Houses of the Oireachtas (Members) Pensions Scheme—Motion of Approval.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann hereby approves of the scheme for contributory pensions for Members entitled Houses of the Oireachtas (Members) Pensions Scheme which was made by a Joint Committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas on 1st December, 1960, and forms the Appendix to the Committee's Report (T.175) which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 8th December, 1960.

I assume that most members are aware of the provisions of this motion and, therefore, no very minute explanation is required from me. Deputies know that legislative provision for this motion was made in the Bill dealing with the allowances to Deputies and Senators passed last year. It is under the provision in that Bill that this motion has been brought in.

Shortly after the passing of the Bill the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, constituted of both Houses, appointed an informal committee which spent a good deal of time in producing a scheme generally acceptable to the two Houses. We are indebted to the Committee for the time and labour they put into their task. This is a group scheme of a kind which might, indeed, be adopted by any group in the country. It is entirely contributory and will get no contribution whatsoever from the State. If approved by the House, contributions will be taken compulsorily at source from the allowances paid to every Deputy and Senator.

Superannuation will be payable to any Deputy or Senator with more than ten years' service in either House or both Houses of the Oireachtas. Ten years was taken because the committee considered, first of all, that a person could not have ten years' service unless he was elected at least three times to the Dáil or Seanad. They thought that a person who had spent three terms in the Dáil or in the Seanad would have his chances of rehabilitation in his own original employment very much reduced by his absence from his ordinary vocation and, for that reason, he would require some help to assist him in rehabilitating himself should he leave either the Dáil or the Seanad.

Payment will be at the rate of 1/60th of the allowance, whatever the allowance may be for each year of service. There is one saver; a person may not draw more than £1,000 by way of pension from public funds. That will apply, in particular, to ex-Ministers and ex-Parliamentary Secretaries. Between the two kinds of service the superannuation may not exceed £1,000. It is hoped that the scheme will be solvent. It is, however, a very difficult scheme to get any actuary to consider. He would, in fact, want to be a good politician, as well as being an actuary, to forecast the way in which the scheme may work out.

He would want to be more than a politician. He would want to be a prophet.

I agree. The intention is to try the scheme out for four or five years. At the end of that period there will be a review and, if necessary, contributions may have to be increased or allowances decreased, if we take an optimistic view, the possibility is that the contribution will be reduced in the light of experience.

The funds will be held by trustees. The trustees will be the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad and the Minister for Finance. Their task will be a small one on the whole. As far as I can foresee, the only decision they will ever have to take is that governing the investment of the funds. It is decided in the scheme who will be entitled to a pension and how much he should get. For that reason I say that the task of the trustees will be a very easy one. There will be no expenses because there will be scarcely any bookkeeping and once the amount of the pension is decided upon it will be sent out monthly or weekly so that there should be no expenses except, possibly, postage.

I should like to thank the committee for the labour they put into this task and for producing a scheme which, in my opinion, is a good one.

On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I want to say that we are consenting to this scheme only for the reason that it is a contributory pension scheme and that there will be no contributions from the Exchequer. This is a scheme by which those of us who are in this House agree to contribute, out of the money paid to us for being here, a certain sum for the purpose of providing for those who may be no longer here. The whole point of the scheme is that the pensions will be paid out of contributions made by us out of the moneys voted to us here, and that there is no charge whatsoever on public funds.

I agree with the Minister for Finance that it is very difficult and practically impossible to make any actuarial calculation in relation to a scheme like this. The only thing that we can do at this stage is to start off on the basis of contributions as they are now and hope that, on the basis of those contributions after a certain period of time, we shall find that there is a greater margin than some people might think. If there is such a margin we will be able to improve the scheme either by way of reducing contributions, or the number of years of service or perhaps to provide some means of commuting pensions for the widows of those who die in the service of the House.

I agree with the principle of the proposal but I disagree with the draft proposal before the House. I do so because only members of this House and of the Seanad who have ten years' service will benefit by a pension and there is no evidence that any more than a few such members would be in need at any time. Speaking from what I know of the members of the House from Dublin City, I am aware that practically every member at the present time is employed independently of his membership of this House. He is either employed or has a business and the question of such a member ever being in need is not likely to arise. I have a reason for making that statement.

That may also apply to members from the rest of the country and I believe, from what I know, that 99 per cent., if not 100 per cent., of the membership of the Dáil and Seanad consists of people who are employed at present and will continue to be employed or are people of means. Most of the members of both Houses are accountants, members of the legal profession, secretaries of trade unions or businessmen. For the odd case in which a man may be defeated at the polls and may be in need because of that, 95 per cent. of the membership of the Oireachtas will not be in need.

The Bill states that one must be a member of the Dáil or Seanad for at least ten years before one can receive a pension. That means that a person may lose his seat after paying contributions for seven or eight years during which time he will have paid in £400 or £500. He may be a poor man; he may be only a worker and may have had to give up his job to attend this House. Having contributed probably £400 or £500 over eight or nine years he will not be eligible for a pension although he may find himself in the position where that £400 or £500 would be very useful to him.

When he ceases to be a member of this House he will probably find the bailiff after him for money due. Such a man may be in much greater need of a pension than 95 per cent. of the people who have been members of the House for over ten years and will thus be entitled to a pension. We all know the case of Deputy Murphy, a carpenter, who, because he was a member of this House, could not continue his employment. We all know that he resigned from this House and we know the reason why. He resigned because he could not afford to be a member. What about his case and other cases like his? Suppose he had managed to survive a second general election and was defeated in the following one. He would have contributed £300 or £400 but he would not be entitled to a pension.

Independent Deputies are all in that position. When they go up for election on the first occasion, everybody supports them but when they go up in following elections their supporters say that they must have made a pile of money and that they can look after themselves. Independents usually do their electioneering work on credit and pay their expenses out of their allowances. If such a person is defeated, he may find himself in the position of owing £200 or £300 and having no money to pay it. Have you anticipated that type of case? You obviously have not. You only talk in terms of members who may have two jobs or a business.

If it is a question of the dignity of members surely the dignity of any member counts. This scheme is not much use to certain Deputies unless they can get back some portions of their contributions. You will be taking money from people who might not be able to afford it and then you will be refusing to give them back any part of it when they need it. Surely that case has appealed to those who considered these proposals. If not, I appeal to the Minister for Finance and those responsible to meet again and consider the case of the man who might have no income except his income from this House, who might have paid £400 or £500 into this fund and then, no longer a member of this House, being chased by people because he is in debt having fought an election and not having succeeded.

As time goes on there will be more representation by the working man in this House. Up to now it was the wealthy people and middle men who were largely members of this House. There ought to be some provision for a man when he ceases to be a member of this House so that he will at least get back the money he contributed. Unless that is done I would strongly object and I will use again the word I used on the last occasion, that is, a "hold-up" and nothing else.

I welcome this Bill and congratulate the Committee on presenting it to the House. We are not asking for anything from the taxpayer. This will be financed by our own voluntary contributions and I want to ask Deputy Sherwin to have just a little patience. This is a social advance which is a long time overdue.

What about the case I have mentioned?

I am almost 17 years in this House and I have known businessmen and men with other occupations who came into this House and then lost their employment or their business because they were unable to look after it. From my experience in this House I can say being a T.D. is a full-time job. You may try to do other jobs but you will not succeed very well. I have known men who had three or four farms and who finished up drawing the old age pension after membership in this House. Another member lost a good business after 16 years and had nothing to fall back on except home assistance. Deputy Sherwin need not be a bit nervous. I am sure he will draw his pension in this House.

I am not talking about myself alone. I am talking about the principle. What about Murphy?

The Deputy made a case for himself.

For people like myself.

For himself alone.

It is everyone for himself here as far as I can see.

We are talking about the general principle. This is the first time this has been attempted. The Committee have done a very good job. They had to start somewhere and if Deputy Sherwin can accept the proposals that are made now it is quite possible the man he is referring to, who is himself——

I have a chance of remaining in the House so I am not talking about myself at all. It is the principle. What about the other men who will come into the House and will not have the same cause for confidence as I have.

I do not want at this stage to see any dogs in the manger. Deputy Sherwin should bear in mind that I have advocated for many years what has been introduced today. We have been trying over the years to improve social services for every section of the community and this is a social advance to help the type of men who carried on their work here for many years on smaller allowances than tradesmen had, trying to keep cars, and so on. This is a social advance which is made at our own expense, and those who stand up here to oppose it because it will not suit themselves——

The Deputy is making a case for himself.

——can only be compared with the dog in the manger. I wish the Committee luck in relation to this measure and I congratulate the Minister on the very able way he has introduced it.

This is a step in the right direction and I welcome it very much, all the more so because it does not impose any charge on the Exchequer; it is costing nobody anything but the members themselves. It is a pity something like this has not been done in the past but it is better late than never. The Committee have done a good job of work and they deserve the thanks of the Members of both Houses. It was not an easy problem to solve having regard to the different points of view they had to consider.

There is some point in the case Deputy Sherwin has made but I suppose the Committee had to draw the line somewhere. However, with the passage of time if any injustice or seeming injustice arises as a result of the operation of this measure surely it will be well within the competence of the House and the Minister for Finance to remove it.

The only other point I want to make is in relation to past members of the Dáil or Seanad who are not well circumstances today. It is a pity the measure could not be extended to include some little thing for them. I am sure we all know of past members who gave good service in the Dáil or in the Seanad and who are not now in the best circumstances. If a revision of this measure is ever put under way I would ask the Committee and the Minister to have special regard to those people.

The only point raised was that contributions should be returned to Deputies who served less than ten years. The provision which states that nobody with less than ten years' service will get a pension is a feature of practically every group pension scheme of this kind. There is always a minimum period to qualify for a pension and if contributors do not reach that minimum period they do not qualify. It is perfectly obvious if you were to agree to this, the levy of six per cent. would not be nearly enough. That would have to be very much more than it is. Although we all would have a certain sympathy with the type of case mentioned by Deputy Sherwin, we have to give this scheme a trial as it is for the three or five years until a further investigation can be made.

Is it not true that in the case of any insurance, you can always sell it and realise part of your money? Accepting that as a principle, is it not unfair that you should contribute several hundred pounds and get nothing back?

The Deputy is making a second speech.

Question put and agreed to. Resolved accordingly.

God help the poor man.