The Bill provides statutory authority for the pensions increases granted in 1962 and 1963 to various public service pensioners. Civil pensions payable from the Exchequer and from other public funds, are covered in the Bill, including pensions paid by local authorities and harbour authorities, as well as pensions paid by various statutory bodies. Similar increases in Army retired pay, Disability pensions, Special allowances and Military Service pensions are being authorised by separate legislation. The increases in Exchequer pensions, both civil and military, have already been paid in practically all cases under the authority of additional estimates passed on the 18th July, 1962, and the 28th November, 1963.
The White Paper circulated with the Bill explains the provisions in some detail. The unusual feature of the Bill is the departure from the basis adopted in previous pensions increases, which consisted of percentage additions varying with the amount of the pension or the date of the pensioners' retirement, so as to provide a larger increase in the smaller pensions or for the longest retired pensioners. The 1962 and 1963 increases, on the other hand, operated to bring all pensions currently payable to persons who retired before a certain date, up to a level related to a common standard of post-retirement pay. Thus, the 1962 increases raised pensions to 1955 pay level, and in addition, added a further 6 per cent to these pensions and to pensions granted subsequent to the 1955 pay increases but before the general pay increase of 1959. The operative date for the 1959 pay increase in the case of the Civil Service was 15th December, 1959, and for other services December, 1959, or early in 1960. The 1963 increases raised pensions higher still, to 1959 pay level, so that all pensioners who retired before the dates when the 1959 pay increases became operative have now been brought up to the level of pension based on 1959 pay. The older pensioners have benefited considerably from these increases and those longest retired have received a substantial addition to their pensions under the 1962 and 1963 increases over and above the increases already granted to them under the four earlier Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1950 to 1960.
These revisions have been more costly to the Exchequer than any pensions increase previously granted. The estimated total annual cost of the 1962 increases was £820,000 with a further £320,000 for the 1963 increases. Allowing for some savings on account of deaths since August, 1962, the annual cost of the 1962 and 1963 pensions increases at the present time is estimated to be of the order of £1.1 million, and, including the 1964 increases, the annual cost is raised to nearly £1.4 million. The estimated annual cost to the Exchequer of earlier pensions increases was £212,000 for the 1960 increases, £130,000 in 1959 and £180,000 in 1956. The estimated annual cost of the increases granted in 1949 was £240,000.
The number of Exchequer pensions covered by this Bill for the 1962 increases is 10,106 divided into the following categories:
2,709 Civil Service Pensioners at an annual cost of
2,956 National Teachers —annual cost
4,017 Garda Pensioners (including Widows and Children)—annual cost
424 RIC and Miscellan- eous—annual cost
The total annual cost of increases in these pensions in £462,000 to which must be added approximately £42,000 for recoupment of the Exchequer share of the 1962 increases in local authority pensions, making a total of £504,000 for the estimated annual cost to the Exchequer of the 1962 increases under this Bill. The 1963 increases payable under the Bill are estimated to cost a further £211,000 in a full year, of which £48,000 is for Civil Service pensioners, £60,000 for National Teachers, £79,000 for the Garda pensioners and £9,000 for RIC and other small groups of pensioners; the remaining £15,000 is for recoupments to local authorities.
Increases in Army and Military Service pensions, Retired pay and Special allowances, which are being covered by separate legislation, will bring the cost to the Exchequer in a full year up to the figures of £820,000 and £320,000 already mentioned.
I should like to draw attention also to section 29, under which future increases in civil pensions of the type covered in the Bill may be authorised by statutory regulations made by the Minister for Finance and laid before each House of the Oireachtas. This provision will relieve the House of the necessity of passing an Act to validate every new pensions increase. It will not, however, lighten the work of the Minister for Finance, who will always have the task of co-ordinating the many proposals for expenditure which constantly come before him, with the revenue available to him. In this situation the Minister for Finance must hold a balance between the various sectors of the community so that the incidence of taxation and the distribution of benefits will tend to be fair and reasonable.
The needs of pensioners will continue to be sympathetically considered but regard must be had, however, to the overall capacity of our resources upon which, in the final analysis, depend the benefits that can be provided for the various sectors of the community, including pensioners.
I commend this Bill to the approval of the House.