I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The purpose of this Bill is to provide statutory authority for the increases in pensions and allowances under the Army Pensions Acts, 1923 to 1962, outlined by the Minister for Finance in this Budget Statement earlier this year. The increases are already being paid on foot of a Supplementary Estimate for pensions approved by this House on 18th July, 1962. They are effective as from the 1st August, 1962, except in the case of pensions and allowances granted under the Army Pensions Act, 1962, where the effective date is the 4th August, 1962, the date on which that Act became law.
The Bill is in the same form as a number of previous Army Pensions (Increase) Bills. I realise that Deputies may find it hard to identify readily all the types of cases to which the various sections refer. It may, however, help the House if I say that the Bill covers every category of pensioner and allowance holder for which the Army Pensions Acts provide. At the Committee Stage, I can go into more detail in respect of any individual sections about which Deputies may care to ask.
In accordance with the increases approved by the Minister for Finance for State pensioners generally, officers who retired before the 2nd November, 1955, and whose pensions are related to their Army pay on retirement have had their pensions brought up to the rates hitherto appropriate to officers of similar rank and service who retired on the 2nd November, 1955, and the pensions thus arrived at have then been increased by a further 6 per cent. The pensions of officers who retired on or after the 2nd November, 1955, and before the 16th December, 1959, have been increased by 6 per cent. Pensions not related to pay—and they make up the bulk of disability pensions— married pensions, further pensions and allowances to widows, children and other dependants have been increased by 20 per cent.
Special allowances have been dealt with by way of a flat £13 increase in each of the "appropriate annual sums". As well, all the social welfare benefit increases granted as from 1st August last or to become payable next January, except one-half of the increases in disability benefit, are being ignored as means. These include the very substantial increases in contributory old age pensions and additional allowances for wives or dependants. Increases in military service pensions, disability pensions and Connaught Rangers pensions are likewise being ignored as means.
On current expenditure the estimated cost for a full year of the increases for which the Bill provides is £127,000— £50,000 in respect of disability pensions and allowances other than special allowances, and a net £77,000 in respect of special allowances. I might, indeed, mention at this point that, on current expenditure, the total estimated annual cost of the Budgetary increases in the various pensions and allowances payable by my Department is of the order of £328,000, and I think it is true to say that these increases, which are substantial, have been very well received.
This Bill is solely to provide for the Budgetary increases. It may be well that I should say that I have been examining certain suggestions made in recent times for the amendment of the Army Pensions Acts in other respects —for instance, with regard to the difficulties that arise in some cases as a result of the requirement that a pensioner should have died as a result of his pensionable disability as a condition for the payment of allowances to his widow and children, and also with regard to marriage dates and the dates of birth of children. I take a sympathetic view of the representations that have been made about such matters but, as will be appreciated, the provisions complained of have been in existence for a long time, and in considering them, there are points both for and against. I can only say that I am looking into these matters very carefully as well as sympathetically, and I would ask Deputies to be patient while I endeavour to bring the examination of them to a conclusion.
If Deputies require any further information about the provisions of the Bill, I shall do my best to supply it when closing.