Local Government Bill, 1936—Second Stage.

I move: "That the Local Government Bill, 1936, be now read a Second Time." The Local Government Act of 1933 provided that where a person's service under a local authority was interrupted by absence on account of political activities during the period from July, 1922, to April, 1923, any remuneration withheld on account of such absence could be paid within six months after the passing of the Act. In a few cases there was some delay, and the time limit expired before the necessary resolution was passed, or before payment was made. There were also some cases in which application for payment was made too late. This amending Bill provides that where it was decided to pay and payment was not made owing to the time limit having expired, to allow it to be made when the Bill becomes law. It is also proposed to allow local authorities a period of 12 months to deal with any applications for withheld remuneration that could not be dealt with under the Act of 1933 owing to their not having been received in time.

The Act of 1933 also dealt with pensionable service which was broken owing to an officer resigning or being dismissed for political reasons after January, 1922. But that part of the Act applied only to officers. There are a few cases in which the services of pensionable wage earning employees were interrupted in the same circumstances as those of officers, and it is proposed to treat these employees in the same manner as officers have been treated, that is, to link the first period of employment with the second and allow service to be reckoned from the original date of employment.

There are some local officers who left or were removed from the local service for political reasons and who could not get back their places in the local service. Some of these have since entered the Civil Service. Had they remained in the local service they would, in due course, have become entitled to pensions. It is proposed now that a pension or gratuity, as the case may be, shall be fixed by the local authority. This pension will not be payable until the officer retires from the Civil Service. His service will be reckoned from the date of first appointment up to the date of entry to the Civil Service, and the Minister for Finance will, in certain cases in which the pensionable period exceeds ten years, make a contribution in respect of part of the pension. Normally the local authority will be responsible for the first ten years and for such portion of the pension in respect of the period in excess of ten years as may be determined. In the case of officers whose local service was given outside the Saorstát, the Exchequer will be responsible for the whole of the local service pension.

A few cases were brought to notice in which persons who had been in the local service and who had lost their employment for political reasons could not now be re-employed on account of their age or the state of their health. We propose to deal with these by a gratuity which will not exceed £150 in any case. These gratuities will be borne by the Exchequer. The first intention was to put the names into the Bill, but as there was some doubt whether the two or three cases of which we had particulars were the only persons that would come into this category it was decided to leave the matter to the discretion of the Minister, who will consider the claims as they arise within the limit of 12 months, which the Bill fixes.

I may say about the Bill generally that I do not anticipate that the numbers to be dealt with under any section will be large. Except in Section 5 the Bill contains nothing that the Act of 1933 did not contemplate, and Section 5, so far as we can see, is not likely to involve a large charge.

Question agreed to Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 18th November.