Wednesday, 18 November 1964
Dáil Eireann Debate
That Dáil Éireann is of the opinion that, in view of the recent steep rise in the cost of living, and in particular in the prices of essential foodstuffs, and in view of the resulting hardship inflicted on those in receipt of unemployment, sickness and disability benefits and social welfare benefits and assistance generally, the amounts payable in these benefits and assistance should be reviewed immediately with a view to granting equitable increases.
Mr. Tully: The Minister has an amendment to this motion and if he had phrased his amendment so that the word “continue” was not included in it, it might nearly meet our wishes. While I am quite sure we shall be told, when the Minister speaks to his amendment, about the increases which have been given over the past few years, I have some evidence here  which will show that though it may not be the Minister's responsibility over the years, the social welfare benefit and the assistance sections, in particular, have not got their fair share of the national wealth and that, from the period when old age pensions were first introduced in 1909 by the British Government to the present day, the value of pensions vis-à-vis wages being paid has dropped very considerably.
When I started doing some research into this recently, I was rather amazed at what I found. At the present time an applicant over 70 years of age cannot obtain the full non-contributory pension of 35/- per week if his means exceeds £1 Os. 6d. per week, and he cannot get any pension at all if his means exceeds £2 15s. 4d. per week. What was the position when the pension was first introduced in 1909? At that time, 55 years ago, the basic farm wages—it is better to take farm workers' wages because they are reasonably traceable right up to the present day—ranged from 8/- to 10/per week. In places like Dublin, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wicklow, Cork and Tipperary, the basic wage amounted to 10/- per week. The average was about 9s. 3d.
At that time a farm worker retiring at the age of 70 could obtain a full old age pension of 5/- per week; in other words, he could get more than 50 per cent of his basic rate by way of non-contributory old age pension, and if he was married he could get more than he was earning because he could get 10/- a week, and I stated a few minutes ago that the average wage over the whole country for that type of worker was only 9/3d.
If the Minister tells us now that the pensioners have been fairly treated, the arguments will sound very hollow in this House because, as we know, the minimum rate for farm workers is an average of £7 12s. per week and the non-contributory old age pension is only 35/- for a single man. A sum of 35/- is a small amount to live on. The Minister may claim that it is adequate, but if he does, his colleagues  at the Árd Fheis yesterday did not consider it was adequate. The following comments were reported in today's Irish Press. One gentleman from the Lucan-Finglas Ceanntair said:
Forgotten even by the State, let me add. Another man from Dublin North East is reported as saying that an adult dependant's allowance should be provided with the non-contributory old-age pension. Somebody else spoke about all the money the teenagers could spend and about the old age pensioners not being able to get enough money to live on. The final comment is: “This pension is quite inadequate by 20th century standards.” I know the Minister replied to that and possibly we shall have another version of his reply here tonight but surely if we need any evidence, apart from that given by the Labour Party, that the pension is inadequate, then we have got it from the Minister's own colleagues who were not afraid, apparently, to tell the Minister that they considered he was not doing enough for these people.
The years move on and we find that in 1935 the average farm wage was 21s. 3d. a week and even then a farm worker could retire and get an amount equal to half his wages and a married couple could have the equivalent of almost a full week's wages by means of a non-contributory old-age pension if they retired at 70 years of age. The Minister should not now try to say that the State has done as much as it could be expected to do in cases like this because it should be evident to everybody that these old people are not getting enough to live on.
I do know, as was mentioned today during Question Time, that recently the old-age pensioners have had added children's allowances to their pensions both for contributory and non-contributory pensions. We are very glad to  see that being done and the Minister was less than gracious when he claimed during Question Time today that the idea was the brainchild of himself and the Fianna Fáil Party. If he cares to get someone to trace back over the Official Report for the past two or three years, he will find question after question directed to him and to his predecessor asking that this should be done. He may recollect that he told me personally that, because of the pressure that was being put on, he had looked into the matter and decided it was the right thing to do. Surely he should not now be ashamed to admit that he was influenced by the facts and surely he should not be ashamed to admit that the idea was put into his head by somebody else and that he was man enough, and Minister enough, to implement it.
We will give him all the credit he wants for doing it. It is something which might have been done much earlier. I am sure the Minister will have the blessing of the old age pensioners affected. Many of them have young families and these have been trying to exist on a non-contributory pension of 35/- each for man and wife and on a pension of something over £4 per week in the case of a contributory pension. They are all delighted to get this increase by way of children's allowances. The Minister should, I think, have been a little more gracious when replying at Question Time today.
For the information of the Minister, if we take one particular section of the community, statistics prove that in 1961 there were only 3,693 farm workers between the ages of 65 and 70, or six per cent of the working force. If that is true also of the others, I am sure the Minister will appreciate the very strong argument there is for granting the old age pension at 65 years of age.
It is easy, of course, to find many defects in the old age pension code when dealing with social welfare benefits. Now, those defects apply equally to other types of social welfare benefit and assistance. One thing I find it hard to understand—obviously one of the gentlemen at the Árd Fheis found it hard to understand also—is  why some effort has not been made to give benefits of some kind to adult dependants other than the husband, wife or children. I am sure the Minister knows many people are living with a brother or some sisters—an invalid brother, a father or a mother not old enough to qualify for pension. There is no other source of income except that earned by, perhaps, a son. Now, if the son should fall ill, the only income available is the miserly £2 2s. 6d. given to a single man by way of sickness or unemployment benefit. Surely there is good reason why that amount should be increased and surely there is a good argument for including more people than are included at the moment in these benefits?
The motion deals with the necessity for alteration now rather than waiting for some later date. It is evident to everybody that over the past five or six months prices have increased for practically every commodity bought by the ordinary individual. I was amazed when, a few days ago, an employer defending a case before the Labour Court gave concrete evidence that the workers concerned in the claim for increased wages had received an increase of 16 per cent in their commission, not because more goods were being bought —that was freely admitted—but because of the increase in the prices of the goods they were selling.
We have heard arguments here over the past few months about the increase in the prices of various items following the 2½ per cent turnover tax and the ninth round of wage increases. We were told that one reputable firm had increased the price of its wares by ten per cent from 1st February and that another had increased its prices by 12 per cent from the first week in February. That was the pattern all round, but it now becomes evident that these were the small boys and other people have been cashing in to a much greater extent.
A motion by an Independent Deputy to have the disabled persons allowance increased because of the factors to which I have referred was accepted by the Government. The motion was that the increases should be proportionate  to increases in wages. Can the Minister explain why, following the increase in wages and following the increase in prices generally, no attempt has been made to bring up the incomes of those people dependent on social welfare benefit and assistance? Rather than put down a meaningless amendment suggesting that everybody is quite happy with what he is getting, might I suggest to the Minister that he should do what can be done and what he has already done in relation to children's allowances in order to alleviate to some extent the distress these people suffer?
I meet a great many more of these people, perhaps, than the Minister does. I have been checking with some of them as to their personal position and I am told by the majority that, if they try to live on their non-contributory pensions, they cannot last, and, after a short time, they find no alternative except illness, a visit to the hospital and transfer to the county home. I do not think people should be put in that position. Remember, this is a position with which the Minister can deal. The Minister is not a member of a local authority, and never was, but I am sure he is aware that these people cost very much more when they go to the county home than they would cost the State if they were receiving a decent amount of assistance in their own homes. I understand the average cost per week in the county home is about £3 10s. Compare that with the miserly amount given to these people outside the county home and one can appreciate immediately the strength of the argument behind this Labour Party motion.
Finally, I would ask the Minister when replying, not to depend just on the old clichés which he has used time and again in regard to how much he gave in certain years and what the inter-Party Government or, as he prefers to call them, the Coalition Government, gave in certain years. That does not put any food on the tables of the old person, the unemployed person, or the sick person. Can he tell us whether or not the Government are making any attempt to restore the position which operated  when the old age pension was first introduced and which will give these people enough to live on in frugal comfort?
Dr. Browne: I second the motion. This motion is particularly opportune because it has been put down at a time when even the Government, and even the Taoiseach, are concerned about the present trend of rising costs and their implications for the community generally. It comes as no surprise to us to know that there is this escalation of prices clearly out of control of the Government following the policies accepted by the Government over the years, particularly by the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Taoiseach's Department. The Taoiseach has refused to accept that there must be some form of price control, profit control and dividend control if the impact of the cost of living is not to be made intolerable or is not to become more unbearable than it is at present on all sections of the community, whether they are wage or salary earners but in particular the group mentioned in this motion.
As we all know, the trade union movement is suffering under the castigations of various Government speakers at the moment because it continues to draw the Government's attention to their failure to control prices and to the inflationary trend which is now taking hold of the economy. Where these people are concerned, there are virtually no powerful advocates outside this House who can insist that the allowances paid to them will permit them to enjoy the frugal comfort of three meals a day, warmth, shelter and clothing.
It is typical of the cavalier attitude of the Taoiseach over the years to this question of social security, his indifference to the various issues in public life, that the Second Programme for Economic Expansion should contain little but meaningless clichés as to what the Government intend to do in regard to the improvement of the social welfare services generally. The only quotation that might be considered  reasonably relevant is from the Second Programme for Economic Expansion in which he states that specific forms in which improvements in these services should take place will be under constant study and that they have been under constant study since the State was formed.
As Deputy Tully pointed out, there has been no serious, significant advance in the effective pay rates to these dependent groups virtually since we took over control of the State. The statement is in effect completely meaningless and it is quite clear that the Taoiseach, obsessed with the idea of trying to make the unworkable work, that is, private enterprise capital in this community, has not had time to give thought to how the old people, the unemployed, the widows and orphans and these other dependent groups are to survive in this bitterly selfish, self-interested, materialist type of society.
Another quotation of the Taoiseach's was at the Chomh-Comhairle of the Fianna Fáil Party in July of this year when he referred to the Programme as being related to economic activities and that the defence of the social progress does not come directly into its scope. He can have that point of view if he wants to, but at some stage he can declare that this is a strictly economic programme. On the one hand, he claims that it is an economic programme and on the other, that the specific forms in which the services will develop will be under constant study. What does the Taoiseach mean? Under which thimble is the dice?
For too long the Taoiseach has been getting away with this kind of bluffing of the public, particularly this sector of the public. The figures bear out this charge against the Taoiseach. If one goes back over the years, it will be found that in fact the proportion of money spent out of the gross national product on social services generally has gone down. As far as I can find—and the Minister can correct me if this is not so—from the Programme, there is not going to be an effective increase in the proportion of moneys being spent on social services by 1970. The proportion for  1963-4 is £46.5 millions and in 1970, it is proposed to be £62 millions, an increase of 33 per cent. That is slightly less than the established volume of national output in the same period for which the figure is 35 per cent.
This means that it is intended to continue, but not even as vigorously, the trend of expenditure on social services between 1957 and 1963 in which social benefits rose in current money terms by 37½ per cent. I am glad that the members of the Árd Fheis had the courage and honesty to draw the Minister's attention to this fact. I do not think that the Minister can accept or seriously believe that the payment of a couple of pounds a week to an old person could be considered a just payment.
Some of the figures illustrate the complete indifference to the needs of this sector of the public. For instance, a married person with three children gets approximately £3 a week or about 12/- a head. The average patient cost in the Dublin Health Authority institutions is 21/4d per week. The food consumed by a prisoner costs about £42.10.0d. per year and works out at approximately 24/- retail, 16/- wholesale. It is quite clear that the amounts of money paid out in unemployment pensions and old age pensions are grossly inadequate. The contributory old age pension of around £4.5. for the two people starts at 70, which is a great age, while the British rate has greatly increased over recent weeks. Before the British rates were increased, they exceded our benefits by 60 per cent for a man with three children, by 80 per cent for a single man—these are unemployment benefits—and by 90 per cent for a widow with three children. That is at a time when the purchasing power of the £ has continued to drop here as a result of the continuing inflation referred to earlier.
Further, we are in the difficulty here that our wage rates are amongst the lowest in Europe. So, if you give the answer to us that the provident person can afford to save for a rainy day, it is quite clear it is much more difficult to save here than it is in Great Britain or  on the Continent. The average wage rates paid to workers here are between 30 and 40 per cent lower than the European rates. This is in a society in which our average prices for consumer goods are between eight per cent and ten per cent higher than in Great Britain or Europe.
I do not know how the Minister, a young man, can continue to defend the record of his Department over the years in regard to the grossly inadequate, meagre payments it makes to the old people and the unemployed. I believe the policy of the Government over the years has been to pay so little to the unemployed as to force them to get out of the country and to find work in Great Britain. It seems to me to be particularly arrogant of our Government speakers and other public speakers to criticise, as they did recently, what the British Government have done in their financial difficulty, when in fact the best part of one million of our people have been forced out of Ireland by means of unemployment and inadequate unemployment benefits, to be fed, clothed and housed in Great Britain over the past 40 years. We were very glad indeed that that access to work and food was available to us.
The first charge on the economy of a properly-ordered society should be in regard to these groups. The unemployed man is unemployed for one reason only. He is unemployed because of the incompetence of the Government. Over the years since the State was founded, from eight to ten per cent of our people have been unemployed, in addition to the threequarters of a million or one million who have had to get out. It is no fault of theirs that they are standing on street corners or in the labour exchanges, that they have five or six children to feed, clothe and house on these grossly inadequate allowances.
It is part of the wonderful myth created by the Government, in the past few years in particular, that this is an affluent society. The sad tragedy is that the members of the Government themselves and many public figures are coming to believe that that is so,  that there is a substantial amount of affluence in our society. There are many families where men are unemployed in which the children see nothing except bread and margarine as their staple diet. There are those who are living in candlelight, because they cannot pay the light bill, and who have no fire in the grate. I know these people in my own constituency, where there is great hunger and poverty.
I have no doubt in stating—if the Minister chooses to contradict me, he is welcome to do so—that in our so-called Christian society the old people starve to death. They die of malnutrition; they do not die of old age. It is a completely scandalous thing that, at a time like this, there should be the great extravagances by the minority, the great profits earned by the minority, at a time when it appears that the community is not able to pay adequately these people depending on it for food, shelter and clothing. This argument that we must wait and we will get better health services, better education, better care for the old and bigger allowances for the unemployed is one we have listened to for too long. The public is not going to accept it any longer.
The public must begin to understand that the type of economy operated by both sides of this House—private enterprise capitalism—is not designed to see that the mass of old people, the great majority of widows and their children, the unemployed and their children, will be properly cared for. That is not the purpose of private enterprise capitalism. Its purpose is to create great wealth for a minority. If you look back at the figures I got from the Taoiseach the other day, you will see that between 1957 and 1963 there was an increase of from £9 million to £23 million in profits to a tiny minority of people. This is at a time when the Taoiseach comes in with a poor mouth, when the Minister for Transport and Power lectures the workers about the poverty of our society and our inability to pay bigger wages and social welfare benefits, provide better educational and health services, and  all the rest. They join in the caoin and whine of poverty when it suits them.
There is no doubt at all that this rubbish outlined in the amendment, this expansion of gross national product over the years to 1970, is, on the record of the Government, not true. Any increase has been a nominal increase and, anyway, it was increased from such a pathetically inadequate base that any percentage increase was completely inadequate. A multiplication by ten or 20 of the Lloyd George amount is the only amount that would be sufficient to protect people from the great hardships which many of them are suffering. I will put this figure to the Minister in contradiction of his suggestion in the amendment and he will be able to verify it for himself. By 1970, social benefits will absorb 6.2 per cent of national output as compared with 6.5 per cent between 1957 and 1958. That is a reduction in the total amount paid in the form of social benefits.
It is about time the Government decided that this society is not composed solely of wealthy industrialists. A little while ago, when they whimpered their heads off in the press in seeking help because they were faced with the cold draught of a little greater competition, there was no difficulty in the Taoiseach coming into this House and asking for so many millions for that assistance. No matter what the bill was, he was given a blank cheque to help these people who already have £23 million in profits, these poor, hungry industrialists coming in here begging for help with hat in hand, these great private enterprise capitalists who believe in free competition. These are the people who can get millions without any serious imposition on anybody. We know well from whom they are going to get these millions. Direct taxation has stood still or has been reduced in recent years whilst indirect taxation has been greatly increased.
Deputy Leneghan referred to this matter recently when he said that instead of taking from the wealthy to pay the poor, we had reversed the  Robin Hood principle and now take from the poor to pay the rich. The position is going to be that when we come to pay these industrialists for their inefficiency and incompetence over the years, for their failure to develop a greater gross national product, we will rob the pockets of the old age pensioners, the widows and their children, the unemployed and their children in order that these people should not carry the consequences of their own ineptitude.
This confidence trick on the part of the Government has gone on long enough. The fact that they have been able to control the great propaganda media has protected them to some extent. The fact that they can create a miasma of an affluent society because the Intercontinental Hotel and places like it are bursting at the seams with people who have too much money to spend will not protect them much longer. There is a slow awakening taking place in Ireland and the worker is beginning to understand that he is entitled to a bigger share of the cake and, more important still, is determined to get it. whether it comes in wages, salaries, pensions, unemployment benefits or widows' and orphans' pensions. The worker is no longer going to be fobbed off with this homily on the necessity for a nice happy family in which nobody squabbles about the division between the wealthy and the poor in our society. Those days are going. We can only hope that we will do all that we can to speed them out.
We believe it possible for the Government to get the money to increase these social benefits. We believe it is imperative for the Government to do so. If there is any conscience in the Government, and I do not know how close they are to the ordinary people these days, that conscience should bring them to the reality that there are old men cold and hungry tonight in Dublin, that there are old men, women and children hungry and cold in Dublin and other towns throughout the country tonight, that there are unemployed people, who, through Government incompetence, are also hungry or underfed or suffering  from malnutrition because of the grossly inadequate level of payments made to our people.
The more I look at our society, the more I begin to wonder if this is Christianity and if it could be such an obscene faith that it will tolerate these conditions among so many of the under-privileged of our society. Surely this is a complete negation of all the things preached by Christ, that old people, widows and children, the blind and disabled and the unemployed, who are the first charge in the most materialistic Marxist society, should, in this so called Christian society, be those who least concern the Taoiseach and his colleagues?
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. Boland): I move the amendment: To delete all words after “opinion” and substitute the following: “that the Government should continue to implement its declared policy of arranging that improvements in the national income, resulting from national economic growth, should be shared by Social  Welfare recipients, and notes that this has brought about increases in rates of benefit in every year for a number of years past.”
I intend to show the House that the principle embodied in the amendment, which the Government have been following, is more desirable from the point of view of social welfare recipients than the principle embodied in the motion put down by nine members of the Labour Party. Their principle is that increases in social welfare should be related to the cost of living.
It is not easy to deal with a debate conducted on the basis on which this has been conducted by the two Deputies who have spoken, Deputies Tully and Dr. Browne. One would like to feel at least that the Deputies who had sufficient interest in the matter to put down a motion would have sufficient knowledge of social welfare, as it stands, to know the actual rates that exist at present, but it is obvious from both speeches that they have not even troubled to acquaint themselves with the different rates of payment at present.
Deputy Tully spoke on two days, today and last Wednesday, and on each occasion he dealt with the non-contributory old age pensions and based his arguments entirely on an outdated figure. He is apparently still unaware that in the last session we passed a Social Welfare Bill raising the maximum rate of non-contributory old age pension from 35/- to 37/6.
Mr. Boland: It could have been a slip of Deputy Tully's last Wednesday but nine members signed the motion and one would imagine that in the past week one of them would have pointed out the correct rates.
Mr. Boland: Similarly, Deputy Dr. Browne says the rate of payment to a  married man with three children is £3. He does not think it has changed; apparently it was £3 the last time he took any interest in it.
Mr. Boland: When I asked to what social welfare scheme he was referring he said “unemployment”. I do not know whether it was unemployment assistance or benefit, but the actual rate of unemployment assistance for a man with three children is £3 17s. 6d. in urban areas and £3 9s. 6d. in rural areas. For unemployment benefit, it is £5 6s. 6d.
Mr. Boland: I am not dealing with the question of the adequacy but with the question of accuracy and Deputies who, nearly three years ago, put down this motion could at least acquaint themselves with the rates now in operation. In addition there is £2 12s. per month paid in children's allowances, which raise the weekly amount available in the case of unemployment assistance to £4 9s. 3d. in urban areas, £4 1s. 3d. in rural areas and £5 18s. 3d. for unemployment benefit.
Mr. Boland: Obviously, it is not a genuine motion. No mention so far has been made of the amounts of increases that the Deputies concerned would consider equitable and there has been no indication of where the money to implement whatever they suggest as increases—we have not been told the extent of them—should come from.
Mr. Boland: Deputy Tully exhorted me not to depend on clichés in answering his speech and presumably Dr. Browne's. He may consider the reference to the inconvenient detail regarding the money required to give the increases as a cliché because he has certainly heard it frequently.
Mr. Boland: I have mentioned it regularly on my own Estimate; it is mentioned on the Budget and usually at least once a year when there is some such insincere motion as this to be dealt with. Even a small increase costs a considerable amount and no Government with any real concern for the country's wellbeing would attempt to pay increases without raising the necessary money.
Dr. Browne did apparently make one suggestion, that this could be done by changing the type of society we have and abolishing what he describes as capitalism; in other words, I presume, by the confiscation of private property.
Mr. Boland: Perhaps it was presumption but it was the only inference I could draw from what the Deputy said. Certainly Deputy Tully made no suggestion whatever about where the money should come from. I do not know what taxation he was advocating. As far as we are concerned, we will review the position in the light of the financial situation at the appropriate time and whatever decisions we take regarding social welfare payments will be accompanied by decisions in regard to the provision of the money required to finance them. The proposers of this motion will then get an opportunity of showing whether they  are serious about the proposal they make here in such an ineffective and insincere way.
This motion was put down originally in February, 1962. It makes three assertions: that there has been a steep rise in the cost of living; that the rise has been particularly steep in the prices of essential foodstuffs; and that, as a result, hardship has been inflicted on the recipients of social welfare benefit and assistance.
Mr. Boland: I have shown previously that if we go back as far as 1947 which is a reasonably long distance, the rates of payment under every social welfare scheme that there is have very considerably outstripped rises in the cost of living. I can go back, if Deputies like, either to 1957— I think that would be a reasonable time—or to the time when this motion was put down, in 1962. In February, 1962, the increase in the consumer price index since 1961 was 3.3. Whether that was a steep rise or not is a matter of opinion, I suppose. Certainly, the rise in essential foodstuffs was still  less—2.25. But, that position was more than dealt with in the Budget of 1962 and since then. If the motion intends this assertion of a steep rise in the cost of living to refer to the period from the time the motion was put down up to the present date, the rise in the cost of living since February, 1962, to the present date is 12.34 per cent. In every single one of the social welfare services, the increase granted is more than double that amount. In non-contributory old age pensions since before the 1962 Budget to date the increase has been 25 per cent; in non-contributory widows' pensions, 26 per cent; in unemployment assistance, urban, 45 per cent and, rural, 48 per cent. In the contributory old age pension, which was introduced for the first time in 1961, the increase has been 25 per cent. In contributory widows' pensions the increase has been 31 per cent and in unemployment benefit and disability benefit the increase has been 31 per cent.
Mr. Boland: I have never stated that I consider the rates of payment under the social welfare schemes to be entirely adequate but what I have said and what I do say is that the worst thing I could do, even from the point of view of the recipients of social welfare themselves, would be to increase the rates of payment by such an amount that the resulting taxation bill would be more than the economy of the country could bear.
Mr. Boland: I do not know, I do not pretend to know, whether Deputy Dr. Browne's solution would, in fact, bring about the millennium that he claims it would. I do not know whether the people are prepared to accept that countries that have adopted the type of society that Deputy Dr. Browne advocates have, in fact, got a better way of living than we have here. I  accept that Deputy Dr. Browne believes that. I do not and I do not think it is necessary for me to argue that point here tonight.
The economy of the country has been improving and because it has been improving since we rehabilitated, or started to rehabilitate, it in 1957, we have been able to make these significant gains for the recipients of social welfare. The economy is still improving and we expect it to improve further in line with the Second Programme for Economic Expansion and I agree that according as we progress towards the targets that we have set ourselves it should be possible to speed up the pace at which social welfare payments have been gaining over the cost of living with the objective—and I admit it is an objective that is still in the future—of reaching as soon as possible a position in which the rates under all these schemes will be adequate.
Mr. Boland: I have not been here for 40 years. Unfortunately, within the past 16 years, there have been two periods of Coalition Government and that has slowed down the rate at which we were approaching the target in this respect. I accept it as my task to make as much ground as possible towards that objective but, as I have said, I realise that it is first of all necessary to develop the economy to the stage at which it can supply the necessary revenue in order to do that. I can see no point whatever in trying to go at a rate faster than is justified by the state of the country's economy.
It is as clear as it could be that if the underlying idea of this motion was accepted as the guiding principle for social welfare increases the recipients of social welfare would, in fact, be much worse off than they are at present. The policy that the Government have been pursuing and intend to pursue in the future has, because of the improvement in the economy, produced much more favourable results, as I have shown on a number of occasions. That policy is to arrange that improvements in the national income resulting from national economic  growth should be shared by social welfare recipients. That does not necessarily mean that the percentage increase in the rates of social welfare payments must be exactly the same as the percentage increase in the national income.
As far as I am concerned, I think that according as things improve, we should try to arrange that social welfare rates will, in fact, gain more than the gain in the national income, and I fully agree that every sector of the community should appreciate that there is leeway to be made up in regard to social welfare and that they should be prepared to allow the Government to make the necessary financial arrangements to meet that situation.
I do not know that there is any point in my giving any further figures because Deputies opposite are not interested in the facts. They know that at this time when it is still some months away from Budget time that it is comparatively safe to become emotional about these things and to suggest that all these rates of payment should be increased by a considerable amount. When it comes to a question of making the necessary financial arrangements, however, Deputies take a completely different attitude. I do not mind that but reasonable people will see that a Government must consider the two aspects of the matter, the desirability of improving the rates and also the necessity for raising the money.
That is the way we have been doing it and that is the way we intend to do it in the future. We prefer, and I think it is more realistic, that the House should consider this thing in a responsible way, considering the two vital aspects of the matter together rather than to be discussing the desirability only of increasing social welfare payments and completely ignoring the practicability of it. It is easy to do it at this stage but at Budget time the two things have to be taken into account. Therefore, I ask the House to amend this motion as I have suggested.
Mr. D. Costello: The Minister need not have troubled the House with his  remarks. They were the remarks which we have expected, the remarks which we have heard from his side of the House for many years. The idea is they know the social welfare benefits are inadequate. They would love to increase them further but they very much regret they cannot do so. I do not think the country will stand for this sort of talk much longer because, as Deputy Dr. Browne said, there is considerable misunderstanding of the reality of Irish life and a very serious misunderstanding of the conditions in which many of our people live.
What are we dealing with in this motion? We are dealing with approximately 151,000 persons in receipt of old age pensions, either non-contributory or contributory. We are dealing with over 60,000 widows on contributory or non-contributory pensions. We are dealing with over 200,000 people. The non-contributory widows' pension is 36/- per week. The non-contributory old age pension is 37/6 per week. We are also dealing with persons on unemployment assistance who have completely inadequate money to look after their wives and children. These are the subject of this motion.
We are also dealing with the cost of living which since 1957 has gone up by 28.1 per cent, the cost of living which since 1960 has gone up by 20.1 per cent. When we are dealing with analyses like the cost of living, in many ways this is not a fair criterion in dealing with old people on pensions and widows on pensions because the cost of living index figure is so weighted that it weighs more heavily on those poor people in receipt of pensions. Things such as food which are weighted to a certain per cent in the consumer price index take up a much higher percentage of the income of the recipients of social welfare benefits, and any increase in the price of bread, sugar or tea or any increase in bus fares hurt more the lower sections of the community than those to whom the cost of living index figure generally applies.
The Minister stated that increases have been given in the past, and of  course we are aware of it. He omitted to state that it was expressly admitted that the increases given last year were not sufficient to compensate the recipient for the increase in the cost of living which had occurred.
Mr. D. Costello: The Minister can juggle around with the figures as he likes and take certain base years to suit his argument. The fact is that the people in receipt of social welfare payments are less well off than they were some years ago.
I want to quote for the benefit of the House some figures given in an Economic Research Institute paper which was published recently by Mr. Kaim-Caudle, who brings out a very salutary fact about this society in which we live. He states that taking into account the six countries of western Europe, and England, this country spends the lowest percentage of its gross national product in cash in social security benefits. We spend less of our wealth helping our poor people than any of those countries. It is interesting to note that our expenditure is a quarter less than in Italy whose gross national product per capita is something close to ours and which has the same income per head.
This is the society for which the Minister's Party is largely responsible. You would imagine from what has been said that they only came into office a week or two ago or a year or so ago. How long do they want? They have been in office since 1932 except for two short breaks. Do they want  another generation to try and improve this, another 25 or 50 years, perhaps, before they improve the conditions?
It is difficult to get comparable figures of actual amounts spent on social welfare in the six countries and in England because the cost of living figures differ and payments in kind and in cash differ in different countries but it is a fair indication of the way your society is organised if you ascertain exactly what percentage of gross national product is being spent. The percentage which I have stated is the correct one and it shows that we have a lower percentage than any of those countries I have outlined.
The Minister has enunciated a principle which, if the Government would accept it, we would welcome. He would like to ensure that social welfare benefits would represent a higher percentage in the national accounts and that, even though we are going to increase our national production each year, it is not sufficient to keep the same percentage going to social welfare but that a greater percentage should be given. This would meet with universal acceptance but what are the facts? There has been an analysis made of the Second Programme by Mr. Garrett Fitzgerald in the autumn edition of Studies. Mr. Fitzgerald has examined the social welfare payments adumbrated in the Second Programme and his conclusions are diametrically opposed to the principles the Minister has just enunciated. At page 246 of this volume, after dealing with the increased public expenditure on goods and services, he suggests that, though these figures
...may at first sight suggest an intention radically to expand social services. This is very far from being the case, however, at any rate so far as social services involving payments to individuals are concerned. Indeed, no section of public expenditure is to be expanded more slowly than transfer payments of this kind, which are clearly the cinderella of this Programme, although Part II of the Programme contrives to obscure this fact by failing to state clearly and explicitly what is proposed in connection  with these transfer payments.
Is that statement wrong? If it is wrong, then it should be contradicted. If it is right, it means that the grandiose statements of principle enunciated by the Minister are just so much eyewash because, in fact, the analysis which this economist has carried out shows that this expenditure will expand more slowly than other items of expenditure and that it is, in fact, the cinderella of the Second Programme.
The increase of 33 per cent which is thus proposed in resources devoted to social benefits is slightly less than the estimated increase in the volume of national output in the same period (35 per cent) which means that it is proposed to continue the trend of the period 1957/1963, during which social benefits rose in current money terms by only 37½ per cent as against an increase in national output of 41½ per cent in current money terms. Thus by 1970 social benefits will absorb 6.2 per cent of national output as compared with 6.5 per cent in 1957/58.
Are these calculations wrong? If they are not wrong, it means that what is contained in the Programme is diametrically opposed to what the Government, through the Minister, says they are going to do. Of course, we are used to this now but, unfortunately, the public has not yet caught on. I suppose there are still left in the Fianna Fáil Party those exuberant spirits who make these speeches at the Árd Fheis and listen to the Minister reply, saying: “We are doing the best we can”, and who do not know the facts.
I think the public should know the facts. The public should know that, under the Government's Programme, it is proposed that social welfare payments will increase less and more slowly than other items of expenditure. That is not something of which the Government should be proud. The social welfare aspects of the Programme are largely ignored. Social welfare payments are treated in the Programme in vague terms.
 The Government have failed to realise that one of their most important duties is to ensure a fair distribution of income. The Minister says he could not get the money. He did his best. He said the economy could not bear increased taxation; if you increase the rates, taxes have to be raised to meet the increases. He used the old argument that we have heard over and over again. Again, this is an area in which the statements are accepted by people who do not know the facts.
What happened in the last Budget to the £3 millions usually allowed for over-estimation? It would have been possible to allow £3 millions more in last year's Budget, had the Government done what every other Minister for Finance has done and did for many years before, namely, made this allowance of £3 millions for errors in overestimation. That assists the Minister for Finance in balancing his Budget. That was not done this year. Why was it not done? Because the Government were bringing in what they described as a mildly inflationary Budget. The Government play around with these ideas. They do not tell the old age pensioners: “We have a mildly inflationary Budget and we are very sorry we cannot give you 5/-. We can give you only half-a-crown.” That is the effect. The increase in the last Budget could have been doubled if the Minister had not brought in what he regarded as necessary, a mildly inflationary Budget. It was, of course, nonsense to think that the Government's fiscal policy of a £3 million allowance would make the slightest difference to what was going on. The Government ignore the reality of the situation and tinker around with ideas like mildly inflationary Budgets, when, in fact, developments outside need to be and should be handled.
A proper incomes policy needs to be developed. There are numbers of things that need to be kept in hand and, if they were, we would not have this run-away inflation which is developing. Instead of that, the Government think they should bring in a mildly inflationary Budget and do not make this allowance of £3 millions  which every other Minister for Finance for years past allowed. The plea is that the Government cannot get the money.
The plea is the Government would love to give bigger increases in social welfare payments but just cannot get the revenue. I challenge the Minister and his colleagues. I ask them why they did not make this allowance. The Budget could, of course, easily become unbalanced and we may easily find ourselves, and the Minister has hinted as much, running a large unbalanced Budget next year, but the Minister did not know that when he could have, had he so wished, taken the measures I have suggested. If the Minister and the Government had the courage to come into this Parliament, and say: “Look, we are going to increase social welfare payments, but the increases will cause an increase of 6d. on income tax”, is there anybody who would vote against that?
Mr. D. Costello: Nobody would vote against it. The Minister would get the unanimous support of the House. But the Government will not do that because, since this Government came into office, they have reduced direct taxation and increased indirect taxation.
Mr. D. Costello: That is their policy. They reduce surtax and direct taxation and increase indirect taxation. That is their declared policy. These are the facts. Efforts may be made to try to obliterate them by words or ignore them by phrases, but the reality is there. The Government have failed to appreciate the realities of modern life in Ireland. That is true. The  Government have failed to appreciate reality. They just do not know. The Government do not know what it is like to try to live on the old age pension. They do not know the hardships suffered by those on social assistance. They do not know the problems of the widow. If they did know, they would not have taken the sort of measures they have taken in recent years.
That is the truth of the matter. That is the reason why we are hoping we shall have an opportunity to change this Government in the near future. We are now in a situation in which the Government have lost touch with the realities of Irish life and, so long as they have, and so long as they fail to realise that, they will go on finding excuses for not increasing social welfare benefits, for giving only small increases which never make up the leeway in relation to the cost of living. Year in and year out we will go on, so long as this Government last, with one Minister after another, saying: “We know it is inadequate but we are hoping things will impprove in the future.” The country is tired of that and it is tired, I think, of the men who continue to say it.
Mr. A. Barry: There is not a great deal to be added to what the last speaker has said, except, perhaps, to criticise the throw-away speech made here by the Minister for Social Welfare half an hour ago. I think it was a deplorable exhibition of late nineteenth century thinking. If I were to think of a contemporary description, I could say—although it might flatter the Minister—that it was an exhibition of a kind of sturdy Goldwater-ism which was to me frightening, and I was surprised to hear a Minister speaking in that fashion tonight.
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