The purpose of this piece of legislation is to enable a widow's pension and the appropriate children's allowances to be granted to the widow and children of any Minister, Ceann Comhairle, or Parliamentary Secretary, who dies in office, irrespective of the length of service the deceased person has had in office. At the moment, the matter is regulated by Section 20 of the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act, 1938. Under that section payment of pensions to widows and of the allowances in respect of children is restricted. The restriction arises in this way. A person only becomes entitled to a pension if he has served a minimum period. The minimum period stated under the Act is three years. If the piece of legislation that is before the House is carried, that limiting period of three years will be neglected in the case of the holder of a qualifying office who dies while holding that office. As to the rate to be given, the Act at the moment has a statutory minimum. The amount that is payable at the moment is £150 in the case of the widow of a Minister or a Ceann Comhairle and £100 in the case of the widow of a Parliamentary Secretary.
It is proposed, in the case where the holder of a qualifying office dies while holding the office, to pay the widow the minimum pension that would be payable under the Act—in other words, £150 in the case of the widow of a Minister or a Ceann Comhairle and £100 in the case of the widow of a Parliamentary Secretary. The appropriate rates then of children's allowances will follow. I should mention in that connection that in Dáil Éireann last night I indicated that certain increases in pensions were being permitted. They will be stabilised by a piece of legislation which, in the end, will come before this House but, on foot of certain token Supplementary Estimates which I was given by Dáil Éireann yesterday, certain additional pensions will be paid. I stated in Dáil Éireann that it was proposed, in the legislation which will be before the Dáil in the autumn to increase the pensions of widows of Ministers and Parliamentary officers, and of the children, but I gave a guarantee to the House that no such pension would, in fact, be paid until such time as legislation had been passed. Widows of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, and their children, are the only people whose pensions, based upon the Central Fund, are being increased. All the others are based upon funds of other types.