I should like to explain the reasons for section 3. The present legal position is that superannuation is regulated almost entirely by statute. The aim of the Bill is to get to a position where superannuation is regulated entirely by schemes. In making the change-over two approaches are possible, an instantaneous change-over or a gradual one. Under the first approach all enactments would be repealed as soon as a comprehensive codified scheme would be brought into operation covering all aspects of superannuation. The disadvantage of this approach would be that nothing could be done until the comprehensive scheme was ready and this would take a considerable time because of the delay involved in any codification process due, for example, to the need to assemble material from many enactments, to identify the spent provisions and the live ones, to iron out anomalies. This delay would mean that we would have to wait much longer before validating the improvements already made and welcomed by everybody. It would also raise a problem if any further improvements had to be urgently made.
Under the second approach of a gradual change-over, which is the course adopted in the Bill, the statutory framework is maintained for the time being and interim schemes can be quickly introduced validating improvements already made as well as providing for any further urgent changes that may be decided on. Where these involve a departure from statutory provisions, regulations will be made amending the relevant enactments. Later, when the comprehensive scheme is ready, all the relevant enactments will be repealed.
The disadvantage of this course is that the amendment of enactments by regulations, although there are numerous precedents, should be avoided where possible. In this case, however, it was felt that the balance of advantage lay in adopting this approach, having regard to the need to avoid further delay in validating improvements already made or in introducing any further urgent changes that may be found necessary. The enactments which will be subject to amendment are, in any event, due for repeal at a later stage under section 11 or will otherwise become spent. A similar approach has been adopted for the civil service under the Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1976, and there are advantages in keeping in line with civil service arrangements because of the interaction that exists between the two schemes.
I do not want to harp on the delay in retrospection, but I want to talk about it now for a few minutes. I have heard a lot about it but I have not heard one complaint from anyone on any side of this House that we should not do it. No one has come to me from any side of the House to say that. Everybody I know was delighted with all the benefits. Our policy right across the civil service has been to improve superannuation conditions as soon as they are agreed and to seek validation subsequently. This is to prevent persons who are receiving or about to receive superannuation benefits suffering hardships which could arise from longer delays in promoting legislation. As regards the period of delay in the present case, the reasons for this were explained on this Second Stage. They can be summarised as follows. A series of changes were introduced in the civil service superannuation system in a period of eight years beginning 1968. These were applied in the local service also but one step behind, so to speak, in three main stages—(1) the Widows and Orphans Scheme, 1969 (2) miscellaneous improvements mainly in the kind of service to be reckoned, in 1971; (3) the new comprehensive superannuation revision scheme in 1977-78. The Act to validate the civil service changes was passed in 1976. At that stage a working party was in being to consider the position in the local service. When their interim report was implemented in 1977-78 the present Bill was prepared and was introduced in the Dáil in May 1979. It is, precisely, the granting of improvement in legislation and it is necessary for humanitarian reasons.
This Bill and the section are welcome and, as I said earlier, I cannot be held in any way responsible for any delays that may occur on the Bill. We have agreed on the bringing in of all the schemes. People who were entitled to their moneys under the scheme have received them, and they were very welcome to them. I have not heard anybody on either side of the House saying that that should not be done. From what I have heard throughout the country everybody is very pleased and most grateful that this Bill was brought into operation and that there was no undue holdup in the benefits. That is the main thing. Whatever can be said afterwards, I am fully satisfied that it was in the best interest of the people looking for the benefits.