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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Jul 1949

Vol. 36 No. 20

Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Bill, 1949 ( Certified Money Bill )— Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

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.

It is obvious that we have travelled some small distance on the road of political education in recent years when we cast our minds back to the introduction of the original Bill making provision for Ministers' pensions, of which this Bill is an amendment, and to the criticism and political propaganda that was made in respect of that Bill at that time. I welcome the change and the fact that we have now come to a realisation that it is only right that provision should be made in respect of those people who gave service to the nation as Members of this House or as Members of the other House—and particularly in the case of those people who may be called upon to give their services as Ministers of State and who thereby relinquish any interests they may have in private life. We have, in the past, seen cases of many people who gave services both in constitutional and other activities in this country, just the same as in every other country, being neglected just at the time when the State should come to their rescue.

While I say that, we may not agree entirely with the method adopted in the present case but the responsibility is that of the Government who have chosen this method. Therefore, on my own behalf and on behalf, I think, of all the members on this side of the House, let me say that we have no objection to giving all stages of the Bill this evening.

On the remarks that have been made, I want to say that I welcome the change as indicated by Senator Hawkins on behalf of his party. There was a time when the walls of this country were plastered with very vituperative comment with regard to salaries at a time when there were no pensions for Ministers. The change is not on the part of the present Government. It is the present Government who are accepting a change of heart on the part of people who previously opposed salaries, let alone pensions. I may say, also, in that connection that the precedent for this is to be found in the Presidential Establishment Act, 1938, and that when we began to consider a recent lamentable death we found that under the Act to which I have referred provision had been made to grant the widow of the President a pension if he died while holding the office of President irrespective of any term of office. That is the precedent that has been followed.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the remaining stages to-day.
Bill passed through Committee without recommendation, received for final consideration and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.