Social Welfare Bill, 1983: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages .

Wednesday, 23 March 1983

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 341 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 56 Next Page Last Page

Question again proposed: “That section 3 stand part of the Bill.”

[677]Mr. Gene Fitzgerald: Information on Eugene Fitzgerald  Zoom on Eugene Fitzgerald  : On section 2 I referred to the impact on the percentage increases that were allowed and how they had been eroded. The arguments I made on that section apply equally to section 3, I intend to be brief. The Minister, judging from the reply he gave, does not seem to have grasped the argument I advanced. I would like to quickly repeat what I said. In regard to the benefits before us we are dealing with the old, the widows, the sick, the long-term ill and the long-term unemployed. The budget will probably contribute about 5 per cent to inflation and will reduce the figure of 12 per cent to 7 per cent. The devaluation of the pound will reduce it by 2 per cent to 5 per cent. The 3 per cent, because of the pushing back of the date to July will bring that figure down to 2 per cent. I did not touch the general cost of living increase for the year. That final 2 per cent will be eroded for many people.

I want to make clear what I said this morning because the Minister obviously did not grasp it and perhaps because of our dispute I did not advance the argument as clearly as I might have done. I want to refer to the old age pensioners, widows, long-term disabled people on invalidity pensions and the long-term unemployed who live in dwellings covered by the Rent Restrictions Act and who live in conditions which have deteriorated very much because of the Supreme Court decision of 1981. Those people are being further deprived by a Labour Minister. Imagine Deputy Barry Desmond, Minister for Social Welfare, seeing his way to penalise those tenants in this city. There must be many of them in Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown. I know there are many in Cork and there are some in Galway and in Limerick.

I am sure Deputy Frank Prendergast would be very interested in those tenants in Limerick city. In Cork their cases are going through the courts at the rate of a couple a dozen a week and their increases are tenfold, twelvefold and even twentyfold what they were. The subsidisation was reduced in the budget and they were cut by £5½ million. The single person in [678] receipt of a retirement pension or old age pension under £40 gets full remission. If the person receives over £40 and less than £45 that person gets 50p in the pound remission. The single person in receipt of £40.25 will now get £45.10. Now, because that person is in the £45 bracket, it means that the subsidy, which is reckoned at 50p in the pound on £5, will be £2.50. That person is not getting an increase of £4.85 but an increase of £2.85. Are the Deputies in the Labour Party prepared to support this section? Shame on them if they are prepared to support it. For goodness sake, let them move to the right, let them be the conservative party and support the staunch solid Fine Gael conservative party as they have been doing. We should realise what is provided in this section in relation to the people on rent restrictions.

I should now like to refer to the married people. The husband and wife on an old age pension or retirment pension are getting at the moment £65.95. They will receive an increase of £7.95, which brings them to £73.90. If those people are receiving under £70 they get full remission, but as the people I am referring to are getting £3.90 above that figure it means that they are losing £2 of their subsidy. The Minister said in his reply that the legislation was brought in by Fianna Fáil. It might have been brought in by Fianna Fáil. But if there is a change in circumstances relating to the subsidy, particularly in relation to the £40 going to £45, but in practice only going to £42, or in the case of the married people going from £65.90 to £73.90 but in effect only going to £72, then the Minister should really hang his head in shame. He should explain to the House what he is doing to counteract that cutback for the thousands of people who live in flats.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. F. O'Brien): Information on Fergus O'Brien  Zoom on Fergus O'Brien  : I am rather surprised at the Opposition's approach to this section. They say they are opposing the section. What they are doing is opposing the payment of 10 per cent and 12 per cent to social welfare recipients. They are saying they should not get them. They are a very confused Opposition and do not know where they [679] are going. As far as we are concerned we have a duty to protect the less well off in society and that is what we intend to do.

When the Opposition were in Government we saw how reckless they were. Their answer to any problems which arose was to borrow. The result was massive debts. We hear a lot of talk about how much the PAYE worker has to pay, about how much is extracted from him and how he is bled. Every penny he pays goes to meet the interest on the debts which were incurred by the previous Government. That is where our problem lies. When the Opposition were in Government they said they would do this and that and went on their merry way spending all the time but last October they got the message that this could not continue and they initiated a series of cuts. A large number of medical cards were withdrawn and there were other proposals in their document The Way Forward.

Deputies:  : Rubbish.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Information on Fergus O'Brien  Zoom on Fergus O'Brien  : That is what the document is — pure rubbish.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : You took medical cards from old age pensioners.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Information on Fergus O'Brien  Zoom on Fergus O'Brien  : We did what was right. Even you had pangs of conscience about the way the country was being run.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  : The Minister should address the Chair.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Information on Fergus O'Brien  Zoom on Fergus O'Brien  : As a result of the debts which had accumulated we found ourselves in a severe economic mess. People who talk about borrowing should ask themselves if there is a limit to what can be borrowed. There is a limit and our creditworthiness could be in doubt. We could have been told what to do by international bankers if we did not deliver the goods. Who would have suffered then? It would have been the less well off whom we are trying to protect.

It ill-befits the Opposition to weep crocodile tears when they have landed us in this mess. Since 1977 we have been [680] paying back massive sums on interest and so depriving the economy of money we could be investing in infrastructure and on providing jobs. It annoys me to hear the Opposition bleating about how their hearts are bleeding for the less well off when it is as a result of their actions that we are in the present mess.

There has been a 104 per cent increase in unemployment in three years. That is their legacy. That is their record. We are determined to safeguard the interests of the less well off. We would like to be generous and give more but it is simply not there. The alternative is to increase taxation but we cannot do this. The other alternative is to borrow but for how long could we borrow? We would soon find ourselves halfway through the fiscal year and unable to get more money. We all know who would suffer then. Let us cut out the codology and recklessness and get down to the real job of tackling the economy and putting it right. We must develop a job programme and our infrastructure and get the figure of 188,000 people unemployed down to some reasonable proportion.

What the Oppostition are advocating is no solution. Obviously they are playing pure politics. On the first day of the new Dáil they indicated they would be responsible. If this is their idea of being responsible I would hate to see them being irresponsible. Their only proposal now is to oppose this section. If this section is defeated it will mean people will not be in receipt of social welfare benefits. That is what they are advocating. That may be their job but it is our job to ensure that people get their increases. We have given long-term beneficiaries 2 per cent extra.

Let us stop the codding and get our house in order. Let us create a just society and provide employment. In that way we could be generous to those who are disabled, unemployed or elderly in a positive and sincere way. We made far-reaching and radical changes in the social welfare system when we were in Government from 1973 to 1977. Given the overall financial structure one can only do so much. Can the Opposition tell me of one section which is not feeling the pinch [681] whether it is the building industry, education or whatever?

We are serious in tackling the problem over a period of years and a group has been formed to ensure that this will happen.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : That was a most extraordinary contribution from the Minister of State. He has tried to justify why the increases to recipients of social welfare should not keep abreast of the cost of living. It is unfortunate he was not here this morning when we tried to have our amendments accepted and explained to the House that we were not opposing the increases themselves, although we are opposed to their meagreness, but we do not have a choice in the matter as our amendments were not accepted.

The Minister of State talked about protecting the interests of the underprivileged. Does he believe that these increases will prevent the serious erosion of the purchasing power of those dependent on social welfare assistance? We are talking about people on long-term unemployment assistance, non-contributory pensioners, widows and those at the lowest end of the income scale. The Minister of State has said these are the people who have to suffer because the Government are not able to get their finances in order.

The Minister also said that borrowing started in 1977. The Taoiseach last week on television tried to portray the same image when he put a chart on the screen showing that 1977 was the year in which borrowing started. Borrowing started on a large scale here in 1973 when Deputy Richie Ryan was Minister for Finance. That is when our problems started. The Minister of State said that if this measure was defeated the social welfare recipients would not get an increase. I believe this measure should be defeated and if Members of the Minister's party help to defeat it, it will mean that the Government will have to bring in another proposal to ensure that these people will be able to meet their commitments during the coming year. We have no choice but to oppose this section for the same reasons that we opposed section 2. The main [682] reason we oppose this section is that the increases are insufficient to enable these people to meet their commitments and also that they are only receiving the increases for three quarters of the year.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond): Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I should like to deal with a number of points raised. A number of Deputies referred to the non-payment of social insurance contributions. Deputy Mac Giolla thought that if we had the £25 million which is owed in arrears in PRSI contributions from employers we could immediately pay the increases from April. If one had £25 million one could pay the increases from the beginning of May. If it was paid from April it would cost about £39 million.

We should keep that figure of £25 million in perspective. I am not attempting to minimise the seriousness and the unlawfulness of the non-transfer of PRSI contributions by any employer, no matter what the circumstances might be, but I should refer to that £25 million in some detail. I originally mentioned it in the introduction of this Bill at the beginning of Second Stage. The £25 million is outstanding in respect of the 1981-1982 contribution year, but one must remember that there was a total liability of £600 million in that year by employers. The exact figure is £599.5 million PRSI liability. I indicated that 4 per cent of that was outstanding, a sum of £25 million, and that is the correct perspective. We must remember that that 4 per cent in cash terms involves about 10,000 out of 86,000 employers. That is a small sum of money spread over a large number of employers. One might ask why are we not going after these payments. Follow-up action is being taken to recover that outstanding amount but £7.5 million out of that £25 million is under various forms of statutory and management control by the Revenue Commissioners. For example, about £2.5 million is being queried by employers as to the precise amount they owe in respect of PRSI. It is not unusual, when one is dealing with payrolls and a total liability of £599.5 million, that there would be a fraction under dispute.

Another £2.2 million is being paid by [683] instalments. It is not a major amount but it shows the kind of control which exists. Another £1.7 million out of £599.6 million is under liquidation proceedings, and about £1 million out of the £7.5 million which the Revenue Commissioners were involved in is unidentifiable in precise forms of liability.

Deputy Mac Giolla said that this is worker's money. It is, without question. Employers themselves have a liability twice that of employees. They must pay over 11.5 per cent of their pay and that calculation frequently gives rise to a degree of dispute. I have accounted for £7.5 million out of £25 million. The remaining £17.5 million is under collection in the normal way and it can be assumed without question that the bulk of it will be collected. I am talking about 1981-82 and this is the beginning of 1983. If I might give comparisons, you may ask what happened last year. For comparison purposes for previous year, the position in regard to 1980-81 is that it is down to £13.7 million outstanding of which £6 million is under various forms of control and in respect of 1979-80 the amount is right down to £6 million.

Anybody can say glibly £6 million, £13 million and £25 million and there are your social welfare increases. It is not as simple as that. Whether it is collection of social welfare insurance, PAYE, or contributions from trade union members, the same problems arise in terms of returns from branches, returns from any section of the community, contributions. I give all that by way of explanation because there is no let-up whatever on the Department of Social Welfare's part or on the part of the Revenue Commissioners in their determination to bring in all outstanding moneys. In that regard the Department of Finance would not permit any sluggishness in the collection process. Perhaps I am tempting fortune here in trying to quote from memory, but I remember that Deputy Woods estimated that he would bring in in 1981 or 1982 about £565 million in PRSI. At the year end he had brought in £563 million. He was within £2 million of the anticipated [684] yield and that at a time of recession where employment is oscillating and proper forecasts of yields from taxation are very difficult. In that situation the Department of Social Welfare are to be commended on the precision with which they can estimate yields.

Deputy O'Hanlon has made a point which is not contested in any way by me or by my colleague, Minister of State O'Brien. It is true that the levels of increase just keep pace with inflation and I do not deny that, but we pose to this House the very serious problem that if one wants a 15 per cent increase from 1 April for 200,000 people out of work and for the other 800,000 people who are dependent on social welfare, the cost is simply £165 million in nine months and in a full year £217.5 million. That is the equivalent of virtually all of the income tax collected this year. If the current social welfare increase of 10 to 12 per cent were to be paid from 1 April the cost would be £39.6 million.

Therefore, the question arises, where is the money to come from? It is not sufficient at this stage, when the Government have made provision to bring in £70 million in capital taxation. I believe that we should bring in very much more but we are bringing in £70 million this year in capital taxation which was permissible only in the context of coming into office in mid-December, getting a budget together by the end of January with a bare few weeks to do so and bringing in money from a bank levy of £25 million, from development levies of £10 million, from residential properties of £10 million, £14 million from capital acquisitions tax and capital gains tax and another £1.5 million from derelict sites and so on, giving a total of £70 million. It is not possible in six or eight weeks to devise a new capital taxation structure, because generally speaking no work has been done in that direction.

Many Deputies have very many excellent, progressive, egalitarian ideas and many of us have no more than ideas. We pretend that we have more than we have in terms of our capacity to contribute. Most of us are not aware because we have not spent the time, we have not the [685] back-up research to that extent either in or out of government. As a result we have the greatest of difficulty in devising measures of revenue on an equitable basis. Then we are back to a situation where in a budget to provide for social welfare increases we increased the income tax level to the 65 per cent rate which brings in only £8 million or £9 million which is very little. We have increased the level of liability for PRSI contributions from £9,500 to £13,000. This brings in only an extra £16 million, which is peanuts in terms of social welfare. That £16 million is only a miserable 1 per cent increase.

The Opposition and the Government, irrespective of political persuasion and alleged idelogies—very often it is difficult to segment out precisely the ideology which is talked about from time to time—represent a country which is an ideology of sectional interests rather than political ideologies in terms of social and taxation perceptions. It is very difficult in that context to perceive in a Social Welfare Bill, wherein we are spending £80.6 million on a 10 to 12 per cent increase and providing £31 million more for the cost of additional unemployment, how better one could produce money to pay for the increases.

Without any difficulty we could have increased the rates of PRSI. An extra 1.5 per cent on the existing rates would have brought in £45 million to £46 million. That would provide the increase from 1 April but, as I have said, the then reciprocal execration on the head of the Government for increasing PRSI would follow. Everybody at work would then rebound on the Government and say, “There we go again, more increases”. As it was, we had to put a 1 per cent increase on wage levels generally trying to ensure some kind of balance of the budget. We worked out with a budget deficit of £890 million. God forbid what would have happened to social welfare if we had a budget deficit of £750 million as The Way Forward clearly proposed and tabulated. The deflationary impact of VAT would have meant no increase at all in social welfare in 1983. It was cleverly cloaked. [686]The Way Forward on page 18 under “Public Finances” said that the current budget deficit as a percentage of GNP in 1983 would be 5.5 per cent. That figure represents a budget deficit of £750 million. They did not put down the figure. In 1982 the outturn was 7.5 per cent, £900 million. It is only when one reads through documents, particularly those prepared and carefully cloaked as was done in the document dealing with pay-related benefits for short-time workers, that it dawns on one what the true impact will be.

My colleagues and I were faced with an increase in the social welfare provision this year, but it is by no means a real increase. I am acutely aware of the current rate of unemployment assistance paid to a married man with a wife and two children. At the end of June he will get £65.15, an appalingly low income to expect any family to live on. It is only 42 per cent of current earnings. In the transportable goods industry male adults earn approximately £155 per week. I have never had to live on £65 a week and would be horrified at the prospect of having to do so, although I had to live on a Deputy's salary since 1969 and at times that was precarious enough. The plight of these men who get £65 a week is desperate, but we as a community must deal with that poverty situation and with that of workers on exceptionally low incomes. It is expected that there will be intensive discussions within the Government on these matters within the next eight or nine months.

The other day I was talking to a young girl of 19 or 20 years who works in a cake shop for £30 a week. She is being exploited. I know of married men with two or three children who are getting £100, less tax, PRSI and so on. Because of their deductions they are almost down to the medical card income level. That is why we need our family income supplement scheme. This will help those who are working but with low incomes. We must ensure that this scheme is not used by employers to get cheap labour. This scheme has to be very carefully worked out so that it will not do the reverse of what was intended. We must carry out a thorough examination of income and taxation [687] levels as well as transfer payments. We have never carried out such an examination.

The more I examine the thousands of pounds we spend on social welfare and the £90 million we spend on the general medical services, the more critical I am of successive Governments for their failure down the years to come to grips with social deprivation and poverty and to use properly our existing resources. I am convinced that if we never raised another penny from taxation or PRSI, out of the money we are already spending on social welfare, health and education, we could have a society which would be more just and equitable because people in real need would be getting the money rather than the current patchwork quilt of transfer payments from one section of the community to another. I make that point because it relates to the section dealing with unemployment assistance. All the money for unemployment assistance comes from the taxpayers' pockets; not a penny is collected by way of PRSI.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  : On a point of order, I admire the Minister both in Opposition and in Government for his long, detailed and very interesting speeches but my understanding as Opposition Whip when we agreed to a very tight time scale on a very important Bill last week was that there would be fair play by both the Government and the Opposition.

There are 26 sections in this Bill. I gave the Government 30 minutes this morning by agreeing that this debate would be completed by 6.30 p.m. We are on section 3, with two-and-a-half hours left and if there are a few votes we will lose more time. The Minister has unnecessarily drawn out his speeches. Effectively, he is preventing us from voting and, more important, discussing later sections. This is grossly unfair and breaks the spirit of the agreement between the Whips. We gave him the Second Stage yesterday and are giving the Committee and remaining Stages today. I appreciate the Government might have voting problems, but it is a very unfair way to do business.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : May I hasten to [688] immediately apologise to the Opposition Chief Whip. I had no intention of prolonging the discussion on any section. The Opposition spent all this morning on section 2 and at 3.30 p.m. it appeared they intended spending the rest of the afternoon on the social assistance section. I have no intention of delaying the House and there is no difficulty in keeping my comments short. There have been at least eight or nine Opposition speakers on these sections and I can assure the Deputy it is not my intention to exceed the normal process of debate. I regret if it appeared that way.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : We have tried to be as brief as possible. If one looks at the time taken one will find our contributions have been very much to the point. The Minister of State has decried The Way Forward and said it was rubbish. This is the section to which our document applies. It is clearly spelled out in The Way Forward where the jobs would be created. It is because this Government are not pursuing a way forward as planned under the Fianna Fáil Administration that more people will be getting unemployment assistance and other social welfare benefits, and more people will be on the poverty line. The Way Forward is very relevant to this section. It is far from rubbish and it is because of the Government's policies that more people are coming into that section and will continue to do so.

Therefore, the overall Government policy is very relevant here. The Minister himself at the end of his speech said he regards the levels as extremely low and practically horrific for people who are in that situation. Yet he is giving the equivalent of about 7½ per cent this year and he is leaving those people in fairly severe poverty. This Bill will worsen very significantly the position of people on unemployment assistance. The Minister earlier said that they just cannot produce the money. They cannot produce it for this purpose but it can be produced for a lot of other purposes. The September and December double week is gone as well. Under EEC regulations in 1984 the Minister is committed to providing within [689] this unemployment assistance cover for all women. Last year we extended it to include separated married women. Married women will then be able to apply. The Minister will have to find about £25 million for that purpose. He will have to find that money but for this purpose he says he just cannot find the money.

This morning we had a fairly balanced debate in this House. With regret I must say that the news at 1.30 on RTE did not represent what went on here this morning. It was quite unfair to have the Minister completely free to talk about Deputy Bell. At least here in the House Deputy Bell has an opportunity to make his points and to have them noted by those in the Press Gallery. The Minister has a great habit of quoting statistics. When I went to college quite a few years ago one of the things our eminent professors told us was to be wary of lies, damn lies and statistics. We have as a country been treated to large dollops of these lies, damn lies and statistics in the statements which the Minister has made and in the statements which are made generally. It is very easy to slip out onesided statistics and this is what the Minister is doing at present.

We oppose this section because we believe it will result in considerable poverty for people who receive social assistance.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : I would like to remind the Minister that he and the other Labour Party Deputies were elected on the basis of special help to be directed to those groups who fare worst under the present piecemeal system of social welfare and that includes long-term unemployment, the elderly, disabled persons living alone, one-parent families and so on. That is the policy on which they are now reneging.

[690]Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  : Deputy Woods said this Government were not prepared to find the money to fund an adequate scheme of social assistance. He overlooks the fact that the reason the country is in its present difficulty is because of the operations of his own party particularly dating from 1977 when they set about a massive borrowing of money abroad. Was it to fund an adequate system of social assistance? No, it was to abolish car tax, to abolish rates for people living in £100,000 and £200,000 houses. They used the money to abolish wealth tax. I always remember that when the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Colley, announced the abolition of wealth tax there were resounding cheers from the Fianna Fáil backbenches. It appals me that they have the gall to come in here and put down these amendments.

We must face the situation as we find it and there is no doubt that people on social assistance suffer dreadfully. They are caught in this trap and I am not satisfied that they keep up with the inflationary situation. I would ask the Minister to look at the idea that henceforth the amounts of social welfare and social assistance in particular should be increased not yearly but quarterly when the consumer price index is produced. Increases ought to apply automatically to all social welfare payments in accordance with the cost of living index. I should like to ask the Minister on what date these figures were last increased.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The last general increase was on the first pay week in April 1982.

Question put.

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Myra.
Barry, Peter. [691]Carey, Donal.
Cluskey, Frank.
Collins, Edward.
Conlon, John F.
Connaughton, Paul.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cooney, Patrick Mark.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Coveney, Hugh.
Creed, Donal.
Crotty, Kieran.
Crowley, Frank.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Martin Austin.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Donnellan, John.
Dowling, Dick.
Doyle, Avril.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Fennell, Nuala.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Glenn, Alice.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Paddy.
Hussey, Gemma.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Keating, Michael.
Begley, Michael.
Bermingham, Joe.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam. [692]Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
McCartin, Joe.
McGinley, Dinny.
McLoughlin, Frank.
Manning, Maurice.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Molony, David.
Moynihan, Michael.
Naughten, Liam.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East).
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Brien, Willie.
O'Donnell, Tom.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Prendergast, Frank.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Ryan, John.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Skelly, Liam.
Spring, Dick.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Treacy, Seán.
Yates, Ivan.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Andrews, Niall.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Paudge.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John.
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Seán.
Calleary, Seán.
Colley, George.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Connolly, Ger.
Cowen, Bernard.
Daly, Brendan.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doherty, Seán.
Fahey, Francis.
Fahey, Jackie.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzgerald, Gene. [693]O'Dea, William.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Edmond.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Ormonde, Donal.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Paddy.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzsimons, Jim.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hilliard, Colm.
Hyland, Liam.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McEllistrim, Tom.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
MacSharry, Ray.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West) [694]Reynolds, Albert.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 have been ruled out of order.

Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : On a point of order, I seek your advice as to how we might arrange to have the proceedings on this Bill continued until tomorrow. I understand that there is agreement to conclude the Bill at 6.30 this evening. We have only dealt with three sections so far and in order to allow those Deputies who wish to do so to contribute to the various sections, I suggest that we extend the time available for the Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : That is not a matter for the Chair. The House made an order this morning to conclude all Stages of this Bill by 6.30 this evening. The Chair is tied by that order and must proceed accordingly.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : Am I correct in assuming that, if the Whips were prepared to agree that the Bill be carried forward to tomorrow, that would be acceptable?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : It is not for the Chair to advise the Deputy on that.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : We are opposing this section on the grounds, first, that the Government have decided to impose an extra 1 per cent levy on workers. We contend that the ceiling for contributions should not be increased to £13,000 this year as a result of that. Secondly, there is the severe reduction in pay-related benefit and the fact that benefit for workers this year will not come into effect until the end of June or the beginning of July whereas the extra payments will be taken from them at the beginning of April.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : This section increases from £9,500 to £13,000 the ceiling for pay-related social insurance contributions from the start of the new contribution year, that is, 6 April 1983. I stress that the rates of PRSI contributions are not being increased. I should like to point out that the new temporary levy of 1 per cent, as announced by the Minister for Finance in the budget, will be collected as an additional part of PRSI but in the same way as the existing youth employment levy. For the information of Members I should like to state that the increased revenue from the raising of the PRSI ceiling is expected to be £16 million in 1983. I must stress that those provisions were built into the Estimates by the last administration.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : The 1 per cent levy was not.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The 1 per cent levy was not but the increasing of the limit from £9,500 to £13,000 was. I should like to point out that 240,000 contributors whose earnings are more than £9,500 will [695] of course be obliged to pay additional amounts of PRSI and the maximum additional amount of PRSI which a contributor will have to pay is £208 in one year. I regret that the Opposition have decided to oppose this section.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  : We are opposed to this section. This is the first occasion an alteration where the contribution limits do not equate eligibility limits has been made. We oppose this on the same basis that we oppose the whole question of PRSI and what it is. If people are obliged to pay a contribution for which they do not get any benefit that is taxation and why not call it PAYE or some other type of tax but do not call it PRSI. The Minister has made lengthy contributions today and they have led us to the situation where we do not have time to debate the various sections. I do not know whether that was done deliberately. In one of his contributions the Minister said that PRSI was not social insurance and the fact that one paid social insurance did not mean one was entitled to any benefits. If that is so it is not social insurance but a tax. PRSI has become another form of taxation and instead of raising PAYE further beyond the limit that would lead to revolt which it has reached, the Government simply increase the PRSI contribution. We believe in the concept of pay-related social insurance and we are not objecting to raising the limit to £13,000 but the people who pay the contribution should also be eligible for benefits. We raised this issue before and we are opposed to this concept wherever it appears and in this section also.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The Deputy is being mischievous on this. I never said, nor would I ever say, that because people pay PRSI they are not entitled to any benefits. I did not say that but I made it clear that because people pay social insurance on a pay-related basis did not automatically entitle them to pay-related benefit. That is a different statement from the one Deputy Mac Giolla is attributing to me. Benefits are general and pay-related is in fact a supplement on top of the benefit. The Deputy should not mis-quote [696] me in that regard. Under the Bill 80,000 people will be receiving benefits to which will be added the pay-related supplement. We must be careful here because there is a tendency on the part of Members to misconstrue what is in the Bill for what may be described as purely party political propaganda purposes. I must hotly contest that type of misinterpretation.

I have not said that because workers pay social insurance on a pay-related basis they are not entitled to benefit. I have said that pay-related social insurance contributions do not contain an automatic entitlement without conditions to pay-related benefit. The same applies to any of the other social insurance benefits, such as drawing unemployment assistance or benefits. There are basic qualifications in respect of them all.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  : There is one glaring anomaly in PRSI as far as a widower is concerned. A housekeeper allowance of £165 is available only in certain circumstances and if a non-relative is involved in caring for the family the person has to be considered an employee. Therefore, a widower will have to pay the PRSI for a non-relative he takes in to look after his family. That person is really being taxed under PRSI. His tax concession would be £110. The Minister should clarify that position.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : In addition to the increase from £9,500 to £13,000 a worker must pay 1 per cent extra which will be collected in conjunction with PRSI. The Minister should tell the House if that is the case. It will bring the total contribution from 7.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent. The increasing of the ceiling to £13,000 will mean an extra £3,500 being brought in under PRSI per person and that will mean about £262 extra per annum, or almost £5 per week. The Minister is not simply proposing an increase in the ceiling but the imposition of a levy of 1 per cent also. I am aware that that is not covered in the Bill but it will be collected with PRSI and will mean a substantial increase in those contributions. It is for that reason that we had gone for a [697] straightforward increase in the ceiling to £11,000.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : My colleague, Deputy Woods, is suffering from retrospective ministerial amnesia. This provision is precisely the Government decision——

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : Not the 1 per cent. The Minister should not try to confuse people.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The 1 per cent to which the Deputy refers is not in the Bill.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : It is to be collected with it.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I am dealing with section 4 of this Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The Minister to continue without interruption.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The provisions of section 4 of this Bill were proposed by Deputy Woods to the then Government on 22 October 1982. I do not know if they keep their Government memoranda but if the Deputy has any difficulty——

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : I have no difficulty and unless the Minister wishes to protract the discussion——

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I have no desire to become argumentative.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : I am quite happy to be argumentative on an issue as important as this.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The decision was taken on 22 October 1982 in Cabinet that the PRSI ceiling would be raised from £9,500 to £13,000 and that the pay-related benefit ceiling would be increased in line with wage movements. The proposed increase at that time was to £11,000 in respect of PRSI and £13,000 in respect of contributions. These were the decisions of the previous Government and I will be flabbergasted if they decide to vote against them here.

[698]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : This is the kernel of the matter and I am glad it has been brought out so clearly. I listened to the Minister on the radio at 1.30 p.m. misleading people about what will happen. He should not try to confuse people in this House; he may do it outside but not here. At the end of April 8.5 per cent will be deducted from wages up to £13,000. There will be an extra 1 per cent which the Minister calls a separate levy but this was not included in any Fianna Fáil Estimate proposals. There was a proposal to increase the ceiling and this was made public but there was no proposal to increase the rate. The Minister tries to tell us that he is not increasing the rate and he does not want us to consider that aspect because he is doing it behind his back. He will talk on RTE and elsewhere about how Fianna Fáil were doing the same things. This is not so. Fianna Fáil were not proposing to charge the extra 1 per cent in the devious manner employed by the Minister. We had proposed the increase to £13,000 but there was no proposal to increase the rate and no separate levy of 1 per cent. The worker will now be faced with an increase to 8.5 per cent in addition to the increase in the ceiling to £13,000. Fianna Fáil have said that in view of the additional 1 per cent levy it is appropriate that the ceiling should be increased only to £11,000. That is our argument.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : We are dealing with the Social Welfare Bill and if the Deputy wishes to raise the question of the 1 per cent levy I have no doubt he will have ample opportunity——

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : Not here, please. The Minister may cod people outside the House.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : May I have the courtesy of an opportunity to reply?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : It gets very difficult as the day wears on to listen to that type of approach.

[699]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The Deputy is only wasting time.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : It is a very important issue to the PRSI contributor, the principal contributor to the funds the Minister is using.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : If the Deputy raises points to which he wishes to receive an answer, he should listen to that answer.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The 1 per cent levy to which the Deputy refers will appear in the Finance Bill. We are dealing with the Social Welfare Bill and the policy decisions incorporated in the Estimates. With respect to Deputy Woods, they were not proposals but decisions of Government in setting the year-end Estimates for 1983. The decision of the Government contained in section 4 of this Bill is precisely that which was framed by Deputy Woods, introduced by him at Government level and adopted by the then Cabinet on 22 October 1982. I do not think he should cavil any further about this.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : I have made the position fairly clear and the wage earner will discover the position in due course.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  : I have pinpointed an anomaly whereby there is injustice to a widower and I should like a reply.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : My apologies to the Deputy. Irrespective of who the employer is, where there is a contract of employment of a whole-time nature or where the employer of a person is the principal employer, then the question arises of liability for the contribution. The fact of a person being a widow or a widower does not arise. Anybody in a contract of employment has liability.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  : When a man's wife dies and he has no relative to employ he may employ a woman and he is immediately subject to PRSI but that cost far exceeds his tax concession. A number of widowers will be caught in this net. Surely there should be some concession.

[700]Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : We had a proposal to increase the ceiling to £13,000 but we had no proposal to introduce a 1 per cent levy. We are opposing the raising of the ceiling because of the introduction of the levy which amounts to £130 on £13,000. If the Minister were to give the House an undertaking that the Government would not proceed with the 1 per cent levy we would support this section.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : There is an element of confusion here. I do not mind being put at a disadvantage in clarifying the matter. The 1 per cent levy goes right to the top; it does not stop at £13,000. It is quite a separate matter which will appear in the Finance Bill. I do not know what we are arguing about in the context of this section because there is no ceiling on the 1 per cent levy. My personal belief is that pay-related social insurance should not have any ceiling but that is another days work. The ceiling we are dealing with is £13,000.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  : I have not received a reply from the Minister. Would the Minister be prepared to examine this aspect of PRSI as it concerns a widower?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : Certainly I would be prepared to look at the matter but I would have to consult with the Minister for Finance because it is basically a tax matter if the tax allowances are exceeded by the PRSI requirement. I will write formally to the Deputy on the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 5 agreed to.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. B. Desmond): Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, subsection (1), line 26, after “5” to insert “, and in such a case the amount payable by way of such benefit for any day of unemployment in that week shall, notwithstanding subsection (6), be one-fifth of the appropriate weekly rate”.

[701] This amendment is self-explanatory. As Deputies are aware, the section provides that the total number of days worked for which unemployment benefit is payable shall not exceed five. The amendment allows for the calculation of unemployment benefit on the basis of a five-day week. The benefit for full-time unemployment and disability benefit for short-time workers will continue to be calculated on the basis of a six-day week.

The purpose of the amendment is to remove an unintended inequity relating to the calculation of flat rate benefit for short-time workers. At present short-time workers on a three-day working week who normally work five days a week may receive 60 per cent of their basic pay and, in addition, three days flat rate unemployment benefit plus pay-related benefit. This represents half of the appropriate weekly rate of those benefits under section 29(b) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 1981. These benefits are payable on the basis of a six-day week.

Deputy Dowling first raised this matter in the House and at a meeting of my party Deputies Pattison and Ryan made the point that, while accepting the situation as outlined, effectively short-time workers were being restricted to a five-day week and, therefore, their daily rate of flat rate benefit should be calculated in fifths rather than sixths. The Government accepted that the anomaly should be rectified and that the general provision in the 1981 Act for the calculation of flat rate unemployment benefit on the basis of sixths should be set aside in the case of short-time workers. This amendment means that the daily rate of benefit for short-time workers will be calculated at one-fifth of the weekly rate of benefit rather than one-sixth. The cost will be about £1½ million a year so that Deputies can appreciate that what might be regarded as a small change is relatively expensive.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : We accept this section. When the Bill was circulated it was stated that there would not be any Government amendments to it. However we accept [702] this amendment. It is unfortunate that the Minister, perhaps in response to Members of his party who were justifiably severely critical of the Bill, did not see his way to introduce more meaningful amendments at this stage.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : Will all the other benefits be calculated at sixths? Can the Minister say what the cost will be of calculating them at fifths?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The current change will cost about £1½ million. I do not have the figure if one were to change the whole system.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : Perhaps the Minister's officials might have some indication of the figure.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : That change was in your Estimates. I am bringing it back to fifths and am having a look at the six-day week situation. As of now, no change is intended and I do not know the cost. It would be a very complicated exercise.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : I am only slightly surprised. I understood the other side would be about £1½ million. Obviously it is more expensive than anticipated. I just wanted to have the point clarified.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The six day social welfare week stays.

Amendment agreed to.

Section, as amended, agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 7 stand part of the Bill”.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : We are opposing this section. In The Way Forward we had a similar proposal to that in this section but for the same reason that we opposed section 4 we are opposing this section. Workers are now being asked to pay 1 per cent on all their income. The fact that it will appear in the Finance Bill is of academic interest to the person who has [703] to pay it and who will find that at the end of April he is 1 per cent less well-off. He will not recognise the subtle distinction that it appears in the Finance Bill rather than in this Bill. The rapidly escalating increases in the cost of living as a result of measures introduced by the Government — increased VAT, 36p increase on a gallon of petrol and deflation of the IR£ — all impose on the worker. A married man with two children earning £145 per week has a net income of £114. Under this proposal his salary will be just under £100. If pay-related benefit was restored to him it would merely bring his income up to £105. He would still be short on his take-home pay. All reasonable people agree that nobody should have more money when unemployed than when working. We oppose this section.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : We see here what can only be described as the initial stages of the dismantling of a pay-related benefits system. The establishment by a former Minister for Social Welfare, who was a Member of the Labour Party, of this pay-related system was an advance and it is unfortunate that a Minister of the same party is now overseeing the dismantling of it. Employees should be able to insure themselves for all eventualities, even for short-term unemployment. For that reason we oppose section 7 because it is an unjust imposition on employees.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I have difficulty in understanding why there should be opposition to this section. I will give a classic example in this regard. If a married man with two children is earning £150 per week, which is £5 less than the current average earning in the manufacturing industry, he would have a net take home pay of £117.10 after tax and other deductions. If he was on a three-day week he would have £80 net earnings. He would have a take home pay of £133.47 for a three-day week as against £117 for a five-day week. That would mean he would have 114 per cent of his earnings.

Because of the slightly higher liability on tax from 5 April, his take home pay would be £115.43. He would have £79.01 of net earnings, £27.22 unemployment [704] benefit and no pay-related benefit, which would make up £106, thus giving him 92 per cent replacement of earnings on a three-day week. As from July that will improve somewhat by going up to 94 per cent as follows. He would still have £115.43 on net full time earnings out of £150 and he would have £79.01 on net earnings. He would have increased unemployment benefit from £27.22 to £29.94 and he would therefore have a total of £108.95, thus giving him 94 per cent of earnings.

I served for eight years as a member of the Council of Europe Health and Social Affairs Committee and I have been to 18 of the 23 states of the Council of Europe. I examined their social security systems and not one of them would give a replacement of even 65 per cent or 70 per cent for a three-day week. We are giving 94 per cent, and we cannot have a situation where employers are telling me that they had an industrial dispute on their hands because they will have to pay their workers another £14 to £20 per week to get them back on a five-day week. The position was examined very closely by an inter-departmental committee and they came up with the reasoning that a worker on short time should receive somewhat higher benefits than a worker in full-time unemployment. In full-time employment the ceiling is 85 per cent and on short time the ceiling is 94 per cent. We have taken on the precise proposals which were adopted in respect of the Estimates by the outgoing administration. I do not want to prolong this discussion because of shortage of time.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  : I agree there was a certain amount of abuse regarding the three-day week, not just by workers but by employers. The Minister received a letter from the Cork Workers' Council recently regarding a three-day week by workers in Hickeys of Cork. Since the change in social welfare the workers have decided to go on full time unemployment because otherwise they would be losing money. I do not know if this information was brought to the Minister's notice but I assume that this industry will now close because the workers are not prepared to [705] work the three-day week because it does not pay them to do so. If the Minister has any information on that, I would like him to clarify it.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I strongly make the point that it is not the purpose of social welfare payments to deal with internal industrial relations problems and the organisation of employment within the workplace. The function of social welfare is to provide the maximum possible replacement of earnings arising out of unemployment. I have seen some employers put up notices saying that employees would be better off on a three-day week rather than working for five days. Of course, the employer makes a saving on energy costs, overheads and so on. The Department of Social Welfare are not operating an employment subsidy scheme or a manufacturing industry subsidy scheme. We pay social welfare to workers in need who are out of work or on short time. I know there is a tendency, as Deputy Wyse has indicated, for some employers to tell their workers they are better off working one week on and one week off or two weeks off and one week on. The system is not designed to cope with the exigencies of recession and of major difficulties in particular employments. It is very difficult to lay down precisely under law the position regarding every firm. For example, Deputy Pattison brought to my attention, quite understandably, that in his constituency some short-time workers have been on a two-day week since November 1980. That is a very long period on a two-day week. The definition is that a person is on systematic short time “for the time being”. One may ask logically what is meant by the words “for the time being”. Deputy Pattison's constituents have been on short time since November 1980. When does the time being cease to be the time being? That is in a regulation and regulations were never designed to cater for all contingencies in employment. Within the limited scope of this change in the Social Welfare Bill the money available on pay-related benefit, which this year is £61 million, £37 million is going on unemployment benefit supplement. [706] My concern is that money should be allocated as fairly as possible to those who are on short-time or more appropriately whole-time unemployment benefit.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  : Would the Minister agree that he could be defeating the purpose of this section of the Bill? I will give a genuine case. I know there are abuses, but the innocent will suffer for such abuses. I am sure that the Minister is aware of the case and we have been asked to bring it to his notice in this discussion by the Cork Worker's Council. Hickeys of Cork are on three-day working and the workers are now rejecting this and going on full-time unemployment. Of course this consequently will close the firm. Is the Minister now defeating the real purpose of this section?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I am not advocating the closure of any firm or encouraging it in any way. I am simply saying that if the £475 million which I have for all unemployment related services, including the small amount of £61 million pay-related benefit, is used to keep firms open just by using that system exclusively, it might as well be classified as an employment subsidy and we may as well give the money direct to the employer by way of a straight subsidy on a payroll basis. I would not advocate that, because, apart from anything else, it would be contrary to EEC competition rules. We would not be entitled to it and we would not get sanction in that regard. I have no doubts about the ingenuity of some people to get around the provisions in the Social Welfare Bill. The provisions are not at all as draconian as they might at first sight appear to be. Part-time workers such as casual dockers, workers on a two-day week in a cattle market, part-time shop assistants and so on or students working on a casual day-to-day basis are not involved at all as short-time workers. This applies only to people whose normal working week is five days and who are now on a systematic one-day, two-day, three-day or four-day basis. Some workers on short time have worked a short working week on the basis of Thursday, [707] Friday and Saturday and have been off on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and have received payments in that regard. The change is now there and, generally speaking, it is equitable enough.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : As our spokesman said, we support the general measure, but on the specifics would the Minister say what the effect of giving the 25 per cent would be on the two days reduced from three? The Government propose that the rate is to be 25 per cent. Would that add about another £6 to the £106 he mentioned? In the example he said three days plus two days would be about another £6, which would be £112 against £117, instead of the figure he gave of three plus three plus 40 per cent, which is £133. That would bring £133 down to about £112. Is that roughly the position?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I have not done the precise calculation, but such a worker would get two days' earnings, three-fifths of a social welfare week and no PRB. The three-fifths of a social welfare week is tax free. We tend to forget that short-term social welfare payments are tax free. We tend to leave that out of the calculations. People working in full-time employment are liable for tax on every £1 they earn. The Deputy's figure, broadly speaking, is correct.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 8 stand part of the Bill”.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : We are opposed to section 8 because this section is particularly penal. It extends the waiting time from 12 to 18 days and, in effect, means that a man or woman who is off work either through unemployment through no fault of his or her own, or through illness, again through no fault of his or her own, will not receive pay-related benefit until into the fourth week of unemployment or disability as the case may be. This [708] applies also to maternity allowance. This is particularly penal on the man or woman who has worked for a number of years and then finds himself or herself out of work for five or six weeks and receives pay-related benefit for only one or one-and-a-half weeks of that period.

We must ensure in a social welfare system that people are able to meet their essential financial commitments. If, say, a married man has paid into the social welfare insurance fund for a number of years and then is out of work for a short time and receiving the basic payment of social welfare benefit or disability benefit, in such circumstances he would receive £57.35 per week for the first three-and-a-half weeks of unemployment of disability. This is penal and for this reason we are opposing this section.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I was a Deputy in this House when pay-related benefit was introduced here in 1974. Deputy Cluskey brought in the measure. The support generally in this House was that the level of payment on unemployment benefit or disability benefit would be approximately 85 per cent of earnings. That was the negotiated decision at that time with the ICTU, who were then deeply involved in the introduction of the scheme. Unfortunately the floors have never been changed and as a result one has the situation where in relation to disability benefit 100 per cent is paid and in relation to unemployment benefit on occasions it is substantial also. The changes proposed here are not penal. I will give a straightforward example.

Again, I will take £150 per week, which is the average earnings of a married man with two children. At the moment such a person has net take-home pay after tax of £117.10. Unemployed such a worker gets £68.05 unemployment flat rate at the moment. He gets £31.49 pay-related benefit which gives him £99.54 or 85 per cent replacement of his earnings as of March 1983. In April there is a change. Because there is no change in the tax bands he will be receiving £1.50 a week less. Out of £150 he will have a net take home pay of £115.40, as against £117.10 at present. He will still be getting his flat-rate benefit [709] of £68.05 and will receive a reduced PRB. It will go down from £31.49 to £23.25.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : Will he receive any PRB? Under this section he will not receive any PRB for the third week.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I will come to that in a few minutes. I am talking about a worker who qualifies for PRB at the commencement of the fourth week. He would receive £91.30 or 79 per cent replacement of his earnings from July, which is the important point. He would still have a net take home pay of £115.43 out of £150, but as from July it will increase to £174.85 flat rate and he will receive £23.25 PRB, bringing him up to £98.10, exactly 85 per cent replacement of his earnings.

There is nothing draconian about that change. There will be a slight drop because we have not been able to increase social welfare payments since 5 April as it would cost £39 million, but from July there will be a full restoration to 85 per cent replacement of his earnings. The same applies in respect of disability benefit. For example, there is a slight drop on the disability benefit side. In my view, to have a slight drop in this area is less draconian than a drop in benefit for an unemployed person. At the moment the replacement ratio is 91 per cent; from April it will be 79 per cent and from July, 85 per cent.

We have 203,000 people out of work with a growing list of long-term unemployed. I contrast that situation with a person getting £98.10 PRB or disability benefit with a married man with a wife and two children getting unemployment assistance of about £65 a week. There is a ferocious difference here in terms of poverty. There are 17,000 married people with dependants on that low level and they are the people who should be getting the transfer payments.

It is important to bear in mind that there are severe limitations on the amount of money available for disability benefit. I do not have the exact figures in front of me but at present we are paying £3 million disability benefit each week. We have increased the number of medical [710] appeals officers in the Department of Social Welfare. In a situation where there is a dire shortage of money for unemployment benefit, my post-budget allocation for disability benefit was a major allocation; as of now it is in the region of £165 million. That is a major sum in terms of the contributions required.

I want to give the proper amounts. We are paying £165,490,000, or roughly £3 million a week, disability benefit and £17 million pay-related. This raises some questions. It is interesting to note in particular that we are paying £209 million unemployment benefit plus £165 million disability benefit. While I do not wish to pillory anyone, I wonder frequently about some of the certifications which members of the medical profession provide in respect of disability benefit, but that is another day's work.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  (Dún Laoghaire): By agreement the proceedings on the Social Welfare Bill, 1983, will be brought to a conclusion at 6.55 p.m. rather than 6.30 p.m. Item No. 2 will be disposed of before commencing Private Members' Business.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : In my view the Minister is under a very serious misapprehension about the Social Insurance Fund. One of the basic reasons for setting up this fund was to provide for sickness. The mistake the Minister is making is in saying that more and more people are becoming unemployed. This means if more money cannot be provided by the Social Insurance Fund, we will have to keep reducing the benefit to contributors to that fund. It is not possible for a Social Insurance Fund to go on absorbing the vast numbers of unemployed. This is a sickness benefit scheme to which the workers themselves contribute. The Minister is pushing back to the fourth week the waiting period for pay-related benefit. The figures show that a married man with a wife and two children earning £150, £117 net, will have to wait until the fourth week to get, between this and July, the £91. In between he will have to survive on £68. He has to pay his various outgoings — rent or mortgage — and keep his family. The Minister is [711] raiding that fund for other purposes. It is not feasible to go on putting the extra unemployed on to the Social Insurance Fund as it exists. It will not work.

This is a bad move on the part of the Government. Does the Minister consider it reasonable to ask the worker to wait until the fourth week before getting the pay-related benefit element. We are not talking about people who are abusing the system. There are such people within the system and they have to be weeded out of it. The Minister knows that steps are being taken to deal with that situation. Leaving that aside, people who are ill must wait until the fourth week. The Minister, of course, has given only one example but if one takes the case of somebody on a higher income the effects would be worse. At present it goes up to £11,000 and obviously the loss for a person in that bracket would be very severe.

This is a very serious mistake. It has nothing to do with removing anomalies. It is just raiding the system which is there to protect the genuine worker when he or she is sick and taking another week away. Already their benefits are being reduced by the fact that the pay-related benefit element is being reduced from 40 to 25 per cent. I cannot understand how Labour Party Deputies can come into the House with this kind of measure. We are opposed to it. There was never any suggestion of anything like this on our part. We were certainly dealing with the abusers of the system but we could not support this.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  : We also oppose this section. It is an absolutely outrageous one. I cannot understand how the Minister could try to defend it on the basis of how much everything costs. What has that to do with the guy who is on disability benefit or who is unemployed? How the money is to be raised is for the Finance Bill but what we are talking about here is benefits. What is being done here is taking a week off the person's benefit. It is another method of taxation. The Government make £39 million by putting the benefits back to July. That is one method of taxation. It takes £40, £50 or [712] £60 off the person on social welfare. Now they are doing it again by taking a week's pay-related benefit element? We are not has been saying that disability benefit costs us £17 million, so they take it off the people who are disabled to make up for this.

Does the Minister realise that poverty exists and that it is the responsibility of the whole of society? That is what Government is about: to ensure that people have sufficient food, clothing, housing, education for their children, sickness benefits, health benefits and so on. That is what Government is all about — to ensure that those who can afford pay their taxes so that these benefits can be given. The Minister and the Government have done the direct opposite. They are allowing those who have the money to get away without paying their taxes and they push the taxation in a hidden way onto the people who need the benefits most. When you are ill you need money straight-away. The 12 days waiting period is being increased to 18 days at a time when people need help most. In many cases unemployment will be permanent. The first year of unemployment is a traumatic one. It is also the year in which people spend most of their time going around looking for work, spending money at a greater rate than ever before in an effort to get some other job before eventually they give up when they go on unemployment assistance after 65 weeks, now 63 weeks. They then become the permanently unemployed which affects them mentally as well as physically. All the Minister and the Government can think of is that this will cost us so many million so we cannot give them this money instead of saying: “How do we raise the extra money that these people need and must get?” The attitude of the Government is totally wrong in this instance and this is a penal tax on the disabled and unemployed.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  : The Minister is really inflicting a hardship here. Let us take the case of a young married couple paying a house mortgage. This has to be paid monthly. The total income of many unemployed people goes to pay back a [713] loan. Imagine a man coming home to his wife and saying: “I am now unemployed but I will not have pay-related benefit for a month.” People must set themselves to pay a house mortgage. In a case of hardship of that kind are such people entitled to draw social assistance? There will certainly be hardship and social assistance is there specifically for those who find themselves suffering hardship.

Let us talk now about the real poor, the young married couple who had the initiative to go out and build their own home rather than be a liability on the Government or the local authorities. I can see very severe hardship imposed on such people. They number thousands. I would appeal to the Minister to have a re-think on what he is inflicting on this section of the community.

I would also like to know is occupational injury included? Do those who suffer occupational injury also have to wait? A man or a woman could have a very serious accident in his or her employment. Must they also wait for the 18 days for pay-related? This whole thing is fraught with difficulty.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : There may be some fundamental misconceptions here. I hope now the record will be absolutely clear. We are talking about the payment of pay-related benefit element on top of the flat rate. There are some very peculiar misconceptions about the Bill. Lest the word goes out that benefit is not payable generally until the commencement of the fourth week, let me put the record straight. First of all, I should like to correct a number of misconceptions. The proposal Deputy Woods had in mind when he was a member of the last Government, a proposal clearly recorded in a Government decision, was that from 1 January, not from 1 April, pay-related benefit would be reduced to 30 per cent for the first six months and 20 per cent for the remaining nine months. If anybody here wants to accuse anyone of being draconian then he should accuse Deputy Woods. Deputy Woods knows perfectly well he took that decision on 22 October 1982 and the consequential savings [714] built into his Estimate were clearly known to him and so was the impact thereof.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : On a point of order, that is the next section. The Minister has given us a lot of figures on the next section and they could be useful because they are relevant to it but what we are talking about here are the waiting days.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I want to put a number of facts on the record. Our Government decided we would not bring in such a proposal on 1 January 1983; we would bring it in on 1 April close to the beginning of the tax year. The consequence of that was we were short of £7 million and we made relatively minor adjustments on the particular Estimate provision on the savings already decided on by the outgoing Administration and published in The Way Forward. If I may say so, there has been some very selective posturing on the part of Deputy Woods here on disability benefit. A decision was taken by him to reduce the ceiling for pay-related benefit and disability benefit from 100 per cent to 80 per cent. Deputy Woods took that decision in October 1982.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : Would the Minister deal with the section and not be wandering over all the other sections in an effort to distract people from what we are talking about here, namely, extending the waiting period to 18 days? Would the Minister confine himself to that?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : The extension of the waiting period for an extra five or six days in terms of impact on the benefit is relatively small compared to the massive decisions built into the Estimates of October 1982 decided upon by the previous Administration. It is important to bear in mind in relation to disability benefits and pay-related benefits that there is one major distinction. Workers out on sick benefit plus pay-related benefit have jobs to go back to, and we must never forget that. In regard to some of the certification which members of health boards and some others are aware of in [715] terms of the payment of £3 million a week on DB, plus paying another £17 million pay-related benefit on top of that provided for in this year's Estimate, I think there might well be savings there which quite frankly should go to the long-term unemployed. I challenge Deputy Mac Giolla when he talks about the short-term effect on someone becoming suddenly unemployed and I assert that it is at the very commencement of employment that lesser payments by and large might well be made, because the worker who is totally crucified is the worker out of work for more than 15 months. It is towards the end of the period of unemployment, when savings are dissipated and one no longer has tax refunds——

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : People who are unemployed must have an opportunity to look for work first. It is ridiculous that we should have to sit here and listen to this.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : If I might be allowed to make a point. The greatest social deprivation is not within the first two or three weeks of DB application or unemployment benefit application; it is after the six months or the nine months. That is where the money should be transferred to as against the current lop-sided system we have where the longer a man is unemployed the worse off he is.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : The Minister is now proposing to rob the sick to pay long-term unemployment benefit.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  : The Minister must be allowed to speak without interruption.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : That is something we are endeavouring to rectify and this Bill goes some of the way in that direction. The reason basically for the extension of the waiting period was the previous Government's decision to impose these changes, and they are undoubtedly an imposition, on and from 1 January 1983 and we decided not to do that. We said it will be 5 April and there was then a requirement to make up the money [716] within the Estimate. It was made up on this basis and that is the situation.

I find some of the selective political posturing here difficult to understand, remembering that 95 per cent of the changes were decided on 22 October 1982 by the previous Government. In they come now and one would swear they had never been in Government and had never made any changes. All the provisions are there. They are there with a vengeance and they have got to be accepted. I except Deputy O'Hanlon from that, because I think he understands the situation. Indeed, I look forward to dealing with it constructively. Deputy Woods has been talking nonsense.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : I accept the exception that I was not in the Cabinet but, along with my colleagues, I accept full responsibility for their actions. On this particular section the Minister does appear to be vulnerable because on both occasions on which he intervened he seemed to avoid the section. He rambled over the field of disability benefit, even including medical certification. How the Minister can suggest that a person lying on his hospital bed, with a wife and young family to look after when his net income was £117 per week — and now he is told that for the first three-and-a-half weeks he will receive only £68.5 per week — is not deprived is something I cannot understand. I do not know how anyone can say that we should not be concerned about that situation and that it is more important to think about people at the other end of the scale. I agree that we must look after people who have been ill or unemployed for a long time but we must not do so at the expense of one who finds himself suddenly out of work or ill and who must meet his commitments. He is the person who is very vulnerable. Therefore, we are opposing this section.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  : I have not had a reply to my question about disability benefit. I asked if the people in this category would be entitled to social assistance until such time as they are in receipt of their full entitlement.

[717]Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : There is no change in that regard. It must be pointed out that the vast majority of disability benefit claims are of relatively short duration and that the extent to which there is a major imposition on families is quite limited. I am adamant about reforming the system. A person who is sick and in his hospital bed for five or six months must be given special attention. We must change, too, the system whereby a person who is out of work because of illness for only a week or two, and who normally would not receive pay-related benefit since it is paid only on the commencement of the third week's absence from work, then decides to stay out for another couple of weeks on foot of a certificate, which in many cases can be produced at the drop of a hat, for the purpose of collecting another £20 per week. It is for that kind of situation that we are paying £3 million per week, whereas I am aiming to have the money provided for those on long-term disability benefit. It is time that we faced up to the situation instead of having to listen to some of the very selective social policy criteria being used in this debate.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  : The Minister perhaps pinpointed the solution when he said that the difficulty is not at the beginning of the period of unemployment but at the end. The effect of this section as outlined [718] in the explanatory memorandum is that the additional six-day waiting period will reduce effectively the maximum number of days' entitlement to pay-related benefit from 381 to 375. If the Minister would agree not to delete those six days but to leave the situation as it is, there would probably be general acceptance for the proposal.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : That is a valid point but what the Deputy is suggesting cannot be done in the context of this year's Bill. Without wishing to bring in extraneous matter, if an Irishman living in the UK found himself in receipt of disability benefit, he would not be paid any pay-related benefit. In addition, he would be receiving £10 less while he was on the flat of his back than is the case here and, thirdly, the benefit would apply only for 12 months whereas here the term is to be 375 days. Let us not create the impression, therefore, that we have a bad social welfare system or one that is being dismantled. Despite the full frontal assault on this Bill we have an outstanding system which both sides have built up together down through the years.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : Mrs. Thatcher would take on the Minister any time.

Question put.

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Myra.
Barry, Peter.
Begley, Michael.
Bermingham, Joe.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Carey, Donal.
Cluskey, Frank.
Collins, Edward.
Conlon, John F.
Connaughton, Paul.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cooney, Patrick Mark.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Coveney, Hugh. [719]Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Paddy.
Hussey, Gemma.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Keating, Michael.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
McCartin, Joe.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McLoughlin, Frank.
Manning, Maurice.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Molony, David.
Moynihan, Michael.
Naughten, Liam.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East.)
Creed, Donal.
Crotty, Kieran.
Crowley, Frank.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Martin Austin.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Donnellan, John.
Dowling, Dick.
Doyle, Avril.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Fennell, Nuala.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Glenn, Alice. [720]O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Brien, Willie.
O'Donnell, Tom.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Prendergast, Frank.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Ryan, John.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Skelly, Liam.
Spring, Dick.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Treacy, Seán.
Yates, Ivan.


Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Andrews, Niall.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Paudge.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John.
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Seán.
Calleary, Seán.
Colley, George.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Connolly, Ger.
Cowen, Bernard.
Daly, Brendan.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doherty, Seán.
Fahey, Francis.
Fahey, Jackie.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzgerald, Gene.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzsimons, Jim.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Gregory-Independent, Tony.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hilliard, Colm.
Hyland, Liam.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McEllistrim, Tom.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
MacSharry, Ray.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West)
O'Dea, William.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Edmond.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Ormonde, Donal.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Paddy.
Reynolds, Albert.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

[721] Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 11 are out of order.

Question proposed: “That section 9 stand part of the Bill.”

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : We are opposing section 9. The decision to reduce pay-related benefit from 40 per cent to 25 per cent was never a proposal of ours and was not part of our policy. Taking that in conjunction with the extended waiting time which has just been voted through, the number of hours per week disregarded increased from 32 hours to 36 hours, the three days' payment reduced to 2 days' payment, the 1 per cent levy which will be included in the collection of PRSI from the beginning of April, the increase in VAT of 5 per cent across the board and the effects of the devaluation of our currency, we have no choice but to oppose this section.

I would ask the Minister to answer one question. Is it correct that the maximum pay-related benefit on a contribution ceiling of £13,000 will be £47 per week while on a contribution ceiling of £9,500 it was £63 per week?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I will check that point for the Deputy. I have not the exact calculation in front of me. I would point out very emphatically that the change from 40 per cent to 30 per cent as originally agreed by the former Government on 22 October was to be implemented on 1 January. We took a deliberate decision not to go ahead with the change on 1 January but to make it coincide with the tax year and we decided to reduce the benefit to 25 per cent to make up the deficiency arising from the deferment. That was the only reason. We decided to stay within the rigid parameters of the Estimate and I am at a loss to understand why there should be such adamant objection on the part of the Opposition, bearing in mind that 90 per cent of the change [722] was intended for implementation on 1 January.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : The Minister's main argument for the various changes proposed throughout the Bill has been that he is not doing anything more than Fianna Fáil were proposing to do. I understood that we fought a general election in recent months to change the Government and to change the policies which would be introduced. I have already pointed out that the Bill before us reneges directly on the policies on which the Labour Party were elected. It also reneges on the Programme for Government agreed by both Fine Gael and Labour.

The Minister argues that the proposed changes are negligible but the totality of the changes is quite substantial and the net effect will be very severe on the living standards of people who, through no fault of their own, are claiming unemployment or disability benefit. For that reason we oppose the section.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I take Deputy De Rossa's point. I have said repeatedly that I fought for a ceiling of 85 per cent in terms of unemployment benefit, which we regarded as about the right amount to give basic protection to the unemployed. I fought for this as a trade union official in the sixties and when I came into the House in 1969 and also when finally pay-related benefit was introduced in 1974. I never advocated a ceiling of 100 per cent replacement ratio in respect of disability benefit and that was changed quite correctly by the former administration back to 80 per cent.

For some reason there grew up a practice in relation to short-time working of a ceiling of around 110 per cent or 114 per cent. We have now brought it back to 94 per cent in accordance with the inter-departmental report. I am at a loss to know why there is such adamant opposition, bearing in mind that we had not only to take on the Estimates of the outgoing administration but also to find [723] another £31 million for the payment of more unemployed persons.

Much as I see the difficulty arising from the provision, the measures as proposed are equitable although in some cases they mean a reduction in actual social welfare payments. I am quite prepared to stand over them.

Deputy O'Hanlon's comment is correct [724] in that pay-related in relation to £9,500 or £190 per week at 40 per cent is £63. Pay-related benefit after April on £11,000 at 25 per cent is £46 per week.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  : The Minister is taking an extra £9.5 million by cutting down to 25 per cent. It is substantial.

Question put.

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Myra.
Barry, Peter.
Begley, Michael.
Bermingham, Joe.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Carey, Donal.
Cluskey, Frank.
Collins, Edward.
Conlon, John F.
Connaughton, Paul.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cooney, Patrick Mark.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Coveney, Hugh.
Creed, Donal.
Crotty, Kieran.
Crowley, Frank.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Martin Austin.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Donnellan, John.
Dowling, Dick.
Doyle, Avril.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Fennell, Nuala.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Glenn, Alice.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Paddy.
Hussey, Gemma.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Keating, Michael.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
McCartin, Joe.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McLoughlin, Frank.
Manning, Maurice.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Molony, David.
Moynihan, Michael.
Naughten, Liam.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East).
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Brien, Willie.
O'Donnell, Tom.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Prendergast, Frank.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Ryan, John.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Skelly, Liam.
Spring, Dick.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Treacy, Seán.
Yates, Ivan.


Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Andrews, Niall.
Aylward, Liam. [725]Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John.
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Seán.
Calleary, Seán.
Colley, George.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Connolly, Ger.
Cowen, Bernard.
Daly, Brendan.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doherty, Seán.
Fahey, Francis.
Fahey, Jackie.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzgerald, Gene.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzsimons, Jim.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Gregory-Independent, Tony.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hilliard, Colm.
Hyland, Liam.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Paudge. [726]Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McEllstrim, Tom.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
MacSharry, Ray.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West)
O'Dea, William.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Edmond.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Ormonde, Donal.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Paddy.
Reynolds, Albert.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

Question declared carried.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : We have only reached section 9. Will there be any opportunity to discuss section 13 which is of tremendous importance to the 14,500 small farmers in the west? It is a matter of great importance that the notional system of assessment for eligibility for unemployment assistance is being taken away from them. It is important that we should have an opportunity to discuss this serious matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The Chair is bound by an order of the House and under that order I now have to put the question to conclude the Bill.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : Can we vote on section 13 separately?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The Deputy knows we cannot. As it is now 6.55 p.m. I am putting the question.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  : This is a most scandalous situation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Deputy Gallagher will resume his seat.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  : I will not. We should be allowed to discuss this Bill in full.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Deputy Gallagher is a party to the order of the House and if he objected to it he should have been here.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  : Deputy Desmond is a Cromwell as far as I and the west are concerned.

[727]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Deputy Gallagher is being disorderly.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  : We have a right in this House to discuss——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : If Deputy Gallagher does not resume his seat he will leave the House.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  : We are not being allowed to represent our constituencies in the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am asking the Deputy to resume his seat.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Information on Denis Gallagher  Zoom on Denis Gallagher  : I will resume my seat if we get time to debate this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am warning the Deputy. I am asking him to resume his seat.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  : Why are we not permitted to debate section 13 which, as Deputy Gallagher indicated, is of crucial importance to every west coast Deputy?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The order of the House made today was agreed to by all parties. The two Whips came in and agreed that the question would be put at 6.55 p.m. It is quite unreasonable and most unfair that the Chair should be badgered as if the Chair was doing something. The Chair is carrying out the instructions given to him by the House.

Mr. P. Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  : On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : This is not doing democracy any good.

Mr. P. Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  : Is it in order for me, if I do not get an opportunity to vote on section 13, to put on record that I as a Deputy from the west am opposed to it?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : Lest there be any impression that there is a sleight of hand in this matter, we have reached a stage in [728] the debate where we are at section 10. It is not my responsibility to order——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am sorry, Minister——

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : That is not a point of order. I must put the question.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : There is no question——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am bound by the order of the House.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I accept that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am asking the Minister to resume his seat.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  : I will. There is no question of taking unemployment assistance from small holders. That is malicious nonsense.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : There cannot be a point of order at this stage.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : There can be one point of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : No, there cannot. This is obstruction. Deputy O'Hanlon will resume his seat.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : On a legitimate point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : There cannot be a point of order when the question has been put.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  : On a point of order, if there was agreement now between both sides to extend the time for 15 minutes to discuss this would that be acceptable?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am asking the Deputy to resume his seat. I am putting [729] the question: “That the Committee and Report Stages are hereby agreed to and the Bill is hereby passed.”

[730]Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  : You will hear a lot more about this.

Question put.

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Myra.
Barry, Peter.
Begley, Michael.
Bermingham, Joe.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Carey, Donal.
Cluskey, Frank.
Collins, Edward.
Conlon, John F.
Connaughton, Paul.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cooney, Patrick Mark.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Coveney, Hugh.
Creed, Donal.
Crotty, Kieran.
Crowley, Frank.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Martin Austin.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Donnellan, John.
Dowling, Dick.
Doyle, Avril.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Fennell, Nuala.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Glenn, Alice.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Paddy.
Hussey, Gemma.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Keating, Michael.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
McCartin, Joe.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McLoughlin, Frank.
Manning, Maurice.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Molony, David.
Moynihan, Michael.
Naughten, Liam.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East).
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Brien, Willie.
O'Donnell, Tom.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Prendergast, Frank.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Ryan, John.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Skelly, Liam.
Spring, Dick.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Treacy, Seán.
Yates, Ivan.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Andrews, Niall.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Paudge. [731]Cowen, Bernard.
Daly, Brendan.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doherty, Seán.
Fahey, Francis.
Fahey, Jackie.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzgerald, Gene.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzsimons, Jim.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Gregory-Independent, Tony.
Harney, Mary.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hilliard, Colm.
Hyland, Liam.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán.
McCreevy, Charlie.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John.
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Seán.
Calleary, Seán.
Colley, George.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Connolly, Ger. [732]McEllistrìm, Tom.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
MacSharry, Ray.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West)
O'Dea, William.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Edmond.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Ormonde, Donal.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Paddy.
Reynolds, Albert.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

Question declared carried.


Last Updated: 14/09/2010 10:20:23 First Page Previous Page Page of 56 Next Page Last Page