I propose that Section 1 of the Pilotage Order Confirmation Bill, stand part of the Bill.
PILOTAGE ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL, 1925—COMMITTEE.
I want to raise a question on Section 1. It has to do with the Pilotage Order, and certain matters arising out of it in connection with pensions to old pilots. I have been approached in respect of proposals regarding the pensions scheme which is now proposed, and with regard to a grievance which the old pilots feel themselves under by virtue of the fact that their pensions are remaining in the very unsatisfactory state of £55, and less, a year, while under the new scheme, men who happen to be a year younger and who will go into pension within the next two or three years, will be in receipt of more than double the amount to which the older pensioners are entitled. The matter affects only eight men, some of whom are from 75 to 80 years of age. The cost is not going to be a continuing one, and is not going to be a great burden for many years on the funds. The practice since 1913 has been that, whereas there was a 12½ per cent. increase in that year and a later increase during the war to £55, in all cases the existing pensioners got the benefit, and any pensioners coming into benefit during that period were also included. Now it is proposed to revise the scale, but to retain the old pensioners at the old and existing scale. Most of these men have served for thirty years, and some of them for forty or fifty years, in the pilot service, and prior to the war their rates of earnings did not exceed, on an average, from 35/- to £2 a week, but they were always paying into the superannuation fund. Some of those now in the service who will be retiring in the next year, happen to have been a little younger when they came into the service and will not retire quite as early, but, although they have been paying the same amount into the superannuation fund they will go into receipt of benefit for twice the amount paid to those recently retired. I put in a plea to the Pilotage Board, the Docks and Harbour Board, on behalf of these seven or eight men that they might well be levelled up in order to meet the new conditions proposed under the new pensions scheme. I am given to believe that the remaining pilots, who are contributors to the fund, are quite satisfied to assist in raising the position of these men. The sum paid at present is, roughly, about £450 a year, and to double their pensions would be another £450 for, perhaps, two or three years for some men, and five or six years for others. The charge on the fund cannot be very long continued.
I do not know whether there is any Deputy who can speak with some authority on this matter, but, if so, I would hope that he would be able to get some clear promise that this matter would be made right and that the conditions of the men would be put on something like an equitable basis. £55 a year is not enough for men who, by the very fact of their calling, have had a great deal of responsibility, and who ought to have a decent retiring allowance in their old age. They are precluded by the fact that they are receiving this money from getting the old age pension, and together it seems to me to be reasonable that the Pilotage Fund administered under the auspices of the Port and Docks Board should, when it is being rearranged in favour of the existing pilots, also be rearranged in favour of those who are at present on pension. I hope that the Bill will not be pressed for a few days until we have had an opportunity of conferring with the Board on this matter.
I would like to support Deputy Johnson's appeal. I have been approached by some of these pilots and have gone into their case, and I think it is a sound one. There is no doubt whatever that it is very difficult to pay post-war prices out of pre-war income. We are finding that out every day. Look at the farmers. They are saying that they cannot do it, and they get 40 per cent. above pre-war prices. Those old men are only getting their pre-war pension of a little over £1 per week. It is very hard for men who have always lived respectably, who have had a considerable amount of technical training, who have filled a responsible position under circumstances often of hardship and sometimes of danger, to come down and live on charity practically. That is what a pension of £1 per week means. If they are not helped by relations or friends they can barely live on it. It is a matter, I think, for reorganisation, possibly to give the existing pilots who are getting better fees a slightly lower pension in order to meet the claim of those old pensioners, who are few in number, who, as Deputy Johnson says, will not live long, and who are undoubtedly in some hardship at the moment.
Perhaps Deputy Hewat, who must know something about the circumstances of these particular cases, would say whether or not he is prepared to accept the suggestion of Deputy Johnson. In the intervening time it might be possible, as a result of conversations and negotiations, to meet the very reasonable demand put up. I happen to know a couple of the men concerned, and I can confirm what Deputy Johnson says, that they are bordering on 80 years of age and that the amount involved is not very much. I understand that the fund is more than solvent as superannuation funds go; that there is a considerable amount in hands and that increased revenue will come into the fund as a result of the reorganisation arising out of this Bill. The case put forward seems to be justified in every respect. I happen to be associated with a superannuation fund where cases of a similar nature were brought forward as a result of the increased prices. I am speaking now of the railways. Provision in all cases has been made for the increased cost of living by increasing the amounts paid to the pensioners pre-war. I think the Dublin Port and Docks Board should be able to do what bigger corporations have done in that respect, in view of the small amount involved, owing to the age of the men and the sum that might be added to the pension. I hope Deputy Hewat will say something that will enable the matter to be placed upon a more satisfactory basis.
Will somebody say where this matter arises?
In the schedule power is given to the Board to do all kinds of things, and it is set out: "The costs, charges and expenses of and preliminary and incidental to the election of Pilot-members shall be paid by the Authority out of the Pilot Fund." The Pilot Fund is a fund which contributes to the Pensions Fund, and it is part of the order of which this schedule is a part. This schedule seems to be only a part of a very much extended order or by-law.
Surely the order is in full?
Quite. Might I ask Deputy Johnson to be precise and to say, if he was proposing to make an amendment, to what section of the schedule would it be, and what would the terms of it be?
I think I would be ruled out of order if I proposed to move an amendment.
I am afraid so.
This question of the Pension Fund is within the authority of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, acting under the Pilotage Act.
Is the Dublin Port and Docks Board the authority mentioned in the schedule?
The authority is the Dublin Port and Docks Board.
I do not want to stand between these old pilots and some increase in their pension, but I am not clear as to the procedure under which Deputy Hewat, as a member of the Port and Docks Board, answers here for something.
The suggestion was made merely with the object of expediting the passing of the Bill. If the opportunity is not availed of, it may be desirable to postpone the passing of the Bill until we have some conversation with the promoters.
Could we not get this into precise order? Pilotage orders are made, I think, in connection with the Pilotage Act of somewhere about 1913, and the object of making Orders under the Pilotage Act is to render the law of pilotage uniform as far as possible and to render it accessible. The procedure that has to be gone through is that the Order is advertised and objections are heard. Objections in this case have been heard and the objections resolved. Then the matter is put forward in the form of an Order to be passed. If there was anything in this Order which gave Deputy Johnson a peg on which to hang an amendment with regard to pensions or superannuation to pilots, possibly there would be a chance of doing what he desires. But I fail to see that there is any such peg. I think the only thing he is driven back on is the rejection of the Bill by reason of something to which objection was not entered at the proper time and which is now being brought up rather late in the day.
As a matter of strict order, of course the Minister is quite right. It may mean the rejection of the Bill. But everyone does not use a sledge hammer to crack a nut, and I did not pretend that the people interested in this matter were going to object to the whole scheme because their claim could not be met. But having been approached in the matter, I think we are entitled to object to the passing of this Bill, which involves a change of the system of pilotage in Dublin Bay, and if we are forced to divide on the question of passing this section, we will have to do it, but I would prefer that the Bill should be postponed with a view to trying to come to some arrangement with the promoters.
In answer to Deputy Johnson, the Order does not change the organisation to the detriment of these pilots. If it did, there would be very good grounds for taking up the position he has taken up. I do not know whether his remarks as to sledge hammers were directed to me. I have nothing to do with this and I am simply trying to make clear the circumstances. But I think I have just as much right to answer or to make promises as Deputy Hewat. Deputy Hewat might make promises in order to get the Bill through, and find them turned down by the Port and Docks Board. If the Deputy in charge of the Bill likes to have it postponed to give Deputy Johnson, speaking on behalf of certain men, an opportunity of getting terms from the Dublin Port and Docks Board. that is another matter.
I should like to direct attention to the piecemeal way in which we are dealing with the Dublin Port and Docks Board here. About twelve months ago a Greater Dublin Commission was appointed, and under the terms of reference they had power to deal with the Dublin Port and Docks Board. We read a few days ago that officials of that Board had to work considerable overtime in preparing evidence for that Commission. While the Commission were dealing with the evidence of the Port and Docks Board, the Government comes along and introduces a resolution setting up a Tribunal on ports and harbours which will also deal with the working of the Dublin Port and Docks Board. That is two Commissions that will be dealing with the working of that Board. To-day we have another Bill dealing with the same Board, when the whole matter could be dealt with by one committee. As this Tribunal has been set up to deal with the working of the harbours in the Saorstát, I suggest to Deputy Johnson that this matter could very well be raised before that Tribunal by some member of his party who will be on that Tribunal. I sympathise very much with the men referred to by Deputy Johnson. I know the hardships borne by some of these very old pilots who are living on practically a starvation pension. I certainly think they are worthy of consideration. But it is somewhat strange that within a few months the Dáil should be called upon three times to consider matters connected with the working of this Board.
This is a Dublin Port and Docks Bill.
In view of what has been stated, if it would facilitate matters, the Committee Stage might be left over for a few days.
Until what date?
Might I say that the postponement of this Bill does not affect the question raised by Deputy Johnson. If it means that an opportunity is going to be given to Deputies to go to the Port and Docks Board and get them to do something that is not covered by the Bill, I suggest that that is rather unnecessary. This Bill is a Pilotage Bill. Of course, it concerns the Port and Docks Board, but, while it is under the auspices of the Board, pilotage is an entirely separate concern. The question raised by Deputy Johnson is not only applicable to old pilots, but to retired civil servants and other people. The Board would be very much inclined to consider favourably any application of this sort if they had the power and the means to improve the lot of these old people. I do, however, object to postponement of this Bill in order to raise a question that does not arise under the Bill.
Deputy Hewat is under a misapprehension with regard to civil service and other pensioners. I know of no body of public servants that did not get some increase in their pensions. Civil servants came under the Increase of Pensions Act of 1920, which gives an increase of 50 per cent. to those who have pensions of less than £60, and 40 per cent. over that. If these old pilots have got no increase, I think it is a matter that ought to be considered, and if the Deputy in charge of the Bill is prepared to have it left over, I suggest that the Dáil ought to agree in order to see what can be done in the matter.
Ordered—"That the Committee Stage of the Bill be taken on Tuesday next."