Committee on Finance. - Social Welfare (Children's Allowances) Bill, 1957—Second Stage.

Wednesday, 29 May 1957

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 162 No. 1

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[24]Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. Smith): Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. Kennedy): Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  This is the second of the two Bills required to implement the Government's decision to provide compensation where it is most needed for the increase in prices which has resulted from the withdrawal of the food subsidies.

As the Minister for Finance stated in his Financial Statement on the 8th May it is necessary to make provision by way of an increase in their income for families whose weekly expenditure on bread and butter is high because of the presence of growing children. This can best be done through the medium of the children's allowances scheme.

Accordingly this Bill provides for the payment of an additional 4/6 per month with effect from the 1st June next for the second and each subsequent child eligible for children's allowances. For May an additional payment of 2/6 for each such child will be made as an offset to the rise in prices in that month. It will not be possible to begin paying the increased allowances earlier than the 2nd July on which date the arrears in respect of May and June will also be paid.

As from 1st June next a family containing five qualified children will receive £4 1s. 6d. a month in children's allowances and larger families more in a rising scale.

These increases will cost the Exchequer £1,583,000 in a full year bringing the total expenditure on children's allowances up to just under £7,000,000 per annum. This is a large sum in relation to our total expenditure and the Government feel that, much as they would wish to do so, they cannot, in the circumstances existing at present, increase these allowances by any greater amounts than those provided for in this Bill.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Would the Parliamentary Secretary give us the same [25] figures again, the number of claimants and the number of children?

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  225,000 families and 586,000 children.

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Do 586,000 children benefit under this?

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Excluding the first child.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Could the Parliamentary Secretary give a break-down of that figure as regards families with one claiming child, that is with two children; with two children, that is to say with three children in the family, and so forth?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether or not children's allowances are taken into consideration for the purposes of assessing income-tax. I gathered from the Minister for Finance that it was not, but he did say that at one stage it was assessed as income for the purposes of income-tax. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that as from 1st June next a family with five qualifying children will receive £4 1s. 6d. a month in children's allowances and larger families more in a rising scale. The increase will be in the region of 22/6 per month for children's allowances under this. That represents approximately 5/- per week for a family having five children. According to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, by the withdrawal of the food subsidies on bread alone, the family that has three children will be required to pay an extra 11/8 per week. While we welcome this increase for what it is worth, it will not alleviate the position for the family which has to pay 11/8 extra for bread.

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  I do not know if I have the figures Deputy Sweetman requires of the families with two, three or four qualifying children. I do not think we have that figure.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  Could the Parliamentary Secretary say if the figure of 586,000 children includes the first child?

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  As I said, it excludes the first child. The Minister for Finance explained to the House that children's allowances are not taken into account for the purposes of income-tax. [26] That is so for some time and that answers the point made by Deputy Corish. As regards the other point made by him the cost of bread to a family varies very much all over the country.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I am only quoting Deputy Beegan.

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Deputy Beegan may be wrong too. He may be going on a statistical table but Deputy Corish comes from a rural constituency and he knows that potatoes play a very important part, and a good part, in the food of a family and it is not all bread that is part of the carbohydrate diet of a family. I do not accept that figure that so much is spent particularly in relation to rural families each week. In my Second Reading speech I have covered the sections contained in this Bill and there is nothing more to add to it.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.


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