This Order consists of a number of miscellaneous amendments to the existing Garda Síochána Pensions Orders. An explanatory memorandum has been circulated with the Order, and I assume that it will not be necessary for me at this stage to give a detailed explanation of the various provisions of the Order. I should like to say a few words, however, about the more important provisions.
The most important provisions in the Order are those which provide for increases in respect of widows' pensions and children's allowances similar to those granted to other State pensioners by the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1950. These provisions will have retrospective effect to 1st April, 1949, the date from which increases are payable under the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1950. The Order provides also for smaller increases in widows' pensions and children's allowances in respect of the period from 1st April, 1947 to 31st March, 1949, these increases being calculated to correspond with increases of benefits under the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Acts, which became operative from 1st April, 1947.
There are three other changes made by the Order, about which I should like to give some explanation. These changes are—
(a) the abolition of the distinction between accidental and non-accidental injuries;
(b) the provision of special pension terms for members who were over the age of 27 years when they joined the force, and
(c) the change in the definition of injury on duty.
Under the existing pensions Orders, when a member is injured on duty, without his own default, and has to retire or dies as a result of the injury, he or his widow, as the case may be, is entitled to a special pension, but the rate of the special pension depends on whether the injury is an accidental injury or a non-accidental injury, a non-accidental injury being defined as an injury intentionally inflicted or incurred in the performance of a duty involving special risks. The special pension in the case of a non-accidental injury is on a much better scale than the special pension in the case of an accidental injury. The Order abolishes this distinction and provides that in future the higher scale of special pension will be payable in every case where a member is injured on duty.
As Senators are aware, many members of the Garda Síochána, who had helped to establish the State, were over the age of 27 years when they joined the force and under the existing pensions Orders many of these men could not qualify for full pension. The existing Orders provide that Garda pensions will be calculated at one-sixtieth of annual pay for each year of service, with an additional one-sixtieth for each year over 20. The new Order provides that where a man was over the age of 27 years when he joined the force, his pension will be calculated at one-sixtieth of annual pay for each year of service with an additional one-sixtieth for each year after his 47th birthday.
In regard to the definition of injury on duty, the position is that, under the existing Orders, an injury is regarded as having been sustained on duty if it was suffered in any of the following circumstances:—
(a) while the member was on duty;
(b) while the member, although not on duty, was performing some act which is within the scope of the ordinary duties of a member of the force;
(c) in consequence of some act performed by the member in the execution of his duty;
(d) while the member was acting as a fireman or assisting in the extinguishment of a fire or in protecting life or property from fire; and
(e) while the member was on a journey necessary to enable him to report for duty or to return home after duty.
The effect of the new Order is that in future an injury sustained by a member when travelling to report for duty or when returning home after duty will not be treated as an injury on duty, unless the member was performing some act which is within the scope of a policeman's duty at the time or unless it is shown that the injury was inflicted on him on account of something done by him in the performance of his duty.
I consider that this is a reasonable amendment and will not result in any hardship. If a member meets with an accidental injury when reporting for or returning from duty, and has to retire or dies as a result of that injury, he, or his widow as the case may be, will be entitled to an ordinary pension on the same basis as if the death or incapacity resulted from illness, but the special pension, which is payable in respect of injuries on duty, will not be paid in such a case.
I am sure that the House will agree that this Order effects a substantial improvement in the Garda Síochána pensions code and I hope that the motion for its approval will be passed.