Before the Seanad takes up consideration of the Committee Stage of this Bill, I should like to indicate that I consider amendment No. 11 in the name of Senator O'Quigley out of order. I consider it out of order since it is outside the scope of the Bill as read a Second Time. The Senator has been notified accordingly.
Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1957—Committee and Final Stages.
I should like to hear the Minister again on this section. This is probably one of the last Bills we shall have in relation to electricity development. This section applies in particular to the financing of rural electrification. It is therefore possibly the last opportunity we shall have of voicing our opinion in connection with this particular project.
I should like to get from the Minister his view in regard to rural electrification generally. Does he visualise a situation in which every rural home will have electricity? Is he, on the other hand, contemplating a development where abandoned pockets will be left undeveloped with no hope of future development? I know that it is much more expensive to bring current to remote districts and backward areas than it is to supply the general body of householders in rural areas with electricity. I consider it would be a wholly defeatist attitude to leave people in remote areas without current just because they are remote. That is what will happen unless a definite line of policy is laid down in that regard.
There is a fair price for any commodity, but in the case of these areas— remote, backward and lacking in amenities easily accessible to their more fortunately situated neighbours— special consideration should be given. These people should not be left without the one thing which can make such a tremendous difference in their lives from a social and an economic point of view. If it is the policy to leave them in their present unhappy position, then that is tantamount to a policy of abandonment.
Those of us who know the rural areas have a wide experience. I do not think the conditions have ever been really properly studied and examined at all. One would almost despair of the future. The Minister should make up his mind now to issue a clear directive of policy in relation to these remote areas. Even if the cost of connection is a good deal higher than the normal, these people should be provided with this essential amenity. We are now providing more money for the development of rural electrification. We are anxious that our people should remain in their homes and work their farms. We are anxious for increased production. One step in that direction would be the provision of electricity in these remote homes in rural Ireland and our aim should be to consolidate our defences. That can best be done on the perimeter rather than in the centre of our society. Those who leave from the perimeter leave a gap which can never be filled. Because of the lack of consideration shown to these people many of them in the remote rural areas are losing faith, not only in the immediate present but, worse still, in the future. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that rural electrification is extended to the uttermost limits so that every house in the rural areas will have this vital commodity.
As I informed the Senator on the Second Reading debate, every area into which the country has been divided for the purpose of the fulfilment of the scheme will have a supply before April, 1962. Development work under the scheme will be finished by then. I cannot give Senator Baxter an undertaking that every rural home will have a supply of electricity. Experience to date suggests that quite a considerable percentage of rural dwellers do not want supply, even when it is available at standard terms. Indeed, as many Senators will know, the difficulty in some areas in getting them high on the priority list for development has been to secure an undertaking by a sufficient number of dwellers in the areas to accept the supply.
Where a rural dweller in an area which is being developed agrees to accept supply, he will get that supply at the standard rate of charge applicable to all dwellings coming within the scheme where the cost of bringing the network to his door does not exceed 24 times the fixed charge revenue arising from his dwelling. In other cases the E.S.B. will, of course, be agreeable to make supply available but subject to the payment of a sum of money equivalent to the difference between the total cost and the cost that would arise on the 24 to one ratio.
The rural electrification scheme which I submitted to the Dáil in 1942 contemplated bringing supply at the standard rate of charge to houses where the cost of connection did not exceed 16 times the fixed charge revenue in each case. That, as I said, has been extended to 24 times and, on that basis, as has been made clear to the Seanad, a substantial deficiency has already arisen on the rural revenue account. I anticipate that that deficiency will continue to grow until the completion of the scheme and that it will then be of very sizable dimensions but, as I indicated when speaking before, the hope is that over a fairly protracted period of time, say 20 years, that deficiency may be reduced, if not eliminated, by reason of the growth in the consumption of current in rural areas and a higher revenue being received by the E.S.B. in respect of the actual current consumed.
The Minister has not answered my question, at least not fully or in the way I should like him to answer it. He repeated what he said here on the last day that this Bill was before the House, that if the cost exceeds 24 times the revenue there will not be any development.
I did not say that. In that case a special charge arises.
Then the owner will have to be responsible for the special charge and that simply means that he is not going to have supply.
I do not want to carry the point much further but I have personal experience and I am satisfied that that is what is happening in many districts and it is simply locking out a considerable number of people. It is the people in remote places who are seeking the supply and cannot have it because of the initial cost. That is a fault in the scheme. The total expenditure on this, from the point of view of the State, would not be considerable. Such a policy is denying a number of people who want to have the supply in their homes the possibility of that being achieved.
I want to make clear, when the Senator talks about the cost to the State, what the position is in that regard.
To the E.S.B.
The rural electrification scheme which was submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas in 1942 contemplated that the State would, in fact, contribute to the cost by a free grant of half the capital cost of the network. That assistance by the State to the rural electrification development was withdrawn by my predecessor in 1955. This Bill restores it. The E.S.B. gets that additional contribution towards the capital cost as from the 1st April last. It is, of course, entirely a matter for the E.S.B. as to how they appropriate that money to any particular item of cost in connection with the scheme.
I spoke on this matter also the last day. The Minister told us only about the mechanism of the scheme, with regard to how the assessment was arrived at. What we really want to know is what will happen to people living in isolated places, the number of such persons and the cost to the State of giving these people electricity. These people are productive entities and must be kept in production. We are not pressing this issue because it is a social question. We are pressing it because it is an economic question and because it would be of advantage to the nation to keep these people on the land and to keep them in production. They will not stay in production unless they get amenities. If, some few years ago, their fathers did not want electricity, I am sure the sons and daughters want electricity and will not stay on the land unless they get electricity.
With regard to the number of people who are likely to be in the position that they can get supply only subject to some special charge, it is not now possible to give a precise figure. The scheme contemplated that some 30 per cent. of the rural dwellers would be in that position, that, under the proposals then accepted by the Oireachtas, supply would be brought to 70 per cent. of them and that the other 30 per cent. would not be within the scheme as then envisaged. Now that the 16 to one ratio has been raised to 24 to one, I do not know that the percentage has been precisely calculated.
It is rather vexatious, when one comes here with a proposal to increase the assistance given by the State to rural electrification development, to find oneself criticised on the ground that that provision is not adequate by Senators who voted against that provision three years ago.
It does not matter what people did as far as their political past is concerned and I am sure that the Minister would agree because he has turned and changed his point of view many times. Only a fool would not. The Minister produces a Bill here. We are showing a defect. I have seen an application to the E.S.B. for the installation of electricity in a small house with about four rooms. The house was unoccupied at the time the area was being developed; it is now occupied. The first thing that has to be done is that the owner must put down £135 and afterwards pay a higher fixed charge than any of the neighbours. That simply will not be done. There are cases like that all over the country. The net result is that that house will be unoccupied again and the family concerned will find a home somewhere else. That is a defect in the scheme. I do not think it will cost the State or the E.S.B. a great deal of money. It can make a difference in rural Ireland. That is the point I am raising.
That is somewhat different from the point the Senator raised before, I think. The Senator is now talking about bringing a supply to a house where supply was refused when the area was being developed.
It was unoccupied.
Irrespective of the reason, the supply was not taken when the area was being developed. It is undoubtedly true that at some stage the E.S.B. will have to go back over all these areas and offer supply where supply was not accepted when the area was being developed. It will cost more to give that supply in future than it would have cost at the time the main development was taking place in that locality, but the person now getting the supply will not be asked to pay more than the cost of it.
I should like to support Deputy Baxter's statement with regard to the extra charges made on people who built houses in an area that has already been developed. I could not say what the percentage is but it must be fairly high. I know people living on the fringe of areas that have been developed who are very anxious to get a supply to their homes and cannot get it, because of the existence of some dividing line, unless they pay this exorbitant charge, which they cannot afford.
The charges are not exorbitant; they are the actual cost of the supply less the capital subvention the Government is giving.
I do not want to trespass. What do I understand to be the Minister's answer to the case I have made? I know of such cases.
My answer is quite clear. When the E.S.B. went into an area, canvassed everybody in the area to accept supply, brought their organisation to full efficiency in the area and connected up every house that wanted to take the supply, the cost of doing so per house was as low as the E.S.B. could make it. If, some years later, somebody in that area who did not take supply at the time or somebody who is occupying a house newly built, is seeking supply, it will cost more to give it to him than it would have cost at the time the area was being developed. They will get that supply but at the cost of bringing it to them. Senators must not be thinking of Government in this connection. If they subsidise to a greater extent, then, under the existing scheme, it is not the Government who will have to pay but the other consumers of electricity in the area.
Is it not true that an old subscriber can get his own wiring system changed without any extra cost?
This has nothing to do with the wiring system at all. I am talking about the cost of bringing the current to the dwelling.
Some of these houses are convenient to developed areas. A farmer who changes his house from one position to another will be charged extra for installing electricity in the new house, which may not be 50 or 100 yards from the old dwelling.
That is not peculiar to rural dwellers. It applies to urban dwellers also.
It applies to the rural area anyway.
And the urban areas also.
On behalf of Senator O'Quigley, I move amendment No. 1:—
In line 19, to delete "in the opinion of the board".
Senator O'Quigley is, unfortunately, detained in court. Perhaps we might discuss amendments Nos. 1 to 5 together?
The amendments aim at altering the provisions of the section. The section provides that in the case of a particular bridge which is being flooded and where people have a claim for compensation for loss, the board may, if it thinks fit, give compensation. The amendments, taken together, provide that the board shall not be made judges in their own case. On the face of it, it would appear from the section that if the board decides there has been no loss, they will pay no compensation. That, on the face of it, does not seem to be fair and what Senator O'Quigley was endeavouring to provide was that in the case of disagreement, there should be arbitration and that this arbitration should be of the nature provided in the sections of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1927. It is an endeavour to put into this Bill with regard to this bridge the principle which applies in the 1927 Act.
I should like to support these amendments on a matter of general principle which I raised on the Second Reading. It does seem to met to be wrong, as a matter of legislation, no matter what the special circumstances are, that a corporation of this kind should have the right to assess the amount of compensation where it is itself concerned in the matter. They are, as Senator Hayes said, both judges and interested parties in the same case.
It is true that the Minister answered this to a certain extent on the Second Reading, but I am concerned that later on in the course of our legislation, we may have this section held up as a precedent. The Minister said the other day that he was particularly concerned to avoid setting such a precedent, but what he said in the debate will not be evidence ten or 20 years hence. In years to come we will look at the Act of Parliament and say that here is a precedent for a corporation assessing compensation and we should follow it.
I should like either to see it written into the Bill that this is a special case, not establishing a precedent, or else that the difficulty should be met as in the amendments here. I think Senator O'Quigley's point of view is one that we should support in this matter. It is quite true that very few people are concerned, but the principle is the same.
I want to make it clear that there is no right to compensation here at all. There never was any compensation or a right to compensation for loss or inconvenience suffered when a public road or a public bridge was closed. The position that arose in this case is an exceptional one—so exceptional, indeed, that, although the board wanted to pay compensation to certain landowners in that district, because of circumstances which have arisen, they have no power in law to do it. The sole purpose of the section is to give them the power to do it.
Because of discussions in this matter, the board went down to consult with the people concerned and, after consultation, agreed with them that, provided they were given the power by the Oireachtas to make the payment, they would, in fact, contribute to them certain sums of money which were settled. The amounts which were so arranged were, in my view, substantially larger than could possibly have been awarded by any arbitrator seeking to assess compensation on a legalistic basis. Indeed, it is not impossible that an arbitrator, working under any statutory terms of reference, would have given no compensation at all. That is the position.
So far as the great majority of these people are concerned, there is full agreement as to the assessment for loss or inconvenience suffered and as to the amount of compensation that would offset it. Senator O'Quigley proposes that the board must be subject to the possibility of arbitration proceedings in this matter. Most Senators will agree that what that means is that all these agreements should be wiped out and that this whole business should be settled by some arbitrator working on some terms of reference. No terms of reference have been suggested by Senator O'Quigley.
While he has referred to certain clauses in the 1927 Act, they do not appear to apply in this case. They apply to compensation for loss of employment or compensation for the compulsory acquisition of property. Let us look at the questions which Senator O'Quigley suggests should be the subject of arbitration. The first is where there is a dispute as to whether the owners or occupiers of land in these townlands are the owners or occupiers of such land. I have a list of them here and no issue arises or has been brought forward by anybody to suggest that it is not an accurate list. It is an accurate list.
As to whether these persons suffered loss or inconvenience by the submerging of the bridge, it is conceded that they suffered loss and inconvenience. There is no dispute. In respect of the 14 owners of property in these townlands, there is a willingness to pay compensation in respect of that loss or inconvenience. The only question left is the amount of compensation. I think it is highly undesirable from the point of view of the people concerned that the amount of compensation should be assessed by some arbitrator trying to work on the basis of a mathematical calculation.
The amounts the E.S.B. are prepared to give are, in my view, substantially more than any arbitrator working conscientiously on that basis could possibly calculate. Therefore, it is far better to leave this matter as it is. It is true that there are three cases where agreement has not yet been reached and where the people concerned were involved in certain legal proceedings against the board. There will be no difficulty in completing arrangements in these cases in accordance with the general standard already set by the board in its dealings with the remaining landowners. It is far better in the interests of the people concerned that this should be left on that basis.
My one anxiety, apart from the desire to be generous to the people residing in this part of Cork, was to avoid the possibility of a claim being made at some future date because of loss or inconvenience suffered in regard to a public road or public bridge through the activities of the E.S.B.
With all due respect to the Minister, I believe that we are seeing this from two different points of view. I see it from the point of view of a member of the Legislature, from the point of view of making good laws, good statute laws. It does not seem to me to be the best way of making a statute law to include a provision of this kind for a special case, without some kind of safeguard saying, for example, that in this case "not being entitled to compensation" in the circumstances such and such would happen. The average person reading this Bill when it is an Act in future will not understand that and I am inclined to think it would do harm to legislation in general.
I entirely agree with the Minister, from the point of view of dealing with this problem in a particular area, that it is an entirely just and fair way of doing it, but I am not satisfied that, from the point of view of the Seanad, it is the best way of putting it into statute law.
May I say, before the Minister concludes, that I have known him for a long time? I have heard him in various rôles, both in Opposition and in Government, and he always interests me. He appears now in a new rôle. He wants to protect these unfortunate Corkmen from a legal arbitrator, lest possibly they might lose their rights. He wants to protect the board in its generosity, keep the board generous and keep Senator O'Quigley or anyone else from putting any obstacles in the way of the board's generosity. I congratulate the Minister but that is a new rôle for the Minister who is responsible for the E.S.B.
Senator Stanford, I think, misunderstands the question of precedents. What the Minister wants to do is to see that no precedent is established whereby people have a right to compensation if a public road is blocked. There is no such right at present, I take it, though I do not know. If there is no such right at present, I can understand the Minister's desire not to create a precedent. In spite of Senator O'Quigley, I think that on the whole, there may be a case for this particular instance where it is simpler for the board to come to an agreement with these people. It appears on the face of the legislation, however, as Senator Stanford and Senator O'Quigley have said, and we all agree that what appears on the face of the legislation is that here are people who may have to endure losses owing to the action of a particular State board and who are put completely at the mercy of the board, first in the ascertainment of whether in fact there has been any loss and secondly in the assessment of the amount of the loss. That, on the face of it, in the legislation would appear to be a bad principle but it may very well be that the Minister is right that in this particular circumstance, it is better for everybody concerned that there should not be an application of legal terms of reference and the operation of a legal arbitrator, though if the Minister is right in that, it is a very unusual case.
People almost always get from an arbitrator more than they would get from the people with whom they are trying to come to agreement. The most potent thing of all said by the Minister was that of the 14 people, 12 are in agreement with the board. Is that right?
In the case of nine, there is full agreement as to the amount of compensation. Two others have agreed to accept compensation but the amounts have not yet been finalised. There are three individuals who were involved in the legal action and who have not yet negotiated with the board.
That may very well be but it is an unfortunate thing to look at in legislation. What worries me about it is this. Every day more and more power is given to the State and State-controlled bodies like the E.S.B. I am not saying the E.S.B. ever exercised that power arbitrarily, but there it is. Everything that appears in an Act of Parliament which seems to give boards arbitrary power is bad. It may very well be that in this instance the most practical thing has been done, but it is a pity that it looks so bad in principle on the face of the Bill.
Senator Hayes is an adept at cynicism and I thank him——
Senator Hayes does what?
I said the Senator was an adept at cynicism.
There are no Dublin men cynics except the Minister and myself.
I thank him for being so gracious to Cork people. Why do the proposers of the amendment not put in a phrase to the effect that in view of the fact that "these people are not entitled to compensation" so and so, instead of this long series of amendments? In my opinion, it is unfair to the intelligence of the Seanad to prolong the discussion on those lines. If there is to be an amendment of some legislation to provide that when a public road is closed, nobody will be entitled to compensation—even Senator Hayes if he were driving down there—it is a matter of different legislation altogether and it is there that the amendment should go in. In view of the fact that these Cork people are not entitled to compensation——
And are getting it.
Out of the goodness of their hearts. If they want to put in something else, why do they not put it in instead of this long series of amendments?
In view of the reference to the goodness of their hearts, I should say that when the Lee scheme was being prepared, it was submitted to me as Minister for approval and that scheme provided for the construction of a bridge to replace the Fitzgibbon Bridge. If it did not so provide, this question would not have arisen, although there was a possibility that, on publication, objection would have been taken to the absence of such a provision in the scheme. At a stage in 1956 or 1957, the board came to my predecessor and said: "The building of this bridge is going to be technically a difficult matter. It cannot be built where the old bridge was and it is going to cost a great deal of money."
There were discussions between them at the time and when I came back to office they came again to me and asked to be released from the obligation of building this bridge because of the technical difficulties and the extraordinarily high cost. I said the bridge was in the scheme and they must build it and the only circumstances in which I would consider making an Order so as to release them from the obligation of building this bridge was if they came back to me with evidence that they had secured agreement with the great majority of the landholders who use the bridge to accept compensation instead of a bridge. If they came back with that evidence that they had secured agreement with the majority of the people concerned, I would make an Order absolving them from the obligation to build the bridge. The only final step left now is to empower the board to pay compensation because although we have agreed to pay it, they have, in fact, no legal power to do so.
Arising out of the Minister's reply, I should like to know if he can give us the approximate figure it would have cost the board to build the bridge and the approximate figure that will constitute the total compensation when paid.
No; I will not do that.
I object to this feeling that is abroad that a State board will always do the right thing by the citizen. It would be a very bad principle to put into legislation. We are always praising State boards, but that is something we should not enshrine in our legislation. We should particularly protect the man down in West Cork so as to see that he will get a better opportunity to bring this matter before arbitration. With regard to the specific case, people think that if they do not accept compensation, they will not be brought in at all.
Oh no; they were told if they did not accept compensation, they would get a bridge. They have elected to take the money instead of a bridge.
Maybe they do not want a bridge.
I should not like to be dealing with a body like the E.S.B. I feel that they are too big for me as they are for the small man down in Cork, who does not think himself as important as the E.S.B. The small man down in Cork can go into an arbitration and be made to feel he is as important as the E.S.B.
The Minister told us he does not know how much this bridge might cost or what the compensation might cost. I should like to know on what figures——
I did not say that. I said I was not prepared to give the figures.
I misunderstood the Minister. I understand, then, that he has the figures?
I have the board's estimates of what the bridge would cost—whether they are reliable, I do not know. As regards the compensation cost, there are four or five cases still to be settled so it would be quite wrong for me to give any figures.
I think I shall press the Minister to reveal the figures of the board's estimate. I should like to know just how much the board will save by giving compensation rather than by building a bridge.
It would be quite a considerable sum.
I was rather intrigued by part of the Minister's argument in his defence. I understood him to say that he did not want the arbitration because he thought the farmers would come better out of the agreement which was being made with them than they would come out of any scheme that would go according to some mathematical calculations and accordingly he did not want an arbitrator to come into it at all. If that be his reason, I can see no objection whatever on his part to having the arbitrator because he is so satisfied that the farmers will be so pleased with the compensation they will get that none of them, except the foolish ones, will call in the arbitrator.
The Senator misunderstands the situation.
I am not clear on it.
The board went down to them and said in effect: "You can have the bridge or you can have compensation." At a certain stage in the whole business I came to the view that the landowners concerned had a wrong idea as to the amounts of compensation the board were thinking of—that the compensation would be a great deal less. When the board said: "The amount of compensation we are thinking of is so much money" then the majority of them said they would prefer the compensation to the bridge.
Have all the landowners agreed?
Two thirds of them have agreed. Eleven out of 14 have agreed to accept compensation.
I am very difficult to penetrate at times. My point is this. Apparently some of the landholders have not yet agreed. The Minister has said it is very difficult to satisfy landholders.
I did not say that. I think they are the most easily satisfied class of the community.
If the Minister saw what happened to them down in the country and if he knew the experiences some of them have had he would be very keen on his rights. A few of those landholders have not yet agreed.
I think there is everything to be said in favour of those people having the right to arbitration. It is quite conceivable that the people who have not yet agreed are the people who would be best served by a bridge if it were built and that they will lose more by reason of the bridge not being built than those people who are satisfied with the compensation. Is that the case? I do not know. However, if that be the reason some of them are withholding their approval to the compensation, it seems to me there ought to be some other court to which they can appeal when the majority who do not want the bridge want compensation and the minority whose rights are to be infringed to the greatest extent will be left without it.
I must assume as the Senator assumes, that the three out of the 14 who have not yet agreed to accept compensation are landholders in the locality who say: "We prefer a bridge to compensation." But the board have now been released from the obligation to build a bridge. Therefore the question arises as to the amount of the compensation. In that regard, there is no evidence at all that they would not regard the amount of compensation they would receive, calculated on the same basis as in the other 11 cases, as adequate.
Did these people say they would prefer the bridge to compensation?
I must assume so. However, the only question for arbitration would be, not the building of the bridge, but the establishment of the amount of compensation.
I think they should have the opportunity of another court. They have lost more.
I am at a loss to understand the Minister's objection to the principle of an arbitrator in this matter. The section lays down certain things. It seems to give the authority to the board all the time. First of all, it says: "Where in the opinion of the board..." In that, there is no question of not accepting the opinion of the board and it must be serious loss or serious inconvenience. Furthermore, the board may, if they so think fit, give compensation and the amount of the compensation shall be as determined by the board.
If we have started off by accepting the principle that compensation shall be paid for serious inconvenience or serious hardship surely there should not be any fundamental objection to the dispute, if such exists, between the landholders and the board being determined by an arbitrator? I may be very stupid in this matter but I cannot see the Minister's objection to it. He has started off by accepting the principle that these will be paid compensation. He has empowered the board to do it.
All I am doing is empowering the board to make the payments they want to make and that they have agreed to with the majority of the people concerned. There is no question of assuming a right here. It is a question of empowering the board to make payments. That is all.
But the Minister is also saying the "amount as may be determined by the board", the amount they consider proper. They are the sole arbitrators in this matter all the time.
No. Surely they were not. In the circumstances I have described, it is quite clear that they were not the sole arbitrators. It has to be agreement.
But it need not be agreement. According to the section, the Minister is opposing an appeal to an arbitrator on the matter.
I told the board I would propose this section empowering them to make these payments when they showed me they had agreement with the great majority of the people concerned.
But three are outstanding. They may be very unreasonable people but they are outstanding. Supposing the board is offering them a sum which they consider quite unreasonable and that they are being imposed upon? They have no "comeback" at all. It has been determined by the board. The board may stick to their opinion but there is no appeal from the board. In such circumstances, surely the Minister would appoint an arbitrator and let him hear both cases and then decide? It might be that he would find that the board were being generous and the farmers unreasonable. Anyway, let them have the appeal to the arbitrator. I suggest there should be no objection from the Minister to accepting the principle of this amendment.
There is no right to compensation and we could not admit that there is a right to compensation where a public bridge, for example, is closed.
These are ex gratia payments?
Yes. If we introduced the principle of arbitration, I presume all these agreements would be torn up. Certainly, the people concerned would probably decide to wait to see the basis on which the arbitration would proceed. I think those payments have been delayed too long and the sooner they are made the better.
What about the three outstanding cases? How will they be dealt with eventually?
I do not want to discuss individual cases. However, one case is that of a man who purchased his farm after the scheme was started. It was a residual part of a farm acquired by the E.S.B. for the purposes of the scheme. The other two were joined with him in legal proceedings. I realised that there might be in their minds some feeling that, because they initiated these legal proceedings with the board, they would be less generously treated by the board than the others. I have given an assurance that I will personally be concerned to see that no such prejudice operates. I do not think there is any likelihood of it.
It is the old story. We have had this over and over again. It is the old story where you break a principle on the face of the Bill and of what will be an Act of Parliament because of practical considerations with regard to a particular case. That is not a good thing to do, but I do not think we have any remedy in this case.
I move amendment No. 6:—
In sub-section (2) (a), line 45, before "he" to insert "subject to the provisions of sub-section (3) of this section".
Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 9 may be taken together if the House agrees.
Yes. The Minister has altered in this Bill the previous position. He is creating a situation in which an employee of the E.S.B., who becomes a member of the Dáil, will be seconded from the board and will receive no pay. The board may make arrangements about his pension but he will not be employed by the board as long as he remains a member of the Oireachtas.
We have been for years extending the powers of the State, increasing the numbers of State boards and increasing the numbers of persons in State employment or in the employment of semi-State bodies. At the same time by making this provision in relation to E.S.B. employees, we are decreasing the pool from which members of the Oireachtas are drawn. There are numerous examples of people who, in effect, are in State employment or are paid by the State or by local bodies—for instance, officials of local bodies, teachers, and the employees of C.I.E., who are almost in the employment of the State at the moment. They may become members of the Oireachtas; they may retain some part of their employment and may earn part of at least of their normal remuneration. You are putting the employee of the E.S.B. in the position that, if he becomes a member of the Oireachtas, he must live entirely on whatever allowance he gets as a member of the Dáil or the Seanad.
The amendments Senator O'Quigley has put down are for the purpose of enabling the board, if it thinks fit— and I am on quite different groun from that of the last amendment—in the particular case to allow the person to do work when he is available for work and thus get part of his remuneration. That would make it much more feasible for him to be a member of either the Dáil or the Seanad. It is for that reason the amendments were put down.
One can imagine at once certain grades of employees of the E.S.B. whom it would be rather awkward to have as members of the Oireachtas, but there are other workers in the employment of the E.S.B. who might very well be members of the Oireachtas and who might very well continue to do a certain amount of work. The principle applies at present to teachers who if they become members of the Oireachtas may appoint a substitute and may teach for certain periods in the summer, for example. It applied always to the railways who encouraged their employees to become members either of the British Parliament in earlier days, or of the Parliament here, and who made special arrangements to enable them to earn some of their normal remuneration. This is an attempt by Senator O'Quigley to have that practice applied to the employees of the E.S.B.
May I end as I began by saying that one of the results of this extension of State powers and the multiplication of State employees, is that the more and more power the State takes, the fewer and fewer become the number of people from whom members of the Oireachtas may be drawn? Therefore, I think the amendments are well worth consideration.
Senator Hayes no doubt understands that the position at this moment is that an employee of the E.S.B. is not eligible to seek election to either House of the Oireachtas. I am going to change that to enable him to seek and to secure election. However, I mentioned here during the course of the Second Reading debate that I would regard it as undesirable that an employee of a State board, while remaining in that capacity, should be an active member of the Oireachtas participating in discussion upon the legislation affecting the body which was employing him, and in the case of the E.S.B. that would also include legislation in relation to pension arrangements, and matters of that kind.
I do not think it overcomes that objection to provide that employees of the State who become members of the Oireachtas can be part-time employees of the E.S.B. I think the principle applies whether they are whole-time or part-time and therefore I cannot agree at all to Senator O'Quigley's amendment. If we were prepared to contemplate people in receipt of remuneration from a State board acting as members of the Oireachtas, we might as well go the whole hog and allow them to act even when they are in whole-time employment. I do not think you gain anything by this saver in respect of part-time employment.
Senator Hayes referred to the railways. We are proposing that the practice of C.I.E. in relation to their employees who sought and obtained election to the Oireachtas should be followed by the E.S.B. The C.I.E. arrangement was without any statutory basis. They second without pay from their employment persons who are elected to the Oireachtas, taking them back when they cease to be members of the Oireachtas.
But they allow them to do no work.
They cease to be in the employment of C.I.E. except on that basis, but they have the right to go back to their employment when they cease to be a member of the Oireachtas.
There is one point with which the Minister has not dealt in his remarks. In the amendment as provided here the board is made the sole judge as to whether the person elected to the Oireachtas is eligible——
It would be a very invidious position in which to put the board. It could be the fate of the Government could depend on the availability of that vote.
I move amendment No. 8:—
In sub-section (2) (c) (v), line 66, to delete all the words from and including "the" to the end of the sub-paragraph and insert "a rate which is regarded by the board as reasonable taking all the circumstances into account".
I mentioned this point on the Second Reading and the Minister replied to it but in my opinion his reply is not satisfactory. He made a final point that this provision as it stands in the Bill is in fact a protection for the individual because, in the last resort, the pension he will get at the age of 65 will be based not on the size of his contribution but on the salary he is actually earning on that date. Of course the person concerned could at 65 still be in the Oireachtas, be absent without pay from the E.S.B. and be paying a contribution based on the salary which was operative when he was elected maybe 20 years ago and which could be quite out of date with the value of money when he is at the age of 65.
The Minister in reply to the earlier amendment from Senator O'Quigley referred to the practice of C.I.E. in relation to employees of theirs who are elected to the Oireachtas, being seconded from the service and not working at all. That is not correct, but in this amendment I am asking the Minister to come into line with the existing practice in C.I.E. as I understand it, that is, to have regard, as do C.I.E., to the changing value of money. If a person is elected he pays his contribution to the superannuation fund but, in the intervening years, the salary or rate of pay may vary because of increases and the person concerned pays in at the new rate of pay. That is only fair and just. It is certainly fair to the individual and I think it is fair to the superannuation fund because the person could go back again to the service if he were defeated or if he did not stand for election and he would be going back into the superannuation fund.
He would be going back probably at an increased salary by comparison with the rate of pay when he left some years ago and it would certainly be bad for the superannuation fund that at that stage there would be that sudden jump. It would be better all round if regard were had to the change in salary in the intervening years, and the person concerned paid in at those varying rates of pay, had regard to the increases, and maintained his position in the superannuation fund. If then he is still in the Oireachtas at the age of 65 years it is surely not fair to himself, because his pension is then based on his salary, or the nominal salary at that age.
I would ask the Minister to accept this amendment. What it is seeking is to leave the matter to the discretion of the board. We are not telling them what they should do but, at least, we are not preventing their having regard to the circumstances of the case and making whatever adjustment they feel is appropriate. I feel we should leave it to their discretion to deal with their own employees, rather than bind them down and say to them and to the employee concerned: "No matter what the circumstances of the case may be, no matter how the rate of pay may have varied over the intervening years, no matter how the value of money may have depreciated, nothing can be done about the man's pension contributions unless he is defeated and goes back to the service of the board."
I would urge the Minister to bring this into line with what is the practice in C.I.E. I have another and more selfish interest in this because I could well imagine, if the Bill goes through as proposed, C.I.E. and other semi-State organisations will take this as a precedent and, maybe, change their existing arrangements, and particularly change the rate of pay to the rate at which it was when the worker was elected a member of the Oireachtas. As I have said, that could be an injustice to himself, and could be unfair on the superannuation fund to which he has contributed. I would ask the Minister to accept the amendment.
I have considerable doubt about whether anything should be left to the discretion of the board. This pension fund is built up by contributions from both the board and the employees, and is managed by a committee, and I do not think we should in any circumstances accept the principle that the board should have the right to say what ex gratia additional pension should be made in a particular case.
The rate he is paying into the fund?
The Senator based his argument on the man who happens to become elected as a member of the Oireachtas and does not go back to the service of the board. In that case, I do not think the board should be under any additional obligation.
I am not saying that. I am saying that the man himself should pay more.
Both his own and the board's contributions. That is what we are providing for here. The Senator wants him to pay an increased contribution appropriate to any increase in the salary scale for his grade while he is in the service of the Oireachtas. I do not know whether we can cover the case of a man who leaves the board's service and never goes back to it, but I am trying to preserve the pension rights of a man who leaves the board's service and goes back to it.
He can continue to make the contributions to the pension fund while he is a member of the Oireachtas, and it is not in his interest that this amendment should be accepted because, when he comes to the age of 65 years the rate of pension will be determined, not by the amount of his contributions but by his length of service and the rate of pay applicable on his retirement date. Therefore, what the Senator is contemplating is that he should be given the option of making increased contributions, which could not earn himself a higher pension, when he went back to the board's service and retired in the normal way at the age of 65 years.
I think the salary of the lowest grade of clerks in the E.S.B. was £600 per annum some years ago. Now it is over £800. Suppose an E.S.B. clerk was elected to the Oireachtas ten years ago he would be paying 10 per cent. into the superannuation fund, and I am suggesting that the board should allow him to pay 10 per cent. on his salary as it changed. He would now, if that were allowed, be paying 10 per cent. on the £800.
He gets no more for it. I am dealing with the case of a man who leaves the board's service and goes back to it. When he comes to the age of 65 he will retire on a pension which will be calculated on his length of service and his pay on retirement. During the time he has been a member of the Oireachtas he pays his appropriate pension contributions based on the salary he had at the time he was seconded.
This individual's salary is now £800 per year and he is still paying on the basis of £600 per year. Suppose he reaches the age of 65 in another ten years' time, he would still be paying on the £600 rate.
Surely that is in his interest?
No, because his pension would then be based on his pay.
I am trying to provide that the amount of contributions he has to make, during his period of membership of the Oireachtas, in order to keep his pension rights alive should only be the contributions appropriate to what his remuneration was when he became a member of the Oireachtas. I am trying to provide that he should not pay increased contributions which any other members of the E.S.B. staff have to pay, increased contributions during that period because of increases of pay in the meantime. He carries on his pension rights with lower contributions than might arise in other cases and, at the end of his period of service, he gets the same pension, based on his period of service and his rate of pay at the date of retirement.
The Minister almost convinces me that I am trying to impose something on these people.
I think so.
I want to come back again to the case of a man who reaches the age of 65 in the next ten years. His pension would be calculated on the basis of so many years in the service at £600 per annum.
No; it is so many years' service and his salary at the time of his retirement. Those are the factors.
But what is his salary at the time of retirement? Surely it is £600 per annum?
The Senator is dealing with a case which I confess is not covered here. He is dealing with the person who leaves the board's service on being elected to the Oireachtas and who never goes back to the board's service. I think we have done as much as we could for him in keeping his pension rights alive at the appropriate rate at which he left the service. I do not think we should do more than to provide here for the preservation of pension rights for E.S.B. staff who are elected to the Oireachtas and who go back to become members of the E.S.B. staff again.
Why not do more? The man may be fortunate enough to be re-elected a member of the Oireachtas, in a general election, at the age of 64 years.
In that case he is certainly doing whatever he is doing with his eyes open.
There is no hardship on the superannuation fund.
I think what the Senator is suggesting would be a hardship on the individual.
You cannot have it both ways. Just a moment ago the Minister inferred that I was asking for too much.
Surely the Senator will at least admit, in the case of a person who leaves the board's service and goes back to it, it is better to provide, as we provide here, that he pay the contributions appropriate to the salary rate on the date on which he was seconded?
I accept that. It is a burden on the superannuation fund.
The Senator wants to deal with the man who never goes back to the board's service, and surely it would be a very serious imposition on any person so elected to require him to make an increased contribution against the risk that he might continue to be a member of the Oireachtas after the age of 65 years, while, if he goes back to the board's service, his lower contributions, nevertheless, earn him the same pension? The Senator is saying: "Let him make the higher contributions against that possibility that he would continue to be a member of the Oireachtas."
It seems to me that there is only one way of meeting this case. If a member of the E.S.B. staff should be a member of the Oireachtas that member, once the Dáil dissolved, could return to the service of the board during the interim period of the election. That is, if he were not busy enough running an election campaign he could return to his former grade and, in that way, it might solve the problem for both the Minister and Senator Murphy. However, one thing struck me about Senator Murphy's amendment: he did not consider this amendment working in the other direction. Apparently, he envisages only one-way traffic in this matter. It has never occurred to Senator Murphy that the conditions of employment might worsen and he has made no provision in the amendment for that.
It would be as sound to argue in regard to people who pay into insurance companies, say, either on an ordinary branch policy, and industrial branch policy with a premium of £20 to £30 per annum, or half-yearly, or 1/- a week for that matter, and enter into a contract to get certain sums or benefits over 25 years that despite changing circumstances—because of the devaluation of the £ by Sir Stafford Cripps, or anything like that —there is no provision that the value of their rights should be stepped up, having regard to the changing circumstances, despite the fact that many of the contributions were paid in when £1 was worth £1.
I think the Senator should think over it again. He is proposing something that he would not propose if he considered it fully.
I have thought over it. I say that the rate should be that rate which is regarded by the board as reasonable taking all the circumstances into account. It is unwise to pin the board down and discretion should be allowed.
On the section, I should like to protest against the atrocious drafting of one of the paragraphs in the section. Would the House look at sub-section (2), paragraph (a)? If Senators count the words they will find that there are 64 between "shall" and "stand". It is an outrageous piece of grammer. I do not propose to submit an amendment at this stage but I do think that any drafting on those clumsy lines should ensure its opposition by this House. I repeat that there are 64 words, two commas and two brackets between the main verb.
Is it not a fact that they regard that as being an achievement rather than as being clumsy? Question put and agreed to.
The first sub-section of this section reads as follows:—
"Subject to such conditions and limitations as may be specified by the board, a person to whom Section 14 or Section 15 of the Superannuation Act of 1942 applies and whom the board consider to be of good health retiring from the service of the board may, with the consent of the board, surrender, as from its commencement, the whole or part of any allowance that may be granted to that person by the board under either of those sections in return for the grant by the board under this section of an annuity to one dependent of that person specified by that person or, if the person making the surrender is a man, to his wife."
The other sub-sections go on to deal with the details of the application of this permissive power. The point I wish to raise here, and to which I take exception, is that this permission is to be given to a retiring employee of the board only if the board consider him to be in good health. I submit to the Minister, and to the House, the view that a salary to a married employee of the board would be regarded as a joint salary, as it were for the man and his wife and that a contractual part of that salary would be the pension rights which the man will get when he retires. In other words, I would ask the House to consider the pension as being an actual part of his salary, that the actual amount of his salary, when he accepted it originally, might have been less in view of the fact that he might have been counting on the pension. I would ask the House to regard not merely the salary as being for the married couple but also to regard the pension as being, in justice, for the married couple.
This sub-section permits a man to sacrifice portion of his pension during his remaining lifetime for the benefit of his wife, if she survives him. Now, just as the salary is regarded, I would say, as a salary for the married couple, so, too, the pension is regarded as being sufficient, though no more than sufficient, for two people. Should the man die, as far as I know under these Superannuation Acts, no provision other than this is made for the widow, so that as far as the pension goes it dies with the man. Unless the man has made some such arrangement, as is permitted under this section, his widow may well be left destitute.
The fair way of dealing with the whole question would be for the allowance of a widow's pension at half the rate of the man's pension. However, in the absence of such arrangement this section makes some effort to meet the hardship which might be incurred by some widows when the pensions die with their husbands. Some retiring employees are allowed to sacrifice some of their pension for the rest of their lives for the benefit of their widows, when they die, but they might die early. If they do die early presumably, on average, the widow will be in all the greater need of the pension for the rest of her life.
It is obvious that the person who would not be considered to be in good health is the person, on average, most likely to make the sacrifice on behalf of his widow, but that is the very person who is excluded by the terms of this sub-section, because the person who is in poor health, or not in 100 per cent. good health, will not be allowed to make that sacrifice. While it is true that the retired pensioner might die early leaving his wife near to destitution because poor health prevented him from making this sacrifice, it is also true that in the case of a retired pensioner, who has been allowed to make the sacrifice of one-third or one-half, it is possible his wife might die before him.
I think that, actuarially speaking, if he must be considered in good health in order to make the sacrifice of his pension the chances are, on average, that his wife is likely to die before him and in that case the board gains all the money, the proportion of his pension that he has decided to give up on the hypothetical case that he might die before his wife. I am suggesting that the pension loss to the board through the early death of somebody not in good health on retirement would be compensated for by the possible early death of a wife who would never benefit at all by the sacrifice of a proportion of her husband's pension to the board.
It seems to me, therefore, a very harsh provision to allow only retiring pensioners in good health to make this sacrifice of what, after all, is their own earned pension. As it stands at present I see this phrase "whom the board consider to be of good health" thrown into this sub-section in order to ensure that the widow, who is most likely to be in need, will also be the person most likely to be left destitute. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to reconsider this phrase and see if he would not be prepared to introduce an amendment on the Report Stage allowing all retiring pensioners to make this sacrifice. I would suggest that, even actuarially, the board would not lose because of the fact that in many cases retiring pensioners might well be predeceased by their wives.
The Senator does not seem to appreciate that this requirement is common to all pension schemes and is actuarially necessary. I do not know how the rate of contribution could be related to the pension without it. It is an obvious necessity to require that a person who wants to surrender part of his pension in favour of a dependent should do so in the whole of his health and not in the few minutes left to him after Extreme Unction and before his demise. In any case the Senator misunderstands what we are doing here. That is the position at present in relation to the board's pension scheme. That right to surrender part of the pension in favour of a dependent is enjoyed by the board's staff at the present time. What was missing was a similar right in respect of supplementary pensions paid by the board in certain cases and what this section purports to do is to enable somebody to whom a supplementary pension is being paid to exercise the right in respect of that supplementary pension that he already has in respect of the board's pension.
It seems that the Minister's opening remarks were quite irrelevant because the sub-section allows retiring pensioners to make this sacrifice only at one time, at the moment of retirement. The phrase is: "retiring from the service of the board may, with the consent of the board, as from its commencement". That is to say, it is not a question of his being on his last legs or about to receive Extreme Unction. I take it that a pensioner retires as a rule in fairly good health and does not stay until that stage, so that in that regard, therefore, I do not think the Minister's remarks were relevant. If the man is retiring he may be in fairly good health, but the Minister is asking that he should be in good health on retiring at the age of 65. Many of them are in good health, but some have somewhat impaired health and they would be excluded by the provisions of this section, but it is that very person in somewhat impaired health who would like to make this provision.
That would upset the whole actuarial scheme. The contribution is based on a person retiring at 65 and if you are going to make an arrangement under which a person who is obviously in very bad health retiring at 65 can nevertheless perpetuate a pension by passing it on to some dependent the whole actuarial basis on which the scheme is based, the relationship between the contribution and the pension, is upset. My main point in this regard, however, is that this provision exists in every pension scheme where the right to transfer a pension to a dependent operates. It also applies in relation to the normal pension arrangements of the board. A person in the service of the board now who retires with a pension at 65 is entitled to surrender part of that pension on retirement to a dependent subject to these conditions. Where the law was defective in the past was in that the right applied only to the pension received out of the pension fund for which he paid contributions. We had enacted legislation which enabled the board to supplement that pension in certain cases, the cases of people over 40 years of age when the scheme came into operation and cases of persons who had non-pensionable service with certain undertakings before these undertakings were acquired by the board. To enable the pensioner to exercise similar privileges in relation to these non-contributary pensions this section is required. It is extending the field open to them in the past.
I do not want to delay the House unnecessarily and I accept the Minister's reference to the fact that this applies only to supplementary pensions but I do not think he has entirely met my point by saying that the whole actuarial basis would be upset. I do not think he has answered my suggestion. Let us take an example. If a man retires, for instance, with a pension of £500 a year and if he decides to give up half of it for the benefit of his wife and accept £250 consequently for himself, if his wife predeceases him the board is the gainer by what they would have had to pay——
Normally, it would be the pension fund.
Unless you take into account the wife's state of health as well as the pensioner's state of health it seems to me that the board stands to gain when the wife predeceases the husband and that the board is over-cautious, as it were, in allowing a man in such cases to sacrifice part of his own pension.
Suppose he elected to retire at the age of 60 on the gounds of ill-health. Does the Senator think he should have the right to transfer his pension to a daughter or son? It does not necessarily have to be his widow.
I would not say so. I regard what the widow gets as part of her right and not just a dole given out to her.
I move amendment No. 10:—
Before Section 19 to insert a new section as follows:—
Section 14 of the Superannuation Act of 1942 is hereby amended:—
(a) by the deletion of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1), and
(b) by the deletion at the end of sub-section (2) of all words from and including "either of the following amounts" down to and including "or" in paragraph (a) and
(c) by the addition of the following new sub-section:—
"(3) Where the aggregate of the pension and supplementary allowance granted by the board under the preceding sub-sections does not equal the maximum pension payable under the superannuation scheme the person affected shall have a right of appeal to the appropriate tribunal."
The object of the amendment is to delete the age limit of 40 and delete the fixed number of years that may be added for the calculation of pensions and establish a right of appeal from the board's decision where the persons concerned are dissatisfied with the pensions awarded. I do not think the amendment is in any way unreasonable. It would permit the board to treat certain employees in a more liberal manner in the matter of their pensions. Most of those adversely affected by Section 14 of the Superannuation Act of 1942 entered the board, as I said on the Second Reading, at a more advanced age than is the case with later new entrants. They did not present themselves to the board as raw schoolboys but brought with them experience and skill which were worth more than money, more than it would cost to pay the additional sum required to permit them to retire from the board with full pensions.
I would again emphasise that these employees had their training and had developed their skills before the advent of the board. They had, in many cases, built up reputations as fine technicians in progressive firms and could be said to have had very good prospects. To this statement the Minister has replied that my statement is "very strictly for the birds". I have no idea what that means. If the reply is that my contention is untrue or ridiculous, I very respectfully contradict him.
These men were the foundations on which the E.S.B. was built. They were the men who guided and trained the apprentices who are the skilled technicians of to-day. The accumulation of skill which they brought to the board should be accepted in the place of the money contributions which they were prevented by circumstances from making. I would stress that the payment of higher contributions to redeem certain prior service was not as easy for the employees as the Minister makes it appear. The year 1943 was the time of the Wages Standstill Order and times were very hard. What the Minister says about the opportunity being offered to the employees is, of course, quite true, but it is rather like the time-worn reference to the Dorchester Hotel being open to everybody. I believe that the board—which Senator Barry described as a most attractive, mouth-watering, £100,000,000 monopoly—would not be averse to granting this concession to its own employees. I am informed, in effect, that the only opposition comes from the Minister's Department and the Department of Finance. I would, therefore, ask the Minister to accept the amendment. The cost will not be a recurring one and it will grow gradually less as time goes on.
The Senator did not advert to the fact that in respect of persons who entered the board's service prior to the introduction of the board's pension scheme at a later age than that at which the board would normally recruit them, provision was made to meet them. In respect of any person over 40 years of age at the time the scheme came into operation, the board were given power to pay them an additional supplementary pension without contribution on their part in order to enable them to get a reasonable retirement allowance. In relation to people under 40 years of age, in respect of that prior service the board are making their contribution anyway, so they are getting half the pension rights in respect of that prior service, again without any contribution on their part. An arrangement was made under which they were empowered to buy themselves, by paying additional contributions in the future, the other half of the prior service. A number of them elected to do so.
At that time, everyone accepted that that was a generous and reasonable arrangement. Certain employees who were under 40 years of age but who did not elect to seek to acquire additional pension rights by paying a higher contribution and purchasing additional units for which the scheme allowed, are now seeking nevertheless to get the benefit of the best possible arrangement for them. I think it would be quite unfair to bring that proposition along at this stage. Obviously, it would be very unfair to all those employees who during that period have had to pay a higher contribution in order to get these rights, to give it to those who did not exercise that provision, that is, to give them these rights free of charge. I cannot under any circumstances accept the proposal. I feel that not merely would it upset the whole basis of the arrangement for the pension scheme of the E.S.B. but it would be quite inequitable, having regard to those who exercised in full the opportunity that was given to them to acquire full pension by paying a higher contribution.
I wonder if the Minister would tell us how many of those under 40 at the time opted to pay the arrears so as to back their pension, and how many did not; that is, how many, as the Minister said, neglected to do so. I know it is a general principle in most worthwhile undertakings now, to arrange for those people who joined the service or who joined a superannuation fund at a late age. The employer makes special provision, back dates the contributions, purchases their back credits, so as to give them a full pension on retirement. I have met many examples of that. It is a recognised practice now with good employers to do so. They recognise that these people might not, at the normal retirement age, have full pension, and they arrange with the superannuation fund to give them credit by the employer paying the joint contributions.
Another point on which I should like some information, in regard to these people, is what, at the appropriate time, their rate of contribution was to the superannuation fund and whether it would be different if they had joined the service at an early age.
The point I am making is that these people were well on in years at that time and because of that very fact alone I imagine they were paying a higher rate of contribution, paying so much higher per week than the person who was, say, 19 or 20 at the time. It would be definitely a great burden on these people paying the higher rate of contribution, to say to them: "You can purchase back credit by paying something extra again, on to the already high contribution you have paid." I wonder if the Minister would clarify those two points for me—first, as to how many did in fact exercise the right and how many neglected to do so; and secondly what were the rates of contribution.
I have not got the information here. Every pension scheme is based on the provision that the pension receivable on retirement is determined in relation to the contributions paid and the length of service. The proposition here now is that certain employees of the E.S.B. should— regardless of contribution and regardless of length of service—nevertheless qualify for maximum pension. Every one of the individuals who could benefit by this amendment took a decision, when the scheme for purchasing additional units was explained to him, not to do so; and, now at the end of the period, they come and say: "We are nevertheless going to seek through this amendment to get the full rate of pension, notwithstanding the fact that we did not pay the additional contribution which would have earned it for us."
Did they not bring some value into the board, when they came in as more or less adult people, that the new entrants could not have brought? The board had to train the new entrants. Was there not some value in what those men brought in? They brought their training and their skill. I do not think it fair to say they "neglected" to pay, or made up their minds that they would not pay; they just found themselves in the position, in the tight emergency years, with house purchase, children growing up, and education, that they could not pay. They were unable to pay and what we are asking now is that the Minister should consider this skill they have brought in as having some value towards the contributions that they could not afford to pay at that particular time.
The Senator must not try to generalise every case. Reference to the tribunal would be quite inappropriate. The tribunal was set up to resolve disputes arising in regard to pay or employment between the board and its manual workers; but, of course, the pension scheme applies to the clerical and general staff as well as manual workers. It would be quite inappropriate to refer to that tribunal any matter affecting the pensions of the general staff.
The particular point I made in using the words which the Senator did not understand was that in 1942 or 1943 the permanent employees of the E.S.B. were not in such a bad position in relation to the rest of the community that we must make some special provision now for them. On the contrary, I am sure most people would agree that those who were in that employment, in the circumstances of that particular time, were the favoured members of the community as contrasted with workers in industries which were closing down by reason of scarcity of supplies and other difficulties.
There is the question of double contribution.
This scheme came into operation in 1942. That is perfectly right. In relation to those in employment in 1942, these provisions were made. If over 40, they would get an additional non-contributory pension; if under 40 they get half their prior service, they also get the right to buy the other half by an additional contribution if they wished. That was the scheme adopted then and accepted then. The proposition we now have is that those who in that year decided not to acquire by additional contributions the pension rights in respect of half their prior service, should now be given it nevertheless, free of charge and irrespective of length of service. Surely that is quite inequitable?
I wish to support this amendment. I have been looking up the debate on the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1927, which established the board. At that time, consideration was given to the position of employees of the board in regard to superannuation——
There was no such consideration and no undertaking was given that a pension scheme would be introduced.
That is so. It was decided, in view of the number of probabilities that existed in relation to the scheme and how it would work, that that question should not be considered and no provision for a superannuation scheme was mentioned in the 1927 Act.
On the Second Stage of this Bill, I pointed out it has become customary now in legislation setting up statutory bodies to empower those statutory bodies to inaugurate a superannuation scheme. It was not possible in the conditions of the E.S.B. in 1927. It is as a result of the chance which those people took then in going into the employment of the E.S.B. that they find themselves in a worse position as regards superannuation than the employees of other semi-State bodies which were established long after 1927. That consideration should weigh with the Minister: the fact that it was regarded at that time as most speculative——
There were at least 100 applicants for every job. That is how speculative it was.
That is a reflection, perhaps, on the employment position at that time rather than on the security of a job in the E.S.B. At that time, some people thought the E.S.B. would not be the success it turned out to be. Perhaps people were influenced by that, but it is not necessary to go into it.
My understanding of the position is that, in relation to the lower grades in the E.S.B., the full advantage of Section 14 of the 1942 Act has not been given to them, but it has been given in the case of the people in higher grades. If the Minister would indicate that the board would be encouraged to extend the same treatment to people in the lower grades as people in the higher grades it would go some distance towards meeting the disability the staff who did not exercise their option to purchase their prior service are labouring under at present. There is no doubt in my mind that presenting people in 1943 with the option of purchasing back their prior service was Hobson's choice. The Minister is well aware of the existence of the Wages Standstill Order at that time. People found it difficult enough to discharge their ordinary liabilities, much less take on new ones with the higher rate of contribution.
Is the amendment being pressed?