Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Apr 1942

Vol. 86 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Electricity Supply Board (Superannuation) Bill, 1942—Money Resolution.

I move:—

That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of any expenses incurred by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the adminisiration of any Act of the present session to make provision for the grant of pensions, allowances, and gratuities to or in respect of members of the Electricity Supply Board and persons employed by the said Board, to provide for the setting up by the said Board of a Tribunal to determine disputes between the said Board and manual workers employed by it, and to provide for divers matters connected with or incidental to the several matters aforesaid.

I am sure Deputies who are familiar with the Bill will understand that the functions of the Department of Industry and Commerce in relation to it are limited to approval of the schemes which may be submitted by the board for the provision of pensions for employees. There is no question of any subvention from Government funds to tbs cost of such schemes, and the only expenses which will arise are purely administrative expenses in connection with the examination of whatever schemes are submitted.

In view of the fact that this superannuation scheme has been delayed so long—responsibility for which must be shared between the Minister and the board, if not entirely borne by the Minister—and that the scheme as outlined would appear to be in the nature of a contributory scheme, has the Minister considered the moral obligation resting on him to bear some portion of the contributory part of that scheme, so far as the employees are concerned, in respect of the period gone by?

I am not sure that that arises on the Money Resolution. I deny emphatically that there is any moral obligation on the Minister or that there has been any delay in the preparation of the scheme.

These are questions of fact. This scheme is introduced now, 15 years after the Electricity Supply Board was set up. That is a long delay.

There was no undertaking that any scheme would be introduced.

There was not.

It was stated on the Second Reading that there was to be a scheme.

There was no undertaking to introduce a pensions scheme.

There was a statement made that a request would be made to the board not to introduce a scheme for the first five years. That was on the basis that they could introduce a scheme under the Act themselves. The only promise was by way of restriction—that they would be asked not to do it for the first five years. I can give a quotation from the Second Reading Debate on the Bill.

In any case, it is inconceivable that the Minister should take the line that there has been no delay, considering that the general assumption was that there would be a superannuation scheme. It was a public service and it was inevitable that there would be a pensions scheme. It is introduced now, 15 years afterwards, and there is some responsibility between the Department and the board for the delay in introducing it, particularly if it is expected that the employees would make a contribution towards it. In that case, it does appear to me that this question of the contributory part of it—so far as the Department is concerned—up to this period, is a responsibility that cannot be evaded by the Department or the board, and they should reconsider that aspect of it.

I do not accept that at all.

On this matter, statements were made in answer to amendments put down by Deputy T. J. O'Connell on the Committee Stage of the 1927 Bill. In answer to the Deputy, who pressed me on the point, I said we could reinsert in sub-section (2) of Section 7 the words previously there and which had been taken out:—

"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."

These are the words which are now in. I said we could then make it an instruction to the first board that they shall not establish a pensions scheme to come into operation earlier than five years after the date of their appointment. There was no promise of the introduction of a scheme, as there was no belief that the scheme had to be introduced by the Government.

It was acknowledged and was then thought to be a fact that the board had power to introduce a scheme without any further legislation.

It was also thought at that time that the estimates of the financial results of the board's working were much better than were justified, and it was only after years of working of the board that a position of stability was reached in the board's financial accounts. It was only when it appeared to me that not only was the board's organisation stabilised but that its financial prospects had definitely improved to the point that would justify the incurring of additional expense of this nonproductive character, that I agreed to the introduction of legislation to permit of the payment of pensions to the staffs.

It may be that this Bill was not unduly pressed. It was decided upon before the outbreak of the European war, but the pressure of events following the outbreak of war naturally meant that action on this Bill was less speedy than otherwise would have been the case. Certainly, no circumstances have arisen from which it could be argued that there was any moral obligation imposed on the taxpayer to contribute.

What obligation is on the taxpayer under this Resolution?

I hope Deputy Cosgrave was not suggesting a personal contribution.

I suppose that would be on a line with most of the statements on monetary reform.

From beginning to end, the taxpayer will not pay one shilling for pensions under this scheme brought in by the board The electricity consumers may pay, but I do not know what the Minister means by talking about optimism as regards the board's working. There never was a board which had to start under such conditions—which did not allow for optimism at all. The Minister aided the pessimists; the whole thing was going to collapse. As far as he could, he tried to make it collapse. There was no question of payments out. In five or ten years after the board was established would there be any great draw on the fund for pensions? Certain moneys piled up for the later payment of pensions but, at present, there would not be any great drain on that fund in the way of paying out money.

Resolution agreed to and reported.