Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1966 : Second Stage.

Thursday, 7 July 1966

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 61 No. 17

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Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. K. Boland): Information on Kevin Boland  Zoom on Kevin Boland  Séard atá sa Bhille seo na forálacha is gá chun feidhm a thabhairt do na méadaithe a fógraíodh sa Cháinfhaisnéis i rátaí pinsean seanaoise, daille agus baintrí neamh-ranníocach agus ins na rátaí pearsanta cúnamh dífhostaíochta i gcomhair cleithiúnaithe aosaithe do réir 5/- i n-aghaidh na seachtaine do dhaoine atá gan acmhainn. Ina theannta tá dhá athraithe tábhachtacha dá ndéanamh sa Scéim Árachais Shóisialaigh— leathnú na gcoinníollacha ranníoca i gcomhair pinsean baintrí (ranníocach) agus leathnú ar shochar dífhostaíochta i dtreois go mbainfidh sé le mná ar fhostaíocht i seirbhís tís príobháideach agus i dtalmhaíocht. Tá roinnt forálacha sa Bhille freisin maidir le leasuithe ilghnéitheacha i scéimeanna árachais shóisialaigh agus cúnaimh shóisialaigh.

[1646] Baineann na méadaithe cáinfhaisnéise uilig i mbliana le cúnamh sóisialach mar is cuí im thuairim nuair is teoranta iad na foinsí i gcomhair leasú na seirbhísí sóisialacha. Mar sin is chun méadú ar phinsin seanaoise agus baintrí agus cúnamh dífhostaíochta dóibh siúd atá gan acmhainn a usáid mé an t-airgead a cuireadh ar fáil dom sa cháinfhaisnéis i mbliana. Bainfidh 21,000 pinsinéirí seanaoise nó daille, as an iomlán de 112,000 pinsinéirí, tairbhe as na méadaithe seo agus bainfidh suas le 6,500 baintreacha as iomlán de 22,000 baintreacha tairbhe as sa gcaoi céanna.

Maidir le cúnamh dífhostaíochta toisc nach bhfuil an triail acmhainne cosúil leis an gceann i leith pinsean ní féidir sa gcaoi céanna méadaithe na cáinfhaisnéise a theorannú do dhaoine gan acmhainn amháin. Leathnaíodh ar fhorálacha na cáinfhaisnéise maidir le cúnamh dífhostaíochta beagáinín i dtreo is go mbeidh méadú áirithe ag dul do gach faighteoir. Táthar mar sin ag árdú uas-rátaí cúnaimh dífhostaíochta i leith na ranganna éagsúla do réir 5/- do dhaoine gan cleithiúnaithe linbh. De thoradh na méadaithe i rátaí cúnaimh dífhostaíochta gheobhaidh gach faighteoir méadú áirithe agus leathnófar go huathoibritheach ar an dteorainn acmhainne chun cáilithe i leith cúnaimh dífhostaíochta i dtreo is go mbeidh roinnt iarratasóirí, atá beagnach cáilithe faoi na coinníollacha atá i bhfeidhm faoi láthair, cáilithe feasta.

Ceist atá im intinn agam le tamall is ea leasú na gcoinníollacha ranníoca i gcomhair pinsean baintrí (ranníocach). Tá na coinníollacha atá ann faoi láthair lán tsásúil i bhfurmhór na gcásanna ach tháinigh roinnt chásanna faoi mo bhráid mar a raibh cuid mhaith árachais le linn saoil oibre an fhir chéile ann ach gan an oiread ranníoca aige agus a chólíonfadh an triail meáin mar atá sé chun go mbeadh a bhaintreach cáilithe chun pinsin. Tá fúm é sin a leigheas ins an mBille tré triail meáin breise a sholáthar faoína cáileoidh baintreach chun pinsin ar mheán áirithe thar an saol iomlán árachais i dtreo is go mbeidh tuille baintreacha cáilithe chun pinsean ranníocach.

[1647] Níl mná a bhíonn ar fhostaíocht i seirbhís príobháideach tís árachaithe i leith dífhostaíochta faoi láthair agus tá fúm, dá bhrí sin, ins an mBille an Scéim Árachas Dífhostaíochta a leathnú i dtreo is go mbainfidh sé leis na mná seo, agus le mná atá ar fhostaíocht i dtalmhaíocht chomh maith, trí na rátaí ranníoca árachais shóisialaigh a bhaineann leo a mhéadú go cuí, na ranníoca nua seo a bheith ináirithe i gcomhair sochair dífhostaíochta.

Ar na forálacha ilghnéitheacha ins an mBille tá ceann a éiríonn de thoradh an méadú ar uas-ráta an phinsin seanaoise neamh-ranníocaigh. Faoi seo beidh rogha ag duine atá dícháilithe chun pinsin seanaoise neamh-ranníocaigh toisc íocaíocht faoin scéim pinsean seanaoise ranníocach bheith aige, an pinsean neamh-ranníocach a fháil má tá sé cáilithe cuige agus más fearr dó é ná an íocaíocht eile úd.

Baineann fuíoll na bhforálacha ins an mBille le cóiriú forálacha atá ann cheana. Soláthraítear gur féidir rialacháin a dhéanamh faoina mbeidh an méadú i bpinsean seanaoise ranníocach i leith leanaí cáilithe iníoctha le daoine seachas na pinsiniérí nuair is cuí é. Soláthraítear freisin go mbeidh máthair dall cáilithe feasta chun méadú ar a pinsean i leith a leanaí cáilithe a fháil nuair is ag a fear céile atá an teideal chun an liúntais linbh. I gcás mar sin roimhe seo bhí sí dícháilithe ón méadú i gceist.

Soláthraítear ins an mBille freisin nuair a chailleann duine sochar de dheasca mainneachtana fhostóra go mbeidh iomlán an tsochair inghnóthaithe ón bhfostóir fiú nuair a fhaigheann an duine árachaithe cúnamh sóisialach i n-ionad cuid den tsochar i gceist. Roimhe seo ní raibh ach méid glan an tsochair inghnóthaithe ón bhfostóir i dtreo is go mbíodh an Státchiste thíos de dheasca mainneachtain an fhostóra. Mar deireadh táthar chun cumhachta maidir le hÓrdaíthe a dhéanamh faoi chomhar-shocraíochtaí le tíortha eile faoi chúrsaí slándála shóisialaí a tháthú agus a leathnú go mbainfidh siad leis na scéimeanna uilig atá dá riaradh ag mo Roinn.

[1648] Cabhróidh sé le Seanadóirí má achoimrím costas na bhforálacha éagsúla ins an mBille. Ar an dtaobh cúnaimh shóisialaigh de, is é an costas iomlán ná £694,500 as a mbeidh £674,500 ag dul d'fhorálacha na cáinfhaisnéise. Beidh airgead taisce ann don Státchiste áfach de thoradh leasú an scéim pinsean ranníocach baintrí do réir £144,000 i naghaidh na bliana a fhágfaidh £550,500 mar chostas glan don Státchiste. Is é costas iomlán bliantúil na bhfeabhsanna ins an scéim árachais shóisialaigh ná £310,000 i mbliain iomlán as a n-íocfar £288,000 trí mhéadú na ranníoca, ag fágaint £22,000 in aghaidh na bliana mar an chostas glan don Státchiste.

Is fiú iad mar fheabhsanna na feabhsanna ins an Scéim Leasa Shóisialaigh atá dá soláthar ins an mBille seo taobh istigh den acmhainn atá ar fáil. Is cruthú é an Bille ar shuim leantach an Rialtais i bhforbairt na seirbhísí sóisialacha agus is leanúint de chóras na bhfeabhsaithe bliantúla é.

This Bill includes the provisions necessary to implement the decision announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Speech in March last to increase the rates of non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions and the personal and adult dependent rates of unemployment assistance for persons with no means. In addition, two important changes in the Social Insurance scheme are being made—the modification of the contribution conditions for widows' (contributory) pension and the extension of unemployment insurance to cover women employed in private domestic service and in agriculture. A number of provisions dealing with miscellaneous improvements in the social insurance and social assistance schemes are also included in the Bill.

Although the Bill is not very long, many of the provisions are, of necessity, drafted by way of reference to existing legislation — a method which unfortunately can lead to a considerable amount of obscurity in the text. The explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill attempts to explain the effects of the various provisions and I trust that Senators will have found it useful and informative.

[1649] The Budget increases are all on the social assistance side this year and I am convinced that, where resources for improving the social services are limited, the bulk of these resources should be devoted to the most deserving groups in the community. For that reason, the money made available to me this year has been devoted mainly to increasing non-contributory old age, blind and widows' pensions and unemployment assistance for persons who have no means, that is, persons whose means on investigation have already been assessed as nil. This will benefit some 21,000 old age or blind pensioners out of a total of over 112,000 such pensioners to the extent of 5/- in the weekly rate of pension, while some 6,500 widows out of a total of 22,000 widows will similarly benefit.

Because the manner of applying the means test to recipients of unemployment assistance differs from that applying in the case of pensioners, the Budget increases could not be applied only to persons with no means without causing a number of anomalies. For unemployment assistance purposes, the existing Acts lay down for the various categories of persons maximum rates of assistance which are payable where the weekly means do not exceed 2/- in the case of a person with no dependants or 5/- in the case of a person with a dependant. The rates of assistance are reduced by 1/- for each further 1/- or part of 1/-of means which the person may have over and above the amount disregarded, 2/- or 5/- as the case may be. The Budget proposals in relation to unemployment assistance have, therefore, been extended so that every recipient will get some increase. The maximum rates of unemployment assistance, both urban and rural, for the various categories are being increased by 5/- in the case of persons with no dependants, 10/- in the case of persons with adult dependants and 8/-in the case of persons with child dependants and, at the same time, the disregard of the first 2/- or 5/- of any means is being withdrawn. Thus, the new maximum rates will be paid to persons with no means and these rates [1650] will be reduced by 1/- for each 1/- or part of 1/- of weekly assessed means.

I have had in mind for some time the question of modifying the contribution conditions for widow's (contributory) pension. The present conditions are quite satisfactory in the majority of cases as the requirement of having 156 contributions paid and a yearly average of 39 contributions paid or credited over the last three or five years immediately before the husband's death are comparatively easy conditions to satisfy. However, they are not satisfactory in cases where the number of contributions during the years immediately prior to the husband's death is low due, say, to a break in insurable employment for any reason and they do not permit of any pension being paid unless the conditions are fully satisfied.

A number of cases have come to my notice where there had been a considerable amount of insurance over the husband's working life but insufficient contributions in the vital three or five years before his death to qualify the widow for pension. It could be argued that the man had had the right to become a voluntary contributor and thus to preserve his pension rights but this is of little consolation to the widow who knows that her husband had a large amount of insurance in earlier life which is useless to her for pension purposes. I propose in the Bill, therefore, to continue the existing requirement of having 156 contributions paid but, where a widow fails to satisfy the existing average test, to provide an alternative test under which the average will be calculated over the full insurance lifetime with full pension being paid if the yearly average so calculated is 48 or more and reduced pensions being paid where the average is less than 48.

To help meet the cost of the additional contributory pensions which will be payable, there will be an increase of 2d in the rates of employment and voluntary contributions. Some of the widows who will qualify for contributory pension under the new conditions may also be entitled to widows' (non-contributory) pension which will not be paid where the contributory [1651] pension is better. Regulations will, however, be made to permit any widow to draw the non-contributory pension in lieu of the contributory pension if the rate of non-contributory pension for which she could qualify would be higher, the contributory pension in any such case being paid from the Social Insurance Fund into the Exchequer to offset in part the cost of the non-contributory pension.

Women employed in private domestic service or in agriculture are excluded from the unemployment benefit scheme and I am not satisfied that a good case exists for the continuation of this total exclusion. I propose, therefore, in the Bill to increase the rates of social insurance contribution payable in respect of these women to include an element in respect of unemployment benefit and to permit the new increased contributions to count for unemployment benefit purposes. Additional conditions for the receipt of unemployment benefit by these women will, however, be prescribed by regulations under existing powers and, while the terms of these additional conditions have yet to be settled, the general intention is to restrict entitlement to unemployment benefit to women with a good employment record over a minimum period, of probably, ten years— possibly with some scaling down of the requirements beyond that point in step with advancing age. Because of this restriction of entitlement, the consequential increase in the relevant rates of contribution will only be 1/-a week, of which the employer will pay 7d.

Apart from the proposals for increasing rates of social insurance contributions in this Bill, other increases in these contribution rates are proposed in the Social Welfare (Occupational Injuries) Bill recently passed by the Oireachtas. There are reasons why all three increases in contributions should be synchronised and, accordingly, the proposals for increased contributions in this Bill, together with the related provisions, will probably be brought into operation on a date to be appointed by order by the Minister. [1652] It will then be possible to bring the increases in contributions under this Bill and the increases in connection with the Occupational Injuries Scheme into operation on the same day.

One provision of the Bill is consequential on the increase in the maximum rate of non-contributory old age pension. This is section 13 which provides that a person who is disqualified for receipt of non-contributory old age pension because he is benefiting under the Old Age (Contributory) Pensions scheme may have the option of drawing the non-contributory pension if he can qualify for it at a higher rate than the payment to which he is entitled under the contributory scheme. Where a person opts to receive the non-contributory pension, the amount he would otherwise receive under the contributory scheme will be paid out of the Social Insurance Fund to the Exchequer to help meet the cost of the non-contributory pension. A similar position will arise under the widow's (contributory) pension scheme in relation to widows aged 70 years or more when the new conditions provided in the Bill become operative and section 13 is, therefore, drafted to include widows.

One of the remaining provisions of the Bill will enable regulations to be made providing for the payment of increases of old age (contributory) pension in respect of qualified children to persons other than the pensioners where the circumstances so warrant. This will extend the power already existing in regard to the increase of pension in respect of an adult dependant which is used, for example, to allow the adult dependant's allowance to be paid directly to the wife where it is clear that the husband is neglecting her.

Other provisions involve qualified children for the purposes of increases of pension under the Old Age Pensions Acts. These increases are payable in respect of children for whom the pensioners are receiving children's allowances under the general Children's Allowances Scheme and a blind mother is thus precluded from receiving an increase of her blind pension in respect [1653] of her children where her husband is the person entitled to the children's allowance. It is proposed to permit the blind mother in such a case to receive an increase of her pension for her children. The payment of double increases in respect of the same children to both the husband and the wife will be prevented by regulation.

In some recent cases where widows have lost contributory pension by reason of the default of their late husband's employers in the payment of contributions, I have been advised, in connection with proceedings for recovery of the lost benefit for the widows under section 35 of the Social Welfare Act, 1952, that I could not recover more than the net amount of the benefit lost, due allowance being made for the fact that the widow had been paid non-contributory pension. I am not satisfied that the employer in such circumstances should be allowed to evade his liabilities at the expense of the Exchequer. The Bill will, therefore, make it clear that the amount repayable by the employer in such a case is the gross amount of benefit lost and that, if assistance has been paid to the beneficiary, it will be repayable to the Exchequer either as part of the gross amount repayable by the employer or, if he has repaid the beneficiary the full amount of the lost benefit, by the beneficiary.

Finally, the powers in relation to the making of orders in connection with reciprocal agreements with other countries on social security matters are being consolidated and expanded to cover all the main social security schemes administered by my Department. Our ratification of Convention No. 118 of the International Labour Conference made it necessary to obtain such powers in relation to children's allowances and the recent agreement with the United Kingdom on social security matters showed the desirability of having clearly defined powers covering the widest possible range of our schemes.

I hope that I have given Senators a comprehensive picture of the proposals in the Bill and of their effects. It may help if I summarise the cost of the [1654] various proposals in the Bill. On the social assistance side, the total cost will be £694,500 in a full year of which the Budget proposals as amplified will account for £674,500. There will, however, be savings to the Exchequer consequent on the modification of the widow's (contributory) pension scheme amounting to some £144,000 a year and this will leave the net cost to the Exchequer of the proposals in the Bill as £550,500. The gross annual cost of the improvements on the social insurance scheme will be £310,000 in a full year of which £288,000 will be met by the increase in contributions leaving the net cost to the Exchequer, £22,000 in a full year.

The improvements in the Social Welfare schemes being provided in this Bill are worthwhile improvements within the limits of the resources available. The Bill is moreover an indication of the Government's continued interest in developing social welfare services and a continuation of the process of effecting each year such improvements in them as are found possible. I have pleasure, therefore, in recommending the Bill to Seanad Éireann and I would ask for speedy and favourable consideration for it.

Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: Information on Denis O'Sullivan  Zoom on Denis O'Sullivan  We welcome the Bill as a measure which in some way will assist in abating the difficulties which the classes who benefit from our social welfare code are suffering. The benefits provided in this Bill fall far short of the amounts merited by the circumstances of the moment. Frequently we hear Ministerial statements regarding the affluence of our community but it is only when we get a measure like this that we find the Minister's statement studded with references to the resources being limited and that worthwhile improvements are being given within the limits of the resources available. We have repeated references to “resources” when it comes to doing something to improve the lot of those least well off among us.

Even though we accept the contents of the Bill as in some way mitigating the hardships which old age pensioners, widows and orphans and unemployed [1655] are undergoing, we must express dissatisfaction at the fact that the Government have not gone further in meeting the requirements of these classes. We are repeatedly informed that the objects of Budgetary proposals are to collect certain taxes from certain sectors of the community who are in a position to pay for transfer towards the easement of people who cannot maintain even a reasonable standard of living if they are in receipt of assistance from State resources.

The impact of taxation on those persons has been growing and reducing the benefits intended for them. We have substantial evidence that long before the recipient gets a penny of the increase intended for him he is obliged, with everybody else in the community, to pay the increased tax. There have been formidable delays in the implementation of proposals enshrined in Budgets. These delays, no doubt the Minister will say, are caused by administration difficulties involved in the preparation of new payments but it is surprising the alacrity with which the Minister for Finance can go into action in extracting the taxation we are told is intended for the benefit of these people. We all realise that we are catering for people of an age group who may not survive to get a penny of the increased benefits. There is urgency from that point of view alone in the more speedy payment of increased benefits. How often have we made representations to the Minister's Department about old age pensions, and, due to inordinate delays in recent years, found that many of those aged people have been called to their reward before a decision emanated from the Department? Other people, such as the unemployed, are seriously affected by cost of living increases. In the circumstances, many of them have to reduce their intake of normal requirements to maintain life while awaiting these increases.

Consequently, the fact that there was such an early indication of the financial requirements this year in an extraordinarily early Budget, it should have been possible for the Minister to ensure that the payment of increased benefits [1656] is made at an earlier date. I agree with Senator Quinlan that from the point of view of public relations it would be worthwhile, when framing Budget policy, to marry the taxable impost to the benefits for which the taxation is intended. Not so long ago, when a special tax was placed on simple luxuries for the benefit of a slight increase in old age pensions, the consumers were satisfied with the tax once they knew the increase imposed on them was going to the benefit of the less well-off sectors in our community. Recipients of social welfare benefits are not an organised group. They have to rely on the goodwill of the Government and on the exertions of public representatives to ensure that their efforts to secure fair play will be successful.

The Minister has been persistent in stating that whatever benefits accrue from improvements in the amounts of benefits always combat any effects of increases in the cost of living and other charges which follow from increased taxation, but surely as a Christian society we must do more for the aged, the disabled, the widows and orphans than merely cushion the effects of Government policy on them. Surely we could move forward and do something more positive to achieve a clear improvement in their standard of living rather than be satisfied with the defensive effort to cushion the effects of Government national policy. In regard to taxation there is an obligation on the Minister for Social Welfare in any Government to ensure that in the framing of Budgetary policy he should use his influence with the Minister for Finance to safeguard the lot of social welfare recipients from the effects of taxation so that they will not receive in benefit less than the increase given to them in real values.

I said last week that the Government have failed in their Budget this year to exempt hard-pressed tobacco from the new tax. The old age pensioner, for his favourite little luxury, is being asked to pay 10d per plug more, months before he gets the little increase in his old age pension. His family will be likewise affected in taxation. Very many of these old people find that this is their only little luxury. [1657] They are, possibly due to failing eyesight, unable to read very well. They cannot enjoy television or read newspapers, and their delight is to meet people of their own age, converse with them and enjoy a pipe of tobacco. I feel that the Minister should have defended these people against the exaction of a tax on them, particularly so because predecessors in the Ministry of Finance were quite agreeable to exempt hard-pressed tobacco from increased tax. I merely cite that as an example of the meagre sympathy shown for these people in leaving such a heavy impost of taxation on the aged classes.

There are provisions in the Bill that are certainly welcome, but then we come down to the cold, hard facts in the opening paragraph of the Minister's statement. He referred to the fact that, on investigation, the means of 21,000 old age pensioners or blind pensioners out of a total of 112,000 were assessed as nil. I should like to think that all our people enjoyed a certain standard of living, and we must record with a sense of shock that the report of the Department of Social Welfare reveals that there were 21,000 recipients of old age or blind pensions whose means were assessed as nil. Out of 27,000 widows, 6,500 are obliged to exist on a similar report on their conditions. This is a pretty frightening record of the conditions in which many aged people and widows have to live in present circumstances when we see other sections of our people revelling in what they regard as a very large increase in their standard of living, and it certainly is an indication that we have not done all that should be done to protect some of our people from the impact of the reduced value of money as we realise it is today.

The inclusion of this provision for unemployment benefit for women engaged in domestic service and agriculture is certainly to be welcomed, because those ladies who provide services either domestic or in the farmyard are doing a very worthwhile service and one which is essential to productivity to permit the other womenfolk in the family to engage in [1658] other work, to assist them in the performance of their domestic duties and particularly in relation to animal husbandry. Many of those ladies employed in agriculture are absolutely essential to the increased production which is so desirable in the agricultural field. It is a good thing that we in our legislation should ensure that their circumstances are protected against the hazard of unemployment in that sphere.

The Minister goes on to state that these provisions will be made operable on a date to be appointed to coincide with the implementation of the Social Welfare (Occupational Injuries) Bill. I would exhort him to try to implement both measures with reasonable despatch, because how often have we passed legislation which was dependent on implementation at some future date by a Minister and found too much time elapsed before it became operative? We hope and trust, now that these measures will have cleared the Oireachtas, that no time will be lost in making the necessary arrangements in the Department for their implementation.

This discussion permits the House to make representations relative to the implementation of our social welfare benefits in general, and I note that we have, particularly in relation to insured workers, with some notable exceptions, improved their lot in various measure by some little advances from time to time, and that, similarly, with relation to the non-contributory recipients. I want today to concentrate on one aspect of the enactment of a means test, and that is that an improvement in this field is overdue and very desirable. I know from a little research that in August, 1962 the income limit for recipients was £130 15s and since that time we have only extended the scope by £26. During those years there have been very remarkable changes relative to the reduced value of money. I know from personal experience of the lot particularly of widows, non-contributory applicants for widows' pensions, of the harsh implementation of the current means test relative to their applications. One must bear in mind the special circumstances of [1659] ladies who are unfortunately placed in this situation. They have had an increase in the cost of living, and particularly those whose children are at an age that they incur considerable expenses relative to their education. We know the huge increases that have occurred in the cost of school books and in general educational charges, and that little or no account is taken by the investigating officers of the Department of Social Welfare of expenses where the widow finds herself in the circumstances that she has lost her partner in life and there is no allowance made for the education of children, particularly when they are at the more expensive educational ages.

The effect of increased rates now bears heavily on such unfortunate people, particularly in small businesses in country towns. Very many of these businesses are regarded, seemingly, by officials of the Department of Social Welfare as being lucrative, but we all know how much they have been affected by changes in our society that have been for the benefit of the society as a whole but, using the old saying that you do not make omelettes without breaking eggs, very many of these unfortunate people are in the category of the broken egg, and they have experienced setbacks in the conduct of their businesses, particularly those who are dependent on incomes from licensed premises in small rural towns. Our people demand a higher standard, and it is only those with capital who can engage in that, and they are inclined to attract business away from these people. It is a sore enough blow to lose the head of the family and the active partner in the business, and to realise the charges and the worries that these people have to face up to, having lost their partner in life, at least we could give them some consolation, some assistance, in allowing them some benefit from non-contributory widows' pensions. I happen to have quite a few of those cases and I feel very strongly that they are being very harshly dealt with in that particular type of instance. Therefore, I would appeal to the Minister to adjust the table relative to [1660] means when he is next considering any improvement in relation to the old age and widows' non-contributory pensions by extending the scope of the means test to allow them to benefit.

I know that in 1963 we had the extension of the limit from £143 15s to £156 15s but this was to qualify them for the miserable sum of 7/6 a week, which, when one takes the administrative cost into mind, must be regarded as a trivial and a petty benefit to give to anybody. Even so, it is an admission that they are regarded as being worthy of some benefit. I suggest that the upward extension of the means tests, to allow more people to come within the scope of the benefit, would be beneficial.

I should like to know from the Minister, when he is replying, what changes will be effected by way of economies in his Department relative to the setting up of the Ministry of Labour. We understand that there will be a transfer of some staff. What will become of the money which will be saved? What purpose will the money be devoted to? I would also like to know from the Minister the reasons which caused the exclusion of a sum of £100,000 from the original Finance Bill and which was included in the later document, which seemingly had not been foreseen in the Minister's submission to the Minister for Finance at Budget time. How did it come about that such a formidable sum was not anticipated when the Minister was making his submissions? Is this indicative of the manner in which many Ministers prepare their submissions? Does this mean that there is more than one Minister who has done this and does it mean that we could have Supplementary Estimates to cover this?

Those are the remarks I wish to make relative to this Bill. As I say, we very much welcome the fact that such a measure is before us but we regret the delay in the implementation of the benefits. We deplore the alacrity with which the taxes were imposed and the extraordinary tendency nowadays to tax immediately while the benefits are not given until a very much later date. Other sections of the [1661] community get immediate recompense. The question of the taxes to pay for this is deferred until some time after an event has transpired.

Business suspended at 1.5 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.


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