I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
I shall try not to delay the House unduly in speaking about the provisions of this Bill, which will, I am sure, be welcomed by Deputies inasmuch as it provides for a number of benefits. For the convenience of the House I shall take the sections in order.
A person with pre-true military service who had a wound or disability pension in respect of such service was, as a result of provisions embodied in the Acts of 1953 and 1960, also made eligible for a further or married pension, provided that his marriage took place before the 5th August, 1953. Ordinarily, a person's marriage must have taken place before he received the wound or, in the case of disease, before his service terminated, but the extension to 1953 was specially granted in relation to persons with pre-truce service. They should have applied within twelve months after the passing of the enabling legislation, but, as usual, a few failed to do so, and a further period of twelve months is now proposed in Section 2 of the Bill.
Section 3 makes provision for the reconsideration of cases, rejected under the Act of 1932 but coming within the provisions of the Act of 1937, in which application was not renewed within the time specified in that Act as extended by the Act of 1941.
It has been suggested from time to time that persons awarded gratuities under the Connaught Rangers (Pensions) Acts should, like those awarded pensions or allowances under these Acts, be eligible to apply for special allowances. This is not unreasonable, and the appropriate provision is now being made in Section 4.
Section 5 relates to cases under Section 4 of the Act of 1953, frequently referred to as "Part II cases". That part of the Act of 1953, as amended by Section 8 of the Act of 1959, provided for enhanced allowances in the cases of relatives of deceased persons who had pre-truce service and who were killed in service during the 1916-1923 period or died within four years as a result of wound or disability attributable to service during that period. Only one such allowance could, however, be paid at any one time; it could be paid to the widow, or to one parent, or to one unmarried or widowed sister, or to one permanently-invalided brother or to one son or one unmarried or widowed daughter permanently invalided since childhood. It is now proposed to remove that restriction, and this is being done by Section 5, taken in conjunction with Section 10.
Section 12 of the Act of 1941 provided that where an applicant under the Army Pensions Acts failed or refused to attend before the Army Pensions Board for medical examination after having been given ample opportunity to do so, the Minister could refuse the application, which would not then be capable of being renewed. It is now proposed, by Section 6, to enable such past cases to be reconsidered where the persons concerned so request and the Minister is satisfied that reconsideration would be justified.
Section 7 is a section which, I think, will give particular pleasure. The cases to which it relates are, firstly, those in which a person suffering from disease attributable to service, but with a degree of disability below the 80 per cent. necessary for an "attributability" pension, opts for a final fixed rate pension, and, secondly, those where the disability is not attributable to service but was aggravated, accelerated or excited by service. Neither the final fixed rate pensions nor those in respect of aggravation, etc., at present carry eligibility for married pensions, and the widows and children of such persons are not eligible for allowances where death is due to the pensionable disability. There were valid reasons for this, especially in the case of the final fixed rate pensions, which were intended at the time of their introduction, to be in the nature of allowances for the purchase of medicines, etc. However, it has now been decided to pay married pensions, and widows' and children's allowances, on conditions similar to those which apply in the case of "attributability" pensions and at rates similar to those appropriate to "attributability" pensions of like amount. Section 7 and the Schedules contain the necessary provisions.
Section 8 merely effects amendments of a textual nature, and there is nothing in the remaining sections calling for special comment. I commend the Bill, therefore, to the House.
Perhaps I might mention at this point that, on page 4 of the Bill, at line 13, there is a typographical error; "the 15th day of August, 1953" should read "the 5th day of August, 1953." Might I ask the House to agree to the necessary change being made without a formal amendment?