I should like to thank Senators for the way in which they have received me and in the way they have received this legislation. A soldier's vocation, his length of service and his conditions are different from those of a civil servant. From this stems much of the difficulty in codifying the various pension schemes and a great deal of the disappointment felt by both sides. There is a natural inclination on everybody's part, if they have a pension scheme in their vocation in life, to pick from it the bad things in relation to somebody else's scheme and, to some extent, to magnify those in their discussions with people, whereas the good aspects, if they are different, are inclined to be forgotten.
That is not a criticism of any soldier, the Army, of any Senator or of the Civil Service, but it is a fact that if there is a situation whereby soldiers are retiring—those who are on the ordinary line—a captain at 54 years of age, a commandant at 56, a lieutenant colonel at 58, a colonel at 60 and a major general at 63, and if you have, at the same time, all civil servants retiring normally at 65 years of age, of necessity you would have to have a different pension scheme if one were to be fair to both. From this stems all the difficulty which arises in trying even to understand the Army Pensions Act. I have been Minister for Defence for 18 months and it is only during the past few months that I am absorbing all the major intricacies.
The point was made about an unmarried soldier receiving no gratuity. Gratuities for single officers and soldiers, in addition to their pensions, will be introduced on a phased basis to correspond with the various stages in the equalisation of pay between single and married personnel. I do not wish to weary the Seanad with a detailed explanation. Single officers and men who left the Army on or after the 1st June, 1973, will receive 17½ per cent of the difference between the single and married rates of pension, and 17½ per cent of the gratuity payable to married personnel.
Subsequent stages of pay equalisation will follow. It is a matter for the Department of the Public Service, and the Department of Finance. It is to some extent outside my scope but I have every good will in this regard. The single soldier will move towards parity with his married counterpart.
One of the arguments, if one were to use an argument in relation to pensions, which should not have happened over the years was that the single soldier in relation to the married soldier received a greater percentage of his pay while serving as pension. This, to some extent, has inhibited thinking in this matter.
I should like to draw attention to the fact that pensions are quite good now. A private with 21 years' service receives £13.02. It is taken that when he leaves, he can earn money, if he is in good health, and on reaching 65 years because of the social welfare benefit he then receives, he goes up to £27.02 pension per week.
On the other end of the scale the sergeant major has a maximum weekly rate of pay from 1/6/1974 £50.46. After 21 years' service he will have £18.79 pension and on reaching 65 years of age he will have £32.79. After 31 years' service he would have £24.09 and on reaching 65 years of age he will have £33.29. Major improvements have been made and such changes as we are making are necessary. Anomalies did occur over the years which should be corrected. I thank the Senators for their reception of this order today and I hope the parliamentary draftsmen are in time to have it in the Dáil with a further order tomorrow in respect of pre-1968 pensioners. These are matters which have to be settled up. My desire was that they should be settled up before the Summer Recess, so that nobody would be left one day longer than necessary without the increases to which we felt they were entitled. If the parliamentary draftsmen can make it in time for the Minister for the Public Service and me to sign this evening, we will have a further Order in the other House, tomorrow.