovel those old nuisances into was some large caravan-sery where they could conveniently die.

I am not blaming the Minister for Social Services for that problem. It has been there a long time. But I think it would be of inestimable value to himself and to us all if he would just go round and visit these homes. He would be profoundly shocked to think of old people, most of whom spent their lives in hard work, ending up in the desolation of miserable institutions such as those. I think that he would realise that, but for the fact that there are religious in this country who are prepared to devote themselves to the work of operating these institutions, the situation would be utterly impossible and a howling public scandal. I do not want to create the impression that every nun in every county home is a ministering angel. Some of them can get pretty tough on occasions but, God knows, when you see what they have to do, it is a source of amazement to me that they are not in a state of virtually continuous mania.

No laywoman would contemplate, for any reward, undertaking labours of the nature at which they spend their lives. When we talk about social services and of the things we intend to do, we have a very special duty to make our first concern the most sorely afflicted, most defenceless and most bereft section of the population who have nobody to speak for them. Such are the occupants of the South Dublin Union and of every county home in Ireland. I think that the enjoyment each one of us may have in whatever competence we may have accumulated is gravely conditioned by constant recollection of some old friend whom circumstances have brought to a bed in the county [520] home or the union. It is not beyond our resources to put those old people in a position in which their condition would not trouble us unduly. We have learned in this country that poverty, sickness and such afflictions are not necessarily diabolical. There is an approach to such misfortune which can transmute it into something far divorced from unqualified affliction. But when, added to that, there is loneliness, a sense of abandonment, of being forgotten and nobody caring any more, the constant feeling that, once having been drawn into the county home, nobody cares what becomes of you and they are only waiting for the day when they can put you in a coffin and see the last of you, the position is much worse. Such old people suffer from the sense of loneliness and from the agony of believing that they mean nothing to anybody in the world. All I want is that we should substitute for these county homes modern buildings where the old, the sick and those who go there will feel that, though affliction has come upon them, they are not forgotten and that all that can be done to make them comfortable and happy will be gladly done, that the longer they live, the happier their neighbours will be to know that they enjoy whatever modest comfort public effort has succeeded in providing for them.

The danger is that the Minister will visit these institutions and, shocked by the inadequacy of their accommodation, give instructions for large sums to be spent in making the existing structures less objectionable and more modern. I beg of him not to fall into that egregious error. There is no remedy for the workhouse other than levelling it to the ground. That he cannot do until he has an opportunity of providing alternative accommodation. Let our purpose, then, be to provide throughout the country county homes where these people can be properly looked after. On the day we open them, let us employ a contractor to expunge absolutely from the rural scene all trace of the loathsome caravansery which we inherited from a past and obscurantist age—not from a base, brutal and bloody British Government but from another age which approached these questions from a different [521] angle. Let us uproot these institutions and end for all time a system based on the theory that the old, the afflicted and the infirm are the business of nobody but the undertakers. Let us have a new atmosphere in which those upon whom misfortune, pain or suffering may come will not have added to that the additional agony of feeling that they are forgotten and that nobody cares.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave  Zoom on Liam Cosgrave  It is an astonishing commentary on our present state of civilisation and on the benefits which we might have expected to accrue from self-government to find that we have a Bill before us such as this, providing for various types of social services. Having said that, I think it is absolutely essential that certain categories of people, provided for in these social services, should be maintained either by State provision or by some form of service on a contributory basis. When, in the year 1947, we are spending in the region of £12,000,000 on services which are supposed to maintain people in what is regarded as a state of social security, we should examine, and examine carefully, how long we can continue to provide some of those services on our present production and, ultimately, on our present income.

I entirely subscribe to the view that we should provide for the aged, the very young, the sick, whether temporarily or permanently, and for those people who are unable to provide for themselves, due to some defect, and who must depend on State assistance because they have no relatives in a position to provide for them. Making these exceptions and allowing for the State covering the cost of maintaining these people either directly or on a contributory basis—I entirely favour a contributory basis—there is nothing more detrimental to our national well-being than that the people should be led to believe that we can provide for those who are in a position to work and can procure work who do not take steps to obtain it. It is an astonishing thing that we have a shortage of both skilled and unskilled labour and, particularly, a shortage of rural workers, that, coupled with that, we have heavy emigration, yet continue to pay unemployment [522] relief. Not merely is it bad, but I think it is entirely contrary to the precepts of our religion.

We hear of considerable distress in other countries and we read of commissions of inquiry recommending various forms of social security, recommending a form of security either on a contributory or a non-contributory basis which will provide for people from the cradle to the grave. I think it is not generally realised that the majority of these reports depend not merely on certain necessary steps being taken to provide an income for the actual fund, either by a state contribution, or a contribution from employer and employee, but they take as the first essential that the ability of the nation to provide these services depends primarily on the maintenance of full employment or, as it has been phrased, on the avoidance of mass unemployment.

Leaving that out of consideration, at the moment we have in this country a shortage of various types of labour, skilled and unskilled, and yet, with that crying need in many parts of the country, we continue to pay unemployment assistance to people who are fit and able to work, but who in many cases will not work. If we continue to allow these people to indulge in the reality of being paid unemployment assistance when we have so many problems to face, it will not be helpful for the country. I need not discuss the various types of problems we have, but the main problem, that of producing sufficient food to meet our requirements, would absorb the entire number of these people who are being paid unemployment assistance. It would certainly absorb all the unemployed in rural Ireland without embarking on any other schemes.

Assuming that the work there is insufficient to employ all these people, I suggest it is a case in which the State should embark on schemes of turf production or other work of one kind or another. They could embark on drainage schemes, for instance, and other necessary work of that type. It is obvious to anyone who has given the matter consideration, that there are numerous problems requiring solution. [523] With that situation to be faced, I think it is criminal, and a grave social evil, to continue to pay unemployment assistance in the coming year.

In Vote 59 we propose to increase unemployment assistance. Most of the people concerned do not come within the category of those who are unable to provide for themselves because they are disabled, advanced in years or are too young to engage in vigorous work. It is one of the great evils of State intervention and subsidies for political purposes when we see a continuance of payments of unemployment assistance to able-bodied people who are capable of work but who will not work. It is contrary to the religion the vast majority of the people profess, namely, that by the sweat of their brows shall they earn their bread. It is an evil and a false philosophy to inculcate the belief among a large section of the people that they can get something for nothing, and that a safe way of ensuring that they will get it is by avoiding work and ensuring that no one will see them working when they are drawing unemployment assistance.

I was disappointed the Minister did not lay sufficient stress on the new proposals he hopes to embark upon. I realise he has not been very long in the office and a certain time must elapse before the different sections can be amalgamated. I think, however, the sections of the Departments over which he now has control should, before this, have given some indication of the new social security schemes, or the changes in existing schemes, which we are likely to have. Some years have elapsed since the publication of the Beveridge Report and the report of the Most Rev. Dr. Dignan, Bishop of Clonfert. Without going too deeply into the subject, it is obvious that many changes must be made. However desirable and necessary certain increases in existing benefits are, particularly to old age pensioners and widows and orphans, it is obvious we shall have to consider, in the light of the national income, our capacity to pay many of these benefits at a rate commensurate with the present cost of living.

That leads me to the obvious conclusion that the first step the Minister [524] should take is to convince himself and his colleagues that a reduction in the cost of living is essential if we are to pay social benefits adequate to meet the present cost of essential foodstuffs. When we say, as it is commonly said in this country, that our social services are equal to or better than many others, we entirely ignore the fact that our cost of living is far higher than that of most countries and certainly higher than that of our nearest neighbour. The position is aggravated by a shortage of certain essential foodstuffs. It may be all right to say that some shortages are passing shortages and that our rationing system has provided for a fair quantity of food for every individual. I do not think that is altogether so and, while no bad results have yet been observed, a recent issue of the Irish Medical Journal issued a warning on the present level of the butter ration, a warning that in other countries serious results have accrued from a reduction in the butter ration. That is a warning we cannot ignore.

If we continue with a lower standard of living—because it can only be so described when we have a shortage of certain essential foodstuffs—it will in the years ahead have a bad result on our people and in particular it will have a serious result among our children. No matter how these problems are approached, or how we separate social services from other aspects of the Minister's work, it is vital that the Minister should consider these services in conjunction with his responsibilities as Minister for Health. I presume for that reason we have one Minister in charge of two Departments.

Particular attention should be paid to the views, based on experience here and elsewhere, of members of the medical profession when they write on these problems and give the results that have accrued from a reduction in the supplies of certain nutritious foods, foods that are regarded as essential for children and desirable for most adults. I think that is one of the most serious aspects of the whole situation, and it is an aspect that is very often forgotten. It is particularly important that that problem should be considered in the light of any increases that are given [525] and in the light of the fact that many of these increases will fail to secure for the recipients, either in quantity or in nutritious value, essential foodstuffs.

When we consider that much of the large bill that is here will have to be continued, that many of those for whom these services are provided are unable to assist the community to increase income, then I think we must also consider a question which is vital for this country in future, namely, how we can increase the national income and production generally. While that question may not be strictly appropriate to the debate, I think it is germane to ask how the money will be provided to discharge the heavy burden which is placed on the nation. That inevitably leads to the conclusion that there must be, not merely isolated consideration of every problem by one Minister who has a particular job in hand, but that every Minister in the Government dealing with the problem of providing for some aspect of the national needs, some aspect of our economy connected with the production or distribution of the wealth of the country, must devote all his energies towards providing some contribution to the solution of the general problem.

Ministers must consider the necessity for so framing policy here that the maximum output will be maintained. They must see that maximum output will be secured by providing some incentive by way of remissions in taxation or otherwise, so that every citizen engaged in production will be encouraged to increase output to the utmost. While that may be embarking on a wider discussion than is called for in the consideration of this Estimate, it is absolutely vital that we should consider how we can increase output and increase the national income in order to reduce the burden that social services inevitably place on many members of the community, some of whom are entirely inadequately circumstanced to bear such burdens.

The income and maintenance paper published last year has certain valuable figures but there are no figures in that paper which point the red arrow more seriously than those which indicate the level of taxation on the different classes of workers carrying [526] these burdens. Taxation here, as in many other countries, has been greatly increased and aggravated by the effects of wartime economy, but in other countries during the war the output in certain categories—certainly in industry and in many aspects of agricultural economy—also increased. Here we have barely increased our agricultural output. In fact, the improvement is so negligible that it does not give any safety margin. In addition to that, in many cases industrial output, owing to circumstances over which we have no control, declined rapidly.

Fortunately after the conclusion of the war some industries reached the pre-war output but if there is one thing more than another which emerges from any consideration of our social problems, it is that not alone must we maintain our output but we must increase output to the utmost of our ability. That means that many members of the community must work hard but it is not sufficient to appeal to the people to work hard. Nothing is more annoying to those who are doing their best than to have cheap appeals from politicians and others to work hard. We must provide the incentive to them to work hard.

We must frame our national policy on lines which will ensure that an incentive to work harder will be provided and that the endeavour to produce a greater output will be facilitated. Unless we can do that, the burden of these social services on a dwindling population, a population inadequately supplied with many essentials, benefit of machinery of an essential type, many factories having outworn plant in a world in which demands for available supplies seem to grow keener, will become almost intolerable. Obviously the Government cannot do everything. There is a general impression that the Government is itself responsible for producing the mentality which considers that the Government is in a position to provide them with all sorts of services. Unless we are in a position to increase production, we cannot carry the burden of people such as the present social services are obliged to provide for.

It is no help to a solution of this [527] problem to magnify the difficulties. It is no help, either, to say these difficulties are there and nothing can be done about them. It is obvious to anyone that if a greater effort were made, if more vigour were put into work, if Ministers displayed greater energy, that energy and that incentive would permeate into the activities of the community. Unfortunately we have a tired Ministry and a tired Government but however distressing it may be we have got to get over these difficulties. I certainly say that it is an extraordinary commentary on our state of civilisation that the bill for Social Services for a smaller population, a population whose output of goods and services is at the same level as it occupied many years ago, has reached these colossal figures.

So far as agriculture is concerned, apart from a very minor increase, output is at the same level as it was 70 years ago. Drastic steps will be necessary if, in future, we are to provide services on anything like an adequate scale for those sections of the community who are unable to provide for themselves, let alone consider the diabolical idea of continuing unemployment assistance and supplementary allowances for those who are able to work and who will not work.

This House is entitled to have placed before it a comprehensive national insurance policy which will take into consideration every aspect of our life and will cover all classes of persons, but which, at the same time, will provide for single stamps and single contributions—possibly at varying rates—and will do away with the present multiplicity of officials and services in different Departments and which will give some satisfaction to the people who are in favour of a social security programme based on the administration of a single Ministry. If there is one thing more than another that the people are entitled to expect from a new Ministry —and not merely one but two new Ministries—it is a unification of these two services, and while no case can be made against these increases—some of them, in fact, are belated and are even yet insufficient to meet the present cost of essential foodstuffs—the House and [528] the country are entitled, within 12 months, to hear from the Government proposals for a comprehensive national social security programme.

Mr. P. Burke (County Dublin): Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  It was interesting to listen to the reasoned discussion on these proposals which has taken place here to-day. The position with which the Government are faced is that there has been a greater demand than ever for the spending of more money on social services. There has been a greater demand for social amenities generally during the past few years than there was 20 or 30 years ago. The point we have to consider here is whether we propose to look after people who have been afflicted in some way or other— old people, blind people, widows and orphans and so on. It is up to the Government and to this Parliament to put in force some measures which will improve their standard of living and help them in every way possible.

I welcome the idea of a Ministry of Social Services, and, judging by the statements he has made here, the Minister is a man who intends to get down to his job in a proper and thorough manner. Connected with this demand for more social services is the consideration of where the money is to come from, and I agree with speakers on the Opposition side that the only means of improving the standard of living of our people is by increasing production, but there is a moral obligation on us to ensure that none of our people will be in want. I have heard the point of view advanced that to increase the purchasing power of the people, you must increase wages, and, at a conference I attended some time ago, I heard a man representing the agricultural community put forward another theory, that increased production was the only way in which to bring it about. The point has been debated thoroughly by several speakers and I do not propose to dwell on it, but we have here a number of people who are unemployed. It has been said—I have never had any experience of it—that some of these fellows will not work on certain schemes. I have never met a man who refused to accept any particular work, but that has been stated, and [529] it is a pity that we could not put a number of these able bodied men into some gainful employment, because, as has been stated already, over 800,000 of our people are producing wealth, while the remainder, occupied in administrative work for Government services, public bodies and so on, are living on them. If the man who owns a farm produces a certain amount in one year and is able to produce more the following year, he has a margin to work upon, and, after a while, he will be able possibly to increase his farm buildings and educate his children in a proper manner.

To-day, however, we have the position that no matter what happens—and it has been the same for a long time— the Government are blamed. The policy is that if you cannot get something done, you ask the Government to do it. That comes from people of standing and in all walks of life, from the great manufacturers to the great agriculturists. Yet, if the Government interfere in certain matters, these people say it is socialism, while, almost in the same breath, they ask why the Government do not do this or that. It is a pity that such a viewpoint should exist, because I feel that it kills initiative, and it is time that our people as a whole were able to stand on their own feet and to say that they will work out their own salvation and not always look to the Government for help.

We have had a number of schemes introduced here to help people on moderate incomes to carry on. These schemes have been brought in to help the man in receipt of a small wage. The cost of living has reached a high level and the scheme of children's allowances, free footwear and free milk and other such schemes were brought in, as a result of an insistent demand by public representatives, and following on reports to the Government on conditions in the country, to help these people to carry on. The particular industries in which a number of these people were engaged were apparently not in a position to give them decent wages, but if every man working, no matter what his capacity, were in receipt of a decent wage, a wage on which he would be able to keep a wife and family in decent comfort, they [530] would not need many of these subsidiary allowances which the Government have been forced to put into operation in order to help these people to live.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  If a man has an income he will not get this. They will take it from him.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Let me make my point.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I hate to see people in error.

Mr. Burke:  I would be the most patient listener if Deputy McGilligan were speaking.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I would rather you would interrupt me if I go wrong.

Mr. Burke:  Very good. I was referring to the case of a man in receipt of a decent salary. There are certain occupations in which people are engaged and in which they cannot get a salary that would maintain them. The Government have been forced into this position. We have been told over and over again that we should do a good deal more by way of social services, that we are not doing enough. I was delighted to hear the reasoned arguments put forward to-day by the Opposition. They went away from that famous charge of theirs of squandermania. While they did not altogether approve, in some parts of their speeches, they went so far as to say that they would like to see certain social amenities or services improved, particularly old age pensions. Old age pensioners are a section of the community that we should all like to see getting a good deal more. Widows are also very deserving cases. One question which concerns all Deputies is the means test. I should like the Minister for Social Welfare to consider a modification of the means test especially with regard to old age pensions. While some inspectors do their work in a most meticulous manner, some go very far with their investigations. I do not wish to take advantage of the privilege of this House to say anything uncharitable against any man who is not in a position to defend himself, but to assess the potential value of a laying hen for the [531] purposes of the means test is going rather far.

Another point raised to-day was the question of pension schemes for all sections of the community, especially industrial workers. I am very happy to say that a number of private firms in Dublin, and recently, one in County Dublin, have introduced pension schemes for their employees. I consider that all firms who are in the position to do so should consider the introduction of some pension insurance scheme for their employees and that they should be co-ordinated by some Government Department. That would mean better employment and better conditions for the workers.

Take Guinness, for example. I am not advertising Guinness at the moment but I am taking it as an example of firms that have a pension scheme. They have increased their production, have become very wealthy and prosperous and they pay their workers well. There is more encouragement for the worker under these conditions than there is under the haphazard conditions obtaining in other firms.

Deputy Cosgrave said that we should have a new scheme of social security. I will leave that matter to Deputy McGilligan to explain. There is one section of the community that we could relieve. If it were possible to increase agricultural output, we would be able to remedy a number of the ills we have at the present time because the majority of our people are engaged in agriculture. While wages have increased, costs have increased and we have not reached the stage where we can give the agricultural worker the standard of living he would get in industrial employment, and therefore he has to fall back on schemes of social welfare.

I welcome the various increases that are being granted. I hope that people will not go out of this House and say that we want to increase taxation. In the new circumstances, it is up to us to try to secure that our people will be as comfortable as possible. I hope that we will reach at an early date a stage when everyone will realise that the great wealth of a country is the [532] production of that country. That has been brought home to England in the recent coal crisis and I am sure our people will realise in the near future that that is the only key to prosperity.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I find myself bewildered by the last speaker. He has talked all the time about increases to people's income. The one thing that this Ministry of Social Welfare, whose sub-title is, I understand, the Income Maintenance Department, does not deal with, and the one thing it has nothing to do with, is income in the sense of earned income. Deputy Burke, apparently, is under the impression that all these subventions that are being given to old age pensions, widows' and orphans' pensions and unemployment assistance, are additions to income. They are not. If a man has an income and he either loses it completely or a great part of it, the raising of these subventions and calling that an increase is not correct. The Deputy in doing so was labouring in error. It may be a nominal increase, but it is nothing real.

The Minister last night said that the total amount for social welfare in the coming year was £11,360,000, or about £2,500,000 more than last year. That is to say that the £2,500,000 is additional to last year's £9,000,000. I take it that the £9,000,000 of last year was in the main represented by cash payments. Therefore, I do not think I am wrong when I make my usual calculation that the £9,000,000 in the hands of the people to whom it was given had in the last two or three years a purchasing power of £4,500,000. We are going to add to that this year £2,250,000. That means that these people are going to get for division between them, if the £2,250,000 retains its value, £6,800,000 where they used to get £9,000,000.

When I am told that their income is going to be added to I just cannot understand it, if my calculation is correct. I understand that is the situation. As I have said, last year there was £9,000,000 in the way of all these subventions. We are adding this year £2,250,000 or 25 per cent. Supposing that the 25 per cent. does not defeat its own purpose, and does not achieve some further inflationary effect, then [533] its addition is absurd because it is merely putting these people in what may be described as their old position. Whether they should be in their old position is another matter. At any rate, we are merely aiming at giving them what they got before.

We know that, according to the index figure, the cost of living has gone up by over 70 per cent. as between 1939 and to-day. The increase, as compared with 1935, is well over 75 per cent. In the Budget speech two years ago we were told that the index figure for wholesale prices had gone up by 100 per cent., and that retail prices had gone up even more. In that situation there is no doubt but that the 1939 £1 is worth to-day about 10/-, and that the 1935 £1 is worth about 7/6. In the face of that we are expected to give the Minister praise for adding 25 per cent. to the old subventions. Clearly, that is not enough if it is a question of putting these people into the position in which they were before. I leave out of account the point whether unemployment assistance should still be continued. There is very little use in it if we take the bulk sums we pay for what was considered to be necessary for certain people in 1939. Then, of course, they have for years back been defrauded of what was promised to them. I should like to know why it was decided this year rather than last year, or in 1943, to make these additions. It must be clear for many years back that the value of the money given to this group of people has considerably decreased in value.

Why was this year chosen to give the increases? I suppose it must have been clearly foreseen that if increases were given in the Civil Service, to the employees of local authorities, to wage earners generally throughout the country and to those on a salary basis —these increases were on the average about one third—that you were adding to the circulation of money in this country something in the neighbourhood of £10,000,000, £15,000,000 or £20,000,000. That, of course, was going to have an inflationary effect in itself, unless a sum equivalent to what was let loose through these increases was somehow trapped by taxation or savings. The situation in other countries [534] is that they release more purchasing power as more goods come into circulation. As far as our production is concerned it is more or less at the 1939 point. We cannot say that there is a greater volume of consumer goods in circulation now than in 1939, and yet on that limited store we are going to let loose those extra payments.

I want to make two points, and I do not think they are in contradiction. The first is, that if we are only attempting to do the type of justice that was done to these people in 1939 we are not achieving that end. We are giving them an advance of 25 per cent. on what they used to get. Take the case of the old age pensioner. He used to have 10/- a week. He is going to get another half-crown. For many years the 10/- has been worth about 5/- to him. That means, if the extra 2/6 retains its value, that in the end he is going to have 7/6 a week instead of 10/-. The same thing applies over the whole range of these payments.

I want to come back to the point as to why the Government have decided to make these payments this year instead of last year or away back in 1943. Is the reason this, that some attempt is going to be made to drain off money in circulation from certain other people who do not make as just a use of it as those to whom this fraction is to be given? I believe that unless money is drained off in some other way the money now to be given in this way will be found to be illusory and will defeat itself. There is the case to be made that we are not yet doing justice on the same level as in 1939.

I take my other calculation and I apply it to these specific sums. On this point I have not yet been answered. It may be that it is thought not worth considering. I do know that it has given a great many people a lot to think about. The point is that, if the Minister has decided to add £2,250,000 this year to last year's sum, and that even if he believes it will put these people into the position they were in before, he must now be conscious that for five years back they have been deprived of that £2,250,000 which, by his attitude to-day he admits they were entitled to [535] get. His action to-day proves that they were entitled to get it over the last five years. The old age pensioner, the blind person, the widow and the orphan, and people living on unemployment assistance—all these have been made subscribe to this £2,250,000, or at least to the war effort or the neutrality effort in this country for five years. Why were they asked to subscribe that? I am taking the lowest possible figure. I think they have been made subscribe nearly £9,000,000 a year for the past five years. The Minister is only adding a quarter of what they used to get and as the value of money has fallen—if the £ is worth only 10/—these people have been deprived of half their moneys. They have been made pay that £9,000,000 or some part of it for the last five years. Why were they asked to subscribe that amount? They are people who could not re-make their circumstances. They had no way of getting increases. If they did attempt to work, whatever they earned by work meant a subtraction from what they were getting by way of these subventions and yet they are the people from whom the Government in its wisdom decided to extract something between £2,250,000 and £9,000,000 by way of contribution. The Minister last night tried to put the whole matter in this framework: that he took the social service claims and that he set them against the revenue derived from customs, excise and income-tax.

Some part of the revenue derived from customs and some part of the revenue derived from excise and a good deal of the revenue derived from goods that were imported—which would be customs duties—were levied on those poor people. I have already referred to the one recognised group of permitted profit-makers in the country in the last five years. I refer to a calculation that was made in the Press here of January, 1944, a calculation made on the profits of five drapery firms and it is, remember, profits—after taxes have been paid. I was misunderstood when I spoke on this subject before and I want to make the matter clear now. They are profits made after payments of wages, profits made after doing anything that was [536] required in the way of repairs, of the buying in of stock. After everything was done that enabled these businesses to live we find that for five of them the profit in 1939 was £6,500. They had in the year 1943 between the five of them a profit of £82,000. That was a fair profit for five firms dealing in draperies to make as between 1939 and 1943. Some of these people had losses in the 1939 period; some of them had profits. I have made allowance for these losses and the calculation is what I have said. In 1939 their profit was £6,500 and 1943 they had lifted between them £82,000. Five drapery firms in the city here! That is part of the contribution exacted from the old age pensioner, the widows and orphans, the blind, and the man who is on either unemployment insurance or unemployment assistance. So far as they had to spend any part of their money on drapery goods they helped to swell these profits to that extent. I feel these figures ought to be taken into consideration when I hear the talk that I listened to here yesterday and to-day, that the people of this country should work harder. Where is the incentive in this country to work harder? Certainly it is not profit sharing.

As far as the person who is an industrial employee is concerned he sees very big profits being secured by the proprietors of the firm for which he works and he knows that his wages have been battened down for years back. Even though he got some increase—about one third of the 1939 figures related to the purchasing power—no employee in an industrial firm is getting nowadays anything like the wage he got in 1939. Yet there are protestations made and solemn appeals directed to them to work harder. Work harder—when they are getting less money than they got; when they see that greater profits are being got by those who employ them! As long as that situation lasts, there is no possibility of getting increased productivity from those who are employed in agriculture or in industry in this country. I have already spoken at length and I do not want to do any more than make a reference to it, but as long as the money that is in circulation in the country is allowed to grow [537] and grow apace, so long will we have this vain effort of wages trying to catch up with prices. We are bound to accept the fact that through lack of Government intervention at the proper time the purchasing power of the £ is now permanently lowered to half of what it used to bring in. Let us not reduce it still further by asking people to look for increases in wages, and make whatever increases they get go back into circulation, thus reducing still further the value of the money we have. Nowadays an equivalent amount of that is taken away from widows and orphans by the profit-makers in this country and the vicious circle continues with greater violence than ever before. If the Minister is attempting to parade himself before the people as increasing the money paid to this section of the community I say he is presenting himself in false colours.

We all know that they are not getting the same return as they did in 1939 and if these are people whom we cannot expect to earn money for themselves and if they must be thrown on the community then, in relation to the money that was in circulation and in relation to the fact that the purchasing power of the pound has been reduced, we have degraded these people and we have put them below a level that never was high.

While my second point may seem a contradiction, I suggest that it is not completely so. If anyone were to come in here and try to reform the present situation he could not do it immediately. We have to take the old age pensioners passing out of life, we have to take a great many more of these folk for whom we are catering at the moment and realise that we are interrupting their life at some point in its course, about the middle point and towards death. We cannot introduce a new system and leave the other people to fend for themselves so this matter of providing people with old age pensions, unemployment assistance and all that sort of thing may have to go on for a while. When this matter was mooted in 1945 I raised the objection that we should not pretend that any great measure of social service is any credit to this community. The greater the necessity for social services the greater [538] the condemnation of the economic system under which we live. That has been regarded, I think, as sound sense, sound morals and sound economics for many years past. There is no doubt that, in this community, the situation is going from bad to worse. We never had a high standard of living. We never had a big fraction of our population in what was called the high-income groups.

Whatever we had, we have, certainly, deteriorated in the past dozen years. Take the Government's own publication, National Income and Expenditure. I direct the Minister's attention to the table on page 18, where people are classified according to their incomeearning capacity. That includes not only income earned but all personal income, including all sorts of subventions. Adding these subventions and taking in “earning capacity”, there was a very small fraction which had reached the level of being in receipt of moneys, earned or otherwise, bringing them in more than £3 a week. Whatever the number was, there are fewer at the moment earning the equivalent of the old £3 per week. Under the present Government administration, of those who were in the high range, if I may use the term—incomes over £150— 100,000 have now been pushed below that level. That emerges from this table on page 18. That being the situation, the Minister has to fill the gap. “Income maintenance”, I understand, is the sub-title used in connection with the Ministry. That is a misnomer. It is not income maintenance. What is being done is supplementing income deficiency.

One thing the Minister has nothing to do with and, apparently, does not bother his head about, is what people are entitled to earn or how they can be put into a position to earn. What the Minister is dealing with are the outcasts, so to speak, men who have been put below a certain level and who are no longer in a position to earn even the old £3 per week. The Minister will have to give us another figure. He gave us a figure last night of the amounts spent on these social services against the amount extracted from the community under certain headings. He will [539] have to publish figures as to the payments in respect of these services against the productivity of the country —the real productivity of the country. The Minister will also have to give us some idea of how he thinks the numbers of the people are going to vary in the future. Are we going to have more people depending on the Ministry of Social Welfare or is it his idea to have as many people as possible depending upon his Ministry?

To aim at getting more people dependent upon social services is bad. That trend should be stopped. The tendency should be to develop in the other direction—to put people in a position in which they can earn and fend for themselves. The Minister is reported in the paper as saying that he should like to see a unified scheme under which a person could be insured against sickness, unemployment, old age, the widowhood of his wife and, perhaps, against a large family. In another year, when the Minister recollects himself, he will add on a certain amount of money, spent on, say, providing free education for the people. When the Health Bill has progressed, we shall have something added for public health, while many people think that one of the matters which should be taken under Government control and taken away from ordinary insurance is industrial insurance, which is nothing more or less, in the main, than burial benefit. When the Minister will have done that, he will be able to paint a grand picture in which everything from birth to death and even burial will be provided for. Provided for, by whom? By the State. That is not the ideal of a freeman. The ideal State is one in which a man would earn sufficient to provide most of these things for himself and his dependents.

In the old days, we heard talk of slave systems. Slavery, as an institution, had its good points as well as its bad points. It was fundamentally unsound because it degraded human beings to a point which conscience did not recognise as proper. But many people who were on the plantations and many who were in the servile State of Rome had a better livelihood and more [540] material comforts than some of the people in modern societies to-day. If it was only from the point of view of better productivity, slaves in the Southern States of America were well looked after. They were what were called “living tools”, and it was thought that they should be kept to a high state of productivity so far as their labours were concerned. They were well kept, although abuses occurred here and there. That is a situation towards which the Minister would, apparently, like to see us develop more and more.

It has been stated that the difference between the olden times and modern times is that the movement of society has been away from status—slave status—and towards contract, whereby a man may hire himself or develop his talent by work. That movement was described in admiring tones as long as it got away from status and moved more and more towards enabling a man to contract for himself. Coming back to status, if a man can bring himself into any of these categories, the State will look after him. The Minister said yesterday—whether by way of complaint or not, I do not know—that we have a peculiar difficulty in this country—the difficulty of framing a contributory scheme when a great part of the population are not working for wages; it is not easy, he said, to devise a suitable scheme where people are not wageearners. From the point of view of administrative convenience, the Minister would be better served if everybody could be got into the category of wage-earner. The person who has property which he can dispose of, the person who is benefiting from the institution of property as distinguished from the institution of slave conditions, is outside the Minister's grasp. He is not easy to get hold of. If the Minister had a proper social outlook, he would welcome the situation which he finds— that there are so many people—perhaps I should say a goodish crowd—occupied in this way: they have property of their own which they manage and live out of. It is the development of that situation we want and not the development of these social services. The point was made here and must be regarded. [541] Apart altogether from any moral viewpoint from which it may be regarded, there is the other situation.

All these benefits defeat themselves. If you are going to continue to say that there is such a thing as unemployment assistance for a person who is left without work, if you withdraw the stimulus to work, either completely or partly, you are not going to have the same effort for it. The world has advanced beyond the stage where starvation is regarded as the stimulus to find work, but if it is not to go back on its tracks very soon, more stimulus must be applied to people to get more effort out of them. While we have arrived at a situation where people are not left to starve because they cannot or will not work, the situation ought to be so developed that the more a man does in the way of greater effort the greater the return he gets. That is not the situation developing here. As far as some of these subventions are concerned, the person who is idle throughout his life finds that he reaches a certain level of some of these services which puts him in the same position as the person who always worked. Those people who were completely lazy and thriftless find themselves, at a certain stage, exactly on the same level as those who were working. Once consciousness of that spreads, we will have less in the way of savings, thrift and hard work than ever in the community before.

We may welcome this Department of Social Welfare from certain angles. For instance, it is welcome from the angle that if we must have these services and if they must be continued for some time, the administration expenses must be cut down, so that more of what is spent on them may accrue to the real beneficiaries and not to the administrators. The second point is that, if we are going to put people on the same level as they were in 1939, we have to increase the payments to them.

While that may mean an immediate increase, I hope the Minister will take the view that he himself will contemplate with equanimity the disappearance of his own Department and look forward to the time when it will be [542] wiped out from the Estimates and all these subventions will disappear. Probably that position will not be reached in his time or in the lifetime of any one of us, but we should start the tendency in that way and get a better outlook, a better viewpoint and a better objective than listening to appeals from people who, just because they see misery around them, ask that subventions be increased and lead people more and more to the point when they depend not on themselves but on the State, which means depending on the efforts of their better neighbours.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I wish to take this opportunity of extending a welcome to the Minister for Social Welfare in introducing his first Estimate. Certainly the improvements that are being brought about and that are being promised are welcomed very much by the section of the community that every side of the House is most anxious to help. Every Deputy, including the Minister, is very well aware of the very serious plight of the blind, of the widows, of those in receipt of unemployment assistance and of old age pensioners. I am sure that the tax-payers, the citizens of all classes and creeds, are most anxious to co-operate in every possible way to improve conditions for that section of the community.

I am very much afraid the Government and the Minister are attacking this whole question from the wrong angle. The improving of doles, reliefs and unemployment benefit is only whipping a dead horse. The Government should direct their attention to ending unemployment benefit completely, discontinuing doles and outdoor relief. Assuming for one moment that the 190,000 Irish men and women compelled to emigrate during recent years had remained at home, how would the Minister for Social Welfare find himself to-day when he would come before this House to seek approval for an Estimate to provide for that 190,000, had they been so unfortunate as to be unemployed—which they certainly would? The Government should seriously direct their attention to the provision of full-time employment for all our Irish workers [543] and concentrate more seriously on providing decent wages that will enable those workers to live in accordance with Christian decency.

Everyone knows that there are two sides to our life at present and it is not very long since a Deputy here made that point. We have one section of the people living in the height of luxury and another section living in dire want and poverty. They are too far apart—there is too great a distance between those two sections. In recent years, this country has turned into the rich man's paradise and the poor man's hell. The sooner the Government realises the position of the working class the better. If the Minister is going to continue on those lines of developing his own Department, the whole nation will be in a worse position. The more social services we have and the more we are being asked to provide by way of unemployment assistance, the worse it is for the country.

I would be glad if we were in the very fortunate position when this House would not be asked even to consider an Estimate for unemployment assistance. Everyone knows quite well that here in this country there is endless work for everybody. We have been hearing complaints and demands for explanations, as to why the huge drainage schemes have not been carried out. Time and time again, we have heard cries from all quarters as to the general demand for proper housing accommodation. The Minister himself has expressed the desire to provide proper sanitary accommodation in every town, village and city, while his colleagues have expressed the desire to carry on huge schemes of afforestation and other schemes which would be of benefit to the nation. We see that the farmer is prevented from producing what he would like to produce and is unable to produce to the fullest capacity. There would be much more work on the land and in industries arising out of the increased production from the land and there are very many ways of solving the unemployment question.

I often ask myself what became of [544] the ideas the Government once had for solving the unemployment problem. We heard so much about the ideas they were going to implement the moment they took over the reins of office. Where are those ideas now and why have not some of them been implemented? It is a very sad state of affairs, when we see so many in receipt of unemployment assistance. What would be the number, if the ports were not open and if many of our young men had not had the courage and the pluck to join the R.A.F. and clear out of the country, seeing that they had no real alternative?

I think the Minister's attention should be directed to a very sound and concrete solution. The only way to meet this problem is to give nobody anything for nothing. I think the greatest curse that ever befell this nation was the dole. The dole given to a small section of the people was and is an encouragement to laziness, because if a man with a family can receive 25/- a week unemployment benefit, why should he work hard six days of the week for something like the 39/- or 40/- which he will receive from the farmer? In addition, he will have his supplementary allowances. At present he has extra rations and I am afraid we have reached a position when the man who does not bother his head about working is only laughing at the people who toil from sunrise to night-fall. The sooner the Government realise that the better. It is a very wrong policy to adopt.

In my constituency unemployment is very considerable, but the people who are in receipt of assistance there are not the types I have referred to. They are honest, decent, hard-working citizens, very anxious to work if work were available for them. It is a serious state of affairs when we see ablebodied men anxious to work and with plenty of work for them, but yet they are prevented from earning a livelihood in their own land by participating in work that will be of advantage to the community. I believe if the Minister makes a strong recommendation to the Government they will at least give it some consideration. They are [545] tackling this problem from the wrong end. It is not being tackled in the proper spirit. There is only one solution and that is the provision of whole-time employment for all Irish workers at decent wages that will enable them to get a proper living.

Old age pensioners are the one section in the community for whom I have the greatest respect. They have my deepest sympathy in their present serious plight. The Minister asks the House to provide grants for the provision of additional cash allowances. I wonder if he has received complaints, such as Deputies have, from old age pensioners who have been awarded these additional allowances? It is a very bad system. The Minister must realise that in the older sections of the people there is a certain amount of pride that probably does not exist among the younger generation. The older people have peculiar ideas and they would not stoop to approaching a relieving officer or a home assistance officer for anything. They think they would be branded with the stigma of a pauper if they did so. They resent having to take the miserable 2/6 provided as an extra allowance.

It would be very easy for the Government to save decent, respectable old citizens the embarrassment of having to parade to the office of the home assistance officer for this additional allowance. The Minister would merely have to issue instructions for the payment of the additional 2/6 on the 10/-vouchers in cases where he was satisfied such a person qualified for the allowance. Old people have, against their wishes in many cases, been compelled to stoop to that position and they resent it very much. It is a nice thing to have a certain amount of pride in people living in various parts of the country, but the economic conditions soon compelled many of the old people to part with their pride and they were compelled to go to the home assistance officer. The Minister should change that system and see that the allowance is paid in some other manner. Do not have those old people parading outside the offices of the home assistance officers. The same applies to widows who are pensioners.

[546] The improvements the Minister is about to undertake will not be of any great assistance to the older people. While I would welcome any improvement in reason, I believe the proposed alterations are very far from what we would like. The Minister is a commonsense man, anxious to do everything possible for these people, but I fear he is tied up in a system that will not permit him to do much. The value of the £1 here has dropped to 11/9. If the Minister has given any consideration to the standard of living and the social services elsewhere, he will find it wise to follow the headline given by those countries. It would be well worth while for the Minister to investigate the services operating in New Zealand. A married couple there can have old age pensions amounting to £3 5s. per week, they can have a private income of £1 as well, £500 in the Post Office Savings Bank, and they can own their own house. That state of affairs is greatly envied by Irish people. I cannot see what is to prevent us from having as good social services or as good a standard of living as in New Zealand and other countries.

The increased allowance of 7/6 under the new scheme for sickness or insurance benefit will not relieve the situation very much. The Minister must realise that the benefits were put at a standstill from 1939 up to the present and, even with the additional allowance, that only brings these people to where they were in 1940 and 1941. They will get very little relief because the cost of living is going up by leaps and bounds. Prices are soaring. Many people who cannot secure the necessities of life have to do without because they are not in a position, like more fortunate sections of the community, to live in luxury and avail of the black market for whatever they need.

Let us give consideration to the expressions of opinion of the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Local Government. He often referred to the manner in which his Department dealt with old age pensioners' appeals. The Minister for Local Government is living among a section of the people who are far apart from those in receipt of or applying for old age pensions. Only last week that same Minister boarded [547] a luxury liner and he has gone off for a tour around Paris. I think that is an awful state of affairs.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  I have no knowledge of what the Deputy is referring to, but he might leave personalities out of it until he understands the circumstances.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I understand that he went away on a luxury liner, according to reports in the newspapers.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  It has nothing to do with this Estimate.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  When we have reached the stage that certain citizens in this country who are in control of revenue and who are in a position to do something to improve the standard of living of our people, are running away, boarding luxury liners and all this codology——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  If the private lives of members of this House were to be investigated here, conditions would become worse than those in some countries I know where life is intolerable.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  May I say that it was a good thing that an investigation took place into the private life of Dr. Ward?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  What has Dr. Ward to do with this Estimate?

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  It is only right when you, Sir, make a reference to private lives, to say that a Minister's private life should bear some relation to his public life.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  I do not agree.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  There is a difference of opinion then.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  There is a grave difference of opinion but it happens that mine will have to prevail.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I shall have to agree on that too.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy, on the Vote.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  So far as the Minister is concerned I think that much more [548] serious consideration should have been given to the question of completely abolishing all the funds provided from unemployment assistance and unemployment benefit. I think that the Government should direct attention to the necessity of providing work for these people because our people are not lazy. They are hardworking, honest people who want work. It is a great pity that there are not responsible people at the head of the Government who would lay down their minds to catering for these people and seeing that they get what they desire— plenty of work at reasonable wages. The wages that are paid have no relation to the cost of living.

If the Minister is really anxious that full-time employment should be provided for everybody, that the rates provided in New Zealand are put into operation here, that the means test in the case of old age pensions should be abolished, I am afraid he will have to go outside the present financial system. I am afraid that what the Minister is up against is that the financial system he is trying to operate will not permit him to give practical effect to his views as the Minister responsible for endeavouring to cure unemployment. I believe that the Government sooner or later will have to go outside the present system because the present system has proved a failure. Unemployment has not been solved and emigration is continuing while many of our people are suffering from inadequate nourishment. It is a downright disgrace that the Irish people should be lowered to such depths. It is a nice thing to see charity extended to us but when I see people dependent throughout their whole lives on charity, I say that it is a very sad commentary on the present system. It speaks very badly for the powers that be and is certainly no credit to any one of us. What our people want is a decent livelihood and I believe that they can get it in this country. If the present Government does not do it, please God, we shall see the day when we shall have a Government whose first task it will be to solve the unemployment problem and to end emigration which has been the cause of taking the cream of our manhood and womanhood from us.

[549]Mr. Coburn: Information on James Coburn  Zoom on James Coburn  I am sorry to have to intervene in the heel of the debate but one of the matters in which I have been very interested all my life is this question of social services. Let me say at the outset that one is handicapped by the manner in which this Estimate has been presented. Without casting any reflection on the Minister, I thought we might have hoped for a comprehensive Bill which, in addition to the measures foreshadowed in the Estimate, would have included something on the lines of the measures suggested by Most Rev. Dr. Dignan.

It has to be remembered that in putting forth his proposals, he made them contingent upon one condition which I think is very essential in discussing questions of this sort. He said that his views depended, amongst other things, upon the provision of continuous employment and increased production. I think the originator of the Beveridge scheme also made that clear. It is well to keep in mind that the success of these proposals depends upon employment being maintained in a healthy condition. I feel that in this little country we may defeat the objects which we have in view because of the likelihood that our resources will not be able to bear the strain put upon them. If one looks at the figures presented by the Minister yesterday evening, one will observe that the amounts paid out by way of subventions whether in the matter of old age pensions, unemployment assistance, widows' and orphans' pensions, are in the region of £11,000,000 and that the amount derived from such sources as import duties, income-tax and excise duties amount to something in the neighbourhood of £40,000,000—£17,000,000 from tariffs, £12,000,000 from income-tax and £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 by way of excise duties.

I welcome the view expressed by Deputy Major de Valera when he said that he was not too optimistic as to whether we could not alone increase the present social services, but whether we could keep them going on the level which has obtained for the last few years. I would suggest to Deputy de Valera that he would be doing good, useful national work if he went through [550] the country addressing meetings and inculcating amongst his own supporters some of the ideas he expressed here to-day and so get our people away from the idea of looking to the State for everything. I am one of those, with all respect to members of the Labour Party or other advocates of social services, who know what hardship was.

I sometimes ask myself how it was that people were able 40 or 50 years ago to rear families, sometimes consisting of 12 or 13 children, without any State assistance of this kind. At that time we did not know anything about the St. Vincent de Paul Society or about pensions from any source. How did these people rear their families? They had to be reared and, I think, physically, the young men of those days could compare very well with the young men of to-day. Yet the people at that time knew nothing about these services and they never grumbled. Possibly with the march of time we have got to get away from the conditions that then prevailed but it is just as well to remind our young people, and especially people in the Labour Party, of the hardships and sacrifices that had to be endured, not 300 years ago but only a year or two before World War No. 1.

Times have changed, and we have found, as the late Philip Snowden said, 20, 30 and 40 different ways of spending 1/- but we have not yet discovered the knack of finding 20 or 30 different ways of making 1/-. Deputy de Valera says it is not a question of basing our standard of living on the amount of pounds, shillings and pence we have but on the value we get for that money. That was amply demonstrated to me by an incident which happened recently. I was in a farmer's house one Sunday evening and as is usual, I was invited to have a cup of tea and a fresh egg, which I accepted. While having the meal, I saw eggs and butter in the house and eight or nine sides of bacon hanging up on the ceiling and it provided a lesson and a moral for me. I applied it to the existing state of affairs and said to myself: “Here is this house, with plenty of butter, eggs and bacon, and if I went [551] into Dundalk to-morrow with £1,000,000 in my pocket, I could not get what that farmer is able to give in abundance, unless I get it illegally.” It proved to me the truth of the declaration that it is value, and not money, we want in these days.

I suggest to the Government that the sooner we get more goods into this country and the sooner we get away from the policy of self-sufficiency, which is very good in its own way and which was very good in the early years of the State, the better. The time has arrived when our industrialists and all others concerned should get out of their swaddling clothes and into the clothes of boyhood, if not manhood. It is time they stood on their own feet and produced the goods. If they do not produce them, we must get them in and thereby reduce the cost of living which is what people mainly want at present. It is all very well for us who do not feel want or privation to say that people do not deserve this or that. I say deliberately, as one who mixes with the working classes, that the women of this country deserve the V.C. for the manner in which they have carried on and reared families during the past seven or eight years.

Reference has been made to the value of money, and Deputy McGilligan has stated that 10/- is only worth 5/- now. I can prove conclusively that, in the case of one article, 10/- is worth only 1/8d. I refer to the half glass of whiskey, to which the old age pensioner is as much entitled as anybody else. It is now 1/1 as against the 2d. the old age pensioner with 10/- paid in years gone by—six times the price. In the case of tobacco, 10/- is worth only 2/-or 2/6. Bread, butter and so on are not quite so bad, but it continues down the line. No doubt, it is a hardship when you find, side by side with people receiving subsidies from the State, the working man who had nothing to spare all his life but who reared his family, thrown back on reaching the age of 70, on resources of 10/- a week, whereas in previous weeks he was accustomed to an income of £4 10s. 0d. or £5. I refer to men on the railways who pay into a pension fund and who, when they retire and apply for a pension, receive 1/- a [552] week because they get 15/- a week from the railway fund. That is one of the hardships which should be eased as soon as possible and I urge the Minister to do something for that type of applicant for an old age pension.

I should prefer to see this whole business being delayed a little longer until the comprehensive Bill came before us, so that we could discuss more fully the effects it will have on our financial resources and our ability to continue to provide these social services. It is as well that we should realise our responsibility in that respect, and point out to our people that, unless there is increased production, unless we are able to produce more wealth to meet these increased liabilities, the danger is that we will dry up the streams which provide the resources which have enabled us to pay these subsidies in past years. That is the danger which one sees at the moment. We are beginning to cherish the idea that legislation will cure all ills. It will not. Legislation never yet made a success of any country. It is a matter of hard work and the mere passing of legislation will not cure our ills. Governments can do much to help by passing wise and useful legislation, but, in the ultimate, it depends upon the individual efforts of our people to work in co-operation and to do everything possible to increase production, because, unless they do that, we will find it almost impossible not alone to increase the benefits but possibly to continue paying the benefits we are paying.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  One of the strange outcomes of this debate, and I should say a rather welcome outcome from my point of view, is that there were more speakers anxious that we should not go too far with social services than speakers who held the view that we should go further than we are going. In other words, there was a realisation by all Parties that the more we pay out in social services, the more money must be found somewhere or other. What we have to keep in mind is that we have, as it were, a double task to perform in this Department. We have, first, to co-ordinate the schemes we [553] have, the schemes which are necessary, and try to simplify them, to bring them into one scheme, with one stamp, one fund, one inspector calling and so on, and, secondly, to adapt our scheme to the needs of the country.

It may be possible to do better for certain classes, and it may, on consideration, appear wise to us to take something off here and there where we think people are getting more than they should get. We are working towards what has been referred to by every speaker—a comprehensive scheme—but it will be, I am afraid, 12 months or so before it can be presented. I am also very glad, too, to see that every speaker appears to be in favour of a contributory scheme of insurance by which, so far as we can arrange it, people will build up their own insurance funds and insure themselves against sickness, unemployment, and so on.

Various views were expressed and it is not possible to go fully into all the matters raised. Deputy Dockrell asked about staffs. The staffs, of course, are distributed in various parts of the city, according to the service they are dealing with at the moment, what they have been dealing with before this Department was formed. They are still where they were. I am not inclined to make very much change in the distribution of staff until we form our comprehensive scheme because then we may have staffs based on a different idea. We may have them based on an idea of a big comprehensive scheme and we would be in a better position to distribute them to the best advantage. I hope to make economies in staff as time goes on.

I think Deputy Dockrell made the point that it was very bad to see the child being dealt with by so many different Departments. I do not see that we can avoid that because one Department must deal with education, another Department must deal with health, another Department with social affairs, another Department must deal with justice and so on. I do not think it is possible to have Ministers based on another conception, that is, a Ministry for children, a Ministry for old people, and a Ministry for middleaged [554] people, and so on. So I am afraid we will have to put up with the fact that the child is being looked after by so many inspectors, maybe at the same time.

Deputy Murphy said that we need more courageous proposals. I quite agree with him on that and I am afraid that when this comprehensive scheme comes along, some Deputies may lose their courage, because there is no doubt that if we provide even for the aged, as Deputies would like to see them provided for, on a contributory basis, it is going to mean a very big contribution from the worker and, as I say, the courage that will be necessary to face that issue when the time arrives will be fairly substantial. Deputy Murphy says he thinks we could bring 90 per cent. of the people into a contributory scheme. I do not think so. At least, I do not think it is easy to bring people into a contributory scheme unless they are wage-earners. I do not want Deputy McGilligan purposely to misrepresent what I say. I mean, to misrepresent it to the extent of representing that I am complaining about people who are not earning wages in this country but who are working on their own. I am complaining about nothing. I get tired of this thing of Deputy McGilligan's who builds up on misrepresentation of that kind and makes a very big attack on a person, without any reason whatever. It does not get us anywhere. But, to return to the point, it is not easy to collect contributions unless from wage-earners. I say that as a fact and if Deputy Murphy or anybody else can show me I am wrong, I will be delighted because I should like to see the small farmers and small shopkeepers—between them a very big class—included. It is calculated that there must be nearly 250,000 between these two classes—250,000 people who would need provision for their old age. It is a pity we cannot have a comprehensive scheme for them and if Deputy Murphy or anybody else can show me how it can be done, I will be very delighted to have it considered for this contributory scheme. If we cannot include them in a contributory scheme, we will have to consider what can be done otherwise. That is all.

[555] I do not agree with Deputy Dr. O'Higgins that it would have been better to have made one Department instead of two. It hardly arises on this Estimate but I just want to say that it appears to me, from my experience, that it is better to have the two Departments until at least all these things are done. Then it can be decided whether there should be one Department or two but I think it will be decided that two Departments will be necessary. It is only accidental that one Minister is dealing with the two at the moment. There is going to be some trouble, I admit, about distributing certain things. For instance, take a thing like school meals. It is very difficult to know whether it should go to the Department of Social Welfare as a social scheme, or whether it should go to the Department of Health, as a health scheme, or whether it should go to the Department of Education, as education is dealing with the schools and with children. I am afraid that that does not prove that, for convenience, all these things should go into one Department. There are other things that will give us trouble as to the Department that should deal with them, eventually, such as county homes. But, even with the Departments that were there already, there was often considerable difficulty in deciding whether a thing should go to one Department or another. It has to go to one or the other, that is the end of it, and will have to be dealt with as best it possibly can.

The reason why Deputy Dr. O'Higgins raised the point as to why there are varying Ministries was, he said, that he could never understand why a man should get a certain amount if he was sick, a different amount if he met with an accident, a different amount if he was unemployed, and so on. I think the explanation is that all these schemes were separate schemes. They all came along independently and grew up independently and there was never very much co-ordination between them.

One of the reasons for the establishment of this Department is to bring them all together and to co-ordinate [556] them and try to form a common basis. That is, if you say a person needs so much money per week and the State, or the fund, can afford a certain amount per week, then it would be logical, whether that person is sick, or unemployed, or meets with an accident, that he should get that amount, whatever it may be.

I agree with many of the speakers here that it is not a thing we should boast of that we are spending so much on social services. Really, the only comparison we should make is what our rate is, whether we treat our old age pensioners, for instance, as well as they do in other countries; whether we treat our sick people as well as they do in other countries. But the fact that we have to pay more is, maybe, not a credit to us. Or maybe it is. I say maybe it is in this way: Speakers appear to have formed the conclusion that a big bill means unemployment. Unemployment is a very small part of our bill. As a matter of fact, when I was giving some of the figures I gave what is paid under each of those headings. Of course, nearly half the bill is old age pensions. Nobody will blame us for having a lot of people over 70 years of age in the country. If anything, it is a credit to the way we run the country that people do live on to be over 70. Certainly, we cannot be blamed for it if we have a lot of people over 70. We pay over £5,000,000 on old age pensions out of an £11,300,000 bill. Practically half goes on old age pensions. Another big slice goes on children's allowances— £2,197,000. We should not blame ourselves for the fact that we have so many families in this country where there are more than two children—a very much bigger proportion than they have in many European countries. Let us be glad that we have so many families of that kind. That is the second biggest item—£2,197,000. There we have £7,250,000 accounted for out of £11,250,000 by these two big items that we should be glad of and not blame ourselves about. Then we have, of course, sickness, and widows.

Perhaps it is a pity that we have so many widows, but the fact that we look after them is a thing that we should not find fault with. They are costing [557] us £1,000,000. We have sickness costing us £800,000. We hope in time to reduce that bill of £800,000. But, when we take all these things into account, we find that for unemployment there is left only £1,372,000. Out of £11,300,000 we pay £1,372,000 on unemployment. I am quite sure that anybody reading many of the speeches made here would have come to the conclusion that this £11,372,000 was going out principally for the unemployed. That was the purpose of the speeches that were made. I agree with Deputy O'Higgins and others that if we can keep down our social bill it will be a great thing, provided there is good insurance there for the old, the sick and so on if they need it.

Some Deputies said they would like to see the day when this Ministry could be closed down and was no longer needed. It may be almost too much to expect that in our time things will change so much that people when they get old will be able to provide for themselves without any help, that people when they get sick will be able to provide for themselves, that the widow will be able to provide for herself and that there will be no necessity even to look after the blind. I am afraid that in our time we may look forward to a Ministry of this kind being necessary. I should like to see, going back again to Deputy O'Higgin's point, a uniform system for dealing with a man's misfortune whatever it may be: whether he is sick, meets with an accident in the course of his employment, or loses his employment through no fault of his own. No matter what the cause of his misfortune, I agree that he should be treated in the same way. I think that system would have many advantages.

In the case of certain positions at the moment, it suits a man financially to prove that he met with an accident rather than that he got sick in his job, or, alternatively, it might be better, when he takes the long view of things as to how long his stamps will last, to prove that he was sick rather than unemployed. It would save a man a lot of anxiety as regards making up his mind, and would save a great deal of official time with regard to staffs, if a man had not to prove whether he [558] should be treated as unemployed or had to sue his employer if he met with an accident. The one person, that is the one inspector or the one investigation officer, should be able to deal with the family. He should know his district well because it will naturally be smaller when all these various schemes are amalgamated. The outdoor man will have a smaller district, he will know the people in it well and will know whether the bread-winner is unemployed or whether there is sickness in the family or more than two children in the house. He will also know something about the means of the family. He will know about the cards being stamped and all the other matters that arise. By reason of that, it should be possible to make all these schemes work very much more smoothly when they have been amalgamated in that way.

Deputy M. E. Dockrell raised a question about the blind. I can assure the House that I have every sympathy with the blind and will be only too delighted to do anything that is within my power to help them. With regard to these organisations that deal with the blind, I do not want to be too emphatic or dogmatic, but I think that where you have these voluntary organisations it is a great pity to interfere at all. Such organisations may get on very much better if the Government does not give them financial help.

Experience in the past has shown that where voluntary organisations got financial help from the Government, voluntary subscriptions fell away and the next thing was that with Government help there was a demand from the voluntary workers to be paid for their time. Deputies will agree, I think, that you may not get the same service at all from a Government financed organisation as you will get from an organisation that has to depend entirely on voluntary subscriptions and in which the staff is composed of voluntary workers. Of course, if such voluntary organisations are not able to reach on their work it is a different matter. If that is true, I am sure we will hear about it.

A good deal was said about the means test. I do not like it. Personally, I [559] think it is a very aggravating thing and I do not know if it achieves a whole lot. At the same time I am sure every Deputy will agree that there should be some means test. There is no Deputy who would like to see a millionaire or a well-off person who had done well in business, getting an old age pension at the expense of the State. Therefore, I think we are all agreed that there must be a means test of some kind. I should like very much to have a simple means test. If any Deputy can suggest one to me before the comprehensive scheme comes along, I shall be very glad to consider it and adopt it if it is feasible.

Deputies, of course, realise that the means test will only be necessary in the case of non-contributory schemes. If we have a contributory scheme, and I hope that we may have one, then, of course, those who contribute to the fund would be entitled to the return laid down in the scheme, no matter what their means were. If, for instance, in the future all workers who are having their cards stamped for sickness and unemployment insurance could also include an amount for old age, then on reaching whatever age is fixed they would get the amount stated, no matter what their means were. The means test would not apply to them. Where, however, we have to cover people by a non-contributory scheme, a means test will apply. I would like to have the best possible means test that could be suggested.

Deputy Browne's statement that a person must be 104 weeks in national health insurance before he can draw sickness benefit is not exactly correct. He cannot get full benefit for six months, but he can get partial benefit. We must look on these things as insurance schemes and in these you must fulfil certain conditions before you can get any benefit. One is that the premium has to be paid for a certain period of time according to the type of insurance that you take up. In the case of national health insurance, 104 stamps are laid down. The benefits are based on actuarial results. Of course, if the fund paid out benefits to a person in less than 104 weeks, it [560] would mean that the fund would probably become insolvent. It would mean that contributions would have to be raised. In discussing these things, we must keep in mind that a fair balance between the solvency of the fund and what is fair to the insured person has to be maintained.

Deputy Browne also said we should have more sympathetic consideration for people with broken periods in employment. I do not know much about that issue. I have taken a note of it. I have to see what is involved. I think at least three or four of the Deputies who spoke were under the impression that inspectors and investigators are really out to do the best they can for the fund or for the Minister and to deprive the recipient, as far as they can, of any benefit that is due. I want to say that that is absolutely wrong. Every investigator and every inspector is bound to give the recipient whatever advantages are due to that recipient and I can assure the Deputies here that if any complaint is made to the Department or to me, that an investigator has deprived a recipient of an advantage that is due to him, he will be very severely dealt with—more so than if he acted the other way round; at least the same anyway. The officers of the Department are told and are expected to be patient and to be courteous with these people and to explain the case fully to them so that the recipient will not be left under any disadvantage.

Mr. Coburn: Information on James Coburn  Zoom on James Coburn  To give them their due, they do it.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I want Deputies to report the matter, because those officials will have to be dealt with on that basis.

Mr. Coburn: Information on James Coburn  Zoom on James Coburn  You will be dealing with very few of them. That is my experience.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  Deputy Sheldon spoke about children's footwear. Vouchers, I understand, are allocated to each area covered by a public assistance authority in proportion to the number of applications that are received from that public authority. The figures are got from the public authority itself.

[561] There are certain difficulties, it is true. There is no trade that can be compelled to deal in this particular type of footwear. Practically they all do undertake to stock the footwear concerned and to supply it on the voucher system to these people. The price varies very much according to the circumstances of the recipient where they have to pay half the price or part of the price or none, but at any rate the voucher entitles the holder to an advantage and the shopkeeper who stocks these shoes will of course supply if at all possible. The scheme is working fairy well. There has been trouble about having shoes available in certain places where they are needed. The slow delivery of shoes is part of the difficult supply position which applies all round.

I want to say to Deputy O'Sullivan that I think he misunderstood what I said when I took over this Department first. I was asked at that time when I thought I could examine the present payments and see if they were adequate and would I make an announcement and I said:—

“not at that moment but that I would before Easter make an announcement to the Dáil.”

What I had in mind were these extra payments, not the comprehensive scheme, because from the beginning I have mentioned here that the drawing up of a comprehensive scheme would take at least 12 months and I think that should date from the time I made the announcement, which means Easter next year, before that scheme will be available.

I do not know why Deputy O'Sullivan can find very much fault with it, but we want to keep in mind that we can never, I am afraid, give the old or the sick or the unemployed the equivalent of a week's wages. Deputies have no conception of what it would cost to give them a week's wage. Deputy O'Sullivan talks about enlightened countries. I would like to know what these enlightened countries are to which he referred. In recent times, from what we can hear, the most advanced scheme appeared in Great Britain and they have not offered anything like a full week's wage to a person who is idle or to a person who is sick. Say if we [562] agreed to give 2/6 to all the old age pensioners who are on our list (not everybody over 70, because something like 50,000 are not getting old age pensions), it would cost £1,000,000. I give that as an instance of the amount of money it is going to take to give fairly decent allowances to all these various classes. I do not see why the Deputy should immediately say I am approaching it from the wrong angle, that I have a wrong idea about the whole thing. Surely, no matter what idea I have, we will have to try to find out what it is going to cost and where the money is going to come from. Deputy O'Sullivan or someone else may enlighten me as to a method of getting more money than I can get at the moment. I would be very glad to be told, but it is no harm to know the amount that some of those things will cost somebody or other. Here is a thing that is perhaps hardly realised. There are 150,000 old age pensioners. There are another 50,000 in the country who are not getting the old age pension. That means that one person out of every 15 in this country is getting the old age pension. It is hard to imagine. When people talk about doing away with the means test and giving the old age pension to everyone then, of course, it would mean one person in every 12.

Anyway we will stick to one out of every 15. If we are coming to a contributory scheme probably most Deputies would advocate that we should give it at 65. That would mean that one person out of every nine in the country would be getting the old age pension. Then if we take it that there is something like 1,100,000 people in this country gainfully employed, it would mean that every four persons out of five that are working in this country will have to maintain an old age pensioner because we all admit, of course, that they are going to be maintained out of production. We are not going to evolve a financial system, as Deputy Flanagan thinks, that will enable us to give high pensions to those people and carry on as far as production goes.

Let us go back to the conception Deputy O'Sullivan has that these people should be kept as if they were earning a living wage. Take a wage [563] of £3. Every four people who are working now would have to subscribe £3 between them—15/- a man for that service alone. Having taken 15/- a man from them for the old age pensioners, we will see what we have to take for the widows, the sick, the unemployed and all those other people. A man, I suppose, would be looking forward to the days when he would reach 65 years, so that somebody else would keep him. It is not so easy to provide people of that type with what would be regarded as something equivalent to a living wage. Who is going to do it? Deputy Byrne was, I think, rather mistaken in some of the points he raised, though I did not get all his points as well as I should. He was not aware that the rules which apply to old age pensioners also apply to blind pensioners.

Therefore, the rules in regard to means would be the same in both cases. He raised another point about which there might be some confusion. He spoke of losing a 4/- food voucher for 2/6 cash. Where we are taking a food voucher from a person and giving 2/6 cash, we are taking only a food voucher which is, roughly, worth 2/6. What Deputy Byrne had in mind was a local authority food voucher. We are not touching that. That is a matter for the local authority and they can continue it if they wish. Deputy Byrne asked me about getting a tuberculosis patient in a sanatorium some help to pay for his house. That does not come under this Department, but provision is being made for it in the Health Bill which was introduced yesterday and which, I hope, will be before the Dáil when it meets after Easter.

A point we should keep in mind is that made by Deputy de Valera, that if we take too much from taxation to maintain those in receipt of social benefits, those who are just above the level for social benefits—those who are living on a comparatively low wage— will be contributing to the social services and may be brought practically as low as, if not lower than, the level of the recipient of social benefit. Some Deputy said that there would be difficulty in bringing agricultural labourers into a contributory scheme. That [564] would not be so in the case of agricultural labourers, though there would be difficulty in the case of small holders. The opinion was expressed from practically every part of the House that we had a duty to look after people who are in need through no fault of their own. Only one Deputy said: “What about the other people?” That is the point. What is to be done about the undeserving poor—the man who was well-off, who spent his money foolishly and is now badly-off? We cannot allow him to starve. We must do something for him and we cannot wash our hands of responsibility by saying: “We are quite prepared to look after the deserving poor and those who are in need through no fault of their own.” Whether we like it or not, we are forced to look after the other people who are in need through their own fault. What to do about them is the difficulty.

Few of the speakers were sufficiently specific to say we should drop one of the services. Deputy Dillon did suggest that we should drop one benefit—unemployment assistance to unmarried men in rural areas. There may be something to be said for that. It is well worth considering. Deputy Dillon condemned county homes very strongly. Before I became Minister for Social Welfare, I was in some of these homes. The Deputy asked if I would spend some time going around them. As it happens, I am going to see one immediately after Easter and I hope to see others as well. The Deputy told a story about four men going into a town in Donegal. In the story there was inherent evidence of lack of veracity. He spoke about four men hiring a motor car and said they gave a “lift” to a man who had gone in to pay 28/- rent. They said: “We got 28/- unemployment assistance.” That is not right. They would have got only 24/-. I am not sure whether the remainder of the story is right, either.

Deputy McGilligan asked several times why this year was chosen for bringing in these extra benefits. I explained that when bringing them in. When I took over this Department, the first thing I did was to ask the senior officials how long it would take to prepare [565] a comprehensive scheme such as has been referred to. After a few days, they were able to tell me that it would take, at least, 12 months, though they pleaded for a longer period. I said that we could hardly wait without doing something in the meantime, that as civil servants, employees of local authorities and workers in factories were getting increases in wages, we should give recipients of social services something by way of temporary increases to cover the coming year. The Government fully agreed with that view and that is why those increases are proposed at the present time. During the last three or four years, several temporary payments were made by way of food vouchers. We want to replace certain small things and secure uniformity so far as possible in this respect over the various services.

We have to keep in mind that if we do not succeed in getting virtually all classes into a contributory scheme in the future, some of those people we have will go back to a non-contributory scheme and we shall have to consider at what level that non-contributory scheme should be. Deputy McGilligan spoke about inflation. What he said may be true, generally, but may not be true in this particular instance. Inflation is involved by the spending of money on something which is not in full supply and for which people have to bid. The people concerned here are not interested in inflationary articles. We want to enable them to buy their full ration of bread, butter, tea and sugar. Inflation does not enter into the question in respect of these articles. Bread is not 50 per cent. over the old price. Butter is not 50 per cent. over that price either. Well, this will enable them to buy their full ration, at any rate, of these particular items they want as necessities. In addition to that, they may buy a bit of meat— I do not know if it is 50 per cent. higher than in 1939. The rent they have to pay is the same: it has not gone up since 1939. They are subsidised in regard to fuel, so they are getting it rather cheaply. On the whole, in the case of some classes of these social recipients, they are getting their fuel as cheaply as in 1939. I do not think the inflation is hitting them very much.

[566]General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  There must be very few of them.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The home assistance people get their fuel for about 6d. a cwt., and I do not think it was as cheap as that in 1939. I do not think this inflation we hear talk of is going to hit them very much at all. There is not any more than 50 per cent. increase and if they are getting here in Dublin 12/6 instead of 10/- and 2/6 worth of food as well, comparatively speaking, they are probably as well off as in 1939. I am taking them as an example. If we take any class as an example, we may find that Deputy McGilligan's economic theories do not apply at all.

I have tried to deal as well as I could with all the points which arose in this debate and if there is any other question I will try to answer it.

Motion to refer back, by leave, withdrawn.

Vote put and agreed to.

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