Social Welfare (Amendment) Bill, 1960—Second Stage.

Tuesday, 14 June 1960

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 182 No. 9

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Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. MacEntee): Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The purpose of this Bill is to extend and improve our existing social insurance scheme. The main innovations covered by it are:—

(i) the introduction of old age (contributory) pensions,

(ii) the extension of widows' (contributory) pensions beyond age 70, and

(iii) where the recipient of disability benefit, unemployment benefit, or widows' (contributory) pension has more than two qualified children, the payment of an allowance in respect of each child in excess of that number, instead of limiting the payment to the first and second, as at present.

In addition to these new features the Bill also provides for substantial increases in the basic rates of disability benefit, unemployment benefit, maternity allowance, widows' (contributory) [1180] pension and orphans' (contributory) allowance. Increases are also being granted under the Bill in the allowances for adult dependants and the first two qualified children.

Speaking in July last and again in December the Taoiseach, having mentioned the fact that since the present Government took office in 1957 it had twice increased the level of social welfare (assistance) payments—it has just done so again for the third time in the present Budget—referred to the fact that I was planning to introduce a scheme of contributory pensions and at the same time to enlarge existing contributory benefits and to increase their rates.

On the 11th December, last, in the debate on the Adjournment, the Taoiseach, outlining the Government's design said, as reported in Volume 178, Column 1543 of the Official Report:

The intention is to lay the foundation of a sound scheme now and then to build up on it as conditions permit. The main effect of this scheme will be to confer upon all former insured workers who are now beyond their labours a substantial improvement in their existing resources.

This Bill has been framed in accordance with that general principle. My purpose has been to work on the basis of existing services in order to simplify administration and keep administrative costs as low as possible. Accordingly in determining the classes to be covered by the new pension scheme it has been decided to adhere to the existing basis of social insurance, and thus to provide cover only for those who are insured for the main benefits under the Social Welfare Acts. For this reason self-employed persons will not be brought within the scope of the pension scheme, as they are outside the ambit of the existing social insurance scheme. Similarly, persons who are at present compulsorily insurable only for the purposes of widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions, for instance, permanent and pensionable civil servants, officers of local authorities etc., will not be insurable for the new pension.

[1181] There is, however, provision in the present scheme whereby persons under the age of 70 ceasing to be compulsorily insured, may, under certain conditions, preserve their insurance for widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions by becoming voluntary contributors. It will be necessary to extend this provision so that insurance for the new pension may also be preserved. Accordingly, voluntary contributors will have to be divided into two categories, based on the risks against which each was covered while he was compulsorily insured. Where, prior to becoming a voluntary contributor, a person was compulsorily insurable only for widows' and orphans' pensions, he can become a voluntary contributor for such pensions only.

If, however, his compulsory insurance covered other benefits in addition to widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions, he can become a voluntary contributor for old age (contributory) pension and widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions, as well. A person who is already a voluntary contributor at the commencement of the Act and whose previous compulsory insurance covered other benefits in addition to widows' and orphans' (contributory) pension, may elect to become a voluntary contributor for old age (contributory) pension and widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions or to continue as a voluntary contributor for widows' and orphans' pensions only.

As Deputies will have seen from the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill, the qualifying age for old age (contributory) pension will be 70 years both for men and women. A lower qualifying age would virtually necessitate the imposition of a retirement condition, with a concomitant earnings rule, at least up to the age of 70. The application of such conditions would, in effect, amount to a means test, and would add considerably to the administrative complexity of the scheme. In all the circumstances it is considered that the provisions in the Bill represent the best approach to the problem.

The contribution conditions for old [1182] age (contributory) pensions as set out in Section 16 of the Bill are briefly:—

(a)that the claimant has entered insurance before attaining the age of 60,

(b)that not less than 156 employment contributions have been paid since his entry into insurance, and

(c)that he has an average of 48 contributions paid or credited in each contribution year since his entry into insurance.

There is, as the House will agree, nothing extraordinary or unprecedented about these conditions. Indeed, more rigorous contribution conditions were, in fact, proposed for retirement pensions in the 1949 White Paper on Social Security which was the basis of the abortive Social Welfare (Insurance) Bill of 1950.

Under the present social insurance scheme in the 1952 Social Welfare Act, the conditions imposed for the various benefits include a “156 contributions paid” test for title to widow's (contributory) pension, marriage benefit and disability benefit of indefinite duration while for disability benefit and unemployment benefit, an average is also required of not less than 48 contributions paid or credited in the governing contribution year. There would appear, therefore, to be little scope for misunderstanding or misrepresentation in regard to the conditions proposed in the present Bill.

Yet, most surprisingly, there has been gross misunderstanding and consequent misrepresentation of them in quarters where I think this is inexcusable. For instance, I have learned that a certain Deputy has been telling his constituents that in order to qualify for the full old age (contributory) pension a contributor would have to be in insurable employment for an average period of 48 weeks in each year since his entry into insurance and in addition would require to have been in such employment for not less than ten years. Now this is just nonsense, and, as nonsense, one might ignore it. But for the sake of truth and of those [1183] whom the Deputy in question may have misled, it is necessary to make the position clear.

I shall take first of all the stipulation that a person must have entered into insurance before attaining the age of 60 years. This general condition will apply to all insured persons seeking the new pension. In the case of persons who attain the age of 70 years before 5th January, 1963, there could of course be no entry into insurance under the Social Welfare Acts prior to the attainment of the age of 60 years as those Acts only commenced on 5th January, 1953.

It is proposed, however, in regulations to be made under Section 13 of the Bill, to which I will refer later, to treat an entry into insurance under the former National Health Insurance Acts prior to the attainment of age 60 as effective for the purposes of the new pension and those regulations will also provide for the counting, where necessary, of contributions paid or credited under the National Health Insurance Acts towards satisfying the remaining two conditions for the new pension.

The first of these two conditions to which I have referred, condition (b), is quite simple, and should not be open to misinterpretation. It is that to qualify for an old age (contributory) pension the person concerned must have been an insured person and in that capacity must have paid not less than 156 employment contributions since his entry into insurance. I think I should emphasise that these contributions must have been paid, that is to say there must have been an actual transfer of cash for stamps in respect of each one of them. There is no alternative to actual payment of contributions in this case, and no provision, therefore, for crediting the insured person with contributions to make up a deficiency in the required number of 156.

On the other hand, in formulating the terms of the third condition which must be fulfilled in order to obtain a contributory pension, provision has been made to meet the case of an insured person who, because he is either ill or unemployed, is presumed not to [1184] be in a position to pay his contributions as an employed person or to have contributions paid by his employer in respect of him. This case which could involve hardship, is met, as any Deputy who read and understood the Bill must recognise, under Section 16 of the Bill.

Sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph 6 which that Section proposed to insert in the Fourth Schedule to the 1952 Act provides that the average of 48 contributions per contribution year is to be calculated on the basis, not merely of the contributions actually paid, but on those cash contributions plus the notional contributions with which the insured person has been credited. It is on the sum of the paid contributions and the credited contributions that the average is to be calculated. An insured person who is either too ill to work and notifies the Department of that fact or is unemployed and signs the unemployed register, will be credited with a contribution for each week of such duly notified illness or proved unemployment.

Thus, the Deputy to whom I have referred—and in my opinion, this is very regrettable—grievously misled his listeners when he told them that no one would qualify for an old age (contributory) pension who was not in insurable employment for an average of 48 weeks per year over a period of at least ten years. I trust he will now take steps to correct his erroneous statements and make the truth known to those whom he so woefully misled.

Deputies will, no doubt, appreciate that until the new rates of contribution proposed in the Bill become payable, nobody will have paid any contribution containing an element in respect of the new pension. If eligibility for pension were to be determined by reference solely to the new contributions, it would be some years before any pension would become payable. Thus insured persons within a few years of pensionable age and those now over that age would never be able to qualify.

It could be argued that those now over 70 are not entitled to any concessions for the reason that they have [1185] passed out of insurance, having derived therefrom in the course of their insurance life such insurance cover and benefits as they were entitled to on the basis of the contributions which they had paid. I am sure the Dáil will agree with me that such persons should not be deprived of the opportunity of qualifying for the pension, and accordingly provision is being made in Section 13 of the Bill to enable contributions already paid under the social welfare code to be taken into account. The manner in which this will be done will be set out in detail in regulations to be made under the section.

I should stress here what I have already mentioned earlier in relation to the conditions for the new pension that Section 13 also provides that the regulations made thereunder may modify the contributions conditions in the case of persons who entered insurance prior to 5th January, 1953, the date on which the co-ordinated social insurance scheme under the Social Welfare Act, 1952, came into operation.

It happens, however, that comprehensive insurance records are available only as from that date, and it is intended that the regulations will ensure that apparent shortages of contributions which are due to the absence of comprehensive records will not penalise a claimant for an old age (contributory) pension. As the result of this section, it is estimated that 23,000 persons who are now in receipt of non-contributory old age pensions, together with 7,000 adult persons who are dependent upon them, will qualify, respectively, for old age (contributory) pensions and the associated allowance in respect of dependent adults.

I trust that my friend, the former Coalition Minister for Local Government, will broadcast that good news to the Rosses.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Where there is scarcely a single individual who will benefit under the Bill.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Furthermore, about 13,000 persons aged 70 or over in respect of whom the modified conditions to be prescribed under Section 13 have been fulfilled will also become [1186] entitled to the old age (contributory) pension, notwithstanding the fact that hitherto they have been disqualified from getting any old age pension at all. In addition about 6,000 allowances will become payable to them in respect of their adult dependants. Thus when the Bill becomes law almost 50,000 persons will be given at once the substantial benefit of the new contributory pension.

The rate of the new pension will be 40/- per week, and an increase at the rate of 27/6 per week will be payable where the pensioner has an adult dependant. In the case of a male old age (contributory) pensioner who is married, his wife will qualify him for the increase in respect of an adult dependant, if she is living with or being maintained by him, but in the case of a female married old age (contributory) pensioner her husband will not qualify her to receive it unless she is maintaining him and he is incapable of self-support by reason of some physical or mental infirmity.

If the pensioner dies, the amount of the increase in respect of adult dependency will continue to be payable to the survivor, unless he or she qualifies for a more favourable payment by way of benefit or assistance. If a husband and wife both qualify for the pension, neither will be entitled to the increase in respect of a dependent spouse.

Regulations under Section 10 of the Bill will provide for payment of the old age (contributory) pension at reduced rates where the average number of contributions paid or credited per contribution year is below 48. Where the rate of pension is reduced there will be no reduction in the allowance in respect of the adult dependant. This is in line with existing procedure in relation to disability and unemployment benefit. I should also stress that a person receiving the new pension and his or her adult dependant, if any, will be debarred from the non-contributory old age pension scheme.

I now come to the extension of widows' (contributory) pensions.

As the House knows, under existing legislation a widow's (contributory) [1187] pension terminates when the widow reaches the age of 70, and she then becomes entitled to the ordinary old age pension without a means or residence test. It is proposed to terminate this arrangement and to provide instead that the widow's (contributory) pension will be payable in future without reference to age. 8,000 widows now over 70 who were in receipt of contributory pensions prior to reaching that age, will have their widows' (contributory) pensions restored.

A widow over 70 receiving such a pension will be debarred, of course, from receiving non-contributory old age pension and, if she is entitled to both old age (contributory) pension and widow's (contributory) pension she will, by regulations, be permitted to draw only one of these pensions.

The final, quite new feature in the Bill relates to the dependent children of recipients of disability benefit, unemployment benefit or widow's (contributory) pension. As the law stands, a supplement at the rate of 8/- per week is payable in respect of each of the first two children in the categories I have mentioned; nothing, however, is given in respect of any greater number of child dependants.

Under the Bill, not only will the amount payable in respect of the first two children be increased by 25 per cent., but an allowance at the rate of 5/- per week will be given in respect of each qualified child in excess of two. By reason of these increased payments, the lot of 73,500 children and their parents should be a little easier when the Bill is enacted.

In addition to the new features I have outlined, the Bill also provides for increases in existing rates of benefit. The basic rates of disability benefit and unemployment benefit are being increased by 2/6 per week to 32/6; the allowance for an adult dependant by 33? per cent., that is, by 5/- per week to 20/- per week; and as I have already indicated, the allowance for each of the first and second qualified children by 2/- per week to 10/- per week each. The rate of maternity benefit is being increased to 35/- per week, that is by 5/- per week; the rate of widow's (contributory) [1188] pension by 5/- per week to 35/- per week, where the widow has a qualified child, and by 2/6 per week to 32/6 where she has no qualified child. The rate of orphan's (contributory) allowance will go up by 100 per cent., that is, by 10/- per week to 20/- per week.

Some examples will give a clearer picture of the overall effect of the foregoing increases; by which, I should mention, about 120,000 adults and 400 orphans will benefit. For instance, an insured man with a wife and five dependent children will receive 87/6 per week when ill or unemployed as compared with 61/- at present.

Similarly a widow in receipt of a widow's (contributory) pension who has five dependent children will receive 70/- per week as compared with 46/- per week at present. This pension will be payable without any means test or any restriction upon her ability to increase that income by her own earnings.

A widow over age 70 to whom a widow's (contributory) pension is restored under the provisions of the Bill will receive an increase of income of 4/- per week, i.e., from 28/6 to 32/6, if she has no qualified child, but if she has a qualified child or qualified children, her income will be increased by 6/6 to 35/- per week plus the allowance or allowances payable for the qualified child or children.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  She would be a great woman if she had a qualified child at 70 years of age. This Bill makes provision for the most extraordinary contingencies.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I am sorry it did not, and could not, make provision for the exasperation the Leader of the Opposition is displaying.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I am astonished at the contingency the Minister mentioned.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The Bill does not cover, either, damage, fire or explosion.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  It does not make provision for senile delinquency.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  These increases [1189] cannot be regarded as other than substantial, and should appreciably improve the position of social welfare beneficiaries.

We have now to consider the all-important question of the cost of the extensions and improvements proposed in this Bill. It will be accepted that, as a result of them, there will be a considerable increase in expenditure from the Social Insurance Fund. It is very difficult to forecast with any precision what the increase is likely to be because it is not possible to estimate the cost of the new old age (contributory) pensions with any degree of firmness. This is due to the absence of statistics to show how many persons now over the age of 70 were formerly insured and how many of such insured persons are now receiving the noncontributory old age pension.

Recourse must be had to broad estimation, and on this basis, it is estimated that the yearly gross cost of the old age (contributory) pension scheme will be roughly £4,625,000. The yearly cost of the other extensions and improvements is estimated at approximately £2,300,000. The total yearly cost of the provisions in the Bill will, therefore, amount to £6,925,000. Towards meeting this liability the increases in the rates of contribution are expected to yield £4,075,000 per annum. Thus the deficiency in contribution income which must be covered by the Exchequer is no less than £2,850,000.

Now it is imperative that the annual Budget of the State should be kept in balance. Indeed the fact that the present Government, like all its Fianna Fáil predecessors, has shown its determination to meet its liabilities on current account as they arose, has been among the chief factors which over the past three years have caused so many investors and industrialists to consider with increasing favour the possibilities of industrial development here.

Having regard to this fact, it would not have been possible for me to introduce this Bill, with all its desirable features, if the Minister for Finance, notwithstanding all the other demands [1190] upon him, had not agreed not only to forgo any savings which might accrue on the Vote for Social Assistance, but to meet the residual deficiency, which will be of the order of £300,000 as well.

The present and the proposed rates of contribution for the different categories of insured workers are set out in the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill. I have already mentioned that the increases in contribution rates are estimated to bring in £4,075,000.

In general, it may be said in relation to the new rates that the principle followed in deciding on the increases was that each rate should bear its due share of the cost of the increases in benefits to which that rate gives title. Thus the ordinary rate of contribution, which gives title to all benefits, must bear its proportion of the increased cost of all benefits, whereas the contribution in respect of civil servants, teachers, etc., which gives title only to widows' and orphans' (contributory) pensions will have to bear only its proportion of the increased cost of these pensions.

In the case of agricultural workers, sharefishermen, etc., and others in like categories, the increases are much less than would be warranted by the application of the principle to which I have just referred.

In relation to the form of the Bill, I should perhaps explain why it has been drafted largely by way of amendment of the Social Welfare Act, 1952. Admittedly this procedure does, perhaps, make the Bill somewhat difficult to persue in that it has to be read by reference to the earlier Act.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Hear, hear.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The Leader of the Opposition has surely had time to study the Bill?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It is as clear as mud.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  On the other hand it will enable, and this is the important and overriding consideration, the new benefits to be operated within the [1191] existing administration machinery, and will obviate duplication of the statutory provisions required to deal, for example, with decisions on claims, appeals, payment of pensions, and other such matters. And, for the rest, I trust that the explanatory memorandum and the information I have now given will enable Deputies to form a clear picture of the new scheme of old age (contributory) pensions and of the improvements to be made in the existing schemes.

Under the Bill as it stands, over 200,000 men, women and children will receive new or extended social insurance benefits, the value of which in themselves will be close to £7 million a year.

Of that sum, over £4 million in round figures will be met by employers and their employees, but the balance of close on £3 million must be provided——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  By the old age pensioners.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  ——through taxation, by the community at large. Deputy Dillon should not be absurd.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The sum of £3 million from the old age pensioners.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The £3 million is coming out of the Exchequer. It is being raised by taxation and is coming from no other source.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It is coming from the pockets of the old age pensioners.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  That is untrue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Minister must be allowed to make his speech without interruption.

Mr. Davern: Information on Michael J. Davern  Zoom on Michael J. Davern  The old age pensioners will not contribute even one penny.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It does not matter whether it is true or untrue because Deputy Dillon, as Leader of the Opposition, is more likely to continue repeating it, if it happens to be untrue.

[1192]Mr. T. Lynch: Information on Thaddeus Lynch  Zoom on Thaddeus Lynch  We leave that to the Irish Press.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The important point to remember—and I trust I shall be permitted to make this point with the acquiescence of Deputy Dillon—is that the whole of the £7 million, by one channel or another, will derive from the productive effort of the community. It will, in fact, be a charge upon production.

In this connection, we must bear in mind that, if the output from our land and our factories, supplemented by what the community obtains by services to other peoples, as for example, through our tourist industry, or from earnings or investments abroad, is not sufficient, not merely to meet that charge, but to leave an ample margin for the remuneration of the producers and for the maintenance of our capital equipment, and for saving and for reinvestment in expanding productive enterprise——

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  And for burial expenses.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  ——then it will be impossible for us to maintain our social services at their present level, much less to develop them still further.

The Bill now before the House is intended to be the foundation of a new social code based, not upon public charity, but upon a covenant of insurance between the worker and the community of which he is a part and through which he lives and in which he serves.

Because of the structure of our society, in which there are so many self-employed persons, many of whom are small property owners, and because of administrative difficulties which experience elsewhere indicates are probably insuperable except at inordinate cost, it would not be possible to apply the insurance principle to the social security needs of our whole population. For that reason, therefore, our social insurance scheme has to be supplemented by provisions for social assistance.

In the estimate as originally framed for the current year £21,354,000 was [1193] allowed for social assistance requirements as against £21,068,000 in 1959/60. In the Budget of this year, however, the Minister for Finance announced increases in social assistance payments which will amount to £657,000 per year.

In a Bill which I am bringing in to give effect to this announcement further ameliorations will be provided which will cost an additional £212,000 per year making an increase in the additional annual amount provided for social assistance in this year, as compared with last, of £1,155,000 and, as compared with 1956/57 of £3,552,000.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Which is one-half of the food subsidies.

Mr. Davern: Information on Michael J. Davern  Zoom on Michael J. Davern  The food subsidies you were going to take off.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  In connection with all this, some statistics may be enlightening. Including the commitments under this Bill and the forthcoming Social Assistance Bill to which I have referred, the total amount which will be required in the current year for social welfare schemes runs at the rate of nearly £27¾ millions per year net.

In relation to our taxable resources admittedly this is an enormous figure. In fact, it represents almost 26 per cent. of the tax revenue which it is estimated will be raised in this year for the general purposes of the Budget. In 1956/57 the amount expended on social welfare services was £22,904,000.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Does that include the food subsidies?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  And in that year the amount which was raised by taxation, including the proceeds of the Special Import Levy of £2.49 millions was £96.97 millions. This sum, however, as we know was insufficient to meet the normal charges on tax revenue by no less than £5.88 million. Thus, if the 1956/57 were a balanced Budget, a sound Budget, the amount which should have been raised by taxation to meet current expenditure [1194] over that period would have been £5.88 millions more, that is to say, £102.85 millions in all.

It will be appreciated, therefore, that the actual sum to be secured by taxation in order to meet the cost of current services in 1960/61 as compared with the tax revenue actually required, though not raised in 1956/57, shows an increase of £4.1 millions.

And against this there are to be set the increases to which I have referred in the social welfare services of over £4.8 millions. Thus, the effective increase in taxation in 1960/61 as compared with 1956/57 has been allocated in its entirely to the improvement and expansion of our social services.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  To compensate for the £9 million food subsidies you removed.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It will be apparent from these figures that in our day the influence of social welfare expenditure upon the Budget and consequently upon taxation is very great indeed.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  We told you that when you did it.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  In fact no other category of public services makes such heavy demands upon the taxpayer. Thus, only 8.4 per cent. of our tax revenue is spent on national defence, not quite 5.7 per cent. on the maintenance of law and order, 16.4 per cent. on housing, roads and schemes of national development, and 15.4 per cent. on education.

Therefore, I submit, we may take it as axiomatic that any increase in social welfare expenditure will of necessity require a corresponding increase in tax revenues.

One critical question, therefore, that must be asked whenever a proposal to increase the existing expenditure on social services is made is: Can we afford it, or, more precisely, will the producing elements in the community be not only prepared to but able to meet the cost of it? In general, when productive efficiency is increasing the question may be answered affirmatively. When it is decreasing, or even [1195] if it be static, the answer should be negative.

The fact that I am in a position to put this measure before the House today and, in addition, hope to introduce within a couple of weeks a Bill to increase social assistance payments for the third time since this Government took office, is entirely due to the response which all progressive elements in the State have given to the Government's leadership.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Agriculture has dropped by £15 million.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  On a point of order, before the Minister concludes, am I to take it that we shall have a general economic debate?

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  Of course.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  On a point of order——

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  This is a most unseemly interruption and an unmannerly interruption.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  You do not talk about manners to me because you know nothing about it.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I hate to sow seed on barren ground.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  What is the point of order?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  None whatever.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  Will the Minister conduct himself? The Chair is speaking.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  The people opposite are rather perturbed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Order.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  They are embarrassed by Fianna Fáil success.

Mr. T. Lynch: Information on Thaddeus Lynch  Zoom on Thaddeus Lynch  In building all those harbours the Deputy spoke about last week, which were not built at all?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  What is the point of order?

[1196]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  The Minister has dealt with economic activity and past achievements. I merely want to know will we be entitled to traverse that field. I do not object to the Minister's doing it, if the rest of us are allowed to do it also.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  That is a hypothetical question. I do not know what anybody intends to discuss. I have not ruled the Minister out of order on anything that he has discussed. Therefore, it must be assumed that I consider it relevant.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Surely I am entitled to say why we are able not merely to bring in this Bill but to make certain that if it passes into law we shall be able to meet the obligations it will impose on the Exchequer? I am entitled to do that.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  My question was to the Chair, not to the Minister.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I was saying that under the leadership of this Government industry has expanded, has made itself more efficient and has found new outlets. This Bill and the other to which I have referred reflect the improvement in the state of the nation which has been wrought thereby.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  There are 100,000 fewer people to look after since they emigrated.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The Bill, however, I want to emphasise, is but a beginning. It constitutes the foundation upon which in time, provided our economic progress permits, a more comprehensive and ambitious scheme can be based. In the meantime, however, the Bill is the best Bill that the community can afford, can pay for. It will, no doubt, become law. It will take its place with the other great pioneering measures of social reform for which successive Fianna Fáil Governments have been responsible.

With the Old Age Pensions Act, 1932, the Housing Act, 1932, the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1933, the Widows and Orphans Pensions Act, 1935, the Children's Allowances Act, 1944, the Health Act, 1947, the Social [1197] Welfare Act, 1952, and the Health Act, 1953, it will be a further record in our Statute Book of the care and concern which every Fianna Fáil Government, since we first took office in 1932, has manifested for the well-being of the people.

I am proud to be in a position to move the Second Reading of the Bill.

Mr. T. Lynch: Information on Thaddeus Lynch  Zoom on Thaddeus Lynch  Is there a doctor in the House?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Order!

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  This, to describe it mildly, is a complex Bill and notwithstanding the fact that an explanatory memorandum was issued with the Bill, many Deputies awaited the Second Reading speech of the Minister to throw some light on its complexities. If there was any doubt in anybody's mind in relation to the approach of the Government to the problem the Bill is designed to meet, it certainly must have been dispelled by the performance which the House has just witnessed. We have been treated to a performance that ranged over all Government policy and lack of policy and, if they were to take their cue from the Minister, Deputies could now go on to discuss the proportion of national expenditure that should be devoted to defence and a number of extraneous subjects introduced by the Minister for Social Welfare.

I do not know what the Minister's design is. He mentioned the need for clarity, the need to clear up doubts. He said that there were deliberate misrepresentations in relation to this Bill. Having listened to this harangue and the wealth of figures relating to anything and everything, is any Deputy on any side of the House more enlightened than he was when the Minister rose to his feet? I doubt it.

When the Bill was circulated a question was put down to ascertain how the Bill was to be financed, what the cost would be to those who were interested. We were informed that there were three sources from which revenue would have to be found to meet the measure. The Minister spoke today of a round figure of £7 million. The figure given in reply to [1198] the Parliamentary Question was more conservative; it was £6 million. We were told that the employers would have to pay £2 million per annum, that the employees would have to pay £2 million per annum and that the State would contribute £2 million per annum.

Let us examine the statement that the Minister has made and let us also bear in mind that there are qualifications in the statement. I shall quote from the Minister's statement in case I would be accused of deliberate misrepresentation:

It is very difficult to forecast with any precision what the increase is likely to be because it is not possible to estimate the cost of the new old age (contributory) pensions with any degree of firmness.

We appreciate the inclusion of that paragraph because, of course, there must have been frequent and extensive collaboration and consultation between the Minister and the present occupant of the Ministry of Finance. When we recall that the estimate that the present Minister for Finance gave in relation to the Health Act was that it would not cost more than 2/- in the £, is it any wonder that the Minister for Social Welfare would seek to cover his flank today by informing us of the difficulty in forecasting with any precision what the increase is likely to be?

Where are we in relation to the breakdown of the cost of this measure? There will be £2 million per annum from the employees. There are 51,000 fewer in employment. That drop has taken place over a period of two years. The Minister referred to progress in the country over those two years. There are fewer people in the country to pay the £2 million they are being called on to pay. That is, in addition to the 6d. on the loaf of bread and the 10d. on the lb. of butter, and the increase in the cost of living that has taken place in recent weeks, the employees will have to find this £2 million.

The House will recall the case made by the present Government when they [1199] decided to abolish the food subsidies, the entire cost of which to the State was £6 million. Deputy Davern may laugh. The cost to the State of the food subsidies was £9 million. There was £3 million given by the Government in compensatory benefits to the social assistance classes. If you subtract £3 million from £9 million you get £6 million. That was a saving of £6 million to the Exchequer.

We were told that that would be of great benefit to the country. What has been the experience? The classes who will be affected by this Bill—and the Minister would put it across that they will receive tremendous benefits from this Bill—are the very classes that over the last two years this Government and the private employers in the State have been seeking to compensate because of the effect of this Government's policy on the cost of living. Now they have to find £2,000,000 more per annum for contributions. No doubt Deputy Davern and his colleagues will notice that in the wealth of figures there has been very little said about the contributions the worker and the employer will have to pay every week. That has been glossed over as it was glossed over in the news this morning in announcing in extenso all the benefits that were being given.

Let me come now to what the State has to pay towards this and here we shall certainly require much more clarification from the Minister. A previous Minister gave a figure of £2,000,000. The Minister today gave a figure of £2,850,000 and he went on to treat us to a dissertation on the great benefits that have accrued from the improvement in affairs generally and the happy position the Minister for Finance is in in making this great sacrifice in setting aside so much of the national income to make this contribution towards this great scheme. We find that instead of over £2,850,000 being provided by the State, as the third contributing partner, that this is the position: I quote paragraph 18 of the Minister's statement:

... notwithstanding all the other [1200] demands upon him had not agreed not only to forgo any savings which might accrue on the Vote for Social Assistance, but to meet the residual deficiency, which will be of the order of £300,000 as well.

Subtract that residual deficiency of £300,000 from the £2,850,000 and we find that it is the old age pensioners who must contribute £2,550,000 per annum towards this scheme: £2,000,000 from the employers, £2,000,000 from the employees and £2,550,000 from the old age pensioners.

All the talk has been in terms of 40/- per week for those non-contributory pensions for people who have attained the age of 70 years, but the Minister did not mention the fact that if these people never paid a penny in their lives they would qualify for 11/6d. less than that 40/-. It is an advantage of 11/6d. per week to that person who attains the age of 70 years.

Mr. Davern: Information on Michael J. Davern  Zoom on Michael J. Davern  That is not correct.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  Should that person be unmarried or a widow it is quite correct. The Deputy or the Minister might fall back on the argument that there is no means test but who knows in 10 years' time whether or not there will be a means test in existence? It is true there is an improvement in the contributory scheme of only 11/6 per week if a person has paid all the contributions necessary to qualify for the 40/-.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  But if the widow over 70 has many children under 16 she will get the benefit.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  That is one of the most extraordinary benefits included in any scheme introduced in this House. The Minister dwelt glowingly on the advantages to the widow over 70 who has children under 16 years of age in large numbers.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Nobody said “in large numbers”.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  A valiant woman.

[1201]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  It would not be worth it.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  It is nice to know that there are such prolific persons in our community but the Minister's dramatisation of the benefits being offered to those widows is a new one on this House. I have not yet referred to the dastardly trick which has been played and is being played upon a very defenceless and unfortunately not well-informed section of our community. Because of the local elections taking place soon, canvassers are going around to the doors of noncontributory old age pensioners telling them that from the 1st January next they will qualify for 40/- per week. Has the introduction of this Bill during a local election campaign any connection at all with that fact? Was it an accident that one Deputy from Carlow-Kilkenny, a constituency in which a by-election happened to be current, should refer to the fact or was there a hand-out given there? It must be brought home to these people that those who delude the public will pay the price sooner or later. Candidates of the Government Party are canvassing unfortunate old people and telling them they will qualify for this 40/- per week. It is a despicable action but it will reap its reward.

Mr. Davern: Information on Michael J. Davern  Zoom on Michael J. Davern  The reduction of 1/- a week reaped its reward.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Deputy Davern should allow Deputy O'Sullivan to make his statement without interruption. He should reserve his remarks for his own contribution.

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  If we were to take the line established by the Minister in his introductory statement, the discussion on this measure could range over the whole history of the Party which is now in office in relation to what it has done for and against the classes that are mentioned here. Whatever effort the Minister may make to cover up the fact that his Party has been responsible by their actions, ever since his own infamous Budget in 1952, in making it more difficult for these [1202] people to live, will not be forgotten. It would appear he was in nostalgic mood to-day; though he himself was removed from the Ministry of Finance he used this occasion to treat the House to a dissertation on the activities of the Government over the last two years.

I want to say that an effort is being made to convey to the public that there is something of immense benefit for the people effected by this Bill. When we look back with pride upon what a voluntary measure has done, introduced by this Party and their colleagues when in Government, I must say that we would favour a contributory scheme that would bring real benefits to those who would qualify, but, despite the £7 millions cost that will be divided between the employer, the employee, and the old age pensioner, and the niggardly contribution from the State that will be required under this Bill, we cannot see that benefits will flow to very many of those who will have contributed all their lives, or most of their lives, in order to create the necessary fund.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne  On behalf of the Labour Party, I may say that on the whole we welcome this Bill and I might also say on behalf of the Congress of Irish Trade Unions, with whose representatives my Party have discussed this matter, that their view is similar to ours. We welcome the fact that for the first time contributory old age pensions without a means test are being introduced. Together with that, we welcome the fact that substantial increases in social welfare benefits are to be provided, particularly with regard to the number of children exceeding two, in the case of disability and unemployment benefits, and a similar provision in the case of contributory widows' pensions.

The fact that the Government recognise the need for increased benefits in relation to the existing wage standard is also to be welcomed. It is something the Labour Party have been seeking for a long time and now, because some other Government intends in some way to put our views into effect, it would be unfair and totally wrong for us to endeavour to [1203] find fault. Any indication we give of faults will, I hope, be by way of constructive criticism, because in general, as I say, we accept this as a better type of approach to old age pensions —a contributory scheme with no means test—as an improvement more in line with existing wage standards than has heretofore been the case. Because of that fact, we welcome the Bill and I have no hesitation in saying so.

When Deputy Norton was Minister for Social Welfare, he had ideas on somewhat similar lines and, as the Minister mentioned in his opening speech, he published a White Paper with perhaps somewhat different provisions and somewhat bigger benefits. Considering the time when it was introduced and the value of money then as compared with now, I think we could safely say it was on the lines of this Bill, though, perhaps, more liberal or, perhaps, less liberal. Nevertheless that White Paper indicated the principle of the Bill proposed to be introduced by Deputy Norton, and it was somewhat similar to that which is now before us. It is true that Deputy Norton's Bill related to retiring pensions and this is an old age pensions Bill, not a retiring pensions Bill, but nevertheless we welcome the honesty and sincerity behind it.

If I speak of defects in the later part of my contribution, I shall not do so from the point of view of being critical. It will be an honest attempt to draw to the Minister's attention what we consider are improvements. The Labour Party and the Congress of Irish Trade Unions have never denied, and in fact we accept the principle, that workers should contribute towards benefits and, if the benefits are to be increased, we expect their contributions should also be increased. Because of that, we are not too critical of the new contribution rates but I should point out to the Minister that the 4/6d. at present paid by an adult male worker is practically as much as he can afford. Indeed in many cases, I should think his wages do not permit him to contribute [1204] that amount. In that connection I was wondering—and it is also the view of the Congress of Trade Unions—whether it is possible that the employer could carry a larger share than the worker, particularly those workers on a low scale of wages.

The principle of providing retirement schemes is accepted by good employers. Many of them have already provided such schemes, in many cases, free of cost, paying the full amount each week themselves and I would not say that any fair-minded employer would grumble if some portion of the increase envisaged —not all of it, not even half of it— could be allocated to him instead of its being fifty-fifty as between employer and worker.

The Congress of Irish Trade Unions, notwithstanding what the Minister has said, had some difficulty in following all the provisions of the Bill. There are some points not quite clear to them and because of that they have not attempted to publish their views, nor, indeed, have my Party attempted to publish our views, on the Bill. One of their difficulties is in regard to the question of other pensions in relation to this Bill. That comes under Section 18 which states:

(a)Any scheme or arrangement for the provision of pensions, compensation for redundancy or other benefits (including any scheme or arrangement established or provided by or under, or having statutory force by virtue of, any enactment and any scheme evidenced only by one or more policies of insurance) may be modified, and

(b)any such scheme or arrangement other than a scheme or arrangement for the provision of compensation for redundancy may be wound up,

in connection with the establishment under the Acts of a system for the provision of old age (contributory) pensions ...

It is unfortunate that the Minister did not give us some more information in relation to that because it has a vital [1205] bearing on our views. For instance, in connection with, say, the pensions at present received by local authority employees—road workers and others— they contribute 1d. in the 1/- from their wages towards a retiring scheme. Will that be affected by the contributory old age pensions or will both schemes work side by side? Will the workers enjoy both schemes? There are other types of private retirement schemes operated by various concerns and I should like to know if they will be affected?

The Congress of Irish Trade Unions would welcome it very much if, in his reply to this debate, the Minister would deal fairly extensively with those aspects of the matter. It may be that we see in that provision something that is not there at all. It may well be that this is simply a provision which the Minister has to put in at a later date, but, before we give what I might term our unqualified consent and welcome to the Bill, we should like to be enlightened on these matters.

I feel that single workers, whether men or women, will get a very small increase in benefit. To my mind, an amount of 2/6 is rather a small increase for a single worker who will be contributing in full, all the time, in the very same way as a married worker, while the married worker with dependants will receive in proportion a much higher benefit. I suggest to the Minister that it would be worth while to consider increasing that amount.

I also suggest that in framing regulations governing the conditions under which people will qualify for contributory old age pensions, the Minister should be as generous as possible. He has outlined some of the ideas—and his outline meets with at least my approval—which will govern the different kinds of qualifications and how these qualifications will be met in the case of those already over 70 years of age. Regulations to govern the various other benefits are also in the hands of the Minister. I suggest the Minister should be as generous as possible, because this will ultimately redound to the credit of the Exchequer. The more generous he makes the scheme for contributory pensions, the fewer [1206] non-contributory pensioners there will be.

With the assistance of our colleagues in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Labour Party hope to give more detailed study to the Bill in the light of the Minister's speech. If necessary, on Committee Stage, amendments will be tabled incorporating our ideas on these various schemes. Meanwhile, I welcome the Bill as a forward step in the improvement of social welfare benefits. In particular, I welcome the idea of contributory old age pensions. We believe that, following upon the successful implementation of this scheme, other social benefits will be the order of the day, benefits which we in the Labour Party believe are long overdue and eminently desirable.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I welcome this Bill as marketing an important advance in social welfare legislation and its resultant social security. This idea was, of course, initiated by Fianna Fáil. I was rather sorry to-day that some of the Opposition speakers should take this advance so badly. I congratulate the last speaker, Deputy Kyne, on his honesty of approach and on the welcome he extended to this Bill. Deputy O'Sullivan, on the other hand, could see nothing good in the Bill at all. Indeed, he seemed to be pondering the snows of yesteryear, and the year before. Surely anybody anxious to improve the position of our people must recognise that this Bill marks a definite step forward. Unfortunately, there are some in this House who see politics in everything.

I welcome this Bill. I am a member of four old age pension committees. I have had experience of the wrangling that goes on. Perhaps I should not use the word “wrangling”. I have seen the reports of the investigating officers. I know of people being penalised because they had a few pounds in the bank. I know of one man who was penalised because he got a few pounds from his sons and daughters. The means test was there all the time and, because of that means test, many old people were penalised. Deputy O'Sullivan states that the old age pensioners will have to contribute £2,000,000.

[1207]Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  The Minister said that.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I did not say that. The Deputy ought to be truthful.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Is it not every employed worker who will make a contribution?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  He will contribute £2,000,000.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Every employed worker will contribute. Is that not the position?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  £2,000,000.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I welcome these contributory pensions. As the Minister rightly said, this marks a definite advance in social welfare benefits. The Minister, in bringing in these benefits, is keeping in line with the increased economic prosperity in the country. That is all the Minister can do; that is all any Party can do; that is all any Government can do who have the welfare of the country as a whole properly at heart. You cannot take the trews off a Highlander.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Hear, hear. Is fíor duit anois.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I am sorry that some Opposition speakers should receive this legislation so badly. I think it is an excellent idea that there should be these contributory pensions, with no means test of any kind attaching to them. Henceforth, every worker will be entitled to a pension. There will be no investigation of means. If the Fianna Fáil Government, with the help of Providence, are left long enough in office, we shall probably see the day when there will be an amending Bill to improve pensions still further.

People talk about the removal of the subsidies. I do not want to widen the scope of the debate, but we have heard about 1952, and I want to nail these allegations about the 1952 Budget once and for all. At that time Fianna Fáil had to put the interests of the country before their own interests as a Party.

[1208]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Discussion on the Budget of 1952 would not be relevant.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Other speakers referred to it. I merely want to point out that we had to bring the country around from the position in which it was left at that time. As a matter of fact, the Government had fallen out amongst themselves.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy must come back to the Bill. We cannot have a discussion on these lines.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I welcome the benefits given under this Bill—the old age pension benefits and all the others.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Particularly the widows who, at 70 years of age will have several children under 16. Dwell on that thought.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Of course, they are my responsibility also. They are part——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Do not utter another word.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  These benefits represent a definite advance for all sections of our people. Although certain people are not getting a very large increase, nevertheless the Bill shows that the Minister is endeavouring to improve the situation. Although I should like greater allowances to be given, the Bill as a whole is, I think, a wonderful social advance and every honest citizen will welcome it. Deputy O'Sullivan spoke about some Fianna Fáil canvassers going to old age pensioners. An old age pensioner paying national health contributions will get an increase under this Bill. I have listened to people in my constituency shedding crocodile tears about the old age pensioners, but during the six years those people were in office, all they gave the old age pensioners was a miserable halfcrown. At least, I think that is what it was.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Three halfcrowns, I think.

[1209]Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Those people are now going around telling the old age pensioners, the widows and the orphans that they should have more, that if they were in power, everything in the garden would be lovely. But those people got the opportunity of helping the pensioners and did not avail of it I congratulate the Minister on reaching this social milestone and I trust he will carry on the good work begun by him in the past.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I do not think any useful purpose is served by indulging in suppressio veri and so I deprecate the suggestion made by the Minister that the only increases in the old age pension that have been made in recent years were made by the Government of which he is a member. My recollection is that the old age pension was increased in 1948 or 1949 and was subsequently twice increased by inter-Party Governments. It was also increased by Fianna Fáil, and I suppose it would be true to say that on all sides of the House, there is a general disposition to improve the social services in so far as our means will allow. I think the Minister will agree with me that in 1947 there was a resolution on this matter before the House in the names of Deputy John A. Costello and the late Dr. O'Higgins asking for an increase in the old age pension. The Minister was then Minister for Finance and responsible for explaining to the House that the resources of the nation would not permit of any increase being made at that time. Shortly afterwards, in 1948, the inter-Party Government took office and the increase stipulated for was made and found through taxation. It is perfectly true to say that when the present Government removed the food subsidies, which resulted in an economy to the Exchequer of £9 millions—that was the estimate of the Minister for Finance when he was dealing with the matter in the House— in an effort to offset that, £3 millions of the saving of £9 millions were devoted to expanding social services and making certain other compensatory payments, all to help people to meet the increased cost of living consequent on the abolition of the food subsidies.

We think the principle of contributory [1210] pension schemes is a good principle, provided that the persons required to contribute to the scheme are in a position to meet the cost. That is the fundamental reaction of this Party to this Bill. But I want to follow the thought to which I referred a moment ago, that in the 1957 Budget, the Government saved £9 millions by the abolition of the food subsidies. It is quite true that they disbursed £3 millions of it to assist those who were asked to bear the bulk of the burden, and since that time the economy has properly been called upon to meet the sixth and seventh round of wage increases to compensate the individual worker. I know the Minister for Finance had to meet a further £3 millions—rather more than £3 millions —in the Budget to compensate the Civil Service, the Civic Guard, the Army and others. We know that the local authorities had to increase rates by £2 millions in the course of the past two years, partly to meet the cost of the Health Act, but largely to meet the increased wages and salaries of local government employees, again to compensate for the increased cost of living resulting from the abolition of the food subsidies.

But what nobody in this House will face, what nobody will realise, is that at the very foundation of our whole economy stand, in so far as they are now able to stand, the small property-owning farmers of this country. They got nothing to compensate them for the increase in the cost of living consequent on the reduction in the food subsidies by £9 million per annum—not a penny. They have had to meet their share of the increased rates which have resulted from the adjustments consequent upon that arrangement.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Surely a debate on the agricultural position in this country would not relevantly arise on the Social Insurance Bill?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Let me finish this phrase, Sir. Under this Bill they are the one category of persons in Ireland who get no benefit at all. Do Deputies realise that? That is one of the reasons why I think Deputy O'Sullivan rightly deprecated some dishonest [1211] propaganda going on, where old people are freely told that they are to get an increase in pensions under this Bill when those disseminating that statement know perfectly well that the people to whom they are saying that get no benefit under this Bill and are not meant to get a benefit because they do not contribute to any social security fund. They are the people who pay for everything.

Any person who has sat in the Department of Agriculture is painfully aware of the dichotomy of mind that exists in this country.

Deputy Davern lives in Cashel, in South Tipperary, and I think he will agree with me that his neighbours would not regard my neighbours as farmers at all. He thinks of the kind of people who for me are farmers— in Monaghan, Cavan, Mayo, Galway, Sligo, Longford, Donegal, Clare, and Kerry—as agricultural labourers. It is very hard to get a Deputy coming from Dublin, or coming from the richer agricultural counties in the east and south east, to understand that Deputies representing more than half of this country speak of people as farmers while the representatives of the cities, towns and more prosperous areas would not think of them as farmers at all but would imagine them to be agricultural labourers who should derive some benefit under this old age pensions scheme.

I think Deputy Davern would find it hard to believe that there is not such a thing as an agricultural labourer within 30 miles of where I live. They do not exist. They all own their own small holdings. While there is no doubt whatever that in the cities and in the areas where there is a large employment of agricultural labourers there will be a considerable number of people who will benefit under this social security Bill the vast bulk of old age pensioners will get nothing at all.

We ought to face that fact and try to look at the proposal objectively for what it is. Some Deputies have found it hard to face the fact that all this Bill purports to do is to provide the [1212] machinery for a compulsory insurance scheme the cost of which is to be contributed from three sources. The employee is to contribute £2,000,000; the employer is to contribute approximately £2,000,000 and there is no escaping the fact that the remaining £2,500,000 is to be raised out of savings on the old age pension Vote, and £300,000 is to be found by the Exchequer from new sources of revenue, either by savings on other Votes or by an expansion in the yield of existing taxes. The three main contributors to the fund which is to finance these benefits are the employers, the employees and the old age pensioners.

Granted that the principle of insurance is a sound one, it is not irrelevant to inquire, when we are examining a proposal of this kind, the magnitude of the burden to be carried and the quality of the benefits which will result therefrom. I regard myself as a reasonably intelligent Deputy who will understand draft legislation as well as the next, but I do not believe that there is any Deputy, even after the Minister's statement, who has any clear picture in his mind of what the position will be of people between the ages of 60 and 70 at the present time who have been stamping insurance cards in the past. I still do not know whether they qualify for the full benefits set out in the appropriate Schedule to this Bill. Despite what the Minister said today I still do not understand what the implications are of the 48 contributions paid to the exclusions of credits in three successive years and I do not fully understand the provision in regard to 10 years' continuous employment of a character——

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Ten years in insurance, which is a different thing.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Ten years' continuous employment of a character which involves the stamping of cards.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I think the Deputy is making a mistake and confusing insurance with employment. He may be ten years in insurance.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I can see a distinction at once, although the Minister said there was some difference between a [1213] person who had stamps paid for and put on his card and the person who got credits and the person who was in insurable employment but is temporarily unemployed and prevented from working by sickness. These are highly technical matters and they are not easy to decipher, even with the assistance of the Minister's introductory statement, and I do not fully understand them even yet.

Our understanding of these things is not made easier by the Minister's quite astonishing reference to the benefits which he anticipates will be enjoyed by widows. Is there some misunderstanding of what the Minister stated when he said that a widow of over 70 years who had a dependant child under 16 years of age would benefit greatly under the terms of the Bill? I understand that a dependant child for the purpose of this Act is under 16 years of age. Is that so? It makes the proceedings a farce if the Minister seriously suggests that any material contribution is made to the improvement of social services by conferring benefits on widows of over 70 with children under 16 years of age. Possibly the Minister's tongue slipped on that occasion and, if it did, I can fully excuse him, but I can assure him that interpolations of that kind do not help to elucidate the provisions of the Bill. It is quite manifest from the intervention of Deputy Burke, of County Dublin, that he has not got the faintest notion of the meaning of the Bill and I do not quarrel with him because it is a difficult Bill to follow but it is a Bill of strictly limited application.

I should be glad to hear the Minister on this aspect of it. Anybody who has contact with employed persons must frequently have heard the question from people who had paid into the National Health Insurance, as it used to be, from boyhood until they attained the age of 70 years and ceased to be insurable: “What has become of all the contributions I have been paying into the National Health Insurance since the Insurance Act was first passed in 1911? What has become of all the stamps?” All you can say is “They are gone.”

[1214] In those days they got the non-contributory old age pension which at present is 28/6 a week. Now when we are asked what has become of the stamps, we can say: “You will get 40/- instead of 28/6d.” Is that not the sum of the benefit under the old age pension scheme that operates? It is true that if they had saved money and had a substantial sum in the bank, they might have their non-contributory old age pension abated, whereas, in this Bill, even if they have savings accumulated, there will not be an abatement of the 40/-.

It is common knowledge that various ameliorations have been made in the means test in recent years, so that few labouring men accumulate a stake sufficient to reduce the old age pension when he reaches the age of 70 years. Now we say to him: “After your lifetime of contributions, you will get 11/6d. a week more than you would otherwise have got.” In the past, the contribution was 2/9d. and, in the future, the contribution will be 4/6d. They are to pay 4/6d a week for their whole lifetime, that is, 1/9d. a week more than they pay at present. So far as the old age pension is concerned, that will represent effectively an additional 11/6d. on the old age pension, if and when they reach the age of 70 years. If they are married and they do not reach the age of 70 years, their widows will get a somewhat better benefit than they are now entitled to, but they will have no old age pension claim at all.

It is true that if a man is married and has a dependent wife under pensionable age, she will receive 27/6d., but—and here is where the Minister can help us—am I right in believing? —I think I am—in the case of the average labouring man who attains the age of 70 years and his wife, who is 70 also, the man gets 28/6d. and his wife will not get 28/6 under existing law, as I understand it.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  She does not yet get 28/6d.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I think if two old people [1215] both attain the age of 70 years, they are entitled to the old age pension.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Not at the rate of 28/6d. It is 27/6d.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is there not a shilling paid to compensate them for the 3d. per lb. which was put on butter? Does that not make it 28/6d.?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The Leader of the Opposition ought, for once, to be sure of his facts.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I am assuming the Minister kept his word over that miserable shilling he promised they would get when the 3d. was put on the lb. of butter. I have always assumed that an Irish Minister's word, even when he is a Fianna Fáil Minister, is good at least for a shilling. I am assuming the shilling was added on. As I understand it, the position was that an old labouring man and his wife, when they reached the age of 70, became entitled to 28/6d. a week. If I understand this Bill correctly—and I am subject to correction—I understand that it provides that both pensions cannot be drawn. If a person is entitled to a contributory pension, he is debarred from drawing a non-contributory pension.

I should be glad if the Minister could tell us when he is concluding if I am right in that opinion. Suppose an old man attains the age of 70 years and becomes entitled to 40/- a week under this Bill and to 27/6 for an adult dependant, when his wife becomes entitled in her own right, by attaining the age of 70 years, to a non-contributory old age pension, does she receive it and does the husband also receive the 27/6d.? Do I read the Bill correctly in understanding that the old woman cannot receive both pensions? Can the Minister tell me that?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The Deputy is confusing allowances with pensions.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Does the Minister mean he will not continue to receive the allowance?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It cannot be paid from two sources.

[1216]Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  So that the 27/6 he is allowed ceases as soon as his wife attains the age of 70 years. How many of us realise, when we read here that under the old age contributory pensions a man of 70 will receive 40/- and his dependant wife qualifies for 27/6d., that the 27/6d. is payable only for that period of years during which she herself is less than 70 years of age? That is the sum and substance of that benefit. When she becomes entitled to the pension in her own right, the allowance of 27/6d. ceases to be paid.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  She may never be entitled in her own right to that pension.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  She may die.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Her husband's means may exclude and disqualify her.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  That is what comes of people who are not living in contact with the people——

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  That is the trouble about not knowing the facts.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I have employed more people in any given week than the Minister has employed in his whole life, and I have stamped their insurance cards. The trouble of having Ministers who are not in contact with the daily lives of our people is that they are fascinated by bureaucratic pattern drawings on paper. The humblest clerk in the Minister's Department knows more about this complex than does the Minister himself. How many people of our acquaintances, having spent their lives as labouring men in this country, accumulate savings which would operate under our existing old age pension code to prevent their wives from qualifying for an old age pension when they reach the age of 70 years? The number is microscopic.

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  Unless they win the Sweep.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I think they could have £2 a week under the existing law and still get the old age pension in full. That is a sound and sensible proviso. [1217] In effect, this benefit of 27/6d. for the dependent wife extends over the years the wife is under 70 years, after her husband has attained the age of 70. I do not know the actuarial value of this benefit, and I doubt if anyone in this House is qualified to pass upon it, but I do know that an annual contribution of £6½ million ought to buy a fairly generous benefit.

This House ought to realise that, after all the web of words spun by the Minister has been swept aside, we can look at the facts and find the real meaning of this Bill, which is that we are legislating to require. Remember this is not a voluntary health scheme, and it is not a voluntary social service scheme. This is a Bill to require employers to pay £2,000,000 a year, employees to pay £2,000,000 a year and the old age pensioners to contribute £2½ million a year so that a strictly limited number of persons— those in insurable employment—may enjoy the benefits set out in the relevant Schedule to the Bill.

I want to ask the Minister what does he think the reaction of all the old people on the small holdings of Ireland will be when they are told that the gap opening between them, whose only crime is that they labour for themselves, and their more fortunate neighbours, is going to widen still further? I find it very hard to go home and tell all the old age pensioners in Monaghan and Mayo that there is nothing in this Bill for them, that there is no reference to them and that they are going to get nothing out of it. They are led to believe that is not so, and there will be a lot of bitter disappointment when they discover that here again they are scheduled to become poorer while another section of the community will be a little less poorly-off than before.

At what stage is this House going to face the fact that if we proceed to help each section of the community in turn and provide nothing for the self-employed small farmer of the west, the north-west, and the south-west, the ghastly haemorrhage from that area of Ireland will grow and grow? I think the differential between these [1218] people, between the standard of living enjoyed by these people and that enjoyed by the rest of the community, is widening every week and we, in this House, seem to be concerned further to widen it. I think it true to say that one-third of this contribution envisaged in the Bill is being made by old age pensioners, but to that conception the Minister reacts most indignantly in the negative.

If his thesis is right and it will be contributed by the taxpayer at large then it only strengthens the case I now submit to the House. We pile the increase in the cost of living on to the old age pensioners and small farmers of the west with no compensatory payment. The trend of the market and the failure of the present Government to do anything to correct that trend increased their burden by the reduction of their income by £18 million per annum since 1957—because that is the reduction in the farmers' income since 1957. If the Minister's thesis is correct, we are now going to ask this same section of the community to contribute their share of £2½ million further to widen the gap between the amenities they enjoy and those to be enjoyed by the categories covered by this Bill. The consequences are there for all to see; more and more of them are moving out.

The Minister speaks with exultation in the concluding paragraphs about the inspiration his Government have provided for foreigners to come in and invest their money here. He has gloried in the stability which has attracted the Germans, the Dutch, the Greeks, the Swedes and people from the four corners of the earth to come and invest their money here. How can he speak in this radiant terminology of the growing financial stability in which he rejoices without adding that in the three years that we were making ready a hospitable reception for the Germans, the Dutch and the Greeks with their money, 100,000 wage-earning citizens of this country left on the boats that brought in the Germans, the Dutch and the Greeks? Most of them went from houses where they left old people who are now to be told that under this Bill there are no benefits for them.

[1219] When will this House open its eyes to that grim picture? I have told the House before of the man who was 71 years of age, who came in to me from one such small farm and asked me if he could get a small enlargement of his holding—he would be content with four or five acres—from the Land Commission because, he said: “It is a hard thing, Mr. Dillon, to rear ten of them and be left with only one who says he does not want to stay.”

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I feel the Deputy is getting away from the Bill before the House.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I felt that, when I read paragraph 25 of the Minister's statement. At that stage the Leader of the Labour Party intervened on a point of order and asked if the Minister could pursue those lines, would we be allowed to follow him. The Ceann Comhairle replied that he had not ruled the Minister out of order and that he would not wish to answer a hypothetical question. I foresaw this situation arising if the Minister wished to say—as he did say:—

The fact that I am in a position to put this measure before the House and, in addition, hope to introduce within a couple of weeks a Bill to increase social assistance payments for the third time since this Government took office is entirely due to the response which all progressive elements in the State have given to the Government's leadership. Under the leadership of this Government industry has expanded, has made itself more efficient and has found new outlets. This Bill, and the other to which I have referred, reflect the improvement in the state of the nation which has been wrought thereby.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Nevertheless, I do not see that that would open up a debate on agricultural recession in the country. The Deputy is entitled to refer to it.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I am sure the Chair will not ask me to restrict myself to any narrower limits than those within which [1220] the Minister elected to speak. He went on to say:—

The Bill, however, I want to emphasise is but a beginning. It constitutes the foundations upon which in time, provided our economic progress permits, a more comprehensive and ambitious scheme can be based. In the meantime, however, the Bill is the best Bill that the community can afford and pay for ....

But it put at issue this question—or it tried to put at issue the question— that it was as a result of certain economic measures that this Government have taken that we are in a position to make what the Minister chooses to describe as a very comprehensive social advance.

I have dealt with the question of the real scope of the social implications of this Bill but when the Minister vaunts his pride in the economic improvement for which he feels the measures of the Government have been responsible, am I not entitled to ask: “If you have accumulated money, if, as you say yourself, you have attracted the Germans, the Swedes, the Dutch, even the Greeks, have we not paid for them in something more precious than money; have we not paid for them with 100,000 of our youngest and best? Have we made a good exchange?”

Let me look back to the paragraph in the Minister's opening statement, which reads:

Now it is imperative that the annual Budget of the State should be kept in balance. Indeed the fact that the present Government, like all its Fianna Fáil predecessors, has shown its determination to meet its liabilities on current account as they arose, has been among the chief factors which over the past three years have caused so many investors and industrialists to consider with increasing favour the possibilities of industrial development here.

The Swedes, the Turks and the Greeks! But he does not go on to add that that policy has swept away, to make place for these investors and industrialists, 100,000 boys and girls [1221] between 18 and 25 who have been sent to get employment in Birmingham, Glasgow and London because the holding where their fathers reared them will no longer sustain them in Ireland and they would sooner live in the slums of Birmingham, with the industrial earnings they can get there, than grow poor on the holdings that the fathers and grandfathers of many of us fought so hard to make their own.

These are the fruits I see of the policy of which the Minister is so arrogantly proud. I suppose if I were born and reared in Belfast or in Dublin and never fared far forth out of either of these cities I might feel the same because I would not know about the homes from which these 100,000 came. But it is to me and to the rest of us who live in rural Ireland that the fathers and the mothers come who can see no direct benefit for themselves from the Swedes, the Dutch or the Greeks and who are conscious only of the fact that it is very lonesome when you have reared ten to realise that the tenth is now prepared to go.

I think the principle of social insurance is good. I very much doubt if the cost, £6¾ million, which these benefits involve constitute good value for those who will have to meet the charge to pay for them. I simply do not know. I am not qualified to judge of the actuarial benefits that should be available from payments of these dimensions. I know, however, that an addition of 1/9d. a week off the wages of an employed person in this country is no small consideration. A contribution of 9/- a week between the employer and employee seems to be a dimension which is more than enough to pay for the benefits envisaged in the Schedule to this Bill. It will be a pretty formidable burden.

I wish I believed that we could see in the probable expansion of our national income an abundant source from which to find them. I do not deny that I see the land probably in more proximate perspective than does the Minister for Social Welfare. The Minister may have higher hopes of a new industrial departure than I can persuade myself to have. The Minister [1222] must appear to read with greater equanimity than I the announcement that the whole industrial policy which he has sponsored in this country in the past 30 years is to be reversed, that we are to embark forthwith on the task of dismantling——

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  This has nothing to do with the Bill.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Oh, yes, it has, because the Minister says it is his anticipation that from a steady expansion in the national income, from these sources, he ventures this new departure and regards it as no more than a foundation on which he proposes in the future to build and build.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy Dillon will agree that a passing reference by the Minister relating to the economic position of the country does not warrant a debate on the economic position or the agricultural position. It would not be in order on this Bill.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I wish the Leader of the Labour Party were here. He raised this very matter on a point of order. The moment the Minister embarked on it, the Deputy said that, if he proceeded with it, these schemes would have to be examined. I submit we are not set down by a rule of Order of this House tacitly to accept the statement by the Minister that he confidently believes that, as a result of the exertions of his Government, there is an abundant source from which the revenue required not only for this but for a much more comprehensive scheme can be derived. Surely I am entitled to say that with the dismantling of the entire tariff structure, our remaining industrial structure will not be ample to carry all these charges because that is the source from which it is to come. There is only a microscopic fraction of the persons referred to in this Bill who are in any way associated with agriculture. The land is out, so far as this Bill is concerned. This Bill relates, as to 90 per cent., to industrial activity and clerical, transport and other avenues of employment so described in the statistical returns. What happens if, as a result of the developments [1223] envisaged by the Taoiseach at Shannon Airport—not in Dáil Éireann, mark you—that infra-structure undergoes a revolutionary change.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy is completely out of order in discussing the economic position of the country. The Minister is responsible for the Social Welfare Bill which is before the House. We are not discussing the intricacies of industry, agriculture or the position at Shannon.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Surely there are two aspects of this Bill, one of which is the benefits to be conferred. Is that not so?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The policy on industry may not be discussed.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Where is the money to be got to meet the charges which will come in course of payment as a result of this Bill? The Exchequer contributes nothing. It comes from the old age pensioners. Two-thirds of the net cost are being contributed by those in employment.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The Deputy has repeated that absurdity. It is time for him to sit down.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Let us agree on fundamentals. The Minister will agree that at least £4 millions is to be found from employers and——

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I shall deal with that absurd argument when the Deputy has finished and if he permits me.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  There is universal agreement in the House that, as to £4 million, £2 million comes from employers and £2 million from employed, always provided that the employed are in employment and that the employers can continue to employ. Here is something that we in Ireland only too readily forget. Since 1938, there has been no draw on the social security fund in Great Britain but a steady intake of incalculable sums. Nobody knows today what the accumulated reserves of the social insurance fund [1224] of Great Britain are. We have never known a day, a week or a year in which our social insurance funds have not been heavily taxed to meet the claims of the sick and unemployed. I do not believe there is any reserve in our social insurance fund.

All the benefits in this Bill are based on the assumption that we are to have, over the next quarter of a century, a situation closely approximating to full employment. That is the basis of the calculation in the Bill. If we do not have a situation of this kind, I gravely doubt the actuarial validity of the calculations the Minister has made. I do not want to go outside the restrictive directions of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle in this matter. I think we are bound to consider the chief source of the revenue. Am I right in saying that the whole actuarial calculation of this Bill is based on the assumption of a high rate of employment in our economy. It is something we have not known heretofore with sky-high industrial protection.

I admit that we have not had the high incidence of unemployment in our economy because our unemployed have gone to Great Britain, but here is a relevant consideration on which the Minister should have a word to say. I think we made a reciprocal agreement with Great Britain under which unemployed persons are entitled to benefit in Great Britain and if they return to our jurisdiction, they are entitled to benefit here. We made it in regard to national health insurance. I am not sure if it applies to unemployed and vice versa, of course.

Suppose a situation ever develops in which, instead of improving, our employment here should deteriorate and suppose the annual haemorrhage of 30,000 people is arrested and, instead of unloading our unemployed on to full employment in the British mraket, they remain at home and become a charge on this fund, where is the actuarial basis for our calculations then? If we never knew full employment in the light of the scale of tariffs we had and if these are to be dismantled over the next ten to 15 years, where do we go from there?

[1225] Let us at least be realistic about the facts in this Bill. I leave that latter calculation to the Minister to make. Let him make what prognostications he likes about it, his hopes are as valid as my fears. I am left with this recollection. As to 90 per cent. of my constituents in county Monaghan and 90 per cent. of my neighbours in county Mayo, there is nothing in this Bill for them. If the Minister's calculation is correct, they will have to pay their share of the £2,500,000. I believe it will be paid by the existing old age pensioners who will no longer be a charge on the Exchequer. Whatever tale is true, we have got to face the fact that in respect of the small farmers of Ireland, this operates to widen the gap between their standard of living and that of the rest of us. It is a chastening thought in connection with this legislation and it is one I should like Deputies to reflect upon.

Mr. Davern: Information on Michael J. Davern  Zoom on Michael J. Davern  The fury with which the Fine Gael Party have met this Bill is, I think, unequalled, so far as social services are concerned. It is no wonder the Fine Gael Party are on the way out. This Bill gives them an ignominious exit, which they fully deserve. It was their mishandling and abuse of the old age pensioners in the past that brought on them such a political curse that their numbers are seriously diminished in this House. These are the facts. They showed hatred for the old age pensioners and reduced their pensions in the past. They showed a lack of thought for the old age pensioners, the sick poor and the widows and orphans.

When they speak of unemployment apparently they imagine that people's memories are very short. It is only three short years since we inherited from them a legacy of no fewer than 97,500 unemployed.

Deputies on the Fine Gael side of the House have ridiculed the small increases. The Minister has indicated that the cost of social welfare has gone to over £27 million. When old age pensions were costing £2½ million, the Fine Gael Government reduced the pension of 10/- a week by one shilling. [1226] One of the first acts of a Fianna Fáil Government was to restore that precious shilling to the pensioners who had been robbed of it. As a result the pensioners know that they are safe in the hands of a Fianna Fáil Government.

I congratulate the Minister on this Bill. The Bill implements principles that many of us have stood for in the past. If the Fine Gael Party, at the commencement of this debate, appeared pallid and to have taken tranquillisers Deputy Kyne put the nail in their coffin when he indicated that he and the other members of the Labour Party were anxious to enact legislation which would give benefits of this kind to the aged poor. Why did they not give them? It clearly was because the Fine Gael Party refused to acquiesce.

Deputy O'Sullivan is very perturbed because, as he says, the Bill gives only an extra 11/6d. per week. Obviously, he has not read the Bill or, if he has read it, does not understand it. It gives to a dependant, in addition to that, 27/6d. a week. Today, many roadworkers, thanks to Fianna Fáil, enjoy superannuation. Although the means test has been altered in their favour, many roadworkers in receipt of national health insurance do not qualify for an old age pension because the superannuation arranged for them by a Fianna Fáil Government is so high as to bring them above the statutory ceiling in relation to means. They will benefit by this Bill. In all, some 200,000 persons will benefit by this Bill. It is no wonder that we were treated to the berserk fury of the Fine Gael Party. It is no wonder that they feel that this is the last straw and that never again can they try to induce old age pensioners to believe that there is hope for them if Fine Gael ever get back.

This Bill, like many other Social Welfare Bills introduced by Fianna Fáil, will give a headline, not only to future Governments in this country, but to other countries. The provision of non-contributory widows' and orphans' pensions inspired the enactment of legislation to provide such pensions [1227] in other countries. The Fianna Fáil Government was the first Government to make such provision. Fine Gael talk about their increase of 2/6d. but if you deduct from that the shilling that they took off, the net contribution was 1/6d.

Deputy Dillon stated that the farmers were not benefiting from any social welfare legislation. Let me tell Deputy Dillon that thousands of farmers, even those in the fertile lands of the Golden Vale, have been in receipt of the maximum or something less than the maximum old age pension since the 1952 Social Welfare Bill was passed in this House by a Fianna Fáil Government. Clearly, a greater number of farmers from west of the Shannon must also enjoy the great benefits conferred by that Act, which lifted the ceiling from £39 5s. to £104 and the floor level from £15 12s. to £52 16s. 6d. The people had to wait until a Fianna Fáil Government returned to office to look after their needs and to compensate them for any increase in the cost of living.

Deputy Dillon mentioned Section 16 of the Bill. The contribution conditions are that the claimant has entered into insurance before attaining the age of 60 and has 156 employment contributions—which means stamps purchased—and 48 accepted contributions. That is to say, each time a person in receipt of unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit or national health insurance, signs at the labour exchange or obtains a medical certificate, that will be termed a contribution and accepted as such for the purpose of qualifying for £2 a week and 27/6d. for his dependants, and so on. I thought the Minister made that very clear but there are none so blind as those who do not want to see.

I would specially ask the Minister to give greater publicity to this Social Welfare Bill than has been given to others. Our insured people need to know more about their entitlement in this respect. A man may be in employment for 8 or 9 months of the year; then he goes into casual employment for a certain period and does not insist [1228] on getting his stamps from the employer. That does not happen in all cases but in very many cases it does. If that were to happen in the future it would be detrimental to that person's interest so far as this measure is concerned. There are much greater things at stake for him now and a greater need for him to know the contributions he must make and which in course of time will help him to enjoy at least frugal comfort.

I welcome the Minister's statement in regard to voluntary contributors. It is a pity that many of those who go beyond the salary limit specified fail to continue as voluntary contributors. Perhaps up to now there has not been sufficient enticement for them. However, now that there is an option, every person, regardless of the extent to which his income or salary may increase, should take advantage of the privilege of becoming a voluntary contributor. Every person whose means exceed £800 and who gives up national health membership ought to bear in mind that under this Act he has the option of qualifying for full benefits or of qualifying his wife for a contributory pension.

The tone set in respect of this Bill by the Fine Gael Party is regrettable. One would expect from Deputy Dillon, who now occupies the very responsible position of Leader of the Opposition, a contribution brimful of honesty at least. I am sorry to think it was purely a political harangue to minimise the benefits which this Bill will confer.

The misrepresentation of this Bill here by responsible people is to be deplored. We have heard a lot of talk about canvassers going around telling people they will get old age pensions. Instead of drawing red herrings across the trail the Leader of the Opposition, if he were interested in the old and infirm, which obviously he is not, would have considered how he could improve the measure before the House.

We have the assurance of the Minister and of the Taoiseach that, as time goes on and as the economy of the nation grows stronger, greater benefit will be given to this very deserving section of the community, the [1229] old age pensioners. While the Fianna Fáil Government remain in office the future of the old age pensioner is safe. We shall avail of every opportunity that presents itself to give them as much comfort, frugal though it may be, as the economy can afford. The inclusion in this measure of a provision for increases for widows and orphans and in respect of disablement benefit is to be highly commended. It is heartening to think that one of the first considerations of this Fianna Fáil Government is for the old and the infirm, those who have given the best part of their lives and their labour to build up our economy. Ours is the only political Party that has given support to the theory that the greatest possible assistance should be given to those sections so deserving of it.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  I do not know who prepared the Minister's brief. I can hardly imagine it was all Departmental. The clear portions of it are those which set out the statistics, but the Minister would not be concerned merely with dry statistics. He thought he would inject some of his political venom into the brief. Therefore, we have a statement here which is clear in so far as it keeps to statistics but which represents the usual war-cry of the Minister when he gets into the political battlefield.

There is a lot of clap-trap in his speech but that is not an unfamiliar performance by the Minister for Social Welfare. In the interests of brevity and good order, I do not propose to follow the Minister along that line. Page 2 of the document says:

On the 11th December last, in the Debate on the Adjournment, the Taoiseach, outlining the Government's design (Vol. 178, Col. 1543) said:—

“The intention is to lay the foundations of a sound scheme now and then to build up on it as conditions permit. The main effect of this scheme will be to confer upon all former insured workers who are now beyond their labours a substantial improvement in their existing resources.”

The 1950 Social Welfare Bill which [1230] was introduced into this House and passed its Second Reading here provided for retirement pensions for men at 65 years of age and for women at 60 years of age. Therefore what the Taoiseach said in November, 1959, about laying the foundations for a sound scheme vis-a-vis, apparently, this Bill had in fact been thought out and was already in the 1950 Social Welfare Bill which, as I said, passed through this House but which was dropped by the Fianna Fáil Party.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It did not pass through this House.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  It passed the Second Reading.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It did not pass through the House.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  Does the Minister know the difference between a Second Reading and a Final Stage or must I bring in a blackboard and chalk and explain it to him?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It is the Deputy who is mixed.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  Do not be so naturally stupid. I thought the Minister's recent sojourn in America would have done him some good but he comes back even more disorderly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Could we come to the Bill now?

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  I wanted to resist the attempt of the Minister to interrupt me in what I was saying simply because he is stupid. The 1950 Bill contained provision for retirement pensions at 65 for men and 60 for women, so the foundations to which the Taoiseach referred had already been thought out and embodied in that Bill, but the Fianna Fáil Government dropped that provision in the 1952 Social Welfare Act. I thought it was buried but now we see it reappear in another form, but I do not think this form is the correct one, considering the amount of benefit to be given at this stage following the abolition of the food subsidies when the Government took £9 millions out of the pockets of the people.

[1231] Values have completely changed since then and the index figures have been completely altered but I want to compare scheme with scheme. This scheme provides for old age pensions at 70 years of age. The other scheme provided for retirement pensions at 65 for a man and 60 for a woman, and I think a scheme of retirement pensions at 65 for a man and 60 for a woman is a better scheme. I am talking about the basis, the one which provides for old age pensions at the age of 70 on a contributory basis. Of course, the Minister may say that under this Bill it will not be necessary to retire in order to get the benefit. It was not necessary to retire in the other case to get the benefit as such. The position was that if a person wanted to work on, he could do so until 70 or 75 years of age, depending on how long his employer would keep him, but, if he felt like retiring at 65, he could do so, taking into account the amount of savings he had.

I still think it is a desirable objective, with so many young people unemployed, to induce people to retire in old age so as to provide employment for the thousands of young people who are thronging the employment exchanges all over the country to-day. If you get a situation in which you have 70,000 idle people in the country, many of them young, and you have a large section of the community still working after 70 years of age, I think it is desirable to try to induce the elderly people to retire in order to provide employment outlets for those who have to live on the pittances they receive at employment exchanges. Therefore, I think a scheme which provides for retirement at 65 years for men and 60 years for women is much preferable to what we have here. It is a scheme which has many benefits, manifest and latent within it, and I am sorry it has been thrown overboard for a scheme of contributory old age pensions.

There is nothing very much to talk about in the present scheme, but, before I proceed to compare it with what operates elsewhere, let me say that I am strongly in favour of all [1232] aspects of social legislation. Anything which makes provision for the rainy day is good domestic housekeeping; it is good national housekeeping; it is good national economics. Therefore I believe in radical schemes of social welfare because I believe it is one of the best ways of getting a reasonable redistribution of income, and one of the best ways for people who have no individual resources behind them to insulate themselves against the hazards of old age, widowhood, sickness and unemployment. Because of their contributions into a central pool, they enable the helpless individual to have behind him all the multiplied resources of the State, represented by its ability to collect contributions which at least will provide benefits for the insured person in his time of need.

It is often easy to explain to a person the benefit of insuring himself against sickness and unemployment. A young person of 20 or 25 years of age may be sick many times in the year. He may also be unemployed from time to time and thus he sees an early prospect of getting something back for the contributions he pays, but the task of convincing young people that a contributory pension scheme is good is a pretty difficult one and nobody should underestimate it. It is one thing to go into a factory and say to the young people employed there: “Look, we want to insure you against loss of employment and against risk of sickness. When you are sick or unemployed, you will get certain benefits”; but it is another thing to say to young people: “Look, you are 25 years of age and we want to insure you for retirement pension purposes. You will get a retirement pension 45 years from this date.” There is no enthusiasm among that kind of person for making provision for a pension 45 years from the date of enrolment or, as it could be under this Bill, 50 years from the date of enrolment.

There are many people who will pay the increased contributions sought here who will not, in fact, get the additional benefit until they go through all the hazards of life in Ireland and survive 50 years, so that from this [1233] day onwards for 50 years, they will pay this increased contribution before they get any benefit in the form of a contributory old age pension. That takes them into the year 2,000 and it is not an alluring prospect. However, notwithstanding the arguments that can be made and will be made by young persons, I am in favour of people, during their lifetime of physical and intellectual strength, insuring themselves against the possibility that when they reach the age at which they can no longer hold a place in industry or commerce, they will have some guarantee of a pension on retirement. Whether this is the best scheme is another matter.

As I say, I prefer the scheme of retirement pensions at 65 years for men and 60 years for women, because I think it has more attractions. I also think it would help to provide employment in industry, commerce and other services by tempting people out, but nobody is tempted to leave employment if he cannot get a State pension until he reaches 70 years of age.

Of course, the Minister says that under this Bill such people will not have to retire but that is a perfect illusion. Could anybody imagine a bus conductor working until he is 70 years of age? Could anybody imagine a slater working until he is 70 years of age? Could anybody imagine a man climbing an E.S.B. or a telegraph pole when he is 69 years and 11 months? Could anybody imagine a carpenter or a bricklayer going up to the top of a five or six-storey building at 70 years of age? The plain fact of the matter is that they cannot keep their jobs except in very rare instances.

The only people who apparently hold their jobs when they are 70 years of age are Ministers and judges. They seem to be all right but the ordinary people have to run the risk of the outside labour market and they find it is pretty difficult to get a new job when they are 60 years of age. Building trade operatives change their employment many times because employers hire them and fire them, according as they want them or do not want them. [1234] When they are sacked in or about 60 years of age and go looking for a new job with a new employer, they do not find it easy to get one. If they do get a job, it is not easy to keep it.

Insurance companies do not look with any enthusiasm on the employment of elderly people in jobs which expose them to risks under the Employers' Liability Act or the Workmen's Compensation Act. If a man is employed for a long time in a firm, which has some regard for the humanities, he may manage to hold his berth there until he is 70 years of age. But such industries are growing fewer and fewer and the general tendency is to try to devise some pension scheme within the firm so that these people can be put on pension and the firm relieved of the burden of retaining them until 70 years of age.

It is not so long since the Minister for Health, in fact, issued a direction to local authorities telling doctors to retire at 65 years of age. When one gets the position in which a doctor is compelled to retire at 65 years of age by the ukase of the Minister for Health, one gets a fair idea of the difficulty. You might say that a doctor could carry on between 65 and 70, whereas you might be doubtful about the man working on top of a five or six-storey building. If my recollection is correct, I think the general idea is to get these people to retire at 65. As I say, it is not easy to hold a berth until you are 70 years of age.

The Minister may say a man is not compelled to retire in order to get this benefit. The plain fact of the matter is, of course, that long before a man reaches 70 his job will be to try to find employment. He may be able to hold out until he is 70. If he does, his employer will say: “All right; you had better take your contributory pension now, for which I paid half, and go because at 70 years of age, you are, in the words of the Taoiseach last December, beyond your labour. Go.” If, however, the employee loses his job before that, at 60 or 65, he will have a job getting it back, or getting any other job instead. It would have been much better, I [1235] think, to recognise 65 as a desirable age at which the male insured person could draw unemployment benefit.

Notwithstanding the rather Olympian heights to which the Minister rose in describing this Bill, I think he would have modified his temporary political enthusiasm somewhat if he had read about the schemes operating in other countries. We pay the worst pension at 70 years of age of any democracy in Western Europe. Every other country in Western Europe has a better retirement pension scheme than we have. That is the fact. Why is another matter. Why we do not remedy the situation here is also another matter. Do not let us get too swelled-headed in the mistaken idea that we are pioneering in the field of social welfare legislation. We are not. We are at the end of the scale so far as social welfare legislation is concerned, and that is exemplified in the schemes in operation in the democracies of Western Europe.

Recently, the Swedish Parliament, dealing with the question of retirement pensions, as quoted in the News Bulletin issued by the Swedish Legation, said that their scheme provides for retirement pensions on a national basis, in addition to the old age pension which is every resident's right, at the age of 67 and which will be raised to £250 per year. Total benefits, including old age pensions, are estimated at an average of 65 per cent. of the average income of the best 15 years of a person's life. If you happen to live in Sweden, therefore, instead of in Ireland, you can, at the age of 67, draw an old age pension and a retirement pension as well, and the total of the two of them will represent 65 per cent. of the average income of the best 15 working years of your life.

Compare that with what we are doing here. Assume a man here has an income of £8; he will get 25 per cent. when he retires at 70, not 65 per cent. as in Sweden. If he has £10, he will get 20 per cent. as against 65 per cent. there. When we talk about social welfare services, then, let us remember others who have blazed the trail and pioneered in that field. Their [1236] cumulative benefits represent pretty tall money for the beneficiary as compared with what is provided in this Bill.

It is provided, too, in the Swedish scheme, that if a person wishes to retire before 67, he may do so and receive a proportion of the pension due to him. On the other hand, if he wishes to continue after 67, he may likewise do so. If he does, then there is a premium added to the pension which he would have received had he retired at 67.

This pension scheme of the Minister's is not as good as that in operation in the Six Counties. It is not as good as that in operation in Great Britain. It is notoriously below what is in operation on the Continent. It may well be that our resources do not permit the payment of a higher contribution, but that was not the case argued for the Bill. The Bill was held out by the Minister and Deputy Davern as something out of this world. It does not bear favourable comparison with retirement schemes elsewhere.

As I said, I am in favour of almost anything which helps to provide retirement pensions. I may quarrel with the basis and the amount, but, in principle, the provision of a retirement pension which a person can secure as a matter of right, because he is insured, has everything to commend it as against schemes dependent on the generosity or munificence of either the State or the private employer. This Bill confines the benefits to insured persons. I know the difficulty, only too well, of trying to extend these insurance schemes to self-employed persons and to small farmers. The difficulty is these people have no employers. The difficulty is that, because of that, one has to deal with them as isolated individuals. It is extremely difficult to make contracts with them and extremely difficult to collect contributions.

At the same time, the small farmer can be in as urgent need of a pension in his old age as any industrial worker. The self-employed man, whose skill is no longer available to him, because of ill-health or old age, can often be in pretty poor circumstances at the [1237] end of his days. Some effort, however imperfect at the outset, should be made to bring in the small farmer class. It might be possible to do that by making a collection on the basis of his rates, or on the basis of his land annuities, to permit of his contributions being collected in some kind of organised way. To collect it individually would cause, of course, immense administrative difficulties; but it would be desirable if you could collect from the small farmer, either in his rates or in his land annuities, a contribution so as to guarantee him as well, when he reaches 70 years of age, a contributory pension on retirement.

Similarly, in respect of the self-employed person, some effort might be made to ensure that the benefits of this Bill are open to him. The success of the recently established Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme is pretty encouraging as indicating the extent to which people will go if they believe that it is necessary to do so for their own protection. The fact that so many people joined the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme because they knew it provided substantial protection for them is, I think, a good omen and represents a prudent approach by them. It may be possible to organise the self-employed person to contribute through some kind of machinery to be devised whereby a contributory retirement pension will be available to him when he reaches 70 years of age. At all events, there is no reason to think that the small self-employed carpenter in the country or the man who does odd jobs of one kind or another can during his working lifetime provide himself with a pension at the age af 70. So long as he cannot be sure of a pension, he can be sure of hardship and poverty. I want to replace the hardship and poverty as far as possible by giving him a pension to which he would contribute during his working life.

The Minister's speech occupied 16 pages and I searched in it for some explanation of the meaning and intention behind Section 18 of the Bill. As I read this section, it seems to me that where there is any scheme or [1238] arrangement for the provision of pensions, compensation for redundancy or other benefits, these schemes or arrangements may be modified and any such scheme or arrangement, other than a scheme or arrangement for the provision of compensation for redundancy, may be wound up. The winding up process will take this form. There can be an agreement to wind up between the different parties concerned in the scheme or arrangement or, if they do not agree, then some Minister, whoever is the appropriate Minister, or, in the absence of any appropriate Minister, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, may take steps to wind up.

That is a pretty wide power. You could do almost anything with existing schemes under that section as it is printed there. A lot depends on the intention behind the section. You can only construe it, in fact, in the light of the intentions of the Minister or the Department in relation to existing schemes. Is it, for example, intended that you could wind up, either by agreement or by Ministerial decision, a pension scheme operated by C.I.E.? Is it intended, for example, to wind up any of the local authority schemes for ordinary workers; or, if there is any scheme of one kind or another operating under statute, is it intended to modify it in the light of this Bill and, if so, what form is the modification likely to take?

So long as this thing was done by agreement, it was all right because you might assume that the people who could lose anything could withhold their agreement and they would safeguard their rights; but it can be done otherwise than by agreement. Under subsection (2) of Section 18, it can be done by a Minister, presumably in the absence of agreement. I do not know exactly what is behind this section. It may be innocent; it may be just a tidying-up section. On the other hand, it could be a very sinister section, particularly as it gives power to a Minister unilaterally to modify, change or wind up a scheme. I hope when the Minister is replying he will give us some indication as to how that section found its way into [1239] the Bill and what it is intended to do under its terms.

I started by saying I favour and support every proposal for the improvement of our social welfare code. For that reason, I approve this Bill; although I have some considerable doubt that the form of the retirement pension is the best. In fact, I do not believe it is. I think we could have got a better scheme of retirement pension than this. This is far too onerous and it looks very largely a case, so far as contributory pensions are concerned, of feeding the dog on his own tail.

The Minister for Social Welfare and Deputy Corish rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Deputy Corish.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I am sorry, Sir. I did not think Deputy Corish was going to rise.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  It is a pity there are any other speakers here at all.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  No. I would hate to have missed the last speech.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I welcome the main principle enshrined in this Bill and, indeed, the three main provisions mentioned by the Minister at the commencement of his speech, but I should add that my welcome is not an unqualified one. The Labour Party have always believed in the introduction of a contributory scheme for those who retire at a certain age. We welcome that in particular. The second proposal in the Bill—the extension of the widow's contributory pension beyond the age of 70 years—is also a good proposal and, in itself, is to be welcomed. The third proposal—the extended and increased allowances for unemployment benefit, sickness benefit, maternity allowance and orphan's allowance—is certainly an improvement on the existing method of paying these allowances in respect of dependants.

As other Deputies have said, there is no use in our pretending that the [1240] proposals contained in the Bill are anything more than what they are. I do not deny the Minister his right to boost this Bill as much as he can, especially in view of the fact that there is a by-election in Carlow-Kilkenny next week and that the local elections take place all over the country within the next fortnight. I suppose the majority of the claims he has made for the Bill are real claims, but I think in many cases he has exaggerated them. When he spoke here today, talking in glowing terms about the provisions of the Bill, I wondered why we did not have the one shilling increase old age pension Bill before the House instead. Of course, that would not be very good propaganda for a by-election or the local elections. However, I am sure the Minister knows his own business, both as Minister and as a politician.

The Minister took somebody to task, but I do not know whom he meant. He mentioned the former Minister for Local Government in particular, if not by name, by description, as one who, he inferred, tried to mislead the people in talking about this Social Welfare Bill. I spoke as well and I might say I spoke with qualification. Mark you, the Minister has admitted in his speech that there are a lot of things that have to be cleared up and he has to make regulations in respect of certain proposals. Until we see those regulations, we cannot assess the full merits of the Bill. We can talk about the main provisions in it but the Minister has, by inference, admitted that there are many things with which he will have difficulty and many things he will have to provide for by regulation which he cannot provide for specifically by sections in a piece of legislation of this kind.

It is true that we are to have retirement pensions. It is true that we are to have widows' and orphans' pensions extended beyond the age of 70 and it is true that there will be increases in respect of unemployment benefit, sickness benefit, maternity allowances and dependants' allowances, and other things like that, but it is wrong to give the people the impression that when this Bill passes and when it has the force of law, old age pensioners will [1241] receive 40/- per week. There are sections in the Fianna Fáil Party and there are sections of the Fianna Fáil Press which sought to give the people that impression.

On page 7 of the Minister's speech the Minister says:

As the result of this section, it is estimated that 23,000 persons who are now in receipt of non-contributory old age pensions, together with 7,000 adult persons who are dependent upon them, will qualify, respectively, for old age (contributory) pensions and the associated allowance in respect of dependent adults.

Therefore, the total of 190,000 existing old age pensioners will not receive 40/- per week. That should be corrected. I know the Minister knows it and it is important that people who have been told they are to get 40/- per week should know that such is not the case.

In respect of the other pension provisions, the Minister summed it up when he said, again on page 7:

Thus when the Bill becomes law, about 50,000 persons will be given at once the substantial benefit of the new contributory pension.

That provides not alone for pensioners but also for adults who will be brought in. It should be remembered, however, and those people should know, that there are 150,000 to 160,000 existing old age pensioners who will not derive any benefit at all from this measure.

The Minister claims a great deal for this Bill but I think we can sum it up like this: this Bill will cost the State £300,000. A sum of £300,000 is a very small amount of money when one considers what this Bill is supposed to do. Again, it should be stressed, it is not the benevolence of the Minister for Finance, the benevolence of the Government, or of the Minister for Social Welfare which is responsible for all these things. It is the enforced benevolence, if you like, of the employee, the employer and the old age pensioner or, should I say, the old age pension Vote. The old age pension Vote will be contributing a sum of [1242] £2,500,000, and it will be contributing £500,000 more than either the employer or the employee. Therefore the Minister, when he boasts of increased industrial production, when he talks about the buoyancy of taxation, about the improvement in the general economy of the country, certainly does not show those improvements in the relatively miserable sum he now devotes to old age pensions, sickness pensions, unemployment benefits and all those things, when he says the State will contribute £300,000 a year.

In view of the picture which the Minister has painted in regard to improvements in the country over the past three years, they could afford not to have robbed the old age pension Vote. If there is anything to spare in that direction, it should be given to the existing old age pensioners, the majority of whom can never benefit from this Social Welfare Bill of 1960. I believe that if the Minister had any money to spare, and if he found he could make savings by reason of the fact that some old age pensions were now to become contributory pensions, he could have provided a little more for those who are left than the proposed 1/- per week increase.

I believe, with Deputy Kyne, that the contribution is too high. We all agree that if there is to be a contributory old age pension scheme which has to be paid for, the worker should pay his share, the employer should pay his share and the State should make its contribution, but in respect of this proposal, the increase is too much. Again, I have no hesitation in saying that as far as my opinion goes, and the opinion of the Labour Party and that of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the employers could have been asked to pay more and the workers asked to pay less.

I have good reason for saying that. On another occasion here recently, I said that whilst the national income had increased by some £20 million, the increase in respect of workers, in their wages, salaries and pensions, was less than four per cent. Within that national income under the heading of “Other Income” was included profits in industry—not in agriculture [1243]—and the increase there was ten per cent. Whilst an increase in wages may provide certain difficulties, an admirable solution for the country, and a solution that could be provided by the Minister for Social Welfare, would be to ensure that that increased income which the employer enjoyed from 1958 to 1959 would be siphoned off and put to the benefit of the worker by asking him to pay, say, ninepence more in the cost of the insurance stamp and asking the workers to pay ninepence less.

I should like to have heard the Minister justify retirement at the age of 70 years. I do not say he was bound to do it; I do not criticise him because he did not do it; but there are many opinions in this House as to the best retirement age. There are also many opinions about it in the trade union movement, but perhaps the Minister in his concluding speech will say why he decided the age for retiring should be 70 years. The age of 70 has been accepted for the payment of old age pensions in the past, and in some other countries in the world, but that is no real justification for its acceptance here.

The Minister should consider— possibly he did—a retirement age of 65 years because it seems to me a grave hardship on many men, and particularly on women, that before they can qualify for a retirement pension, they should have to work or should have to seek work up to 70 years. There are many, as Deputy Norton said, who find that they cannot work at that age, say, from 60 or 65, up to 70 years. I do not think we should try to force them to work up to that age. We should give them the option of retiring at 67 or 65, and in the case of women, even at a younger age.

I must say I am quite confused about one of the conditions of qualification for this retirement pension, and that is the condition which says that one must have 48 stamps or credits for each year for a period of ten years. That will be a very difficult condition for the workers to fulfil—I shall not say for all the workers, but for many of them. Credits have become very [1244] important in this country in the past seven years only. Before the enactment of the Social Welfare Act, 1952, and before the operation of that Act in January, 1953, employed persons did not put any value on credits. The reason was that there was nothing to be got from them. Under the Social Welfare Act, 1952, a lot could be got from them and credits then became as important as stamps.

When I was Minister for Social Welfare I tried, as my predecessor did, and as I am sure my successor did, to impress upon the insured workers the importance of credits, but it was difficult to persuade people who were sick, but not eligible for sickness benefits, to submit medical certificates because there was no return from them. It is still very difficult to persuade some men and women to go down to the employment exchange and sign to the effect that they are unemployed, when they are not eligible for either unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance.

That position is gradually resolving itself because, as I have said, both men and women are beginning to realise the importance of credits. In that period of ten years mentioned in the Bill there are three years during which, before January, 1953, credits were not regarded as important. The Minister said, and I think it is mentioned in the Bill, that regulations would be made to try to meet a situation like that.

There is another situation which the Minister should also examine. I refer to the situation with regard to workers in many parts of the country who contract to do what is described as task work. There is, I know, a diffi culty even in respect of existing benefits, unemployment benefits, sickness benefits, and other benefits, but I am referring to workers who work in one particular place and are insurable. In the beet season, in south Wexford in particular, they take on work and give a price for a drill, a field, an acre, or some other measure. They are contractors then and they are not insurable nor liable for credits. It would be very difficult for them to qualify to the extent of having 48 stamps or credits in any year.

[1245] The Minister did not at all refer to the provision in Section 18 which means, in effect, that workers cannot draw two retirement pensions, or cannot draw a superannuation allowance and a pension. That matter has been mentioned by other speakers and I merely wish to refer to it briefly. I wonder what is visualised there. Can the Minister tell us yet? Can a road worker, for example, qualify for this retirement pension, and also receive a superannuation allowance, to which he has contributed, from any of the county councils or local bodies around the country? So far as I know, the general run of superannuation allowances—let us call them local authority pensions—would be in the region of £3. The retirement pension to which they will also contribute will be £2. I should like to know which it is proposed to scrap. Does it mean the employee will not be eligible for the £2 retirement pension, or that he will not be entitled to the superannuation allowance from the county council?

It seems to me that the Minister proposes to wind up the superannuation allowance from the county council. If that is the case, I trust it also means that any contributions that have been paid by a road worker into a superannuation fund will be refunded to him. It will be very difficult if that sort of winding up of a fund is to be done in that way, because the worker who will have already contributed for 40 years into a superannuation scheme could be entitled to a pension of £5 per week. As against the £5 a week he should get from the county council or the local body, he gets £2 under this scheme. I am sure he will not like the idea of the scrapping of a fund that would give him £5 per week, in favour of a fund which will give him a mere £2 a week, especially when he remembers that for this retirement allowance he will pay 1/9 extra per week and, of course, other things will be excluded.

There is a provision here which suggests that any pension scheme to compensate redundant workers in C.I.E. will also conflict with the idea of this retirement scheme. I mention these [1246] matters because the Minister did not refer to them. He did save himself by saying he would have power to make regulations under many sections of the Bill when it is an Act. The Bill also proposes, according to the Minister's speech, to make eligible for retirement pension, persons over 70 years of age who have paid some insurance contributions. They may qualify for partial pensions under regulations the Minister proposes to make. Whether that will be a graduated scale I do not know, but if it is a graduated scale there is a very small gap between the £2 per week proposed in the Bill, and the 28/6 per week to which the old age pensioner would be entitled, with the additional 1/- which will be given in August.

These are merely some of the problems besetting the minds of us in the Labour Party, and the people in the trade union movement. Perhaps the Minister will try to clear up some at least of these matters in his concluding speech. It will be more appropriate to go into them in detail on Committee Stage when we shall be in a better position to query each and every section in order that we may not be under any misapprehension about the proposals contained in the Bill. We may then have some idea of what is in the Minister's mind, especially in regard to those sections where he suggests he should take power unto himself to make regulations to provide for certain things.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  I agree with the general intentions of the Bill and with some of its underlying principles. The Minister pointed out that the Bill is but a beginning and I wonder does he consider that after 40 years of self-government, we should only be beginning to pay a contribution through a contributory pension scheme such as this, giving a pension of £2 a week to the contributor —that is, assuming that he has no other means—and that there should be such people.

If we are made to contemplate something, no matter how outrageous, long enough, it ultimately becomes commonplace. What I mean is that because of the fact that we have paid the [1247] grossly inadequate sum of 27/6 a week to our old people through the years until the recent increase the Minister gave, we tend to accept that as a yardstick for the examination of subsequent social legislation. It has been accepted by most of the speakers so far as the yardstick by which they should judge this Bill and, judged by that yardstick, this Bill is an improvement. But I consider that pension which we pay is so grossly inadequate that even this alleged improvement is still outrageously inadequate. It seems to me to symbolise the curious two-tiered thinking which has become so very common in our society that it should be considered possible for anybody to live on 27/6 or even on £2 per week. There is not one of us who would not contemplate that prospect with horror for ourselves or for anybody for whom we have regard.

I find it surprising that the Minister should take any special pride in introducing this Bill, especially as he could take pride, looking back on the record of the Party which he represents, in many of the things which he mentioned in his speech, housing development, children's allowances and various social advances made by the Party in the early thirties and right up to and including the 1947 Health Act. I agree and readily concede that those were definite and considerable advances which brought great improvement for the people in many ways in their lives, but there has been a very curious lack of appreciation not only by this Government but by successive Governments, of the need of the aged and the poor people. That lack of appreciation is also evident in this Bill.

I cannot entirely accept the Minister's suggestion that this is the best Bill the community can afford. If so, it seems a most significant indictment of the failure of the community and the economic system it has pursued over the past 40 years. If this is the best we can do, it is a poor best indeed, and, instead of accepting it, as so many speakers appear to have done, as something which is inevitable, something over which we have no [1248] control, I should have preferred if the Dáil had decided that this is the time when they should reconsider the whole question of the social services in order to examine the fundamental reason we are in this poverty-stricken position of being able to offer a pension of only £2 a week to persons at the age of 70, and a contributory pension as well.

I am satisfied that if we made that examination, we would be able to place the blame where it belongs, that is, on the expressed doctrinaire belief in conservative laissez-faire capitalism which has made it impossible for the Minister to be more generous in this Bill and which, in his other capacity as Minister for Health, has made it impossible for him to be more generous in providing efficient health services and in the proper intregation of health services throughout the country and also in every part of the fabric of the social services we have.

The hard thing is that while we tend to pauperise our aged poor, we are able to find considerable funds for other forms of lavish expenditure from the millions of pounds spent on jet airliners to the extravagant pretentiousness of our Embassies abroad, born of a foolish policy of prestige spending of vast sums of money. Equally, we spend a considerable number of millions on the effectively ineffective Defence Forces—but I do not want to go into that now.

It seems to me that if we could establish a proper system of priorities, these other considerations would and should take a very much lower priority in our society than they do at present. If we have limited funds—and I believe the cause is the pursuit of the economic policies which we have been following through the years—then those limited funds should be more humanely spent. I think our first responsibility is to the aged and the sick, the education of our children and so on and I very much regret that the Minister does not appear to share that attitude on the question of priorities in any society. I am not so certain, as the Minister said, it is the best service we can afford.

I find it a little disturbing to note [1249] that very recently in the United States, he made the claim, as a kind of attraction to American businessmen, that we have not a welfare society. That seemed to give him a certain satisfaction and, to me, a certain inexplicable satisfaction. I suppose he felt it might appeal to the American big businessman. It is an extraordinary confession. It is even more extraordinary to boast, to proclaim, that our society is so organised that we do not give our children proper secondary school and University education.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy is travelling very far.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  I am trying to——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy is not succeeding.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  I was referring to the principles of social——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy is travelling far beyond what could be in a Bill of this kind.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  The Minister made the point that this is the best Bill we can afford. He also appears to take the view that the State has not the responsibility in this matter; he made a statement here that this new social code is not based on public charity. The general implication seems to be that he disapproves of what he calls “public charity”—the provision of better social services of one kind or another from public funds—and that we are unable to provide the social services from public funds.

On the one hand in his opening speech here the Minister appears to be sorry about this, but in the United States, he takes a different view and proclaims as something of which he is rather proud that we have not a welfare society. It seems to point to an attitude of mind on the whole question of the provision of social services. I do not understand the Minister's comment about the advantage this Bill appears to have, at any rate, namely, that it is a new social code not based on public charity. I do not know what [1250] he means by that. I do not know what is wrong with public charity. Probably, with all its faults, it is very much more tactfully applied than private charity.

What is public charity? Is the primary school education we give every child public charity? Is it a bad thing? Would the Minister like to curtail it in any way? Similarly, with regard to children's allowances which everybody gets from public funds, is that public charity? Is it bad? What is wrong with the grants we give to hotels, the subsidies we give the farmers, farm building schemes? What is wrong with this principle in financing social amenities of one kind or another?

The Minister is either muddled in his thinking or else hypocritical in his thinking. There is nothing wrong if the State decides it will set about providing for the members of its community in any aspect of their life, whether education, health, old age, disability, unemployment, the need to provide a new industry, to equip a farm or anything else. The Minister is rather confused on the point that, in extending into legislation the insurance principle of the provision of old age pensions, he is merely carrying on what has become a fairly definite trend in policy here over recent years, that is, the attempt to relieve the wealthy taxpayer, the big business man, the industrialist, of paying what any ordinary society deems he must pay.

Many of these societies were mentioned by Deputy Norton: New Zealand, Sweden and, to a certain extent, Great Britain even though they have a strong Conservative Government there. I have in mind the attempt to relieve the wealthier taxpayer of the burden of taxation and transfer it to the mass of the people either in direct taxation or, even more spectacularly and in a very much more crippling way, in the form of indirect taxation on beer, tobacco, cigarettes, bread, butter, sugar, tea, and so on. I refer to the general principle of making the mass of the people pay for the services of one kind or another and removing the [1251] direct taxation from the rather wealthier section.

Therefore, I do not agree with this insurance principle. I much prefer the principle which the Minister was responsible for introducing in the 1947 Health Act. I much prefer the considerable advance made in health legislation at that time and from which most of the Parties have since retreated, that is, that the advances in health legislation should be paid for from the Central Fund and that there should be no direct contribution by the beneficiaries. Under these new schemes—this is the reason I disagree with the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme—the ordinary person pays in the ordinary way a fair amount of direct taxation. He pays a fair amount of income tax.

Over the years, surreptitiously, and without being made aware of it —because most of the great Parties here are quite happy about it and quite satisfied it should happen—indirect taxation has been so expanded as to make it possible for successive Governments to reduce the amount of taxation or to maintain the rate of taxation, in spite of extended social services, on the wealthier taxpayer. Therefore, the consumer pays in direct taxation and in indirect taxation. He also pays his rates for the various services of one kind or another he gets from the local authorities.

This insurance contribution is a further tax imposed on the mass of the people because this service, £2 a week, is a concern in which the wealthy taxpayer is not interested. It does not matter to him what kind of Bill is brought in here so long as he does not have to pay for it, which he will not have to do under this scheme and certainly which he will not have to do so long as the insurance principle is maintained in the way in which it is proposed to maintain it.

No great benefit is being conferred on the mass of the people by this Bill. They are paying in direct and indirect tax moneys which will be returned to them by the State as part of this £2 a week or whatever benefit they will get [1252] out of it. In addition, they are further taxed by this insurance contribution. Therefore, I see this as a further conscious and deliberate attempt by the Minister to increase the payments made by the masses of people, the ordinary worker, towards providing social benefits which should be paid for by the wealthier section of the community— the businessman, the industrialist, the large land-owner—in the form of direct taxation.

Deputy Norton talked about redistribution of income. There is no significant change in the distribution of income to which most people look forward in socialist legislation. This is merely the absorption in various ways of the contributions in tax or rates of the income form workers' earnings which is redistributed among the same people. It is rather like the principle of the differential rents. The principle I should like to see in the Bill is the old principle which is contained in the idea of primary school education, children's allowances, or the 1947 Health Act legislation. I think the only contribution which anybody should make from the point of view of a civilised Christian community is the insurance contribution from income tax. Thereafter, they should come into benefit of the various amenities organised by the central authority, the health services, unemployment benefits, educational services and so on.

As far as I am concerned, this is a very disappointing Bill. It is one which provides only in a very inadequate way for the needs of our people in their old age. As Deputy Norton pointed out, we pay the lowest pensions in Western Europe. That is certainly not something of which the Minister should be proud. I think that by the time these benefits come to be paid, with the depreciation in the value of money, they will be worth considerably less than the present miserable 27/6.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. MacEntee): Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  There was a great deal of what Deputy Norton described as clap-trap in some of the speeches to which we have just listened. It would be tempting, perhaps, to take those [1253] speeches first, but I propose to deal with the more serious questions which were raised by some of the Deputies, including, strange to say, the Leader of the Opposition. Deputy Dillon stated it was not clear what the position is regarding pensions of persons between 60 and 70 years of age at present paying contributions.

I gave Deputy Dillon a copy of the speech which I proposed to deliver and I am surprised that he did not follow it more closely. If he had done so, he would have found the answer to his question in Paragraph 6 of that speech when I referred to the case of persons who attained the age of 70 years before 5th January, 1963. I pointed out that there could, of course, be no entry into insurance under the Social Welfare Act prior to the attainment of the age of 60 years, as those Acts commenced only on 5th January, 1953. I went on to say:

It is proposed, however, in regulations to be made under Section 13 of the Bill, to which I will refer later, to treat an entry into insurance under the former National Health Insurance Acts prior to the attainment of age 60 as effective for the purpose of the new pension and those regulations will also provide for the counting, where necessary, of contributions paid or credited under the National Health Insurance Acts towards satisfying the remaining two conditions for the new pension.

And later, in referring to Section 13, I referred to the position of those pensioners now over 70 who were not entitled to any concession for the reason that they had passed out of insurance and I went on to say:

I am sure the Dáil will agree with me that such persons should not be deprived of the opportunity of qualifying for the pension, and accordingly provision is being made in Section 13 of the Bill to enable contributions already paid under the Social Welfare code to be taken into account.

I think that clarifies the position of those who may be at present between [1254] the age of 60 and 70 and who have paid national health insurance contributions. They will be taken into consideration when the questions of the conditions under (a) and (b) arise.

The Deputy asked if in the case of a married man who qualifies for an old age contributory pension, his wife who was under 70 and in receipt of an adult dependant's allowance, after she reaches the age of 70, qualifies in her own right for a non-contributory old age pension. Of course, the joint means have to be taken into consideration when considering the question of a claim for a non-contributory old age pension. Assuming that the wife becomes qualified by age and that the joint means of the couple may entitle her to receive a non-contributory old age pension then she will have the option of selecting whether to continue on the basis of an adult dependant or to have the contributory old age pension, that is, whether she will benefit by the adult dependant's allowance in the light of her husband's old age contributory pension or to draw the non-contributory old age pension in her own right.

Deputy Corish asked me would a worker be precluded from drawing two pensions, for instance, an old age contributory pension and, say, a road worker's pension from the local authority. Such a person will be entitled to an old age contributory pension and his right thereto will not be affected by receipt of a pension under any other scheme. In this connection, I would point out that Section 18 of the Bill merely permits the modification of the existing schemes by agreement between the parties affected, or in accordance with regulations made by the appropriate Minister—who in this case is not the Minister for Social Welfare—after consideration of representations by the parties in question.

Deputy Corish also asked would the Minister consider the special position of persons doing task work so as to bring them within this social insurance scheme. The position there is, as I have indicated, that this Bill is based mainly on the definitions and provisions of the Social Welfare Act, 1952. Insurable employment is defined under [1255] that Act and the Bill does not purport to alter or modify that definition or to interfere with the existing basis of insurance. So, I think the answer must be that I am not at this stage prepared to consider any basic amendment of the Bill, such as a change in the definition of insurable employment would represent, for the reason that, as I have already stated, the scheme in this Bill is the utmost that the nation can in its present circumstances afford. Therefore I do not propose to introduce any improvement in existing social services, whether by change of definition or otherwise, that I think might impose commitments upon the Exchequer which the Exchequer could not fulfil without causing undue hardship to the producers in the community.

General MacEoin: Information on General Seán MacEoin  Zoom on General Seán MacEoin  You are going to regard that person as a self-employed person.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Deputy Kyne referred to a point which was also raised by Deputy Corish and suggested that from the workers' point of view the contributions might be excessive. Having regard to the benefits which the Bill confers upon the workers—it confers no benefits upon the employers and it does not confer any benefit on the taxpayers as a whole—having regard to the fact that the benefits arising under the Bill will be enjoyed by individual workers, I do not think that the contributions are excessive. They have been carefully related to the cost of the Bill.

It has been an accepted principle in all the social insurance codes, with minor exceptions, that the workers and their employers share equally the burden of the contributions arising directly from employment. Apart from this I do not think that, having regard to the large number of small employers concerned, it would be possible to decrease the workers' contribution at the expense of the employer. Perhaps in the case of some of the larger concerns this might not impose a heavy burden—I am not going to say that it might not impose a burden which, taking everything [1256] into account, would be inequitable as between one party and the other—but I do know that whatever may be the position in relation to a minority of larger concerns, to whom an increased contribution might not be of any great moment, there are very many small employers in the State whom it would be quite unfair to burden with an increase in the rates of contribution now proposed in order to relieve their employees from bearing their fair share of the cost of the Bill.

Deputy Kyne also referred to Section 18 of the Bill, as did Deputy Norton and the others. There let me say in regard to the question raised by Deputy Norton that I have flattered him by imitating him. Section 18 of the Bill follows almost precisely a similar provision which was embodied in the abortive Social Welfare Bill of 1950 and any criticism which Deputy Norton might wish to make of Section 18 as it appears in the present Bill is, in fact, a self-criticism. The Deputy does not often subject himself to that process and it is good to hear that occasionally he does find that everything he did was not perfect. I am not saying that Section 18 will work out absolutely in the way in which we anticipate it will but, in any event, it is designed to deal with a difficult problem. It is also the procedure whereby Deputy Norton, when he was Minister for Social Welfare, proposed to deal with that problem.

I think that the apprehensions which Deputy Kyne expressed in regard to Section 18 are not well-founded because, if the Deputy will look at Section 18 and turns to paragraph (b) he will see that under heads (i) and (ii) there are important provisos. While power is given to modify or amend or, in some cases, to wind up certain existing schemes or arrangements, it is also provided that the winding-up must take place either by agreement between the different parties concerned in the scheme or arrangement or in accordance with regulations made, after consideration of any representations that may be made by the different parties concerned in the scheme or arrangement, by such Minister as may be determined [1257] by the Minister for Finance to be appropriate in relation to the scheme or arrangement.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne  I beg the Minister's pardon but could he say what type of schemes? Could he be more explicit? Could he indicate the type of schemes?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  There are contributory schemes run by various concerns. That is one of them, for instance.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Not confined to, say, State or Semi-State bodies?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  No, not confined to State or Semi-state bodies. There are public concerns and statutory undertakings. A statutory undertaking might be regarded as a semi-State body. There are private superannuation and pension schemes which the contributors might like either to have amended or changed in such a way as to lighten their contribution.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne  I quite agree.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It is to enable existing superannuation schemes to be fitted in with the new contributory pension scheme. That is the whole purpose.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne  My question was intended to get more information.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Yes, That is the purpose. Deputy Kyne also made the criticism that unmarried persons get a smaller increase than those, say, with family responsibilities. That, of course, is a feature of all social insurance schemes. The general contribution is uniform but the benefits are related to the family responsibilities of the contributor on the general basis that if a married man happens to be ill or unemployed he has greater responsibilities and may suffer more hardship than the single person without any dependants whatever. Accordingly the benefits should be designed to meet his greater need.

Deputy Corish also asked would there be a graduated scale for those now passed 70 who had some insurance in the past. Yes; that is provided for by Section 10 of the Bill, which inserts a new section after Section 28 [1258] of the Principal Act to provide for entitling to old age (contributory) pension persons who would be entitled thereto but for the fact that the relevant contribution conditions are not satisfied as respects the average number of contributions paid or credited per contribution year.

Now I come to some of the clap-trap to which I was condemned to listen after I had made my introductory speech. The Deputy who first raised that issue of clap-trap was the former Tánaiste in the second Coalition Government and the Minister for Social Welfare in the first Coalition Government. His criticism was directed to the fact that we were providing in the Bill for old age contributory pensions and were not imposing any retirement conditions. He said the Social Welfare Bill of 1950 had provided for retirement pensions and it was, he thought, a very much better Bill than this Bill. That is a matter of opinion but the fact remains that this Bill is likely to become law and that the workers will derive some benefit from this Bill.

That cannot be said in regard to the Social Welfare Bill for which Deputy Norton was responsible. It was not perhaps entirely within his control that the Social Welfare Bill was killed. As he stated it passed the Second Reading in this House, having caused a great deal of concern to certain Deputies who were then supporting the first Coalition Government and indeed having goaded them to the verge of revolt and then the Dáil being dissolved, it lapsed. However, it was rather exceeding the bounds of truth when Deputy Norton tried to convey the impression that that Bill not merely had passed the Second Reading but had passed through this House and had been killed—that was the word he used—by the Fianna Fáil Government which succeeded that first Coalition. One does not know what part Deputy Norton played in the events which led to the break-up of that Coalition but I am told on reasonably good authority that Deputy Dr. Browne did not receive from Deputy Norton or Deputy Norton's Labour colleagues in the Coalition that support which those [1259] who were supposed to be in favour of a radical programme for social reform might have been expected to give him. It is undeniable that the Fianna Fáil Party, being in opposition, had no responsibility for the fact that the Social Welfare Bill of 1950 lapsed with the dissolution of the Dáil which had given it a Second Reading.

The circumstances which led to the dissolution of the Dáil on that occasion may not have been within Deputy Norton's control. But Deputy Norton came back to office in 1954. If he believed then in the ideas and philosophy which he outlined to us to-day when speaking upon this Bill, how is it that he did not revive this Bill to provide retirement pensions at 65? At that time he was Tánaiste, a very influential person in the Coalition of the day, and, not, only that, but Deputy Corish who succeeded him in the leadership of the Labour Party, was then Minister for Social Welfare. Having listened to Deputy Norton's completely unreasonable and completely insincere speech one must ask how it was that between them they did not disinter this Bill which had been killed by the dissolution of the Dáil in 1951.

What prevented the Government of which Deputy Norton and Deputy Corish were powerful and influential members reintroducing the Social Welfare Bill to provide for retirement pensions? Deputy Norton could then have done something for all those elderly people, whose sad plight he recounted for us today, those who, he alleged, might have to climb poles, though reaching the age of 70. Everybody knows in practice they are not asked to do that and that many of them who, in their prime, might have to climb poles in the normal course of their occupation, are employed either in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs or in the Electricity Supply Board. In the case of the E.S.B. there is quite a generous superannuation scheme which renders it unnecessary for any electrician or others to climb poles at the age of 70. However, that is just a touch of [1260] depressing colour which Deputy Norton added in order to deepen the purple patches in his speech.

Since his heart is bleeding for these people now, what was it that prevented his doing something for them in 1955? What stopped him? Was it the present Leader of the Opposition, who in his speech to-day certainly did not appear to be enthusiastic for any form of contributory old age pension or for any improvement in the social welfare code? Or was it the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Sweetman? Assuredly it was not the Fianna Fáil Party that prevented the then Government's introducing a measure of social reform such as we have always stood for.

The only question that might have agitated us at that time, having regard to the financial weakness of the State and of the community as it was then manifesting itself, would be as to whether we would be justified in introducing a Bill of that sort, when it was quite clear that in the economic circumstances at the time the State would not have been able to meet the commitments which the Bill would involve.

Deputy Dillon had some further misrepresentations to make in regard to the Bill. The main argument upon which he and Deputy O'Sullivan relied to decry it, was that this Bill was being financed by the old age pensioners. Therefore we have to consider what the position of an old age pensioner who qualifies under the Bill will be. At the present moment his pension is 27/6d. a week. Under this Bill, because he has been in insurable employment and was an insured person under the Social Welfare code and previous to that national health insurance, he becomes entitled to an old age contributory pension. That is to say, his existing old age pension is being supplemented by 11/6d. per week. The old age pensioner does not lose anything. Instead of losing he gets in addition to his 27/6d.—28/6d. as I hope it will be before the Dáil adjourns—another 11/6d. There is no old age pensioner taxed in order to provide him with that supplement. What sort of topsy-turvy mind could [1261] conceive the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition and by Deputy O'Sullivan to say that if an old age pensioner is getting a supplement of 11/6d. a week provided by the Exchequer he is getting it at the expense of his existing old age pension.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Where is the £2,500,000 coming from?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The £2,500,000 is the £2,500,000 these old age pensioners are carrying with them. Of course it is coming out of taxation but it is not coming out of their old age pensions.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It is an additional burden on the Exchequer?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I may sometimes form a wrong impression about Deputy Dillon and I may have formed a wrong impression about him today, but he is not unintelligent. As I said, the 23,000 old age pensioners, who will have their status changed and become recipients of old age contributory pensions, carry their £2,500,000 with them and they each get an additional 11/6d.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Where does the £2,500,000 come from?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It goes with them into their pockets where it is going now. What is the use in putting forward that sort of argument designed to deceive people who are as simple as Deputy Dillon pretends to be?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Where is the £2,500,000 coming from?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It is coming, as I said, out of the Exchequer as it has always come.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  But there is no additional burden on the Exchequer.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Deputy Dillon talked about the people in Monaghan but may I say that I know the people in Monaghan very much better than Deputy Dillon does? My people came from Monaghan. I spent many years of my boyhood in Monaghan and I happened to be a member for South [1262] Monaghan before Deputy Dillon entered public life. I know that there are many small farmers in Monaghan who are in insurable employment from time to time, and who have been sufficiently long in insurable employment to qualify for old age contributory pensions under this Act, as is the case with many small landholders all over the country. Does not everybody know that? Yet Deputy Dillon gets up and tries to pretend that people living in rural Ireland are not going to benefit under this Bill like people elsewhere.

Of course, Deputy Dillon, as with so many other things, has a contempt for the small landowners and agricultural labourers. Are they people of no account? Are the agricultural labourers who are insured persons, who constitute a very important part of the insured population of the country, people of no account? They will get the same benefit as everybody else yet Deputy Dillon gets up and, playing the obverse game to Deputy Dr. Browne, tries to raise country against town, as Deputy Dr. Browne tries to raise town against the country. The whole thing is based on a fallacy.

The rural community as well as the urban community will benefit under this Bill yet Deputy Dillon tries to pretend that the proportion of old age pensioners over the age of 70 years who would qualify for pensions under this Bill is negligible. He did not pay any attention to the figures I gave the House. The proportion of persons who, having been in insurable employment, were disqualified from drawing old age pensions because of their means, is very considerable. I pointed out that 23,000 recipients of non-contributory old age pensions would qualify for old age contributory pensions, and that in addition to that a further 13,000 persons who had been in insurable employment and who were disqualified because of their means, would qualify under this Bill for old age contributory pensions. Here is where Deputy Dillon distorted or overlooked the figures. He tried to make the point that the number of people who had been in insurable employment, and who would have sufficient means when they had left it at the age of 70 to disqualify them [1263] from drawing old age pensions, was insignificant.

He talked about the poor man who worked here all his life and at the end of his days had practically nothing. He tried to make the point that practically everybody who had been in insurable employment when they retired was on the subsistence level at which the State came in and helped them with social assistance old age pensions. Of course that is contrary to the facts, as the Deputy would have apprehended if he had given any consideration to the figures which I submitted to the House. In short, the position is that there were 23,000 persons who were in insurable employment and who, when they reached the age of 70 years, were given old age pensions because their means were less then £104 a year.

There are 13,000 persons who are qualified for old age non-contributory pensions under this Bill who, when they reached 70 years of age, had means which were greater than £104 and, therefore, did not qualify for non-contributory old age pensions. What do the figures reveal? This For every 100 persons who spent their lives in insurable employment, who, at the age of 70 years of age, had means which did not disqualify them from receiving an old age pension, there were 60 persons who also had spent their lives in insurable employment but whose means were sufficiently great to disqualify them for an old age pension.

All this sad story, therefore, that Deputy Dillon was retailing to the Dáil about the poor unfortunate men who had never been in a position to fend for themselves, or save for their old age, or make any provision for their old age, is entirely unfounded on fact because, as I have pointed out, of those in the population who are now over 70 years of age and who were in insurable occupations, no less than 60 had means when they retired as against the 100 who had not appreciable means. That is the position. This sort of sob stuff then that we heard from Deputy Dillon is quite unfounded [1264] on fact; and the Deputy, of course, not having studied the speech, knowing very little about the social welfare code, was just talking absolute, as Deputy Norton said, claptrap.

I do not wish to pursue Deputy Dillon along the other road that he took. Deputy Dillon waxed very eloquent here when I pointed out what everybody knows—that this country is now thriving, that people realise there are opportunities here for investment, and for enterprise——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  And for emigration— 100,000 of them.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  ——and when, undoubtedly, the eyes of enterprising people in Europe are turning to this country. What solution has Deputy Dillon for this unemployment problem and this emigration problem about which he waxed so eloquent? Here he is, the Leader of the Opposition, when the Government is engaged upon a policy of industrial development, when the one thing we lack to make this country prosperous is the technical know-how in relation to many industries, when we are trying to attract people with this know-how into this country, and what is his contribution towards the attainment of that purpose? Deputy Dillon gets up here and he sneers at the Swedes, he sneers at the Germans, he sneers at the French, he sneers at the Dutch, and he sneers at the Americans. He talks about these people whom we are anxious to attract in here in order that they may show our people how things can be made, in order that they may do what the Huguenots did when they established the linen industry here——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It was I who told you to go out and look for them.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  What is the contribution which Deputy Dillon has to help us to attain this objective?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I told the Minister to go out and look for them.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  What is the contribution the Leader of the Opposition has to offer towards building up the industrial economy of this country?

[1265]Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  The Minister did his best to wreck it four years ago.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  What is the contribution. We sit here and listen to Deputy Dillon talk about the Swedes and the Germans, with the sneer and the gibe of which he is a master. He talks of the Swedes and the Germans and the Dutch like the most illiberal Afrikander in the remote back-veldt would talk about the natives of the country which he conquered. What are these people going to think of their future prospects here when the Leader of the Opposition talks in these terms about them? Will they not recall the first Government of which Deputy Dillon was a member—the Government which sabotaged many important industrial projects that were then under way. Will they not remember the time when, as I said down in Limerick, his ambition——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The Minister is the masterhand at claptrap.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  ——his ambition was to be a teacher of dancing rabbits? Will they not remember when he brought in here in 1934 a baby's vest into this House——

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Is it in order for the Minister to make a fool of himself here?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  ——and jeered and gibed at us because we held that such articles could be made in this country?

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  On a point of order. Is this in order?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Chair is endeavouring to inform the House that we are getting away from social welfare legislation.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I have listened to Deputy Dillon time after time jeer and gibe at the people coming in here to start industries and give employment in this country.

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Tell us about the White Elephant? Tell us about the Shannon Scheme and the beet [1266] factories. Tell us about Ireland in a quagmire of bankruptcy in 1931, according to the then Deputy Seán MacEntee.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Was not that the “Hunger Year” when people died of starvation in this country?

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  I suggest the Minister should shut up and sit down.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Now, Deputy O'Higgins, bottle yourself up. Do, please.

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  The Minister would bestow a benefit on the House and the country if he shut up and sat down. Indeed, the country might, perhaps, have an opportunity then.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Bottle yourself up and try to recover your good manners.

Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  When the Minister talks about good manners——

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  That is the sort of stuff we listened to from Deputy Dillon on this Bill this evening, a simple Bill to provide our workers with old age pensions when they reach the age of 70 on the basis of an insurance covenant which entitles them to draw that pension without having to undergo, or to submit to, any means test, and to enjoy it as a right and not as of grace.

I said at the beginning that this Bill is far short of what the Fianna Fáil Government would like to bring in. As I pointed out then, we have been in the forefront of social progress. We have introduced all the new departures that have been made and we have enacted the legislation governing all the new advances in social legislation here. All these have been carried out by a Fianna Fáil Government, often with the support of the Labour Party, scarcely ever with the support of the Fine Gael Opposition. Indeed, in fairness, I should say always with the support of the Labour Party and often in face of determined opposition on the part of the Fine Gael Party, whose leader not so very long ago referred to these measures in relation to social reform [1267] and social amelioration as a row of medicine bottles.

We do not approach the problem in that spirit. Neither do we approach it in the philosophy that Deputy Dr. Browne enunciated here. We believe that people should be, if possible, in a position to provide for themselves. If they cannot do that, if they cannot wholly provide for themselves, then to meet the contingencies, and exigencies, and vicissitudes of life, we think the State should come in to the extent to which it is not possible for them to provide for themselves. We think, however, that State interference in these matters should be at a minimum. We have based this Bill upon the principle of insurance. I hope, as I said earlier, that this is only a beginning. We are laying now the foundations on which a more comprehensive and ambitious scheme may be built. This is the best we can afford in present circumstances, but we have every reason to believe, with confidence, that in the near future our economic progress will be such as will permit a much more comprehensive and a much more generous measure to be put before Dáil Éireann.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Would the Minister allow three weeks between now and the next Stage, or would that be asking too much?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It would.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne  Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne  The request is from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions through Labour Party Deputies. They want an opportunity of studying it. As the Minister knows, some of their representatives are away in Geneva at the moment and will not be back for almost two weeks, so they would be glad if the Minister could facilitate them.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  There is also the problem of the local elections in two weeks' time.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Would the Minister [1268] take the Committee Stage in a fortnight and recommit the Report Stage?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  As a rule that involves a waste of time. Would it meet the convenience of the Deputy if I said this day fortnight, and if there is a strong objection to this day fortnight I shall consider putting it back. The point is this. It will have to go to the Seanad. There may be amendments there and it may put back the Bill. That is my problem.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  May I put this point to the Minister? I would ask him to put the next Stage off until this day three weeks, particularly in view of the local elections. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions have another reason, even more important than the local elections. This is not a Bill on which there will be many amendments, apart from Ministerial amendments. As far as we are concerned, we shall be merely straighening out matters in the various sections about which we are uncertain at present.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  As the Deputy knows, I was anxious to get this Bill a week ago.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I agree.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  If I put it back three weeks, it will be the 5th of July. That means, I am afraid, we would not get the Bill through the Dáil before the Dáil adjourns.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Take the Committee Stage this day fortnight and undertake favourably to consider and inquiry to recommit any matter on which the Minister is pressed on the Report Stage.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Shall we agree to that then?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Yes.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 28th June, 1960.


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