§ 17. Mr. O'DONNELL
asked the number of persons in county Kerry receiving an old age pension at the end of the year 1910; and how many who had been previously receiving pensions were disqualified on questions raised by the pension officers since the passage of the Old Age Pensions Act of 1911?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Masterman)
The number of old age pensioners in county Kerry at the end of 1910 is not known; but three months later, i.e., at the end of March, 1911, the number was 9,047. The information asked for in the last part of this question is, I fear, not available, as no separate record of such cases is kept.
§ 23. Mr. FARRELL
asked the Chief Secretary whether the Local Government Board are still determined to deprive Edward Prunty, Aghaward, Ballinalee, of the old age pension to which by age and circumstances in life he is entitled; whether he is aware that three different times the local sub-committee have passed this man's claim only to have their decision upset by the local pension officer, who is neither an expert nor a professional valuer; and will the Board accept evidence of value if tendered by Mr. William Stephenson, J.P., a large farmer and auctioneer in the district?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The pension committee have on three occasions granted a pension of 5s. a week to Prunty, but the claims have been disallowed by the Local Government Board on the grounds that his means exceed the statutory limit. The pension officer has no authority to award or refuse a pension, and his estimates are 1763 not binding on the Board, who formed their own independent estimate from the particulars of stock and crops on the farm, which contains fourteen acres of fair land. Before determining his last claim, the Board had inquiry made as to the claimant's circumstances by one of their own inspectors. As the case is now closed the Board cannot consider any further evidence except in the event of an appeal being lodged in connection with a further claim, when all evidence furnished would be duly considered.
§ Mr. FARRELL
May I take it that the evidence of Mr. Stephenson will be accepted or at least considered?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Certainly it will be considered; but I will accept no man's evidence without an opportunity of considering it.
§ 59. Mr. O'DONNELL
asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether pension officers, in estimating the means of applicants for old age pensions in England, value the maintenance of the artizan classes at from 3s. to 5s. per week; whether the same officers value maintenance in Ireland, where the standard of living is considerably lower, at from Ss. to 12s. per week; and whether this is done with the authority or by the direction of the Treasury?
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
No instructions have been issued to pension officers directing them to assign a particular value to maintenance in framing their estimates of means for old age pension purposes. The rule in force throughout the United Kingdom is that such estimates should be made by reference to all the facts bearing on the standard of living of the person with whom the claimant resides.
§ 60. Mr. J. P. FARRELL
asked the Secretary to the Treasury, whether he is still satisfied that pension officers in Ireland have acted fairly between old age pension applicants and the Local Government Board in the matter of appeals and that they do not in many cases err, especially in the matter of valuation of means; and will he arrange that in disputes in future the evidence of local professional valuers will be accepted?
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I am confident that pension officers in Ireland act fairly between old age pension applicants and the Local Government Board in the matter of 1764 appeals, and I do not except those cases in which the officer's estimate of means is not adopted by the authorities with whom the decision rests. An officer would be failing in his duty if he did not exercise his right of appeal when his estimate is less favourable to the claimant than that of the committee. As regards the last part of the question, I have no authority to give directions to the Local Government Board as to the evidence to be accepted in cases submitted to them on appeal.