PUBLIC SAFETY (PUNISHMENT OF OFFENCES) TEMPORARY BILL, 1924.—SECOND STAGE. - OLD AGE PENSIONS BILL—SECOND STAGE.

Thursday, 21 February 1924

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 6 No. 17

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Mr. BLYTHE (Minister for Finance): Information on Ernest Blythe Zoom on Ernest Blythe This Bill is brought before the Dáil to give effect to a proposal which was outlined some months ago. It is necessary, owing to the state in which we find ourselves financially, that a great reduction shall be made in expenditure. That reduction it will be very difficult to effect in full. There is no way of avoiding it, however. We cannot afford to increase taxation in this country. As a matter of fact, even if we did increase taxation, we would not save, say, people like Old Age Pensioners from whatever hardship this cut will involve. Increased taxation would undoubtedly mean an increase in expenditure. An increase in taxation, moreover, would have its result in increasing [1260] unemployment, and in further handicapping every industry in this country. Deputies have to bear in mind that at present taxation is on a distinctly higher level here than in Great Britain or the Six Counties. We cannot, if we have any prudence at all, contemplate any increase in taxation.

The only thing left for us is to effect whatever cuts we can effect. The whole question of economy is continually before us. Nothing that has occurred since the proposal to cut the old-age pensions was first mentioned to the Dáil has in any way eased the situaiton. People feel easier in their minds and feel more confident as to the future in consequence of the success of the National Loan. The Loan and the way in which it was subscribed proved that our credit is good at the moment. But our credit could not continue good if we do not balance the Budget. If we follow the example of the man who when in difficulties, through over-expenditure of some sort or bad conduct of his business, succeeded in getting accommodation and then as a result of getting that accommodation felt so easy in his mind that he did not bother to improve his position in any way, it would be a very serious matter. We have been able to borrow, but unless we show that we are in a position to pay, that we are not going to put ourselves in a position of having to borrow to pay our interest, then we will not easily be able to borrow in the future. If we do not take any steps that may be necessary and possible, no matter how difficult and unpopular it may be, the result would eventually be that we would be faced with the necessity which the Government of another country has had to face—that is to say an increase of 20 per cent. or 50 per cent, of our taxation all round. If we had to have drastic increases in taxation it would do more harm to everybody concerned than the economies proposed.

In considering the question of the old-age pensions we must realise that the thing that matters is really purchasing power. It would not serve the old age pensioners to continue their pensions at the present money level and follow a course that would reduce very seriously the purchasing power of [1261] the money given them. It would be quite possible for us to adopt a course of inflation by which it would be easy enough to pay 10s. a week. The 10s. a week that we would pay in such circumstances would not be anything like the value of the 9s. a week in the present circumstances to the old age pensioners. We decided on a cut of 1s. because the cost of living figure was 180. That means that the value of the new pension of 9s. a week is equal to the pre-war pension of 5s. a week. There has been some fluctuation in the cost of living figure since then, but that fluctuation is largely due to seasonable circumstances which we have no reason to contemplate will mean that the cost of living is going to be above 180 per cent. As a matter of fact every advice that we can get is that the cost of living will go down considerably below 180. If it does not go down and if it cannot be brought down below 180, it is going to be a very serious thing for this country. As the Minister for Agriculture has pointed out, the main industry of the country is selling its products at something like 30 or 40 per cent. above pre-war prices and it has to purchase at a cost of 180 or more above pre-war. If those costs cannot be brought down it will be a very serious thing indeed to the country. We believe that they can be brought down and that they will come down, and consideration of means to bring them down is going on. Many obstacles have intervened to prevent the cost coming down, but we believe that it can be brought down in some substantial measure.

The old age pension was fixed at 10s. when the cost of living was really between 110 and 120 above pre-war. While the Committee which recommended the increase to 10s. was sitting the cost of living was between 105 per cent. and 110 per cent. above pre-war. By the time the report had been printed the cost of living had risen to 120 per cent. above pre-war. Subsequently it went very much higher than that, but the old age pension remained at 10s. a week. As a matter of fact, the cut which has been proposed will actually leave the old age pensioners a great deal better off, from the point of view [1262] of purchasing power, than they were for a very considerable period after the pension was increased to 10s. We are far from desiring to inflict any hardship. We do not desire, moreover, to follow the cost of living down in the matter of old age pensions. That is, we do not contemplate cutting the old age pension another shilling if, say, the cost of living falls to 160. The British Committee which recommended the 10s. pension contemplated that ultimately the cost of living would go down below the figure at which it was when the pension was fixed. The Committee, at any rate, whatever the British Government may have done, contemplated that with the fall in the cost of living the value of the 10s. would increase, and that thereby the old age pension would increase in reality. That is, that the purchasing power, the value of the pension to the pensioner, would increase and would be allowed to increase. We would desire ourselves that the value of the pension should be allowed to increase, and that we should not make cuts as the cost of living went down. We would not propose to make a cut now if it were not for the dire financial necessity under which we labour.

We have other proposals in the Bill in regard to the scale of means. Those proposals were put in because we desired not to make further cuts in the maximum pension. We have not figures at the present time showing the means of the people who are receiving the maximum pension, but investigations that have been carried out show that a considerable number of those in receipt of the maximum pension have private means exceeding 7s. per week. We believe that by effecting a further reduction in the pension of those whose private means exceed 7s. per week, we will be able to save about another £200,000. Our view is that getting in this way £500,000 from this particular service we have got all that we are entitled to take or look for. It has been pointed out to us that at present pensioners over the Border are receiving 10s. a week, and that we propose to cut the pensioners on our side of the Border to 9s. a week. We regret that. It is not our intention to widen that [1263] disparity further than the single shilling. We believe that, whatever other things we may have to do to affect Budget equilibrium, we should not take more out of this particular service than we will get by the shilling cut and by the alteration in the means scale. It will be a matter of difficulty.

It is very easy to say you should get £200,000 or £300,000 here or there, but when you come to effect any economies you find it is not such an easy thing at all, and that it requires a good deal of effort to get any economy actually carried into effect. We are hindered in certain particular ways through the Treaty, and also in other respects, because you have to carry your economies through in such a way as not to cause serious discontent or serious loss of efficiency in the service. I do not mind mere verbal discontent, or an expression of the discontent which you are bound to have whenever any salaries or wages are cut, but real discontent is a serious matter. It will be, I know, an exceedingly difficult thing to arrive at Budget equilibrium, because there are always demands for fresh expenditure. These arise out of old promises, as in the case of the resigned and dismissed R.I.C. They also arise out of more recent circumstances. For instance, there is the Army Pensions Act which has come into operation by which a considerable sum will have to be spent on pensions to those who were disabled and wounded. While you are effecting economies you cannot avoid undertaking from time to time certain new heads of expenditure. In the matter of education for instance, you have certain increases pledged to the secondary teachers. I would like the Dáil to realise the extreme difficulty there will be in effecting a reduction of recurrent expenditure to anything approaching a sum of £3,000,000 per annum. That £3,000,000 per annum would suffice to balance the Budget only if we had an Army costing not more than £2,000,000 per annum. Of course, we cannot have that next year. We cannot have a balanced Budget in the year beginning the 1st April next, as there will, in addition to the Army, be other nonrecurring [1264] expenditure, such as compensation payments, which will still be going on. I feel that it is absolutely essential for the future of this country that in the following financial year there should be a balanced Budget when all the outgoings should be paid out of income, and that no borrowing should take place other than, perhaps, borrowing for capital expenditure. If we were doing works of drainage or reclamation, it would be legitimate to borrow. In the year after the next financial year we must have no borrowing for expenditure under ordinary heads. We cannot examine a measure like this simply from the point of view of the old age pensioners and their circumstances. While we cannot afford to neglect this element we cannot act on it entirely, and we cannot have regard to this merely from the point of view of the case that some person with a gift for emotional oratory may put up. We have hard facts to face. We have a definite responsibility, and it is our duty to carry the country through the present financial danger and stress, and put it safely on its feet. For my part, I would be quite willing to acknowledge, if we were out of the difficulties we are in, and if we were in a position to undertake any increase in expenditure, that it is to such a service as this I would like to make the first restoration, if restoration was possible. Meantime, we have to do the necessary thing. By making this cut I believe that we are not actually taking anything at all from the pensioners that would not come off them as a result of our neglect to carry out the economies that are contemplated. I believe the immediate result, following any reluctance to take whatever steps may be necessary to balance the Budget, would be a certain tightening of the purse against us when we came to borrow, which would, of necessity, mean increased taxation and a raising of the cost of living on these old people to an extent that might be greater than the 1s. cut. The members of the Dáil who have already discussed this Bill and voted on it, at any rate on the major proposition in it, understand the matter sufficiently so that I think I need not labour it.

[1265] With regard to the changes in the scale of means, my feeling is that the people whose case is hardest, when you come to make any cuts, are old persons who have no private means whatever, or practically no means, and who exist, or try to exist, on the pension alone. Their case is one on which we must experience a certain feeling of difficulty in deciding to make the change contemplated. However, when we come to deal with those who have a weekly income of 7s., 8s. or 9s., or more, their case is not nearly so hard. It is not proposed, as a result of this change in the scale of means, that there should be any reduction in the rate of pension below the maximum to persons having means not exceeding 7s. a week. Under the scale, a man or woman having 8s. a week, it is contemplated, will get a pension of 8s. If such a person has 9s. weekly, then the pension will be 7s. We feel that the reduction will not bear hardly on the old people. It will mean such a further saving to the Exchequer as will enable us to put out of our minds the question of further cuts in pensions, unless there is some reduction in the cost of living, which nobody contemplates, and which will very clearly indicate that the whole matter was one that might be taken up again. It enables us to say that there would be no question of a further cut of 1s. if the cost of living figure were to go down to 160, and there would be no question of increasing further than the 1s. contemplated the disparity which will exist between the rate of pension of those on the two sides of the Border. The Bill contains certain other changes with regard to the transfer of property.

Mr. WILSON: Information on Richard Wilson Zoom on Richard Wilson Before the Minister passes from that, could he tell us how many persons receiving pensions have no other means of existence?

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe Zoom on Ernest Blythe I could not. There is no means of knowing that, at the present time, without reviewing the whole list of pensions. The only returns we have available are those showing that a person has not means exceeding £26 5s. Those whose means are less than that are simply bulked together, [1266] and probably nearly 20 per cent. of them would have means exceeding 7s. per week. Nothing but a merely rough estimate of it can be given at the present time. Figures would only be available as a result of a review of all the pensions. In any case, I should certainly say that 80 per cent.—it might be more than 80 per cent., but I could not be tied to a figure because there is nothing firm to go on—or the vast majority of the old age pensioners would have 9s. per week, just as the vast majority of pensioners at present have 10s. per week.

At the present time the number of pensioners in receipt of 10s. per week in the Saorstát is 115,215; the number in receipt of 8s., 3,751; the number in receipt of 6s., 4,080; the number in receipt of 4s., 2,004, and then there are 437 in receipt of 2s. The vast majority of the pensioners receive 10s. per week, and of those the great majority would not be affected in any way by the change in the mean scale. Only one-fifth, or less, would be so affected, and they would be people who would compare favourably, even having suffered a further reduction, with the majority of the old age pensioners. So far as we can calculate, the total saving which would be effected by this Bill would be about £500,000. I move the Second Reading of the Bill.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes Zoom on Michael Hayes The question is, that this Bill be read a second time.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson The Minister told us in the last few words of his speech that he has not the figures on which he based the proposed reductions; that in fact, the alterations are rather a “leap in the dark,” quite arbitrary, that he had fixed on retrieving £500,000 from this expenditure, and that he then proceeded to find a way of doing it. I would have liked, and I think the Dáil had a right to demand, that an explanation of this Bill should be given. We are very far from having had any explanation of what the Bill means or what it is designed to achieve, except the bald assurance that it will save on this service, as it is called. £500,000. That, forsooth, towards making the Budget balance! The State [1267] Budget is to balance, and it is left to Providence and the discretion of the old age pensioners as to how their Budget is to balance.

The Bill has been circulated, but I make a guess that not twenty out of the 105 members of the Dáil know what is involved in it or have made any attempt to find out what these old Acts, which are referred to in the Bill provide, or what the actual change is that is contemplated by this Bill. We are in the unfortunate position, by virtue of the defect in the Stationery Department, that access to old Acts referred to in a Bill like this is not easily obtained, and there is quite a considerable delay in getting possession of Acts of the British Parliament which are referred to in Bills presented to the Dáil. I would suggest to Ministers that it is not an unreasonable thing to ask that some explanation should be presented in the printed document of what the references are to old Acts, to which access is not easily obtained. We were told by the Minister some months ago that he was proposing to introduce economies from this service and that he was going to cut down the expenditure by a shilling. In November, he said much the same as he has said to-day. On November 2, he said:—

“The fact must be recognised that the resources of the country are not equal to the present burden of the old age pension charge. The Government, in their desire to extend every consideration possible to the old people affected, are confining their proposal in this matter to the most moderate limit permissible, and accordingly will not ask for a reduction of more than one shilling on the present rate of pension. Legislation on this matter will be introduced almost immediately, and will deal with some points about means and other details, as well as the actual pension rate.”

Everybody interpreted that as meaning that there was to be a 10 per cent. reduction, and the sum of £300,000 was mentioned as approximately the amount of saving that would be [1268] effected—that is, 10 per cent. of the total. But the Bill that is now before us is designed to effect a reduction of half a million—that is, £200,000 more than was generally believed to be the intention. £200,000 more than they were threatened with is to be taken from the old age pensioners, and the method of doing this is not simply a reduction in the amount of the pension of one shilling, or of 10 per cent.

Deputies who have read the Bill and endeavoured to understand it will realise that the cut is to be effected by two stages, and that it deals with persons who are at present in receipt of pensions and those who will come into receipt of pensions after a certain date. After the first appointed day every person entitled to a pension will receive from 1s. to 4s. per week less than he would have had the Bill not been passed; and in many cases the persons who are now qualified to receive pensions will be disqualified from receiving any pension whatever.

This cut is effected first by a reduction in the actual pension, and secondly by a disqualification on account of private means at a lower level than has hitherto prevailed. I would request the attention of the farmer Deputies and gentlemen of the Independent Party and those other Deputies who come from the country to the very much less favourable method of calculating the annual value of property under the Bill. The general effect of this is not a cut of 10 per cent. only but in reality it is a reduction in the standard of living, purchasable by the income of the pensioner by 20 per cent. That is to say where the existing scheme allows of £1 of a total income, the new scheme will allow only 16s. of a total income— in effect a reduction of 20 per cent. in the standard of livelihood of the pensioners. The Minister has made a good deal of reference to the purchasing power of the pensions and the purchasing power of the incomes of the pensioners, and in every case he has followed the bad example of the cost-of-living index figure, which always dates back to 1914. Why does the Minister choose 1914? When he is comparing the pensions and the value of the pensions surely it would have been more [1269] natural to have gone back to the date when the pensions were fixed—1908— the Act came into force in 1909. I submit that in any fair examination of this question we have the right to take the value of 5s., the pension, or the value of the total income allowed under that original scheme—namely, 13s., when making a comparison of the purchasing power of the pension which is proposed. Because bear in mind there was a steady rise in the cost of commodities from 1909 to 1914.

The Minister has pointed out that the increased rate of 10s. was advised by a Committee which reported at the time that the cost-of-living index figure was from 105 to 110 over the July, 1914, figure, and they recommended doubling the pension. The Minister also pointed out that following the fixation of 10s. there was a steady rise in the cost of living, and consequently the pensioners were deprived of some of the advantages due to the lessened purchasing power of their pensions. The Dáil must bear in mind in considering the general conditions in these countries during this time the state of employment, the rates of wages that were ruling, and that every old man or old woman found it far simpler to supplement the pensions then than to-day. Old men and women of the working classes, living with their sons and their daughters, in full work and, indeed, perhaps all the family working, did not feel the effect of a rise in prices upon the pension quite so seriously as the effect would have been at a time when trade was bad and unemployment or short employment was rife. The same applied to pensioners who live in the country districts, and who were able much more easily to supplement the value of their pensions at a time of rising prices in agricultural products than they could to-day.

It is, therefore, necessary to get a true picture to make a comparison of the purchasing power of the pension and of the purchasing power of the pensioners' total income in 1909, with that pension and total income to-day. An examination from that point of view will reveal some very interesting and very important facts from the pensioners point of view. The index figure for household commodities [1270] ordinarily consumed in working class households, that is mainly food, is 207 to-day, as compared with 100 in January, 1909.

For the purpose of this comparison I am going to assume that it is simply double, 100 per cent. increase, as between 1909 and 1924. So that to place a pensioner in an equal position to that in which he found himself in 1909 he should be allowed a total allowance of 26s. instead of, as the Bill proposes, a total income of 16s. We are to satisfy the demands of the public for a decent livelihood for the aged by reducing them in their standard of comfort, from 26s. in 1909 under the British regime to 16s. under the Free State regime in 1924 and 1925. That is what we are paying for freedom. That is what the old age pensioners are paying for freedom. The great majority of pensioners to-day are in receipt of the full 10s. That is to say, out of 125,000 in receipt of pensions, 115,000 are held to have an income of not exceeding 10s, and, therefore, are entitled, if other qualifications allow, to a pension of 10s., making a total income of 20s. It is proposed to reduce that 10s. in all cases to 9s. But within six months we are to have a very great change. We are to have the total income—apart from pensions to be allowed—of 7s., so that the total pension and private income must not exceed 16s. The pensioner who is living entirely, as so many do, upon his pension, will feel the loss of 1s. very severely. Those who have been able to supplement that pension by some charity, perhaps, or by the assistance of relatives who may be able to house them, will, of course, suffer accordingly.

I want to ask the Dáil to consider another class of pensioner—those who have a small income, those who have in the past been virtuous in the way that the Minister for Finance and his colleagues, who preached the virtues of thrift in respect of Savings Certificates a couple of days ago, would have them to be. What is to be the position of the hundreds and thousands of men and women who have attempted in their earlier days to prepare for old age, and to save a few pounds or who purchased an annuity, or bought a house, or paid into Friendly Societies, or paid into [1271] their Trade Unions for superannuation? I want to ask the Dáil what is to be the position of those men who have had the prevision to think of their old age in the way the Minister and his colleagues are now advocating that the present generation should think? Really, when one reads this Bill one sees very little encouragement to the citizen to make provision for his old age, when two days after the advocacy of thrift he is met with the proposal to penalise him for his thrift, and he realises that had he but been foolish enough, or, shall I say, as he might say, as the old man or woman might say, had the country not been as foolish as to cut itself adrift, he would have been looking forward to no penalty whatever for having been thrifty. He would have read the speech of the British Prime Minister in the late Administration, supported by the speech of the Prime Minister in the present Administration in Britain, both agreeing that they will remove the disqualifications at present limiting the amount of the pension to be paid to those who have been thrifty and also have saved something for their old age.

This is the kind of thing we are to be faced with when trying to persuade our people that freedom meant and should mean a better livelihood. The Minister told us, in November, I think, that the old age pension was never intended to be more than a supplement to other income; that it was never intended to be sufficient to provide a livelihood of itself. Well, nobody who has any experience in buying food to-day will expect that even 10s. would provide a means of livelihood. But I want to ask the Dáil to take into consideration those thrifty people who have made some attempt to provide for their declining years, and desire to save themselves from what they thought the opprobrium of pauperism. In 1909 the person who had through superannuation from a Trade Union, or Friendly Benefits an income of 10s. per week, was able under the original Act to obtain a pension of 3s., making a total income of 13s. To equal that 13s. to-day in purchasing power, which the Minister quite rightly emphasises, he would require to have an income of 26s. a [1272] week. If he had at all times been kept abreast of the 1909 standard, he would have required to have 32s. 6d. in 1920. But as has been pointed out, the pensions did not rise concurrently with the cost of living, and, consequently, the pensioner was to that extent the loser, but he was able to bear the loss in most cases easier by virtue of the fact that his friends and relatives were generally in receipt of incomes derived from higher wages and more frequent and more constant employment. I say the thrifty citizen of 1909 still in receipt of 10s. superannuation would now only receive 6s. of pension as the value of the total income has fallen by 39 per cent. It has fallen in its purchasing power from 100 to 61; that is the way we are proposing to make the old age pensioners content with their lot. Well, now take the case of the old man or old woman who thought that he or she was making proper provision for his or her old age by buying a house. Deputy Good will probably be interested in this because it really affects a very large number of his constituents.

Mr. GOOD: Information on John Good Zoom on John Good They cannot afford a house to-day.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson No, the old age pensioners cannot afford a house to-day.

Mr. GOOD: Information on John Good Zoom on John Good Labour is too costly.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson I am dealing with houses that were built when labour was not costly—when labour was cheap, too cheap—and when Deputy Good and his predecessors were able to take advantage of it, but did not. I mean to say they did not take advantage of it in building houses.

Mr. GOOD: Information on John Good Zoom on John Good Do not spoil it.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson Let us take the owner of a house valued at £420. That house would be a very small one to-day. In parenthesis, I would like to know what kind of method of valuation the Minister intends shall be adopted—whether he means a house which might be said to be valued at £420, free to the incoming tenant or purchaser, or a house which has already got an occupant and the income from which is restricted by the Rent Restriction [1273] Act. What is the value of this house property for the purpose of old age pension adjustment? That is by the way. We will assume the house is valued at £420.

Mr. GOOD: Information on John Good Zoom on John Good Not value—cost.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson We are speaking of the value from the point of view of a sale, which, I take it, is the purpose of this Bill. If the Deputy reads the Bill in conjunction with previous Bills he will realise that this is an important point, because the income, for the purpose of adjusting old age pensions, depends upon the amount of private income they receive from house property or any other property. Hitherto that £420 house would be reckoned in this way—£25 will be excluded from consideration; £395 can be reckoned as being divisible by 20; then one-twentieth of £395 will be taken as part of the annual value, and the other £20 would be reckoned as one-tenth, so that a sum of £20 15s. will be reckoned to be the income of the owner of the house, the value of which is £420. That is to say, the pensioner will be presumed to be in receipt of an income of 8s. per week. Up to the present moment that person would have an income from house-ownership of 8s. per week, and a pension of 10s., which would total 18s.

In the future any person arriving at a pensionable age, and in the possession of a £420 house, will be reckoned in an entirely different way. The first £25 will be excluded from consideration, but the remaining £395 will be treated as though one-tenth is income, and not one-twentieth as hitherto. The effect of it is that his income from the house will be reckoned to be worth £39 10s. a year, whereas hitherto it was only £20 15s. As a consequence, the old man or the old woman who has been thrifty and who bought the house for the purpose of providing for old age, is deprived of any pension whatever. I wonder will Deputies believe that is a reasonable state of things to submit to the country. Is that the kind of message you are going to send to those people whom you desire to be thrifty and whom you encourage to buy saving certificates, so that they will have money laid up for their old [1274] age? When they have done so, and when they have taken your advice, the State will then come along and say: “That is enough for you, and we will penalise you and you will be deprived of your pension accordingly.”

If those examples do not persuade the Dáil that this Bill should not have a Second Reading perhaps some consideration of another class who are affected by the Bill will persuade the Dáil. I am speaking now of the aged blind, the blind over fifty years of age—those people who come within the provisions of the Blind Persons Act. This country has been somewhat negligent—very negligent I might say—in regard to the treatment of the blind as compared with the treatment of that same class in England or Scotland. The second part of the Blind Persons Act which enabled —I think even obliged—local authorities to make some provision for the blind has not been put into operation anywhere. Under that Act of 1920 old age pensions were granted at the age of fifty in the case of persons who were so blind as to be unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential.

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Pádraic Ó Maille Zoom on Pádraic Ó Maille at this stage took the Chair.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson That Bill also provided that local authorities were to make arrangements to the satisfaction of the Minister for Health for promoting the welfare of blind persons ordinarily resident within their area. No advantage has been taken of that Act to make provision for the blind—either for their training or for their industrial occupation, and, as a consequence, we have the tragedy of a very large number of blind people supplicating the public for support in a way which is not desired by the blind and not desired by the public. It has been said— with a certain amount of bitterness, no doubt, but with some truth—that if this country really looks upon blind persons and aged persons as a burden hardly to be borne and as a nuisance that ought to be got rid of, the lethal chamber is perhaps the best method of ridding the country of that burden. I say it was said with some bitterness, but the blind people do feel that under the proposals of this Bill there is an [1275] attempt simply to wipe them off the slate and a gesture rather suggesting “we would rather you did not continue to encumber the ground.” The number of blind people is not so great that we ought to proceed by way of cutting down their pensions by this shilling, or if they have any property, cutting down their pensions by more than a shilling. I do not know whether the Minister has considered the financial effects of the provisions of this Bill regarding the blind or whether he has simply put it in without thought. I think that perhaps if the Dáil cannot be moved by reason in this matter, they will have a little pity for the blind and allow that pity to prevail even against the mathematical calculations and the financial necessities of the Minister's case. I can quite understand the Minister looking at rows of figures and rows of figures and considering the necessities of his Department, forgetful of the actual human effects of his proposal.

It is all very well for him to say that the country cannot afford it, and for him to say also that but for the destruction of the last year there might have been an increase of two or three shillings, instead of a decrease. I rather anticipate in the course of this discussion that many Deputies will be inclined to throw the blame for these proposals upon the destruction of the last year or two, but I ask them to look at the facts and figures as presented by the Minister. I think if there will be a careful facing of these facts and figures that the attempt to put the blame upon the destruction is quite unjustified. The Minister may retort and say that even without the destruction, even without the expense upon the State that that destruction has entailed, some reduction of the expenditure would be required, and that as some reductions of expenditure are required the old, aged and the blind must be made to bear an equal share with the rest. Well, if he says that, he is entitled to all the credit he deserves, but in view of the assertions that have been made regarding the responsibility for the cutting down of expenditure in this respect, I am going to ask the Dáil to refer to the revised estimate of revenue and expenditure that was circulated [1276] some few weeks ago. Eliminating entirely a charge upon the Central Fund of £1,400,000 claimed by Great Britain for the adjustment of revenue, eliminating entirely the £8,000,000 for compensation, and cutting down the army expenditure from £10,000,000 to £2,000,000, assuming that £2,000,000 will be a normal expenditure on an army, we find that the expenditure at present rates, which would have occurred in any case, had there been no trouble of any kind, would have amounted to £25,200,000—that, I say, allowing only £2,000,000 for an army and wiping out all claims for compensation. The revenue to meet that, including even this year's revenue which has been so assiduously gathered in, totals £24,761,000—barely a balance. Now, in view of these figures, what is the use of trying to put the blame for this reduction in expenditure upon the destruction campaign of the last two years? Can we not face the facts and say that the hopes, expectations, and the estimates pre-truce have been belied, and that there was no justification for believing that you could reduce the rate of taxation and that you could increase the services and expenditure on the services?

That, I say, is the truth. If you are simply going on in the ordinary method with the collection of revenue and the expenditure, and if there was no justification for our believing that the finances of the country would be on a better scale under self-government, then that can only be justified by some expectation of a new method of taxation, a new method of raising revenue. I trouble the Dáil too often, I am afraid, and I am often ashamed of myself when I realise how much I inflict myself on the Dáil, but often as I do, I am afraid it is very seldom. I try to do what the Minister suggests, not because I would not desire to do it, but because my qualities do not run that way, that is, to try to play upon the feelings of the Dáil. But, if I were able to, I would like to ask Deputies to think of the state of an old man who came into pensionable age, say, in 1908 or 1909, or round about that time, an old man born in the year of revolution, 1848. He grows up, and [1277] his parents, if they survived the famine, or his teacher, taught him something about the views of the Fintan Lalor's and the Mitchell's, and filled him with ideas of what Ireland might become if she were free; he grows to young manhood, and at nineteen years of age he is caught up with the ideas of the Fenians—again the talk of freedom, and what freedom might mean for the people of Ireland. He sorrows at the failures of the Fenians; he lives through the Land League times, and he realises that the Land League agitation, linked up with the Parnellite agitation, all lead to a better life, and a better livelihood for the people. Then, he came to 1916, and he had read what his teachers, Pearse and Connolly, had taught about the desirable things that would happen under freedom. He had for four or five years been in receipt of a 5s. a week pension from the British Government; the execrable British Government had paid him the miserable sum of 5s. a week. “But,” he said, looking back upon the past, “if we had freedom what would it mean? A miserable 5s. a week? No, but a reasonable, decent livelihood. We believe these people mean that freedom would be a better livelihood for the people and for the old aged. They would be honoured and looked upon as people who had given their lives to the service of the State, and they would be honoured in their old age.” In 1919 the First Dáil, a Declaration of Independence, and, accompanying that declaration, an assurance to the people of the country that old age would be honoured, and that children would be the first care. Old age would be honoured, and not treated as something like a burden. Then the chance comes. The opportunity comes to the Dáil, the Parliament House of the new Free State. That freedom which he had dreamed of, and taught to believe in, had been achieved. This thrifty man who had saved a few pounds and bought for himself an annuity, who had subscribed to his trade union superannuation fund and had been entitled to 5s., 6s., 7s., or 10s. a week, finds that this Free State, the new independence, simply means the cutting down of his livelihood to that below the time [1278] when the execrable British Government provided him with 5s. a week pension. That is what the Deputies are asked to subscribe to. This is the first fruit almost, so far as the aged are concerned, of independence, and I say we ought not to support the Government in this proposition. If there is no other way of maintaining the present rate of pensions, then let us rather fulfil our implied obligations to the old aged, even if it is to mean the breaking of some of the Treaty obligations. If you must cut down, if you must save, save on your land purchase annuities, save on some of those obligations to people outside the country if you must. I do not believe it is necessary, I believe we can find ways and means of fulfilling our obligations in that respect; but if everything else fails by all means break those obligations rather than the obligations to the old and the blind, the sick and the poor.

Mr. COLE: Information on John James Cole Zoom on John James Cole In opposing this Bill, I do not wish it to be thought I want to see an increase in rates and taxes. In fact, I would much rather see every avenue explored to find ways and means by which the burden of taxation could be reduced, but, at the same time, I think in introducing this Bill the Minister has started probably at the wrong end. I do not think it is the aged poor he should take first— the genuine old age pensioners. I think he will find it very difficult at the present time to make ends meet. Supposing by the reduction of his pension a man is pressed to apply for admission to the County Home, we could not support him there for the same amount. I do not think it is good economy to do that, because I maintain that the more people you have in a County Home the more officials you will want, and that will mean more expense.

To speak of this as a shilling cut is probably misleading. I will only deal with the two ends of it, so to speak. The 2s. pensioner is deprived altogether of his pension. The 10s. pensioner is reduced by a shilling, but that is on conditions; where formerly the income did not exceed £1 per week the income now must not exceed 16s. Then, if he has still 10s. per week his pension will be reduced by one shilling. In [1279] some cases it will be reduced from 2s. to 3s. Instead of making his first attack on the old age pensioners, would it not be better for the Minister to attack some of the larger establishments? In that way the Minister might produce a certain amount of money, perhaps not so much as is now estimated, but it could have been done without causing any anxiety. The people on whom the axe would fall would not have to consider where their next meal was to come from. The Minister could advance as an argument to people deprived of some of their salaries that it was for the good of the State. He could develop further the arguments used here by the President last week. It is not so easy to do that with the old age pensioners, because many of them are illiterate, and they also cannot understand why their case should be put on the same level. They will also probably tell the Minister that their charge upon the State will probably only be a matter of a few months or a few years, that they have come to the allotted span, and that their time is nearly at an end. I would also say that this is a most inopportune time to suggest this reduction. The last harvest was by no means a good one, and, consequently, home-grown produce is very dear. In fact, I have been trying to persuade the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Agriculture that the potato crop has been practically a failure. If potatoes are not scarce at present it is not by any means because they are over-plentiful, but because they have been saved up and not used for animal feeding. When the seed time comes it is possible that they cannot be had at any price.

It has been stated here frequently that the cost of living is 80 points over the pre-war period. I maintain that it is a great deal more than 80 points, and I do not want to go back as far as Deputy Johnson has gone. I will only go back to 1914. Let us compare the prices then with the prices to-day. Potatoes at that time were from 4d. to 6d. per stone; to-day they are 1s. 6d. in the country districts, and in the city I am sure they are a great deal more. Bacon was 9d. to 10d. per lb; to-day [1280] it is 1s. 6d. A four-pound loaf was 4½d.; to-day it is 9d. Sugar, which was then 2d. per lb., is now 7d. Flour, which was 1s. 6d. per stone, is now 2s. 6d. These prices deal only with the mere necessities for the poor man's table. I am not going into the prices of luxuries, such as tobacco, stout and beer. If I did they would probably show that the increase is a great deal more than 100 per cent. They would probably show that it is 200 per cent. Rents and clothing also have advanced accordingly. Even if the same prices prevailed as when the pension was 5s. these poor people would be still entitled to the 10s. The Minister should have tried every means of reducing the cost of living before he brought forward this Bill.

Might I take this opportunity to protest against the unfair means very often adopted in connection with genuine applications for pension. We all know that it is a very difficult matter for applicants to prove the date of their birth. Although they prove it in an indirect way through school-fellows and others, that evidence very often is not taken. I think there should be more latitude allowed to such applicants. I would again appeal to the Minister to reconsider this Bill. I would also appeal to Deputies, who maintained at the last election that 10s. was not sufficient for these pensioners, and that they should have 15s., to support the opposition to this Bill.

Mr. MORRISSEY: Information on Daniel Morrissey Zoom on Daniel Morrissey The time of this assembly has been largely occupied up to the present in enacting in the name of public safety measures for the destruction of personal liberty. We are now engaged in discussing a Bill designed to reduce poor old people to a lower state of poverty. We are told that we must pass this Bill in the name of economy and that unless we agree to do it the State will drift into bankruptcy, that its financial stability can be secured only by snatching 1s. from the miserable pension of the aged poor. I would like to say to the Government that they are proposing to take from the old people what they never gave them. I ask Deputies to bear in mind that it was the alien Government which has been driven out of this country [1281] that conferred this benefit on the poor old people. The Ministry entitle this measure of spoliation—for they are really despoiling the old people—“a Bill to amend the Old Age Pensions and Blind Persons Acts.” I think they should style it “a Bill to curtail and destroy these Acts,” because that is what it amounts to. It is a confession of hopeless impotence to say that to save the State we must rob and raid the old people who are on the brink of the grave.

The Minister has argued that the old age pensioners are much better off now than they were prior to the increase from 5s. to 10s. per week. That is a puerile argument, and I think I may say that it is even unworthy of an advanced school boy. Our purpose here, I think, should be to improve and not to make worse; and as was held out to the people of this country as the ultimate object of the fight for freedom, to raise up and obtain a better standard of living for the people. The Government policy is progress backwards. Their legislation is designed to add to the misery and to increase the poverty of the people. The Minister and several other members of the Ministry have argued that the mad campaign of violence is responsible. Deputy Johnson, I think, has dealt with that matter sufficiently. I only wish to say that I do not think that plea will be accepted by the people of this country, as the nation, even if it were so, would feel dishonoured that it is the poor old people that should be compelled to pay for the loss and the waste of that campaign. The Minister has also dealt very fully with what is termed the income of applicants for the pension. As this is a matter of vital importance, at least to Deputies on this side, I would like to give an illustration of how income is estimated. Some twelve months ago a poor old man, owing to inability to work, became destitute and had to seek shelter in Nenagh Workhouse. The workhouse was burned some time afterwards by the Irregulars, during the war about words and phrases, and this poor old man was driven out and had no place to shelter him. The Board of Guardians allowed him 9s. a week outdoor relief to enable [1282] him to exist. He then reached the age of 70 years, and made an application for a pension. A pension officer came to make inquiries about his means and how he had existed up to that. The old man told him he was in receipt of 9s. a week outdoor relief, and said he was able to get two or three shillings more from people whose horses he cared, and as charity. The nine shillings weekly and the two or three shillings that he said he got for charity were estimated by the officer as income, and the old man got a pension of 8s. a week instead of 10s., notwithstanding the fact that the 9s. he had from the Board of Guardians as outdoor relief, ceased when he reached the age of 70. That is how some of the incomes the Minister speaks of are estimated by some of his officials and pension officers. We, on this side, desire economy. We desire economy of the right kind. We do not desire economy that means more want and more misery for the poor. The opponents of the Ministry, and not a few of the friends of the Ministry, have robbed banks, post offices and private citizens, but now the Ministry, through the process of law, propose to rob and raid the meagre State incomes of the poor. They are going to do a meaner thing than the bank robber, as they are going to take the pennies from the blind man's hat. That is what it amounts to, the most despicable kind of robbery that was ever known. We hear the cry. “We must balance our Budget.” Certainly, I say it would be better to leave your Budget unbalanced and better increase your taxation—it would even be better for the Ministry to go out altogether—than to proceed under this Bill to despoil the poor people. If they persist with it, this Government will be execrated in the country.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis Zoom on Darrell Figgis Last November the Minister for Finance announced his intention of effecting certain cuts. Two cuts were mentioned at that time. This is one of them. He then said the cuts were necessary in order that Budget equilibrium might be achieved. It was conspicuous that every person who spoke in the debate that followed his statement on that [1283] occasion agreed with him in this, that it was of the very first importance to this country, especially then, as it was about to undertake the issue of a loan, that such equilibrium should be maintained. There seemed to be at that time a note struck that it was a little unfortunate that the Ministry should have first struck at the old age pensioner. I spoke then and said I was opposed to that course. This Bill has now been put forward presumably to implement the intention then announced. I am moved to protest quite formally because it does not implement that intention only but carries that intention to a further point. The Minister stated that he intended a 10 per cent. reduction on the old age pensions. That is to say, taking the Estimates of last year, an amount of money equivalent to £360,000 was to be saved in the expenditure of the forthcoming year. The Minister has announced to us that under the provisions of this Bill the actual saving will be not £360,000, but £500,000. There has been a change of intention. If it were unfortunate before that there should be any necessity for his original intention so much the greater is the pity that that intention should have become so far widened and so far broadened that we are now getting not a ten per cent. reduction but a reduction considerably higher than ten per cent.

The Minister announced in his opening speech to-day that the change in the scale of means as embodied in this Bill will achieve over and above the ordinary ten per cent. reduction such further economies as would amount to something in the nature of £150,000. I assume from the scanty figures accessible that to be the sum achieved by these economies in the change in the scale of means. In addition to an ordinary cut, such as was announced last November, we have now further cuts under this Bill bringing the sum up to that larger figure. I said then, and I say again, that I do not believe that the figures which have been available would be the figures put before the Dáil if the original Acts were administered as [1284] they might have been administered. I leave out the question of the £500,000 now announced. I keep myself to the original intention of the Minister to achieve a saving of £360,000 by an ordinary 10 per cent. cut, and I say that if the original Acts, without being amended at all in legislative form, had been administered as they might have been administered and might still be administered, greater economies might have been effected than were effected in the past—economies that might amount to the greater part of the sum announced by the Minister as being his intention to save last November. The Minister knows, in his experience as Minister for Local Government, that he has already instituted such changes of administration in the Local Government Department as to achieve a very considerable saving in the estimate of expenditure submitted last year. We have not got the new estimates for the coming year yet, but I venture to say —I put this forward rashly in the spirit of prophecy—that when we do get the new estimates we will find that the estimates calculated for the past year were very considerably larger than the actual expenditure in connection with old age pensions—that because of tighter, closer and juster administration. I believe that that course of administration could have been carried still further, and further economies effected, without doing the injury that the economies announced and presaged in this Bill will affect. Very deep injury will be done by them. The Minister and every Deputy here knows in his own part of the country instances of men who are in receipt of old age pensions who are not in urgent need of the money. I will not say that if the State were in more affluent circumstances than it is it might not be desirable that they should continue to receive these pensions, but they are not urgently needed. Deputies know instances of men who, when they pass the age of 70, having farms of quite decent size, passed these farms over to their sons, and who are now without visible means. They are without visible means to the extent that their children could put them out to-morrow if they so desired, and they are receiving certain [1285] pensionable sums because they are past the age of 70.

It is within the knowledge of Deputies that some such persons spend the moneys they receive not in the way of ordinary livelihood, but mainly in the way of luxuries. Once a farmer described the pension to me as “the old man's tobacco allowance.” Now, it would be a pity if that had to be cut, but if we are pressed to the necessity of effecting savings, administration could effect those savings more justly than an all-round cut of 10 per cent. from many persons whose only means of subsistence is the 10s. per week that they receive. I should wish there were some Deputies here now who are absent at the moment. I happen to know very well the circumstances at the present moment in which the people are living in the West of Ireland. I know cases where the potato harvest of last year has given out completely. The last of the potatoes were consumed in cases within my own knowledge a fortnight ago, and the people over 70 years, in receipt of 10s. per week, with just a small plot of land that would have given them just sufficient potatoes to see them round until the next harvest, are living on what is known in that part of Ireland as “dried chuck,” or dried bread. That dried bread was purchased with the 10s. per week pension, and it is that dried bread that will be cut as a result of this Bill. The Minister has admitted that part of the case. He has stated quite frankly that a 10 per cent. cut in respect of persons who only get the 10s. and have no other means of subsistence, does much graver injury than in the case of other persons. Having admitted that, it seems to me he has admitted the case I am putting forward, that this is not a time or an occasion for a legislative change. It is an occasion admittedly, for a sharper and stronger administration of the Acts that prevailed up to this moment, that prevail now, and that will prevail until this Bill passes, if it does pass.

We desire that there should be considerable economy effected. The Minister has given us very interesting figures here to-day. He told us that there are 115,215 persons in receipt of the entire 10s. a week. That is to say, [1286] that of the entire estimate of last year for the current year of £3,600,000, nearly £3,000,000 is absorbed by persons who receive the whole amount of 10s., leaving only a comparatively small amount for all the other cases. Therefore, first attention should be given to those persons who are receiving the whole amount of 10s. Before any attempt was made to change the state of the law, surely the Minister should have been in a position to tell us exactly how many of those persons in receipt of 10s. have no other means than the 10s. That information was asked for, and the Minister said he was not able to provide it. Surely that piece of information is the first piece of information the Dáil should have been put in possession of in arguing the necessity for such a Bill as this. The Dáil should know how many persons of the 115,215 who get the whole sum of 10s. have nothing else to look to for their livelihood. I know such cases in the West. Three or four of them occur to my mind—old men and old women— who have nothing in the world to look to but this 10s.

How they manage to eke out an existence from one Friday to the next Friday, walking in many cases many miles to the Post Office to get their weekly sum, and having nothing else to look to, I do not know, and how they will be able to manage when one-tenth of their entire livelihood is taken away I cannot imagine. The Minister may say, I wonder if he would, that there are not many such. But he cannot say it, because he was asked how many, and he told us the statistics were not in his possession, or, at least, if they were in his possession in his office they were not in his possession here, and the House could not get the advantage of them. I would like to think of the remarkable effect there would be if persons of this kind were to be gathered together in meetings in different parts of the country. I would like to see what the effect would be if these old people who are now receiving 10s. a week, and have nothing else to look forward to, had announced to them that one-tenth of their livelihood was to be taken away, and were then informed that a new plan of campaign was being established with a view to thrift. They, at [1287] any rate, have imposed upon them enforced thrift to the tune of one tenth of their livelihood.

I do believe that this is a wrong Bill, and an impolitic Bill at the present time. I do urge that there is no need for legislative change in this matter. There was need, and there is need for economy, but the greater part of the economy that was desired could have been achieved, I believe, by administration tightened up, and a great part of the economy has already been achieved with administration tightened up. I await with a great deal of interest the figures of the exact amount of money expended in the current financial year in respect of Old Age Pensions, in order that that amount may be contrasted and compared with the figures of the estimates of last March. I believe the economy has been effected by the tightening up of administration, and I believe that greater economy still could be effected. I do not pretend, for one moment, that the entire sum of £360,000, mentioned at first, much less the half a million mentioned now, could be achieved by administrative tightening up; but I believe that economy could have been effected on such a scale as would have been quite sufficiently effective as savings in regard to Old Age Pensions, so that the axe, to use the metaphorical expression, might be turned towards other quarters, and savings effected in other places. I have never voted against a proposal to bring in a Bill except in this one case, when I opposed the First Reading of this Bill. I am feeling already sorry that I did so, because having seen the Bill, I am glad that I have seen it, and yet sorry that I have seen it, because this Bill is not an implementation of the Minister's intention of last November—it is a great deal more. It is a much more radical legislative change. I do not think that the economy that was desired in respect of Old Age Pensions was a matter for legislation at all, but rather for administration. On these grounds mainly I shall oppose the Second Reading of this Bill.

Mr. SEAN LYONS: Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons There is one thing that the old people may be thankful for, and that is in his explanation [1288] the Minister has announced that it is not his intention in six months' time to reduce their pensions by another shilling. The question of raising this £300,000 for the relief of the Exchequer and to save taxation from being increased may certainly have been necessary, but it is most unnecessary that the saving of this money should be achieved by a reduction in old age pensions, and it is most objectionable that the money saved in this way should go to pay compensation to ex-R.I.C. men and to go to pay pensions for the Army under the Act of 1923. To my mind, and I am sure every other Deputy would be of the same opinion, it is quite wrong to take from the parent in order to give to the child. If one of these old age pensioners was in a position that he was able to work and earn 32s. a week and that that amount was going into the house, that would debar the other from receiving the old age pension. I should like for a moment to mention one particular case that came under my notice. It was the case of a person who was 73 years of age who was refused the pension on the ground that the Government had already granted the pension to another. In this case that I have in mind the local Committee granted the pension; it was sanctioned by the officer in the town of Athlone, Mr. McGuirk, but the Government turned it down. The only proof of age that could be got in the case was from the books in the national school, where this old age pensioner went to school in his youth. The Government were invited to inspect the books, but still they turned down the pension. Now, why this particular case was turned down I cannot say, because twelve months ago a pension was granted when the proof of age was exactly the same, the only evidence being from this national school. That particular pension was not granted by the local committee nor by the pension officer of Athlone, but notwithstanding that some friend of the pensioner working in some Government office succeeded in getting the pension granted to him.

It has been suggested that this saving had to be made. Some Deputies argued that the method adopted here amounted to robbery. Deputy Morrissey [1289] put forward that argument from the Labour benches, and I quite agree with him. I do not know whether the Minister for Home Affairs when he gets his Public Safety Act will prosecute and punish the Minister for Finance for these acts which he is committing against the old age pensioners.

You have to-day passed a Bill, the Public Safety Bill, to put an end to this sort of thievery, which is worse than robbery. It would be better for the Minister for Finance to send some of the officials, employed in the Old Age Pension Offices, down the country, and instruct them to go, masked, into the houses of the old age pensioners at night, bring them out and shove them out of sight into the nearest bog-hole. It would be much better to do that than have them in a state of semi-starvation for the rest of their lives. I am sure there are some sensible people on the Government Benches, but the Deputies on the Government Benches are only acting as pieces of machinery. As soon as the time comes to put this to a vote, all that is necessary is to press a button, the machinery revolves, and these Deputies automatically come back. They have not heard one word for or against the Bill; they are simply told how to vote, and they vote accordingly. If there is a soldier or any man who went out as an officer in the National Army and got wounded, I doubt very much if such a man would accept a pension under the recent Act if he knew it was to be raised in the manner in which the money is to be raised by reducing these pensions. This wounded soldier receives a few shillings pension, but he would not accept them if he knew these few shillings were deducted from the stingy allowance given to the old age pensioners, especially when he remembers that these old age pensioners are the people who were primarily responsible for giving him the pension that he received. I do not think any man who was a fighter, and these men who were wounded must have been fighters, would accept a pension under such conditions. It would be better for him to do what a lot of them have done and go into the workhouse, or, as more of them have done, become dependents on the St. Vincent [1290] de Paul money, awaiting such time as the Ministers for Finance and Defence or the Government think fit to have their cases investigated and gone into with a view to giving them something for their services to the State.

There is one suggestion I offer to the Minister, and I rather think that Deputy Gorey will agree with me. It is this: It has been the custom here in Ireland, perhaps, to be against what I am going to suggest. Some time ago, before the National Health Scheme was introduced, everyone throughout the country was against it. Still, it became law, and it is law at present. I consider it would be much better for the Minister for Finance to consider, before introducing this Bill, whether it would be possible to introduce some Bill that would compel every citizen from eighteen to sixty to pay a penny a week towards a contribution for the old age pensions. The Minister could get a great deal more money in that way than by reducing the pensions. Then we would find all the Deputies on the Government Benches, on the Farmers' Benches, and on the Labour Benches would be in favour of it.

Mr. CORISH: Information on Richard Corish Zoom on Richard Corish And the Independents?

Mr. LYONS: Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons There is one Independent, at all events, here, who would support that measure.

Mr. P. HOGAN (Clare): Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Bring in a Private Bill.

Mr. LYONS: Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons You could, possibly, not alone give ten shillings a week to an old age pensioner of seventy, but fifteen shillings a week to an old age pensioner of sixty-five if the Bill that I suggest were passed. The State would not be losing anything by it. The money would be there. I will enlighten Deputy Gorey's curiosity as to how that problem could be solved. Then, if it is possible that my suggestion will be accepted by the Minister, I hope those Deputies will be there to carry it into law. Now I do not like the idea of having the aged man or woman dependent upon the few shillings a week applying for admission to the County Homes. The Minister for Local Government has already deprived [1291] some of those aged poor of shelter. He has amalgamated the workhouses, and now comes along ——

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin To starve them.

Mr. LYONS: Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons Worse than starve them. He crucifies them. By the amalgamation of the workhouses these people have to travel thirty or forty miles, and this means that they cannot go there at all, and so are deprived of shelter. Now the few shillings they get are cut down. I trust that the Deputies on the Government Benches will not vote for this reduction. I know some of them who have not heard anything said for or against it will come here in a few minutes time and vote for the reduction. That is not right. I know the Deputies are voting against their own consciences. The true opinion of the Dáil could be got by taking off the Government Whips and having a free vote. In that way the Deputies on the Government Benches would be saved from committing a sin. If they commit that sin I am afraid they will never get forgiveness, no matter what penances they undergo.

PADRAIG O hOGAIN (An Clár): Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Ba mhaith liomsa ana-chuid do rádh ar an gceist seo, mar 'sí ceist na ndaoine gcoitchiannta, ceist na seandaoine atá scaipithe ar fud na tíre, agus ná bhfuil i ndán ar aon rud do dhéanamh dóibh féin. 'Sí ceist na ndaoine bochta atá. i gach árd na tíre ag déanamh a ndithcheall iad féin do choimead beóo ar na cúpla scillingibh sa tseachtmhain atá le fagháil ó'n Riaghaltas.

Tá riaghlú an tsaoghail le fada an lá fé dream áirithe—'said lucht airgid agus lucht saidhbhris. Agus tá greim daingean ag an ndream san ar saothar na tíre. Cuireann said úalach mór trom ar na daoinibh coitchionnta agus coimeádann siad dóibh féin an cuid is mó agus an cuid is fearr de thoradh obair na ndaoine mbocht.

Cad is riaghaltas ann? Ba cheart dúinn feuchaint isteach ar sin. Níl aon saoghal ag an bhfear oibre. Níl aon saoirse ag an bhfear oibre. Níl aon uain aige; agus níl aon mhaoin aige ar oileamhaint fhoghanta do chur ar [1292] féin ná ar a chlann. Níl aon ghreim aige ar talamh na tíre, na ar aon coir a mbainfeadh amach saidhbhreas dó féin. Níl le díol aige ach a chuid nirt, agus nuair go bhfuil sé sin caithte, caithfeadh sé brath ar an Riaghaltas.

Agus deirtear go bhfuil Riaghaltas na nGall imthighthe, agus gur Riaghaltas Gaodhalach atá againn anois. B'fheidir; ach pé riaghaltas atá againn, tá eagla orm go bhfuil greim daingean ag dream an airgid ar an Riaghaltas atá againn indiu, comh daingean, agus níos daingne, ná a bhí riamh ar Riaghaltas na nGall.

Tá aon rud amháin cinnte—tá rud ceapaithe ag an Riaghaltas so nar cheap Riaghaltas na nGall riamh; 'sé sin daoine bochta na tíre seo do chur chun bháis.

I do not know whether I should express sympathy more than anything else with the Minister for Finance. He has fathered a dirty job this evening, and I am sure that if he were free to express himself, he himself would say the same thing. No man with any conscience can say that the old people of the country, who have been broken on the social system at present existing, should be cast to the wolves in their old age. I do not know on what basis the Minister for Finance has proceeded, or on what figures he has made his calculations. I should like to enlighten him a little on some matters, and the manner in which I would like to enlighten, is this: I would put a market basket on his arm and send him out to purchase the necessaries with ten shillings.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin Nine shillings.

Mr. HOGAN: Very well, but I would even let him have the ten shillings. I would give him the other bob for him self and let him see what he could do with it. The Minister for Local Government has set up a purchasing department and therein he buys wholesale. I would suggest to the Government that he would also set up a food department and purchase wholesale even, and then you could observe how far nine shillings would go in order to keep a man in existence and keep body and soul together. Does the Minister know that butter is 2s. 4d. a lb., that bacon is [1293] 1s. 8d., that tea is 3s. 6d., and that sugar is 8d.? Is he aware of all these things, and has he made any calculations of that sort before he came into the Dáil to ask Deputies to pass a sentence of death upon the old age pensioners of the country? No Deputy that I have listened to so far has made any suggestion, although the matter has been touched upon from every conceivable angle. I should like to make a few suggestions to the Minister for Finance as to where he might be able to effect retrenchments. Retrenchment is a polite term for reductions, and there is another word starting with an “R.” that has its own meaning. I would like to make a few suggestions. First of all, let me say that I have been upstairs trying to understand some of the magic figures we find in the list of estimates in the reading room. I find therein that for a mysterious service called “secret service” £50,000 has been allocated. What in the name of goodness do we do with that? Do we send one band of men out looking for another band, or has some of the £50,000 gone to pay men who were watching Deputy Figgis on the lobby a few days ago and who wanted to see who he had a conversation with? Perhaps it was used on foreign secret service for the purpose of watching the peregrinations of Mussolini or Trotsky, or some other people, for the benefit of those people who did not yesterday like the colour of the flag that floats over Moscow? There is possibly another thing that the money might be used for. Do the Government imagine that Deputy O'Connell is drilling an army amongst the national teachers in order to make a raid on the Treasury, and are detectives being put into every national school in the country to see that this thing is not carried on? Do they anticipate a flying column of old age pensioners will bear down upon the Minister for Finance and take him away to some unknown destination? Possibly that is how the £50,000 are expended.

There is another service that I should like to know something in regard to, and why some reduction should not be made from it instead of from the allowances made to the old age pensioners. [1294] I refer to the £60,000 estimated for External Affairs. What service does the country get for that? What is the return for this extraordinary expenditure? What has there been done in the matter of trade and what is there to show the necessity and the usefulness of this Ministry? Now, I come to another service which, I suppose, is particularly useful, interesting and nice to those people who retain certain mediaeval ideas. I refer to the institution up in the Phoenix Park, in regard to which there has been an allowance for a household staff of £5,545.

Mrs. COLLINS-O'DRISCOLL: Information on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Zoom on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll On a point of order, are we discussing the estimates or the question of old age pensions?

Mr. HOGAN: I am endeavouring to point out where retrenchments might be made.

Mrs. COLLINS-O'DRISCOLL: Information on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Zoom on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll I submit that that is not the question under discussion; the question is not one of retrenchment.

Mr. HALL: Information on David Hall Zoom on David Hall I would like to ask the ruling of the Chair on the point that the question before the Dáil at the moment is the question of the best possible means of economy.

Mrs. COLLINS-O'DRISCOLL: Information on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Zoom on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll I submit that that is not the question before the Dáil.

Mr. HOGAN: Am I in order to proceed?

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Pádraic Ó Maille Zoom on Pádraic Ó Maille I take it that the Deputy is in order in making a passing reference to these things. He must remember, however, that the estimates were discussed before. He is in order to refer to them, but he must not develop the point.

Mr. HOGAN: With all respect, I am endeavouring to point out that economies might be effected in other directions as well as the direction in which the Minister has gone. I bow to your ruling, but I think that I am perfectly in order in developing the subject. I was referring, when I was interrupted, to an institution in the Phoenix Park, and which belongs more to mediæval [1295] times than to the present, and I was pointing out that £5,545 were spent on the household staff; £3,000 were spent in general expenses, and in purchasing and equipping motor cars £1,783 were expended; telegraphs and telephones were put down at £940. I submit there is room for economy there, and if we are in earnest in this matter of economy and if we mean to run the State on economic lines, let us take parallels. If the President of the Executive Council, who is the first citizen of the State, is able to maintain the honour and dignity of his position on one-quarter of what the Governor-General receives, why should there not be a reduction in the Governor-General's allowance—that is if we can get away from the idea of ready-made kings and shop-soiled royalty? The last occupant of that place was, I understand, a gentleman who had notions of what was good for him and his health, and I find that to repair the place and make it fit for the present occupant, £5,000 was spent. That was spent in repairing furniture for the official residence.

Mrs. COLLINS-O'DRISCOLL: Information on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Zoom on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Again on a point of order, is that a passing reference?

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin I submit that it is the duty of every Deputy to point out to the Minister for Finance where economies can be effected.

Mr. HOGAN: I am glad that the individual whom I am bringing before the Dáil has such an able and eloquent defender.

Mrs. COLLINS-O'DRISCOLL: Information on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Zoom on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Oh, certainly not. I leave the ability and the eloquence to you.

Mr. HOGAN: Is the Deputy allowed to speak while sitting down?

Mrs. COLLINS-O'DRISCOLL: Information on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Zoom on Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll I stand to my point of order, and still maintain that the Deputy is not in order.

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Pádraic Ó Maille Zoom on Pádraic Ó Maille I would remind the Deputy that it would be better for him to be rather brief, as we have exceeded the time at which we should adjourn.

[1296]Mr. HOGAN: I am afraid, sir, I have irritated some quarters of the Dáil, and, therefore, I think I am within my rights in asking you to allow me to move the adjournment until seven o'clock, and resume the discussion when the adjournment is over.

Agreed.

The Dáil adjourned at 6.10 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m. An Ceann Comhairle in the Chair.

PADRAIG O hOGAIN (An Clár): Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Nuair a labhras ar dthús, dubhras cúpla focal nach raibh cuid de na daoinibh atá annso sásta leis, acht ba mhaith liom congnamh do thabhairt do'n Aire ar mo dhoigh fhéin.

I rise in a rather chastened mood. I made reference to some things to which perhaps some people took exception, but if I am not to help the Minister in the way in which I am sure the Minister in the desires, namely, to find out channels wherein expenditure may be curtailed, then is the Minister sincerely in earnest in asking the Dáil to find out these avenues? I will not, therefore, dwell in detail on any of these things, but I will try, in a general way, to express my opinion of what I consider is the considered opinion of the majority of the common people of the country in regard to the proposed cut in old age pensions. It has been said that we have succeeded in getting rid of the foreigner. We have. We have a national flag, a National Army, a national Parliament, and a national system of education, but we have, unfortunately, a national old age pension, and it differs entirely from the international old age pensions which these people had before this cut was introduced. If the result of the declaration of national independence and the retention of our national status is to reduce the conditions of the poorest in the State, then we may well inquire whether the freedom we have won is worth the sacrifices that were made for it, because in the last analysis, freedom is the condition of living and the prosperity that the poorest in the State enjoy. What have they gained by it? They cannot exist on national flags, on national parliaments, on national [1297] armies, but they have to come down to the mundane things of bread and butter, and if the Minister for Finance thinks that these poor people, who have also made their sacrifices for the country, can exist on that, then I think that he is far removed from the actualities of life as they exist at the moment in this country.

Mr. WILSON: Information on Richard Wilson Zoom on Richard Wilson I just want, in as few words as possible, to explain and give reasons for the vote which we, on these benches, will give in connection with this Bill. We realise very keenly indeed that the oldest people in the State are not, or ought not, to be the persons on whom the first blow of the Minister's axe should fall, but we also realise that unless the expenditure of this State is kept within the revenue a greater injustice will be done to the old age pensioner. As the Minister for Finance has so well pointed out, if the Budget is not balanced, the 10s. will not be worth as much as the 9s. will be if we cannot control our expenditure. You remember what the President said the other day, namely, that out of the total income of this State, three services practically took up a half of it. These three services are, education, old age pensions and superannuation.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin What about the Army?

Mr. WILSON: Information on Richard Wilson Zoom on Richard Wilson The teachers have already been reduced, and it is proposed to reduce the old age pension under this Bill, but the superannuation clause, being portion of a bargain, cannot be touched, and I would direct the attention of members to where the axe can be laid, where you will be able to effect an economy with little hardship. I contend, and it has not been seriously questioned, that 9s. a week now is worth 10s. two years ago, and it is for these reasons that the farmers on these benches are going to vote with the Government. After all, it would be much easier for us, who are for the most part country men, to come here and play to the gallery and say that we oppose this cut. It would bring us more popularity, perhaps, but there are other things which come before popularity and one of them is the proper regulation of our affairs, so that the State credit will be kept right and that we [1298] will be able by proper economies to run the country as it ought to be run. Services exist, particularly the police force, which ought to be reduced, and I believe the Minister has it in his mind to reduce the cost of those services. Looking over the whole gamut of expenses of the country, I fail to see where the three millions are going to be found, and while it is against our very nature to be harsh with the aged poor, still, under the circumstances and having regard to the fact that 9s. is now worth as much as 10s. was two years ago, we will be forced to support the Government.

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony I know that in supporting the proposals of the Government I am not filling what would be a popular role in the country, but this is a matter upon which I am not disposed to give a silent vote. Like Deputy Wilson, I feel called upon to give my reasons for supporting a cut that none of us desires should be put into operation, but which force of circumstances will compel us to do. In the debate hitherto there has been a careful avoidance as to the reason why this uncomfortable duty has been placed on the shoulders of the Minister for Finance. The suggestion has been made that the Executive Government is responsible for the cut in the old age pensions. I say saddle the right horse with the responsibility. No cut would be necessary in the old age pensions but for the senseless, wanton and universal destruction that this country has suffered during the last two years.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson Did you read the estimates?

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony I read the history not of yesterday, but the history of the two years that has produced the conditions I am dealing with now.

A LABOUR DEPUTY: England was at war for five years and did not reduce the pension.

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony Look at the estimates for this year. Deputy Hogan drew attention to some figures, and I will draw attention to some others. You will find in those estimates a sum of over £11,000,000 as the first instalment and the first item of responsibility on [1299] the part of a nation to make good the destruction of life and property during that period.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson Not paid for out of revenue.

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony Look at the estimates and you will also find a sum of considerably over £11,000,000 set aside for the maintenance of an army that was brought into being solely as a result of that disturbance. This is a small country of less than three millions of a population with exceedingly limited resources when those resources are compared with those of other countries. You find in the first year of its existence a sum of over £22,000,000 in the estimates, not for the purpose of development, not for the purpose of increasing old age pensions, not for the purpose of creating industries, not for the purpose of supporting the activities of trade, but to make good the wanton, malicious damage that has been done to the country with the sole object of preventing the Government that is functioning and that has been created by the will of the people from being established. One would imagine that the dispenser of wealth is scattering gold all over this country and that we were living in an El Dorado.

I will direct the attention of the Dáil to the very comprehensive statement made by the Minister for Finance last November. He did not deal with the question of economy as limited only to the sums he could save by reason of the cut in the teachers' salaries, or by reason of the cut in the old age pensions; he pointed out that he anticipated a deficit in the current year's Budget, and also that having considered the available sources of revenue for the coming year, and the expenditure that would almost certainly be associated with the maintenance of public services, he anticipated a further deficit of, I think, £2,000,000. These were the two items upon which he could make a definite estimate as regards economy, and the estimate he made on that occasion provided only something like one-third of the deficit he anticipated in the coming year's Budget. The balance must come from [1300] somewhere else. Deputies up to this have been critical. Nobody has suggested, so far, with the exception of Deputy Morrissey, where this balance is to come from. In fact Deputy Morrissey and others go further, and suggest that added to the balance should be the proposed saving on old age pensions. Deputy Morrissey suggested increasing taxation in the country, increasing taxation in a country that is already over-taxed, a country that has exceedingly limited resources, and that has to carry a burden of debt at the outset of its existence, that has mortgaged almost a generation ahead the generous resources that might have been applied to some useful purpose.

Let us take a comparative survey as to what old age pensions cost in England, and what they cost in Ireland. I will again quote from the statement of the Minister for Finance in November last. Scotland, in the year 1920-1921, had a revenue of very nearly £120,000,000. In the same year Scotland disbursed on old age pensions less than 2½ million pounds. The revenue of Ireland for the same year was something like 48 million pounds—nearly 49 million pounds—and Ireland dispensed nearly 4½ million pounds. With little more than one-third of the revenue of Scotland, it distributes nearly twice the amount in old age pensions. Let us measure it another way. The population of Great Britain—England and Scotland—is about ten times that of the total population of Northern Ireland and the Saorstát. But England and Scotland combined have only five times the number of old age pensioners. I can understand the difference. The difference is the legacy of British misrule and of the famine years, in association, I take it, with the healthier conditions under which an Irishman lives. Whilst I can understand the difference, it goes to show that under existing circumstances this country is maintaining twice the number of pensioners at twice the cost, and with only a very small fraction of the resources of these countries. So that in existing circumstances the burden of Ireland for this particular service is immensely more than that of the neighbouring countries.

[1301] I will bring the question down to the Free State position. As I said, in 1920-21 we paid nearly £4,700,000 out of a revenue of nearly £49,000,000 for the whole of Ireland. During the present year the Free State is paying £3,277,000 out of an estimated revenue of 24¾ millions. That is, the whole of Ireland in 1920-21 spent about one-eleventh of its resources in old age pensions, and the Free State to-day is spending about one-eighth of its resources—a considerable increase in a few years. No one, therefore, can suggest that up to the present anything in the nature of hardship has resulted, as has been suggested by Deputies, from the Free State administration. The Budget must be balanced. Deputy Figgis, I think, suggested it should be done by administrative tightening. Immediately afterwards, however, he admitted that the administrative tightening had already been done by the Minister for Finance with beneficial results, but not with results sufficient to cover the gap in revenue that he has to deal with. It is necessary that he must balance his books. What will be the result of failing to balance his books? Supposing the Minister for Finance had not addressed himself to the question of economy in any direction, he would find himself possibly at the end of next year with an accumulated deficit of over three million pounds, and if he continued he would find the following year a deficit of five million pounds. In the very near future he would find that for those two particular services, education and old age pensions, a cut, not such as he suggests to-day, but a cut which would substantially reduce the amount allocated to those services, would be imposed upon him.

I was very pleased to hear the remarks of Deputy Johnson respecting thrift, and the position of persons who, by reason of economy and the denial to sthemselves, possibly, of many little luxuries, might become possessed of houses or of property of some kind. The Deputy was not so keen about this some time ago when dealing with the question of railway shareholders, many of whose incomes are derived solely from those shares. He had no hesitation, [1302] then, in suggesting the commandeering at fifteen years' purchase of their interest in the railways.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin Was that commandeering?

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony I look upon it as such. It is not what I call absolute, but relative commandeering. The Deputy stated that the owner of such a house—unless I misunderstood him— would under the provisions of this Bill have one-tenth of the estimated value of the house assessed as his income. I do not know whether I understood the Deputy rightly, but that was the impression I got from what he said. The Bill does not provide for that.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson Perhaps the Minister will tell the Deputy whether it does or not.

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony I will read the Section, and that will make it quite clear:

This section shall not apply to a calculation of the means of any person who became, before the passing of this Act, entitled to receive an old age pension.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson That is exactly what I said, that this calculation applies to those coming into a pension after the passing of this Bill.

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony I am in agreement with that. The effect of the Deputy's statement on me, and I think on Deputies generally, was that that deduction applied to old age pensioners generally, whereas the Bill specifically provides that anybody, not alone in enjoyment of a pension, but entitled to enjoy a pension before this Bill comes into being, is not subject to that penal deduction. Everyone will see that the appeal that was made in the Dáil in November last to the Minister for Finance, that all-round deductions should be effected, has already been acted upon. Readers of to-day's newspapers will find that both the D.M.P. and the Civic Guard are to have reductions made in their pay. Substantial reductions also have been made in the army estimates. Governmental staffs have had their hours increased to the limit that the Minister for Finance was able to fix without contravening the Treaty. [1303] I have dealt with the main factor that is going to determine the action of the supporters of this Bill, and that is, that there is a substantial shortage of national finances, and that that shortage has to be met. Hitherto, no practical suggestions have been made as to how it is to be met. No counter-proposals have been suggested, though this matter was mooted as far back as November last. I anticipate that from election platforms we shall have the supporters of the Republican candidates denouncing the Government because the Government is made the medium through which the country has to pay for their destruction.

I know it will be actively used. I know that every supporter of the Government throughout the country will be subjected to adverse criticism because they support the proposals in this Bill. I regret, as every Deputy who will support the Bill regrets, that necessity compels us to do so. Undoubtedly abuses existed in the past in connection with old age pensions. Many people, by reason of their means, were in receipt of pensions to which they were not entitled. I trust that a combing out will apply to these cases and that only those who have a valid claim upon the resources of the nation will be left upon the Register. I hope as a result of that legitimate combing out, the Minister may find himself in the position of replacing, in the case of those who have no other means of support, or with relatively small means, the cut he will be compelled to make.

PADRAIG MAG UALGHAIRG: Information on Patrick Joseph McGoldrick Zoom on Patrick Joseph McGoldrick Tá eagla orm nach as ucht a gcroidthe atá Teachtaí na Dála ag cuidiú leis an Bhille seo. Isé a deirfidh na daoine ar fuid na tíre ná: “Muna bhfuil aon tslighe chun airgead a fháil ach amháin ó'na phinsinéirí sean-aoise, is olc ar fad an sceul é.” Admhuighim go bhfuil brígh san argoint sin. Ach mar sin féin, d'aontuigh siad leis an tairsgint seo i mí na Samhna seo tharainn. Cuireann sé i gcuimhne dom an tseansgeul i dtaobh an úain agus na gaoithe. Gídh go bhfuil an Rialtas a leigint orra go bhfuil siad mar an uan sa sgeul, cha saoilim gur mar sin atá siad, nó go bhfuil aon chosamhlacht eatorra.

[1304] In the first place I wish to say that I am in agreement with Deputy Johnson on two points which he put forward in relation to Bills in general. When reference is made to an Act which is to be repealed or superseded the special terms of that Act should be embodied in a communication and sent with the Bill to Deputies. I think that should be made a general principle when these Bills are being sent out. This Bill, as far as it goes, seems to me to be in keeping with the understanding that we had here in November last. While that is so I feel that it falls short to a considerable extent in not meeting what were our anticipations when we gave provisional sanction to the Minister for this reduction in old age pensions. I think we anticipated then, that if the Minister proposed to formulate a Bill to secure more economy, and perhaps to lessen State expenditure he would at the same time have looked at the other side of the question and have brought in proposals that would ease a situation that everybody knows exists, and that prohibits people who claim the old age pensions from securing admission to the pension register. It was, I think, a grievous mistake not to do so. I submit that if we vote for this Bill, as we intend to, we will do so only on the condition that on the Committee Stage we should have liberty to submit amendments which would enable it to be fair all round, which will enable the Minister for Finance to save revenue while facilitating people to establish their legitimate right to a pension.

We all know that the doors are almost closed at the present time, and that they have been closed for some time past to applicants for pensions. They are asked to get over barriers that are insurmountable. In the provisos laid down with regard to affidavits if the t's are not stroked and if the i's are not dotted the applicant is left without a pension. Of course, we learn of abuses which we believe existed, and that some people have pensions who should not have them. We know that. We are perfectly satisfied that such cases should be inquired into, and that these abuses should be removed as far as possible. I feel strongly that there is another provision that the Minister for Finance, or the Minister for Local [1305] Government, should pay some attention to. On the Committee Stage it may be necessary to introduce amendments. The point I refer to affects Pension Committees. Their decisions are practically worthless at present, as they are overridden by the authorities at headquarters. The Committees study the cases, have the claimants before them, and know who has a right to the pension. Some amendments must be introduced to provide for these things. This can be done on the Committee Stage Coming to the question of estimating means, I think the Minister proposes to confine himself solely to cash savings. I do not know if the proviso applies to property. I think it should apply to property the same as cash savings. It is very desirable that it should apply to property in land. Heretofore, income derived from land was an accepted feature in establishing a claim to a pension. Such an income from land was very doubtful. When Pension officers went to make inquiries, and to estimate the profits from ducks, geese, hens, and the various things that were on the farm, they were at a loss in fixing the actual income, and very often these estimates were very far wide of what would be the real estimate in that respect. I think the system by which the capital value of the holding the old age pensioner is supposed to own or occupy, will be taken as the capital value of his property and dealt with on the basis the Minister proposes here—which, I think, is a fair basis— will not create any grievance on the part of the old age pensioners. Now, we are faced here with exigency, and I think that if it were possible to deal with these things from any other aspect, we would deal with them in a different way. I can envy the position of the Deputies who are free from these responsibilities, and who have had a fine chance of soaring into ethereal regions and treating us to a display of grandiose eloquence and oratory in respect of this proposal. I think, at the same time, they should recognise that they have responsibilities, same as we have, and that it is their duty to see that equality is preserved as far as possible. After all, a deduction of a shilling from old [1306] age pensioners is a very small contribution to the conditions that have been created at very enormous and extraordinary expense to the community— conditions in which they can live in comfort and security.

That is a proposal Deputies on the opposite side should consider as well as everybody else, because it is very important for them. With the reservation, that in the Committee Stage I will endeavour, as far as I can, to secure that amendments are made that will not allow this measure to be really a hardship upon the general body of old age pensioners, but will render it a preventative of those who are not entitled to have old age pensions—with that reservation, I am prepared to give my support to this measure, as propounded by the Minister for Finance, on behalf of the Minister for Local Government.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin I rise to oppose the Second Reading of this measure, and to give my reasons for doing so as briefly as possible. If I felt, or had any reason to believe, that the result of my voting against this Bill would mean that I would have to leave public life to-morrow morning, I would quite willingly, and with the greatest possible pleasure, leave it, rather than have it be said that I subscribed to this measure in the name of economy, under false pretences. I also want to say— and I feel I have good reasons for saying it, notwithstanding what Deputy Wilson has said—that I am voicing the general feelings of the people of Laoighis and Offaly. I have received resolutions from five different public bodies in that area—bodies on which Deputy Wilson's organisation has a dominating influence. These resolutions, I am assured, have been passed unanimously, and they express in the plainest possible terms the protests of all sections of the community against this reduction of old age pensioners' allowances. So much for Deputy Wilson's plea on behalf of the farmers, as a whole, in the Free State area.

I have been listening to the speeches here, and reading very carefully for some time past the speeches made by responsible Ministers in regard to what I will term, if it is parliamentary, this [1307]“stunt” of balancing the National Budget. I have been forced to the conclusion, as a result of listening to these speeches and reading them, that I, as well as the other Deputies here, am in the position of being one of the shareholders in a concern that is bound to end in the bankruptcy courts. I am not inclined to take that view at all of the future of this country. Every man who gets up here to speak—including Deputy O'Mahony who has gone out—

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony He is here still

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin He is outside the Bar of the House.

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony I waited for the pleasure of listening to you.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes Zoom on Michael Hayes If the Deputy desires to speak he must come inside.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin We can look around the world and see the very bad condition in which countries are to-day, and here at home we find that our State has not, as far as I can see, any National Debt. We are not in a position of a country like England, to which Deputy O'Mahony referred—a country that has to find annually the sum of sixty million pounds to meet the interest and pay off the charges on the debt they owe to America. I think the people who are making those speeches, and who, by their speeches, are creating the impression that Ireland is bankrupt, are doing more to lower the prestige and reduce the credit of this State than anybody else. So far as that is concerned, I do not accuse the Minister for Finance, or the President, or any of the Ministers, of any deliberate intent. Every Commission that has been set up, and which has made recommendations for the expenditure of money out of State funds, has been turned down, simply because, we are told, the money can not be found. When the Minister for Finance asked for a National Loan to the extent of ten millions, he had to stop the people subscribing before the day mentioned. That shows the confidence of the people of this country in the State. It is not right that Ministers in the Dáil, or outside it, should get up and, by their speeches, create a wrong impression with regard to the stability [1308] and future prospects of the State. To that extent, I do not agree with them.

Deputy Wilson has laboured the point—and there is no necessity, therefore, for my doing so—with regard to the principal items of expenditure, as shown in the estimates for 1923-24. If the total amount provided for the army, £10,664,500—it is a scandalous state of affairs that such an amount of money should have to be provided for the upkeep of an army in a small State like Ireland—and the amount set aside for compensation, £7,989,550, were to go out altogether, the Budget would not be balanced. Therefore, this “stunt” of balancing the National Budget by cutting old age pensions down by a shilling is all camouflage, so far as I am concerned, at any rate.

We all have our responsibilities. We were not honoured by Deputy O'Mahony's presence in the Dáil when the estimates for 1923-24 were being considered. If he has the time, and takes the trouble to read up the debates in connection with those estimates, he will see that the Members sitting on these Benches kept the Dáil occupied for a long time, making searching investigation into the necessity for find ing large sums of money, especially for the Army and other unproductive services.

We have to find £10,664,500 for Army administration, and, so far as I know, we have to find a good deal of money in addition through the Board of Works estimates for the destruction done by the National Army. I know many places in my own constituency in which houses and buildings were occupied by the army, and where the most scandalous form of destruction was carried out. If there was a little more supervision by the Minister for Finance of army expenditure, and what I call army extravagance, he would probably be able to make up the amount which he asks the Dáil to make up by cutting the old age pensioners' allowances. I have, from time to time, received communications from the dependants of those who are serving in the army, asking me to take up at Portobello Barracks questions as to why they have not received the allowances they are entitled to under the [1309] Army Regulations. In that respect, I had a very peculiar experience. Out of the last five or six cases in which I made representations, I found that there were three in which there had been overpayments. People were claiming something—they were entitled to nothing. As a matter of fact, in one case the overpayment amounted to £58 12s. Od.; in another, to £37 4s. Od.; and in another, to £7 14s. Od. I suggest that there is something radically wrong with the administration of that particular service, and that the Minister for Finance should look after it. If he does so he may be able to effect the necessary savings instead of coming to the Dáil and asking us to vote for a proposal which conscientiously I am not prepared to support.

We are also told about the extraordinary sums that had to be found for superannuation purposes as a result of our commitments under the Treaty. Now, that was one of the items of the Treaty to which I took very strong exception. The moment I read the Treaty I knew the British Government had got their nose very well in upon us, and I knew they had committed the Free State in that particular clause to an extent which it is for those who accepted it to justify. It is one of the clauses that I thought very serious objection should be taken to. I think that that particular clause has added very considerably to our commitments through the retirements of large numbers of people owing to the lack of security which they felt when the State was taken over from the British Government. Take, for example, the case of the Post Office. I know men in the Post Office and in other Government departments who retired from the Service not because they were not prepared to work for an Irish Government, but because they were influenced by a feeling of insecurity by the changes which they saw taking place, and the promotions which took place, and which left them no outlet for their energies and ambitions. Many men left the Service because they had no security such as they were entitled to feel when these services were taken over from the British Government.

I have no intention of repeating [1310] many of the things said already in connection with the opposition to this measure. I am opposing it, not that I may get popular applause, and not that I am playing to the gallery, but I am opposing it because I am convinced that there are other methods by which the Budget could be balanced than by cutting off this sum of 1/- from people who are well deserving of the full pensions they were getting. I am not pleading for the old-age pensioner who may not be entitled to the pension he is receiving. I am pleading for people who are depending absolutely and entirely upon this 10/- a week to keep them going. No sooner was this measure introduced, and got its first reading, than the price of coal went up from 4/- to 6/- per ton. We have milk sold at 2/8 a gallon, and I know a farmer who told me himself last July that for milk which sold at 2/4 per gallon he was only getting 3¾d. Now, as a worker, and as one who has been chasing this cost of living figure, but who has never been able to get up with it, I say that the position the Government are putting us in is this: They are trying to cut down wages and Old-Age Pensions before they are doing anything to deal with the cost of living. I saw where the President indicated in another place the Government would deal with profiteering. I hope he will carry out his promise here. I hope he will bring in the Bill and let us examine it here, and then we will know whether he is prepared to carry out his promise of dealing with the profiteers, and with the people who are fleecing the wage-earners. It will be time enough then for him and for the Minister for Finance to come to the House and to ask us to subscribe to proposals such as are in this Bill. I feel, under the present circumstances, I cannot vote for this Bill. If I had to leave public life to-morrow morning, I would willingly do so rather than subscribe to the proposal put forward by the Minister in this measure.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave I would like to say a few words on this Bill, particularly in regard to the speech of Deputy Davin. I understood that there was an announcement that a measure would be introduced to deal with the [1311] cost of living or to put a brake upon the increase of prices. The Deputy, I am sure, quite unintentionally excluded from his consideration one very important phase which affects the cost of living, and that is organisation. The Deputy might have asked the farmer who told him he only got 3¾. per gallon for his milk whether he had traced that milk, and whether he had seen what costs were loaded on it; and also how the organisation of its transport, and so on, affected the cost. He might do what we have asked people to do, day after day and week after week, namely, not to look to the Government to do everything. You cannot expect everything by Act of Parliament, or that it is only by police batons and soldiers' bayonets you are going to preserve good order, organisation, clean administration, efficient business, or anything of that sort, in the country. The Deputy, I think, concerned himself very largely with two services, and he said even if they were not there the Budget would not balance. Now, examining that particular form of criticism, I do not find it sound. He ought to have directed his attention to the services in respect of which savings might have enabled us to balance the Budget.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin I think that was very well covered by the speech of Deputy Hennessy.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave I only came in for the latter part of the speech, and I am only going to deal with the portion that I was listening to. The Deputy referred to the great success of the National Loan, but he also missed telling the House what it was that made for that success. Promises to pay, professions of good will, and many testimonies to your honesty are all of no use unless there is really a determined effort to make payment. Everybody knows that unless the Budget is balanced—notwithstanding the fact that that statement may provoke some smiles on the faces of our friends opposite—everybody knows the National Loan cannot be repaid. It is from these accounts that payment will have to be made, and if the Minister for [1312] Finance did not make the statement he made in November, indicating his determination to cut down the cost of the various services in the State, in order to make it possible for us to pay our expenses out of the revenue we raised, no man, no business man or commercial man who wants to get his money back would have put a single penny into the National Loan. You would have got people I am quite sure, patriotic enough to come forward and say: “We will put down the money in order to give you an opportunity to try and pay.” You would have got people of that sort, but you would not get level-headed business people who want to get their money back, and who were entitled to get it back, putting their money so readily into the Loan. If Deputies opposite put their money in they would expect to get it back——

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin The Trades Unions did not put in their money on the condition that there was to be a cut in old age pensions——

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave I hope they have as good investments elsewhere, and I hope they are satisfied with their investments. We are told this is economy under false pretences. Is that a fair statement to make? I say it is not.

I have already stated on more than one occasion that the number of services on which we can save money is limited, and that there are commitments we are bound to. I do say any economies that we are proposing here, however distasteful they are, are economies that we know and realise we have to stand up to, and it is only right to tell that to the people, however unpopular it may be. Comparisons were made between England and Ireland, and I think I heard one Deputy state that the English, although they were five years at war, were able to continue paying a ten shilling pension. Well, it is rather unfortunate that a National Government had not control of this country during the last three, four, or five hundred years. Wars during that particular period were profitable experiments on the part of certain countries, and on these profitable experiments a considerable amount of national wealth [1313] was gathered together, and under their respective National Governments other States were able to build up their business and their economy on a sound foundation. They were able to set aside reserves from which they could borrow, or which they could utilise in the interests of their States.

We have not got these advantages here, and there is no use in talking to us about comparisons between a rich country like England and a country that is only after starting its own business here under very unfavourable auspices, loaded with unusual burdens —burdens that are not of our own making. Another Deputy stated that freedom connoted certain things besides the National Army, a National flag, and a National Parliament. I expect it does. He went on to say that there were other mundane things which even if you had the other possessions, would not exactly satisfy the people. Are we to take it from that, that you are prepared on behalf of the people affected, even these old age pensioners, to say they are going to sell their independence for their mess of pottage? I doubt very much, notwithstanding the unpopularity of this particular economy, that you would get the votes of the old age pensioners on that particular programme.

Mr. O'CONNELL: Try it.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave It is up to the gentlemen opposite to try it. I have some faith, at any rate, in the patriotism of those people.

Mr. P. HOGAN (Clare): Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I said that those people did not get their fair share of what was won through national freedom.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave Their fair share of what was won? As far as I know what was won was a fair share of debt, and you are not going to get out of it that way.

Mr. P. HOGAN (Clare): Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan That is what they get through having national freedom.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave National freedom brings all those things in its train. There is no country in the world that has not got a national debt. The majority of countries that have [1314] national debts have more to show for them than we have for the twenty or thirty millions of national debt that we will have at the end of the financial year.

Mr. HALL: Information on David Hall Zoom on David Hall So that is all that they have won through national freedom?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave What they have won through national freedom? I do not gather what is meant by that statement.

Mr. HALL: Information on David Hall Zoom on David Hall That is what the old age pensioners won through national freedom.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave I do not think that that is a serious interruption, though I did not hear it; we will pass it by. Deputies, in speaking of the finances of this country, seem to exclude altogether—that is those of them who criticise this economic proposition— from their examination, any period except our most prosperous period. They take always, for example, revenue which was published, attributable to this country, in the years 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920. They seem to have forgotten that when an Act, called the Government of Ireland Act, was introduced in Westminster somewhere about the year 1912, the expenditure on this country at that time was represented to have been in excess of the revenue, and it did not balance from 1912 up to 1915 or 1916. Then additional taxes came on, and new imposts were put upon this country. About 1917 or 1918 it became apparent that the country could be run, granted that taxation could be imposed year after year, at a profit. In 1912 the various services which were charged against national revenue in this country were too great for the country to bear from the taxation then imposed. I think somebody on the opposite benches whispered that that is wrong. I would like to know whether it is wrong. Perhaps I said 1812, but I meant 1912.

I think if you go further back—as far back as 1886—you will find that the revenue at that time was eight millions and the expenditure six and a half millions. There was a profit then, but various services were introduced, and the actual amount in 1912 was in the [1315] neighbourhood of twelve millions. It may have been that previous to the introduction of Old Age Pensions, it was a line ball between the two. I introduced the year 1912 to show that prewar revenue and expenditure did not balance here, and that during the war a country which was mainly agricultural, and whose exports naturally rose in price, was in a very much sounder financial position than countries not so circumstanced. Now that the war has passed and it is possible to get agricultural produce from other countries, we are suffering from the effects of a slump, which is felt in many other countries as well as this.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin Why did we take over a bankrupt concern?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave As I have already said, I would have been prepared at the time, or even now, if it were put to me, “Will you hand back what you have got, and let us run this country for you and leave you much better off,” to say: “No, we will have our freedom, even though we have to pay for it.”

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson And we can balance our budget with freedom, if you will allow it.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave I have yet to learn that that can be done. We hear a lot of statements but it is a different thing when it comes down to hard facts other than criticisms about the Army expenditure, which the Deputy himself says is of no use—I do not mean to say the Army is no use, but the economies——

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson Not for this purpose.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave If there was no Army at all, the budget would not have balanced.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson Then why blame the destruction of the last two years?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave That was responsible for the Army in the first place, and the Damage to Property Act in the second place.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson It does not affect ability to pay.

[1316]The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave So the Deputy states.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson Do your figures bear that statement out?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave The figures may bear the statement out but the facts do not. The figures are all right.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson The Minister for Finance——

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave The Minister for Finance is right. It is one thing to put up an estimate which must cover an expenditure. It is another thing to spend that estimate. The Minister for Finance has in his mind, and in the figures, taken account of every possible economy that can be effected in the estimates. In other words, it is impossible for the Minister for Finance to say in respect of any service: “This service will cost exactly a sum of £2,000,000.” The actual expenditure will probably be £1,999,000. He will probably save a thousand out of it, but he puts down the £2,000,000 in the ordinary way. But there must be in respect of every service some relatively small saving. Another point that the Deputy laid some stress on was administration. That is one of the things which is involved in what I stated about expenditure and revenue in 1912. There was handed over to us a certain organisation of government, a certain machinery of government. Just immediately prior to its being handed over there was a war period here—in fact, one might say two war periods. The machine, and everything about it, was not in a very efficient condition. If there are people who left the service during that period because they did not get the promotion that they thought, or who were dissatisfied with the promotions that had been made, I submit that there was not much patriotism about those gentlemen, and we were probably well rid of them. They are probably like others in the country who expected great things and who, when they did not come, did their damnedest to make it impossible for anybody else to do great things, or to take any benefit out of the great things that came.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin You kept some of Sir Hamar Greenwood's men anyway.

[1317]The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave Sir Hamar Green wood did not get anything out of the transaction, except a very bad name, and, so far as I am concerned, he is welcome to that, but we have made our peace with him and we beat him. We beat him at his own game.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson Oh, now!

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes Zoom on Michael Hayes The President is travelling very far afield.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave If I were not interrupted I would not travel so far. I do not know for what purpose the name of Sir Hamar Greenwood is introduced, unless it be to show this, that his Government at one particular period during its career marked off a line in this country which has been a source of considerable expense to the Minister for Finance. I refer to the Border. Possibly, it was not contemplated that that particular service on the Border would have been of such expense. It has been an expense. Now, I think, that from what I have heard of the arguments against this particular economy in old age pensions, I am not satisfied that there is much in it. One Deputy referred to resolutions. I recollect a time—I do not think it has yet gone— when it would be possible to get a resolution on any subject. I recollect once a resolution passed by a District Council, copies of which were to be sent “to the reigning Monarchs of Europe, including the Shah of Persia and the Sultan of Morocco.” It was in condemnation of the police, and I am positively certain that that particular infectious disorder which affected that particular District Council at the time has not yet been finally exterminated.

Mr. DAVIN: Information on William Davin Zoom on William Davin The Dublin Corporation.

Mr. CORISH: Information on Richard Corish Zoom on Richard Corish Like the other Deputies who spoke from these benches, I would like to say that we desire economies, but economies of the right sort. I often wonder, sitting here, day after day, what the present Government would have done only for the fact that we had a civil war in Ireland. And still I am one of those who admit that the fact of having a civil war is responsible to some extent for the financial [1318] position we find ourselves in to-day. But I do not think that because we had that civil war it is necessary to cut down the weekly amount which the Old Age Pensioners are receiving. In other words, I do not think that we ought to place the Old Age Pensioners in the first line of trenches in order to fight Irregularism in this country. The few of the Deputies opposite who have spoken delivered a sort of “I am glad and I am sorry” speech, a sort of excuse and apology to the people of this country for daring to cut down the Old Age Pensions.

Deputy O'Mahony stated that this Government has been created by the will of the people. I am prepared to admit that at the last election certainly his party had a majority of Deputies returned, and they are for the moment the recognised rulers of the country. But I would like to ask Deputy O'Mahony and the Deputies on the other side if they think it is the will of the people that this cut in the Old Age Pensions should take place. I would be rather inclined to think that it would be a very unpopular plank in the platform of any party in this country to-day. I do not think that the President is putting the position clearly when he talks of it being a mess of pottage as against the independence of the country. I think Deputy Johnson was not going too far when he asked is this the price that the Old Age Pensioners are to pay for freedom. It is certainly a very sorry state of affairs when the aged, the infirm, and the blind of this country are to be the first to be attacked by a native Government. Just immediately after the General Election in England, in the King's speech we find that Mr. Baldwin the Prime Minister, a Conservative, and the head of a Party which this country has always looked down upon, said that one of the first things in the platform he proposed to carry into operation, in the event of his Government remaining in power, was to remove the thrift limit in the case of Old Age Pensioners. We find that the boot is on the other foot so far as this country is concerned, and they make the position infinitely worse from this point of view than it was ever before.

[1319] In November last the Minister for Finance made a statement in the Dáil as to economies. He clearly stated then that it was his intention, or the intention of the Government, to have a reduction of ten per cent. made in the teachers' salaries, and a reduction of ten per cent. in the Old Age Pensions. The opinion prevailing in the country since that day is that the Old Age Pension of ten shillings which was in existence then, and still prevails, was to be reduced by one shilling a week. I think, on careful examination of the Bill as presented to us, it will be found that the reductions will be far greater than this, that the incomes of the people who are in receipt of Old Age Pensions will be looked into, and especially the people who will find themselves in the position of having to apply for pensions in the future. To my mind, the result of this action on the part of the Government is going to create more pauperism in Ireland. I think I remember the Minister for Home Affairs, or it may have been the Minister for Agriculture, in the debate which took place when the Minister for Finance made his financial statement in November, saying that it was never intended that ten shillings per week should be looked upon as sufficient to keep an old person. Well, we can quite understand that. But if that were the case, and if it was that the miserable pittance that the British Government was prepared to give them was not sufficient to enable them to live in any degree of comfort, surely the Irish Government should not be the first to move to reduce this ten shillings per week. I wonder has the Minister or the Government considered what this is going to mean in so far as the Border question is concerned? From all parts of the Saorstát to-day, and from National quarters in Northern Ireland the question is being asked, “When is the Boundary question to be settled?” I think I am right in assuming that when the Boundary Commission begins to operate that a vote of the people in Northern Ireland will be necessary.

Although I do not want to take away from the patriotism that prevails [1320] amongst these people living in Northern Ireland, I think the Minister has a right to consider if there is any inducement for a poor old person in that territory who is in receipt of 10s. a week, and who has no indication so far that the Northern Government is going to inter fere with it, to vote himself into the Saorstát. It is all very fine to talk about a mess of pottage, but an old person over 70, with one leg in the grave, and who is practically beyond the use of reason, and who has given up thinking politically, and who can be swayed one way or another by party hacks and politicians—this sort of thing is going to have a big say in the way in which he is going to vote. I would be sorry to think that such a thing would hold sway in so far as the Border question is concerned, but I think the Minister ought to consider the bearing it might have on this particular aspect of the situation. I was much surprised to hear the President saying a few moments ago that in 1912 the expenditure was over and above the revenue.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave Reputed to be.

Mr. CORISH: Information on Richard Corish Zoom on Richard Corish Yes, I think we may take it that “reputed” is tantamount to saying that it was, when a person uses it as an argument for the betterment of his case. The President's statement rather surprised me, because every political party which thought nationally in this country, so far as I can remember, and I am sure so far as the oldest member here can remember, always had as the principal plank in its platform the statement that this country was overtaxed, and that the revenue at all times was out of the way more than the expenditure. Deputy O'Mahony made some statement as to the comparative position of Great Britain to grant old-age pensions to the poor of that country and to Ireland, and he went on to state—I think I am right in inferring that is what he meant—that we had a legacy of old and infirm people, because of the famine and various other things. One would think, according to the statement of Deputy O'Mahony, that it was a crime to become old, that it was a crime to become blind, and that it was a crime to have a country with so many poor and old people in it.

[1321]Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony On a point of personal explanation, I made a statement to show how the superfluous number came about.

Mr. CORISH: Information on Richard Corish Zoom on Richard Corish I do not think that the Deputy has made his position any better, and he certainly has not persuaded me that anything I said was not correct. I think that Deputy O'Mahony also stated that Deputy Morrissey suggested new taxation. Deputy Morrissey, so far as I can remember, suggested nothing of the kind He and other members of the party for which I speak, at the moment, suggested that other avenues should have been explored before this particular cut was brought into operation.

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony The Deputy definitely stated that it could be raised by new taxation. You will find it on the official record when it is printed.

Mr. CORISH: Information on Richard Corish Zoom on Richard Corish They do not print it in a few minutes for my special benefit.

Mr. O'MAHONY: Information on Thomas O'Mahony Zoom on Thomas O'Mahony So much the better for you.

Mr. CORISH: Information on Richard Corish Zoom on Richard Corish What we are complaining of is what we consider to be the indiscriminate attack upon the position of the old age pensioners, and we suggest that it is because of the simple manner in which the question of pensions could have been approached that it is very easy to make a ten per cent. calculation, and cut off a certain amount of money. We consider that the old age pensioners, because of the fact that they are such a helpless body of people, should have been almost the last, if not the last, who should have been attacked by the Government. So far as popularity is concerned, so far as I can see at the moment, it is as popular to say in the Dáil that a person is doing a thing for the sake of popularity as to do a thing which he suggests it is popular to do. Every time a member of our Party takes a certain line of action, the farmers, if they do not agree with it, say that it is taken because of its popularity. It is not a question of popularity when the means of livelihood of the old people are in jeopardy, and we do not care what any Party thinks of our action. We believe [1322] that the Government should not make such an attack upon the old age pensioners. We believe that people so helpless as they are should be the last to be attacked, and we ask the Government to reconsider the whole position from that point of view, and we ask Deputies to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper This is a very bad Bill. In draft I think it is almost the worst Bill I have ever seen. It is a most shocking example of legislation by reference, and I wish that Ministers could put themselves in the place of private members and realise how they feel when confronted with a Bill of this kind. It is a great misfortune, really that Ministers have not during their lives been in Opposition, or, perhaps, I should say in Parliamentary Opposition, because they do not quite appreciate the position of a private member in tackling a thing of this kind. The Minister for Finance gets the draft. I presume that his private secretary places on his table copies of the Acts of 1911, 1919, and 1921, with all the passages to which he is going to refer marked in red ink. I have been hunting Dublin for copies of these Acts, but I could not get them. We have no library here, and I have no access to the Law Library, where they are to be found, and I was unable to visit Trinity College Library, but if the Minister wants to facilitate us he would do well, as Deputy Johnson suggested, to circulate a memo amongst members showing exactly, for instance, what Section 5, Sub-section (3) means. It means nothing to me. Such a memo. should be circulated, or copies of the various Acts should be laid on the table upstairs, where we could consult them. I hope that in the future such a course will be taken, because as things are we are being asked to legislate in the dark, and nobody can carry the various British Acts passed in the last thirty years in his head. I feel that there is a good deal of weight in Deputy Johnson's criticism of Section 5, and I shall hold myself perfectly free in Committee to vote against the Government on that. Now, I am afraid I am going to disappoint the Labour Party, because in spite [1323] of what has been said, and partly on account of Deputy Corish's speech. I am going to vote in favour of the Bill. Deputy Corish suggested that this is the first time he ever heard that the balance of taxation 10 or 15 years ago was in Ireland's favour. Really, for a man who has taken a part in public affairs, that is an amazing admission. I think from 1909, when the first Old Age Pension Act came into force, till 1915, when the war taxation was introduced, the British Treasury had been paying Ireland between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 annually.

Mr. DOHERTY: Information on Eugene Doherty Zoom on Eugene Doherty On their figures.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper Their figures, undoubtedly, but so far as they have been tested, they have worked out accurately. The Minister for Finance is in the best position to judge. So far as we have been able to test them since we started our own book-keeping, the British figures worked out approximately fairly accurate. I would prefer to have the opinion of the Minister for Finance on that matter to that of Deputy Doherty.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson Zoom on Thomas Johnson In other words, the gaff is blown.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper Yes, I am quite sure Deputy Johnson knew this before. I can only regret that he has not educated his Party, and that he should have allowed them to make those amazing admissions. The main reason why I am going to vote for the Government is that if there is one thing we need at the present time, and I think every section in the Dáil will agree with me in this, it is courage. Deputy Johnson has shown courage; he showed courage yesterday, and he has on many occasions shown courage in facing unpopularity. Deputy Corish talked about the suggestion of their opposition being done for the sake of popularity. I know it is not, and that the opposition of Labour is a conscientious opposition. Equally, the Government is not doing this for popularity. The Government has the courage to do a thing which will be unpopular, and which will be misrepresented, and to do it, because it is necessary, and to face the odium of it. I absolutely refuse [1324] to allow them to be the only people in the country to have courage, and, therefore, I insist on sharing their courage, and I am going to vote for the Bill.

Mr. DOHERTY: Information on Eugene Doherty Zoom on Eugene Doherty Deputy Cooper made a very manly speech, but his information is very bad, and when we get to the Committee Stage I hope he will improve his information. Regarding the speech of Deputy Corish. I must say that I think he laid stress upon matters which did not affect this Bill, or affect the Government in any way. Probably, I would answer him best by referring to the speech of the President. The President's rhetoric leaves me unmoved on this. Frankly, I tell the Dáil I was an opponent of this Bill to some extent, and I am an opponent still, but in view of the remarks of the Minister for Finance this evening, which were very full, very frank, and very fine, I do not see that I could do anything but support the proposals which he has put forward, and I do not see that the Dáil could do otherwise. In the matter of the reduction of these Old Age Pensions by 1/- a week, which, to me, looks a cruel thing, some of my constituents will suffer hardship, to a certain extent, but in this city of Dublin, which I know equally well with my own constituency, and where I know the poor equally well, the reduction of 1/- a week will. also mean hardship. But the Finance Minister has said that we shall have to balance our accounts, and it is right they should be balanced. If this is one of the things that is necessary towards that end, even if it will involve hardship, he will have to do it, and I will support the Minister. Deputy Corish made a very clever speech, and put forward a very strong argument, from his point of view, but I think these arguments were answered in advance by the statements made by the Minister for Finance, and on the strength of the Minister's statement, so far as the Second Reading is concerned, I will support the Bill.

Mr. A. BYRNE: Information on Alfred Byrne Zoom on Alfred Byrne I will be very brief, because anything I can say on this Bill has already been said by Deputy Johnson, and I support him in opposition to the Second Reading. I will speak [1325] merely for the very poor living in the slums of the City of Dublin. I am personally aware that in these slums there are old age pensioners living on nothing else, only the 10s. a week pension, and they have to pay the rent out of that. I am perfectly aware that the Bill, although it would show a saving to the Government, will increase considerably the poor rate. Many persons who will lose this 1/- a week will be compelled to apply to the Poor Law authorities to grant them some assistance to enable them to exist outside the Poorhouse. I think the Government are unwise in the action they are taking in introducing this Bill. Having heard the speech of Deputy O'Mahony, I looked up the Bill, and I see it is headed “Old Age Pensions Bill, 1924.” After hearing him I think the Bill ought to be re-named and called the “Old Age Punishment Bill, 1924,” because hearing him speak to-day one would think it was a crime to live to 70 years of age and be poor. I know there are persons paying 1/6 a week for a room, and living on the balance, 8/6. That odd shilling taken off them now will mean that they will have to apply to the Poor Law authorities for outdoor relief, and if refused they will have to make application to get into the Workhouse. What does that mean? While living on 10s. a week pension outside, with their freedom, when this 1s. is taken from them they will have to apply for Poor Law relief or go into the Workhouse, where maintenance is estimated at 18s. per week. That is the position as it will apply to Dublin. For the country districts I cannot speak, but I know this reduction will create great hardship on the poor of the City of Dublin. If it could be amended, or if the Minister for Finance could see his way to withdraw the measure, he would confer a great benefit on these poor people, as many of them will lose their freedom as a result of this cut of 1s. a week.

Mr. E. DOYLE: Information on Edward Doyle Zoom on Edward Doyle Enough has been said in this debate to show that the old age pensioners are the last people in the State whose means of existence should have been reduced. There are, at the moment, in the towns and villages unfortunate people whose lives are one [1326] continual struggle for existence on this 10/-. It is regrettable that the Government are pursuing this policy which, I believe, is a damnable policy. Old people who have given their lives in the service of the country, are now to be reduced to a position in which it will be impossible for them to exist. If peace and order are to reign in this country, the Government should create respect for law and order by treating the aged poor as human beings. I shall support the Labour Party in voting against this Bill.

Mr. COLOHAN: Information on Hugh Colohan Zoom on Hugh Colohan I rise to oppose this Bill. I consider that it is not right for an Irish Government to bring in a Bill to reduce the dole that old age pensioners are receiving. If the Minister for Finance wants to balance his Budget, I would suggest that he should reduce the salaries of all public officials to £500 per year. I think he will make a saving of, at least, £400,000 by that means. I would also suggest that he should demobilise those soldiers who are working in the training establishments in the Curragh, doing the work of the stablemen who are on strike. The Labour Party look upon this as one of the worst blows that has been struck at the workers, because it is from the workers that the old age pensioners are chiefly drawn. Therefore, it is thought only right to vote against the old age pensioners. When we see army contractors, and other men in a big way of business, who have grown prosperous on the labour of those old age pensioners in past years, now supportting the proposal to take this miserable shilling away from them it is time for Labour to speak out straight. It is not nice to see men who are drawing salaries of £1,700 per year from the State, standing over this shilling cut in the pension of men who have borne the weight of many fights for the National cause, when some others were, perhaps, in the employment of the British Government.

Mr. ALTON: Information on Ernest H. Alton Zoom on Ernest H. Alton I do not like to give a silent vote. This is a very serious matter and I think every Deputy is taking it seriously. Deputy Johnson has analysed the Bill with the masterly reasonableness that we expect from [1327] him. Many of his arguments appeal to me. I do not like the form of the Bill. I do not like the blank references. I confess I am not amongst the diligent twenty who tried to fill in those blanks. There are certain things in the Bill to which I cannot subscribe, but I am going to vote for the Bill. The Minister for Finance has probably got the most thankless task of any man in this country, a thankless and unending task, and to vote against this Second Reading would be tantamount to censure on a man for doing what the Ministry and a considerable section of the thoughtful citizens of this country believe is absolutely necessary: to balance our Budget. I would have preferred, if I might say so, that the whole question of pensions might have been considered and made the subject, perhaps, of a Commission. Though I have no reason to have much faith in Commissions, still, I would have liked to have more time to consider the facts. I confess I do not understand them all, and I reserve my right to support certain amendments that I hope will be brought forward in Committee.

Mr. O'CONNELL: I think it will be generally admitted that if a burden is to be borne in order to effect that Budget equilibrium of which we hear so much that burden should be shared equally by all. But what is being done? I think it was Deputy O'Mahony who, metaphorically speaking, threw up his hands at the idea that there should be further taxation. But in effect we are having further taxation. That is what is meant by this Bill and by the economies that the Government are trying to effect. They are placing a tax on certain sections of the community, picking out certain sections from whom they are demanding a special tax. That is what it comes to. While the profiteers and those people who should be prepared to bear their share of the common burden escape, the Government comes along to the most helpless in the State and puts on them a special tax. We may be told that a shilling off the old age pension is not much. An increase of ten per cent. in income tax would be looked upon in some quarters as a very big tax. We [1328] must have regard not only to the percentage but to the actual amount that is left when the shilling comes off.

I think it was the President pointed out that it was necessary to make these economies in order to induce people to invest in the loan who otherwise would not do so, such as business people, who are out to get their last cent in every transaction. I have not much respect for the patriotism of these people. I might remind the Minister of one case where a body invested a pretty considerable amount in the loan, even though the people concerned were actually affected by this particular action of the Government. Still that did not affect their sense of patriotism. I think it is necessary to refer to one point that was mentioned. Both here and outside some people have the idea that a small farmer who reaches the age of 70 years has really no claim for the Old Age Pension, and that it is an abuse of the Act to give it to him. I want to lay stress on this matter. I think the man who works a small farm during his life, and reaches the age of 70 years, is in no different position from a workingman who gets a weekly wage. He has as much claim on the State after working all his life as the wage-earner has. He has no more opportunity than the wage-earner to put aside anything for his old age. Another point I would like to mention is—and anyone acquainted with conditions in the West of Ireland will know—that the introduction of the Old Age Pensions in 1908-9 effected a very considerable change, and to a great extent solved many of the social problems that faced that part of the country. It allowed these small farmers, on reaching the age of 70, to let their sons come into possession of the little farm, and at the same time they themselves could live in the home, being in receipt of the pension. Before that the old people kept possession of the little farm as long as they lived. By doing so they prevented their sons from marrying and settling down. That practice is going to be interfered with very seriously, indeed, by this Bill, certain sections of which I will have more to say about on the Committee Stage.

When the President was speaking I [1329] felt that his statement would give joy to everyone who was a Unionist in politics during the Home Rule struggle of the last eight or nine years. I felt that he was justifying every one of the arguments these people used, and that when they read their newspapers to-morrow morning they would say: “We have been right all the time. Here now it is admitted that we were right.” The President referred to the North of Ireland and to the cost of the Border. By the action of his Government he is making that cost permanent. As Deputy Corish said, the effect of the Government's action in this and other matters will be to make that Border a permanent Border. That is my view of the matter also. The President said that he believed if a vote of the old age pensioners were taken in the morning, the majority—I think that is what he asked us to believe—would agree that the Government were justified in taking such action. He is a man of very great faith.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave I do not think that is exactly saying what I said.

Mr. O'CONNELL: These may not be [1330] the President's exact words, but I think that was the impression they conveyed. I will put it this way. Not only do I not believe that the old age pensioners, if they had an opportunity of voting on it, would give him a majority, but I sincerely believe that if the matter were put to the people, the President would not get that majority. There is an opportunity of doing that, and if he is anxious to test it I venture to issue a challenge to his Party. Let the twenty-five or thirty members that would be necessary, with the Labour Party, sign a petition or requisition to have this Bill held up and put to a Referendum. If he is quite so sure of the fact that the people of the country will vote for this reduction, let him try it in that way, and I have no doubt whatever as to what the result will be.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave Has the Deputy any doubt as to the cost of that experiment? We are economising now.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe Zoom on Ernest Blythe I move the adjournment of the debate until to-morrow.

Debate adjourned until to-morrow.

The Dáil adjourned at 9 o'clock until 11.30 a.m. on Friday.


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