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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 24 Mar 1942

Vol. 86 No. 1

Committee on Finance. - Electricity Supply Board (Superannuation) Bill, 1942—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The object of the Bill is to authorise the payment by the Electricity Supply Board of pensions or gratuities to those of its members who devote the whole of their time to its affairs, and to enable the board to contribute towards and to pay the expenses of operating superannuation schemes, to be established by order made under the Bill, for its manual and non-manual workers. Pensions to members of the board will be non-contributory, but those of the employees contributory, on the basis broadly of equal contributions by the board and members of its staff. Persons who were transferred to the services of the board and who already possessed pension rights at the time of their transfer are excluded from the Bill as it now stands, but I am considering, as a result of representations made to me, a proposal to give to these transferred officers the option of accepting the terms of the board's scheme, whatever they may be, in lieu of their existing rights to pension.

The Bill also authorises the payment by the board of modified or supplementary pensions to employees who were transferred to its service from the service of undertakings acquired by the board, and who, at the date of transfer, did not possess a statutory or other right to pension. These pensions will be in respect of the period of service with the former undertaker and will be additional to any pension earned on service with the board, such employees entering the board's scheme under the same conditions as other of the board's employees. Provision is also being made to enable the board to grant gratuities on retirement to employees who, for reasons of health, are excluded from participating in the superannuation scheme set up under the Bill.

Perhaps the first matter I should refer to is the principle of providing for pensions or gratuities to the whole-time members of the board. When the Electricity Supply Act, 1927, under which the board was set up, was being discussed in the Dáil, reference was made by various Deputies to the absence from the Bill of any provision in that regard. The omission was explained by my predecessor as being justified by the fact that the creation of the board was in the nature of an experiment, the success of which could be demonstrated only by the lapse of time. The Minister of the day explained that, after some years of working, a much easier view of the matter could be taken, and I think the time has now come. Deputies are probably aware that members of the Electricity Supply Board hold office for periods not exceeding five years, and there is no guarantee that a member will be reappointed when the term provided for in his warrant has expired.

It will also, I think, be generally appreciated that the magnitude of the undertaking which the board is called upon to administer, and its importance to the nation, demand that its personnel should possess the highest administrative capacity. The necessary qualities and the necessary experience can only be found in men who have demonstrated their ability in other callings, and, consequently, it is inevitable, in the order of things, that the Government choice, when making a new appointment to the board, must be limited to persons who are fairly advanced in years.

Moreover, appointments to the board in a whole-time capacity will entail, on the part of the person concerned, the surrender of the post which he formerly held with little or no prospect of again securing it in the event of his not being reappointed to the board. It is, I think, desirable in the interests of efficient administration that the whole-time members should be relieved from anxiety as to their future which must persist so long as they have no assurance of a pension on retirement. The position of the part-time members is, of course, quite different, since they continue to follow their primary occupations, and there is no case for including such persons in the scope of the Bill.

I do not, at this stage, propose to go into details, except to mention that the conditions governing eligibility for pensions in the case of members of the board include a minimum period of ten years' continuous whole-time service. Subject to that minimum, it is proposed that the pension shall be calculated at one-forty-eighths of the annual salary for every year of such service with a maximum of twenty-forty-eighths for 20 or more years' service, such pensions to be payable on retirement after reaching the age of 60 years, or earlier if the retirement is due to ill-health or non-appointment which is not due to causes within the control of the person concerned. Provision is made for the suspension or abatement of a pension from the board where the member is in receipt of, or is entitled to, a pension from the State or a local authority. It also provides that, where a member dies whilst in office after at least five years' continuous whole-time service, a gratuity, equal to one year's salary, may be paid to his legal personal representative. These pensions or gratuities to whole-time members of the board will be payable by the board as part of its general working expenses.

So far as the employees of the board are concerned, it will probably be generally accepted that an important public body, such as the Electricity Supply Board, should be in a position to arrange for contributory pensions for its employees. I know the suggestion has been made in some quarters that the pension should be non-contributory. The Government is not prepared to proceed upon that basis. The Government's attitude in the matter can be taken as quite definite that a pension scheme for employees of the Electricity Supply Board must be based upon the principle of contributions by the employees. The alternative is no pension scheme at all. Most, if not all, corresponding bodies possess powers to arrange for pension schemes for their employees, and, as Deputies are aware, many industrial and commercial concerns have in recent years introduced, of their own volition, contributory pension schemes for their staffs. That action cannot altogether be attributed to philanthropic motives. It is becoming increasingly appreciated that the knowledge that provision is being made for a worker's ultimate retirement is, in itself, beneficial not only to the worker but also to his employer since the greater sense of security which the worker thereby enjoys tends to bind his interests more closely to those of his employer, and render him less prone to endanger his future by hasty or ill-considered action.

It is the intention to establish separate superannuation funds for the manual and non-manual workers. Under the scheme of the Bill, the board will prepare and will submit to me schemes for that purpose, and, when approved, these schemes will be brought into being by means of an Order to be made under this Bill. Were the numerous matters incidental to a pension scheme to be specified in the Bill, it would be a very lengthy and complex measure, and any minor defects or omissions which experience might yield could only be repaired by further recourse to legislation. Consequently, it is desirable that the Bill, in this regard, should confine itself merely to providing a ready and simple means of establishing the schemes and of enabling the respective funds to be properly administered.

It has been suggested that we should merely legislate to empower the board to arrange pension schemes for its employees, and that there is an objection in principle to the proposal that such schemes should be submitted to the Minister for Industry and Commerce for approval. My answer to that objection is that whatever may be done now for its employees in this regard by the Electricity Supply Board may be taken as a headline at some future date by other bodies established under statute, or of a similar character, desiring to make similar provision for their employees. I think it is desirable that the Minister for Industry and Commerce should examine, from the viewpoint of his position, the scheme proposed by the Electricity Supply Board for its employees to ensure that it does not contain within it something which, while unobjectionable when applied to the employees of the Electricity Supply Board, might be quite objectionable if applied to employees of other similar concerns, but which, if established in the Electricity Supply Board scheme, would be taken as a precedent in connection with any other schemes subsequently contemplated.

Generally speaking, the preparation of the scheme will be a matter for the board's actuary. It will be very largely a matter of making calculations to ensure that the contributions to the fund from the board and its employees will be sufficient to enable the pensions to be paid at the rate proposed, and the functions of the Minister in examining the schemes submitted by the board will be to deal not so much with the details of the schemes as to ensure that, in their general form, they contain nothing objectionable on grounds of public policy. The Bill lays down certain overriding conditions in relation to the schemes, and enables any modifications in them shown to be necessary to be made by amending orders, subject to the conditions I have referred to. Amongst those conditions it is provided that both the board and its employees will make contributions to the fund, and in most cases it is contemplated that the board's contribution will be equal to that of the workers. Another condition is that service for the purpose of pensions shall be continuous. It is the intention that the schemes when framed and approved will provide for the establishment of funds on an actuarial basis, to which contributions will be made on scales calculated according to the age of the employee on entering the fund, and related in amount to his remuneration.

The schemes will also specify the basis upon which pensions will be paid, and will, in addition, provide for the management of the funds, the vesting of the moneys in trustees, the investment of the moneys in the funds, the keeping and auditing of accounts, the making of rules, and other matters incidental to the creation and the operation of a superannuation fund. So far as the expenses of working the fund are concerned, these will be borne by the board, so that the entire contributions paid into the fund, with the accumulated interest, will be available for the payment of pensions and other benefits. What those benefits will be must depend upon actuarial considerations, and it will be understood that it is intended that the fund shall be maintained on a self-supporting basis, with periodical actuarial valuations, so that the state of the fund will determine the amount of the pensions payable. Should a valuation reveal a deficiency, it will be necessary either to increase the contributions or to reduce the benefits.

A point that should be clearly understood—there appears to be some misunderstanding concerning it—is that the Department of Industry and Commerce, apart from arranging for the necessary Order, will take no part in administering the scheme. The body or bodies created by that Order to work the schemes will, subject to the terms of the Order, be solely responsible for their administration. Possibly a committee of management will be responsible for each scheme, upon which the board and its employees will be represented, but, as I have already explained, that is one of the matters of detail to be settled later when the Bill has become law and the schemes are under consideration. While the schemes will be on a contributory basis, it must nevertheless be recognised that such pensions and gratuities as they may provide for will represent a very important benefit to those eligible to participate in them.

When the Government had the draft Bill before them they gave very careful consideration to the question whether or not the manual workers employed by the board should be included in the Bill or not. Against the argument that such manual workers should be included in the Bill was the fact that it has been the practice of the board to pay to its manual workers the rates of wages recognised in agreements between trade unions and other employers employing similar classes of workers. Those rates of wages were, of course, determined by negotiation upon the basis of non-permanent and non-pensionable employment. Employment with the board is different from employment with another employer in the case of the majority of those manual workers. An electrician, a motor driver, a carpenter, a plumber—any such worker employed by an ordinary employer is subject to all the risks that workers experience, the risk of loss of employment and the risk of retirement at old age without any provision being made for them. In ordinary employment there is no pension provision. In the case of the board's workers, there is much greater security of employment, and that security is not taken into consideration by the board in determining the rates of wages. The wages paid to the board's workers are the same as those paid to similar workers employed by other employers under agreements with the unions.

It would, therefore, appear to be unnecessary or, at any rate, of questionable wisdom to provide the addition to workers employed by the board of the benefit of a pension scheme. The Government, however, decided to do that. They decided that, despite the considerations I have mentioned, the manual workers of the board should be included within the scope of the scheme, but they felt that it was desirable, in implementing that decision, to impose certain conditions. One of the conditions contemplated is that those manual workers who elect to come within the pensions scheme for manual workers prepared by the board will not regard themselves as having the same freedom of action to withdraw their labour from the board as other workers employed by other employers claim. It is, therefore, contemplated that each employee of the board will be given the option of coming within the pensions scheme or not, but, if he elects to come within the pensions scheme, he must enter into a contract with the board which will deprive him of the right of withdrawing his labour from the service of the board, a contract under which he will undertake to submit any question arising in dispute between him and the board to a tribunal to be established under this Bill, and to abide by the decision of that tribunal. I may perhaps have misled Deputies by referring to the right of such an employee to withdraw his labour. Under existing law, an employee of the Electricity Supply Board engaged in the production of electricity who withdraws his labour is liable to prosecution.

What is the name of that Act?

It is under the Act which set up the Electricity Supply Board. The Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875——

That is scarcely the Act under which you set up the Electricity Supply Board.

If the Deputy will allow me to finish what I was about to say, perhaps it will become clear to him. That Act sets out that any person employed in the supply of gas or water to a city, a city borough, a town or any part thereof, who wilfully and maliciously breaks a contract of service with that authority, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the probable consequences of his so doing either alone or in combination with others will be to deprive the inhabitants wholly or to a great extent of their supply of gas or water, shall be liable on conviction by a court of summary jurisdiction to a penalty not exceeding £20 or to imprisonment for a period of three months. By the Electricity Supply Act that section of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act was applied to workers employed by the Electricity Supply Board.

That is what you are relying on, an Act of Queen Victoria— you are picking Victoria's brains.

I am merely correcting in the minds of Deputies a possible misunderstanding created by a term I used. Under the law an employee of the Electricity Supply Board who withdraws his labour in circumstances which will result in any place being left without a supply of electricity, is liable to severe penalties. That is the existing law, and I merely state that as a matter of interest.

Why the necessity for enforcing a double security now?

So far as the present Bill is concerned, in the matter of manual workers we propose to give them a choice. Not all employees of the Electricity Supply Board would be liable to the penalties to which I have referred. An employee, the withdrawal of whose service would not affect the supply of electricity, would not be held to be within its terms. In the case of existing manual workers we propose to give them the choice of coming within the pension scheme or not, subject to certain conditions.

If they come within the pension scheme they come in knowing the conditions, and the conditions are that they will submit any matters in dispute between them and the board to a tribunal to be established, and will abide by the decision of that tribunal and that they will not withdraw their labour. We are not compelling any employee of the Electricity Supply Board to accept these terms. Each individual can choose for himself.

I have had discussions with persons interested in this Bill, and officers of my Department have met representatives of the workers concerned, and I gather there is a certain difference of opinion amongst them as to whether it be desirable to come within the pension scheme at all, apart altogether from this provision. There is a question whether the benefit to be obtained by way of pension on retirement in old age is worth to them the immediate contribution they would have to make. That is a matter which each man can decide for himself, but, if he decides to come within the pension scheme, he must make that decision in the knowledge that he enters into a contract with the Electricity Supply Board which he cannot break without certain consequences to himself. He is at liberty to break the contract and withdraw his labour, subject to the provisions of the 1875 Act. There is nothing in this Bill which prohibits him from doing so, but he sacrifices his right to pension and also the contributions previously made by him to the pension fund. I think it is desirable that we should get, not merely in the case of the Electricity Supply Board, but in the case of all bodies of that kind, the continuity of whose operations is a matter of considerable public importance, a position in which, in return for permanency of employment and a pension on retirement, we will get an undertaking that there will be no arbitrary or unnecessary stoppage of work.

I know the Labour Party are opposed to the principle of compulsory arbitration. At least they have expressed themselves in the past as opposed to it. In that respect they are almost unique amongst Labour parties in the world. In many other countries the primary principle of labour policy is the institution of compulsory arbitration. The Labour Government of New Zealand introduced compulsory arbitration there, and when it went out of office and the Conservative Government that followed it proposed to modify or limit in some way the application of the principle of compulsory arbitration, the Labour Party strongly opposed it and on their reelection to office reinstituted the principle in full.

The Government's idea of arbitration in this country is definitely unique.

In Australia and in other countries where the Labour Party take a prominent part in framing the legislation, it is a cardinal principle of their policy to secure compulsory arbitration in industrial disputes. I merely mention that as a matter of interest. For some reason the Labour Party in this country appear to be opposed to the principle of arbitration. I think they are very unwise in that, and for the the employees of the Electricity Supply Board I can imagine nothing better than a position created in which they will be protected, not merely in the continuity of their employment but also against any arbitrary change by the Board in the conditions of employment, and they are given, in addition, a pension on retirement which will permit of them living in comfort and economic security in, their old age.

You propose a hand-picked tribunal—with the dice already loaded against the workers.

It is not intended to be a hand-picked tribunal; it is intended to be a fair and impartial body.

It could not function fairly.

A fair and impartial body holding the scales evenly between the employees and the board, deciding every question on the facts, and only on the facts. If the Deputy can show that the tribunal contemplated in the Bill is not of that character, then I am prepared to consider any amendment he suggests, provided that it is designed to ensure that the tribunal will be of that character—a fair and impartial tribunal and nothing else. It is my intention, and the intention of the Government, that it should be so; we framed this Bill to make it so and I am prepared to discuss the provisions outlined in this Bill in relation to the tribunal with the Deputy, or any alternative which the Deputy may suggest on the Committee Stage.

I do not think there are any other parts of the Bill to which I need now refer. Its primary purpose is to empower the Electricity Supply Board to arrange for a contributory pension scheme for its employees, subject to certain conditions. The actual schemes to be prepared by the board are not in the Bill, and it is not contemplated that they will come before the House. Under ordinary circumstances, we would leave them to be determined by the board in consultation with its actuarial advisers, and we require the submission of these schemes to the Minister for Industry and Commerce solely because of the possibility that the public interest will be involved to the extent that the schemes of the Electricity Supply Board may be taken as a headline in respect of other similar bodies, established under statute or engaged in the operation of what the Americans call public utilities.

The part of the Bill dealing with manual workers of the board is one which I am prepared to defend here in the House or anywhere. I think that it is not merely sound principle, but that it is easily the best course that could be taken in the interests of the manual workers of the board, and I recommend the Bill to this House.

A long time ago, I realised that since the present Government moved into Government Buildings they have either infected themselves, or have become infected by those who were there, with a definite hostility to the Electricity Supply Board, but I did not think that their antagonism to that board would go to the point that they would seize on such a small occasion, as that which is presented by this matter of pensions, to attempt to get control by Ministers and by the Civil Service over this board. That is how this Bill appears to me. Since I got it into my hands I have been wondering what would be the appropriate point from which to attack it. It is so full of disagreeable points, which I think this House should reject, that I was wondering what would be the best angle from which to launch an attack on it, but the Minister has given me a foothold from which to base an attack in one phrase that he used.

Although he was dealing with only one part of the Bill, his phrases were general, and he succeeded in conveying to the House that in my time I had definitely excluded pensions from the purview of the Electricity Supply Board, and that I had done so on the ground that the whole thing was an experiment and that, therefore, the granting of pensions should be taken away from the board. Now, I have here a record of what was said, in connection with this matter of pensions, in a debate on the 5th April, 1927, on the Electricity Supply Bill. Deputy O'Connell, who was then, I think, a member of the Labour Party, had moved for the insertion of a section in the Bill providing for pensions. In reply to that, I said:

"At one time I had in the section a phrase which would have allowed the board to pay its officers and servants not merely remuneration and allowances, but pensions and gratuities. I took the words out for this reason:..."

and then I went on to say that the matter was rather experimental and that that was the reason why I excluded certain phrases which would have allowed the board itself to grant pensions to its employees: that it was better not to have that for the first period of the board at any rate, because the first five years were going to be somewhat of an experimental period. However, at the end of a column and a half of argument between Deputy O'Connell and another Deputy, I said that we could reinsert in sub-section (2) of Section 7 the words which were previously there, and then I quoted the words, which were as follows:

"There shall be paid by the board to its officers and servants out of the funds at its disposal under this Act such remuneration and allowances as the board shall determine."

And I added this:

"And then make it an instruction to the first board that they shall not establish a pension scheme to come into operation earlier than five years after the date of their appointment."

If ever a man made himself clear— although he may have been mistaken— that he intended to give the board power to pay pensions to its employees, I think I did in that phrase, because I say there, in effect: "We will put that phrase in," and then my thought clearly was that, having put that phrase in, the board was entitled to establish a pensions scheme for its officers, not to come into operation earlier than five years after the date of their appointment. Notwithstanding that, the Minister says that I specifically excluded from the powers of the board the power to pay pensions to its employees on the ground that the whole thing was experimental. I did not. I said that at one time I had in the section a phrase which would have allowed the board to pay pensions, but that I took out the words because it would mean new legislation, and so on, and I also said that we could reinsert in sub-section (2) the words which were previously there, but that such a pension scheme should not operate at once and should not come into operation for at least four or five years. Accordingly, I think I made it clear that we wanted pensions.

I understand that the Government and the board themselves both took legal advice on this matter, and I also understand that the advice one of them got was that the words did carry the right to grant pensions. Unfortunately, they decided to take consultation on the matter with Government Buildings, and the result is that the hooks are now fastened into the board on this small matter of pensions. What is the logic of this proposal? At the time the Electricity Supply Board was set up, it was regarded as a novel type of experiment, but it met with the approval of the House at the time. Except for some small details, I do not think any vote was taken on the measure to set up this board and to give it extraordinary powers and extraordinary liberties.

I think that the only thing the House asked for at the time was that the board should publish their accounts every year and that these accounts should be subject to acute scrutiny by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the results of that scrutiny given to this House. There was that, and also the power to dismiss from office members of the board. These were the only two controls that were embodied, and, fully understanding this, the board was set up with the goodwill of this House. I think that on that particular proposal to set up a board of that type—whatever might be the points of controversy on certain details—there was almost unanimity on the point of principle, to set up a board and give it these powers and liberties. The only question of control was in these two matters of the reviewing of accounts and the dismissal of members of the board.

The position is now that the board still has that liberty. It can provide its own establishment scheme with regard to its employees; it can have different grades among its workers, and arrange for promotion according to merit or otherwise. It can pay wages, change wages or increase them. The board is already paying something like £750,000 a year to its employees. It is given all these liberties, allowed to pay these salaries and wages, allowed to put its employees on different footings and to change the employment from time to time—it is given all these liberties and powers, but on this small matter of pensions the hooks of the Government must come in. Of course, this is only a trivial occasion, and the whole thing could be met by a simple piece of amending legislation containing four words, and that is to put in, in sub-section (2) of the relevant section, after the words "remuneration and allowances" the words "including pensions and gratuities". That is all the amendment that is necessary to amend the situation which has developed.

The Minister has used words here which, from the indifferent way in which he pronounced them, and from the fact that they really contained no argument, would lead me to think that he is only trying to hide from the House what is the fact: that this is an attempt to draw back this board, by one link at least, into the ambit of Government Buildings. He said that if the Electricity Supply Board were left free a headline might be given to other groups—I suppose that he meant groups like public utilities—and that the Minister should have power to see that no objectionable feature crept in. That, to my mind, is rubbish, unadulterated rubbish, in connection with this measure. Apparently, they can set a headline in connection with their staffs, or the wages they pay, or the terms of employment, or the holidays and vacation and periods of leisure, or the working hours; they can do anything that is included under the term "working hours and conditions" and they may set a headline to other employees of public utility groups in any matters of that kind, but when it comes to this matter of pensions—a trivial matter from the point of view of finance and expense —then the Minister for Industry and Commerce must see that no undesirable feature creeps in. What undesirable feature is likely to creep in? If the Minister would expose to us, even in a flight of imagination, some of those bogeys that seem to have afflicted him, we might know something about his argument or whether there is any substance in it. Let him tell us what is likely to creep in so far as the Electricity Supply Board and its own employees are concerned, and then we can see whether or not there is anything substantial in his argument.

The Electricity Supply Board was regarded as a good type of experiment in another direction. It was the first board set up in this country which the State plentifully supplied with credit. Besides that, we decided not to have the dead hand of the Civil Service over it, and that we would not have any interference by politics. Even the Minister was excluded from having control, except that accounts had to be submitted for his scrutiny and questions could be put to the Minister here in that regard. It had to be debated here once a year when the accounts were under consideration but that was all.

The House and the public welcome that. The board was plentifully supplied with Government credit, and was told to manage that credit, subject to two overriding considerations, that they told us yearly what they were doing, and that the Minister could come down on the board for going beyond the bounds, if he thought fit. I think that was a useful type of board to have set up. It inaugurated a new line of activity as between employers and employees. The board was plentifully endowed. It was removed from Government control and not allowed to make private profits. It was tied up under the Act so that the charges should bring in sufficient to meet the liabilities and pay the staff. It was decided that the rates should be only enough to meet these charges, and that there was to be no question of private gain. That type of board, surely, was the ideal board in which to allow the best type of play as between employers and employees. If there was a headline to be set surely it should come from a board like that. One consideration was that the board was to be free from motives of private gain, not having to rack those consuming electricity nor to sweat employees, but simply to have rates that the public could bear, and that would popularise the use of electricity. Surely that was the sort of board which would have brought about a situation in which it would be a model for other employers and employees. We are now going to inject between employers and employees the Department of Finance and the Department of Industry and Commerce. Is the record of that Department or of any Government Department in connection with economies such as to enable them to be trusted?

We know that the cost of government, as far as the Civil Service establishment is concerned, has risen from something short of £4,000,000 in 1932, to something like £5,750,000 this year. We cannot say that after ten years it is on the grounds of economy that the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance are introduced. What then is it based on? I suggest it is the old view that prevailed in Government Buildings when I was there, a view about which I was not too particular, and a view that has prevailed all the time there. That view is now definitely reflected in this Bill of getting this board definitely back under the control of Government Buildings. I suggest that that is a complete breach of the principle on which the board is established, and that there is not sufficient argument in the matter of pensions to ask that that should be done. The Minister stated that if details were to be specified the Bill would be a lengthy one. It is too lengthy as it is. The Minister knows that all he requires now is a small paragraph by way of amendment of the 1927 Act, and if he wants to bring in the matter of putting penalties on manual workers, I suggest it might be as well done in a Bill that would apply to industry generally, or even to public utilities generally. Apart from that, the Minister seemed to feel that people might complain that the Bill was not detailed enough. All that was required was the simple thing intended in 1927 and accepted by the Parliament and the public of that day, and that I think will be accepted by the Parliament and the public to-day: the idea that a board trusted with power to pay the wages bill of employees could also be trusted to deal with such a small matter as pensions.

I intended to ask the Minister if he had any idea what the cost of the pension scheme would be. Has the Minister any idea of what a pension scheme on a fifty-fifty contributory basis, with the arrangement about back payment, would amount to in a year? I understand from calculations I had made that under the Bill the amount, with the restrictions in the Bill, would not be anything more than £30,000 of an annual charge. I wonder has the Minister seen any scheme from the board? Has he discussed it with the board? Does he know what the board has in mind with regard to provision for their employees? With the payment of arrears what would the amount be increased by? I hope before the debate ends that we will have some idea of what the cost will be. I want that compared with the present revenue of the board. In 1927 we might be rather timid about asking the board to embark on a pensions scheme. It was very definitely an experiment in those days, and was not received, as far as the newspapers were concerned, with any great joy—certainly with no great enthusiasm. Certain political parties had no great respect for it but they were not in the House then. There were numbers of people to prophesy dire disaster. They stated that the consumption of electricity could not be brought to the point at which the scheme would be an economic success. We know that the trouble with the board is not to get electricity consumers, but to prevent further consumers being tied on to the end of the wires. The amount they are generating now is about three times more than was then regarded as a wholly imaginative idea.

I remember when it was considered that the board would have to generate 132,000,000 units to make the scheme a success, reams were written about the impossibility of ever getting a per head consumption up to that point. Now they are generating over 400,000,000 units and selling something less. The revenue, I might say, is about £2,000,000 at the moment. Why should this House be asked, taking again into consideration that the board is allowed to pay something short of £750,000 yearly in wages, to consider, as against a revenue of £2,000,000, a pensions scheme which might cost £30,000, if the Bill is allowed to operate, and might cost £35,000 or £40,000 if the board were allowed to treat its employees more liberally than this Bill allows?

Surely it is ludicrous to ask the House to spend time on giving the board power to establish a scheme which the Minister might amend, reject, send back for reconsideration, or may make law with whatever amendments seem suitable to him. I suggest that on principle this should be rejected, and that what the House ought to ask the Minister to do is to take the basis of the Act of 1927, and if the phrasing in that Act is insufficient to enable it to give the workers precisely what they require, to take power to allow that it be done and to let ordinary friendship develop still further to establish a pensions scheme which would be a headline for all public utilities. I do not say that all the public utilities should immediately jump to establish pensions schemes, but to have it as a basis might be considered good. They might have to win their own spurs; they might have to bring such a project to the point of successful achievement; but supposing they do it as well as the Electricity Supply Board has done it, why should we not have a good headline from the point of view of pensions before the country, provided always that the new public utility which is, say, going to adopt that scheme were able to show that either it had come to the same point of achievement or was likely to reach it within a reasonable time? That is on the general run of this measure.

To the details there are any number of objections that could be put forward. I find in Section 2 a matter about which it is personally an embarrassment for me to talk, but I think it ought to be mentioned. When one comes to read the provisions regarding the pension that may be paid to members of the board, the first thing that starts out is that the pension is payable only after a number of years, that is, after not less than ten years' continuous whole-time membership. I may be told, and I am sure I shall be told, that that phrase is taken from other Pension Acts. Possibly those words do come from other Acts, but I want those words considered in connection with the actuality of the board. It is common knowledge in this House, and a matter of unpleasant recollection to me, that one of the members of the board cannot claim continuous service. Why should he be defeated in his rights because there was a break in his employment for a particular period? If that man were to leave now, he would be deprived of the pension he could get if membership of the board were counted not in continuous years but in an amalgamation of a number of years' service.

I find in sub-section (2) that if a member of the board dies during his term of office after a period of not less than five years' continuous whole-time service, his personal representative may get an amount equal to the yearly salary of that member; but if he dies a month after leaving office, he is thrown back on other provisions, and one of the provisions upon which he may be thrown back is sub-section (3). If he dies and the pension to which he is entitled is less than his yearly salary as a member of the board—I think what is meant is to give him a full year's salary, instead of a pension—what is set out is that it shall be lawful for the board to grant and pay to the personal representative of such person a gratuity of an amount equal to the sum by which the amount of such pension for the period falls short of the said yearly salary. What is the pension? It is the pension as received by him, the pension paid to him. I suppose that when pensions come to be paid, they will be paid in monthly or quarterly amounts. I do not know exactly what will happen—I have been trying to figure out certain cases—in the case of a person who dies under the circumstances set out in Section 3. I suggest that there are small points, even in Section 2, that ought to be looked to, but there are two points that are to be specially adverted to— this question of continuous whole-time service and the upward maximum. The maximum that may be granted is a maximum of twenty-forty-eighths of such yearly salary. I have never seen that figure as a standard in any Act that I have been able to find. The maximum in most cases I have been able to look up is two-thirds. Why has the figure been changed? Two-thirds is the provision allowed to judges after a certain number of years' service, and two-thirds is the provision under the 1925 Local Government Act which local authorities may pay to people, even people who had not served what was put down as more or less a standard term. I do not understand why here we subtract a quarter and make the maximum five-twelfths of the salary. I think it is particularly bad that that upper limit should be lowered in connection with members of the board.

When we were starting in 1927 we always assumed that people who would become members of the board would, in the main, be people who had served some fairly lengthy period, either in becoming qualified in an academic way, or, having become qualified in an academic way, had found practical experience at other work. These were men whom we were going to invite away from that other work, and all we promised them was a five years' term. It was a five years' term, subject of course to renewal, and subject to renewal at successive five year periods, until a man might have put in 40 or 50 years with the board, but always over his head hung this: at any time at the end of the five year period, he could be dropped, and at any time within the five year period, if the Minister liked to come to the House and make a case against him, he could be dismissed. I think it is a wise provision to retain that power to dismiss. It is one of the few powers which the House, through the Government, has over members of the board, but is the Minister likely to allow to operate in his mind the point that should operate with regard to dismissal? Will he allow to operate the question as to whether a person has a good pension scheme in the background or has not? I think he will give fuller play to the reasons that might operate in his mind for dismissing a man, if he knows his future is protected to some extent, or that he has some provision made when he leaves the employment of the board. He will do it, I think, much more easily than he will if he feels that he is dealing harshly with a man in dismissing him.

It will be remembered that recently in connection with the Guards we passed a special piece of legislation. That was done in connection with Guards who were being dismissed for a particular type of conduct which we did not want to see spreading through the police force. Yet the Minister felt that, faced as he was with the only powers he had then of removing Guards, he could not operate what he thought was his right to dismiss and his duty to dismiss in certain circumstances, unless he had got special provisions in the way of gratuity or pensions for these men. It is a rather odious example to take in connection with the board, but there is a point in it and a moral to be learned from it. I suggest that particular attention should be given to this point about continuous membership with the board for this minimum period, and I suggest that the maximum should not be kept at this sub-standard point of five-twelfths, but should be raised to two-thirds, which is the maximum set out in the provision made for judges and for certain local authority employees.

The sections from Section 4 to Sections 8 or 9 show distinctly that this is not intended to be a provision by the board at all. The board is to prepare a scheme, and that scheme is to be confirmed by the Minister. The Minister may, however, modify it and may add to, omit from, or vary it. He can either send it back for renewed consideration by the board, or he can himself make it law with the modifications he desires to put in, and, later, there is this provision with regard to amending the schemes. Section 7 gives us some of the matters definitely to be included in a superannuation scheme. There is a fund to be set up, and it must be contributory. It must be contributory on the basis of whatever the employee pays, the board shall pay the same. The Minister has told us distinctly that the Government are adamant on this point—that it is either a contributory scheme or none, but remember that so far as the Bill is concerned, it is a contributory scheme on a 50-50 basis, and it is that apparently we are presented with. It is either that or nothing. The board is to defray the expenses of administering and there is a variety of things with regard to classes of persons.

Lettered paragraph (f) of sub-section (1) Section 7 is one I want to query. The scheme is to provide the circumstances in which persons leaving the employment of the board before they have become entitled to superannuation benefits will be entitled to have contributions paid by them repaid, with or without interest. Apparently the only thing contemplated there is that of people leaving the employment of the board. Supposing a person dies is that leaving the employment of the board? I do not think the courts would so construe it. Is a person who has paid into the fund for a great many years and succumbs to an illness not going to be entitled to get his own contributions, even without interest, repaid? Sub-section (2) of Section 7 lays it down that only continuous service in the employment of the board, ending on the date of retirement on account of age or ill-health, shall qualify for superannuation. Apparently disability arising from an accident would be ruled out under a strict interpretation of that sub-section. Is a woman employee of the board who marries not to be entitled to recover the contributions paid even without interest? Supposing an employee of the board decides to better his position by going elsewhere, are the contributions he has paid to the superannuation fund to be left behind? From the wording of this the only people who will qualify for pensions are those who leave the service of the board on account of age or ill-health.

At this point there is introduced, for the first time, the matter of disciplining employees of the board. We have here a complete enlargement of what was contained in Section 110 of the 1927 Act. That section did apply to utility concerns of the electricity type the provisions of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act which previously applied to gas and water concerns. But this goes much further. It speaks of any stoppage on the part of a worker that caused or may have caused an interruption in the generation, transmission or distribution of electricity. It goes still further because it says: "which impeded or might have impeded the due performance of any of the functions or duties of the board." Under the 1927 Act the board were given a variety of functions or duties. One was the supply of electrical appliances, and for that purpose the board established showrooms and ordinary shops. One of the functions undertaken by the board under the Act was the supply of electrical appliances. Under this provision an employee of the board who impedes or might impede sales in the sale-room is now put on the same footing as the person who would prevent the generation of electricity. That is far beyond anything what the Act of 1875, or our adoption of it in the 1927 Act, ever intended to go.

Away back in 1875 you had a number of public services which demanded continuous attention. If any worker employed in a public utility service which demanded continuous attention caused a breakdown in the supply of certain things to the community, such as gas or water, and now electricity, then he could be taken before a court. If found guilty of particular conduct he might be punished in a certain way. But, even so, there were certain safeguards. His conduct was made a criminal offence and he had to be taken before a court of summary jurisdiction. This sub-section is not going in by way of substitution of what was in the 1875 Act, but by way of addition to it. We are seizing on this small matter of pensions to bring about a situation in which, if any employee of the board prevents the sale of electrical appliances, he can lose his pension rights in so far as they are founded on payments made by him and on service given by him prior to the break caused in connection with the sale of electric bulbs.

There is a further provision in connection with a manual worker under Section 12. He is really not entitled to come in under the pensions scheme unless, in anticipation of any break, he ties himself to this: that if he has any dispute about anything he must submit it to a named tribunal in this Bill and must agree to abide by the findings of it. We start off with the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act the object of which was to prevent a serious interruption in the provision of gas, water and electricity to consumers. We move away from that by imposing upon an employee a penalty in connection with his contribution to the scheme because by his wilful default he impeded or might have impeded the board in the discharge of its functions or duties. Finally, we come to this that the employee must make an option before he goes into the pension scheme to tie himself, should any dispute arise in connection with his service or employment, that he will take that dispute before a tribunal and will abide by its decision. That may be a wide provision to introduce, but it certainly cannot be tied up to this public utility matter, or linked up with the 1875 Act, which was aimed to cover a very limited field—to make it a criminal offence for people to interrupt the supply of gas, water or electricity. This Bill goes to the extent of getting people into the employment of a public utility board and of having all their disputes compulsorily referred to a select type of board. The Minister said that he would consider other alternatives. I think he is attacking this at the wrong end.

This cannot be justified on the ground of public utility, because the things I speak of do not touch the supply of electricity. They are really trivial in connection with the supply of electricity. Why are they brought into this Bill? The tribunal is to consist of three people. One is to be nominated and appointed by the board. Another is to be appointed in such a way as the board may determine, with the approval of the Minister, and, finally, the chairman is to be nominated and appointed by the Minister. Why should the Minister be put into this scheme at all, or why should he have this right to appoint? Is this to be a headline for the new type of arbitration—that the determining voice in connection with appointments will be the Government? If there is to be compulsory arbitration in this country I hope it will not take that line, and that if there is to be any third or determining voice it will be someone taken from the court area—some independent and impartial character of that type. What it is proposed to establish here is, I say, a bad type of tribunal. Certainly it cannot be considered as a good example to employers or to employees to reconcile their differences.

There is one other matter which is so outstandingly bad that reference should be made to it, and that is, the matter of the payment of arrears. There is really not much good in having a paper scheme for employees of a board like the Electricity Supply Board, if a part of whatever little virtue there is in it really cannot be applied to the work-a-day conditions of those employees. The board has now been in operation for 15 years. Pensions generally become payable about the age of 65. Some of the men who are in the service of the board entered around the age of 20 or 21, but quite a number of them did not. Certainly those who are in the more important positions, say, on the engineering staff, had some period, after they got through their academic course, in which they got experience elsewhere.

The result is that those men entered into the service of the board in their earlier thirties or late twenties. Many of the employees entered much later than that. Those people have to pay up now for whatever is the remnant of their period with the board. Take a man who is about 40 years of age at the moment, and let us assume that the pension scheme would come into operation for him at the age of 65. For 25 years that man will have to pay a particular contribution. That contribution will be based upon his present salary, and there will be an equal contribution from the board. But in addition to that, he has to look back over 15 years' contributions, with compound interest, and he is asked to pay those now, if he is to qualify for any type of pension at all under the Bill. He can take his choice and not pay those arrears; then the board pays its share, and he only counts half the 15 years in his pension period.

When those salaries were given to the men in the employment of the board there was no thought of contributions, and it is very easy to get into a particular standard of living based upon the salary you are receiving. Many of the men in the employment of the board are not so well paid that the board could have immediately expected that they would begin to set aside a pension fund on their own. There was always the hope held out in 1927 that there would be a pension scheme for them. Some of them could not afford to reduce their standard of living. In the case of others, some reduction may be possible, but they have got accustomed over a number of years to living in a particular way. I wonder has the Minister made any calculations with regard to the employees of the board in regard to this payment of arrears? I did get calculations made with regard to some of them, and I should like to put two or three examples to the House.

Naturally, I am not going to mention names. I am taking 65 years as the pensionable age. I have taken three examples. One man is on a salary of £1,500 at the moment. He has about 22 years' service left. That man will have to pay £180 over 22 years in order to qualify under this Bill for a pension of something short of £700. Another man on the same salary, being an older man, has a period of contribution of 15 years before he reaches the age of 65. Out of his salary of £1,500 he will have to pay £241 over 15 years, and at the end of the period he will qualify for a pension of about £550. Is it considered reasonable to ask a man to deduct £241 from his salary, and to continue to do it over 15 years, the remainder of his period with the board, in order to qualify for a pension of about £550?

I will give a third example. It is the case of a man on a salary of £1,200. He has 22 years in which he would have to pay a contribution, and he would pay in respect of his future service something over £90 and in respect of his back service it would be nearly £60. He would pay a contribution of £152 over 22 years, and at the end of it he would qualify for a pension of about £540. Those are the men with the big salaries. Does the Minister think of the manual workers, the men who are paid weekly? Has he thought of their small salaries, and the impossible burden of paying those 15 years' contributions? It would have been hard enough for them to do that if the measure had been passed away back in 1927, and they had been faced on entering into the service of the Electricity Supply Board with the task of deducting from their salaries the amount which they would have to deduct under this Bill, but you are imposing an impossible burden on them when you ask them in addition to go back over the 15 years during which, through no fault of their own, they have not contributed to the fund, and to pay those contributions now with compound interest.

If the Minister will go through the salary sheets of the board, divide them into five or six groups, get a mean taken as between the different groups, and find out what those men have to pay, I think he will come to the conclusion that this pension scheme is a paper scheme as far as a number of those employees are concerned. They will not be able to qualify for pensions. Quite a number will find it hard to qualify on account of the age limit. Quite a number will find it hard to qualify on account of many phrases in the Bill, but this repayment of the 15 years' lost contributions with compound interest will definitely put outside the scope of this Bill many men who would have liked to be inside it.

I suggest again to the Minister that this whole thing is bad, and completely bad, in principle. I think that the matter could quite easily be met by a slight amendment of the 1927 Act. I know that to accept that would involve a rather definite change in viewpoint in connection with this whole matter, but I ask the Minister again to ponder over the logic of leaving the board in a free and independent position in relation to terms and conditions of service. He should think of their big wage bill, the amazing success that they have achieved, beyond the wildest dreams of the people speaking about this matter in 1927, and ask himself can he justify to this House imposing on the board a Civil Service control in connection with the minor matter of pensions. I would ask him, in connection with this minor matter of pensions, would it not be a far better course to adopt to allow the board to stand on this unique type of experiment, and let us see how one group of employers can treat the employees of this country when left alone and when there is no interposition by the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Industry and Commerce or members of their staff?

Let us have the experiment and let it be run full tilt with this knowledge, that the most liberal thing that the board could do could not make a difference as between a £20,000 and £30,000 per annum pension scheme. You would avoid this matter of asking a repayment of back contributions. That will not operate with regard to new entrants; it will operate only in regard to the members already in. There are quite a number of people who were in the service of the board in the bad years, as I might call them, and who left the employment of the board for some reason best known to themselves. I make every allowance for special payment in special cases, but the people who are no longer in the service of the board and who left their employment for various reasons in the earlier stages should be given some consideration.

I suggest that the Minister should remove the whole Bill from the House and come in with a one-paragraph measure giving the board, in addition to the very great powers they have at the moment, this small extra power of establishing a pension fund for its employees.

In all the discussions on the necessity for the provision of pensions for the staff of the Electricity Supply Board the concern has been to ensure that what was thought to be an inadvertent omission from the 1927 Act should be remedied by the introduction of an amending Bill which would give to the Electricity-Supply Board power to provide pensions for its employees, it having been held in certain legal quarters that the earlier Act did not permit the payment of pensions to the board's employees. All questions on this subject which were directed to the Minister had for their object the slight amendment necessary in the parent Act in order to ensure that the board was equipped with powers to provide pensions for its employees. That was a very narrow issue, a very simple issue. It was merely a matter of remedying by an amending Bill an omission from the earlier Act.

But what do we find? Instead of having, as Deputy McGilligan has rightly suggested, a brief amendment of the parent Act, we get instead an amending Bill of 16 sections, and its purpose is not merely to enable the board to provide pensions for its employees; the purpose of this amending Bill is to take away from the Electricity Supply Board certain of its powers of control in respect of the staff, to establish a pensions scheme which has provoked considerable opposition among the people whom it is intended to benefit, and to establish a tribunal which will itself be an instrument of the Minister and which has begotten and will beget considerable opposition and hostility from the trade union movement, because it is an effort to stifle trade union organisation among the staff of the Electricity Supply Board.

A very simple issue, therefore, has been grotesquely magnified by the Minister by means of this Bill, a Bill which is quite unnecessary to deal with a problem which can be dealt with by as much writing as would fit on a postcard. The inducements offered to the workers of the Electricity Supply Board under this Bill are represented by pensions on a contributory basis, but these pensions will not be paid on the basis of their entire service unless they are prepared to pay into a pension fund to be created, arrears of contributions due by them, plus compound interest over the period in which the contributions were not paid.

There is a rather striking anomaly in the Bill. The directors of the board are not required to pay any contributions to the fund, but the ordinary manual workers, the men struggling on £2 10s., £2 15s., or £3 10s. per week, are expected not merely to pay current contributions, but also, if they are to secure the full pension, they must pay the arrears in respect of the period in which those contributions were not paid. So far as elderly workers are concerned, they can only purchase a right to pension by carrying a financial burden which they know, and which experience has shown, is too onerous for them. Such a burden has always proved too onerous for workers similarly placed. Many firms in the past have sought to establish pension schemes for their workers and the problem of providing for the elderly worker has been the rock upon which many schemes foundered.

If the elderly worker has to pay arrears in respect of his earlier periods of service, that imposes upon him such a heavy financial burden that he is compelled to abandon participation in the scheme and he prefers to carry on spending his week's wages and cannot afford the financial luxury of making provision for his future because of the cost. If the Minister were to consult the elderly manual staff of the Electricity Supply Board, he would find there is no enthusiasm for the Bill so far as the pension provisions are concerned. Not merely do these provisions impose a current deduction, but they offer only a small pension unless the workers are prepared to pay the arrears of contributions. Whatever might be said for asking the persons in high positions on the board to do that—but they are not asked to pay past or current contributions—no case can be made for imposing such a heavy burden on manual workers, whose rate of wages, having regard to the present cost of living, is such as to make it impossible for them to bear it.

The whole basis of the calculation of a pension is extremely intriguing. In the Gárda and in the Civil Service there are schemes which provide a maximum pension of two-thirds or one-half salary, plus a gratuity equal to salary for a year and a half, but in this case the pension is not even calculated on the basis of 1/40th or 1/30th for each year of service, or even 1/80th, which obtains in the Post Office and in the Civil Service generally, apart from the lump sum also payable. In this case we eliminate the possibility of any lump sum being paid and we fix the method of calculation at 1/48th of the wages or salary, and it is then subject to a maximum of 20/48ths, so that a person cannot get even half his salary or wages as a pension. Why the figure 48 was selected, I cannot understand; the Minister made no effort to explain to us why it was necessary to select that figure instead of adhering to the recognised practice of paying pensions on a maximum of two-thirds of the salary. Another provision in the conditions governing the pensions scheme is that only continual service will count for pension purposes and an employee of the board who happened to be guilty of any type of offence which might have led to his dismissal, but who, on a review of the circumstances of the case, was subsequently reinstated, loses entirely his previous service for pension purposes and he also loses—and this seems an undoubted hardship—the contributions which he paid in the period prior to the break in his service. In other words, his right to draw on the fund ceased in respect of the earlier period, but his contributions remained in the fund to be used for the benefit of other persons.

The most objectionable part of this Bill—and it seems to me to be the part in which the Government are most concerned—is the manner in which they provide for the payment of pensions. In order to get a pension under this Bill a person must sign a contract with the board that he will submit every dispute for determination by the tribunal, and that he must sacrifice his right, his natural right and his legal right, to withdraw his labour. In other words, he must sign away his liberty, he must sign away his conscience.

There is nothing about that in the Bill. The Deputy must be talking about another Bill.

What does the Minister say is not in the Bill?

There is nothing in this Bill which prohibits a man from going on strike.

If a man, having contracted to submit a dispute to this tribunal, and having paid contributions under this Bill for a period of 20 years, withdrew his labour, he broke the continuity of his service, and by reason of the fact that he broke that continuity of service he lost all his previous service for pension purposes and he lost all his contributions. Does the Minister deny that that is the position?

It does not prohibit him from going on strike, and that is what the Deputy said.

The Minister is merely logic-chopping.

It is the same as in the case of Dublin Corporation employees.

The purpose of this Bill is to compel a man, on the offer of a pension, to agree to submit any claim or any matter in dispute to the tribunal, and he is prevented from going on strike by the use of this instrument against him: that if he once goes on strike he loses all the contributions, which he previously paid into the pensions fund, and all the service he has previously rendered. That is the weapon held over him to deter him from going on strike. The Minister knows perfectly well that with a weapon of that kind he might very well be able to create a situation in which persons might refuse to go on strike, and might be willing to put up with any type of injustice rather than risk the loss of a pension, particularly when they were persons of mature years. In order to get a pension under this Bill, even though the pension is an inadequate one and even though the price exacted for it is extremely high, a person has to accept the decision of this tribunal in every matter affecting his economic position, affecting his status and his grading with the Electricity Supply Board, and unless he is prepared to do that and to accept the decision of that tribunal, then he cannot contract in under this pensions scheme. Once they have contracted in under the pensions scheme, and once they have accepted this tribunal as the arbiter of their future economic destiny, they dare not go on strike except at the price of losing whatever pensions they have earned by past services.

The Minister did not attempt to tell us what the reason was for the hurried establishment of a tribunal of this kind. There have been no industrial disputes in the Electricity Supply Board of a kind which led to the interruption of the electricity supply services of the country. The relations between the board and the staff of the Electricity Supply Board have been harmonious, and I do not think there was even a threatened strike in the Electricity Supply Board during the period of the board's existence. Yet, although the board apparently has been able to get on well with its employees, and the employees with the board, it is in a condition of harmony of that kind that the Minister rushes in to inject this type of special tribunal and to create there, in that atmosphere of apparent industrial peace, an atmosphere of hostility as between the board and its workers, an atmosphere which was not there until this Bill was introduced, and an atmosphere which will make itself very obvious once the terms of this Bill are read and understood by the workers affected. If this were an industry in which there were constant disputes, a vital industry, one might understand the anxiety of the Minister to end a condition of affairs which brought about periodic dislocation of industry, but here you have a perfectly peaceful industry, where there have been no disputes whatever and where there have been amity and concord between the board and its staff. Notwithstanding the fact, that, obviously, that condition of affairs does not call for the application of experiments of this kind, it is to an industry of that kind that the Minister wants to apply this particularly offensive type of tribunal.

Now, let us have a look at the tribunal which the Minister proposes to appoint. One member is to be nominated by the board, one is to be nominated by the workers under some type of machinery to be created by the board with the approval of the Minister, and one person is to be nominated by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and to be paid by the board. What chance has a worker's representative in a tribunal of that kind? As this Bill indicates, the Minister will have an even stronger grip over the board itself by having a nominee on the tribunal. In this particular case the tribunal will be composed of one workers' representative and two other representatives, one of whom will only see the board's point of view, because the person will be the nominee of the board, and the other who will see both the board's point of view and the Minister's point of view, because he is the nominee of the Minister, and, so far as questions of wages are concerned, will probably be closer to the board than he will be to the workers.

He will have to be guided by the conditions laid down in the Bill. The Deputy does not advert to that.

We will come to that in a moment. Why does the Minister want to have the right to nominate this member of the board?

Because I want the chairman to be impartial.

The Minister is being funny instead of being impartial.

Somebody must do it. Perhaps the Deputy would like to do it?

Yes, somebody must do it, but in the case of the Railway Acts we did not let the Minister do it. We went into the courts and got the Chief Justice to do the nomination.

If we had followed the same scheme in connection with the Railway Acts as is suggested here, the railway workers might have a pension scheme now.

They have no coal now, at any rate.

They got plenty of legislation, at any rate.

They got Order No. 83.

This tribunal is nominated, to the extent of one-third, by the board, to the extent of one-third by the workers, and the chairman is nominated by the Minister. I object to giving the Minister power to nominate the chairman, because I do not think you will get an impartial nomination from him. I think, from the Minister's outlook as it appears in connection with this Bill, you will inevitably get from the Minister the type of person who will be on the side of the board and against the worker. I do not think the Minister would shed the right of nominating an impartial chairman if he were to ask the Chief Justice to take on himself the task of appointing a chairman to preside over the functions of this tribunal—if a tribunal of this kind is maintained at all, although my strong advice to the Minister would be to leave this matter of the tribunal alone. It has not been an issue for the last 15 years. The need for it has not arisen during the last 15 years, and what is the necessity to rush in with it now? The Minister might very well go slow in this matter, and not cross his bridges until he comes to them, instead of rushing in to provide a tribunal of this kind, which nobody wants, and the need for which has not been shown even by the Minister.

If the Minister thought there was any danger of an interruption of the service there are ways and means of dealing with such a situation without forcing a tribunal of that kind through this House. These tribunals, as a matter of fact, very often do not work, and when a real crisis arises it is goodwill and co-operation that help to overcome difficulties rather than pieces of machinery, which are the first things to be wrecked, once tempers become frayed or temperatures show an inclination to rise. This tribunal will be the instrument of the Minister. The board will have one-third, the Minister will have another third, and the workers will have two-thirds against them all the time. If the workers and the board do not agree there will be the decision of the chairman. That mentality is running in the country. We know the kind of award there would be by a chairman appointed by the Minister, responsible to the Minister and paid by the board. I suggest to the Minister that if he is really concerned about the establishment of arbitration he ought, at this stage, try to devise some method by which there will be a voluntary arbitration scheme. The Government will not have arbitration in other things, but when we come to the Electricity Supply Board they want to insist on it having an arbitration scheme which is not wanted. They started out in 1933 to consider arbitration and then would not give it, and have not since given it, but, in respect to the Electricity Supply Board, the Minister wants members of the staff to have an arbitration board that they do not want. That is the kind of somersaulting we get here.

I suggest that he wants an arbitration board to be established; it can be got with the goodwill and the co-operation of the unions catering for the Electricity Supply Board by the machinery under the Industrial Courts Acts.

We have had experience of these and in course of time their decisions would produce acceptance of their machinery. If that is not acceptable the procedure of the Railway Wages Board might be applied to the Electricity Supply Board. It is possible to create a permanent type of arbitration tribunal whose decisions, while not compulsory, would meet with acceptance. The Railways Wages Board has acted in that way for a long period, and its decisions generally, while producing annoyance from time to time, sometimes on the part of the unions and sometimes on the part of the companies, are generally accepted. The fact that the board functions in that way has certainly secured a long period of peace in the railways, and is calculated to continue to ensure a period of peace on the railways. We might try, with a good deal of reason, the type of arbitration envisaged in the Industrial Courts Acts, and I think the Minister should look into that and not insist on enforcing a tribunal of this sort, which is not part of the grievance for the establishment of a pension scheme, because there are no disputes in the Electricity Supply Board. In the long run this may be found to be the weakest need of the Electricity Supply Board and one calculated to cause interruption. If confronted with that situation, I would appeal to the reason of both sides, saying that this was a national and a vital service, any interruption of which would cause considerable hardship. I would appeal to them on these lines to settle their difficulties and not to interrupt the service, rather than to expect three people to sit down to pronounce judgment on an issue. An appeal of that kind would be likely to have an effect on the common sense of both sides in a dispute. I hope the Minister will not persist with a scheme of compulsory arbitration being applied to the Electricity Supply Board staff. There is no need for it.

The Minister will be ill-advised if he proceeds with it.

I should like to make some reference to the details of the Bill. One is the position of certain employees of Rathmines and Pembroke Urban Councils affected by this Bill. There are ten employees in Rathmines and 12 in Pembroke who were taken over by the Electricity Supply Board. They were not pensionable employees of Rathmines or Pembroke, although if the Electricity Supply Board had not taken them over, they would probably have been absorbed in the Dublin Corporation Electricity Supply Board branch, when the townships were incorporated in the Dublin area. They were taken over by the Electricity Supply Board before that event. Having been taken over by the Electricity Supply Board they got no pensions because they were not pensionable by the urban councils. There is no provision for pensioning them under this Bill; at all events no mandatory provision, and it seems to me that the most they are likely to get is three-eighths, assuming that Section 13 was operated in their favour. It is not obligatory on the board to operate Section 13, but power is given to grant pensions up to a maximum of three-eighths. Some of these people are very old. They gave long service to the urban councils, and long service to the Electricity Supply Board, but the most they can expect the board will give them is probably a maximum three-eighths in pensions. I think the Minister might recognise that these are exceptional cases. If the Electricity Supply Board had not taken over the Dublin Corporation works and the staff, and if these men had been taken over by the corporation they would be entitled to a maximum of two-thirds. Because the Electricity Supply Board intervened they got no pensions and they can now get only a maximum of three-eighths instead of two-thirds. I should like the Minister to examine their cases to see if it would not be possible to make some special provision for persons like these, who have been particularly unlucky and who, even under this Bill, are not likely to get much in respect of past services.

I understand that when the Pigeon House Works were closed down a number of employees was paid off and, being employees of Dublin Corporation, they got certain pensions based on service. When it was discovered that the scheme could not run without the Pigeon House plant being used as an auxiliary plant a number of these persons were re-employed by the Electricity Supply Board, and I understand some of them have been in the service of the board for ten or 12 years.

Apparently in this Bill there is no provision for reckoning that additional service. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that some effort will be made to link up the previous service of those men at the Pigeon House with the services they have given for the past ten years or more with the Electricity Supply Board so that they may, when retiring from the service of the Electricity Supply Board, get pensions based on the additional service they have rendered to the Electricity Supply Board for the past ten or 12 years. There are cases of other employees similar to the case of one with whom I happen to be acquainted where, having been employed by a certain company whose electricity plant was taken over by the Electricity Supply Board, he was superannuated by the company on a pension of approximately half his previous salary. The Electricity Supply Board and the company had power to add five years from each side to his pension period. The company was willing to do so, but the Electricity Supply Board was not then willing to do so, with the result that this man, whose salary at the time was approximately £800 per year, found himself, at a time when his domestic responsibilities were heavy, being pushed out with a pension of £390. It was not easy for that man to adjust his income or his standard of living. He was subsequently re-employed by the Electricity Supply Board, and has been employed for the past 11 years. If he now retires from the service of the Electricity Supply Board, he will get no recognition whatever for the past 11 years' service, unless the Minister will undertake to move an amendment on Committee Stage to enable persons to hook up their recent service with the board with whatever previous service they had either with the board or with some undertaking taken over by the board. This whole question of the absorption of various staffs of different electrical undertakings by the Electricity Supply Board has produced, as the Minister knows, many difficulties, and, if we are to have a long Bill of this kind, we ought to utilise it for doing something useful in the way of removing these anomalies which have grown up because of the manner in which the staffs were taken over by the Electricity Supply Board.

Deputy McGilligan has covered practically everything I should have liked to have said on the Bill. I think the Bill is unnecessary. Its object might have been achieved, as Deputy McGilligan said, by an amendment of the Principal Act. Its terms are niggardly and the provision of compulsory arbitration might have been left to some other time. I want to ask the Minister a question in regard to what I would call the pernicious obligations in the Bill by which employees are to be asked to make retrospective payments—I do not like to call them payments of arrears—in relation to their full pensions later on. Under the Bill, if they do not make these payments in respect of arrears, they will not get the full pension, but, if they do make these payments, are they assured in all cases of getting back even the lump sum they have paid? What will be the position in respect of a person compelled to make these payments for the number of years he spent in the service of the board before the Bill was brought into operation—I do not like to describe them as arrears because one does not like to associate that word with something which a person was under no obligation to pay—and who dies a year or two years afterwards? Will his dependents get back that money or not? According to my reading of the Bill, they will get nothing. Having regard to what Deputy McGilligan and Deputy Norton have said, further speeches on the Bill are unnecessary, but I should like the Minister to say what will be the position of the dependents of an employee who dies some years after the coming into operation of this Bill. Are such persons assured of getting back everything paid in?

Deputy McGilligan described this Bill as another development in the process of bringing the Electricity Supply Board under Government control. He said that originally the Electricity Supply Board was set up as an independent body, subject only to certain minor restrictions—the obligation to submit an annual report to the Dáil and the restriction implied in the power given to the Minister to remove the members of the board on the expiration of their term of office. He stated that since he set up the board in that independent position, the Department of Industry and Commerce had been trying to get their hooks into it for the purpose of destroying its independence and bringing it back subject to a degree of supervision and control not contemplated originally. The only restriction upon the independence of the board was imposed by Deputy McGilligan in 1931. Since he enacted in that year legislation amending the Electricity Supply Act in respect of borrowings of the board, there has been no further restriction imposed on the liberty of the board. Whatever power was conferred on the Department of Industry and Commerce to supervise the capital expenditure of the board was conferred by the Act of 1931, and has not been added to since.

It is true that the original intention was to set up the board in a more independent position than it now has and it is true that that attempt did not lead to happy results in the early days of the board's existence, and that Deputy McGilligan who then had responsibility in the matter decided that he had to step back from the position originally taken up, but from that position, taken up in the second instance, there has been no retrogressive movement since. It may have been, and I am quite sure it was, Deputy McGilligan's intention when he was Minister in 1931, that the new restriction placed upon the liberty of the board which gave power to supervise its capital expenditure to the Department of Industry and Commerce should be of a temporary character. I have on many occasions since considered the possibility of removing that restriction again. I did not do so because I did not think anything was to be gained by doing so, nor has it appeared to me in practice to impose any undue restriction upon the liberty of the board.

I think that at some stage we shall have to consider the position of the Electricity Supply Board as a whole. I am not at all sure that the original scheme of organisation was the best. However, the officers appointed by the board—I may remind Deputy McGilligan that it was he who appointed a civil servant chairman of the board—have remained unchanged by me. Whether or not I considered that they were the most suitable persons available, I certainly saw no good reason for changing them, and that organisation has continued in existence since the present Government came into office. I must say, however, that I have often had in my mind the idea that we should reorganise the board itself, because I think the system of having on the board persons who are also executive officers of the organisation is not the best possible. I do not say it has always worked badly, or that it is now working badly, in the case of the Electricity Supply Board; but, certainly, if we were starting again on the establishment of an organisation of that kind, I think we would adopt the more obvious system of a board responsible only for supervising its executive officers and operating through a managing director, as most commercial organisations do.

I do, however, wish to refute the suggestion that there has been any deliberate movement on the part of the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Finance or the Government to place upon the board any restrictions which did not exist when we came into office, or to curtail their liberty of action in matters which are entirely within their own domain.

It was said here this evening that, in this matter of the pensions scheme, we were going the wrong way: that the only thing necessary to do was to pass a short Bill making it quite clear that, under the original Act, the Electricity Supply Board, in addition to fixing the salaries of its officers, could also provide pensions for them. Now Deputy McGilligan, if for no other reason than that of maintaining consistency with his own past, could make that suggestion and stand over it, but I frankly admit I was astonished to find it coming from Deputy Norton, who poses as the champion of the workers. There are two courses we could take, the first which Deputy McGilligan suggested and which Deputy Norton endorsed that we merely empower the Electricity Supply Board to pay pensions if they want to—much the same thing as we did in the case of the Great Southern Railways Company, to empower them to pay pensions if they want to.

Not if they want to. I want it made mandatory on the board.

That is what this Bill is doing, and that is the difference between this Bill and the suggestion that Deputy McGilligan made and Deputy Norton approved of.

Why are the workers protesting against the Bill then?

I am not so sure that they are. Deputy Norton is beginning to realise now that he put his foot in it when he endorsed Deputy McGilligan's suggestion, which was that we merely give the board legal power to prepare a pensions scheme for the benefit of their workers.

Did the Minister hear what I said on Section 13?

We have gone further than that in the interests of these particular workers. We are not merely empowering the board to prepare pensions schemes for the benefit of their employees but we are saying in this Bill that, as soon as may be after it is passed, the board shall, in accordance with the section, prepare these schemes. That is the essential difference between the two methods of procedure. We are making it obligatory on the board to prepare a pensions scheme, and, if we are requiring the board to submit the scheme for the consideration of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, I think there is a good reason for it. It can be said, of course, that the board would pay pensions if they were allowed to do so. In fact, there has been a suggestion by Deputy McGilligan and, I think, by Deputy Norton that we should allow the board to pay any pensions they like; that there should be no restrictions upon the amount of pensions they paid either to themselves as members of the board or to the employees of the board. I think that is a perfectly preposterous suggestion.

It would be a preposterous suggestion if anybody had made it.

That suggestion was made here. Surely the whole argument of the three Deputies who spoke on the Bill, Deputy McGilligan, Deputy Norton and Deputy Bennett in the few words that he spoke, was that we should merely empower the board to do that and not interfere with them further.

And that is outrageous?

I think it is in the circumstances we have.

And wages will be the same thing.

I am prepared to rely on the power given to me and to the Government to remove members of the board who do not carry out their responsibilities in a proper manner on the general question of the payment of wages.

And that could not happen in regard to pensions?

It could. Let us see what the argument is. We have set up this board as a monopoly and we have had monopolies denounced here, even unreasonably.

Monopolies for private gain.

Nevertheless, we have had that.

What about the Ennis one and the bootlaces?

Deputies get very annoyed whenever their preposterous arguments are exploded. It is true, of course, that the Electricity Supply Board are in the happy position that they can pay any pensions they like and make the consumers of electricity meet the cost of the pensions. Is that not so?

I thought you said they could not.

Subject only to the power of the Government to dismiss the members of the board.

Which is the only power in regard to wages. Is that right?


Take the two on the same basis.

There is no doubt that we can, if we like, allow the existing Electricity Supply Board to pay any pensions they like. We know that if they were to do so that would not, as Deputy McGilligan said, burst their revenue. Their revenues are large enough to enable them to pay large pensions, and if they are not large enough they can increase their electricity charges and get the money to pay the large pensions. I ask Deputies to contemplate not merely a pension scheme for the employees of the Electricity Supply Board but that in the development of social conditions in this country a similar pension scheme might operate for the employees of other public utilities. Every public utility, however, is not in the happy position of the Electricity Supply Board of being able to pay any pensions they like without any deterioration in their revenue position, so that if we establish that precedent in relation to this board we are making it not easier but more difficult to establish this system of providing pensions for workers on retirement by other less fortunately circumstanced undertakings. We authorised the Great Southern Railways Company to pay pensions to their workers. We put on the company the obligation of preparing a scheme and of submitting it to the Railway Tribunal. The railway company did that.

What happened?

The Railway Tribunal decided that the pensions scheme—I forget the actual terms—was inadequate to meet the reasonable requirements of the employees.

And what did the Minister do?

I summoned both sides together and said to them: "Get an agreed scheme and I will introduce legislation to make it effective," and after years of negotiation we got a scheme agreed upon. It was submitted to me and accepted by me as a reasonable one, but in the precarious financial position of the company at the time it could not be proceeded with, and was not on that account. If we contemplate the employees of railway companies, gas companies, and other public utilities and of large industrial concerns being put in the position of having pensions provided for them when they reach the age of retirement, we must ensure that the precedent which we are establishing for the Electricity Supply Board will be one which will be capable of being made applicable to them also. We cannot set too high a standard for other companies when they are preparing schemes to meet their particular circumstances. Everyone knows that if negotiations were taking place with the representatives of the workers of those undertakings or if strikes were fostered in order to enforce the payment of pensions, that the precedent established for the Electricity Supply Board would be quoted as a justification for the demands made on behalf of the employees of those other undertakings.

I think we should be reasonable in this. I think it is not preposterous for the Minister for Finance to ask me to ensure that in any pensions scheme provided for the officials of the Electricity Supply Board the practice in the Civil Service should be taken into account. Is it unreasonable to say that officials employed by the Electricity Supply Board should not be better treated than officials in Government Departments? It is a fact, in respect of the members of the board anyway, that the terms which it is supposed to give them are better than they would get if they had been Government officials drawing similar remuneration. I do not think that we should leave that out of account or ignore the possibility that the standards we set now may, if they are set too high, be the cause of considerable trouble not merely in the public service, but also in a number of industrial undertakings whether set up under statute or privately owned.

At some stage this idea of establishing pension schemes for employees on retirement due to old age will be generally adopted. Therefore, I propose to stick to this provision which requires the Electricity Supply Board to submit its pension scheme for consideration. I am not going to deal with the actuarial aspect of these schemes. I presume the Electricity Supply Board will employ, in their preparation, persons as competent as any that I could command. So far as that part of their scheme is concerned, we will allow experience to show whether they are right or wrong, but, in relation to the question of public policy that arises in this matter, I think it is not unreasonable to say that, before the scheme is finally approved and brought into operation, the Minister for State who is in charge of this business should have an opportunity of seeing what it contains, and requiring such modifications of it as in his opinion public policy necessitates.

Take the argument about wages now. Why do you not control wages?

I do not want to be dragged into that. I think in some respects the Electricity Supply Board have set a standard in salaries which is altogether too high.

Then you would like to control them too?

I would not. I do not propose to do it anyway.

I want to get the analogy between wages and pensions. I want to find out why you do not accept the analogy governing pensions and governing wages?

It is because the matter does not arise at the moment.

Because it does not suit you.

If the Minister thinks that the Electricity Supply Board have set too high a standard of wages, what is the tribunal expected to do under Section 11—reduce wages?

The tribunal has nothing whatever to do with wages except a case comes before it.

If they think the same as the Minister, what will happen?

My observation does not apply to manual workers of the board for whom the tribunal exists. As I have said, it has been the practice of the Electricity Supply Board to pay manual workers the recognised wages provided for in agreements between similar classes of workers and their employers in the districts concerned.

Which, of course, they are not doing.

They are doing it.

Not in Cork, anyway. They get 5/- less than the gas workers in Cork.

A gas worker is not an electrician. You will find that they are getting the same rates as electricians in Cork. Let us get back to the pensions scheme.

Let us get away from wages!

For the reasons I mentioned, I think it is not unreasonable to require the Electricity Supply Board to submit its scheme for approval, and I think it would not be desirable to give them the complete liberty of action which has been suggested here. As regards the suggestion that, instead of having a Bill of 16 sections—to quote Deputy Norton—we should have one of four words only, authorising the board to pay pensions to workers——

Four was not my figure; that was Deputy McGilligan's figure.

Deputy Norton said much the same.

Anybody will do you, of course.

The argument in favour of the Bill is that it makes it mandatory on the Electricity Supply Board to prepare such a scheme, whereas the other system only authorises it.

You say that the board does not want to give pensions?

On the contrary, I think the board is liable to be unduly generous, because they have not got the checks which ordinary industrial employers have.

Then the argument that you are making it compulsory has no substance?

It has no substance in reality, but it has this substance, that it demolishes Deputy Norton's contention that it would be better for the workers to leave it the other way.

I see; it has no substance in reality.

I am proving that Deputy Norton, instead of giving it serious thought himself, merely reechoed what Deputy McGilligan said. Deputy McGilligan may take that as a compliment if he wishes, but the fact is that Deputy Norton is so lazy that he does not think at all.

The Minister will not get any certificates for excessive energy from anybody.

I will not ask them from the Deputy.

Go and look at the bread queues. The Minister could not see them a fortnight ago.

The Deputy cannot take it. He stands up and blathers for hours on end, abusing the Government and every member of the Government, but if anyone attempts to retaliate in kind he flares up.

I am not worrying about what the Minister says.

Let the Deputy sit back and listen. I am not going to deal much more with him anyway. The Bill, as I have said, deals with two matters. One is the matter of pensions to members of the board itself, and the other is the payment of pensions to members of the staff of the board. I think we should put, by legislation, a limitation upon the pensions which members of the board will pay to themselves—I do not think anybody will contend otherwise—and I think that, in determining the limitations that are to be put on the pensions they can pay to themselves, we should have regard to the pensions which comparable service would earn in the public service. In fact, because of the special circumstances of the board, and the later age at which members of the board entered that service as compared with the ordinary age of entering into the public service, they are getting better terms than members of the public service would get.

Of course, they should too.

That is a matter of opinion.

They are subject to dismissal very frequently.

They are non-contributory pensions, because it would not be practicable, having regard to the very small number of individuals involved and the very short period of years during which the board has been in existence, to establish a fund. It would not be practicable to establish a system of contributory pensions in respect of members of the board. Deputy McGilligan referred to one member of the board who does not qualify at present in respect of ten years' continuous service. That individual was a member of the board and then ceased to be a member of the board, and when he ceased to be a member of the board he received a lump sum gratuity in respect of his retirement. I do not think we should ignore that fact in deciding what his future pension is to be. Having regard to the payment of a lump sum in gratuity on the termination of his services in 1931, I think it is only reasonable to take the continuity of his service from his reappointment.

We know what the gratuity was given for.

It was given as compensation for the termination of his appointment.

And the fact that it was unlikely that he would get employment immediately. I am quite certain that he spent that gratuity in the interim.

I cannot accept that as a reason for ignoring the break in the continuity of his service. He nevertheless got it. The matter is largely of academic interest, because so far as I know the member's present warrant will carry him over the ten years' period necessary to enable him to qualify for a pension.

Everybody knows what the gratuity was for. Go back and read the debates on the subject.

It was compensation for the termination of employment.

It would mean no burden on the electricity fund to disregard that and take the aggregate service in connection with members of the board. It is a small point and would not make any difference.

I have had a number of representations made to me by members of the board and by employees of the board, dealing with the special circumstances of their cases, and, while I often had personal sympathy with the representations made, I think we should establish certain principles and keep to those principles, and that does not imply any animosity to anybody.

Would you not think of conditions in which a man might be dropped from the board—because of a change of personnel, or perhaps a change of Government; he might be dropped because of some idea about not having so much technical staff and then go back to it?

I would not. What are we providing for here? We are providing for compensation to members of a board, who are likely to be appointed fairly late in life, provided they give ten years' service. What case is there for giving them a pension at all? There is only this case, that the persons who are likely to be selected for membership of that board are persons who have made a success of their lives in whatever particular sphere they spent them. They are likely to be persons in employment, who have made good in that employment, and commanded public confidence either in a technical or administrative capacity. Such persons who are taken out of that employment and given an opportunity of membership of this board are likely to suffer loss if they are divorced from their normal occupations for a considerable time, and the period of ten years is suggested as being the period which should entitle them to payment of pensions on a non-contributory basis, if and when they are retired from membership of the Electricity Supply Board. I think a shorter period would be open to abuse. It would lead to the possibility of members being changed around more frequently and it might also not be in the interests of the Electricity Supply Board, because clearly those who are appointed members of the board, so long as it remains constituted as at present, should not be disturbed unnecessarily, and experience in the administration of the affairs of that concern is a very important qualification for membership.

That is only on the ten-year point. What of the other point—the man who serves for ten years and has a break?

We might discuss that matter in committee. The point to be considered is whether each of the periods should be in any way considerable, sufficient to involve a man breaking contact with his normal occupation, his ordinary method of living, to an extent that might involve him in personal loss. There is always a difficulty in inaugurating a pension scheme for an established organisation, especially where that scheme involves contributions calculated on an actuarial basis into a fund out of which pensions will be paid and which fund must be kept solvent. When we apply a contributory pension scheme to the Electricity Supply Board, or any similar organisation, we apply it to numbers of persons of all ages. It will apply equally to the person who has just come into the service of the organisation as well as to the person who is about to retire. A difficulty will always arise, unless you are prepared to make a very considerable capital contribution to the fund in respect of those over a certain age when they entered the service. Those who enter young at the beginning of their service will be better off; their pensions will be better than will the pensions of those who entered the service fairly late in life.

Many persons in the Electricity Supply Board organisation may prefer not to make contributions to the pension fund because already they will have made provision for their old age under insurance policies. That is a matter for themselves to decide. We say that as from the day upon which this fund begins to operate everybody is in it and, on the basis of a particular contribution, they can get a particular pension. We say to those previously in the service of the board: "You can, if you like, increase the pension you will get to the extent that you are prepared to contribute to the fund in respect of your past service." We provide in respect of the past service, that the Electricity Supply Board will give its contribution in any event, so that in respect of the past service of each member of the staff a half pension is guaranteed and they can get the other half if they choose to make their contributions. In any event, their contribution and the board's contribution will provide for a pension. That is a common device in pension schemes. Officers of my Department have examined pension schemes drawn up for large-scale industrial organisations of different kinds and there is no dissimilarity between our provisions and the provisions in these other pension schemes.

All based on actuaries' reports?

There was one scheme that might interest Deputy Davin. It was for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company and it contains a precisely similar provision. Deputy Davin should know that. No one would regard that as unreasonable in the circumstances in which the pension fund was applied to the employees of that organisation.

It was based on actuarial reports.

The Electricity Supply Board scheme will be based on actuarial reports. Deputy McGilligan quoted certain figures as to the contributions which certain employees of the board would have to pay in order to get the pension he mentioned. I have also seen these figures and I am not at all sure that these calculations are sound and that every factor that might be taken into account in determining the size of the contribution and the pension was allowed for. I think they were prepared on an unduly conservative basis. It was assumed in prepar- ing these figures that one half of the Electricity Supply Board employees would elect to retire at 60 instead of 65 years.

I had no such calculations in front of me.

I think the experience of the public services can be relied upon. Deputy McGilligan will recollect that in his time as Minister not merely was there no desire to retire earlier than at 65, but even at 65 most civil servants desired to be retained in the public service rather than retire on pension and, while the circumstances of the Electricity Supply Board might be slightly different, because many of the employees are technical men and their work is mostly outdoor work, nevertheless it is a reasonable assumption that a higher proportion than 50 per cent. will elect to remain on to 65 rather than retire at 60. If it is assumed that 80 or 90 per cent. will go on to 65, then a considerable change in these figures is produced. In any event, it appears to me not unreasonable to say to these people who are drawing substantial remuneration and who had no guarantee that a pension scheme would be available for them at all and who, presumably, have made provision against their old age——

What about the manual staff?

In the case of the manual staff, I would be inclined to take a much more lenient view, were it not for the consideration that the problem of other organisations may be much more difficult than that of the Electricity Supply Board. The Electricity Supply Board is still a comparatively young organisation. When we set out to devise a scheme for the Great Southern Railways the average age of the persons concerned was, I think, over 50. It was extraordinarily high and the whole scheme broke down because of the impossibility of getting a revenue from contributions sufficient to pay any pension worth having, due to the very high rate at which contributions would have to be fixed on account of the high average age of the persons concerned.

For new entrants you could always have a pension scheme, but if the average age is high that can only be met by a subvention.

And, as the Deputy knows, it would be a complete impossibility for the Great Southern Railways to provide that subvention. Similar circumstances might arise in relation to a number of older organisations in respect of which a movement might be made to provide pension schemes. It is, I think, undesirable that we should establish certain precedents in relation to the Electricity Supply Board which might be the cause of difficulties later. If it could be shown that a real hardship has been inflicted on the manual workers, I would be inclined to take a more lenient view. From discussions I have had with certain representatives, I gather there may be a disinclination on the part of some manual workers to enter the pension fund at all, to pay immediately the contributions involved.

Will the people be given a reasonable period to pay the arrears?

Oh, yes. They do not have to pay in a lump sum. That is a mistaken idea. They pay in the form of an increased contribution for the rest of their service. As a matter of fact, in the London, Midland and Scottish scheme, it is prohibited to pay the arrears in the form of a lump sum.

In the case of the London, Midland and Scottish, surcharges are payable over a long period in such cases.

Yes. In fact, in some cases they debar a man from making a lump sum contribution, and for very obvious and desirable reasons.

That is true. It is desirable that a man should be given a reasonable period to pay.

I think that the other point that remains unanswered is the question of the tribunal, and I want Deputies to approach this matter in a reasonable frame of mind, because I think they misunderstand, not merely the intentions of the Government, but also the attitude of the Electricity Supply Board employees in the matter. From any interpretation of the representations I received from the Electricity Supply Board employees, it was not made clear to me that there was objection to the establishment of a tribunal. There was certain objection to the form of the tribunal, such as a suggestion that the chairman might be appointed by the High Court rather than by the Minister. Well, I think I am just as competent to do that as the High Court, but, of course, that is a matter of opinion. My intention, however, is that it should be an impartial tribunal and that no influence should be brought to bear on its members other than the influence of the terms of reference laid down in the Bill, and that they should discharge their functions without any undue pressure either from the board, the Government, or anybody else. Now, while it is impossible, in this life, to get a completely impartial body, or some individual who will not be liable to be influenced by considerations that should not enter his mind, we should try to go as near that as possible, and that is my aim.

In your own Bill, the employees themselves are not free to appoint their own representative.

They are.

Subject to rules, regulations, and so on.

I know, but we have to have somebody, and these employees are not all in the same trade union. Some of them are not in any trade union at all.

Why not let them appoint their own man, if there is to be a tribunal at all, and if it is to be impartial? As it is, they are hamstrung in every way.

If we are to have representatives of these hundreds of workers, there must be somebody to draw up rules and regulations.

It is not the board who should do that, it is the men themselves.

How are the men to do it? The Deputy should deal with the practicalities of the situation. Somebody must devise rules for the selection of a representative.

They should have the power themselves.

Who are "they"?

The men.

With hundreds of them scattered all over Ireland? The Deputy should set down on paper——

They have an organisation, and each and every one of them has representation in other matters.

Somebody has got to devise a system.

The Minister said that they had no organisation.

On the contrary, I am saying that somebody has got to devise a system of rules which will ensure that the person selected will be really representative of the workers.

Could you not say "in default of selection by the members themselves"? Why not say "established by the men or, in default of their doing so, by the board"?

We must have some person, whether an organisation or an individual, to devise a system. It is quite clear to me, from the representations I have received from the Electricity Supply Board Permanent Pensions Committee, that there is no fundamental objection, in principle, to a tribunal at all, and that the attempts to manufacture that objection are completely without support from the persons for whom this committee speaks. They say that there is "necessity for the establishment of (a) some form of internal conciliation board, representative of the manual workers, the general workers, where, perhaps, the first problem to be considered may be the type of superannuation scheme to be formulated, and of (b) a tribunal to consider such matters as cannot be agreed upon by the internal conciliation board." It is the type of machinery we contemplate, and I presume that in any matters arising between the board and any section of its workers an attempt will be made to settle that by conciliation and, in default of conciliation, that the matter will come to the tribunal. Accordingly, we established that system and I think it is necessary and desirable in the interests of the workers to have it there.

If we are to have a pensions scheme, it is necessary that there should be continuity of service by the workers: otherwise, they will lose their contributions and the right to pensions if they withdraw their services and break their continuity. Deputy Norton suggested that employees of the board would have to put up with any kind of injustice rather than go on strike. It is for the very purpose of ensuring that they will not have to put up with any kind of injustice that the provision is put in there to establish that tribunal. It is to give them machinery to prevent the possibility of that injustice. Take what happened in connection with Dublin Corporation strike. It was the legislation introduced by the Government which protected the workers there, who had gone on strike and had thereby broken their continuity of service. If that legislation had not been introduced here, those employees would have sacrificed their rights to pensions and be now starting a new period of service in order to qualify.

In the case of the Electricity Supply Board, it is not desirable that there should be a similar situation, and it is not a question of the workers there having to choose between injustice and the sacrifice of their pensions. We are giving them an alternative to injustice, and that is an impartial tribunal. It is intended that it will be impartial, and it will be there to protect these workers against the possibility of their position being abused by the board and injustice meted out to them. It is, surely, as much a protection to the workers as to the board, because it provides that any dispute between the board and the employees may be submitted to that tribunal.

Not "may be".

Well, shall be submitted.

And the decision will be final.

In default of agreement. I think that is desirable, not merely in connection with the Electricity Supply Board, but with other similar undertakings, the continuous operation of which is essential, not merely for as concerning public convenience but, very often, the livelihoods of thousands of workers. A number of matters of detail were raised which I do not propose to deal with now as they can be dealt with more effectively on the Committee Stage. I propose to confine myself now to this question of principle. I should like to say that it was with very considerable hesitation, under present circumstances, that I asked the Government to proceed with this Bill at all. I think that we could have made a good alibi for the adjournment of this measure until after the emergency, but having regard to the fact that it had been under discussion for some time and that it might be held to be a breach of faith if we did not go on with it, I prefer to go ahead with the Bill. But if Deputies do not want the Bill proceeded with now, then I am quite prepared to put it back again and have another period of discussion to see if we can get a Bill on which there would be agreement. In my view, however, that would not be in the interests of the employees of the Electricity Supply Board, and a much more preferable course would be to proceed with this Bill now, get the scheme going, and get it into operation on reasonable lines. It is true that we impose certain restrictions on the Electricity Supply Board in the preparation of schemes, but these are not unusual or unfair, having regard to the circumstances of industrial organisation generally.

The Minister appears to think that, in the course of the discussion, it has been suggested from this side of the House that the workers are opposed to this Bill when, in fact, they are not. I was in this House when a deputation, representing the Permanent Pensions Committee of the Electricity Supply Board Staff, met the Minister, and listened to their views on this pensions scheme and the tribunal.

If the Deputy wants to ask a question, he may do so.

Does the Deputy say they do not want this tribunal?

They do not want a tribunal at all, and what we said in this House reflects their views on the matter.

The Deputy may ask a question on a point of information, but he may not make a speech.

Is not this an instruction to the board to prepare a newer scheme, that of the Department of Industry and Commerce?

It is certainly not an instruction to the board to prepare a scheme that they would think a proper scheme.

To prepare any scheme they like if it is within the proposals in this Bill.

And they know it will be changed to satisfy the Minister.

If the public interest requires it.

Does the Minister recollect the time when his substitute said in this House that the Government had imposed its will on the board in connection with Clonsast bog?

Certainly. In a public speech I told the Electricity Supply Board and every employee that the future of electricity generation in this country was, in my opinion, going to depend on turf, and that those who did not think so would have no place in the Electricity Supply Board service.

That is what I call "putting the hooks" on the board.

Does the Minister not know that the clerical staff of the Electricity Supply Board, at a meeting held on February 23, unanimously passed a resolution describing this Bill as a most retrograde one?

I know that there have been many meetings between officers of my Department and representatives of the Trades Council and other public interests, and that no very definite recommendation on any point has yet emerged, nor is there any indication of unanimity on any recommendation.

Are they in favour of the Bill?

I am aware that the Trades Council have withdrawn from the picture, and I am to meet the Trades' Congress.

Is the Minister prepared to withdraw this proposal?

I am prepared to withdraw the Bill until after the war.

This is degenerating into a debate.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 54; Níl, 28.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Crowley, Fred Hugh.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fuller, Stephen.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hogan, Daniel.
  • Keane, John J.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Francis.
  • McCann, John.
  • McDevitt, Henry A.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Mullen, Thomas.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • Rice, Brigid M.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Conn.


  • Bennett, George C.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Davin, William.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Hannigan, Joseph.
  • Hickey, James.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Hurley, Jeremiah.
  • Keating, John.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Sullivan, John M.
  • Rogers, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, Jeremiah.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Smith and S. Brady; Níl: Deputies Bennett and MacMenamin.
Question declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 14th April.