Pensions (Abatement) Bill, 1965: Committee Stage.

Before proceeding with this Bill, the Chair would like to mention that amendments 1 to 10, inclusive, are cognate amendments. It is proposed to discuss them all on amendment No. 1. Separate decisions, of course, can be taken. Amendment No. 11 in the name of Senator Quinlan will be taken separately.


I move amendment No. 1:

To delete subsections (1) (b) (i) (II), and substitute:

"() was remunerated at the rate of remuneration (inclusive of the money value of emoluments (being any apartments, rations or other perquisites in kind), if any) of which he would have been in receipt if he had been in that office during the specified period of receipt of the payment referred to in subsection (1) (a) (ii)".

The point of these amendments arises in relation to the view I expressed on the Second Stage that I did not think it right to put a ceiling on the income of a pensioner, because I think this is what these various subsections do. I do not like the principle of putting this ceiling on earnings of pensioners in any case, and I like still less what I consider to be an undesirable difference which this section makes between one kind of pensioner and another. For example, take the pensioner who is employed as a consultant by an industry. There is no reference in this Bill to any question of abating his pension in relation to his earnings in that regard, but if he is employed by a Government Department then this section operates to limit the amount he can earn. This difficulty is recognised in part in subsection (3) and was referred to by Senator Ryan on the second stage. I would much rather abolish all these abatements, leaving the pensioner free to make use of his talents and his experience as well as he can in his retirement, but if this cannot be done then I think we could arrive at a little less complicated way of defining the manner in which this abatement principle might operate.

The amendments I have put down suggest that if we are going to limit the income of a pensioner, then the limit should be what the pensioner would be receiving if he had remained in his employment in the post in which he was employed when he retired.

Let us suppose, for example, that he was at the top of the scale in that post and was earning £2,000 a year when he retired two or three years ago. Since then there has been a general increase in salaries, the usual 12 per cent has been added, so that the salary for that post would now be £2,240 a year. Then let that be his ceiling; let his pension be abated so that the income derived from the earnings in his retirement post plus what he gets as the pension reaches that figure. That is put forward as a rather clearer alternative to what is stated in the subsection, which refers to the amount which he can receive as being "varied" to take account of so much of such changes as may be specified by the Minister for Finance. It is varied, it does not say whether up or down by taking into account "so much"—it does not say how much— of such changes as the Minister for Finance may specify. We are left entirely in the dark. I would suppose that the Minister for Fanance would proceed along the lines that I outlined here and take into account the fact that prices had risen, the value of money had gone down, and the pensioner should be allowed to have so much more of his pension. In other words, the abatement would be less. It is a rather complicated way of saying that. I propose a simpler way of defining the abatement,

I am sorry that I cannot agree to accept these amendments. I realise that they are the result of very close and careful scrutiny of the Bill by the two Senators concerned and aLso a great deal of work by them in drafting them. I want to explain to the Seanad what subsection (1) is. It will only affect a very limited number of people, that is people who are re-employed in the Civil Service on grounds of hardship. The argument is that the fact that they are re-employed solely because of hardship would indicate that their pensions should be abated. I do not think that Senator Jessop is arguing that particular point, but rather is he arguing the phraseology which gives effect to the abatement. There is a weakness in his own particular phraseology, and it is this: the idea of the wording of the section as it stands is that a person who is re-employed in the Civil Service in another post because of his personal circumstances has his pension abated. This Bill provides that it is the retiring salary as revised by the Minister from time to time to bring it into line with existing salaries that will count for abatement purposes. The effect of the amendment would be to bring about a situation where a person who has retired would have some sort of notional continuation of his increments for the period while he was re-employed, and this would of course give us a very unreal figure. The only valid way to proceed as to deal with for pension purposes the salary as it was at the time of the retirement plus any revisions upwards which are made from time to time by the Minister for Finance to keep in line with general salary trends.

I was aware of this difficulty when I read over the amendment again and I can of course see the Minister's point. I might mention that I do not regard the fact that it only applies to a limited number of people as being a valid argument against considering the situation. I do not see any reference in the Bill to the fact that it only applies to people who were re-employed because of personal hardship. The only exoeptions to this section are people who are re-employed because they have a particular training and experience which the Department needs and cannot get anywhere else. There is nothing in it about it applying to people re-employed because they themselves are in difficult circumstances. If the Minister will assure us that this variation referred to in the third last line of this subsection is to bring it into line for purposes of abatement with existing salaries——

I can give that assurance.

Would the Minister add "to bring it into line with existing salaries?"

Think it over while you are down below.

In a better place.

In a lower place.

I had just asked the Minister if he would consider adding to this subsection, "by taking into account so much of those changes as may be necessary to bring the rate into line with changes in the salary attached to the post", or some phrasing like that which might bring out the point which I gather the Minister accepts in principle, which he says in fact is part of the principle of the section, though I think the manner of expressing it is rather obscure. I might say on this point that I did not mean increments to come into this at all. That is why I took as an example a retiring officer at the top of the scale. I did not mean that he would go on having increments after his retirement, or that the abatement would be fixed in regard to any such increment.

I am assured that such an addition is not necessary because of the way the section is phrased. It will ensure that the retiring salary for abatement purposes will be the revised salary as I have indicated.

Surely it does not ensure that the Minister for Finance will specify such changes as occur.

It says, "taking account of..."

" much of those changes as may be specified".

That is really to cover a separate point. Sometimes a post is suppressed and the duties are allocated to another post, usually at a higher salary. It is necessary to determine how much of the higher salary is applicable to the higher post and how much of it is to be retained with the older duties. That is really the purpose of the particular wording, to have the salary revised upwards, as it were in relation to the old post which has been suppressed.

One cannot but admire the courage and the fortitude which must have sustained Senator Jessop when he embarked upon the laborious job of trying to amend this section. I really think he almost achieved what he set out to do. I am sure we would all have been much happier if it were set down in the Bill in black and white. The Minister seems to be so disposed on the basis of the amendment before us. A very little redrafting of Senator Jessop's amendment would provide exactly what the Minister has conceded is intended to be done and what Senator Jessop wants to achieve.

It is a formidable job to try to make any sense of the section. No doubt the Minister for Finance will be consoled by the fact, if there is any doubt about the section and what it means, that he has a lot of authority in paragraph (d) of subsection (1) which says that every doubt shall be decided by the Minister for Finance whose decision thereon shall be final and conclusive. That is a great piece of power to invest in the Minister for Finance. As I said on the last occasion, in the matter of superannuation, the Minister for Finance, in my experience, is very human and generous. I would be quite agreeable if the Minister would give a clear undertaking that what is being sought in the amendment will, in fact, be the practice. I think the Minister is in a position to give that undertaking.

The undertaking is, as I have said, that the retirement salary for abatement purposes will be as it were notionally revised upwards in accordance with general salary increases.

It is a pity it was not set out as clearly as that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill".

Subsection (4) relates to the question of certain people to whom pensions might be payable during the first six months of this year. I should like to ask the Minister why there is any necessity for this subsection. We are all agreed that what the Bill does is a good thing and there would scarceiy be any circumstances in which it would be in somebody's interest to opt out of the benefits of subsection (1). If that were the case, I fail to see why the onus should be put on this group of people who have, by positive action, opted not to ask for the benefits of this particular section.

Strange as it may seem, there are circumstances in which it might be less favourable for him to opt. For instance if a pensioner is re-employed for only six months of the year and does not wish to work for the other six months, he would not be abated under the existing legislation because his pension for a year, plus his ra-employed pay for six months, would not exceed his annual salary on retirement from his pensionable position. Such a pensioner would be abated under the provisions of this Bill which relates abatement to the period of re-employment and not the annual salary.

There are two points in relation to subsection (4). I wonder will the persons likely to be affected and especially those who are likely to be professionally affected be notified on the condition specified by the Minister. One finds very frequently that there are a lot of benefits contained in statutory instruments about which people know nothing. I have had example of that in my own case recently and it is a pity that that should be the position. The other point I wish to raise on this is in relation to subsection (2). It is to ascertain from the Minister if he has any figures as to the number of persons who have retired from the Civil Service and who are re-employed, first of all because they had specialised knowledge and skill which makes their re-employment valuable, secondly, the people who are re-employed on hardship grounds, and thirdly, this is the feature I am most interested in, people who are re-employed, if there are any because it is impossible to recruit suitable personnel through normal channels.

In regard to the first point I am sure something can be done to meet the Senator. It is possible this could be done through a Civil Service association or some such machinery. That is something I undertake will be borne in mind. I am afraid I do not have figures readily available of the persons who are re-employed in the various categories mentioned.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 2 and 3 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.
Section 4 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.
Section 5 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 not moved.
Section 6 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 not moved.
Section 7 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:

Before section 8 to insert a new section as follows:

"() Section 15 of the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act, 1938, is hereby amended 6y the substitution of `three thousand ponnds' for `one thousand pounds'."

In the enactment mentioned in the Bill there is a repeat of section 15 of the Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act, 1938. This Act enables a gratuity to be paid to a retiring Attorney General who has had three years service. The gratuity is specified at half of the salary attached to the office at the date of such cessation. The purpose of this is obviously to enable a retiring Attorney General to resume his practice, which we are all agreed would take some time to get going again. That was in 1938 and since then there has been an increase in the private practice done by the Attorney General. In fact, I doubt if, in 1938, there was any private practice done by the then Attorney General. The Act specified that the gratuity must be paid at half a year's salary unless the person concerned, under section 4, is appointed to any whole-time office, the remuneration of which exceeds £1,000 per annum. The money was provided by the Oireachtas.

In other words, if the Attorney General is promoted to the High Court or to the Supreme Court, then quite obviously there is no suggestion that he is to resume his practice. In fact, he has received the normal promotion that is accorded to an Attorney General who has discharged his duty satisfactorily—he has been promoted to the High Court or to the Supreme Court. The present Bill very innocuously repeals these two provisions —subsection (4) and subsection (5) of section 15 of the 1938 Act and that is out of line with the spirit of this Bill. It is at a time when we are faced with a growing emeroency, where we have a 12 per cent increase, where we have status increases and super-status increases and this goes into the category of the super-super-status increase which is one the Government should not countenance at this juncture.

What should be done is simply to bring the figure of £1,000 per annum, the ceiling laid down in 1938, to a realistic figure. I suggest that the realistic figure be placed somewhere around £3,000, or more, if that is wished but certainly the spirit of the 1938 Act is obvious. All will agree to the necessity for this to enable an Attorney General to resume his practice where he has to do that with a consequent loss, but no one agrees that a hand-out of half year's salary should be given to an Attorney General who receives promotion to the Supreme Court or to the High Court at a salary far in excess of that which he enjoys as Attorney General. Consequently, I move that the figure of £3,000, or any figure acceptable to the Minister and the Government, be substituted for the £1,000 in the 1938 Act.

Apart from any other consideration, the amendment is defective on technical grounds because the Senator leaves untouched section 8 which repeals the provisions which he wishes to amend. Apart from that, I can see no validity whatever in the Senator's argument. Indeed, I wonder why the Senator, who in regard to this Bill, has been in favour of the very generous approach to abatement that is getting away from the old Victorian ideas, in this one particular instance, thinks this one particular person should be excluded. The purpose of this amendment is to deprive the Attorney General of this easement or abolition of abatement, a provision which is in complete harmony with the whole purpose and spirit of this Bill.

The Bill is designed more or less to abolish abatement in cases of persons who, though they may be re-employed in the public service, are not employed in the same service. I think I made that very clear on Second Reading. It is to do away with abatement except in the case of persons who are re-employed in the public service and in the same service. Now the position still is if the Attorney General were to be reappointed to the Government or to the position of Attorney General, which is the same service, then the abatement would apply, but if he is appointed to any other appointment in the public service, there is to be no abatement. The situation here simply is that the Attorney General who spent more than three years in office has earned this gratuity just the same as any other public official has earned his pension and is being treated in exactly the same way.

I cannot agree at all with the Minister that this is abatement in the sense we have been talking about, that is, abatement of pension earned. There was no suggestion at any time that the provision in the 1938 Act referred to pension earned by the Attorney General. In fact, I refer the Minister to the Dáil and Seanad debates when the 1938 Act was going through. He will find there that the reasons given were simple and commonsense reasons—to enable the Attorney General to get his office going again.

We have departed considerably from those times and it is now recognised that the Attorney General can even appear for the defence and can operate a fully-fledged office. There is no link between the abatement in this Bill and what the Minister tries to make out is abatement in the case of the Attorney General. I suggest to the Minister that he should tell this to the trade unions next week when he is speaking to them and trying to bring in price control, and at the same time tell them he is slipping an innocuous provision into the Bill to enable, as it is called in England, a golden handshake to be given to a retiring Attorney General at a time when he is kicked upstairs into the High Court or Supreme Court at £5,000 or £6,000 a year. I do not think that when all are urged to tighten their belt and when price control is on the horizon, this is the time for handouts on the part of the Government. If the Attorney General is entitled to this would he not be much more entitled to a gratuity to adjust himself back to being a Minister?

The Attorney General has no pension.

The Ministerial pension, as the Minister knows, is a small one. For a Minister who serves three years, it is in the order of £300 a year at present. The Minister says the amendment is technically unreasonable. I have not been in this House for eight years wiihout knowing the procedure here. First of all, if an amendment is accepted on Committee Stage, it means that the Government indicate agreement with it and will come back on Report Stage with a properly drafted agreement. We are not draftsmen on Committee Stage. Our intention is to debate the amendments and convince the Government of their validity and have the Government bring them back on Report Stage. The Government always claim it derogatory to withdraw an amendment and they give a substitute which very often is the same on Report Stage. It is not beyond the skill of parliamentary draftsmen to recognise that if they did bring in a Bill covering my suggestion, they obviously would have to delete from this schedule the provisions of subsection (4) and (5) in section 15 of the 1938 Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Act. That is just simple common sense. I appeal to the Minister and the Government to show some sense of reality and not hand out public money without any concern whatsoever at a time when everybody else is being urged to protect our economy. This is, I think, the worst incentive that could be given to people.

Since the amendment was moved, I have been endeavouring to make an objective approach to what is proposed here. In so far as Senator Quinlan has developed his argument in favour of the amendment, I find myself tending more and more to support the amendment. The two points which impressed me most are, firstly, that I think the Minister could not have chosen a mere inopportune time to bring this proposal before the House, a time when everybody else in the country—and I suppose this would include the Attorney General—is being urged to exercise restraint, patience and so on. We are, above all else, to avoid any further demands or pressures that would injure our economy. I think a very grave responsibility rests on the Government here to give practical evidence or a demonstration in clear terms of their sincerity in these exhortations.

I shall probably be one of those who will have to meet the Minister tomorrow to be informed of the serious implications of the situation which the country is facing. I, in turn, will have to go back fmm that meeting and impress on other people that we should restrain ourselves at the presenr time. I am in agreement with Senator Quinlan that we will find it very difficult so to impress people when measures of this kind are being pushed through this House.

The second point which impressed me was the figure of £1,000 in the 1938 Act, which it is now proposed to alter. This is in fact a reasonable and sensible proposal. The Act passed in 1938 which specified a figure of £1,000 is obviously completely out-of-date when looked at in the terms of plain pounds, shiliings and pence. If £1,000 were considered reasonable in 1938, £3,000 could not be considered unreasonable in 1965. I think the Minister should take these two simple facts into account and have a further look at the amendment. I certainly am prepared to support it.

I would really like to see the Opposition make up their minds about this particular discussion. I do not know whether Senator Crowley was present for the Second Reading, but the whole argument then put forward was that this easement was a good thing. We were getting away from outmoded and Victorian ideas and, generally speaking, the principle in the Bill in so far as easement was concerned, was welcome. All the argument from that side of the House was that we were being fair in that.

Now we have this sudden turn around where we have these principles in the Bill applied to this one particular office, a sudden attack is being made on it and people are now all against abatement in this particular case. Senator Quinlan's argument will not stand up. This is a gratuity which is earned by a public servant; it is of exactly the same nature as any other gratuity on retirement earned by other public servants. Public servants, when they retire from public service, very often today get a combination of gratuity and pension. That is the most common form of recompense when they retire. Here we have an office which gets only a gratuity; namely, where a person is not re-employed in the same service—in the public service —there is to be no abatement and that is all that is concerned.

The Minister is completely confused in this because the gratuity is not earned in the sense that a pension is earned. It is solely for the purpose of enabling the individual concerned to get his office going again.

Not at all.

If the Minister will not accept my contention, then, on Report Stage, I shall bring in the Dáil and Seanad Reports for 1938 which will show, as they do in the clearest possible manner, that the reason given in 1938 was solely to enable the Attorney General to set up his office again and get it going, if he had to.

We all know why the Senator is taking this particular attitude in this case.

I read the Bill and I read the White Paper attached to it, and I resent the Minister's remarks. I do my homework here as a Senator and I found in the Bill this extraordinary position. It was obvious to anybody what the purpose of the gratuity was and that repeal at this stage is totally out of line. You cannot say any Attorney General suffers auy loss when he receives the normal promotion that is within the giving of the Government. I do not think for one moment that the Minister can really see the argument when he says that this case is parallel with the case of an abatement of a normal pension.

Amendment withdrawn?

Amendment withdrawn so that on Report Stage I may produce conclusive evidence from the Dáil and Seanad Debates as to the reason for this.

I know the reason for it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.

I think there is a general advisability in having this Bill passed and I would like the remaining Stages now, if that suits the House. If Senator Quinlan wishes to produce this evidence, there is no reason why he could not find it now.

I suggest that we take the Report Stage on Wednesday next.

We will give the Senator ten or 15 minutes.

Could the Senator not get the Debates of which he speaks now?

The Bill is to come into operation retrospectively from 1st January, 1965. Therefore, a week or so will not make much difference. I am anxious to get the old Debates and do proper homework on them.

It seems to me the Senator is prepared to hold up a very desirable and necessary piece of legislation which the House generally has welcomed and which it is in the interests of a great number of people to have passed into law for his own ignoble purposes.

I ask that this remark be withdrawn. I am speaking here as an independent Senator without favour to anyone and I merely do my duty as a Senator. I ask that the Minister be requested to withdraw that remark.

I appeal to the Minister not to press the last point and not to go any further than he has gone. It was quite unworthy of him and I do not think the remark should have been made. I rise really to support so far as I can the request of Senator Quinlan, a very reasonable request, to be given until next Wednesday for the Report Stage. He is entitled to that and I appeal to the Chair to hold with me in that.

It is a matter for the House.

Can we not take it now?

It is a matter for the House.

I think we should leave it until next Wednesday.

Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, July 7th, 1965.