Written Answers. - Pension Provisions.

Paul McGrath

Question:

190 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the reason retired members of the Permanent Defence Force receive a major cut in pension when qualifying for a retirement pension from the Department of Social and Family Affairs at age 65 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4083/03]

The Defence Forces pensions schemes provide for the payment to a retired NCO or private of a special increment – currently €6.64 per week – in addition to basic pension for each year of pensionable service in excess of 21 years up to a maximum of 31 years. As a general rule, the special increment continues to be payable until the pensioner becomes entitled to a social welfare retirement pension, at age 65, or old age contributory pension, at age 66, at which stage the increment ceases to be payable. The maximum personal rate of either social welfare pension, €157.30 per week, is considerably greater than the maximum special increment, €66.40 per week.

The current arrangements are in accordance with the principle of integrating occupational benefits with social insurance benefits in the case of employees, such as NCOs and privates, who are fully insured under the Social Welfare Acts. The method of integration used in the case of NCOs and privates is more advantageous than the standard method of full integration applicable in other public service employments.

The general issue of integration of occupational pensions in the public service was examined by the Commission on Public Service Pensions in its final report, published in January 2001. The commission accepted that integration is a fundamental component in the public service pensions framework and was strongly of the view that it should be continued. While the commission did recommend a modified integration method in the case of public servants who retire on relatively low levels of pay, this recommendation will have no impact on the current arrangements applicable to retired NCOs and privates.

Previously, the application of the integration principle in the case of NCOs and privates was specifically considered in 1990 by the Commission on Remuneration and Conditions of Service in the Defence Forces, the Gleeson Commission, which did not recommend any change in the arrangements in operation.