Thursday, 23 June 1949
Dáil Éireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £237,970 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1950, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Minister for Social Welfare.
As is customary and appropriate, I propose to review the activities of my Department over the past 12 months.  Deputies are aware that the Social Welfare Act, 1948, was enacted and brought into operation during that period. That Act had two main objects. The first was to make permanent the cash supplements formerly payable in all the schemes dealt with by the Act and merge them in the basic benefits, pensions and so forth to which they were applicable. The schemes affected were old age and blind pensions, national health insurance, unemployment insurance, unemployment assistance and widows' and orphans' pensions (contributory and non-contributory). In the insurance schemes the contributions were increased so as to restore the insurance basis that obtained before the introduction of cash supplements.
The second main object of the Act was to provide for the payment of generous increases to the recipients of old age and blind pensions and of widows' and orphans' (non-contributory) pensions. When I became Minister I realised that something needed to be done immediately for the persons intended to benefit from those two services. My intentions were carried out in the Act by way of increased pensions and allowances and through modifications of the means tests, which, of course, also had the effect of making new claimants eligible.
For old age and blind pensioners there was introduced a new weekly pension scale applicable to the whole country ranging from a maximum of 17/6 down to 5/-, and the limit of yearly means, above which no pension is payable, was increased from £39 5s. 0d. to £52 5s. 0d. For blind persons the qualifying age was reduced from 30 to 21 years, and the means test was substantially modified so that any earnings of the blind person up to £52 yearly are now disregarded, as are also a further £39 if the person has a wife or dependent husband, and £26 in respect of each child aged under 16. Payments from local authorities under blind welfare schemes are also disregarded.
Before the passing of the 1948 Act the weekly pension rates in urban areas, inclusive of cash payments, ranged from a maximum of 15/- down to 6/-.  In rural areas the maximum was 12/6 and the minimum 3/6, with a possibility that the pensioner, if in necessitous circumstances, might get a further supplement, not exceeding 2/6, from the local public assistance authority (who could obtain recoupment of 75 per cent. of their expenditure on such cases from State funds).
The new maximum weekly pension for a widow without dependent children is, under the Act of last year, 14/- in the urban areas, where formerly it was as low as 7/6, and could not exceed 11/6; in the rural area the same pension is 10/-, where formerly it was 8/-. For a widow with ten children the maximum weekly pension is now 58/-in the urban area, where formerly the rate of pension was as low as 43/6 and could not exceed 52/-; in the rural area the maximum pension for the same class of widow is now 54/- where it was formerly 32/6.
The means test for widows' pensions was modified by disregarding the first 10/- of a widow's weekly earnings and also any sums, up to a maximum weekly sum of 10/-, received by the widow as voluntary contributions.
The minimum qualifying age for a pension in the case of a widow who has no dependent children was, by the Act, reduced from 55 years to 48 years. This means that a widow who has her pension terminated when her last dependent child leaves school or attains the age of 16 years will now have her pension restored at the age of 48 years instead of having to wait until she becomes 55 years as formerly. The latest figures available show that 15,324 contributory pensions and 26,278 non-contributory pensions are in payment, that allowances are being paid in respect of 13,704 dependents of contributory pensioners and 10,867 dependents of persons receiving non-contributory pensions.
The effect of the Social Welfare Act, 1948, is not yet fully reflected in available statistics. At 31st March last the number of old age and blind pensions in payment was 153,507, and the weekly  cost was £129,508. These figures represent increases of 4,093 in the numbers of pensioners, and £35,286 (or 37.45 per cent.) in the rate of expenditure over those for the corresponding date last year. Deputies may be interested to note that at the 25th March, 1949, 132,014 pensioners were receiving 17/6 per week; 9,711 were receiving 15/- per week; 7,796 12/6 per week; 2,485 10/-per week; 890 7/6 per week; and 470 5/- per week. These figures include 5,516 persons receiving blind pensions. As regards widows' and orphans' pensions, the effect of the 1948 Act as at the 7th January last, when the Act came into operation, was to increase the number of non-contributory pensions in operation by 4,100 or 18.3 per cent. to 26,541 and the weekly value of those pensions by £6,622 or 62.3 per cent. to £17,244.
During the year the legislation dealing with Workmen's Compensation was amended by the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Act, 1948, which was brought into operation as from the 1st January, 1949. This enactment extended the scope of the legislation to non-manual workers with remuneration exceeding £350 but not exceeding £500 a year. It raised the maximum applicable to weekly payments of compensation for both total and partial incapacity from 37/6 to 50/-. Persons still in receipt of weekly payments of compensation under the Acts prior to the Act of 1934 became entitled under the Act to a supplementary allowance equal to two-thirds of their basic weekly payments, subject to a maximum total payment of 50/- a week in each case. The Act, in addition, empowered the Circuit Court, which is the authority for deciding all claims and questions under the legislation, to review weekly payments being made otherwise than under a court order or registered agreement so as to reflect fluctuations in wage rates; it had been held judicially that, in the absence of such order or agreement, the court could not exercise the power of review provided in the Act of 1934. The intention in this new provision is to enable the many recipients of voluntary payments, that is, payments being made otherwise than under a court order or  registered agreement, to secure an increase in their payments where the wage rates for the occupation have gone up to the required degree of more than 20 per cent. In view of the almost universal rise in wage rates in recent years, this is a most important provision from the worker's point of view. So far as I am aware, the Act is working smoothly and has proved of great benefit to injured workmen.
During the year I made reciprocal arrangements with the British Minister of National Insurance, and the Northern Ireland Minister of Labour and National Insurance, covering sickness, maternity and unemployment benefits and the special position of mariners.
The agreement with Great Britain provides for continuation of title to sickness benefit for a period of six months for persons who change their residence from one country to the other and for crediting the contributions paid under one scheme to secure title to benefit under the other.
The agreement with Northern Ireland is on similar lines, with the additional provision that, where a person is resident on one side of the Border and working on the other, contributions paid under the laws applicable to the place of employment may be credited for the purpose of benefit under the laws applying to the place of residence.
During the year I also made a reciprocal arrangement regarding unemployment benefit with the British Minister of National Insurance under which unemployment benefit may be received in either country in respect of certain contributions paid in the other country. This arrangement was brought into operation on the 6th April last. I may mention that this is the first time that a reciprocal arrangement on this subject has been made between the two countries.
Under the arrangement, a person who has been insurably employed in Great Britain for at least 26 weeks and  is unemployed here for a period of at least 12 days will have 26 of his British contributions transferred to the Irish Unemployment Fund, provided that the satisfies the contribution conditions for unemployment benefit in Great Britain and has not exhausted his right to unemployment benefit there. On every subsequent occasion on which a person returns here following payment of at least 26 contributions in Great Britain, a further transfer of contributions will be made on the same conditions.
Similarly when a person who has at least 26 unexhausted contributions in the Irish Unemployment Fund goes to Great Britain and is unable to obtain unemployment benefit there either because he does not satisfy the contribution conditions for unemployment benefit in Great Britain or because he has exhausted his right to unemployment benefit there, 26 of his unexhausted contributions in the Irish Unemployment Fund will, if he is unemployed for a period of at least 12 days, be transferred to Great Britain for payment of unemployment benefit there up to a maximum of 26 days. On every subsequent occasion on which a person returns to Great Britain following an interval of at least 28 days here a further transfer of contributions will be made on the same conditions, provided that he has received unemployment benefit in respect of all Irish contributions previously transferred to Great Britain.
For the purpose of satisfying the British condition for the receipt of unemployment benefit which requires contributions to have been paid or credited, a person who goes or returns to Great Britain and pays 26 contributions there will be given the necessary credits.
Increased benefit for a dependent wife or husband of a person in receipt of unemployment benefit in one country will be payable even though the wife or husband, as the case may be, is resident in the other country.
As regards Northern Ireland, I made a corresponding arrangement with the Minister of Labour and National Insurance on the 12th April last, which was brought into operation here on the  14th April. This arrangement was the first of its kind ever completed with Northern Ireland in respect of unemployment benefit and ends the position where persons resident on one side of the Border and employed on the other side have never been able when unemployed in their place of residence to obtain unemployment benefit for the unemployment insurance contributions paid by them in their place of employment. Persons who, while resident here, were employed in Northern Ireland and paid their contributions into the Northern Ireland Insurance Fund, and persons who, while resident in Northern Ireland, were employed here and paid their contributions into the Irish Unemployment Fund will, if they so choose, have the contributions paid by them since the 5th July, 1948, transferred from one fund to the other and thus made available for the payment of unemployment benefit in their place of residence.
The arrangement will also enable persons ordinarily resident here who were employed in Northern Ireland and while so employed were temporarily resident there for a period insufficient to fulfil the condition for the receipt of unemployment benefit which requires five years' residence in the United Kingdom to have the unemployment insurance contributions paid by them into the Northern Ireland Insurance Fund since the 5th July, 1948, transferred to the Irish Unemployment Fund and made available for the payment of unemployment benefit here if, on return home, they are unemployed and desire to have their contributions transferred.
The agreements concerning the social insurance of mariners provide that, in the case of a mariner employed on a ship trading between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain, the Irish Health and Pension Insurance Acts, Unemployment Insurance Acts and Workmen's Compensation Acts will apply to the mariner if he is ordinarily resident in Ireland, and the British or Northern Ireland Acts will apply to him if he is ordinarily resident in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
In the case of a foreign-going ship, however, the position will be that, if  the ship is owned in Ireland, the mariner will be insured under the Irish Acts and, if the ship is owned in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, he will be insured under the British or under the Northern Ireland Acts.
A radio officer, who is paid by some person other than the owner of the ship on which he is employed, will be treated as employed by that person and will be insured under the laws of the country in which that person has his principal place of business.
Certain mariners not previously insured against unemployment owing to the absence of reciprocal arrangements may now qualify for benefit either under the scheme in operation in Ireland or the schemes in operation in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The inter-Departmental Committee responsible for examining the trend of employment and unemployment has now completed its work for the years 1947 and 1948. The report, which will be published as soon as possible, is the fourteenth of a series of booklets on this subject covering the period 1926 to 1948.
In 1938 the estimated average number employed weekly was 416,000; 1939, 417,200; 1940, 406,000; 1941, 401,000; 1942, 399,100; 1943, 397,600; 1944, 405,800; 1945, 416,900; 1946, 442,600; 1947, 468,500; 1948, 485,900. As will be seen, the estimated average weekly number of persons employed in insurable occupations in 1948 exceeded the number for 1947 by 17,400. For the purpose of this comparison due allowance is made for the extension of the scope of insurance to non-manual workers whose income exceeds a rate of £250 a year but not £500 a year.
The Committee of Experts of the International Social Security Association met in Dublin in January, 1949, under the chairmanship of Senator Jauniaux (Belgium). The meeting was attended by representatives of Belgium, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, France, Denmark, Holland, Italy and Ireland. In addition, my Department  was represented by an observer. Each representative was asked to supply national monographs referring to the two items on the agenda, namely, the collection of social insurance contributions and the financing of social security. The International Labour Office participated in the preparation and organisation of the meeting.
It may be necessary that the integration of the National Health Insurance Society into the Department should take place at a date earlier than I contemplated in my speech on last year's Estimates. Deputies will understand that this integration is a complicated matter, involving varied points of organisation and procedure. Essentially the problem is ancillary to the main problem of bringing the new scheme into operation, so that no question of principle would arise if the integration took place beforehand. If that course were followed I can see that it would obviate many administrative difficulties at the inception of the new scheme. There is no need to go fully into this matter at the moment. If I do proceed on the lines I have indicated, new legislation would be necessary, and the opportunity will then be given of discussing details.
I referred last year to the difficulties arising out of the scattered location of the Department's offices in Dublin. Some progress has since been made towards easing these difficulties, but there is little prospect, in present conditions, of achieving in the immediate future the ideal of a central headquarters office in Dublin.
During the past year the staff of one of the headquarters branches, which had previously been spread over three different buildings, were brought under one roof with a considerable gain in efficiency. Some progress was also made in furtherance of the policy of housing in one building local staffs of the Department in certain provincial towns.
As a result of a survey undertaken in my Department early in 1948, it became apparent that the voluntary institutions working for the benefit of the blind were finding it impossible to meet the increased cost of maintainance, education and training of the blind on  their restricted income. That income consisted principally of annual contributions paid by local authorities in respect of blind persons admitted at their request, and grants from the Exchequer in respect of each blind inmate, pupil or worker in the institutions.
I appealed to the local authorities to assist the institutions by raising the amount of their contributions, and I am glad to say that, without hesitation, they agreed to increase the amount from £30 to £40 a year for each inmate for whom they were responsible. In addition, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, I was able to give substantial increases in the different State grants. These were £40 a year for each workshop employee and for each pupil in a school residence, instead of £20, and £20 a year for each blind worker in a hostel and each inmate in a home, instead of £5 and £13, respectively, which were previously payable.
Arising out of the survey already mentioned, it became apparent that there was a lack of uniformity in the methods adopted by the different institutions and associations dealing with the welfare of the blind. The functions of the existing organisations overlapped in certain respects, and it was considered advisable to establish a new body which would aim at the centralisation of their activities and the promotion of uniformity in matters relating to treatment, education and training, and which I could consult on relevant matters as the occasion arose.
With the consent of the Minister for Finance, I set up a consultative council on blind welfare under the chairmanship of Alderman Martin O'Sullivan, T.D. The council consists of representatives of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland; National League of the Blind of Ireland; St. Mary's Asylum for Female Blind; St. Joseph's Asylum for Male Blind; Richmond Institute for the Blind; the County and City of Cork Institution for the Industrious Blind and the Irish Association for the Blind. Representatives of the Archbishops of Dublin (Dr. McQuaid and Dr. Barton), together with representatives  of the Departments of Education, Health, Local Government and Social Welfare, were also appointed.
The council had its first meeting in October, 1948, and appointed from amongst its members four subcommittees to examine the problems relating to the prevention of blindness, education, industry and general purposes, respectively. Since its formation, the council has met on six occasions, while meetings of the subcommittees have been held as follows:—
|Prevention of Blindness||2|
An interim recommendation relating to outdoor apprentices and trainees has been submitted to me by the council and is being considered. I expect that the council will have many useful recommendations to make, and I am looking forward to receiving their first full report.
The scheme for the provision of meals of a simple nature in schools in county boroughs, urban districts and towns and also in certain Gaeltacht districts was continued during the year. In the Gaeltacht areas 2,220,497 school meals were provided in the year 1947-48 while 10,408,558 meals were provided in the other areas mentioned. I am satisfied that these meals are beneficial to the health of the children, and many testimonies to that effect have been received by my Department.
During the past year the variety and quality of the meals have been improved in some areas, and my Department has kept the position under constant review. I would like to see a more general improvement in the variety and quality of the food supplied, and I hope that the local authorities will do whatever they can towards that end.
The draft White Paper containing proposals for a new social insurance scheme is now before the Government. When the Government reaches its decision thereon, the paper will, after any necessary amendments are made, be immediately printed and published.
Dr. Ryan: The Minister, in giving a very full review of the activities of his Department for the year, did not give us perhaps as much information as we would like to have got on the last point he mentioned. He did not give us any indication of when he thought the Government would agree or would come to agreement on this scheme and when we may hope to see its publication, whether it would be a matter of weeks or months. Usually, from time to time, he has said “in two months' time,” but whether he is sticking to these two months or not I do not know. When this Department was set up, I think that the principal object in doing so was to co-ordinate the various activities in regard to social services. If it was only intended to carry on and do some of the things the Minister has done during the year, such as to increase certain individual social services, that could have been done without creating a new Department. The making of these reciprocal arrangements that were made could also have been done without going to the trouble and expense of setting up a new Department. The idea in setting it up was to co-ordinate all the social services, the object being to see that the same staff would deal with all social services, and that at the local centres, there would be a unification of the staffs there—one staff and one inspector to deal with the family concerned, whether it was the case of an old age pension, a widows' pension or sickness or unemployment benefit, and also that there would be one stamp which would entitle the contributor to the various benefits that come under social insurance.
How, as I say, we know very little as to what progress has been made. The Minister, in the last sentence or two, said that he has now sent the White Paper to the Government and was preparing legislation. There were anomaies that had to be dealt with when this Department was set up. I do not know whether the Minister has  dealt with them or not. If he has, well he at least took sufficient time to do it. There is, as we know, a different waiting period for the person who draws unemployment benefit and the person who draws sickness benefit. The benefits are somewhat different because, in some cases, the family is taken into account and in other cases it is not, and dependents are taken into account and in other cases they are not. Then the duration of the benefit varies. For instance, in the case of unemployment, no matter how many stamps a person may have, he can only go a certain distance, and then he stops. There are various anomalies of that kind which it was necessary to correct.
That was one of the objects in setting up this Department. Then, of course, there was the question of applying the best scheme the country could afford. The Minister will undoubtedly claim that he has done that, and that he has put a scheme that the country can afford to the Government, and the Government, we are told, are considering that—a scheme to include every social service and every social insurance and all those who need it and who can be administratively covered. Administration is a difficulty, we all admit, in some of these cases. It takes some consideration to decide what particular classes will be put into a social insurance scheme or be left in a social assistance scheme. We are rather at a disadvantage in discussing this by reason of the fact that the Minister was not able to give us some indication on some of these points because we are discussing, as it were, a Department that was set up two years ago that has not done the duty that it was set up to do in the meantime.
Now, the last time that we had a discussion on this Vote the Minister, when winding up the debate, gave a very rosy account of what he had done in the time he was there, and he deprecated very much what was done by Fianna Fáil. It is true, of course, that, in social welfare, whatever Minister is there, it is almost certain he will add on to what is already there, and so it is very easy for the Minister to say: “I gave so and so; you gave less.” We have to judge it more or less on the progress. It would probably take a  Party like the Fine Gael Party to lessen the social services as they did on one occasion, but they are not likely to do so again.
We may take it for granted that any Party that comes into power in this country is going to progress in the way of increasing and not decreasing these services. On that basis I would like to remind the Minister that on the very first day the Department started to function there was an Order made increasing all the social benefits on that day, which was the 1st of April, 1947. When the Minister came along later to increase the old age pensions, and so on, he had to delay their implementation for months and months because he had administrative difficulties. We did not appear to meet those difficulties when we were there.
We brought in a scheme on 1st April, 1947, the first day that the Department commenced to function, and we increased the benefits on that day, and from that day since, in the case of sickness and unemployment, both unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance, and widows' and orphans' pensions, by 50 per cent. In the case of disability, I think they were increased 100 per cent. As Deputies are aware, where a person is sick for a long period and where it looks like a permanent illness, it is called disability. The benefit was increased by 100 per cent. It was very poor before that and, in fact, it is not sufficient yet. In the case of old age pensions, they were increased by 5/- in urban areas and 2/6 in the rural areas and the local authorities the Minister mentioned were authorised to give another 2/6, if they thought it necessary, and they were recouped to the extent of 75 per cent. of the amount they gave out under this head.
The cost to the taxpayer of that Order making all these increases was £2,000,000. We should, in all fairness, keep these figures in mind when we are comparing, if we want to compare, what was done in the various years. That was done in 1947 and I want Deputies to remember that, roughly, £2,200,000 came out of taxation. In other words, the contributors to  national health insurance and unemployment insurance, although their benefits were raised by 50 per cent. their contributions were not raised; the contributions were left as they had been before that.
That was done early in April and then it was announced by me that I expected to be able to publish a White Paper on the comprehensive scheme 12 months from that date—that would be in April, 1948, about 14 months ago. I expected it might appear then. If the Minister is of the same mind now as he was on the last occasion when we discussed these matters here, he will probably say very little was done when I was in that Department. Well, it was a new Department and the object was to co-ordinate all these services and bring in a comprehensive scheme. The first thing we had to do was to get the figures on which to base our comprehensive scheme. Before we could do that we had to get an actuary. There were other officials needed, too, but we had to get an actuary to examine the number of people of various ages, the number of employed, the trend of employment and to produce the figures on which a scheme could be built.
That actuary produced the figures and it was before the Christmas of 1947 that these figures were available. It has been said by members of the present Government that one of the delays in this matter was because they had to scrap the scheme that was there when Mr. Norton came in. I do not know to what they are referring. The figures were there. The actuary had calculated that if we were to give 24/-or 25/— I do not know what figure he took; it does not matter much, and he probably took 20/-, 24/- or 25/—-and if we were to give that by way of sickness benefit, it would cost so much a week on every person. The same applied to unemployment. If you were to give 20/- or 25/- or 30/- a week for unemployment benefit, he calculated it would cost so much on every worker. The same applied to old age pensions at 65 or 70 and the same applied to widows' and orphans' pensions. All these figures were available.
That was not a scheme and there was nothing to be scrapped there. These  figures were ready for the Minister to work upon. So far as the scheme was concerned, I asked the officials working on it and producing these figures to start preparing parts of the White Paper. Every Deputy will realise that if they were preparing a White Paper on that subject there would be some introduction. There would be some reference to the history of social services in this country, how they started and what stage had been reached. There would be a review of social services or social welfare in other countries. These chapters were being prepared before I left the Department. They could be prepared by a person without referring to the figures that were available or knowing what was going to be done. The next chapter would deal with the proposals and the financing and that would finish the White Paper.
Where was the scheme that was scrapped? The Ministers said they had to scrap the scheme and start all over again. There was no necessity to scrap the actuary's figures. They are there to work upon. If they wanted further figures from the actuary they could ask for them, but there was nothing to be scrapped. One thing is certain, that the excuse that they had to scrap what was there and start all over again was just nonsense, just pure make-up, a poor excuse for not going on with the work. The figures were there and I remember it was calculated it would take so many pence to pay out sickness benefit at a certain level. If any Minister said: “I want that sickness benefit 2/6 or 5/- higher”, he could have been told what it would cost in two or three minutes, not two or three days. In fact, he could do the calculations himself in two or three minutes. In the same way, if he wanted to increase the figure for old age pensions or any other service, it could be done in a few minutes. That could be done for marriage grants, and death and maternity benefits. It could be done for the various services any Minister would like to add to if he could and if he thought the country could afford it. They could calculate the number of pence that would have to be contributed for every week worked by every person in insurable employment.
 The figures were there and they could easily build on them. There was no great difficulty in working on that basis. The only thing was that any Minister might have his own idea as to what the level of benefit should be. He would have at least an idea of the level of benefit he would like to aim at, and if the Minister who is now in control wanted to stick to the scheme put up by the Labour Party in 1947, he could have applied these figures to cover every point in that labour programme of 1947. His officials could have told him in a day what the total cost of the scheme would be, whether it would be £30,000,000, £40,000,000 or £45,000,000. That would have told him what number of people it was calculated would be working and what he could get from every worker by a levy of 1/-, 2/-, 3/- or 4/- per week. He could then make up his mind as to what contribution would be necessary from the Exchequer. As far as computing the figures is concerned there should be no delay. It is quite a simple matter and there should be no trouble about it. I admit that there are matters that would require consideration. For instance, one would have to consider what classes one would take in. It is easy to take in the classes under the contributory scheme because they are contributing now. The obligation there can be put upon the employer to see that the card is stamped. That system has been working quite satisfactorily. To go beyond that would require consideration, because taking in the classes that are self-employed is not quite so easy. It is not so easy to get the small farmer or the small tradesman to stamp his own or his son's card every week. The administration of the scheme in that particular respect might be both troublesome and costly. It is a matter for consideration whether or not such classes should be taken in.
There are other simple matters involved. We know what the marriage benefit will cost. It is easy to make up one's mind as to whether or not we can afford to include that with the other benefits. When I was in office I was very keen to have that included. If the Minister is of the same opinion  now as his Party was in 1947 he would also include that particular class. He should have no great difficulty in making up his mind. The cost of all these different schemes is available. Practically every time the Minister was asked about this White Paper since February, 1948, he replied that it would be ready in a couple of months' time. Apparently he did believe it could be done in a couple of months. I also believed that. It is done now at any rate and we are finished with the “couple of months' time”.
The Minister gave us a review of what was done during the year on the last occasion we discussed social welfare. He gave a very rosy account of what he had done for old age pensioners. I think everyone would agree that the Minister should do everything he possibly can for the old age pensioners. It is no use the Minister thinking that we are disappointed because these old people have got some increase. When I was Minister it never dawned upon my consciousness that the then Opposition would be disappointed if we did something for these old people. The more we can afford to give them the better it will be. I am surprised that the Minister should try to make so much capital out of what he has done for them. I want to draw his attention in this connection to the fact that in the year 1947, when I was Minister for Health, old age pensions were increased by 5/- in the urban areas and by 2/6 in the rural areas with liberty to the local authorities to grant a further 2/6 where they thought fit.
Dr. Ryan: Everyone who made application for that extra 2/6 got it in the City of Dublin without any inquiry. Old age pensioners in the urban area were brought up by 5/- per week and by half-a-crown in the rural areas. The Minister has brought those who got an increase of 5/- up by half-a-crown and those who got an increase of half-a-crown up by 5/-. Let us split the difference. He has done just about as much as we did for the old age pensioners. He did the same for the widows and orphans, but he left the other classes. We increased both the sickness and the unemployment benefit—insurance and assistance—and the Minister has left them where they were with regard to benefits. Not only has he done that, but he has worsened their position to a large extent by taking contributions from them. We did not take contributions from them when we increased the benefit in 1947.
I suppose the Minister is entitled to make the best case he can, even if he does not believe in it himself; he has made the case that they are better off by paying these increased contributions because they are thereby better entitled to their unemployment and sickness benefit. But, simultaneously with doing that, he gave increases to the old age pensioners and to the widows and orphans without asking for any contribution at all from them. He knows as well as any Deputy that once old age pensions reach 17/6 they will never again become less. The same applies to all other social insurance benefit. Once they reach a certain level they will never again go down, no matter what Government is in office.
The Minister did not increase the sickness and unemployment benefit, but he did increase the contributions. Because of that the increases that he gave to the old age pensioners and to the widows and orphans did not cost the Exchequer nearly so much as did the increase we gave in 1947, because the total cost of what the Minister did in 1948 is, roughly, about the same as what we gave in 1947. Our increases came through the Minister for Finance from taxation. Half the cost of what the Minister has done comes by way of contributions from those who are insured  against sickness or unemployment. That, of course, is divided between the employer and the employee. Any deficit that appeared was taken out of the widows' and orphans' pension fund.
Dr. Ryan: In the 1932 election part of the Fianna Fáil programme was the introduction of an Old Age Pensions Bill which had been defeated in this House by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government and its friends. That Bill was one of the first introduced in this House when we took office in 1932. It is a pity the Minister was not so quick to implement his promises.
Dr. Ryan: The Minister knows that in that period the amount contributed to social services from taxation went up from £4,000,000 to over £12,000,000 per year. When the Minister has increased his social services by £8,000,000 he can begin to talk. If he does what he promised to do in 1947 he will increase it, not by £8,000,000 but by £40,000,000. We are all glad to see the old age pensioners get an increase, but it is pitiable to see the Minister reduced to the position of bragging about what he has done for these old age pensioners in bringing them up to 17/6 a week when one compares that figure with what was promised to them in 1947.
In 1947 we were told that if the Labour Party came into office, which they did—the Minister has now the Department of Social Welfare in his hands—they would give the old age  pensioners at 65, 25/- a week, but if he did not retire at 65 and went on working, for every year he worked, he would later get an additional 2/- with his old age pension. The Minister, however, put a limit on that. He was afraid that a man might go on working until he was 90 and so he said that the total addition would not exceed 10/-. So if a man went on working until 70 and then took his pension he would have 35/- a week. If his wife had not reached the old age pension age she would get 20/-, and if they had two children, which of course they might, under 16 they would get 7/6 each. That is what the Minister thought in 1947 when he was in the irresponsible position of making proposals to the country and did not know what they might cost. Now he knows what they might cost. Now he knows how hard it is to get a few pounds out of the Minister for Finance, but he comes along here and proclaims to the House, to the country and to the world, that he has done more for the old age pensioners than Fianna Fáil had done in 16 years which, of course, is true because he added to what was done by Fianna Fáil, but yet all the pensioner now gets is 17/6.
Take again the man I have already spoken of, the man of 70 years of age whose wife is not getting the pension and who has two children. Under the Labour programme of 1947, he was going to get £3 10s. a week; he is actually getting 17/6. Is that not a measure of the difference between the Minister's promises when he was leader of the Labour Party in opposition and of his performances now that he is in charge of the Ministry? He promised a certain person in certain circumstances £3 10s. a week; that person now gets 17/6. I would not mind if he came to the House and said: “It is not too much but it is as much as we can afford”; he does not do that but tries to make out to the country that there was no Minister in this country ever like him because of what he had done for the old age pensioners. He boasts that he has done more than any other Minister had done or is ever likely to do for these pensioners. I suppose he is taking a chance on it that old age pensioners will forget what was  promised to them in 1947 and perhaps it is as well that they should forget.
Of course it is not every old age pensioner who would have a wife, who was not herself pensionable and two children under 16. It was an exceptional case but, although exceptional, it was the case that got into the labour programme because it was a rosy case. Imagine a man like that saying: “If the Labour Party get in I will get £3 10s. per week and I am only getting 15/- now from Fianna Fáil.” Why would he not vote for the Labour Party? That was the rosy case quoted by the Labour Party in 1947 when they issued their programme on social services.
Take the ordinary pensioner who is over 70 and his wife who is also eligible for a pension. They would get 35/-plus 25/- if the Labour Programme had been carried out. Now they are getting 35/- instead of £3 a week. However, we shall wait for the White Paper when I suppose these things will be put right. I am quite sure that the Minister, now that he is in the position of Minister for Social Welfare, will implement this programme, and carry it to its conclusion. But he should wait until then, when he will be able to say to the House, to his constituents and to the constituents of the other Labour Deputies that they have carried out their promises before he comes in here to boast to the old age pensioners of what he has done for them. He should not boast of what he has done already because it is not very much.
He told you already that to give these meagre increases to the old age pensioner he took contributions off the sick and unemployed, or at least off those who were insured against sickness and unemployment. I read with interest this programme issued by the Labour Party in 1947 and agreed with everything in it and I said to myself: “It is a grand programme if it can be financed.” No doubt the same idea occurred to whoever wrote it and he said: “There will be no extra cost because everybody will be working. There will be no unemployment, everybody will be better housed. There will be better health so that there will be no sickness. Of course there will be  no widows and it will not cost anything extra.” In fact, it was said in the Labour programme that there would be some small extra taxation—a very small increase in the income-tax of the very wealthy. They were not satisfied merely with mentioning the wealthy. They said the “very wealthy”. Here is the Minister who promised pounds a week of an increase for old age pensioners, no increases in cost except for the very wealthy and he comes in now with an increase of 2/6 for old age pensioners, and takes 6d. a week off the income-tax of the working man who has a few pounds a week and the same amount off the income-tax of the wealthy. How can he reconcile these things? At any rate he should not talk about what he has done for the old age pensioners until he presents his comprehensive scheme. Of course I do not want to remind the House that he robbed the widows' fund as well.
The Minister talked about the means test. The Minister on the last occasion on which he spoke said that when I was Minister I resisted a motion from these benches—the Fine Gael Party brought in the motion—to alter the means test in certain respects. He talks now about altering the means test. He has altered it to a certain extent. His alteration means that a person between certain margins of means can now get an addition to the old age pension that he could not get before but the person who could not get a full old age pension before cannot get it even now. The means test is the same as far as he is concerned. It is altered only to a very slight extent to give a few shillings to people who were ruled out before.
The Minister told us about the reciprocal arrangements. I am glad that they have been concluded but lest anybody might conclude—I think the Minister did not go out of his way to make the matter very lucid—from what the Minister said that he was entirely responsible for these reciprocal arrangements, I want to say that these reciprocal arrangements have been discussed with the British for a long time back. Some time in 1947 the British told us that they were agreeable in principle to it but that they had no power or authority to conclude such  an arrangement until they got legislative sanction. That legislative sanction was contained in the Act which dealt with the whole comprehensive scheme in England. That Act came into operation piecemeal on appointed days. When a certain part of that Act came into operation, they were in a position to conclude reciprocal arrangements. I am glad that the Minister was able to take the opportunity of concluding those agreements, because they will remove a certain amount of hardship suffered by the people who are passing back and forward between the two countries. Did the Minister say that he may have to integrate the national insurance scheme into the Department before the comprehensive scheme is brought in, or that he would leave it until the comprehensive scheme would come along? If it is before, I take it that legislation will be necessary and the matter can be discussed then.
Dr. Ryan: It would be better to have it in before going on with the comprehensive scheme because it would be easier to start off from the new point then. The Minister mentioned some commissions which had been sitting, but he did not tell us whether they had yet reported or when they are likely to report, one of them being the Emigration Commission.
Mr. Norton: I did not think I was permitted to do so because there is no money in this Estimate for that commission. It is not a commission on emigration alone, but on population, and the expenditure is borne on the Estimate of the Minister for Finance and not on mine.
Mr. Norton: If the Chair rules that I can discuss a matter which is not the  subject of an item in my Estimate, that is all right from my point of view and we can discuss it. There is no money provided in my Estimate for the commission. If, notwithstanding that, the Chair rules that we can discuss it, let us have a feast of discussion.
Mr. de Valera: Was it not agreed that where money was being voted in a Department of Finance Estimate in regard to certain commissions the commissions themselves would be dealt with on the appropriate Vote?
Mr. Lemass: I submit to the Chair that in the case of Estimates for other Ministers we had references to commissions; in the case of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, for instance, the Commission on Youth Unemployment. There is no ruling of the Chair that it is out of order to refer to a commission for which the Minister concerned is responsible.
Mr. Norton: I understand the ruling was that it was not possible to discuss on an Estimate expenditure which was not contained in the Estimate. There is no expenditure for this commission within the Estimate. I understand that was the ruling. The expenditure is borne in a Finance Department Estimate passed yesterday.
Mr. Norton: The whole Government cannot come here with a proposal. The commission was set up as a result of a Government direction. The expenditure is controlled by the Department of Finance. I do not want to burke discussion. I did not refer to it because there is no item of expenditure in this Estimate for it. If, however, the  Chair rules that it can be discussed, I am willing to tell the House what is the latest position so far as I know, but I will take the ruling from the Chair.
Mr. de Valera: The Government are responsible for practically all these things, directly or indirectly. We understood yesterday that the ruling of the Chair in connection with these commissions was that although the money was provided in a Finance Department Vote that was not the appropriate place to discuss a commission but on the Estimate of the Department which was responsible for the commission.
Mr. Coburn: I think the Minister has given a very fair résumé of the work which he and his Department have been doing in the past 12 months. I regret that Deputy Dr. Ryan should  have taken the Minister's statement as a challenge as to what had been accomplished by the last Government so far as the provision of social services is concerned. The Minister simply dealt in a very short and concise manner with the various benefits enjoyed by old age pensioners, blind pensioners, unemployed people, people suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases. In addition, the Minister referred to the number engaged in remunerative employment at the present time and I am sure Deputies were very pleased to hear there has been a remarkable increase in the numbers of those who have found employment in industrial occupations. That is a good omen so far as the future prosperity of the country is concerned.
With regard to the delay in the production of what is known as the White Paper dealing with the proposed comprehensive social welfare scheme, I take the view that matters of that kind which affect materially the economic position of this country should receive great attention and preparation before they are introduced. I never approved of any Government or any Minister bringing in measures at short notice which they think will be popular. It may be all right to introduce measures of that sort, but Ministers have to consider the other side of the question— the capacity of the people to provide these services and to finance them. Because of that, the Minister is right, no matter what may be said to the contrary, in taking his time and examining this very important question from every angle before introducing even the White Paper and making it available to the House. If the Minister is able to produce the White Paper in a few months' time and if, after examining that White Paper, the Executive come to the conclusion that the country will be able to afford it, well and good, but I do not think it is wise for members opposite to hurry the Minister, so far as the issuing of this White Paper is concerned.
I want to say also that I regret that comparisons should be made between what was accomplished by the late Government and what has been accomplished by the present Government. It  is time we got away from that line of criticism on Estimates. Rightly or wrongly, wisely or unwisely, the people have decided on a change of Government and this Government is in power through the votes of the people. Anything they do now is not being done by way of challenge in relation to what was done by the late Government. I was one of those who, when the former Government was in power, was always ready and willing to give them credit for whatever they did in the interests of the poorer sections, and it is undoubtedly true that many of the increases given to the old age pensioners and other sections of our people were given during the reign of the previous Government. If the present Government have further increased these benefits, they deserve credit, and, when the Minister read out these increases and made comparisons, he did not do so for the purpose of minimising what was already done by the former Government, nor did he do so in a challenging fashion.
Therefore, I do not think there was any necessity for Deputy Ryan to refer at all to the promises made by the Labour Party. As I said here before, every one of us makes promises during general elections and it would be better if all Deputies would forget about what happened at general elections. People like to make promises, at times and we all made promises, but the only promise I made and the only guarantee I gave was that man will earn his bread by the sweat of his brow and Acts of Parliament will never make this or any other country prosperous. Therefore, I can afford to talk about these Deputies having made promises. But let us forget that and let us think of the future. The co-operation of all of us will be necessary judging by what may happen, because the economic position of this and many another country may not be just as good in the years ahead as it has been in the past and is at present. Great care will be required on the part of those entrusted with the finances of the country and with the provision of benefits such as are envisaged in this social welfare scheme and those which are already in operation under existing schemes as enunciated  by the Minister. To keep these going will require all the co-operation the Government can get from all concerned. The Minister's statement on the whole will be welcomed by most Deputies and by the people in general.
Mr. Connolly: Having heard the very informative and interesting lecture on actuarial science given by Deputy Ryan, I hesitated before addressing the House in the expectation of further improving my education by listening to the deputy leader of the Opposition. However, he denies me that advantage. I want merely to take a few points from Deputy Ryan's address and deal with them, as they certainly can be dealt with, in very summary fashion. I regret that he has been called from the House because there are one or two points in his address which I should like to have clarified. However, I think I am right in quoting him as saying that his position in regard to the comprehensive social welfare scheme is that he had set in train all the necessary preliminary and preparatory work that was required. He dilated very much upon actuarial practice and told us how the actuaries took certain statistical information and deducted from that information that the expenditure would reach a certain level on a given scale. What I gathered from him was that all this had been set on foot 14 months before the Fianna Fáil Government went out of office and that most of the figures— I think he said, all the figures—were ready, which any succeeding Minister would require to consult by Christmas, 1947.
It appears to me then that he promised the Dáil that he would have this White Paper dealing with the comprehensive social welfare scheme by March, 1948, and, if that were so, and if he left in the Department, taking his statement at its face value, all this mass of statistical and actuarial information, he left himself two months to prepare the scheme. I heard the former Minister for Agriculture announcing very confidently to the House what a great man he was, but assuredly he sinks into absolute  insignificance in the matter of performance when we consider how much greater again was the former Minister for Social Welfare, if he could hope to produce even the draft, the salient points, the guiding principles, of a scheme in such a limited period as two months.
Mr. Connolly: Yes, but Deputy Dr. Ryan lectured us upon the fact that the preparation of the scheme was a big feat and the extent of the work that would have to be incurred in the preparation of statistical tables showing the whole cost to the Exchequer if the level of unemployment assistance is to be 20/-, 21/- or 22/-; if the old age pension rate is to be reduced in regard to age to 65 or lower and if the old age pension rate is to be increased from 12/- to 15/-, or 17/6 to £1. You have to make up your mind in regard to these matters and Deputy Dr. Ryan specifically said that these things have to be gone into in the preparation of the social welfare scheme and would have to be set out in relation to the economic conditions of the country as a whole.
I, if I regret anything, sincerely regret that Fianna Fáil went out of office before March, 1948, and did not give us the privilege of examining that  masterpiece—the Social Welfare White Paper.
Mr. Connolly: The British, as far as I remember, with all the apparatus at their disposal and their many experts trained in these matters over a very long period, were not able to decide on some of the salient features in regard to their scheme for a matter of several years. The question even of interDepartmental discussion on the various aspects of a scheme like that and the preparation of the relevant matters for discussion among the Departments would surely take more than one or two months.
Be that as it may I personally would very much like to see this social welfare comprehensive scheme White Paper, and I think that for the benefit of the House and the country as a whole it should be speeded up. In all sincerity, even though there is a certain amount of political manipulation about the White Paper not being produced, I think the Minister should take cognisance of the fact that we are all very anxious to see this White Paper and the sooner we see it the better. I myself am confident that the Minister is putting all the drive he can into it to bring this paper before the House. I believe that he personally is to be congratulated on the work he is doing in reference to social welfare as a whole and particularly in reference to this question of the social welfare scheme. I trust that the members of the House will accord him every support in seeing to it that the paper is advanced as quickly as possible for publication.
No one will accept that it will embrace or include, as Deputy Dr. Ryan said: “All the very rosy points included in the Labour programme of 1947”. This to my mind is another cheap type of argument and one that carries no conviction. That the ex-Minister should resurrect the election programme of a Party which promises certain things were it to accede to power and then confront the House with these things simply because a member of one of the Parliamentary Parties has succeeded him in his  Department in a particular set of circumstances, to which Deputy Dr. Ryan makes no reference and regards with no significance whatever, seems unfair. It is, therefore, necessary to bring things back to a sense of reality and to remove, I hope, from the discussion on this particularly important matter this trifling question of the election promises of the Parties composing the present Government. It is necessary to make it quite clear that the Labour Party programme of 1947 dealt with a social welfare scheme in reference to two main factors. One was that the Labour Party as such would be the dominant Party in the State which would have acceded to power. That was the basis of the programme, and economically it would be able to set its feet and policy so as to provide for these promises, and provide what is known as a policy of full employment —a policy which has been sneered at by members of the Opposition. Therefore, there is no logic whatsoever in any argument such as was presented to this House by Deputy Dr. Ryan when he submitted certain calculations in regard to old age pensions at 70 and what they might have expected to receive had the Labour Party come into power as a Party and with what they are now enjoying with the Labour Party merely as one of a minority group in a Coalition Government.
The Labour Party is not in power. The Minister for Social Welfare is not in power. He is merely sharing power with other Parties. These other Parties have their own ideologies, their own policies, their own political outlook. They are entitled to these. There are certain points in common with these Parties and, on account of the common ground they share, they share power but not one of those Parties can hope to implement fully its own individual programme. That basis of argument is so totally absurd that I think it requires little else to be said in dismissal of it.
This might be said, finally, in reference to that matter that, instead of the Opposition so often misrepresenting the situation in regard to social welfare, in regard to the limited programme which the Labour Party is able to carry out in the given situation,  instead of harping upon that in the fashion they have done, they might, if they really wanted to give weight to the affirmation of Deputy Dr. Ryan that there would be no reduction in future social services, his affirmation that Fianna Fáil would not reduce social services—or, that the country would not permit Fianna Fáil or any other Party acceding to power to reduce social services but, on the contrary expects that each succeeding Government will, to the utmost limit of the economic capacity of the country to bear, increase social services—instead of their carping criticism of the Minister for Social Welfare and the Party he represents, they should lend him support in so far as he is endeavouring to increase social services. They should make it quite clear to the House that they are behind the Minister for Social Welfare in any possible desires he and the other Parties in the House may have to increase social welfare to the utmost possibility of our economic production, having regard to these other matters which must necessarily be taken into account. In other words, Fianna Fáil, realising that the Labour Party is not in power and realising that, if they want to prove that there is reality behind their statement that they stand in favour of continued improvement in the social services, should give support to any of the minority groups in the Coalition in order to try to obtain the maximum effects and the maximum benefits possible in social welfare schemes. If they were doing that, the Opposition could be congratulated upon turning from a record of obstruction, a record of not in any way helping certain of the relatively progressive forces within the Coalition, to a constructive programme of helping the minority groups in the Coalition who are anxious to improve social welfare. By doing that, they would be doing a good turn for themselves and more particularly and more essentially for the country as a whole.
Mr. Lemass: I do not wish to refer at any length to this question of the delay in producing the Government's proposals for the co-ordination and extension of our social services, but there  are some matters arising in that connection to which I think I must refer.
The Department of Social Welfare was set up for the purpose of facilitating the production to the Dáil of proposals for the co-ordination and extension of these services. That is the reason for the Department's existence. It was established in a formal sense in April, 1947, and the progress which was made towards the achievement of that primary purpose of the Department during the ensuing months in that year made it possible for the then Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Dr. Ryan, to say here to-day that before he left the Department there was available the statistical data which was necessary to enable a decision to be taken on the details of a plan and that the drafting of the White Paper which was to contain these decisions had been commenced.
Mr. Lemass: The Minister knows that he is in a position in which his predecessor was not, that if he can bring his colleagues in the Government and the Deputies who support the Government behind his proposals, whatever they may be, for the inauguration of a comprehensive social welfare scheme, there will be no opposition in the Dáil to them except perhaps on details. He knows that, does he not? He knows more than that. He knows that if there is opposition in the Government, if the delay in producing the proposals is due to opposition in the Government, if there is any barrier to its enactment because of opposition in the Government, he can still get for  his proposals a majority in the Dáil, if he wants it.
Deputy Connolly says the Labour Party is not in power. That is not true. The Labour Party is in power. It is in this position that it can insist upon whatever proposals it considers practicable being adopted by the Government and it knows that, in so far as its proposals are sound in principle, proposals for the introduction of a comprehensive social service scheme, or for the pursuit of an economic policy that aims at full employment and the various things that Deputy Connolly referred to, there is a majority in this House for them. But, if that majority is not in the Government, then my answer to Deputy Connolly is that he put that Government there and is keeping it there.
Mr. Lemass: I do not know whether Deputy Connolly has joined the ranks of the Rip Van Winkles that have been referred to here in the course of the past week, but I doubt it. So far as the 1947 social welfare scheme of the Labour Party is concerned, we all know that it is impracticable. The Minister for Social Welfare knows now that it is impracticable and I think Deputy Connolly suspects it. However desirable it might be to have social welfare benefits of the dimensions indicated in that programme, the country just could not pay for them and no Minister for Finance would face the Dáil with the Bill required for the financing of these benefits out of the Exchequer. No Minister for Social Welfare would face the organised workers of the country with proposals for the collection of a weekly contribution large enough to bring in the amount of money required to finance those proposals. Let us regard these proposals as ideals to be aimed at when the economic development of this country has enormously raised its wealth. If it is agreed that we should have a comprehensive scheme of protection against social evils—all these social evils against which the State has endeavoured to make some provision in the past and others against which it has failed to make provision up  to the present—and that that comprehensive scheme should be so devised that it can be expanded without difficulty, as the Dáil decides that the resources of the country permit of expansion, then we stand upon the same plank. We have always taken our stand upon that plank. Is there any Party in this House that does not?
Why are we getting this suggestion of opposition to the principles to which Deputy Connolly referred? Where is it? There may be differences as to the practicability of applying particular ideas in present circumstances. The suggestion that these principles are meeting with opposition here can only convey to me that the opposition must be within the ranks of the Coalition group. If that is so, my answer to Deputy Connolly is that he has the power to end it. If there is answer to Deputy Connolly is that he has the power to end it. If there is opposition impeding progress in that direction it is solely because of the decision of his Party—a position for which the present Minister for Social Welfare must take responsibility. I had assumed that the Leader of the Labour Party accepted the Ministry of Social Welfare because he had received some assurance that in the fulfilment of the policy of his Party in that particular sphere he was going to get co-operation and help from the other Parties in the Coalition. If he had not got that assurance it is difficult to understand his still being there. If he did get that assurance it is difficult to understand the delay that has taken place in the matter. May I say to Deputy Connolly that, in so far as he referred to an economy policy which has for its aim the realisation of full employment and all the social benefits that follow from full employment, the largest Party in this House—the Party which, with any assistance from any other group in the House, could put such a policy into operation—stands as vehemently for it as he does.
I listened to the Minister's speech with some care. It was mainly a reiteration of statistical data and announcements which were made from time to time by the Government Information Bureau or published in the Irish Trade Journal. I was far more concerned about what was not in it.  I was particularly struck by the fact that he, having regard to his position and his Party affiliations, did not feel called upon to make some reference to the statements made in recent weeks by his colleagues, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Industry and Commerce and his Party colleague the Minister for Local Government concerning the attitude of the registered unemployed to offers of work. We have been told here that there is evidence that workers who are registered at the employment exchanges as unemployed—who are drawing unemployment assistance on the ground that they are available for, and genuinely seeking work—have proven either not to be available for work or not genuinely seeking it.
If the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Minister for Local Government has any information to support that contention it is information which they must have get from the Minister for Social Welfare who controls the employment exchanges and through whom all information gathered in the employment exchanges must reach the Government. Did the Minister for Social Welfare convey to his colleagues in the Government any reliable information to justify the statements made in the Dáil and outside by these three Ministers to whom I have referred? He must be aware and his associates on the benches opposite cannot be ignorant of the fact that these statements have caused an impression to be created in the country that the Government is aiming at the alteration of the unemployment assistance code specincally for the purpose of excluding from the right to receive unemployment assistance single, unemployed men. That impression does not arise entirely from the speeches recently made by members of the Government. We know that in 1947, a few months before the change of Government, the withdrawal of unemployment assistance from single men was advocated in this House by the present Minister for Finance, the present Minister for Agriculture and the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Their speeches are on record  in the Dáil Debates of 1947. The Minister for Agriculture stated that if ever he became a member of a Government he would urge upon that Government the introduction of that change. Do the Government contemplate any such change? I think that the Dáil is entitled to get an answer to that question in view of the fact that members of the Government advocated it before they became Ministers, and that Ministers have recently been making speeches which appear to be designed to prepare public opinion for it. A clear answer must be given. I should like the Minister for Social Welfare to go further than answer that question. Has he, as Minister for Social Welfare, got from the employment exchange managers information that supports the statements that were made by his Ministerial colleagues? Has he made any inquiry from these managers as to whether there was justification for these statements in which we were told that in particular districts a number of single workers without dependents were offered employment at attractive terms not far away from their place of residence — employment which was based upon the assumption that free transport would be available to the site from the residences of the workers —and refused it? Did the Minister check the accuracy of that assertion? Did he find it to be true and, if not, will he inform the Dáil what he did find when he directed that that inquiry should be made?
Nobody in this House, and I am sure that this applies to the members of the Labour Party as well as to members of any other Party, will advocate the payment of unemployment assistance or any other contribution out of public funds to people who are unemployed because they will not work. If there are men who are work-shy and for whom there is work available— work which it is reasonable to expect them to accept having regard to the nature of the work and its location in relation to their homes and their family circumstances—and who are refusing work because of a desire to continue to draw State assistance in idleness, there is nobody here who will advocate that they should get benefit. When the unemployment assistance  code was being established in 1933 we endeavoured to ensure that adequate machinery would operate to climinate abuses of that kind. Has the Minister found that that machinery is inadequate and, if he has, has he any proposals for strengthening it? Certainly, during my time as a Minister responsible for the administration of that scheme, I found that while there was occasional evidence of slack administration which necessitated official notice there was no solid body of evidence to support a view that a substantial number of people were, over a long period, receiving unemployment assistance who could have got work if they wanted it.
What is the attitude of the Minister for Social Welfare to the offer of employment to workers in camps considerable distances from their homes, offers of employment which mean that the workers will have to leave their own homes and go to reside in a camp? At the present time offers of employment of that character are being made generally throughout the various parts of the country and those who refuse them are being struck off the unemployment assistance list. In some cases, it has been asserted, the offers were made to men who, although single in the sense that they were not married, were nevertheless in such family circumstances that it would be a hardship on them and on their families if they were required to leave home. I know that these men have the right to appeal to the Court of Referees and the Court of Referees must under the Act take into account family circumstances when they are pleaded in justification for refusal of work. It seems that specific offers of employment were made in these areas as a deliberate policy in accordance with instructions issued to test the genuineness of the unemployment indicated by the local unemployment registers.
Mr. Lemass: I think that the Minister for Finance in his observations on that point completely misunderstood the nature of the unemployment problem which exists in the western  counties where there is no very large body of people normally working for wages and completely dependent on wages for a livelihood. I have often wondered how it is that recruitment of workers in these areas for employment in Scotland and harvesting in England apparently offers little difficulty while the offer of employment to these same workers as individuals even on better terms in turf camps or on camp construction jobs is rarely welcomed. It seems to me that the essential difference between the two types of employment is that in one case the worker goes to a job accompanied by a group of people from his own locality under a local foreman and that it is the group organisation that underlies the system of recruitment that makes that type of employment popular while in the other case the prospect offered to the worker is to go as an individual into the impersonal atmosphere of a labour camp among strangers. In these areas, for traditional and other reasons, there is a reluctance to take work of this kind. The obligation of the State to the worker is to provide work and the obligation to help him by means of unemployment assistance only begins to operate when it has been made quite clear beyond any doubt that work cannot be made available. But it has always been recognised that an offer of work must be related to the circumstances of the worker. We have recognised the right of a worker, say a printer, who is receiving unemployment insurance benefit to refuse work as a manual labourer. That principle could be extended to other occupations and it could even be extended too far, but I feel that in the particular case to which reference has been made here it is desirable that the attitude of the Government should be clarified. The Minister for Finance said that he is beginning to come to the conclusion that unemployment does not exist, either generally in the country or in these particular areas, to the extent suggested by the unemployment registers. He said that he believed that workers were induced to put their names on the unemployment registers for political reasons. The suggestion is, I take it, that these workers are  members of the Fianna Fáil organisation, that they are not unemployed and are not seeking work, but have nevertheless, in obedience to the orders of Fianna Fáil, registered as unemployed in order to give the political argument that unemployment has reached serious dimensions.
Does the Minister for Social Welfare believe that? Has the Minister for Social Welfare carried out any investigations in the local offices of his Department to find out whether that suggestion or allegation is true or not? Is he able to produce to the Dáil one tittle of evidence supporting the suggestion of his colleague, the Minister for Finance? If that is not so, if he believes, as I believe, that the unemployment register is, taken by and large, a fair indication of unemployment in this country, will he say it? Will he give the unemployed workers who have been slighted by the Minister for Finance the comfort of getting from him an assurance that one member of the Government realises that they are unemployed and that, whatever the Minister for Finance may say, they regard themselves as being in the position of requiring work, of being willing to take work if the offer is made and of needing work, wishing to get it, perhaps, in their own localities, but nevertheless not in the position that they are well-off people who are not unemployed and not needing work who merely put their names on the unemployment register for a political stunt? I am quite certain that the Minister for Social Welfare does not believe that, but he has by his silence appeared to concur with the view expressed by the Minister for Finance. Perhaps he will deal with that point when he is replying to this debate.
I said that the unemployment registers are, by and large, a reliable enough indication of the dimensions of the unemployment problem, but I have always held the view that it gives us a false picture of the nature of the unemployment problem and particularly to those who conceive the solution to unemployment as lying in the direction of State organised public works. I know that an investigation which was  carried out in employment exchanges by Deputy Smith when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and in charge of the Board of Works, an investigation which included interviewing every man upon the registers of some of these exchanges, seemed to suggest that not more than one-third or 40 per cent. of the registered unemployed were physically capable of performing the type of heavy manual labour which is usually associated with Government Works schemes. That being so, it is quite clear that we cannot hope to eliminate the problem of unemployment as revealed by the unemployment registers by any of the measures which have been discussed heretofore except in so far as the discussions related to the general economic development of the country.
I think, however, that it would help the Dáil, help the Government and help individual Deputies to clear their minds on the nature of the unemployment problem and to make useful suggestions concerning the unemployment problem if some systematic effort were made to analyse the unemployment registers and break them into their component parts, not on a geographical basis, but on a classification basis. We know that included on the registers are men over 65 years of age who are not likely to be offered employment by anybody, who are never likely to be offered employment by anyone, who are really beyond their labour and who are being carried upon employment assistance until they can qualify for the old age pension. Is it desirable that these men should appear at all upon our unemployment assistance register? Is it not misleading to the country, deterimental to the interests of the country and impeding the efforts of the Government and the Dáil to produce practical proposals in relation to unemployment? There are others on it who have never had work who because of some mental or physical peculiarity or family circumstances have in fact never been employed. One can get some indication of the number of such from the analysis that appears periodically in the Irish Trade Journal, but if we are to tackle this question of  unemployment, as revealed by the unemployment register the first task must be to get some more thorough and systematic analysis of the register. I have always had that in mind and I had hoped that when the comprehensive social welfare scheme came into operation it would be possible to combine with it that reorganisation of the unemployment register which would give us not merely a more reliable picture of the dimensions of our unemployment problem, but one which would facilitate its solution by indicating clearly the lines along which a solution must be sought.
The Minister has frequently spoken about the comprehensive scheme being based upon the insurance principle. I want it to be clearly understood that when he is referring to the insurance principle he means that the right to benefit residing in any individual will be a consequence of the payment of contributions in respect of that individual. There has been a good deal of talk here about the means test. The Minister contradicted me one day at Question Time when I asserted that there is not now and never has been a means test in relation to any social welfare scheme based upon that insurance principle. I suggest it is misleading to talk about abolishing the means test in a social welfare scheme based upon the insurance principle. Neither in relation to national health nor unemployment insurance, widows' pensions or any other form of benefit the right to which depended upon the payment of contributions has there ever been a means test. I have argued here that where the right to benefit was not based upon the payment of contributions in respect of the individual, where the Exchequer has given out of public funds secured by taxation to relieve distress arising from any cause, there is an obligation upon the Government to ensure that that money goes only for the purpose that the Dáil voted, and that is what a means test signifies. I say here that the Government has no right to take money from me or any other individual taxpayer except to relieve some indicated social evil. If there are people who are old and, because old, unable to maintain themselves, if there are people who are sick  and because sick in need, if people through widowhood or orphanhood or blindness or any other reason are in need of help from the community, then I am in favour of giving them that help. I am in favour of giving them help but I have to ask of the Government this—and every taxpayer is entitled to ask it—that the Government take precautions to ensure that the money collected from the public should go only to those who need it. There may be, and no doubt there are, objections to the particular form of means test in operation in relation to old age pensions or widows' pensions or other benefits, but whether it is the investigation of the need for help that is carried out along those or other lines, it is undesirable to create the idea that the Government is ready to take money from one citizen to give it to another except on the ground that that other person needs it and has submitted to some investigation as to his need, before receiving money from public resources.
There are exceptions to that rule. When I introduced here the children's allowances scheme which was financed entirely out of the Exchequer and where the right to the allowance was given to every family irrespective of means, we had considered whether we could adhere to that general principle I have laid down. We abolished the means test in relation to that scheme— first, because it facilitated the administration of the scheme and, secondly, because it was quite easy to carry out a minor amendment of the income-tax code which in fact meant that those who came into the income-tax paying class did not really benefit from it. But I was astonished to hear members of the Labour Party and of Clann na Poblachta criticise that scheme in public because they said it meant paying children's allowances to the families of millionaires. Those very same Deputies who criticised that scheme on that ground in the same speches often protested against the maintenance of the means test in relation to other social welfare services. Deputies should make up their minds one way or the other. They cannot criticise one scheme on the ground that there is no means test in it and  at the same time appear by their speeches to oppose the application of a means test generally. If the comprehensive scheme is to be on the insurance principle then the question of means test does not arise and never can arise. If it is going to go beyond that, if it is going to involve taking more money from the general body of workers and producers for the purpose of giving benefits to indicated individuals, then the Government has a right to do that only when they can demonstrate to the Dáil—and demonstrate as a result of investigation—that there is a social need there which the community as a whole must meet.
I would like the Minister to indicate if his reference to abolition of the means test is to be taken as referring only to a scheme based upon insurance principles or if in fact he is going further than that and is for administrative convenience or political popularity or any other reason contemplating departing from the principle upon which the social welfare services have heretofore been established.
I am not going to say and do not want to be taken as saying that the methods of administering the means test may not be improved. One of the difficulties of the past, one of the reasons which led to the establishment of the Department of Social Welfare was that there was divided responsibility in this matter. The Department of Industry and Commerce operated the unemployment assistance scheme but the Department of Finance had the obligation of deciding who was entitled to a certificate under that scheme. The Department of Local Government administered the old age pensions scheme but the Department of Finance had the right of applying the means test. The fact that the administration of these services was divided between three Departments led to many anomalies and slowed down enormously the task of removing them and of eliminating the features which were arousing public discontent. It was a realisation of that fact that created the post of Minister for Social Welfare. All these services and the administrative functions in connection with them are now  centred in one Department under one Minister, who clearly can progress with greater speed and efficiency towards the improvement of those services.
Apart from the data which the Minister gave us in his introduction, I would like him to indicate how far he has gone in that direction or how far he thinks it is possible to go, when he is concluding the debate on the Bill.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: In relation to the work of the Minister during the past year, it is fair to say that even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer. He has shown tremendous energy and grasp of detail in the administration of his Department and determination in the pursuit of a particular policy. That energy and grasp of detail was, in my opinion, singularly lacking from this Department while his predecessor was in office. This Minister is due a well-deserved tribute from this Dáil in relation to his activities in the last 12 months. I know that, when he was appointed, and particularly in the months that followed, both his work and his activity were welcomed by the people of this country.
We have had from Deputy Lemass an interesting contribution to this debate to-night. I think that when Deputy Lemass started speaking he spoke rather as a politician; when he finished speaking he spoke more like a sensible contributor to the deliberations of this House. I was interested to hear Deputy Lemass make references to what Deputy Connolly had said, to the Labour Party policy in relation to social insurance and to hear him inform Deputy Connolly and the House that if he or any Deputy of his Party was in any trouble concerning the solution of their social insurance aims they only had to apply to Fianna Fáil and they were assured at all times of a majority in this House. That sounds very well coming from Deputy Lemass, and I am quite certain that in his Party's newspaper that will be carried up and down this country. I am sure it is intended to give a ray of hope to those disappointed followers of Fianna Fáil who were slightly disillusioned concerning Deputy Lemass's Party's  policy in October, 1947, when a motion was introduced into this House in the names of the present Taoiseach and the present Minister for Defence asking for a very limited gesture from the last Administration towards easing the burden of the necessitous section of our community.
It was a motion that asked that the means test might be modified in three particular respects; in relation to gratuities paid to the pensioner by members of his family; in relation to benefits received other than in cash and in relation to casual moneys earned by the pensioner. It was a very modified claim made in October, 1947, and was prompted by reason of the fact that in that particular year the last Administration had introduced measures providing for substantial increases in the pay and allowances to various sections—the better-off sections —of the community. It was felt by the proposer and seconder of that motion that if the State was to recognise the rising cost of living and the hardships which rising prices brought to people on a fixed weekly income, no matter how large it might be, their first duty was to recognise those existing on the bare level of subsistence. That motion was therefore introduced. Deputy Dr. Ryan, the former Minister for Social Welfare, was appalled at the cost to the State of the suggestion contained in the motion. Deputy Dr. Ryan went to the greatest trouble to find out what it would cost the State to modify the means test. He discovered that to abolish the means test would cost £2,000,000. Of course, it was unthinkable that the last Administration would spend that particular sum for such a purpose.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: This Administration spent £2,500,000 extra on social services within 16 months of coming into office. Two million pounds was a figure which shocked Deputy Dr. Ryan. However, he went further to price what the fulfilment of the motion itself would cost. He found it would involve a sum between £500,000 and £750,000. Deputy Dr. Ryan, having been 16 years a member of the last  Government, looked forward with settled conviction to another 16 years. By reason of that confidence which the apparently healthy position of his Government gave him he declared: “No, the State cannot afford it, to abolish the means test as suggested.” He, as Minister, opposed that.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: The division took place and the motion was defeated by 55 votes to 34. It was interesting to see Deputy Lemass so confident in his assurance to the Labour Party, or any other Party that might be concerned, that in his own great heart there would always be the support forthcoming. Deputy Lemass, of course, voted against that little gesture to the old age pensioners and widows and orphans in this country. Deputy Lemass and any other Deputy of Fianna Fáil are quite entitled to make any speech they like in this House. It is only reasonable to assume that, when the will of the people of this country transferred them from this side of the House to the far side, many of their opinions changed and things which they considered as sinful perhaps 12 months ago became their aim and ambition as Opposition Deputies. I should like to say this to Deputy Lemass and Fianna Fáil. The country had no faith whatsoever in their assurances. The ordinary people of this country recognised that Fianna Fáil, in their social outlook, was a Party which went stale in office. It completely outlived its usefulness and for that reason the people of the country, in their wisdom, got rid of Fianna Fáil. The new Administration which has succeeded them, in relation to this Department and this Estimate, have very definite ideas concerning social service. We recognise that we cannot aim at a social insurance scheme which other wealthier and more industrial countries can afford. We recognise the limitations which the resources of this country must place upon many of our proposals. Nevertheless, each Party supporting this inter-Party Government is determined that to the utmost of the resources of this State we will fashion and put into operation a social insurance  scheme which will make the lot of those who, by reason of age or sickness are unable to work in this country, better. I think that is a clear aim.
I welcome the conversion of Fianna Fáil towards that policy. I welcome the conversion of Deputy Dr. Ryan and Deputy Lemass and the other members of that Government who not so very long ago were putting a clamp down on the wages of the workers of this country and were having standstill Orders and so forth.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: I think that in this Estimate, at least, we have got the assurance from Fianna Fáil that the very praiseworthy efforts of this Government and the Minister whose Estimate we are discussing will have their support. I have no doubt that when the social insurance programme is announced and the White Paper is issued, Deputy Dr. Ryan, being wise after the event, will refer to that White Paper and say: “We could have done far better.” I have no doubt that that particular line will be followed by the Opposition.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: I know full well the game they are going to play. There is no difficulty in foretelling the speeches that will be made by the Opposition. It is, as I say, a welcome fact that there is the assurance to the Minister of support of his policy and his aim. The fact that the White Paper for the scheme will shortly be issued does show that in the 16 or 18 months the Minister has been in office he has not been idle. While he has during that space of time given an interim measure of relief to the widows and orphans and to disabled workmen he has not, as perhaps his predecessor might have done, accepted that interim relief as a stand-still. He has gone on to work towards what is the policy of the Government in relation to his Department. I trust that the latter portion of Deputy Lemass's  speech will be followed by other members of his Party.
I hope that, by recognising the difficulties which are inherent in a scheme of social insurance, they will assist the Government and the Minister in hammering out the practical application of that scheme. Speaking from my own point of view as an inexperienced Deputy, I know it is very easy to announce schemes but that perhaps it is not so easy to issue White Papers on any particular subject. The difficulty arises in the practical application of praiseworthy notions and ideals. After the Government's intentions and aims have been announed, I hope that we will get from the Opposition co-operation in the implementing of these ideals and in carrying them into effect.
It is clear, I think, that any social insurance scheme, particularly a contributory one, to be successful must have the support and co-operation of the people whom it is designed to help and assist. If there be any section of the people which, for one reason or another, does not believe in the benefits which the scheme might confer, then it is possible that the success of the scheme might be endangered. If Deputy Lemass's speech contains the assurance that the Opposition will support this scheme, then I think this debate has been useful. If, on the other hand, he has been merely saying one thing here, and then perhaps going back to a newspaper office, thinking of other things and saying something else in two or three months' time, we shall find that Fianna Fáil is just the same.
Mr. Lynch: Having listened to the last speaker one can hardly be accused of treating his remarks with a certain amount of suspicion when he refers to the conversion of Fianna Fáil to the idea of social services. Since this Government came into power we have heard a lot of prating and blowing of trumpets about social services, but do they forget that it was the Fianna Fáil Government that established the Department of Social Welfare, and that any benefits that are accruing, and that have accrued to the community are the direct result of the initiative taken by the Fianna Fáil Government? When Deputy O'Higgins  speaks of conversion, I wonder if he has in mind statements that were made by some of his own Party leaders, in fact more than Party leaders—some people from whom he takes his line in politics generally? In Volume 105 of the Dáil Debates, at column 459, the present Minister for Defence, Deputy Dr. O'Higgins, speaking on social services said:—
Mr. Lynch: “In any case,” he continued, “as has been said they are nothing more than a row of medicine bottles showing disease in the household.” That statement, in itself, was surprising enough, but when we come to the election address which the Taoiseach issued before he was elected to power we read:—
“A comprehensive social welfare plan should be instituted without delay. The existing means test for the blind, for the old and the afflicted was irritating to administer and a barrier to thrift and must be abolished. State expenditure can be reduced without cutting down social services.”
Of course, the statement about recommending the medicine bottles was issued long before the Taoiseach ever  thought that he would get into power. That statement was no more than a catch-voting one. I am not finished with the medicine bottles yet.
“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 for Finance cannot be so naive as to think that everyone can earn for himself. Social services are necessary in every country, and when Fianna Fáil set about establishing the Department of Social Welfare they realised that, on the one hand, they had to provide the means of employment, which they did very effectively, and hand in hand with that social services, but nevertheless, Deputy McGilligan said in Volume 104, at column 2278:—
Mr. Norton: I thought that we were only permitted to discuss administration on the Estimate? It now seems that we are going to get an historical review of what Ministers past and present have said. I have nothing to do with that.
Mr. Lynch: I was not here when Deputy O'Higgins made his speech but, if I am not mistaken, he referred to a statement made by the Taoiseach here when there was a motion on the means test in 1947. The statements I am quoting are much more recent than that. I can well understand the annoyance of the Deputies on the Government Benches——
Mr. Lynch: I shall make my own case. It is a well-known fact that before the last general election the Labour Party went all out in their promise to the people that they would abolish the means test. The Minister for Social Welfare, when he was introducing his Estimate last year said:—
“It is proper that in order to secure the best value from our present  limited financial resources, money should not be spent in directions where the need is not too great. If we are to go beyond a certain limit of need, the taxpayers' money will be distributed in quarters where it is not wanted.”
That is a far cry from the complete abolition of the means test. The Fianna Fáil Government had a certain means test which has, admittedly, been modified to a very limited extent. When the Minister came into office he realised that a means test was essential. That is obvious from the way in which he expressed himself on this matter last year.
We have been told that there has been an enormous increase in the amount of money made available for social services by the inter-Party Government. If one looks at the sayings made in the present Estimate, as compared with the Estimate for 1948-49, one will see that that increase is not quite so enormous as one is led to believe. Under the old age pensions special benefits there is a saving of £164,000. Under the abolition of the national health allowances, there is a saving of £358,000. Unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance have been reduced by £121,000. The raid on the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Fund has resulted in a saving of £450,000. Other miscellaneous savings on allowances in cash and in kind amount to £145,000. That represents a total sum of £1,250,000 approximately. If one takes into consideration the increased contributions paid by the workers and employers, that sum reaches a figure of £2,250,000. Naturally, one is inclined to ask where are the wonderful benefits that are supposed to have been bestowed upon the community as a result of the enormous advances made in social services.
Last March I put a question to the Minister with regard to the payment of national health benefit. I pointed out to him that there were complaints about the delay in receiving benefits. He asked me, if I had any specific instances, to bring them to his attention. I pointed out that one of the reasons for the delay was because of the duplication of forms served upon  the applicant. One form is Form 5 and the other is Form 27. In each of these the claimant is asked to answer certain questions designed to indicate whether the claimant is entitled to workmen's compensation or to ordinary common law compensation as a result of his injury or disablement. I said then that there was unnecessary duplication. I still say that there is unnecessary duplication in making these claims. I ask the Minister to consider the possibility of simplifying these forms in order to facilitate the payment of benefit. Shortly after I raised that question, the Cork Workers' Council stated publicly that there were no grounds for the suggestions contained in my question and they endorsed the Minister's statement to the effect that the delay was a matter of two or three days. In the specific case in which I was interested, the man fell ill towards the end of January this year. Between form filling and visits from inspectors, he was not paid his benefit until the middle of March. He had to wait for practically two months. If the Minister requires more specific information, I shall furnish him with it.
Mr. Lynch: I have not permission to give the information at the moment, but I shall get it and furnish it to the Minister as soon as possible. Another matter to which I would like to refer is the payment of benefit to married women prior to confinement. As a general rule these women have to work either because their husbands are disabled or dead, or are unable for some reason to obtain employment. If it is a normal maternity case, the doctor will not certify that they are unfit for work until they are practically within four weeks of confinement. I think it is a very serious charge against our Administration that we should treat these women in that manner. The period during which they are entitled to benefit should be doubled, if not trebled. There appears to be rather invidious discrimination as between married  mothers and unmarried mothers, since the latter are able to claim benefit for a considerable period before confinement by reason of various devices. I think the Minister should examine this matter very carefully and remedy the situation to some extent.
Another matter to which I would like to refer is the question of contributions and payments of benefit under the Insurance (Intermittent Employment) Act, 1942, which is generally known as the “Wet Time Act”. I understand that the rates of benefit are now the same as they were when the Act was first introduced despite the fact that there has been a general increase in the wages payable. I understand that the Department is responsible only for the cost of administration of this Act and that when the Act was first introduced there was an actuarial error.
When the Act was first introduced there was an actuarial error in the amount expected to be got in in contributions as against the amount to be paid out in benefit, with the result that now there is a big surplus in the funds provided under this particular Act. I would like the Minister to enlighten me on that. If that is the case, I suggest that the rate of benefit should be increased to the skilled worker and the non-skilled worker and also, if possible, that the scope of the Act should be extended to include workers who are not engaged in the building trade. There are a number of Acts now passing through the House by which the Government hope to employ men on drainage and other such works and these men will likewise be affected. I suggest that the time is opportune for extending the scope of the Wet Time Act of 1942. I do not think I am out of order in advocating this course, because I believe the Minister can do the things I ask by way of Order and not by legislation. I think the workers, with a Labour Minister in power, expected more from him under this particular legislation.
Mr. Lynch: I am making my statement on the information supplied to me. I was also approached with reference to the same Act by unskilled workers. I think it is a matter really for their unions, but they maintain that the unskilled worker is affected more by the vagaries of the weather than the skilled men, because the skilled men can carry on their trade indoors, whereas the unskilled men, in nine cases out of ten, are forced to give up their employment temporarily. They suggest that if they were brought up to the same scale of contributions and benefit as the skilled worker they would be prepared to pay whatever increase in contributions is required. I would say that is a matter primarily for the unions concerned.
Somebody suggested that the unfortunate employer will have to suffer also, but I think the employer, having been able to afford an increased wage, should be able to afford a slightly increased contribution. I believe that would be very small.
There is one objection to extending the scope of this Act. If there is a surplus in the fund the people who made contributions will object to other people getting the benefit of that surplus, but, nevertheless, some arrangement should be made whereby people working in schemes other than building schemes proper, to which the Act is confined, would be prepared to pay whatever contributions are necessary.
Mr. Rooney: One matter mentioned by Deputy Lynch was that the Department of Social Welfare was established by the Minister's predecessor. It is one thing to establish a Department, but it is another to improve social welfare and a statement that the Department was founded by the Minister's predecessor does not justify the argument that it was intended to give better benefits than the present Minister proposes to give under that particular Department. The previous Government were a long time in office and it is a strange thing that it was only at that late stage they decided to establish such a Department. Surely the necessity for such a Department existed long before that. There were unemployed people when Fianna Fáil  came into office and there were still more unemployed when they went out of office.
Mr. Rooney: I was surprised by the piece of shameful hypocrisy I heard from Deputy Lemass, speaking on this Estimate. He appears to be adopting the unemployed as the political child of his Party, but that political child was sadly neglected during the years when Fianna Fáil were in office. They came into office boasting that they would solve the problem, but when they went out of office it was worse.
Mr. Rooney: It will be agreed that there were more people engaged in industry, but the fact is that they were regimented and registered and the Government were able to procure statistics which enabled them to say there were more employed when they were in office than when they came into office. Deputy Lemass wants to know whether there is any change of attitude towards the unemployed in comparison with the attitude of his own Government. I think the statement of the Minister for Social Welfare here to-night speaks for itself. He said that so far as this Government is concerned the attitude towards the unemployed is sympathetic, practical and helpful and it is not one of neglect, such as existed in the past.
Fianna Fáil long ago ceased to be a workers' Party. It was annoying to hear Deputy Lemass expressing so much sympathy with the unemployed, just as if the present Government was not very much concerned about the problems facing these people and the necessity for giving them employment. The unemployment figure in 1940 was 118,000 and at the present time it is 59,000, just half that number.
Mr. Rooney: In 1940 plenty of people could obtain work in Britain. They were emigrating in vast numbers to Britain, but still that number of 118,000  was on the register here in 1940. It is a pity Deputy Lemass was not more sympathetic towards that group at that time. Now, when he is not in a position to be helpful, he is pretending that he is sympathetic. The unemployment figure is becoming lower each week and I am satisfied that the present Government will not be content until every able man is put into employment. The attitude of this Government is certainly better than the attitude of the Fianna Fáil Government. One example is that in the past year the cash allowance was included in the statutory basic calculation for the unemployment assistance allowance.
Mr. Rooney: One more example of the efforts of Fianna Fáil to adopt the unemployed as their political child is afforded by a demonstration some time ago in Dublin. There is no doubt that demonstration was inspired by Fianna Fáil and it is probable that those who participated were paid by Fianna Fáil to act accordingly and to create ill-feeling and an agitation amongst the unemployed people of Dublin and their brethren in the country.
Mr. Rooney: It is undesirable that a demonstration of this nature should be organised by Fianna Fáil because the ordinary man in the street may not understand what is behind this demonstration and what prompted it, that, in fact, it was a political organisation  focussing attention on the unemployed.
Mr. Rooney: In the course of his speech, Deputy Lemass said that the unemployed were slighted by the offer of work by this Government. He considered it was a slight for this Government to offer employment to these men. I do not think the Government can do any more than to offer employment and to create it. I do not think it desirable that the Government should force them to accept work if they are not willing to accept it. They should be left to make their own decision but they must decide whether they will take the work offered or not. By signing up at the Labour Exchange, they indicate that they are ready and willing to work and that, in the meantime, they are prepared to accept unemployment assistance. It was mentioned that the distance from their homes to the place where the work is available, may affect the question as to whether a man is in a  position to accept the work. Nobody will dispute that but, if the facilities are reasonable, I think it is only fair to suggest that if employment is not accepted when it is offered, there must be some reason for it. It is possible that the person concerned might not be physically suited for the nature of the work made available to him. He may be a skilled man and, if offered work of a particular type, he may not be suited for that work but if suitable employment is offered and the facilities are resonable it is only right to expect that the man should accept the work offered to him.
I wonder is it possible that certain exchange managers appointed by the previous Government are not co-operating with this Government in their efforts to make employment available to those who are agitating to get it? I know that these managers are expected to submit lists in accordance with merit. An examination should be made of the lists submitted to ascertain whether there is any kind of discrimination because if there is, we cannot expect to reduce the figures for unemployment. If the names of persons ready to accept work are not put up——
Mr. Rooney: All I want to say is that the matter should be examined to find out whether the lists submitted indicate an exact rotation of the people who are available for work. There is a possibility that preference might be given to certain persons in the submission of these names. I think it is desirable to ensure that there will be no kind of discrimination and that each person in turn will get an opportunity of employment. It was discreditable that workers came from Malta to this country to take up work which I feel there are many people in this country able to perform.
Mr. Rooney: It is not a change. It is a pity that all Deputies would not indicate the reasons why persons cannot accept the employment that they are offered. The Deputy has just expressed an opinion as to why the Maltese workers did not approve of the work which they took up in his particular area. I am quite sure that will enable the Minister to examine the matter of which he complains.
I notice that some of the previous speakers expressed disappointment because the means test had not been abolished but, at least, a very progressive step has already been taken. Old age pensioners who were receiving 12/6 a week are now receiving 17/6. The means test is not as rigid as it was and there is nobody getting less than 5/- a week, whereas under the Fianna Fáil Government they were receiving 1/- and 1/6 a week. That was a disgracefully low figure. It was an insult to offer it to any old age pensioner, especially when we consider the strict means test carried out at that time. The Fianna Fáil Government could not afford £500,000 to modify the means test, let alone to grant an increase. We have actually  modified the means test and increased old age pensions.
Mr. Rooney: By £2,500,000. The Fianna Fáil Government could not even risk £500,000 for these deserving people. I should like to mention that there seems to be a long delay between the time a widow applies for a pension and the date on which she gets it. Possibly the investigating machinery has not been brought right up to date. I would plead with the Minister to examine the possibility of making the pension available to widows sooner than is the case at present. The Fine Gael Party have been criticised for enabling the Government, through the Minister for Social Welfare, to increase benefits. It was suggested that our outlook is anti-social and that this was a welcome conversion on our part.
Mr. Rooney: I know Deputy Killilea has the 9/- per week pension at the back of his mind. But Deputy Killilea's Government kept the old age pensioners nailed down to 10/- per week when tea was 30/- a lb., sugar 2/6 a lb. and the butter ration was two ozs. a week.
Mr. Rooney: I welcome the Minister's intention to publish this White Paper. I know that when that White Paper is published opposition Deputies will express dissatisfaction with it. I believe that the persons who will benefit by the proposals contained therein will realise that, had it not been for the present Minister for Social Welfare, these benefits would never have been made available. If the scheme in hands at that time were gone ahead with, the people of this country could never have financed the benefits which will accrue from this White Paper. My colleague, Deputy Burke, stated on one occasion in the Dáil that on his way from Balbriggan to Dublin 100 unemployed persons stopped him and asked him for work. I came in that road on the same day only five minutes behind Deputy Burke and I saw none of these unemployed persons. That is just an example of the talk indulged in by the Fianna Fáil Party in regard to the unemployed.
Mr. Rooney: The unemployed know that they have a sympathetic Government ready to make work available for them at the earliest opportunity and it is up to the Opposition to co-operate with the efforts of the Government in trying to make employment available for them.
Mr. McGrath: I suppose the people over there will say that it was the Fianna Fáil Party who got the employment bureau for ex-Servicemen to publish an advertisement last week in the newspapers asking employers to  give work to ex-Servicemen. That advertisement gave in alphabetical order the different categories of men who were idle—labourers, tradesmen and so on. From A to Z it gave the class of men available for employment and asked employers to employ them. That is at least proof that there are ex-Servicemen of every class idle. I suppose Deputy Rooney does not read the papers and did not see that advertisement. I should like to know what the Minister is going to do for all these ex-Servicemen who are idle. Has he work to offer them? They served the country during the emergency.
Mr. Norton: May I call attention to one point? The Deputy asks what steps I am taking to provide work. My function is to administer schemes in respect of people who do not obtain work and I have no function as Minister in the matter of providing work.
Mr. McGrath: I wonder what steps the Minister will take to reduce the amount that he has to pay in unemployment benefits. The best way is to get someone to provide work for these men. I know of no class in the country who had to pay increased contributions while they were working except the workingmen. They had to pay increased unemployment and national health insurance contributions while they were working and got absolutely no increase in their benefits when sick or idle. By way of a change, they gave them 22/6 instead of £1 2s. 6d. The Minister is aware that practically every other class in the country got an increase of 11/- a week on account of the increased cost of living, but those people got absolutely no increase at all.
At a meeting of the South Cork Board of Assistance last Monday and a previous one a fortnight before we had widows with three children who were receiving contributory pensions of 31/6 a week applying for home assistance. The Minister told Deputy Corry and myself here when we were discussing food vouchers that the board of  assistance should shoulder their responsibilities. But that is not what the Minister said in his election address as published in the Irish Independent of 27th January, 1948:—
“For those who may be deprived of regular incomes owing to illness or old age, or because of temporary unemployment, or through the death of a bread-winner, cash benefits must be provided on an adequate scale without recourse to the poor law or the test of pauperism prevalent today.”
Yet he told Deputy Corry and myself that the board of assistance should shoulder their responsibility. I am asking the Minister now to shoulder his responsibility. I think that no widow with three children, in the City of Cork at any rate, could pay rent and feed and clothe herself and her family on 31/6 a week. I think the Minister must have got a letter from the South Cork Board of Assistance telling him that his contribution was inadequate.
For the benefit of some people over there who are talking about the conversion of Fianna Fáil in regard to social services I will give a few of the social services introduced by Fianna Fáil and show the way they increased the social services. When Fianna Fáil came into power, the total sum for social services was £4,708,378. When Fianna Fáil were going out, it was £13,881,735. Deputy Rooney and Deputy O'Higgins and other Deputies over there can swallow that.
Mr. McGrath: When Fianna Fáil came into power, the provision for old-age and blind pensions was £2,693,105, and, when they went out, it was £5,149,750. When they came into power, widows' and orphans' pensions did not exist, but when they went out they were paying £1,310,500. National health insurance was £788,926 when they came in and £1,416,300 when they went out. Unemployment insurance amounted to £580,108 when they came in. There was no unemployment assistance at that time.
Mr. McGrath: When they went out, it was £2,524,985. There was no such thing as a scheme of children's allowances under the previous Government, but Fianna Fáil were paying £2,197,700 when they went out. Home assistance amounted to £585,239 when they came into power and £838,000 when they went out. There were no such schemes as the footwear and fuel schemes when they came in, but, when they went out, there was provision in respect of these schemes amounting to £259,000. They increased blind welfare from £29,771 to £71,000 and school meals from £29,229 to £114,000.
Mr. McGrath: Holidays with pay, and then the people opposite will tell us that they are being converted to social services—the unfortunate Deputy Rooney, Deputy O'Higgins and the rest of them. I should like to know from the Minister what has become of the Commission on Emigration. I put down a question some months ago and there was a bit of a spurt for a while.
An Ceann Comhairle: There was, and I want to make this comment. I have here before me a list of commissions and special inquiries and I find that the Irish Manuscripts Commission  was set up by the Government; the Commission on the Civil Service by the Minister for Finance, who answered for it; the Commission on Youth Unemployment by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who answered for it; the Commission on Place Names by Finance; and the Commission on Emigration and Population problems by the Minister for Social Welfare on 5th April. I prevented Deputy Allen from raising it on the Finance Vote and told him to raise it on this Vote. I do not see that very much can be raised, as there is no report, but I suppose the Minister will be willing to say what progress has been made. The mistake was mine.
Mr. Norton: I am willing to give the House any and every possible scrap of information in my possession. I was merely asking for a ruling as to whether it was proper to raise it on my Estimate in view of the fact that there is no item of expenditure in the Estimate for it.
Mr. Norton: I said then, as I say now, that I am perfectly willing to have a discussion if anybody wishes to have a discussion, but I have not got much information on the matter. Whatever information I have, however, I shall be only too happy to make available to the Dáil.
Mr. McGrath: I am very anxious about this commission and I put down a question several months ago in regard to it, because 40,000 people emigrated in 1948. That may help to settle the unemployment problem, but it is not the way in which I should like to settle it.
Mr. McGrath: I will give you some idea of it now. I want to talk about the Court of Referees and the way they act, and I will give an instance of what I maintain was an attempt to cut down wages. A man in Cork City who was drawing unemployment assistance was sent to work in a rural area on the fringe of Cork City for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. He was offered £3 3s. per week as a temporary labourer, while the other labourers working side by side with him were getting £5 5s. per week. He refused the work, and he was told that that was what was given to temporary labourers, although permanent labourers were getting £2 2s. per week more for doing the same work. He went back and was knocked off the dole. If that is not compelling a man by force of circumstances to accept low wages I do not know what is. I ask the Minister very seriously to consider it because I do not think any Labour Minister could stand over such an action.
Mr. Norton: The Court of Referees is a body to which claims for unemployment benefit which have been disallowed are referred. The court is composed of representatives of the employers and representatives of the workers, and, in the appointment of the workers' representatives, the local trade unions and workers' councils are consulted. They put representatives on the court and the employers' organisations do the same. There is an independent chairman. Once a case goes to the court, the Minister has no function whatever. The people who administer the court in Cork are all people from Cork, all citizens of Cork,  who know the conditions in Cork. I have no function in respect of the court at all.
Mr. Norton: The Court of Referees is constituted of representatives of workers and employers. The employers' organisations make the nominations on the one hand. The workers' representatives are nominated by the local trade unions on the other hand. The chairman of the Court of Referees in Cork is appointed by the Minister. So far as that is concerned, all I have done in the case of Cork was to reappoint twice whatever person was there. I do not know who he is even. He came along in the ordinary way to me with the recommendation that the person who held the chairmanship in previous years should be reappointed. He apparently gave satisfaction. There was no complaint against him and I automatically approved of the appointment.
Mr. McGrath: I am making a complaint now and I am asking the Minister to remedy it because, as far as I know, appeals from the Court of Referees come to the Department of Social Welfare and are decided by the Department.
“Deputy McGrath made the point that doubtful claims for unemployment benefit should be referred to Dublin. I have a lot of sympathy with the Deputy in that connection. It is essentially a service in which we have to try, as far as possible, to decentralise certain types of control. I do not personally admire the system by which everything has to go to a central depot for a decision. It very often happens that the decision is finally made by a person of lower rank than the official who referred the correspondence to the central office. I have already discussed with my Department the question as to whether it is possible to give greater authority to local managers so as to eliminate cluttering up the head office with local files and at the same time to provide for speedier administration in the matter of claims for unemployment benefit.”
I think that makes it very clear how appeals from the Court of Referees are dealt with. I am telling the Minister that within the past two weeks a man was sent out to work for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs immediately outside the City of Cork and was asked to work for £3 3s. 0d. a week while the permanent labourers working side by side with him were getting £5 5s. 0d. a week.
I would like to know is the Minister going to give us any definite statement as to when this comprehensive insurance scheme will be introduced. On the 15th April, 1948, he promised that a White Paper would be introduced possibly before the summer. On the 28th July he promised that the House would have an opportunity in the course of a few months of seeing the White Paper in connection with that scheme. On the 13th March he said at Athy that the officers of the Department were working on the production of a scheme which would crystallise in the form of a  White Paper in the near future. I am very anxious to get some idea as to when that White Paper will be introduced because as I said on another debate here, I have been approached by the heads of a couple of industrial firms in the City of Cork who want to review their own superannuation scheme, as they now say it is out of date, and they do not know where they are with the Minister saying he is going to introduce a scheme. They do not know what value the scheme will have. They do not know to what extent it will penalise the workers, what weekly fines they will have to pay, with the result that these firms are putting off reviewing their own superannuation schemes. They do not know where they are at all because we are getting from month to month, and I think it will be from year to year, this promise of this great insurance scheme. On the 13th April last year we were promised it very soon, and so on. I would like if the Minister would make up his mind either to bring it in or to decide that he will not bring it in and let the people know where they stand, and go ahead with other schemes they have in view.
There is another matter about which I want to make a complaint, that is, the delay in investigating pension cases and the cases of Old I.R.A. men who applied for special allowances, which are sent for investigation by the Minister's Department. I had one case recently of a man who applied for the special allowance and for the old age pension at the same time. They have ordered him an old age pension of 10/- a week. He had a post office pension of 9/6 a week and he was entitled to about 10/6 more to make up the amount to which he would be entitled under the special allowance. I would like to tell the Minister that that man's means were investigated for the purpose of his old age pension and there was no other investigation of means necessary in that case. I had to ring up the Department of Defence every week for the last five or six weeks and yesterday I heard that they had received the report. In that case there was no need for investigation. All the Minister's Department  had to do was to send up the report of the investigation of the means which they made when he was applying for the old age pension.
I have noticed in Government Buildings in Cork for the past week a great change in the attitude of some of the people there to me. I was always treated well there and was given information when I asked for it but I went to two officials there this week—on Monday last to inquire. One case that I was inquiring about was that of a man who got only 10/- a week and who asked me why he would not get the full 17/6. I saw an official and he said in a very dogmatic manner:—
That may be the regulation. I went to a second person and he supplied me with all details. I went to a third and got the information but I was told politely that I would not get it again. If that is a change of attitude, I cannot understand it, because those people were always most polite and obliging when I went to them. It is only this week that I had a complaint to make. If Deputies who are stopped in the street and asked by people to inquire into pension cases have to get written authority to find out why the people did not get their full pension, I am afraid it will be putting Deputies to an awful lot of trouble. Another grievance—which, I suppose, was in existence before the time of the present Minister—is the stoppage of unemployment assistance to people, say, in the suburbs of Cork during the summer months. People who have been working all their lives within the City of Cork and who have drawn unemployment assistance in the City of Cork are knocked off their unemployment assistance during the summer months because they reside in the rural areas. They have then to approach the pauperisation stage again, according to the Minister, and go to the home assistance officer to get relief to tide them over. I appeal to the Minister to remedy that  state of affairs if he can, so that people who are normally employed in urban areas will not be victimised. It is entirely wrong that such people should be forced to apply for home assistance to the home assistance officer during the summer months.
Another appeal which I should like to make to the Minister is to consider very seriously increasing the unemployment, national health and widows' and orphans' allowances. If he looks into the matter he will see that, at least in the cities, it is impossible for people to live on these allowances.
Mr. McGrath: The Minister, as I said before, told Deputy Corry and myself that the boards of assistance should shoulder their responsibilities. He says that at one time, and at another time he says that all the help possible should be given, without the stigma of pauperism.
Mr. J. Flynn: Deputy Lemass, in one of his points, made what I consider was a very peculiar statement. He said that old men were on the register and that he believed we have reached the stage when they should not be on the register. I agree with that statement entirely if there is an alternative. Why were they put on the register? Because no work was available, and if work is available they are expected to avail of it. If they are taken off the register, what is the alternative? What category are you going to put them into? I agree with the statement up to a point. The Minister for Industry and Commerce recently referred to men who were offered work but who did not avail of it. My knowledge in regard to the Bord na Móna scheme in Kerry is that the men who were offered work could not avail of it because they were unable to manipulate the machines. They did not refuse to work. We have evidence that in South Kerry men in receipt of unemployment assistance were offered work with Bord na Móna but they felt they could not accept it because, as I have said, they were unable to manipulate the machines. Therefore,  through no fault of their own, when they refused to go on that work— about which they knew nothing and which they could not do—they were excluded from unemployment assistance. I submit that that is one of the reasons why some of these men did not avail of the work. I can instance the case of a man in South Kerry who suffered an injury and was, therefore, unable to manipulate the machine. I am not justifying the refusal of these men to accept the work, but, at the same time, there is something to be said for their side of the story.
I should like to know what exactly the Minister's responsibility is in relation to labour exchange conditions and the making out of lists of men. The Kerry County Council was informed that men in receipt of the highest unemployment assistance allowance were entitled to first preference in regard to work. Yet we have evidence that surveyors or gangers employed men who were not in receipt of the highest unemployment assistance allowance—to the detriment of those men who had families and who were in receipt of the higher unemployment assistance allowance. I should like to know if there is an understanding in the Department that, in so far as unemployment schemes are concerned, men in receipt of the highest amount of unemployment assistance are expected to be given preference in selection. We are not clear on that point and I should like the Minister, if he has time, when replying, to refer to it.
Another point which I should like to make concerns the arrangements made by different Departments. Bord na Móna have a certain responsibility in regard to the recruitment of men and the Department of Social Welfare has responsibility in so far as the labour exchange system is concerned. Recently, Bord na Móna had an extensive scheme in Portmagee in South Kerry. They applied for men and distributed cards to men in receipt of unemployment assistance. In the meantime, the Special Employment Schemes Office allocated a scheme for the area and they, too, applied for men. They could not obtain the required number while Bord na Móna  had these men notified. It is evident, therefore, that there is a certain dislocation of services, (1) under the Department of Industry and Commerce and (2) under the Department of Social Welfare. I should like the Minister to clarify that position. I have approached several Departments in the matter in order to assist the engineers concerned to get the best men possible to carry on their respective schemes under Bord na Móna and the Special Employment Schemes Office. I should like if that could be arranged, but I do not know which Minister is really responsible for the matter. I do not know whether Bord na Móna have special powers whereby they can go in and apply for men in receipt of unemployment assistance and compel them to work in certain areas irrespective of whether an engineer comes from the local authority and requires them in another area or not.
We now come to the subject of old age pensions. I desire to pay a tribute to the Minister and to his Department for the way the payments have been dealt with. At the same time, I should like to put forward a few views in relation to the type of assessment. There has been a considerable improvement in regard to the means test—we admit that and we appreciate it—and the Minister and the Government are to be congratulated on it. However, as far as I can see, there are certain anomalies all the time. I have in mind the case of a woman who applied for an old age pension. Her husband was in receipt of unemployment assistance and she was assessed for the unemployment assistance which her husband was in receipt of. That, in my opinion, is contrary to the principle of what we believe to be the modification of the means test. If the State comes to the assistance of one member of the family because he is unemployed and in the meantime another member qualifies for the old age pension, it is strange to think that this other member is penalised and her means are assessed simply because her husband is in receipt of unemployment assistance.
In conclusion, I would like again to  express appreciation of the great advance the Government has made in making available increased pensions to widows and orphans and old age pensioners and in the improvement generally. I hope the time will come when the Minister will see his way to fulfil the full measure of his intentions. I understand that it is the intention of the Government to give old age pensions to people at 65 years and increase the allowance. We know that it is only a matter of time until the Government will do that, but irrespective of that, we appreciate what has been done and I congratulate the Minister.
Mr. Allen: The Minister for Social Welfare is responsible for a number of welfare schemes and social services including unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance. Much controversy has arisen round the question of whether large numbers of genuine unemployed sign the unemployment registers or whether they are not genuinely seeking work. Personally, I have not known a single case yet of a man who could get work and did not take it. I am not aware of its happening. I know numbers of men who are seeking work and who are willing to take work if it is offered to them. We had Deputy Rooney blowing hot and cold on this matter here to-night. He seemed to agree with the Minister's colleagues, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that there are large numbers of such people in the country. He told the House that he was aware of numbers of unemployed who refused to go out of their area. He mentioned the Maltese workers who came here and went to the Erne. The Deputy from Donegal told us that they stayed three days and said that the Minister should look into conditions there. The conditions were good enough for Irish workers but when the Maltese workers refused to stay there must be something wrong according to Deputy Rooney. I hope that is not our view about our own unemployed or that it is only when foreigners find out the conditions are bad on a scheme it is time to have them looked up. There probably is something wrong on these large schemes. Otherwise I believe that  99 per cent. of our unemployed, if they were physically fit, would take employment on them. I have yet to learn of men who are prepared to go to the coal-mines in England or to other very strenuous jobs there and who would not take employment in their own country. I have never found such men at all. Men who have homes and families must calculate whether the work will be any use to them and, if they must break up their home, travel long distances, keep two homes and pay for their digs and food, they will have anything to send to their wives and families or sufficient to maintain them. An unemployed man may have his mother or sister at home and it may be very difficult to break up his home. As a result of the emigration that took place all through the war unfortunately and especially last year, a big number of those who might travel to take work on the Shannon, in Donegal or on the turf in the West have all gone from the country. The Minister is pretty well aware of that and it is a sad state of affairs.
That brings us to the commission on emigration which the Minister set up 15 or 16 months ago. I am sure that the Minister is as anxiously awaiting its report as the country is and the solution which that commission may bring—I hope will bring—to end emigration. I have no doubt that the Minister has from time to time inquired of the commission what progress has been made. Perhaps he could tell us whether it has made an interim report yet. It is usual after a certain time if a commission has not an opportunity of fully considering a big, many-sided problem to provide the Minister who set it up with an interim report and give its views on some matter of urgent importance that needs his consideration and help even partially to solve the problem. There has been, however, a cloak of absolute silence over this commission since it was brought into existence. I do not know if it sits in public; we see no reports anyway. If it sits in private, I am sure that the Minister is aware of the number of times it has sat, the evidence taken and how far it has got towards a solution of the problem of emigration and the problems arising  from emigration. If the Minister can do nothing else during his term of office but provide a solution for emigration, he will have justified himself and justified himself very fully. We all hope and the country hopes for the best from this emigration commission, but certainly people are wondering whether it will provide a solution or not. I suppose we must only wait and see and possess our souls with patience. During the past year under the Minister's administration as a member of the Government, unemployment increased in rural areas very definitely. I do not say that the Minister is responsible, but he has collective responsibility as a member of the Government.
Mr. Allen: The Minister is responsible for miscellaneous social welfare services. I take it that he will answer for those. I notice that there is a decrease of £145,000 odd in those services. Perhaps the Minister could explain that. It occurs under a number of sub-heads. That sum would do something to relieve the needy— perhaps many of them unemployed. That amount would be a supplement to many people who are not the best off in the country. The amount provided for unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance has decreased by £121,000 in the present year. That also would be an aid. If it was necessary to have that amount last year, it is certainly doubly necessary this year. Perhaps the Minister would explain why he agreed to cut that by £121,000. He would help the needy, and the unemployed, too, by providing at least as much money as his predecessor provided last year under these two schemes alone.
The Vote for National Health Insurance is much less this year. That is another way the Minister took, during the course of the last administrative year, to compel the workers and the employers to provide more money for that Vote. He was enabled to cut the Vote in that way, by putting an extra £1,000,000 on the employers and workers of the country during the course of the year. The Minister may claim credit for increasing old age pensions and widows' and orphans' pensions. I do not deny that they were increased, but they were increased also, and doubled, by his predecessors during their term of office. Some were more than doubled. The Minister will not deny that, though he was told by his supporters behind him, during the course of the evening, that Fianna Fáil were opposed to the welfare of the poor and did nothing to improve the social services. As Deputy McGrath pointed  out, the increase was the substantial amount of over £9,000,000 during their term of office. It was not bad at all. If the Minister is able to increase the social services—if he is over there, which had 1,000 to one against it, as long as the previous Government were —by £9,000,000 or £10,000,000, he will not have done too badly. I doubt very much if he will ever do it, or provide the funds to increase the social services by as much as his predecessor.
We have been a long time waiting for the White Paper the Minister promised us last year he would bring in a month or two after he came in. He repromised it in another two months and quite recently he said it was under way. I wonder if it will be brought in during the term of office of this Government. We would like to hear from him whether he proposes implementing the White Paper during his term of office and providing funds to implement it. It will be interesting to hear him tell us about that. I am sure he has made such progress with that White Paper now that some of the details might be given to the country. In some respects, it is an injury to certain people not to have the details of the social welfare scheme we all hope will see the light of day in the near future. It would clarify people's minds on many things that may arise under the new scheme.
I hope this question of the unemployed and of people being knocked off unemployment assistance will be dealt with. We can throw our minds back to the pre-unemployment assistance days, when thousands of genuine unemployed workers had nothing to fall back on. I hope those days will not come again. Unfortunately, there is necessity at present for the unemployment assistance code—and there will be for many a long day. There are many elements in the community who are only partially employed, because of physique or health, and it is doubtful if they ever could be employed at strenuous labour. They must be maintained by some State source. The Minister may say it is the function of the local authority to maintain such people, but it is not. The State has undertaken that in the past and I have no doubt the State will continue to maintain  such people in the future. Any indication we had from the Minister for Finance seems to show that he has made up his mind fairly well that such a thing as unemployment assistance should not be in existence. I am sure the Minister will clear up that point. There is a feeling in the country that there may be some planning to do away with unemployment assistance. I hope the Minister will not countenance such a thing, as, unfortunately, there is need for it, especially in large centres of population. Even in the towns of small population, there are numbers of unemployed, varying from time to time but usually the same people.
I cannot see anything revolutionary in this Estimate. There is an increase in widows' and orphans' pensions and old age pensions, but that was provided for in legislation the Minister brought in. There are substantial decreases under other headings. It is about time national health insurance was improved and the sick got an increased allowance. They are paying increased contributions as a result of the Minister's actions, but they are not getting one half-penny more than they received weekly under his predecessor. The Minister might admit that. They are a deserving class of the community that he might justifiably help, but they are still waiting for an increase in the sickness benefit.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy may not discuss an increase in the children's benefit because he has to get an Order to do it. He has to get legislation. The Deputy may not discuss legislation on this.
Mr. Kissane: I was listening to Deputy Rooney making his contribution to this debate and I must say that that contribution was full of reckless statements and falsehoods. He followed on the same line that some other people recently have been following. He tried to make the point that it was Fianna Fáil who were getting people to register at the labour exchanges and swell the register, for political purposes. Every responsible person knows that that is not the case. He also made another point against the managers of the labour exchanges. He went on to argue that the managers of the labour exchanges were discriminating between applicants for unemployment assistance. Strange to say, the Minister for Social Welfare sat silently by and apparently accepted that because we are told that silence gives consent. The fact of the matter is that a good many of those managers of employment exchanges, if not the majority of them, were there before our time. So I do not think it can be said that there is any such thing as discrimination in the administration of the Uemployment Assistance Acts.
Deputy Rooney also went back on what had been done since this present Government took office. I, for one, cannot see what wonderful things have been done. I would say that the percentage of increases in the social services that has been brought about by the present Government is less than the percentage that was brought about by us.
Mr. Kissane: I wonder if Deputy O'Higgins, the person who is a member of the Party that actually went out of office in 1932 for not listening to reason as regards the old age pensions, is serious in that statement.
Mr. Kissane: I am not responsible for the lateness of the hour. Deputy Rooney also mentioned the number of unemployed. He held forth about the reduction that had been effected in the number of unemployed in this country over the past year and a half, since the present Government took office. Here are the figures as far as I can ascertain them. In June, 1947, there were 40,483 registered as unemployed, whereas on the 11th June this year there were 59,745.
Mr. Kissane: Yes, for the fun of it. Of course, the Minister for Finance is not concerned at all with the unemployed. Nor is he concerned, it appears, with the expansion of social services. Nor is the Taoiseach concerned with the expansion of social services when he said on one occasion, as one of the Deputies mentioned here, that all these social services were so many medicine bottles.
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