EC Equality Directive: Motion.

Wednesday, 29 October 1986

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 369 No. 3

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Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  I move:

That Dáil Éireann requests the Government to amend the Social Welfare (No. 2) Act, 1985, to ensure that no family, or individual, will suffer a loss of income as a result of this implementation of the Equality Directive on 17th November, 1986.

The EC directive on equal treatment in social security ruled that women and men be treated equally in employment and related social security schemes. Now, almost two years after the deadline for its implementation — 22 December 1984 — the Government are finally completing the process for implementation of this directive in a shabby and disgraceful fashion which totally distorts the spirit underlying the principle of equal treatment in matters of social security between women and men.

[904] It is intolerable that some 20,000 families who are barely existing with the help of social welfare payments should suffer a loss of income because of the means chosen by the Government to implement the Equality Directive. The Government's abysmal response in this matter has stripped away the mask of social concern and enlightenment assumed by the posse of poseurs who make up the present Cabinet.

The directive, in the true spirit of equality as envisaged by the Treaty of Rome, provides for regulations to be drawn up to protect low income families who might otherwise lose out when the directive comes into effect, especially families who would suffer a significant loss of income due to the revised conditions relating to dependancy. Yet the Government have shamefully failed to provide adequate measures to ensure that low income families will not be disadvantaged further as a result of the coming into force of phase 2 of the equality provisions relating to social security.

The austerity policies pursued by the Government in relation to social welfare and the social services, in general have led to an increase in poverty, social deprivation, and delinquency, with all the consequences these imply for society. This further blow to 20,000 of the most vulnerable families on this island represents a further erosion of the social welfare system by the Government and further marginalisation of the have nots in our society.

The Government are under no obligation to implement the directive in this miserly fashion. The European Commission lays down the principles of the directive, leaving it to the discretion of each member state to implement the legislation, the only stipulation being that the principle of equality be respected.

This Government have attempted to confuse the public and even some of their own backbenchers about the Equality Directive, they have misrepresented and confused the issue so as to imply that whatever losses that may be incurred are not of their own making; that it is an essential part of the Equality Directive; [905] that the EC are to blame and not themselves. This is not so and it is high time that this misrepresentation and misconception was finally nailed.

Since May of this year the essential equality elements of the directive have been in operation but now this Government, in typical sleight of hand, three card trick style are, by labelling the next stage the second stage or phase 2, attempting to claw back some $17 million from social welfare recipients in a full year. This has not been the accepted procedure in other EC countries but this heartless monster of a Government will resist no means to inflict their penny-pinching policies on our shattered society.

The Court of Justice of the European Communities has ruled that the principle of equal treatment is one of the fundamental principles of the Treaty, but the improvement of living and working conditions is equally a fundamental principle of the Treaty. If both are to be observed, then it is only right that governments seek to attain equal treatment along with social progress.

The action of the Government in relation to implementing equality in the social welfare code ignores this option and, as a result, it is clear that the financial distress being experienced by thousands of families will increase.

During Committee Stage of the Social Welfare (No. 2) Act of 1985, which aimed to give effect to equality of treatment in social security, amendments tabled by myself, as spokesman for the main Opposition Party, in an attempt to protect the incomes of vulnerable households were disallowed.

I think a majority of Deputies will agree that where a wife works, part time or whole time, for a very low income, her husband, if he is in receipt of any type of social welfare benefit, should not lose his dependancy claim for her. There are some 3,000 families where the income of the wife is on or below £50 a week. This leaves 9,000 families, where the wife is working and the husband is receiving welfare payments of one kind or another, with an income of £50 or upwards. In at [906] least 50 per cent of these 9,000 families, the wife is earning between £50 and £100 per week, which by any standard is a relatively small amount. Yet the Minister, in setting the parameters of this legislation, ruled that only a spouse whose weekly wage is less than £50 per week would be regarded as a dependant. This figure, as I pointed out in the debate last year, is much too low and as a result many families will be severely hit with the introduction of the Government's phase 2 operation.

Fianna Fáil, in tabling this Private Members' motion, are giving the Government the opportunity to minimise the hardship which will affect some 20,000 families with the introduction of phase two in its present form.

From July 1985 I pointed out to the former Minister for Social Welfare that the changes should not be made in one fell swoop, since it had taken since 1978 to implement the directive. I pointed out that it would not be unresonable to expect that a loss such as that which will be incurred could be compensated for, in a percentage fashion, on a phased basis over perhaps a six year period, which would constitute a real mitigation. Such a course of action would moreover reflect the spirit and intentions behind the equality directive.

Some 8,000 families will lose from £20 to £30 per week as a result of these provisions. This is a considerable number. These are families where both parents are on social welfare payments in one form or the other and the husband will now lose his wife's dependancy allowance. To force them into a position in which, for one year, they will incur an average loss of £10 to £20 per week, after which they will have to bear the full brunt of what would be a loss of £20 in real terms is not availing of the provisions of the directive in its fullest meaning. The Minister should aim the measure to fully mitigate the loss resulting from the implementation of the directive in all of those cases where both parents are receiving social welfare payments.

During the debate on the Second Stage [907] of the legislation implementing the equality provision in social security, the then Minister commented last June that “the resolution of inequalities can be approached in a number of ways”. Unfortunately, as we know, equality can be brought about in a number of ways. This Government sought to do so by bringing the standards of living of families downwards rather than by bringing them upwards. I pointed out last year, that the redefinition of dependency adopted in the legislation piloted through by the Minister's predecessor, unless stronger alleviating measures were taken, would result in misery and suffering for a large number of families, to whom each pound note is urgently needed.

In a large number of cases, where the earnings of the wife are very low, the reduction in the benefit entitlement of the husband will represent a substantial loss of income to the household. The former Minister, in referring to this state of affairs on 25 June 1985 pointed out that the legislation “contained the necessary power to enable me to provide alleviation in such cases”. The losses will be quite staggering for literally thousands of families unless the Minister is persuaded at this late hour to increase her use of such powers.

A man on disability benefit with three children will have a cut in his dependants' allowance of £24.15 per week. Even if his spouse receives an increase of £4.50 per week, that will not compensate for the loss. In the case of an elderly man whose children no longer live at home his depenant's allowance will be cut by £27.50 per week, whereas his wife's increase may be only £5.10 per week. A man on disability benefit with three children, whose wife's take home pay is £50 or more, could see a reduction of £40.90 in his flat rate welfare payment. Where the husband is on benefit and the wife is at work, with a family of three children, the result could be a loss in flat rate benefit of up to £37 per week. The effect of such a loss where the wife is low paid will be traumatic.

In the case of a disabled man, in receipt [908] of an invalidity pension, with four children, and a wife at work whose take home wages are £80 a week, the pension entitlement of such a person will be reduced by about £48 per week in respect of his wife and children. This will mean a reduction in the household income from about £200 to £150 a week. The bottom line is that families will suffer enormous losses of between £20 to £60, if the Government go ahead with implementation of the directive as planned.

It is therefore highly regrettable that the progressive implementation suggested in the EC Equality Directive on social security at the outset should have been ignored, and that the Government should not have availed of the past four years to gradually effect the reforms. Instead low income families will be expected to bear relatively very heavy losses overnight. What we seek is a mode of equalisation which causes the minimum hardship to social welfare families. We cannot accept the Government's chosen means of implementing the directive. The fact that it will cause enormous financial hardship to thousands of families at present in receipt of social welfare payments distorts completely the fundamental principles underlying the Directive and the Treaty of Rome.

The concept of equality between the sexes is fundamental to Fianna Fáil. We aim to end discrimination towards women in all areas, including social security and employment. Especially in relation to the latter, there remains considerable room for improvement. It was in this spirit that we unreservedly welcomed the implementation of the directive last May. It is only right and proper that women in receipt of social welfare payments, in particular married women, would receive the same payments as men and for the same period of time, and that women have gained admittance to the unemployment assistance scheme, subject to means testing.

Let us not forget however that the extra benefit to some 46,000 married women since May is quite small. The figure amounts to some £4.75 increase per week. This benefit must be set against [909] the fact that some 9,000 families will not receive compensation for the loss of social welfare payments, which will result from the redefinition of dependancy as defined by the Government. The plight of social welfare families has been documented exhaustively. It is increasingly difficult for them to live on the existing level of payments as is clear from increasing recourse to supplementary welfare payments to cover the minimum requirements of life.

All of us have been shocked and horrified to hear that in recent times many families on social welfare payments had to seek the aid of the lowest forms of reptiles in the money lending business to help them to finance essential family needs. I am sure the Minister is aware of that. I ask you how many more families will now be forced because of absolute necessity and dire financial need to have recourse to such methods with all its consequent hardships.

I would ask the Minister to pause and reflect on what a loss of between £20 and £60 a week in social welfare payments will mean to families who are on the brink of destitution and at present are barely able to provide the necessities of life. I would ask the Minister herself, the mother of a family, to consider the implications of going ahead with the introduction of this claw back phase of the directive, as planned, and to consider what it will mean for many thousands of men, women and children.

The Minister must be all too well aware of the impact of the Government's approach to social welfare on the population. On the one hand, the Government has given paltry increases in social welfare since it came into office. On the other hand, the Government take away these benefits by halving the food subsidies and by increasing VAT on clothes and fuel. This year this heartless Government gave absolutely no increase at all to child dependants or families dependant on social welfare. This was another sorry saga in this Government's anti-family policy. They cruelly, callously and unapologetically made a saving of £10 million in this year's budget and the sufferers [910] were families with child dependants. One has to wonder where will the assault on family income support end. This Government seem to be obsessed with the introduction of methods and measures specifically designed to create family destruction and social deprivation. This Government are shameless, arrogant and totally irresponsible. Now, with the implementation of the EC directive we see a repetition of this pattern.

The Government are running true to the form displayed over the past four tragic years. Underprivileged families are to suffer a further erosion of their incomes. Poverty and destitution are rampant and this Government have heartlessly pursued in relentless fashion their policy of making the poor poorer. With this savage attack on the less well-off, this calculated further erosion of the supports provided by the State, where lies the credibility of the present Government on social issues? Where is their much vaunted commitment to social justice?

The Minister commented on 20 June of this year during the debate on the 1986 Estimates of her Department, that improvements in expenditure “ensured that the incomes of those dependent on the social welfare system are maintained in real terms”. That is fiction. Not alone have the Government failed to halt and reverse the upward trend in unemployment, they have failed miserably to provide adequately for the families suffering from the consequences of their failure. The losses currently facing thousands of families as a result of the Government's draconian and savage approach to the implementation of the equality directive on social security is the last straw.

On 14 November 1985, in a wide-ranging public lecture entitled “Ireland and Social Reform Today”, in the Milltown Institute, the Taoiseach commented that “dignity of the individual is central in the delivery of public services whether social welfare payments, hospital care or psychiatric care”. He stated:

The very depth of the recession can intensify social problems and exacerbate [911] inequality in our society. Large scale unemployment creates a society where poverty, alienation, crime, drug abuse and marriage breakdown are likely to increase... So, social reform becomes more, not less urgent in harsh economic times.

One can concur with the sentiments expressed by the leader of the Government that any worthwhile social reform programme must involve serious efforts to tackle the jobs crisis, a redistribution of income and wealth, and increased resources for some individual social programmes.

One can only point, however, to the yawning gap between aspiration and achievement and the failure at the most basic level of this Government to protect the most vulnerable and the weakest sections of society. Once again, the Taoiseach as his colleague. Deputy McGahon, once said of him, “in racing parlance has flattered to deceive”. The Government's approach has been in stark contrast to the achievements of Fianna Fáil in this area.

The long-term unemployed with families remain at the lower end of the social welfare spectrum in terms of benefit levels. Despite the Taoiseach's pious platitudes on increasing the standard of living of such families, they are to be savaged by the Government's blunt and unimaginative approach to equal treatment under the social welfare code. Disallowing the adult dependant allowance for married men who are on social welfare if their wives are working only part-time must be seen in the context of a situation where women are unequal in the employment sphere. They enjoy neither equality of opportunity nor earnings. At present, women's average earnings in industry are still only two-thirds of men's earnings.

In the debate on this legislation on 25 June 1985 the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach stated that only 44 per cent of the married women at work are in full-time, jobs: nearly 40 per cent of all female part-time labour is [912] accounted for by catering and cleaning industries and retail businesses, with very low basic pay levels. Such families will suffer an enormous loss in incomes if the Government proceed as they have been proceeding.

In an election document entitled “Where Labour Stands”, it was stated:

Labour utterly rejects any policy that makes the poor, the unemployed, the sick, the homeless and the young bear the brunt of corrective measures.

The Labour-Fine Gael programme for government stated:

Unemployment and disability benefit will be kept in line with take-home wages and salaries. Expenditure on social benefits will be maintained in the light of inflation, so that even if a drop occurs in the immediate future in the purchasing power of better off groups in the community, the living standards of the sections of the community dependent on social welfare payments will be maintained.

What is happening? These pledges have turned to ashes as the most vulnerable sections of society have constantly been disadvantged by the policies of the present Government. The Government are now being given an opportunity to retrieve themselves somewhat by amending the Act.

The Department estimate that the cost of implementing equal welfare benefits would be £18 million in a full year. It seems to me that this Government are fiddling these figures as they have done in the past, particularly in their projections earlier this year for next year's budget deficit when they stated that the overrun would be just £60 million and when they underestimated the cost of unemployment payments last year by £40 million. Their credibility in the figures department leaves much to be desired. Some of them should go back to school and learn to add.

I believe that the total cost of increased payments to married women, some 46,000 of them at £5 per week, will be in [913] the region of £11 million, that the cost of paying the extended duration of 13 weeks to some 19,200 married women on UB will be in the region of £10 million and that this Government intend this scheme to be almost self-financing by clawing back some $17 million or more from families on social welfare payments from 17 November next. It is a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul and in this case of robbing the family to pay the mother.

The Minister has been throwing around figures like peanuts in an attempt to confuse the issue. The suggestion that it would cost £100 million to implement our demands is quite wrong and misleading and is a deliberate falsification of the facts.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Deputy should not use the word “deliberate” in conjunction with his other words.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  The Minister has been throwing around a figure of £100 million. It is misleading many people and leads to a falsification of the facts. This top-of-the-head figure has been arrived at by suggesting that to implement our demands that husbands should not lose dependency rights for their wives or their children, wives on social welfare payments should be granted full dependency payments for their husbands and their children. This is absolutely ludicrous. This concept was never entertained by us and is purely a figment of the Minister's imagination.

I realise the Minister has been under enormous pressure because of this measure and the second phase which he will introduce in November. I have been told that the former Minister for Social Welfare and some of his colleagues in the Labour Party went on their knees trying to persuade him to change the way. I implore every Deputy on the other side of the House who has any form of social conscience to vote for this motion. I would not hold much faith for anyone who would put in an amendment which [914] is meaningless so as to get off the hook of voting against the Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Deputy Seán Treacy has five minutes. I understand he is to be called instead of a Fianna Fáil speaker.

Mr. S. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Equal treatment for men and women in respect of social welfare benefits, allowances and treatment generally is something we all support in this House and have done so consistently. The worsening of existing conditions concerns me. Many thousands of people will be worse off as a result of this measure. In regard to this EC directive, it seems there is nothing equal or right in deliberately and for set purposes reducing the living standards of some 20,000 families in this country, many of whom will suffer a serious reduction of income of up to £40 or £50 a week. I can say without fear of contradiction that the EC in issuing this directive on equal rights for women never intended that it be used by the member states, or Ireland in particular, to reduce incomes or lower the living standards of our people. This is surely a serious violation of the spirit and intention of the EC directive. By all means let us have equal rights for men and women but surely not at the expense of the old age pensioners, the sick, the disabled or the unemployed, who are already forced down to a subsistence level of existence.

This proposal, therefore, in its present form has become a grievous worry and a horrible nightmare for many thousands of people who stand to lose substantial amounts each week. This proposal represents a vicious attack on family life. The reduction of one shilling a week in the old age pension by the old Cumann na nGaedheal Government pales into utter insignificance when compared with the massive reductions in this proposal. A wife may gain £5 a week and the husband is quite likely to lose £40 or £50 a week in the process. As an example of that it has been quoted many times here that we will see that a married man with four children on unemployment or disability benefit with a wife earning over £50 per [915] week, that is to say £51, would lose £45.20 per week. A married man on, say, a contributory old age pension with a wife on unemployment benefit or disability benefit would lose £34.10 per week. With the Minister's special subvention of £10 per week that old age pensioner would lose £24.10 per week.

Massive reductions in incomes are involved here and the Minister's proposal to cushion the impact on living standards is totally inadequate in the circumstances. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to think again. They will be forced to realise and recognise that far more inequality is involved in this proposal than equality and that it is bound to cause trouble and strife between husband and wife and create discord in thousands of homes. The £50 limit on earnings will force wives to give up work altogether.

We observe in this proposal that married women may apply for unemployment assistance. That is of course if they fulfil the obligations of being ready, willing and available for work. They must face the rigorous odious means test in which every halfpenny in the household will be reckoned against them.

Mrs. Barnes: Information on Monica Barnes  Zoom on Monica Barnes  That is the present discrimination.

Mr. S. Treacy: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  At the end of this rigorous and odious means test, far more humiliating than the old poor law system we had to contend with in this country, that unfortunate woman will be very lucky if she gets anything at all. The Minister has done absolutely nothing to liberalise the means test or put a human face on it. This proposal, in its present form, must be opposed by every right-thinking Deputy in the House. It is clear that the damage it will do far outweighs the good intentions. On that basis it must be rejected.

Minister for Social Welfare (Mrs. Hussey): Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following.

“Dáil Éireann notes the measure [916] provided in the Social Welfare (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1985 as well as the regulatory measures announced by the Minister for Social Welfare in the course of the debate on the Bill, that the measures are necessary to give effect to the EEC Directive on equal treatment, that the measures were approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas, that the discriminations against married women in the level of their personal rates of benefit and the duration of their entitlement to unemployment benefit were removed last May resulting in some 46,000 married women receiving increases of about £5 each in their weekly payments as well as a further 13 weeks entitlement in the case of those on unemployment benefit, the cost of which will amount to £18 million in a full year, that in relation to the remaining equal treatment measures, while there will be reduced entitlements in the case of some married men, there will be increased entitlements in the case of some married women, that in relation to those whose entitlements are to be reduced, alleviating measures are being taken at an annual cost of £9 million, that the vast majority of households receiving social welfare payments will not suffer any reduction in their entitlements and in the circumstances considers that the overall provisions are reasonable.

The implementation of equal treatment in the social welfare system raises complex issues and I would like at the outset to give some background information to the House.

The Social Welfare (No. 2) Act 1985 provides for equal treatment for men and women in the Social Welfare system in accordance with the terms of an EEC Directive adopted by the Council of Ministers in 1978. The directive applied to statutory schemes providing protection against sickness, invalidity, old age, unemployment and accidents at work and occupational diseases. Social assistance, [917] in so far as it is intended to supplement or replace similar social insurance schemes is also embraced by the directive. It does not, however, apply to survivor's benefits nor to family benefits. The directive requires that all sexual discrimination in the schemes in question, whether this is direct, or indirect by reference to marital or family status, must be removed. The Social Welfare (No. 2) Act 1985 was designed to remove fundamental irregularities in the social welfare code affecting married women. Changes had to be made in four areas:

1. The rates of benefit paid to married women; 2. The duration of entitlement of married women to unemployment benefit; 3. The payment of increases in benefits to married women in respect of adult and child dependants; 4. The admission of married women to the unemployment assistance scheme.

In the past, certain married women received lower rates of benefit than men and other women in the schemes of disability benefit, unemployment benefit, invalidity pension and occupational injuries benefits.

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  Could I have a copy of the Minister's script?

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  I am reading from notes. The married women so affected were deemed by the social welfare system to be dependants of their husbands and, in effect, therefore, any married woman living with her husband was deemed to be dependent on him whether working or not. Second, the maximum duration of entitlement of a married woman to unemployment benefit was 312 days which is 52 weeks of benefit. For other categories it was 390 days, a difference of 13 weeks.

Under the first phase of the equal measures, which I implemented last May, two things happened. First of all, the reduced rates of benefit paid to married women were replaced by the standard rates and this gave an increase of around [918] £5 a week to every married woman in receipt of unemployment or disability benefit. The normal budget increase in rates payment was also given on top of this in July. Second the duration of entitlement to unemployment benefit for married women was increased from 312 to 390 days thereby bringing it into line with that for all other insured workers. Some 46,000 married women benefited from these two major improvements at a cost to the Exchequer of some £18 million in a full year. I think we should not lose sight of these major improvements in the system when looking at the effects of the equal treatment package as a whole.

The remaining areas of discrimination against married women in the social welfare system will be eliminated by the implementation of the second phase of the equal treatment provisions in the week commencing 17 November 1986.

Under the new dependency arrangements the existing presumption that any married woman living with her husband is automatically a dependant regardless of her own income status whereas a married man living with his wife and dependent on her earnings is not regarded as a dependant unless he is an invalid will disappear and for the first time a real concept of dependency will be applied. As a corollary of this any person, male or female, who is in employment or in receipt of a social welfare benefit in his/her own right will, in general, not be deemed their spouse's dependant for the purpose of qualifying for increases of benefit.

The underlying concept in our social welfare code always had been that the husband was the breadwinner and head of household and the person to whom the full benefits of the social security system should be available. Consequently, the husband was also deemed by social welfare legislation to be the person to whom increases in respect of dependants should be paid. As I have already said any married woman living with her husband was automatically regarded as his dependant. Only where the husband was incapable of self-support through mental or physical infirmity could the wife claim him as her [919] dependant. As a consequence the husband almost always qualified for increases in respect of his wife and children even where the wife was in employment or receiving benefit in her own right. This approach was undoubtedly relevant at a time when it was most exceptional for a married woman to take up employment outside the home but in today's society this is no longer the case.

What we are now doing is treating married women in the labour market as in principle financially independent in exactly the same way as married men and recognising, within the social welfare payments system, the role of married women in contributing to the support of their children.

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  How is it the Minister said she was reading from notes; yet the official reporter seems to be reading from a copy of the script?

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  At present only the husband can, in general, qualify for child dependant increases. In future where either spouse whether the husband or the wife is the only one in the labour force, that person, when claiming a social welfare payment, will qualify for the full increases in respect of children. Where both spouses are in the labour force each spouse will have an entitlement to 50 per cent of the appropriate increase when claiming benefit.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  I am glad to see Deputy McCarthy has been restored to his position as spokesperson after this morning's radio programme.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  Accordingly, from November a person who is entitled to get an allowance for his/her spouse will also get the full rate of benefit for children; half the rate of benefit for children will be paid where either spouse claims benefit but is not entitled to an allowance for [920] the other spouse; if a husband and wife are both getting benefit in their own right they will each get half the children's rate.

At present, married women are effectively debarred from applying for unemployment assistance. In order for a married woman to qualify, either her husband must be dependent on her — and under existing legislation this means that he must be wholly or mainly maintained by her and incapable of self support by reason of some mental or physical infirmity — or she must not be dependent on him. Because the present definition of dependency provides that all married women are dependent on their husbands as long as they are living with them the vast majority of married women cannot apply for unemployment assistance. This position will change from November and henceforth married women may qualify for unemployment assistance, subject to satisfying the means test and provided that the applicant is available for and is genuinely seeking work.

The most complex aspect of equality of treatment is that relating to increases in respect of dependants and much of the current debate on the equality of treatment proposals — to the extent of overshadowing the major reforms implemented last May — has been concerned with the proposed new dependency conditions. Demands have been made by the Opposition that all benefits must be levelled upwards and that no-one should suffer a reduction in entitlements. However, the present conditions which apply to men cannot automatically be applied to women. To do so would imply that in order to achieve equality all married men should automatically be regarded as dependants of their wives claiming benefit, irrespective of employment or economic status.

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  That is absolute rubbish.

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  That is exactly what I am talking about. It is rubbish.

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  That is a crazy hypothesis.

[921]Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  At the same time all wives would equally be regarded as dependants of their husbands. This would be a totally illogical and unjustifiable situation and I am glad the Deputy sees that now.

For example, in the case of a married couple where both were absent from work due to illness, the husband would receive an increase in respect of his wife as an adult dependant and he would also receive the full increases in respect of child dependants. At the same time, the wife would receive an increase in respect of her husband as an adult dependant and she too would receive the full increases for the child dependants. In other words a married couple with two children say, would receive payment of two personal rates, two increases for adult dependants and two full increases for child dependants. No reasonable person could say that such an approach would be anything other than wasteful and, indeed inequitable.

Equal treatment on these lines could not be defended on rational grounds and would require a massive injection of financial resources. Equal treatment as defined by the EC directive must, therefore, involve a revision of the present dependency conditions on a rational basis. In future only spouses who are wholly or mainly maintained by their partners will be considered dependants and this will not be the position where a spouse is employed, self-employed or entitled to benefit in his or her own right. However, where the employment involves earnings of under £50 a week the spouse will continue to be regarded as a dependant and the full dependant increases payable.

Reductions in the entitlements of husbands will occur but such reductions are inevitable because the present adult dependency arrangement is not defensible. As I stated earlier, it gives a husband an increase for his wife not alone where she is employed but even where she is entitled to benefit in her own right. In effect the social welfare system is at present paying on the double for the same person. There is no objective reason why [922] such families should receive more from the social welfare system than families where one spouse is dependent on the other.

There are approximately 150,000 married men in receipt of benefit at present and the vast majority of these, 130,000, will not be affected in any way by the equal treatment provisions. I want to stress because it is crucial to this debate that there are 20,000 cases who are potentially affected. Of these, however, in about 3,000 cases the wife is in employment with earnings of less than £50 per week and that family will suffer no loss because of the £50 threshold alleviating measure which the Government are introducing. There are a further 9,000 cases in which the wife is in employment earning more than £50 per week and they will suffer a loss of income varying by family size. However, in many of these cases, the wives would have earnings in excess of £100 per week.

In the remaining 8,000 cases, both spouses are dependent on social welfare and in such cases the husband will not receive an increase in payment in respect of his wife. We would obviously wish to protect such families from any drop in income but it must be remembered that no permanent measures can be considered as any such steps that are taken are themselves in conflict with the principle of equal treatment laid down in the EC directive. Section 20 of the Social Welfare (No. 2) Act, 1985, passed by this House in July 1985 contains a general provision enabling temporary and transitional arrangements to be made on a limited basis. It has already been stated on a number of occasions by myself and my predecessor that regulations will be made under this section to provide a special transitional payment of £10 per week to families where both spouses are entitled to a social welfare payment in their own right. This transitional payment will continue to be made for the duration of the claim up to a maximum period of one year.

I am particularly concerned, as all Deputies are, about those people who are totally dependent on social welfare [923] payments and the effect that the loss of income would have on those families with a regular financial commitment. In those cases where the £10 alleviating measure may be inadequate, application for assistance may be made under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The Department will have discussions with the health boards on this and revised guidelines will be issued. This is a transitional arrangement in the same way as the £10 and will only apply to existing claimants. That applies to the 8,000 cases where both spouses are dependent on social welfare. Deputies may not realise that many married women will benefit substantially from changes in these dependency arrangements also.

In the case where only the wife works and her husband is a dependant — in a reversal of the traditional roles — she will be entitled to the full adult and child dependant increases as long as her husband is not on benefit. At present she can only qualify if her husband is an invalid. This would give married women with three children in such circumstances a gain of over £55 a week compared with the present provisions, in addition to the higher personal rates to which she is now entitled. In the case where the wife works and her husband is not a dependant, because he is either working or on benefit himself, the wife will now be entitled to claim half the child dependant allowances.

I am concerned at the growing number of misleading statements which are being made regarding the manner in which the equality provisions are being implemented. There is a very clear and inaccurate suggestion that these provisions are being used by the Government in some fashion as a cost-saving exercise. Nothing could be further from the truth. Overall the cost of implementation of the equal treatment measures is £18 million in a full year. More specifically, the £50 earnings threshold for dependency will cost £4.6 million in a full year while the cost of the £10 transitional measure is £4.3 million per year. This means that the Government are spending about £9 [924] million per year above and beyond the minimum cost required to secure compliance with the directive. The Government have made an effective response to the difficulties for certain families arising from the implementation of the EC directive particularly in the light of the current financial situation.

While I appreciate the genuine concern from Deputies on all sides of the House, I am disappointed that there are those within the House who have attempted to make political capital out of a matter such as this.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  The Fianna Fáil leader was the Minister for Social Welfare when the directive was negotiated and he had nothing to say then.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  The Minister has five minutes left.

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  I appreciate that. I have heard rumours that some members of the Opposition are advising social welfare recipients not to return questionnaires which my Department recently issued in connection with the implementation of phase 2 of equal treatment. As I explained already, the measures will not affect the position of 130,000 of the 150,000 married men on social welfare payments in any way. My Department have to make the necessary arrangements to ensure that where changes have to be made they are made in time and where entitlements are to continue unchanged arrangements are also made to enable this to be done. For this reason it is in everybody's interest that the forms are returned in time. I should explain that my Department will be issuing reminders in the next few days explaining the necessity of having the forms returned promptly. The vast majority of recipients will not be affected at all by the new arrangements and any Deputy who advises such a person to withhold the form is doing social welfare recipients a grave disservice.

To summarise, of the total number of [925] 20,000 cases affected steps will be taken to fully or partially alleviate the adverse effects of the revision. Debate on the alleviating measures should not obscure the main purpose of the 1985 Act which is the removal of fundamental inequalities in the present system. The Act in its entirety is a positive and logically sound response to the provision of equal rights in the social welfare code.

Previous Ministers for Social Welfare, faced with the problems arising from equal treatment came to the same conclusion as are provided in the 1985 Act. In 1978 the Minister for Social Welfare who is now the Leader of the Opposition required a statement to be inserted in the council minutes to the effect that the Irish delegation in accepting the adoption of the directive considered that nothing in the directive prevented arrangements being made to control dependency payments so as to avoid paying increases of benefit in respect of a spouse when that spouse is already receiving benefit or is in employment, or to control payments of increases for children.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  Quite clearly the then Minister envisaged that a revision of the concept of dependency would be required. His policy in regard to equal treatment was exactly in line with the proposals I have now outlined. This is the only realistic approach to implementing equal treatment and when Deputies have had an opportunity of reflecting on the issues involved they will conclude likewise. As far as the Opposition are concerned, they did not oppose the equality measures when my predecessor, Minister Desmond, brought the Bill before the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Deputy O'Connell has ten minutes.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  I am rather surprised at the Minister. When I asked for a copy of the Minister's speech she said that she [926] was only speaking from notes and a few seconds later we were handed copies of the speech from which she has spoken. The Minister should clarify the situation for the benefit of this House.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Order, please, Deputies.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  We in Fianna Fáil endorse the EC directive on equality for women as being long overdue——

Mrs. Barnes: Information on Monica Barnes  Zoom on Monica Barnes  Fianna Fáil never did anything about it.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  ——and one which seeks to rectify a serious injustice to women which has existed for too long in our social welfare code. All sides of the House agree with this. For too long women have been discriminated against, especially in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Mrs. Barnes: Information on Monica Barnes  Zoom on Monica Barnes  The Deputy did not mention that this morning.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  I am saying it now. We fully endorse the EC directive on equality for women. I do not see equality for women in the regulations concerning unemployment assistance for married women as they state they must be available for work. May we have an assurance from the Minister for Social Welfare that they will not be asked if they have children? Will fathers collecting unemployment assistance be asked who will take care of their children? Let us settle it once and for all and ensure that there is equality for married women in their entitlement to unemployment assistance.

I have no hesitation in saying that in the process of seeking to implement this, the Minister has inflicted serious hardship on thousands of families and individuals, so much so that her cure is worse than the disease. From 17 November thousands of families will suffer a serious drop in income. To them, the most vulnerable section of the community, it is literally [927] catastrophic. Many of these people are living at or below subsistence level. We all know this as we meet them every day in our constituency work. They are now being asked to accept a cut of as much as 25 per cent in their incomes. In any other sphere if such a cut was imposed there would be social upheaval. Can you imagine the trade union movement being forced to accept a 25 per cent drop in income? The outcome would be a massive national strike which would bring about the downfall of the Government. Even the recent suggestion that certain trade union groups should accept a wage freeze brought about a public outcry, the Government ran for cover and the idea was abandoned. These unfortunate people have no political clout or no trade union muscle and are being forced to accept a cut in income. The Government merely say that the overall provisions are reasonable. How callous and uncaring can you be? The Government should be ashamed of the fact that over 10,000 families will suffer a serious drop in income. They think they can appease these people with the promise of a miserly sum of £10 per week for one year or until the end of their benefit entitlement. How can the Government hold up their heads when so many of these people stand to lose £40 or £50 per week?

Deputy McCarthy reminded us of the points made by Labour in their election programme that they would ensure that the poor would not suffer loss of income during their tenure in office. I see that the previous Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Desmond, is the only member of the party here to defend them. Compare the cavalier fashion in which the Government are bringing in this measure to the way they acted in all haste in bringing in emergency legislation to rescue the Insurance Corporation of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank. They gave a commitment to provide £120 million to rescue ICI and to save losses in AIB. Deputy Desmond and his colleagues in the Labour Party supported that measure but he is silent now when a sum is called for to provide for these unfortunate people. [928] We are only asking for an interim payment to be made to these people until they get used to the change.

Mr. McLoughlin: Information on Frank McLoughlin  Zoom on Frank McLoughlin  When the Deputy referred to ICI he should include himself——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Connolly: Information on Gerard C. Connolly  Zoom on Gerard C. Connolly  Labour are on the rack.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Order, please.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  I need not hang my head in shame——

(Interruptions.)

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  The Government moved to make more than £120 million available to AIB and did not even give a commitment as to the total amount they would pay. In the meantime AIB have reported substantial profits. They are laughing, this House was the fool.

The group who are to lose money are blameless whereas the trouble in AIB and ICI was as a result of lax business methods, irresponsibility and negligence. However, the Government had no qualms about providing money for them. The cost of compensating the people to whom I referred would be no more than £25 million. Can the Labour Party renege on their promises to these people whose cause they profess to champion? This is not a question of profligacy, it is a question of social justice. When the EC prepared this directive they did not intend that individuals or families should suffer as a result. The onus is on the Government to compensate these people and there are no restrictions by the EC in that regard. We just want to ensure that these people have a minimum income.

The Government have chosen to ignore the pleas of many people on this issue. Let me remind Fine Gael that their name was badly tarnished when they took a shilling off the old age pensions. It was remembered for many years but it is nothing to what will happen now. Their [929] callous attitude will tarnish their image even more because it will stick in the throats of these people when it comes to an election.

I will now turn to the Labour Party and their socially concerned Deputies. I am sadly disappointed that they have reneged on their promises to these people because they profess to espouse their cause. There are Ministers and Members in Labour who would find a happy home in Fine Gael but there are others who have a social conscience and who are concerned. I ask those people, in conscience, not to support this measure.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  If this were not such a serious subject and if I had not intended to speak I would have found it difficult to listen to the pious platitudes from the other side of the House. Fianna Fáil are the bleeding hearts club here tonight but, a few short months ago, I was here with my colleague, Deputy Barnes, and three or four other women talking about the removal of discrimination against women. There was not a single Fianna Fáil Deputy in the House and at the last minute one Member sneaked in for a minute or two to take the bare look off the benches. Where were the Opposition Deputies then to talk about discrimination against women? I cannot find it in my heart to believe that their statements tonight and the statements of Deputy Seán McCarthy in June 1985 have any truth. They do not ring true. They have not spoken on other measures to remove discrimination against women and I wonder if they are here because they can see political kudos in climbing on the backs of people who are the lowest paid section of the community. Where are the Fianna Fáil women Deputies tonight? Were they told to stay out so that the male Deputies could have a free run? I do not expect many Fianna Fáil Deputies to undestand what it is like to be a woman and treated as a chattel in the social welfare system.

(Interruptions.)

[930]Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  The Deputy did not do too well on the divorce issue.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  This legislation went through this House without a vote at the end——

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  That is not true.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  If the Deputy was so concerned about the legislation why did he not have the courage to call a vote? He was afraid——

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  There was a vote, read it properly.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Our concept of equality has been a basic commitment of this party since its foundation. We have consistently stated that we are totally opposed to discrimination against women relating to their status, eligibility for employment or social security payments. That is why the Opposition had not the courage to vote against the legislation. Far from introducing this legislation in a grudging manner, the Government took time to find methods and voted money to alleviate the most damaging part of the legislation, which will undoubtedly affect some people.

The discrimination that has existed here cannot be removed without causing hardship to some people. We women have suffered as people who were discriminated against by society, not because we were uneducated but because an accident of birth made us women. It is as offensive to us as it would be to the gentlemen over there if they found they would not be allowed to claim social welfare, perhaps because they went bald prematurely. They have no control over that; we have no control over our sex. Therefore, legislation should not discriminate against us because we are women.

The Minister and her predecessor, Deputy Desmond, had the courage to introduce the legislation long after [931] Fianna Fáil reneged on it. Deputy McCarthy said in a speech in June, 1985:

I might stress the words “the gradual application of equal treatment.” It is unfortunate that all of these changes, and the cost, should be inflicted on the public in one fell swoop.

I would remind the Deputy again of what the Minister has said. Deputy Haughey was in Europe when this directive was implemented but he did nothing about it in 1979, 1980 and 1981. Nothing was done by a Fianna Fáil Government when they had a huge majority here and when gradual implementation could have been commenced. They did not have the courage to do it——

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Deputy McCarthy and company were too busy in 1978 and 1979. There was much better publicity in being seen waving a toothbrush washing young girls' teeth.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Deputy McCarthy quoted the Taoiseach speaking about the dignity of the family. It was not male dignity — it was dignity for both males and females in our society. It is time the Opposition realised that there is more to getting rid of discrimination than mouthing platitudes about it.

Deputy O'Connell stood for the European Parliament in 1979. I remember it particularly because I was standing in the local elections and I took a bit of interest in what was being reported in the newspapers: of course, as a newcomer I did not get anything like the lines of print Deputy O'Connell got. He put himself forward as a champion of women and of women's causes: when he got to Europe he would work to get rid of discrimination even if it meant introducing changes at home. To our shame, many pieces of legislation had to be introduced following court cases and now following an EC directive.

Therefore, I find it sickening to have [932] to listen to some of the speeches from the Opposition. They like to say these things and put them on their literature so that they will get what they call “the women's vote”. The women of Ireland are much more astute and clever than the Deputy thinks. They understand what Deputy McCarthy means when he makes speeches but does nothing about discrimination. Where are the women of his party tonight? Have they been told to stay out so that there would be an all male line-up there to force the Government on something that was long overdue? Thanks be to God this Government have had the courage to bring it in.

Mr. Wyse: Information on Pearse Wyse  Zoom on Pearse Wyse  I am glad to have the three minutes available to me to point out that Ireland has no option but to accept the EC equality directive before 17 November next. The directive is an important advance in ensuring that women will have equal treatment in regard to social welfare payments. The most dramatic improvement is that married women can claim unemployment benefit for 15 months rather than 12 months back to last May, and thereafter they will get the full rate of benefit.

However, there will be undoubted problems for certain sections of low income people. Husbands on social welfare will lose allowances for their wives, or if the wives work for more than 18 hours per week or earn more than £50. The supplementary allowance regulations will have to be amended because otherwise many families will be victimised. I wish to draw attention to the case of women who are being forced by assistance officers to try to find employment. Under the Constitution, a woman cannot be forced to work and I hope the Minister will look at this.

I want to raise another matter which is of great concern. If the Minister does not reply to it tonight I hope she will make an announcement on it tomorrow or in the near future. Is it true that a meeting of superintendent welfare officers from health boards together with departmental officials was held in Dublin on 20 October last? I have learned that the [933] meeting broke up in disorder because the departmental officials were unable to clarify the workings of this directive. I am reliably informed that community welfare officers and their superintendents are refusing to put this directive into operation and that they have so informed their trade unions, seeking the unions' support. I do not wish to cause alarm or confusion but I ask the Minister, in fairness to everybody in receipt of social welfare benefits, to clarify this.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  On a point of order, I submit that it is disorderly for the Chair to work from a list of speakers submitted to the Chair from outside the House. This is Private Members' time——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  There was agreement. Will the Deputy resume his seat?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I will not resume my seat.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  There was a list agreed on and there is an order of the House to that effect. Will the Deputy resume his seat or leave the House?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I wish to make a point of order——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  You have made your point of order and it is out of order. You will resume your seat or leave the House.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  I have a second point of order which is that this is Private Members' time and I reject the use of this time to allow only Ministers, in the majority, to speak from this side of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I am calling on Deputy Fennell.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mrs. Fennell): Information on Nuala Fennell  Zoom on Nuala Fennell  This morning [934] on radio I listened to Deputy O'Connell referring to this directive and shedding crocodile tears about it. I have to cast my mind back to the time when I was a candidate in 1979 in the European elections. He visited areas which I was visiting and he told all the women how much he would do for them in Europe, of the great gains there would be for them.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Fennell: Information on Nuala Fennell  Zoom on Nuala Fennell  The Deputy had his say. He told these women grave untruths——

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  You gave them £9.60.

Mrs. Fennell: Information on Nuala Fennell  Zoom on Nuala Fennell  Fianna Fáil are running true to form. They are happy with a situation in which there is discrimination against women, yet they claim to have a monopoly of care and concern. I compliment the Minister, Deputy Hussey, on her announcement to increase supplementary welfare support. I am very happy to belong to a Government who have the courage to take this matter right through to the end. I do not take any pleasure from the fact that some families will be worse off but there is a great number of people who will be better off. Fianna Fáil never had a Minister with special responsibility for women's affairs.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Deputies, please you are being very disorderly. The Minister of State has one minute to conclude.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Fennell: Information on Nuala Fennell  Zoom on Nuala Fennell  I am sorry that this debate cannot be carried on in a responsible and mature way which recognises the importance of this directive and what it is going to mean for thousands of Irish women. Forty-six thousand families are gaining and it suits the Opposition to ignore that fact and make petty political points on this debate. They should be ashamed of themselves and I hope Irish [935] women remember this when it comes to the next election.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I stand to speak to The Workers' Party amendment which calls for a review of the regulations implementing the equality legislation as it applies to persons in receipt of adult dependant allowance for their spouses. Deputy Fennell seemed to imply that because 46,000 women have benefited it is okay and that it is a petty matter to raise the fact that 20,000 women indirectly will be affected by the operation of this regulation. One complaint I made when the legislation went through this House and when I put down amendments is that it will severely affect the income of many thousands of families in such a way that they are going to be very badly affected financially and will not be able to meet their needs out of the income they have left.

The Minister, Deputy Hussey, stated that the supplementary welfare allowance system will act as a safety net to assist those who may be badly affected by this move. I would ask her either here or on some other occasion in this House, perhaps tomorrow, to explain how this is going to work. There are many community welfare officers who are not happy with the instructions they have received or the vagueness of the instructions they have received. Despite the fact that this is being offered as an excuse for going ahead with the regulations as they stand, the position is that given the threshold over which one comes under the supplementary welfare allowance only a tiny minority of the 20,000 affected will come under the supplementary welfare allowance. It is no answer to say that it is a safety net. I would have expected much more from the Labour Party deputation which went to see the Minister yesterday than this paltry promise. It was ludicrous to hear of the former Minister for Social Welfare who introduced the legislation going on a deputation with his party to see the Minister for Social Welfare to get it changed after he had [936] The opportunity when introducing it to change it.

There has been much talk about discrimination against women. The way in which this legislation is being implemented is a direct discrimination against women in two ways. First of all, it will force many women out of the workforce. A number of women have already come to me to say that they will give up work because it is not worth carrying on. Secondly, a married woman will only receive — I raised this during the course of the debate — no matter whether she is entitled to it in her own right or otherwise the dependant allowance and no more whereas single couples will receive the full amount in both cases.

Mr. Wallace: Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  I am glad to have the opportunity of making a brief contribution tonight. Having listened to some of the speakers on the other side of the House it shows how much they are out of touch. We have been saying that for so long. The Minister and the Minister of State made a big play out of the 40,000 families who will benefit but they totally ignored the 20,000 families who are at the bottom rung of the ladder. It is a sad night when Fianna Fáil have to put down a motion when we should be complimenting the Government that equal rights are in operation but because the Minister is out of touch and because of her attitude right throughout her term of office the less well off will suffer as a result of her policies. The Taoiseach at the recent Ard Fheis said that it would be Fine Gael policy from here on in. Labour can either like it or lump it. That is the way it is going to be from now on. The sooner the Labour Party get it into their heads that they have no contribution to make on behalf of the people the better for us all.

Almost one million people depend on social welfare in one form or another. Many families are barely managing to exist but even that standard of living is being threatened by the introduction of this measure. Many people are now being asked to do with less than they were coping with up to now. The timing of [937] this measure, coming as it does before Christmas, is another cruel blow to the unemployed and the less well off in our society. These people have suffered the removal of food subsidies and the imposition of VAT on fuel, clothes and footwear. Many are now being asked to do with a reduction of a minimum of £26 per week. Families where the mothers through necessity are forced to go to work to earn a living will be affected and family allowances will be reduced. It will not be worthwhile for these persons to continue working. In some cases brought to my attention in recent weeks it appears a working woman will be only £12 better off by working a 40-hour week even if we allow for a £10 allowance. This means that the woman will be working for 50p an hour. This is ridiculous but, unfortunately it is true.

Many industries which employ skilled women will be threatened. These women because of the injustice of this Act will now have to stay at home.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  The Deputy has one minute left.

Mr. Wallace: Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  I was told I had 12 minutes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  You have ten minutes, Deputy.

Mr. Wallace: Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  There is one industry in my constituency which employs 150 women who have to get up early in the morning and go out again at night to work. They will have to give up that job. That will threaten their employer. Unfortunately, the Minister or the Minister of State or anybody on the other side of the House would not understand what that means. They never had to go to the employment exchange to sign on and collect the dole or send their wives out to work in order to make ends meet. Once again, we see a cover-up by the Government and a public relations exercise. The Minister should do something for them but instead she has a callous [938] disregard for them. She will not be forgotten by those people. We would expect such action from Fine Gael because they have never been concerned about the less well-off but the discredited Labour Party who have always proclaimed their concern for the less well off will not be forgotten by the voters. They have often expressed concern about the working class but when they have an opportunity of doing something for those people they turn to the left in the division lobby. They should show their Coalition partners that they do not have anything in common with them and support our motion tonight.

Mr. S. Walsh: Information on Seán Walsh  Zoom on Seán Walsh  I have pleasure in supporting the motion moved so ably by Deputy Seán McCarthy. I must question the timing for the introduction of this directive. As Deputy Treacy pointed out the conditions under which people in receipt of social welfare benefits live worsen daily. It is worth recalling that a few months ago the Minister for the Environment gave the necessary powers to county and city managers to increase the rents on local authority houses. Now most of those people will suffer a reduction in their weekly income.

There has been a lot of comment this evening about the dignity of women and it is easy to do that in the House but it would be difficult to speak about the dignity of some women in constituencies like mine, Dublin South West, when some of those unfortunates have to trip many times during the week to see social welfare officers and officials responsible for supplementary welfare allowances in the hope of getting help to pay their bills and rent. On many occasions I have asked the Minister, and the former Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Desmond, to make a trip to Tallaght to meet the local people. Such a visit would be rewarding because the Minister would learn of the real problems those people face.

I listened tonight to a reference to the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Haughey, but it cannot be denied that Deputy Haughey did not preside over a Fianna Fáil Government who were [939] responsible for between 250,000 and 300,000 people being on the unemployment register.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  And with the help of God he will not preside over one again.

Mr. S. Walsh: Information on Seán Walsh  Zoom on Seán Walsh  I did not interrupt any speakers tonight and I do not engage in such tactics. I expect the same courtesy that I afford others. When we refer to the number who are unemployed we must not forget that thousands of our young people have emigrated. Recently the Taoiseach told the people of Tallaght, when he visited them, that he cared for them but I wonder if he would describe the directive under discussion as caring. A Deputy asked tonight who would quibble about the loss of a few pounds per week but the unfortunate people who are striving to make ends meet stand to lose between £40 and £50 per week. It is easy for some people to dismiss such a sum as irrelevant but people in my constituency, in Tallaght and Clondalkin, cannot afford such a drop in their weekly income.

At Question Time today I was told that about 6,000 people are on the unemployed register in Tallaght. Bearing that in mind I wonder why the Government have decided to develop a directive that will have the effect of cutting the income of some of those people. All Members have had to plead for the unfortunate people who depend on supplementary welfare allowances. I have no doubt that when the directive is adopted we will have to be making more appeals on behalf of those people. It is surprising that we have not heard anything from the Minister about the payment of the double week benefit for Christmas. Problems arose about the payments of that allowance last year but following pressure the Minister paid it.

The forecasts by Deputy McCarthy [940] when he introduced a Private Members' Bill on social welfare some time ago have been proved correct. However, on that occasion, like tonight, we were accused of playing to the gallery but those of us who meet the people who are in distress realise that our statements are not wild.

The position in my constituency has been allowed to deteriorate by the Government and nobody can deny that. What have they done to create employment there? Factories have closed down and those anxious to set up industries have been steered clear of places like Tallaght and Clondalkin. Those industrialists are driven through those areas at high speed and are not anxious to listen to the appeals of the local people or give them some hope for the future. The directive will affect thousands of people in that constituency. It is sad that we have to oppose it. We should be in a position to compliment the Government on its introduction. We have heard a lot of talk from them about their concern for the less well-off but they have yet to do anything to help them. Prior to the last election the Labour Party told the electorate that they would ensure that the conditions of the people would not worsen while they were in Government but those conditions have deteriorated. Where are the Labour Ministers tonight?

The Government are wrong to adopt this directive a few weeks before Christmas. Many families will be up to £50 per week worse off. What does the future hold for them? Deputy Haughey would never attempt to adopt a directive like this and, thankfully, he, or any Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, has never presided over a Government at a time when 300,000 people were unemployed and thousands emigrated.

Amendment put.

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán. [941]Bell, Michael.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Boland, John.
Bruton, John.
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.
Barry, Myra.
Barry, Peter.
Begley, Michael [942]Hussey, Gemma.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
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'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Prendergast, Frank.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Ryan, John.
Shatter, Alan.
Skelly, Liam.
Spring, Dick.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Yates, Ivan.


Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Barrett, Sylvester.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady, Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Paudge.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John.
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Seán.
Calleary, Seán.
Collins, Gerard.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Connolly, Ger.
Cowen, Brian.
Daly, Brendan.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doherty, Seán. [943]McCreevy, Charlie.
McEllistrim, Tom.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
MacSharry, Ray.
Morley, P. J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M. J.
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West)
O'Connell, John.
O'Dea, William.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Edmond.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
Fahey, Francis.
Fahey, Jackie.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fitzgerald, Gene.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzsimons, Jim.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Gregory-Independent, Tony.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hilliard, Colm.
Hyland, Liam.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leonard, Tom.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán. [944]O'Leary, John.
Ormonde, Donal.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Paddy.
Reynolds, Albert.
Treacy, Noel.
Treacy, Seán.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Myra.
Barry, Peter.
Begley, Michael.
Bell, Michael.
Bermingham, George Martin.
Boland, John.
Bruton, John.
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. [945]Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Glenn, Alice.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hegarty, Paddy.
Hussey, Gemma.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McLoughlin, Frank.
Manning, Maurice.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Moynihan, Michael.
Naughten, Liam.
Nealon, Ted.
Noonan, Michael.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East)
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Brien, Willie.
O'Donnell, Tom.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Predergast, Frank.
Quinn, Ruairí
Ryan, John.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Skelly, Liam.
Spring, Dick. [946]Timmins, Godfrey.
Yates, Ivan.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Barrett, Sylvester.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady, Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Paudge.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John.
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Seán.
Calleary, Seán.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Connolly, Ger.
Cowen, Brian.
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.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Gregory-Independent, Tony.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hilliard, Colm.
Hyland, Liam.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leonard, Tom.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McEllistrim, Tom.
MacSharry, Ray.
Morley, P. J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Nolan, M. J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West)
O'Connell, John.
O'Dea, William.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Edmond.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
Ormonde, Donal.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Paddy.
Reynolds, Albert.
Treacy, Noel.
Treacy, Seán.
Tunney, Dan.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.

Question declared carried.

The Dáil adjourned at 9 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 30 October 1986.


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