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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 26 Nov 1942

Vol. 88 No. 19

Superannuation Bill, 1942—Second Stage.

I move that this Bill be now now read a Second Time. The present Bill deals principally with the cases of certain officers of the Ordnance Survey who were discharged from their employment during the war of 1914-18. If these officers had joined the British Army at the time their posts in the Ordnance Survey would have been kept open for them, and the period of their military service would have reckoned for superannuation purposes. When they failed to join the British Army they were discharged from the Ordnance Survey with the pensions or gratuities to which their service entitled them. They were later reinstated in our service and certified under the Superannuation Act, 1923, or the Superannuation Act, 1936, but as their service prior to discharge had already been reckoned for pension or gratuity, it could not be reckoned again for pension under our superannuation legislation. Power is now being taken in this Act to aggregate this service with the service which the officers are entitled to reckon for pension under the Superannuation Acts, but credit will be taken, in determining the superannuation to be granted to them, for the pensions or gratuities awarded to them on discharge from the British Civil Service. This will place them in the same position financially as the other victimised civil servants provided for by the Superannuation Acts, 1923 and 1936, who reckon their service for pension on a continuous basis from the date of their first employment in a pensionable capacity in the British Civil Service. The provisions will apply to officers who have retired before the date of the passing of the Bill as well as to those officers who are still serving. Any pensions or gratuities granted to retired officers will be reassessed with effect from the date of their retirement.

Assistants in the Ordnance Survey are required to serve 15 years in an unestablished capacity before becoming established. Half this period may be reckoned for pension. The provisions of this Bill will also effect that service in the Ordnance Survey prior to discharge may be reckoned towards the 15 years' unestablished service necessary to qualify for establishment. Hitherto, this service had not been counted towards the qualifying period as the award of pension or gratuity by the British authorities was regarded as destroying all entitlement in respect of the service covered by the award. Most of the officers concerned were established after the expiration of 15 years from the date of discharge from the British service. A few, however, failed to secure establishment on account of age or ill-health. If they had not been discharged from the British service, they would, in the normal course, have been established at an earlier date, when considerations of age and ill-health were not present. It is now proposed to confer on them the entitlement to pension which they would have had if they had not been discharged from the British service and had been established at the normal time.

Apart from the Ordnance Survey officers, this Bill deals with the case of an officer who retired on pension from the British Civil Service as an alternative to taking the oath of allegiance, and who was subsequently reinstated in the Irish Civil Service and certified under the Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1923. The officer is in the same position as the Ordnance Survey officers in that the grant of a pension to her by the British authorities has debarred the reckoning of her British Civil Service for a pension from Irish funds. It is proposed to treat her in the same way as the Ordnance Survey officers, namely, to reckon all her service for pension and to take credit for the amount of the British superannuation award.

When the British meterological stations in Ireland were transferred to the Government in 1937, a few established officers who were serving at Valentia Observatory were transferred to the Irish Civil Service. An undertaking was given to aggregate their service prior to transfer with their subsequent service for pension on final retirement, and provision to this end has been made in the Bill.

In connection with the recovery from the funds of various local authorities of the expenses incurred by the Local Appointments Commissioners in carrying into effect the provisions of the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926, some doubt has arisen as regards the inclusion in such "Expenses" of a contribution towards superannuation liability arising in respect of staff employed on the work of the commission. In the normal course, repayment for services rendered includes a contribution towards the cost of pension or other superannuation benefits in respect of officers engaged in providing the services, and provision to this end has already been made in a number of statutes. It is desired to include in this Bill a general provision to secure that in all appropriate cases a charge for superannuation liability may be included as part of the expenses of services rendered by the State, where the cost of such services is being repaid. The expenses of carrying the Bill into effect will be met by moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas.

This Bill will give effect to a promise I made to Deputy Cosgrave, I think, more than once, that I would look after certain people, particularly in the Ordnance Survey who, owing to their political action and political views, were claimed to be victimised. Those who remained in the service, or those who joined the British Army from the Ordnance Survey staff, were in a better position eventually than those who, for political reasons, refused to join the British Army in the 1914-18 period. Deputy Cosgrave pressed their case several times here on me. I think that he might have looked after them himself when he was in office, but he did not do so.

You kept us too busy.

At any rate, he asked me to do it. Your Party did not do it, when you were in office, and Deputy Cosgrave asked me to do it.

We did a lot more.

Not for these people, at any rate. You did not do anything for them. Deputy Cosgrave did not do it, and he asked me to do it. It has taken me more time than I anticipated, but now it is done.

Oh, you are a nice fellow!

At any rate, I have done it.

I should like to know from the Minister if it is still the practice to require a person who gets employment in the Ordnance Survey to serve 15 years in an unestablished capacity before he becomes established.

Yes, that is so.

What is the reason for it? It does seem rather unnecessary to require a man in such a position as that of a member of the staff of the Ordnance Survey to give 15 years' service unestablished. I should also like to be clear on the other matter: where a pension was paid by the British to certain people, who are dealt with here, on a small number of years' service. I presume that their pension would be based on the salary these people were in receipt of at the time they left the service, and that that money has been paid yearly and, I take it, still is being paid yearly to these people. I understand that it is proposed now to reckon all the service of such persons for pension purposes. Do I understand that the pension they are in receipt of from the British is now being surrendered?

I think there is nothing more undesirable than such observations as the Minister has seen fit to make here this evening in connection with this matter. The question of State administration is a matter which ought to affect everybody. I am not going to enter into any competition with the Minister, who takes occasional opportunities of advertising what he does for everybody, in connection with that matter.

But I would say that we had some responsibility for giving these people employment from 1922 up to the date of their superannuation a year or two ago. That we did not do everything in ten years, I am prepared to admit at once. It is the duty of somebody who succeeds us and who succeeds the Minister to continue that work and, consequently, I find it no part of my business here this evening to thank the Minister. That is his responsibility and I do not propose to thank him.

I do not expect the Deputy to thank me.

I think that if he were placed in the same position, Deputy Norton would do it much more gracefully than the Minister has done it. However, we can ignore that. I would like to know, in connection with Section 7, whether this has reference to the case of a person who had been formerly in the employment of a local authority and who, let us say, takes up a position in the service of the State and then goes back to render some service to another local authority? Does it refer to a case of that sort, because, as it is written there, while, I presume, a lawyer would say there is no ambiguity about it, it is not particularly clear to the lay mind?

It does not refer to it.

Is anything going to be done for cases of that sort? Take another case. A man for some time serves the State and, having been in the service of the State for a given number of years, is appointed, let us say, to be manager of a county. He has had service with the State, and such service as he has had would have entitled him to count a certain number of years for pension if he had remained in the service of the State. But if he leaves the service and goes to the local authority there is a gap. After serving the local authority, say, ten or 20 years, he would be entitled to draw pension only in respect of service there. It may not be one of the matters that are dealt with in this measure, but it must be dealt with sooner or later.

No, it is not dealt with here. There are cases the reverse of what the Deputy mentioned, where persons serve a local authority and then come to the State. I have one case in mind. The Deputy will probably remember the case of the man who was county surveyor in Meath who came into the State's service as chief engineering inspector of the Department of Local Government in the Deputy's time, I think. That man was paid pension by the State—I am speaking from recollection and subject to correction—for the whole service, but the pension accruing to him after the period of his service to the local authority was paid into the State, or else he was paid the pension by the local authority and paid a State pension for the time he was with the State. I know that the total period of service, both in the local authority and in the State, was taken into account. How exactly it was paid I cannot say. As far as I am acquainted with it, I do not think there is anything in the law that enables a person going from State service to the local authority to count the total service. I am not certain about that but I do not think there is. There is a Section—4—of the Superannuation Act, 1914, that might apply to the case Deputy Cosgrave has in mind but I am not certain of it.

Any Bill that makes provision for the payment of pension on old age, as a reward for long and faithful service, has a good deal to commend it. In that spirit I commend this Bill but, seeing that the Minister, by the introduction of this Bill, is interfering with the existing Superannuation Acts of 1834 to 1936, I think he might have gone very much further. I want to bring to his notice the necessity for the provision of pensions for a very deserving class of the community, relatively numerous State servants, but lowly paid, whose conditions are unenviable and yet who serve the State with unflagging zeal for very long periods. I refer to the case, for instance, of part-time postmen, described as auxiliary postmen. Many of these people serve the State for 40 and 45 years. They are paid low rates of wages during their period of service. If they are absent from duty through illness the State pays them nothing whatever. When they come to retire after 40 and 45 years' service they get no pension from the State. In fact, they are eligible only for a small gratuity from a compassionate fund that is at the disposal of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if they can show that they are in very necessitous circumstances. Very necessitous circumstances, as applied to the administration of that fund, is a means test of a pretty rigid character.

If I were to bring to the notice of the Minister a case where a private employer had a person in his service for 40 or 45 years, and when that person was leaving his employment through ill-health or old age, he gave him not one halfpenny pension or compensation, the Minister would certainly be loud in his condemnation, I feel sure, that that employee should be treated in such a hard-hearted way. But, in fact, the State does that with the utmost contumely every day in the week when it discharges from its service persons who have served the State and the community for 40 and 45 years. As I said, these are lowly-paid officers. Their conditions are nothing to be envied. Their duties are particularly arduous. I would wish, if not in this Bill, at least in some other Bill, the Minister would undertake to give sympathetic consideration to the matter of providing a pension for such persons on retirement. Their low rates of pay—anything from 15/- to 30/- a week—make it impossible for them to make any provision for old age. They are allowed to remain in the service up to 70 years of age, and then all they can get is an old age pension, if they qualify for such a pension. The State, as the employer, makes no provision whatever for them, notwithstanding the fact that they have rendered many years of arduous and loyal service to the State.

I would like if the Minister could hold out some hope that that matter will be examined sympathetically at an early date with a view to making provision for that class of persons who are at present very badly and indeed harshly treated by the State.

I had hoped that, on the introduction of this Bill, the Minister would have referred to the question which was the subject of a deputation of which I happened to be a member, over two years ago, namely, a superannuation scheme for all public servants. At that time the Minister promised us that he would introduce a Bill at an early date. As a matter of fact, he told us it was in draft. I would like to know from the Minister what is the difference between servants in public institutions and other public servants. The Cork Corporation have not yet a pension scheme and each year when we try to give a miserable pension of 10/- a week to employees we are threatened with a surcharge and have to appeal against the surcharge. In my opinion, one class of public servant is as important as another. I would like to know from the Minister when we are going to have that superannuation scheme that he promised us over two years ago.

This Bill, as I indicated earlier, was brought in to implement a promise I gave here since I became Minister for Finance to Deputy Cosgrave who had been raising the matter. He probably raised it earlier with my predecessor. The Bill deals with specific cases of hardship that arose out of political circumstances. The Bill includes provision for two or three other officers who were put into the meteorological service. I allowed these to be put in because a promise had also been given in their case, when taken over, that their superannuation would be provided for by law at the earliest opportunity. I know that there are in the service a considerable number of men who are whole-time servants of the State. Many of them have already reached the period for retirement, while others will be reaching it shortly. They are not established, and there is no power to pension them. That has applied to considerable numbers of them in the past, and is applying to others almost every week now. The Civil Service, since we took it over in 1922, has included unestablished people in the Land Commission, the Department of Agriculture, and in a variety of other services, some of them professional men. Nothing has ever been done about them. There was no power. They were not established before they reached the retiring age, and there is no legal power to pension them. I am sure many of them feel that a grave injustice is being done to them, and that they are not being treated as they should be. It is a very big problem. It is a difficult and a costly one. There are, as I have said, whole-time people of different status in the service. Some are ordinary work people, some administrators, and some professional men.

There are also part-time people in the service, those to whom Deputy Norton referred. I do not think there is the same case for pensions for people who are only part-time officials. There is not the same moral obligation at any rate, I think, on the Government. It may be some people's view that there is an obligation on the Government, but I do not think the case is anything like as strong in regard to the part-time people as it is in regard to people who have given 20, 30 or 40 years in the service, and still get no pension.

The part-time man is in the position that he cannot take any other employment because of the hours during which he is engaged in the service of the State.

I know a few who have other employment.

But there are 3,500 of them.

Yes, there is a considerable number of them, but I do happen to know that a small number of them have other sources of income, so that their case is not as strong as the other. I have never had that case examined. I am speaking offhand now, after hearing the case put by Deputy Norton. I do know that the problem is there, both in regard to the whole-time people in the various Departments of the Civil Service, and in regard to those part-time people. I cannot give any promise that it is going to be tackled. Every year we hear from different sides of the House about the cost of the Civil Service. It is a very heavy burden indeed. I know how difficult it is sometimes to stand up to the criticisms that one hears of the cost. This is something— though it might in all justice have to be done some time, to provide superannuation at any rate for whole-time servants—that is going to add, perhaps considerably, to the expense of the Civil Service without giving us any additional service. However, I am not giving any promise at the present time that I am going to bring in any legislation on the matter. The cost of the service is so great that I hesitate in present times to add anything to it that is not absolutely essential.

Even a scheme for pensions for officials employed by local authorities?

That is not my concern. That is for the Minister for Local Government.

But the Minister for Finance has the last word on it.

Not on that matter. It would not put any cost on the Exchequer, and, therefore, it would not come to me. It is the Minister for Local Government who will have to be addressed by the Deputy on that matter. I know that when I was in Local Government there was a Bill there dealing with the question of pensions for the officials of local authorities.

Will the Minister say why it is that a new entrant into the Ordnance Survey has to spend 15 years there before he has any chance of getting established?

I do not know. I suppose they are simply carrying on under the old rules and regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the next stage of the Bill?

If the House has no objection, I would like to get all stages of the Bill to-day.

It may be that the Bill will require some amendment. If the Minister will undertake to give consideration in the Seanad to any amendments that may be suggested, I do not see that there is any point in holding up the Bill now.


Agreed: That the remaining stages of the Bill be taken now.