This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Orders, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the Question that the Bill be received for final consideration, the Minister may explain the purport of the amendments made by the Dáil and this is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matter, therefore, that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of the amendments made by the Dáil.
Local Government (Superannuation) (No. 2) Bill, 1979 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.
As Members are aware, they may speak only once on this question.
A small number of amendments have been made to this Bill since it was last before this House and for the convenience of Senators I now propose to explain their general purport and scope.
Amendments shown as Nos. 1 and 2 on the list of amendments as circulated, arose from a criticism made in the Dáil that the Minister in subsection 5 (2) could provide that decisions on certain questions would be final. The effect of the amendments is to delete this power; that is the power to provide that the decisions would be final.
Amendment No. 3 arose from a possible difficulty in interpretation in relation to subsection 5 (4) that came to notice after the Bill had been before the House. Subsection 5 (4) precludes the Minister from making any provision in a scheme or regulation under the Bill which would affect, to his detriment, the superannuation conditions applicable to an employee, save where such employee exercises an option to have the revised conditions applied to him. The amendment is to clarify the position in regard to newly appointed pensionable staff. Two categories are involved. First, persons who entered the local service as officers after the windows' and orphans' pension scheme was made compulsory and were therefore noh given an option but were included in the scheme under their condtions of appointment. The amendment will make it clear that the scheme when it is being formally validated under the Bill will not give rise to the need for an option in their cases. Of course the introduction of a widows' and orphans' pension scheme could not be regarded as a worsening of conditions but some officer might make this claim on the basis that he had to pay contributions. It was considered desirable therefore to put the matter beyond doubt.
The second category consists of persons who entered the service on or after 1 June 1978 and had the Superannuation Revision Scheme, 1977, applied to them. That scheme, which had been agreed with staff interests, came into effect on 27 May, 1977, and existing employees were entitled to opt not later than 1 June 1978, to remain under the previous arrangements. However, persons appointed on or after 1 June 1978, were put under the new scheme as part of their conditions of appointment and pending amending legislation. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the validation of the new scheme under the Bill does not, because of the wording of subsection (4) of section 5, give rise to the need for options for these newly appointed employees.
I should like to point out to the House that the amendments now before us were agreed by all parties in the House. It was well debated in the other House and I am glad to say that we got agreement on this. What is happening now is that it is validating all the schemes and in future the Minister will be able to bring in new schemes as desirable. There is no doubt but that it is a step in the righ direction. It is an improvement and I have great pleasure in recommending it to the House.
We have no objection to this scheme because it was agreed to in the other House.
I would like to thank the Members for their co-operation.