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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 3 Jul 1957

Vol. 48 No. 5

Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Bill, 1957—Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

The Minister for Defence, who is at present engaged in the Dáil, has asked me to take this Bill for him. The statutory authority for the grant of retired pay, pensions and gratuities in respect of service in the Permanent Defence Force is contained in the Defence Forces (Pensions) Act, 1932, as amended by the Defence Forces (Pensions) Amendment Act, 1938, and by the Defence Forces (Pensions) Amendment Act, 1949. The object of this Bill is to amend Section 5 of the Act of 1938, so as to secure greater administrative economy and expedition in the making of grants under the pensions schemes made pursuant to Acts.

I should perhaps explain that Section 2 of the 1932 Act provides for the making of schemes which prescribe such matters as rates of pensions and gratuities and the detailed conditions governing their payment. These schemes must receive the consent of the Minister for Finance and must be approved by a resolution of each House of the Oireachtas before they can come into operation.

Section 5 of the 1938 Act requires, furthermore, that the consent of the Minister for Finance must be obtained by the Minister for Defence before an individual grant of pension or gratuity is made. To comply with this provision, therefore, the Department must submit each case to the Department of Finance for the consent of the Minister for Finance. This involves time and administrative procedures in both Departments which would not be necessary if the Minister for Defence had the authority to make grants in accordance with the schemes without reference to the Minister for Finance.

The Minister for Finance and the Minister for Defence are satisfied, having regard to the position under Section 2 of the 1932 Act, which is not affected by this Bill, that the requirement to secure his consent to each individual grant fulfils no essential purpose and that its removal would in no way adversely affect the interests of the Exchequer but would secure greater administrative economy and more expeditious clearance of cases as they arise. This Bill, therefore, proposes to remove such requirement.

I should like to know if the Minister for Defence will be here to-morrow. I know that the Minister for Justice is an expert in the Department of Defence and as good as anybody else, but I should like the Minister for Defence to be here to-morrow for the Committee Stage, if possible. There are aspects of this Bill which I should like to discuss with him, such as the great disparity existing at the moment in regard to pensions of N.C.O.s and men leaving the Army on different dates.

I know it would be difficult for the Minister to deal with that point for me because he is dealing with a different aspect altogether, but I should like to know if the Minister for Defence could be here on the Committee Stage. If that is possible, I would hold over what I want to say until to-morrow.

I cannot say definitely that the Minister for Defence will be here to-morrow. Actually, he was somewhat indisposed and it was not his intention, in the first instance, to come into the House at all, but there was an important question on the Order Paper which he deemed it desirable to come in to answer. In view of that likely illness, I could not give any definite promise that he would be here.

I would suggest also that the matter which the Senator wishes to raise is not actually appropriate to this Bill. We are only amending a section here to expedite the authorisation of pensions to certain officers. It does nothing else. To make it clearer to the House, I should mention that schemes are put up and have to be agreed to by both Houses. These schemes fix the amount of pension an officer is entitled to. What operated heretofore was that the Minister for Defence had to seek the authority of the Minister for Finance to provide this pension. That meant a loss of time and the possible hold up of an officer's pension for some time.

This is an amendment to provide against such a delay. Its only provision is to ensure that, when an officer becomes entitled to a pension, the Minister for Defence can, of his own authority, without having to refer it to anybody else, authorise payment of that pension. I cannot say for certain, but I think there will be a couple of other Bills coming before the House before the Seanad rises and perhaps it might be possible to raise these matters on these Bills.

I am satisfied. I am sorry the Minister for Defence is indisposed. I hope he will be in health again very soon. I just thought I could expand the discussion to cover certain important points which I discussed with the Minister for Justice when he was Minister for Defence. I appreciate the fact that the amendment does not in any way touch upon these matters, but I thought I could bring them into it.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.
Bill passed through Committee; reported without amendment; received for final consideration; and passed.