Pensions (Abatement) Bill, 1965: Second Stage.

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

This amending legislation is concerned with the abatement of public service pensions where the pensioner is re-employed in the public service. It deals with pensions which are subject to statutory abatement provisions which can be amended only by an Act of the Oireachtas. Where provisions for abatement in pension schemes can be amended by regulation or otherwise without recourse to legislation, they are not dealt with in this Bill. The Defence Forces Pensions Schemes can be amended in this way and it is for this reason, and not any sinister one, that they are not included in the Bill. It is intended that when it has been enacted, provisions which can be amended by statutory instrument will then be duly amended. When the Bill was going through the Dáil, some members expressed concern about the Defence Forces Pensions Schemes but I can assure the House that, since then, I have received a proposal from the Minister for Defence to amend these Schemes on the lines of this Bill.

At this stage, I should, perhaps, explain how abatement works at present and to what extent it will be changed by the Bill. The normal abatement provision ensures that, when a public service pensioner is re-employed anywhere in the public service, his pension is reduced by any sum by which the total of his annual salary on re-employment plus his pension exceeds the annual salary which he had on retirement from the position in respect of which his pension was awarded. Take a simple example, say of a man who retires on a pension of £500 a year, having been employed at £1,000 a year. He is subsequently re-employed in the public service. The normal abatement provision at present ensures that whatever the pay on re-employment, only sufficient of the pension will be paid to bring the pay on re-employment plus the pension up to £1,000 a year. Thus, if the pay on re-employment is £1,000 a year or more, no pension is payable. If it is £500 or less, the pension is payable in full. Of course, the normal case is where the pay on re-employment is just lower than that on retirement, say £800 a year in the example I have given. Here, only £200 of the pension would be payable, that is just enough to bring the aggregate of pension plus pay on re-employment to the £1,000 retiring salary. This provision was based on the concept that if a public service employee was worth a salary of £1,000 a year and no more before his retirement, he should not be paid more than this by way of pension plus pay if re-employed subsequent to his retirement.

So much for the existing provisions. The Bill changes these so that, in future, abatement will apply only where re-employment is secured in the same service as that from which the pensioner retires. As an example, if a local authority pensioner were employed in the Civil Service, abatement would not affect his pension. It would under the present law. Thus, future abatement will be of much more limited scope than at present.

Secondly, although the Bill retains abatement where re-employment is in the same service, it provides that the Minister for Finance, or in the case of local authority pensioners, the Minister for Local Government, may waive this abatement where the re-employment is in the public interest.

Thirdly, the Bill provides that where abatement still applies—because the re-employment is in the same service and it has not been waived on grounds of public interest—it will no longer be tied to pay on retirement from the pensionable position but rather, to that pay as revised from time to time to keep it in line with current pay levels.

These changes are all for the benefit of re-employed pensioners and will effect a considerable improvement in their position. Moreover, they will take effect retrospectively from the 1st January last.

Strong representations were made in the Dáil to give the Bill even greater retrospection, but on consideration I think this is asking too much. It is the old story of giving an inch and being asked for a mile. In fact, in this case a lot more than an inch has been given in that the Bill as circulated provides for considerable retrospection. The case for making the Bill retrospective to an earlier date than that chosen was largely based on the fact that many Army pensioners have received demands for considerable sums of money because, due to the retrospective status increases recently awarded to them in respect of their present employment, abatement of their Army pensions was inadequate. However, I have been in touch with the Minister for Defence on this matter and I find that, although there are some 25 pensioners affected by these demands, the amendment of the Defence Forces Pensions Schemes on the lines of the Bill with retrospection to 1st January last will result in the Minister for Defence owing money to 24 of them.

In the other case, the man has a relatively large pension and his pay since he was re-employed in the public service about a year and a half ago has been increased. For the future this man will be allowed to draw his relatively large Army pension without any abatement, so that he will be much better off than he was while in the Army, and very much better off than before this Bill was introduced. I do not think his can fairly be described as a hardship case and it certainly would not warrant my making the Bill retrospective and thus give him still more benefits. In all the circumstances, I think I must adhere to the decision that the effective date of this Bill will be the 1st January, 1965.

I recommend the Bill to the House for its approval.

This is a Bill which I am sure the Seanad will find little difficulty in passing. It is a Bill which seeks to remedy an anachronism in our legislation and in our thinking in employer-employee relations. The old Superannuation Acts which this seeks to amend were all passed on the principle that pensions were granted as a matter of course, not as a matter of right and that is the legal position today—that a civil servant who gets his pension gets it as a matter of course from the Minister for Finance, that he has no legal right to it. That concept was all right in 1834 when pensions were granted to persons who had been appointed to the public service not on merit or not because they were competent but purely under the system of patronage which existed in 1834 and for 60 or 40 years prior to that.

It is quite an anachronism in modern times to have pensions for public servants who give the best years of their lives in a not very rewarding, speaking in terms of remuneration, service, regarded as a matter of grace. The truth of the matter is that nobody is ever denied a pension who is entitled to it. I suppose in nothing has the Minister for Finance, to whatever Party he may belong or for whatever time he may have been in office, shown us to be more human than in considering the granting of a pension to a person who seeks it under the superannuation code.

The truth of the matter is that as far as the public service is concerned another concept has been developed in modern times. That is that pension is deferred pay. If a pension is deferred pay, when it comes to the time when a man is entitled under the superannuation code to receive a pension, of course, he is entitled to the whole of that pension. That is why, I think, an abatement of pension is an anachronism. This abatement is something he is entitled to. If he is getting employment that brings his pension plus the salary from his employer above the salary he had at the date of employment, he is earning both. He has earned his pension and he is earning his salary at the time when the combined sum of his salary plus his pension is greater than his pension at the date of retirement. Of course, this whole concept of the abatement of pension is, therefore, something that should be completely abolished. To the extent that the Minister for Finance has found it in his heart to bring in this measure, one must hope that this little germ of reform will expand itself and that he will bring in a whole-hearted measure at some future time to get rid of this anachromism which applies most stringently, I think, to persons in the public service.

I note that the Minister for Finance, talking in the Dáil, called in odd decisions or recommendations that have been made by civil servants under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme. Again, the same antediluvian approach to pensions is manifest in the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme. You may debate hours and rates of pay and annual leave, but you cannot under the General Council of the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme debate pensions and they can never go to an arbitrator. That is the whole antediluvian attitude with regard to superannuation in the Civil Service.

It should be remembered, too, that civil servants' pay at the present time is, and always has been, reduced and kept reduced on the basis of the argument that they were getting a pension. It has always been said at conciliation councils, and I have some experience over a period of years of going into the Department of Finance on staff conciliation problems, that scales of pay were always kept depressed and the Department of Finance said: "You are getting a free pension and, as compared with persons in the ESB and other groups, you have not to make contributions." Again, that highlights the argument that the salaries were kept depressed because the employees were entitled to a pension. In other words, they would be getting a higher scale from the Conciliation Council or from an arbitrator if they were not getting a free pension.

In these circumstances it seems to me to be quite wrong in this day and age to reduce the pension of a retired civil servant or a retired local government employee simply because he returns to work in the same service. There is, of course, the concession being made in section 1 (2) of the Bill that the Minister for Finance will have power to waive this requirement that there should be an abatement if a man, say an ex-civil servant, returns to work. All that kind of thing leads to unnecessary work with the Department of Finance. Presumably the number of civil servants over the age of 65 who will return to work in the Civil Service after retirement will not be great. Normally, the persons who retire are persons who have expert knowledge, as happened in the case of the Secretary of the Department of Local Government and as has happened in the case of the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners. The present Consolidation Act and income tax laws are due to the work of former members of Revenue staff who had retired and came back to work.

It seems to me that these people with their special knowledge when in their declining years they choose work rather than idleness never can get more than their former salary. They have already earned their pension and the work they have engaged in entitled them to the remuneration they were getting. If any member has any doubts about this, let me assure him, and I am sure the Minister will join in this, that nobody ever gets a salary in the Civil Service unless he is entitled to it. The Minister for Finance never gives anything but the minimum salary. So when the retired Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners got £2,000 because of some aspects of Revenue law in which he is expert, when he comes back to work he gets £1,750. He has special knowledge and is certainly entitled to the £2,000. Nobody ever gets more than the rates for the job and we as taxpayers should rejoice in that.

In these circumstances, it seems to me that this Bill is to be welcomed because it indicates the initiating of the welcome process of reform which is invariably associated with salaries which is always a mark of any reform issuing from the Department of Finance. I hope that some Finance official will be brought back under these provisions and asked to consolidate the Superannuation Acts from 1834 to 1963 and that we will then have an opportunity of striking out at one stroke of the pen on a later stage these antediluvian provisions in the consolidated Bill

I should like to ask the Minister just one thing, and that is in relation to subsection (3) of section 1 of the Bill. It appears that the waiver of the abatement is to be governed by certain conditions—that persons with particular training and experience are required for particular work in a particular Department or office, that the person being re-employed has that training and experience, and so on. I am wondering whether this reform at this juncture is attributable to the difficulty in recruiting staff which the Civil Service as I understand it is currently experiencing. If that were so, I should rather be inclined to regard the introduction of this as a pretext to bring in retired people when, in fact, the Department of Finance should be offering sufficiently attractive salaries to bring in the superabundance of suitable talent which is available to the Civil Service if the Minister offers appropriate salaries. I understand the situation in recent years has been that there has been a decline in the number of people offering themselves in the open competitive executive officers examination. The examination has been abandoned and recruitment is now via the leaving certificate examination. I hope that the provision enabling people to be brought back to the Civil Service will not be used so as to keep up the establishment of the various Departments and artificially depress the salaries of existing civil servants.

Having all that commendation to make on the Bill, there is only one regret I have. We will all agree that the Civil Service of this country has undoubtedly great talent, and that the people who find themselves in the higher jobs in the Civil Service are persons who got there always on the basis of ability. Some people do not get there as soon as they might. Perhaps, that is because of the imperfections of the promotion system in operation. But there is no civil servant who would take this Bill, show it to anybody and say "There is a splendid example of draftsmanship," in view of all the parenthetical remarks—"(in this subsection referred to as the allowance) of superannuation or of compensation payable under the Superannuation Acts, 1834 to 1963 (excluding section 28 of the Superannuation and Pensions Act, 1963) to a person (in this subsection referred to as a pensioner)" and so on. It is impossible for anybody unless they have great experience of the superannuation codes and the illumination of the Dáil Debates to know what the whole thing is about. Even the Minister for Finance on this occasion did not do as he did on the Trustees Saving Act and provide us with an explanatory memorandum. I beg your pardon. There was one but it did not come with my copy. As you go on, one finds that the draftsmanship improved and by sections 6 and 7 the thing becomes tolerably clear. One rather imagines that that was due to the fact that that was probably drafted by the Department of Industry and Commerce and another section by the Department of Local Government. I appeal to the Minister and to those who are charged with responsibility of drafting measures of this kind that when they have an opportunity of enlisting the sympathy of the Oireachtas in their own cause they ought at least try to put before the Oireachtas something that will be intelligible in the same way as the Extradition Bill is intelligible.

On the topic of pensions in general, I think something must be said that has been said often before. It is this, that it is in terms of social justice both immoral and demoralising that the constant decrease in the value of money and the constant increase in the cost of living should be steadily impoverising men and women who have in their lifetime done the State good service. This is a vast and difficult problem. I am not competent to deal with it. I am not an economist in experience, but I have in the last few years grown more and more morally indignant at the spectacle of honourably retired civil servants sinking gradually into some degree of poverty. It is true that the Government have taken certain piecemeal steps and in some ways have gone a fair distance to meet this, but to my mind none of these reforms in pension legislation has been far reaching enough. It is a worldwide difficulty, of course. It is going on all around us. It is not the fault of our Government or of our businessmen and financiers, but we are living in an age when social justice means a good deal. Fifty or 100 years ago, when an employee reached retiring age, he was given a gold watch, perhaps, or something of the kind and the blessing of his employer and was turned out to fend for himself. Now we have gone beyond that. We all give pensions now but, in fact, the pensions the Government and many respectable business firms are giving are steadily frittering themselves away. They are half the value of what they were in 1947 and one-third of what they were in 1939. I am simply putting it to the Minister without any detail that I hope the Government are reaching the point where they will make a drastic and far reaching revision of the whole pension scheme.

The only just solution is to anchor pensions firmly to the cost of living. The only truly just method is that pensions should rise automatically as the value of money falls. I could elaborate this a great deal but I do not intend to do so. I hope the time is coming when piecemeal and patchwork efforts will cease and the real fundamental erosion of our social life that is going on will be stopped by what will have to be a gigantic Government decision. It will cost a great deal in terms of taxation.

The Senator is going far outside the scope of the Bill.

I could relate it to sections of this Bill but I will desist. I will simply say that I am moved by a kind of moral indignation and I hope that I will infect the Minister and the Government with some of it sooner or later.

Debating this Bill there is complete agreement on the principle of the Bill, which is simply one to which the agreement of this House will be almost equally complete with agreement that it does not go far enough and that what we have here is but a minor measure attempting to deal with what is a major problem.

It is two years now since we had the last Superannuation Bill. During the debate in the Seanad on that Bill, the Minister for Finance was happy to assure the Seanad that it was a temporary measure to meet certain urgent requirements, and that a consolidation measure was on the way. On that occasion I suggested to the Minister for Finance, now happily our colleague in this House, that in spite of all the good intentions about a consolidation measure, those measures took years and even decades to appear in the form of legislation before the House. Here we are now two years later with another bit of piecemeal legislation, another Bill dealing with a tiny corner of the problem, and still no attempt to bring in a consolidation measure which would give us a superannuation code for our public servants that would be in tune with the second half of the 20th century.

There is in that code, and there is even in this amending Bill which we are now adding to that code, still far too much of the spirit of 1834. We will never by means of this piecemeal amending legislation be able to get away from what is the spirit and soul of the superannuation legislation which had its origin before the reform of the British Civil Service. What we need is a complete review and a complete code which will incorporate all of value that has been brought into the superannuation code to date, something which will be unified, and something which will be in tune with the needs of the economy and the needs of the public service at the present time.

Now, where is the initiative for this work to come from? If we are to leave this matter merely to the initiative of the Minister for Finance I think it will be slow in coming. What will happen in the future will be what has happened in the past. We will get amending Bills brought forward from time to time, to meet the cases that have given rise to trouble in the establishment division of the Department of Finance, but it looks as if there is very little hope of our ever getting a full-scale review. I do not think this is a case in which it would be appropriate for the Government to set up a commission of inquiry of the usual type. Such a commission, one would judge by commissions which dealt with similar subjects in the past, would be largely a representative body, a large body, and a part-time body which would spend a great deal of time, and which would find great difficulty in giving a unanimous report which would have any real meat in it.

It is, of course, open to me or to any other Member of the House to put down a motion for discussion in the Seanad in order to see if we could supply the initiative in this very necessary matter. Such a motion, even if discussed, and even if passed, would be little more than a resolution of pious intent. During the period of the Seanad election, and since then, many people have been exercised by the question of what should be the function of Seanad Éireann in the Oireachtas in the coming years. Many people are concerned, and many Senators are concerned, because the Seanad is not being asked to play its full part in helping forward, by legislative action and by other means, the progress of the country.

Accordingly, when a question of this type comes before us, and when we get a Bill which I feel, and which I think many Senators feel with me, is a mere tinkering with a major problem, the Seanad must ask itself: can the initiative come from Seanad Éireann? Is there any way in which the Seanad as a collective body can perhaps supply this initiative?

The Senator may not widen the discussion.

I bow to your ruling, Sir. I was going to suggest that the existence of this Bill, and its failure to include a wider reform of the superannuation scheme, indicate that there is an absolute lack of initiative, and all I wanted to suggest —and I trust you will find it in order, Sir—is that the Seanad might well consider that this is a matter which a select committee of this House could discuss with profit, and, perhaps, make recommendations that would assist the Minister for Finance in tackling the monumental task of giving us a superannuation measure which would be all we would hope it to be.

While this Bill is welcome it does, as I say, smack far too much of the spirit of 1834. There is still a great element of grace and favour about the provisions of the Bill. All matters in the slightest doubt are at the absolute discretion of the Minister for Finance to decide. While there is absolutely no question that the Minister for Finance is the most benevolent of despots, still I do not think that in a Bill coming to us at this time we should be carrying forward this spirit.

I should like to give an example of what I mean. It occurs in section 1, subsection (1), paragraph (b), subparagraph (i) sub-sub-paragraph (II). In this sub-sub-paragraph the position is that if any change has occurred in the rate of remuneration of a particular post between the period when a person is retired and the period when he is re-employed again in the public service then only such change in the rates as has occurred, as may be specified by the Minister for Finance, can be allowed for. Here we have an unnecessary restriction. We have here again the spirit of 19th Century legislation on superannuation, and that is something I think we should get away from in this day and age.

As Senator O'Quigley said, the position is that when salary claims are being entertained, Civil Service salaries are judged on the basis that there is, in fact, a non-contributory pension scheme, and when salaries are being judged in comparison with outside employment, where people have to contribute to their pensions, this is brought forward as a reason why Civil Service salaries should not be equated with the salaries of outside employment. Yet, in the matter of pensions there still remains the spirit of grace, and I think it is reflected in this Bill, because if Civil Service salaries are being fixed in this way, the position under the Bill is that the person is not allowed to exceed his salary when he is employed later on in the public service.

It seems to me that at least an allowance should be made, and that the sum should not be allowed to exceed the original salary plus an allowance for superannuation. If someone is seconded from the Civil Service the Minister for Finance insists on being recompensed to the extent of the salary plus an allowance for the pension of the individual. The restriction in this Bill should not be to 100 per cent salary but rather to 105 per cent to 110 per cent. The restriction to the net salary is an example of the ambivalent attitude which the Minister for Finance takes in matters of this kind. The fact is that the non-contributory nature of the pension is fully allowed for when the Minister is taking in money from someone else, but when it comes to the matter of the Minister paying out it is not allowed for quite so readily.

On the question of retrospection, which the Minister dealt with in his opening statement, this was a matter which caused some concern during the debate in Dáil Éireann. It is good to have the assurance of the Minister in the case of persons affected who were formerly members of the Defence Forces, that in 24 of every 25 cases, when all the sums have been done, it will end up by the Minister owing the pensioner some money rather than the other way round. I should like to ask the Minister what is to be the position in regard to those people. When this Bill becomes law, I take it they will be entitled to further amounts and I should like to ask the Minister whether the position will be that the demands which have been made on these officers for the return of money will now be suspended until the Bill becomes law. Does the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Defence—whoever is concerned—intend to press these demands that the money be returned and that a second money transaction take place in the opposite direction some time later? I suggest to the Minister that it would be as well if these demands were now withdrawn, pending the settlement of the whole matter.

There is one small point I would like to raise in regard to subsection (3) (c) of section 1. It is the condition of the waiver of the abatement and in which it says that one of the conditions on which this waiver is made is that the Minister for Finance is satisfied that it is not practicable to meet the requirements of the public service, other than by the re-employment of pensioners. I should like to ask the Minister could he give us some idea of what meaning should be attached to the word "practicable", in this particular instance. I think the word could have shades of meaning going from one end rather close to "possible" and to the other end approaching "convenient". I should like to know just what is the meaning of the word "practicable" in this very important section of the Bill.

I regard the Bill as a welcome one for what it will do. It is not so welcome, however, for what it omits. I would suggest that there is in this regard undoubted need for a complete review and a completely new code in regard to superannuation. I suggest to the Seanad and to the Minister that this review might well be work for the Seanad. I think that the Members of this House, with their particular experience, and who would not be subject to the pressures other persons are subjected to, would be a very suitable body for the investigation of this whole problem.

Finally, I see there appears in the Schedule to this Bill a repeal of the Superannuation Act of 1834, section 20. I look forward with some hope, but not very much, to the day when the Seanad will be asked to pass a Superannuation Bill which will contain in the Schedule of Enactments a repeal of the whole Superannuation Act of 1834. That is a proposition to which we would all readily subscribe.

I should like very briefly to associate myself with the Senators who have expressed the hope that in the near future we may have a much more comprehensive review of the pensions arrangements for civil servants. I do not think the Government are the worst employers in regard to pension arrangements but I do think they could set an example which might be followed in other directions in this country and followed with a great deal of profit. This Bill goes a certain distance but I think on the one hand it takes away what it gives with the other. It sets a ceiling on the amount a pensioner may earn in addition to his pension. It is that level at which he was earning on the day he retired plus some vague amount to be varied. The word "varied" is used but it does not say that the variation is going to be in an upward direction. If it means that the ceiling may be set a little higher than that which he was receiving when he retired, why does it not say "increase" instead of "vary"? Possibly there may be some circumstances in which it would be varied downwards but I dislike this word "varied." It is very vague and I think it should be made clearer. The principle on which this variation is to operate should also, I think, be specified. The position of the retired person in this country is becoming more serious every day. It is one of the social injustices of our time.

I mention just one example of a retired person I know who is positively afraid that he may live for another ten years. He is not an old man but if he does live for another ten years, with the value of money continuing to diminish as it is at present, he will not be able to live on his pension at the end of that time. I suggest to the Minister that he should get under way as soon as possible a comprehensive scheme to deal with these injustices, this pension position which would not only affect civil servants but would also bring pressure to bear on other organisations to have a decent pension scheme.

I should like to welcome this Bill which is merely another step in the dismantling of the abatement machinery which never had very much to recommend it. Certainly, as time goes on and as most categories have been relieved of the burden of abatement, it becomes more and more unfair that the remaining categories should still suffer under it. I have in mind in particular, of course, the question of former members of the Defence Forces who are in a particular category because most of them, by reason of Army regulations, have to retire at an early age and, consequently, they are men who have to look around for employment when they retire from the Army. These men have to start life anew. It is a particularly serious matter for them if they take a job in State or semi-State employment that their pension should be affected.

The injustice of this abatement affects these men. In many cases they are in the position that if they take a job of this kind they are going to get worse value and be in a worse financial position than if they got a similar job outside State employment. Consequently, it will arise in some circumstances that a man who is ideally suited for a job in semi-State employment will not take it and the State and public, as a result, are at the loss of his service. For these reasons I am very glad that the Bill has been introduced.

In conclusion, I hope the question of retrospection will be reconsidered by the Minister. I understand the position at the moment is that it should be retrospective to the 1st January this year but, having regard to the fact that many other categories have had the benefit of the abolition of abatement for many years past the categories who are affected by this Bill should have the benefit of it for a considerably longer period than the 1st January of this year.

I think we all join in welcoming this Bill as far as it goes. I particularly endorse what has been said by previous Senators on the necessity for producing a much more comprehensive measure and giving us a consolidated scheme. As it is, it removes many difficulties and anomalies for employment in the public service compared with employment in private industry. Consequently, it is to be welcomed.

We should like to have a clear indication of the orders that will be made by the Minister in the case of the Defence Forces. We hope they will be more lenient with regard to them because they are a special category in so far as officers can retire much earlier than they can retire in other parts of the service. That is a good thing and it is something that should be encouraged. They have got an army training and so they should be in the position of taking up other careers while they are still in their prime. They have had army training and are specially trained in the handling of men and materials and could be of great benefit to our economy. Consequently, I appeal to the Minister, when drafting those conditions, to ensure that those people are treated generously and that there is no penalty imposed on officers who retire at the earliest possible moment. Those people, when they retire early, should be in the position that they can take up new situations and with their drive and vitality they can be of great benefit to the community.

There is another feature that the Government should bear in mind and that is the question of immobility of pension. We know, of course, that the immobility of pension is used as a means of anchoring a man to a job. That is possibly a reasonable enough point of view for private firms to adopt. They want to hold on to their men because, having trained them and so on, they want to get their full working life out of them. The fact that they cannot take a pension with them deters them from seeking openings otherwise.

The State should set a headline in this matter because the State is concerned with the national welfare as a whole. If they make it possible to have mobility in the public service it would contribute a great deal to ensuring that the men went to the job for which they were best equipped and made the maximum contribution to the national effort.

There is one other point I should like to make. All the sections here seem to be in accord with one another except one. They are all of the same pattern even one which I found rather interesting. The President is provided for in the very unlikely event of his ever coming back to the Houses of the Oireachtas. If he did that he could bring his presidential pension with him. There is one area which seems to be totally out of step with the others and that is the section concerning the Attorney-General. Here now he can receive a golden handshake. That is what it is. The provision repeals Section 23 of the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act, 1938.

This provision enables payment of a gratuity to a retiring Attorney-General except where he is appointed within 12 months of his retiral to a public office with remuneration at over £1,000 a year. We can see the purpose of that. It was to enable an Attorney-General to catch up in his practice if and when he left the post of Attorney-General. We would agree it is reasonable that a gratuity should be paid on that score but it is very unreasonable that a gratuity should be paid to an Attorney-General for his practice. Most Attorney-Generals have a very comfortable post in the High Court or Supreme Court and I do not think we should for one moment sanction the granting of a golden handshake on such an occasion. I feel this repeal is totally out of step with the rest of this Bill and I cannot see any justification for it. The figure for re-employment in the public service in 1938 of £1,000 a year, could, of course, be modified. Today it would mean £3,500 a year. If a person finds employment in the public service at over that figure surely we cannot subscribe to the fact that he is losing anything by serving as Attorney-General. In fact, the post of Attorney-General is probably one of the most sought after and one of the most lucrative posts that is in the care of the Government. I suggest this section should be deleted from the Bill as it stands.

I welcome this Bill. It is more liberal in its approach than any previous legislation, particularly at a time of changing money values. I want to draw attention to another problem which is parallel with this. I refer to the question of compensation which is paid by the State to people made redundant by CIE. Recoupment is made to CIE by the Minister and there is provision for anybody made redundant taking employment subsequently with CIE or any other semi-State undertaking, the public service or local authorities. The pension or compensation is abated accordingly.

We were told that the reason for that was that it was general practice and public policy at that time. Apparently this policy is now being changed. I welcome the change and I would ask the Minister to look into this problem which was put into the 1958 transport legislation simply because it was a provision in regard to pension abatement at that time. The Minister should now arrange to have that provision adjusted in a similar way to the provisions in this Bill. I hope the Minister will take the opportunity of looking into that matter. It seems to be parallel with what is in this Bill. If there is good reason for making this change here, equally, I suggest, there is good reason for making the change for people who were formerly employed in public transport and who were made redundant in various re-organisations.

I just want to raise two points. First of all, a number of executives of CIE who have retired more than seven years have got no pension abatement or allowance. There is a retrospective clause in this Bill which goes back only to the 1st January. I doubt whether there are so many people in any other section of the public service who have been affected to a greater extent than the executives of CIE who retired a number of years ago.

I was glad to hear from the Minister that the Department of Defence will be dealing with pension abatement arrangements so far as Defence regulations affect such pensioners. There is one point I should like to raise here and it seems difficult to interpret. It is the provision in section 1—between lines 25 and 35. Generally speaking, this is the effect of it. In the memorandum it is explained that the provisions of section 1 will not apply to a pensionner who is re-employed between the 1st January, 1965 and the passing of this Bill unless he opts for them before the 1st January, 1966. That can be described, if you like, as an optional clause of the Bill. It goes on further to say:

If he does not opt, the existing provisions of Section 20 of the 1834 Act will continue to apply to him.

I was wondering if the Minister did not consider that it would be to the best advantage for him to come under the new legislation. Why does he leave the man in a situation where section 20 of the 1834 Act would continue to apply to him and where would the advantage be to the person concerned? I expect the present legislation will improve on any legislation that operated in the 1834 Act.

I have listened to the debate and I have struggled with the text of the Bill. I think I now understand it. I still feel a sense of surprise that this Bill should be welcomed as a progressive piece of legislation. I do not disbelieve that it is progressive. This is an indication to us of how bad the situation was before. The Bill presents pensioners who are retiring from the public service with less pay than would have been theirs if the Bill had not been introduced. I think it is hard, therefore, to define the underlying assumptions.

I think that Senator O'Quigley made all those points very well. The very title of the Bill, before I come to that aspect of it, is very far from clear. It is:

An Act to modify certain statutory provisions relating to abatement of pensions, gratuities and allowances in respect of public service.

I thought it should be made clear by saying "in respect of superannuated public servants returning to the service," I think what is implicit in the Bill should be clearly set out in the Title or sub-title. I think it takes a lot of wading through to discover that this applies, as the Minister told us, to pensioners returning to the Service.

I would agree with Senator O'Quigley when he put forward the view that Civil Service superannuation is, in fact, a form of deferred payment. A rate of pay is accepted which is less than that outside in a non-pensionable position. I understood that at the end of service this deferred payment will be paid back. I think it should be regarded as not right and I think it is the general view that the pensioner has earned his pension. It is not a special favour to anyone old. Consequently, I would say to abate it in any way no matter what post he may take or how he may usefully return to the Service is unjust. All abatement of pension that has been paid for in terms of service would appear to me to be unjust. I would also feel that this abatement given effect to in the Bill discourages certain people from returning to the Service.

It is for that reason, of course, that we have subsections (2) and (3) of section 1 which allows the Minister to waive it in certain cases where the services of such pensioners are so urgently needed that you have to win them back by treating them leniently, that is to say by allowing them to retain their full pension. I think this is an admission that you are treating the other civil servants who care to come back unjustly by abating their pensions, which I would regard as having been earned by them and which in my contention should not be abated at all.

I shall conclude by saying we are far too quick as a State to legislate for pension readjustment downwards, the abatement of pensions, but we are doubly slow to ensure pension readjustment upwards and this is a thing which is a distinct injustice to pensioners—when salaries go up pensions do not. It is high time legislation was introduced to ensure parity of pensions with present salaries and not allow it always to be lagging behind. In other words, if we are to legislate thus for abatement we should also legislate swiftly for increase in pension rates when salaries come to be raised because of the rise in the cost of living.

On the whole, there has, I think, been a fairly wide measure of welcome for this Bill. I think that is reasonably justifiable because, despite the remarks of the last Senator, I think the Bill takes a reasonable step forward. Abatement now in regard to the public service has only been retained in a very narrow category of cases and to a large extent it has been abolished altogether.

A number of questions were put by Senators. Senator O'Quigley was concerned to know whether the provision with regard to the waiver by the Minister for Finance was made necessary by reason of inability to recruit into the Service. I do not think that would be a fair inference. This provision is necessary because there could be circumstances arising in which it could be necessary to take back into the Service, or retain in the Service after their normal date of retirement, persons of special skill and experience. In that connection, I think it was Senator Dooge who asked me to define "practicable". It seems to me this would cover also the type of situation where, for instance, some urgent work had to be done.

It could be that some new scheme had to be got under way urgently, or some work of that nature undertaken, where it would not be practicable to train people for this work in less than a year or two, and, therefore, the only way of getting the job under way immediately and ungently would be to take back into the Service people who had already had the special training or skill necessary. That seems to me to be what is envisaged in this form of words used in this particular subsection.

Senator O'Quigley was critical of the drafting of the measure. Of course, opinions always differ as to the merits of the drafting of any particular piece of legislation. I want to say that when you amend and when you have to legislate by reference it is very difficult to escape the type of phraseology to which the Senator took exception. For my part, I always prefer to see any measure a consolidating measure rather than an amending one. I think we should try more and more to get that when we are changing the law, that is, to consolidate it at the same time.

When I was Minister for Justice I always tried to do that. But, of course, it is much easier to do that sort of operation in the Department of Justice than it is in the Departments—I will not use the word "busier"—which are more involved in the day to day running of the country and its trade and commerce and so on. Things always have to be done quickly and staff is at a premium and there is always a great temptation to do a particular task that has to be done by means of a piece of amending legislation rather than by endeavouring to consolidate the law.

There was some mention by Senators of the level of pensions as distinct from this question of abatement. The suggestion was made by a Senator that pensions should be related to the cost of living. I want to assure the House that that is, in fact, being done. The Pensions (Increase) Act of 1964 enables pensions to be increased by regulation to take account of cost of living increases. This is, in fact, being done in relation to the rise in the cost of living up to February, 1964 and the necessary moneys to do this are being provided in this year's Budget.

I feel that I should take this opportunity of saying that the former Minister for Finance, who is now, as has been mentioned, a member of this House, was always very humane and humanatarian in his approach to this problem of public service pensioners. I would never have dared admit when he was still Minister for Finance that he was over generous, and now that he-is no longer exercising the reins or holding the purse strings it is only fitting that tribute should be paid to the progress made in this whole field during his period as Minister for Finance.

A great deal of reference has been made tonight to some particularly reprehensible spirit of 1834. The only thing I can say about that is that there are some spirits of 1834 and if we had preserved them until this date they would be very attractive beverages by this stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 30th June, 1965.

Might I ask the Minister can he give the justification for the enactment in regard to the Attorney General?

That might well be postponed to the next day. The question has been put.