A superannuation and pensions Bill is always welcome if it improves the pensions and conditions of retired personnel. As the Minister remarked, this is a comprehensive measure and it deals with a variety of miscellaneous matters which will naturally cover a wide number of retired persons. I think it is true to say that with few exceptions, the superannuation code—and I use the term in its widest application — is generally inadequate and lags behind the advances in the cost of living. I hold the view strongly that pensions, like wages and salaries, should move in line with variations in the cost of living. I appreciate that, as the Minister said, this Bill is not a pensions increase Bill but deals with specific matters that affect the conditions or the terms under which pensions are paid. Pensions can be regarded as deferred wages or salaries earned by those entitled to them during their working lives. It is right, therefore, that such emoluments should change with the cost of living. This is the approach adopted now in a number of European countries and we should follow suit in this matter.
A difficulty about this Bill, which the Minister will appreciate, is that almost any amendment moved by a private Deputy as distinct from a Minister, will be out of order as the amendment will likely involve a charge on public funds and as such, will normally be ruled out of order under the procedure of the House. Therefore, I would urge on the Minister the desirability of accepting suggestions made on this Stage or the Committee Stage and I suggest that the Minister might introduce the appropriate amendments, either on Committee or Report Stage, after the matter has been referred to here.
As the Minister has remarked, this Bill is more appropriate for consideration on Committee Stage. At the same time, in view of what I have said about the difficulty of individual Deputies moving amendments, or the likelihood of amendments in order to achieve the objects of those interested involving their being ruled out of order, it is necessary at this stage to refer to certain cases. In fact, it may well be difficult on this measure not to refer to individual cases because of the personal nature of some of the matters involved and the individual cases which are affected by its provisions.
The prime purpose, as the Minister remarked, is to facilitate a greater mobility between the staffs of local authorities, State and semi-State bodies and the Civil Service. In the past, I think the Civil Service organisations were somewhat opposed to a movement of that sort. On the other hand, with the increase in the number of State and semi-State bodies, there is the view that greater mobility will provide for greater efficiency. To the extent that Section 4 provides for that, it should facilitate these arrangements and enable the persons affected to have their pensions covered.
There are, however, certain categories of State pensioners—I use the term in its widest sense—to whom I specifically wish to refer. This measure deals, in the main, with civil servants and has reference to local authority personnel as well as to certain other retired persons. I have had occasion previously to refer to a specific group of retired officers who are affected by what might be described as premature retirement. These were Army officers, not a very large number, who were granted the two years' extension some years ago because they had pre-Truce service and an IRA medal. Subsequently I notice the Minister for Defence in 1957 withdrew that concession. However, as a result of representations made here he accepted the view that although these officers were retired, they should be paid for the two years which they would have served, if the concession had not been withdrawn, the same pay and emoluments as they would have received while serving; in other words for two years after the retiral age which was fixed in 1957 they received full pay and emoluments. That, at the time, seemed a reasonable enough concession. However, this problem has arisen and they have been affected adversely.
Since then, there have been, I think, three increases in salary. While serving officers and even the category to which I have referred—I think, about 50 officers in all—got the benefit of these increases, once the officers concerned ceased to serve the two-year period and entered on the pension arrangements, the increase in salaries that had been granted did not apply for pension purposes. That was an unfair arrangement. I feel that where these officers had served and had not merely rendered distinguished service in the Army but had given pre-Truce service in respect of which they had been awarded the IRA medal, they should be entitled to the increase in pension which would have been granted had the two-year concession not been withdrawn from them. Therefore, I would urge on the Minister that the scheme be amended to allow for that. If the concession had not been withdrawn, they would have been entitled to these increases. In fact, as I say, those who were still on the two-year period, instead of salaries and emoluments, got the benefits of the increases in salary but they did not apply for pension purposes.
Another matter brought to my attention is in respect of the Defence Forces (Pensions) Scheme, 1937. That scheme provides for an abatement in respect of Article 15 of the Scheme. Probably the most satisfactory way of dealing with this is to refer to a specific case. A commandant, say, who retired voluntarily in 1954 and was on the maximum rate for his rank, was in receipt of remuneration of £1,107 per annum. The equivalent rate at present is £1,694. If the person referred to was in receipt of a salary of, say, £1,200 a year from public funds, his pension would be totally abated. I believe that abatement is unfair and unjust.
A pension is a reward earned for years of satisfactory service. It is unfair that the reward should be abated because service is continued in another sphere. This abatement applies only where a retired officer joins either a Government service such as the Civil Service or service in a local authority. I suggest to the Minister that favourable consideration should be given to amending the scheme so as to withdraw the abatement provision.
Deputies may recollect that some years ago a similar abatement applied in respect of military service pensions and that abatement was abolished. It seems to me that there is a reasonable case for abolishing the abatement in this instance, particularly with the changes in remuneration generally due to the increases in the cost of living.
Pensions of retired officers are abated to the rate of pay of an officer immediately prior to his retirement. Subsequent adjustments either in the Army or civilian life—of which there have been many in recent years—are not taken into account and Reserve pay is taken into account when determining abatement. In theory, Army pensions are not contributory. Local authority pensions are subject to a compulsory reduction of five per cent under the Local Government (Superannuation) Act, 1948. Such deductions are not allowed for in determining abatement. Thus it will be seen that Army pay in respect of which no contribution deductions are made is compared with local authority pay before such deductions are made.
Another category that will be affected are the widows of retired officers. The pensions payable in those cases are extremely low. Consideration should be given to granting some increase. When the Army pensions scheme was introduced, there was no pension scheme for widows of civil servants and, to that extent, there has been a change in the general outlook on pensions since then, and it seems to me that there is a case for increasing those pensions. At present, the pensions of officers' widows range from £120 10s. for the widow of a captain to £206 10s. for the widow of a colonel, and there is an additional £35 odd for each child under 16 years of age. That is a matter which should receive sympathetic consideration.
Another category to which I wish to refer are civil servants who had pre-Truce service. I think this matter is covered by Section 16 of the Bill. So far as I am aware, there are very few cases, but I believe there are some such cases. I should like to suggest to the Minister that favourable consideration should be given to providing that pre-Treaty service on the staff of Dáil Éireann be reckoned as established service for the purposes of the Superannuation Acts, 1834 to 1936; that service on the staff of the Provisional Government be reckoned as established service for the purposes of those Acts; that the First Dáil and Second Dáil and pre-Treaty civil servants be placed on the maximum of their scales, with two extra increments in recognition of their long service; that service on the staff of Dáil Éireann on or before 5th December, 1921, be reckoned as established service for the purposes of these Acts; that in a case where the Minister is satisfied that a person's imprisonment by the British Forces prevented his appointment on the staff of Dáil Éireann until the post-Truce period, such person's service be reckoned as pre-Truce service for the purposes of the Acts I have mentioned.
Another category which I believe require to be considered in this matter are CIE pensioners. It is generally recognised that the CIE pension rates are extremely low, and in some cases, there has been considerable delay in implementing the arbitration award. I refer to this in order to see if any action is open to the Minister to get a more speedy implementation, for this reason: some of those persons who retired would be entitled to make a settlement in respect of their wives, but because of the delay in certain cases in dealing with some of the persons concerned, some of them died before the award was made, and in that case no such settlement is possible, and the wife gets only whatever gratuity is payable and whatever balance of the pension is due. After the arbitration award is concluded and a person's entitlement fixed, he is entitled to make a settlement which will allow whatever pension, or proportion of the pension, is agreed to be handed over to his wife. It is something similar to the arrangement which is now in operation in the Civil Service, where portion of the pension may be transferred to the wife.
The other category to which I wish to refer are certain ESB officers or employees. I know this is a matter which has been the subject of fairly protracted representations to the Minister and, indeed, to successive Ministers for Industry and Commerce. It applies to the general employees' superannuation scheme established under the Electricity Supply Board (Superannuation) Act. The scheme came into operation on 1st April, 1943, and as I understand it, Section 14 of the Act empowered the Board to grant out of its own funds, not out of the superannuation funds, an additional pension to those members of the staff who were not less than 40 years of age in July, 1942, the additional pension not to exceed the amount of the pension to which the person would be entitled if ten years were added to his service.
I mention this matter because as the Act stands at present, a man with 37¼ years' service gets a pension of 37¼ eightieths of his salary, and another man with 40¾ years' service gets a pension of 33¼ eightieths of his salary. As I said, this is a matter which has been the subject of consideration by the Board as a result of representations by a very limited number of employees, all of whom I believe were employed at the inception of the scheme, and contributed to a considerable extent to the establishment and working of the Board and the success of the ESB over a long number of years.
There are certain categories, particularly social welfare officers, who are affected by the Bill and who have made representations, I believe, on certain amendments. These amendhal ments cover a wide category and in view of the fact that some of them would involve a charge on public funds, I propose, with the Minister's consent, to forward the representations to him for sympathetic consideration. The amendments would be ruled out of order because of the fact that such amendments, moved by an individual Deputy, would involve a charge on public funds.
There is one other matter in connection with the Army personnel to which I wish to refer, that is, the position which has arisen in respect of local authority employees who have been transferred from the Army to the local authority, and who had service in the Army and now have local authority service. Under the 1956 Act, civil servants and semi-State bodies have available certain machinery for transfer which is also dealt with in Section 4 of the Bill. That arrangement does not include Army personnel.
I believe that where an officer, an NCO or a man had Army service, during, after or prior to the emergency, and subsequently had service with a local authority, his Army service should count for pension purposes. Many of these people rendered very good service during the emergency but because of the present position of the law, the Army service is not counted. I do not know whether the proposed alteration which the Minister referred to, which will allow a notional period or half of a notional period to count for pension purposes, may rectify this, but if it does not, there is a very strong case for allowing personnel now employed by local authorities and who had a number of years' service in the Army either as professional officers, technical officers or in whatever category they were employed, to have that service counted for pension purposes and aggregated with the Civil Service or local authority period of service.
There is one matter to which I should like to refer before I conclude. Deputy Carty has informed me that he proposes to raise the specific case of a former member of the Dáil, Mr. Stephen Jordan, who was a member of this House for many years. The Deputy has given me details of the case in question. He is more familiar with the case than I am but I should like to support the representations which he intends to make and would urge the Minister to introduce a provision, or accept an appropriate amendment, as the case may be, to cover the case.