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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 13 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 7

Committee on Finance. - Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Scheme, 1969: Motion.

I move:

That the Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Scheme 1969, prepared by the Minister for Defence with the consent of the Minister for Finance under Sections 2, 3 and 5 of the Defence Forces (Pensions) Act, 1932 and Section 4 of the Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Act, 1938 and laid before the House on the 25th day of February, 1969 be confirmed.

The purpose of this scheme is to provide improved retirement benefit for a former member of the survey company, Corps of Engineers, and gratuities for other members of that company who were discharged or transferred to the reserve after the 1st August, 1940 for the purpose of taking up civilian employment in the Ordnance Survey.

Briefly, the circumstances are that in August, 1940, a number of long-service members of the survey company, Corps of Engineers, were transferred to the reserve to enable them to work as civilians in the Ordnance Survey. They were recalled to Army service in 1941 and were subsequently re-transferred to the reserve and later discharged from the Defence Forces. Provision was made in the Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Scheme, 1956 to give each of them a modified pension in respect of his full-time Army service prior to the date on which his reckonable service under the Superannuation Acts commenced. The pension would be payable only when he retired from his civilian post in circumstances entitling him to an award under these Acts.

Four of them, as it happened, had more than 21 years' Army service, and as it would be more beneficial in their cases to reckon 21 years' service for Army pension purposes and the balance under the Superannuation Acts, it was decided to alter the reckonable dates of commencement of their civilian service. Three of them, therefore, have now been awarded and paid pensions based on 21 years' Army service with effect from the dates of their discharge. There is a slight complication in the fourth case. The person concerned was appointed to temporary commissioned rank in April, 1941 and it is necessary to amend the schemes so that his commissioned service can be reckoned as non-commissioned in order that he may receive a pension based on 21 years' Army service. This is being done in Article 5 of the present scheme. A similar provision had been made for him in the 1956 scheme for the purposes of a modified pension.

At the same time as the long-service soldiers about whom I have been speaking, a number of short-service soldiers were appointed to civilian posts in the Ordnance Survey. In the circumstances of the termination of their Army service, they were not eligible for gratuities under the Defence Forces (Pensions) Schemes as they then stood. Article 6 of the present scheme now provides that gratuities may be paid to them.

It will be seen, therefore, that the purpose of this scheme is to provide improved benefits for this particular group of people. It is necessary for the scheme to be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas as it is not simply a matter of benefits arising from service pay increases or general increases in public service pensions, the schemes governing which, as Deputies are aware, no longer require specific parliamentary approval.

This is a non-contentious pensions amendment scheme designed, as the Minister said, to provide increased pension benefits and gratuities for a number of ex-Army personnel in the Ordnance Survey.

The work which the Ordnance Survey has done and is doing is of considerable benefit to the country. The mapping and checking of the various changes in localities represented in the maps involves a great deal of work which is of considerable value. Its value is realised not only by individuals but by local authorities and planning groups. The work assists land reclamation and, indeed, quite a lot of it has been of value in excavation work carried on by those who undertake it from a university point of view or from a professional or academic point of view. The skill, education and capacity of the personnel involved in this work is appreciated by many people and it is right that their contribution to this type of work should be fully known and appreciated.

This amendment scheme covers a limited number of personnel. I think the Minister might consider the need for providing a gratuity for long service non-commissioned personnel in general. This is a matter that has been the subject of representation by NCOs and men for many years. It is a matter on which they feel strongly. Compared with commissioned officers, NCOs and men get no gratuities and I think there is a strong case for giving them one. The actual cost per annum could not be very great. There is no doubt they feel strongly that they have a case. I should like to urge, therefore, that this matter be considered sympathetically.

So far as the present scheme is concerned we certainly agree with it.

I am glad that the House has accepted the scheme in the manner in which it has. I know, as Deputy Cosgrave has pointed out, that it is applicable to a very limited number of ex-Army personnel only.

I join with him in commending the work of the Ordnance Survey. It is a tribute to Army personnel that they can contribute so much to the important work done in Ordnance Survey. Their work is of considerable value to the country. As Deputy Cosgrave and Members of the House know, the Ordnance Survey is under the care of the Minister for Finance.

Deputy Cosgrave made a plea that a gratuity should be provided for long service non-commissioned personnel. That matter is under constant review. It has been raised on the Estimate for Defence for a number of years and very careful consideration has been given to it. It is not easy, however, to effect change. I have no objection to the House pressing me to have a further look at this matter.

Motion agreed.