Committee on Finance. - Army Pensions (Increases) Bill, 1962— Second Stage.

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.

The amount now asked for under this Bill is already being paid and we have to be thankful for what we can get. I am glad the Minister is examining the question of death from disability as a condition for the payment of allowances to widows and children. I have a motion down dealing with this, and allied matters. In the circumstances, I think the best thing I can do is to leave over the remarks I should like to make on this matter until we come to debate the motion which, I hope, will come on at an early date.

There is grave dissatisfaction because of the non-payment of pensions to widows of officers and men who had disability pensions and who, in a great number of cases, died as a result of injuries received. It was to those injuries that the disability pensions were related. As I said on a previous occasion, it would appear now that we have reached the stage that, if a certificate issues that death is due to heart failure, or some cause other than the actual disability, that is taken as evidence that the person did not die from the disability. In that set of circumstances, what we would really need is a post mortem examination and I am convinced that that is a situation this House never intended. It does not apply in the case of widows of Ministers, or such people. Why it should apply in this particular case is something that puzzles me. I think it was intended at all stages that the widow of a person who had a disability pension should have that pension paid to her. However, the Minister says he is looking into the matter and, as I have said, we will have an opportunity of discussing it in more detail at a later stage. I can only say now that we accept this measure as a part payment.

The Labour Party welcome this Bill because we believe it is only doing justice to old soldiers and their dependants. However, there is one comment I should like to make. The Minister and his officials should realise that as the years go by, the number of those people is getting smaller and the result is that the number of people who are able to certify is getting fewer. Quite a number of people are being held up because of lack of certification. I should like the Minister to have a look at that because it is a grave hardship on the people concerned. It is no use telling them that it will be quite all right and that eventually everything will be straightened out. Eventually, many of them will die.

The Minister should have another look at the question of certification. Twenty, 30 or 40 years is a long time and memories can be a bit shaky after a period of 40 years. I think the Minister will agree that if he gets certification, it should be sufficient without putting these old people to the trouble of trying to dig up practically everyone who was associated with them to establish their right to a pension. Perhaps that is not directly related to the Bill but it is something to which the Minister might usefully bend his efforts.

Like Deputy MacEoin, I feel that the Minister also appreciates the fact that the question of the extent to which the cause of death could be attributed to the injury which entitled a person to a disability pension is becoming an administrative monster. I am quite certain it was never the intention of anyone that it should become in any way a bar against a well-merited continuation of the pension for the immediate relative. I would suggest that the Minister knows, as indeed I think all of us know, that on the question of certification of death, particularly in modern times, unless the pension was specifically related to it, there was little possibility that the certificate would show anything relating to wounds received some very considerable time before.

It is a generally accepted principle in Acts of this nature, particularly in the Workmen's Compensation Act, that it is sufficient to establish that the disability was a contributory factor to, or an accelerating factor in, the death. I would suggest to the Minister that he should simplify the investigation by a simple amendment that would say that once the paying official was satisfied that the disability for which the pension was payable was a contributory factor to, or accelerated the death, that was sufficient. An amendment of that nature would put the position right. To the Minister's knowledge, to Deputy MacEoin's knowledge, and to the knowledge of anyone interested, this is one of the sore thumbs remaining in the whole structure of the legislation.

Like Deputy MacEoin and Deputy Tully, I think it is good to see some measure of justice now being given to these people. My complaint is a simple one. I do not think it is enough. Of course there are so many commitments on the national purse that it may be that this was as much as the Minister was able to get in the present situation. At least, I will pay the Minister the compliment of saying that I think he is as enthusiastic as his predecessor and any of us who have the interests of these people at heart, and that he will keep knocking at the door, and perhaps, as time goes on, he will get a little more for this section of diminishing returns. I should like to see a pool of money available, and conserved, so that when people fall out, a little more is available to increase the benefits for those who survive. Whether or not we are prepared to admit it on all sides of the House, those are the people to whom we owe the freedom of the country and our right to participate in this Parliament. Surely there is no one to whom we should be more generous than to them.

In company with other members of the House, I welcome the additions to these pensions, but I am not satisfied that justice has been done to everyone. I have expressed my opinions here every time I have had the opportunity, and my mind always goes back to those people who never received a button, the people who served throughout the Tan war and who were alleged not to have given service.

The Bill states that pensions can be granted only to people who served, and it goes on to say that service means "active service". I wonder what the State would call the other service, in other words, the service of those who actually took part in combat but were not considered to be serving, or so they say? They certainly did not serve for the purpose of getting a pension, or gratuity, or compensation.

It is an extraordinary thing that without them the fight would have been a failure. One of the reasons why the Republican side in the civil war was a failure was that they had no reserves, and as the men were gathered up, there was no one to take their place. For all practical purposes in the latter stages of the civil war the IRA did not exist. If it were not for the reserves standing by in the Tan war, the same would have happened, because the enemy would soon have found out that there were no reserves except a few columns here and there. They would soon have been surrounded and there would have been no Truce in 1921.

However, those men got no recognition. If I give the case of two brothers, the Minister will realise what I am driving at. There were two brothers who served during the Tan war. They did not do any shooting but they served, and they took part in the Civil War. They served long terms of imprisonment, went on hunger strikes, and lost their jobs. One of them had to go away to the wilds of Canada. He went on some free scheme; he was used, and he came back just as "broke" as he had been. Their careers were destroyed and they never got a penny. There were thousands like them who never got a bean and what justice was done for them? None. There was no justice for them because they did not shoot someone in the Tan war, although they served in it.

I want to bring the Minister's mind back to such people. While I do not advocate pensions I think they should get some compensation. There should be some scheme in which people who served long terms of imprisonment and lost their jobs would get some sort of compensation. There are probably about 10,000 or 15,000 of them and I would ask the Minister to make provision for them even at this late stage.

There have been complaints that members of the Casement Brigade were not recognised and were not entitled to medals, although the Connaught Rangers are recognised. It is a well-known fact that those who decided to join the Casement Brigade underwent terms of imprisonment and during that period they received no service pay. Quite a considerable number were at a financial loss. To my knowledge, a great many of them got nothing and were refused a service medal.

Old IRA men ought to be able to go to some military hospital for treatment. We are becoming fewer now. Whatever excuses there may have been at one time that the hospitals would be overcrowded, henceforth that argument cannot be made. The State should look after the health of Old IRA men, especially medal holders.

I understand if these men have disability pensions attributable to injuries sustained in service, they can get certain grants, but if the disability pension is attributable to injuries aggravated by service, they get no grants. It is most unfair to have any differentiation. If their injuries were as a result of service, whether direct or indirect, they should be assisted in the matter of getting surgical appliances where such are necessary. I have protested on behalf of those who have never got anything, but at the same time, I welcome the benefits for those who have been fortunate enough to receive them.

I want to raise matters concerning two special categories of retired Army officers. Before doing so, I should like to say I welcome the news in the Minister's speech that he proposes to review certain aspects of the Pensions Acts, particularly the one that has given rise to very great hardship, which I believe was never intended, namely, the question of whether a person suffered disability attributable to Army service. Because of the lapse of time between the date of contracting of the disability and subsequent examination by medical authorities, undoubtedly there have been cases of hardship. I do not believe it was ever intended that the Pensions Acts, as framed, should have worked in that way. Undoubtedly, at least the initial causes could be traced to service, either during the Emergency or service at a particular period. However, the news that the Minister will look into that will be generally welcomed. I have no doubt we are most anxious that whatever defects there are in the Acts should be remedied in order to alleviate any cases of hardship that have occurred.

The other points to which I wish to refer concern two separate groups of officers. The first group consists of a small number because, due to the date of retirement, quite a few have since died. A number of acting commandants were retired between the years 1946 and 1951. Because those officers held the acting rank of commandant, they received the Defence Forces pension appropriate to the substantative rank of captain. As the rank of commandant was only a temporary rank, the IRA pension appropriate to each case was that based on the substantative rank of captain.

As I understand it, there are at present only about a dozen of these officers left. Although some of them had quite considerable periods of service in the acting rank, because of the fact they were not substantative they received the pension appropriate to the rank of captain. All these officers had IRA service and had rendered not merely loyal but efficient and conscientious service over a great number of years. I believe there is a strong case for reviewing that position.

The other category are the group of officers who were retired under a regulation made by the Minister's predecessor. All these officers had IRA service and were entitled to the extra year. Subsequently, when that year was increased by a further two years, a few of them served for the two years but the majority were denied the two years and were retired. After the matter was considered, it was decided they would be granted pay and allowances appropriate for the two years that they should have served had the amendment not been made to the regulations.

Initially, that seemed reasonable enough treatment, because they were paid the salary and allowances appropriate to the rank for the two years. But, since the date of the retirement, in the case of a number of these officers there have now been three or four pensions increases and also salary increases. The result is that, since these officers were retired earlier than they expected because of the regulations, their pensions are based on pay at retirement. Consequently, they find that officers who filled the same position, some of whom have since retired, now enjoy pensions substantially higher. I know of some of these cases and the amounts the officers in question have lost range from £2 a week to I think in some cases, something like double that.

I do not believe that was ever intended. I believe that the Government cussed here, recognised an injustice at the time, after the matter was dishad been done and decided to allow them full pay and allowances for the two-year period they would have normally served. In the meantime, salary and wage increases occurred and the officers who were serving at that time and who retired subsequently now enjoy a higher rate of pension. All the officers I have referred to would not have been entitled to the extended period unless they were in possession of a service medal or had full IRA service. These officers—now numbering about 50 and becoming fewer each year — have certainly suffered and continue to suffer the injustice of not having received pensions at the same rate as the officers who served in a similar rank and retired subsequently.

I want to urge the Minister, in considering the two categories I have mentioned, to consider that the sum involved would be comparatively small in relation to the total annual pensions Vote and that the effect on the income of the individuals concerned would be, for them, quite a considerable amount. I believe it was never intended that the regulations should operate in this way and that, in considering this question of the amendment of the regulations, this matter should also receive sympathetic consideration so that remedial measures can be taken to provide these men with the same increases as would allow them to have pensions appropriate to a similar rank of officer retiring at present.

Might I ask if we are dealing with the Army Pensions Bill only, or are we dealing with all the pensions grouped together?

I certainly have no objection, if there is one debate on the four or if we take them one after the other.

We have the Order to approve also?

I have three pension schemes. There are four Bills and three pension schemes.

And they must be approved separately?

I take it that is the procedure.

I merely wanted to say something in relation to what Deputy Cosgrave said, but I can say it later on when we come to the scheme.

The House, then, is dealing with one Bill, the Army Pensions (Increase) Bill, 1962.

I wish to support Deputy MacEoin in regard to the widows' disability pension Order. I should like to make special reference to a name that should ring a bell with the Minister, the Newell family in my town. We all know the part played by the Newells in the fight for freedom, a part that is held in high esteem in our city and county. I merely ask the Minister to consider this name. He may have many similar ones to consider but he has none better. If he cannot do so within the ambit of the present Bill, perhaps he would do so within a reasonable time.

Deputy Tully mentioned certification but I was not quite clear whether he was referring to certification of service or death——

Of service.

I had better deal with the other matter first, as Deputy MacEoin was first off the mark about it. Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Collins also dealt with the same subject, the question of certifying the cause of death of people who have been in receipt of pensions. If a man is in receipt of a wound pension assessed at 20 per cent. disability, say, and lives for 40 years, it is not easy to conclude that his wound disability caused his death. That is how the matter has been put to me on medical considerations. On the other hand— and this is the reference I made towards the end of my remarks—if a man has had a very serious disability, say, 60, 70 or 80 per cent., and has lived for 40 years after receiving the wound, again the medical view is that it is not ordinarily possible to prove that his death was caused by that disability. Nevertheless—and this is the meaning of the remarks I made in reference to it—his disability was so great that it must have affected the course of his life and the provision which he might otherwise have been able to make for himself and his family. It is that aspect of the question which I think deserves the further consideration I am giving to it.

With regard to the certification Deputy Tully spoke about, certification of service, what can we do but rely on those who were colleagues of the applicant at the time when the service was given? If the recognised certifying officers have died, we go to others in the locality who might be presumed to have some knowledge of the services given.

But usually two should be enough. You should not have to go around to everybody until you get somebody who says: "It is not correct; he was not in it."

We do not confine ourselves to two, although if we got two good officers with a good record themselves to certify, it might be reasonable enough to accept their views on the applicant, but we have to go further afield and it often helps the applicant. Some doubt may exist about the type of certification given and we then try to get further information, if we think, in fact, that the applicant has some merit in his case.

It is a very difficult question, as Deputy Tully pointed out, and with the passing of time, it becomes more difficult. We try to be sympathetic towards the applicant but surely Deputies will recognise we must take every precaution to ensure that people who do not deserve recognition should not get it. We know the amount of dissatisfaction caused when people who have given no service manage to get letters and representation made and probably slip through. The knowledge that they have succeeded causes an amount of ill-feeling among those in the locality who gave good service and knew the neighbours in the area who also gave good service. If they see somebody who did not deserve it getting recognition, they think, at least, there is maladministration.

There is not a great deal to be said about this Bill, which gives legislative authority for increases which have, in fact, been paid since 1st August and which were announced in the Budget. I am afraid I cannot say very much about active service on this Bill. Deputy Sherwin spoke about that, but we are dealing very largely with the administration of the disability benefits and, in any case, the time is past for the making of applications for certificates of military service under either the 1924 or 1934 Acts.

The Deputy also mentioned hospital treatment. This may be given to disability pensioners who have not yet been given a final award. Applicants for special allowances are occasionally brought to St. Bricin's Hospitals for their further examination. If all Old IRA pensioners were to have the right to hospital treatment, we would not have sufficient hospital accommodation to deal with them. That is a limitation also. It is not through lack of sympathy for Old IRA men who are in bad health but simply because there is not the capacity to make hospital treatment available to them.

Deputy Cosgrave mentioned a matter about which I am not very clear, the case of a man having the substantive rank of captain in the Army who retires while he has a temporary higher rank. His complaint is that the temporary higher rank is the one which should be recognised for the purpose of measuring his pension. Is that it?

The IRA pension is payable on the substantive rank but they are pensioned on the basis of the lower rank.

The Deputy is not referring to an Old IRA pension awarded to such an officer?

Yes. The IRA pension is on the substantive rank. These men were temporary commandants. Then they retired as acting commandants. Because they were only acting, the IRA pension is based on the substantive rank, which is captain.

I will look into what Deputy Cosgrave says.

It is a good while ago.

I am not acquainted with that particular problem.

I think there are only about a dozen involved.

Deputy Cosgrave also referred to a number of officers who were granted two years' extra service because of their Old IRA service. They were required to retire and in lieu of the two years' extended service, were given the equivalent of two years' pay. I think the Deputy was making the case that this extra two years should be recognised for their pension. Is that not the point? We had this before. I understand that the decision is based on an old-established and what I am told is an invariable principle, that a pension may not be granted except for actual service given and that this suggestion of recognising a notional period would be quite a novelty and would upset all pension thinking in the public service. That is the main objection that has been put to me in relation to this matter. In any event, the officers concerned did get the two years' pay.

And the increments which went with it.

I am afraid I could not hold out any hope that I could alter the situation.

By an arbitrary order of the Minister for Defence, these men were compelled to retire. They had the right to serve on for a further period. If they had served on, they would have got the normal increases that came, plus the pension based upon the two years and the increases. I do not think it can be argued on the basis of its not being usual. This is the sort of thing that can never happen again—it is for this period and for this particular type of service. These officers had the particular type of service which gave them the two years' service.

It was because of a change of Ministers. The present Minister is big enough to recognise that and give credit where credit is due.

So far as I understand, it was not any question of animus of any kind against the officers concerned. I understood that it was done in the interest of the Army as a whole.

Promotion.

That is the case made.

These are people who wanted to serve on.

Yes, but the fact that they were given two years extra indicated that they were coming near their retiring time. I understand that there was a good deal of dissatisfaction because of the lack of promotional prospects for the younger officers. That was the motive behind it. In any event, I do not think I could promise Deputy Cosgrave that I could undo that now.

I think there is a strong case. Even in certain ranks, they have altered the age limit since so that what was done with these people in 1957 was to some extent undone by a subsequent amendment. As Deputy MacEoin said, this question will never arise again. Officers in the future will not have their service shortened.

I know that.

These are the people who founded the State.

There would be no place for the younger people coming up, were it not for them.

I am well aware of the case mentioned by Deputy Coogan. I do not think I have to tell him that if there was anything I could do for that family, I would not need much pressing.

The Minister will appreciate that this man has been in and out of hospital during the past 40 years.

Again, it is a good example of the type of case I mentioned. A man gets a wound and lives for over 40 years afterwards and has been working during that time. I admit this man has been in and out of hospital but here is a case in which there is not a medical certificate that his disability was, in fact, the cause of his death. When that is the position, the Minister's hands are tied. However, it does have reference to the remarks I made about considering certain aspects of disability.

In that particular case, the applicant refused to recognise the State up to a very late date. Had he recognised the State and applied for his disability under the 1923 Act, he would have got 100 per cent. disability. He did not and did not apply for a disability pension until long after 1932—I am putting it that way—and he then is allowed his disability. I know the person—I was in prison with him. I know the wounds he got. While he was in King George V Hospital, now St. Bricin's, his life was not worth very much.

What Deputy MacEoin said about his pension not having being granted as soon as it might otherwise have been applies very forcibly to the 1934 Military Service Pensions Act. We had a great deal about that.

Question put and agreed to.