I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
This Bill is designed to give statutory effect to the increases which were awarded in pensions and allowances under the Army Pensions Acts arising from the 1963 Budget. On the authority of a Supplementary Estimate, which was approved on 28th November, 1963, payment of these increases commenced with effect from 1st November, 1963 and this Bill contains the formal legislative provision for what was done then.
In the cases of officer pensioners whose disablement pensions are related to pay the increases apply to those who retired before 16th December, 1959 and the effect of the increases is to bring the pensions up to the level appropriate to an officer who retired on that date. Disablement pensions which are not related to pay and married pensions are increased by 5 per cent as also are allowances payable to widows, children and other dependants of deceased persons.
Gratuities which are payable where the degree of wound disablement is less than 20 per cent—as well as remarriage gratuities payable to widows —have not been increased since 1956 and this Bill applies to them the several percentage increases granted since that year in respect of pensions and allowances. The aggregated additions amount to an increase of about 40 per cent in these gratuities.
A flat increase of £4 per year is being provided in special allowances. In addition increases in certain social welfare benefits and in certain service and disability pensions are being disregarded in the assessment of means. The latter arrangements are not of course mentioned in this Bill as they are made by way of changes in the joint directions which are effected in agreement with An tAire Airgeadais.
The net extra annual cost to the Exchequer of the increased benefits for which the Bill provides is £28,000. Improvements in special allowances account for £14,000 net of this figure and the balance of £14,000 represents the annual cost of the increases in pensions, allowances, etc.
I should mention that this Bill applies only to the 1963 Budget increases; separate measures are being taken to provide for the increases authorised in this year's Budget which will not become payable until 1st October next. If there are any other points on which clarification is sought, I will be glad to deal with them when concluding.