Written Answers. - Spouses' and Children's Pension Schemes.

Noel Ahern

Question:

506 Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the situation in relation to widows and chil dren schemes in the Civil Service, health boards and semi-State bodies; the regulations in relation to widows of long serving staff who did not opt into the scheme; if the matter is still under negotiation with trade unions in relation to extension of the scheme for widows not receiving payment; the number of widows excluded; the cost per annum of granting payment to them; and if he will extend the scheme to all widows and at least grant them an annual ex-gratia payment in recognition of their husbands long service to the State. [1688/99]

The spouses' and children's pensions schemes in the Civil Service and in other areas of the public service were set up on a contributory basis. Accordingly, each of the schemes was optional for staff serving at the date of introduction. Staff recruited after that date automatically became members of the scheme. The schemes were established on an actuarial basis, with members' contributions being intended to meet one half of the cost, and operate on the insurance principal where all members contribute in order to provide pensions in respect of members who, on death, leave eligible spouses and children. To allow officers who have opted out of the scheme, or their spouses if the officers are already deceased, a further option to join the schemes would therefore undermine the basis of the scheme and would be costly since most take-up would be by the spouses of officers who had already died. It would also lead to pressure to allow existing members to opt out of the scheme.

While there are no precise figures available on the numbers of civil servants or former civil servants who are married and are not members of the scheme, a recent survey of a number of Government Departments indicated that 85 per cent of pension scheme members where also members of the spouses' and children's scheme.

In so far as the Civil Service is concerned the issue of another option has been raised by the civil service unions. I would also point out that the Commission on Public Service Pensions was established to carry out a fundamental review of the occupational pension arrangements for public servants. In its interim report the Commission noted that it had received a number of submissions from unions and individuals seeking a further option for non-members to join the spouses' and children's contributory scheme. The commission's final report is due this year.