Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 21 Feb 1945

Vol. 96 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Vote 16—Superannuation and Retired Allowances.


Go ndeontar suim Breise ná raghaidh thar £11,000 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfas chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú Márta, 1945, chun Pinsean, Aois-Liúntais, Cúitimh, agus Liúntais agus Aiscí, breise agus eile, fé Reachta Iolartha (4 agus 5 Will. 4, c. 24; 22 Vict., c. 26; 50 agus 51 Vict., c. 67; 55 agus 56 Vict., c. 40; 6 Edw. 7, c. 58; 9 Edw. 7, c. 10; 4 agus 5 Geo. 5, c. 86; 9 agus 10 Geo. 5, c. 67 agus c. 68; 10 agus 11 Geo. 5, c. 36; Uimh. 1 de 1922; Uimh. 34 de 1923; Uimh. 7 de 1925; Uimh. 27 de 1926; Uimh. 11 agus Uimh. 36 de 1929; Uimh. 32 de 1933; Uimh. 9 de 1934; Uimh. 39 de 1936; Uimh. 29 de 1938; Uimh. 16 agus Uimh. 21 de 1939; Uimh. 24 de 1942; etc.); Pinsean, Liúntais agus Aiscí, nach cinn Reachtúla, arna ndeonadh ag an Aire Airgeadais; táillí do Dhochtúirí Réitigh agus corr-tháillí do Dhochtúirí; etc.

That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £11,000 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1945, for Pensions, Superannuation, Compensation and Additional and other Allowances and Gratuities under sundry Statutes (4 and 5 Will. 4, c. 24; 22 Vict., c. 26; 50 and 51 Vict., c. 67; 55 and 56 Vict., c. 40; 6 Edw. 7, c. 58; 9 Edw. 7, c. 10; 4 and 5 Geo. 5, c. 86; 9 and 10 Geo. 5, c. 67 and c. 68; 10 and 11 Geo. 5, c. 36; No. 1 of 1922; No. 34 of 1923; No. 7 of 1925; No. 27 of 1926; No. 11 and No. 36 of 1929; No. 32 of 1933; No. 9 of 1934; No. 39 of 1936; No. 29 of 1938; No. 16 and No. 21 of 1939; No. 24 of 1942; etc.); ExtraStatutory Pensions, Allowances, and Gratuities awarded by the Minister for Finance; fees to Medical Referees and occasional fees to Doctors, etc.

The need for the increased provision of £11,000 required in connection with this Vote is attributable to two recent Government decisions: (1) that the cost-of-living bonus payable to serving officers should be related as from the 1st January, 1945, to a figure of 110 instead of the figure of 85 hitherto obtaining; (2) that the bonus element of all pensions awarded since the stabilisation of the bonus in June, 1940, should, with effect from the 1st January, 1945, be related to the figure 110 or such lower figure (105 actually) as would in the ordinary course have applied, had there been no stabilisation.

Decision No. 1 has the effect of immediately increasing requirements in respect of pensions and lump sums payable to or in respect of all officers retiring on or after the 1st January last. Decision No. 2 increases, with effect from the same date, pensions actually in course of payment prior to that date. This decision does not affect lump sum or gratuity payments.

It is estimated that these bonus concessions will involve increased expenditure during the current financial year amounting to £3,000 in sub-head A, annual allowances, that is, pensions, and £10,000 in sub-head B, additional allowances, that is, lump sums and gratuities. A saving of £2,000 is anticipated on other sub-heads of the Vote, leaving £11,000 as the net amount required to meet the further demands in respect of sub-heads A and B up to the 31st March, 1945.

The £11,000 comprises bonus concessions exclusively?

I want to make a further appeal to the Minister in respect of the class of persons who are being excluded from participation in this Supplementary Estimate. I think it was in November last the Minister told us it had been decided to calculate the cost-of-living bonus on the basis of an index figure of 110 instead of 85, and he intimated that that bonus increase would be offered as from 1st January, 1945. He intimated, too, that it was intended to increase the ceiling for the purpose of the emergency bonus from 10/- to 11/- per week. This Supplementary Estimate flows in as a natural consequence of that decision, inasmuch as the pensions of officers who retired as from 1st January last will be now based on an index figure of 110 instead of 85.

He explained to the House, towards the end of the year, the reasons which underlay the decision to calculate the bonus on the basis of 110 instead of 85. The Minister stated that the position was that the Government had stabilised civil servants' remuneration from 1st July, 1940, whereas the remuneration of workers in private employment had not been stabilised until May, 1941. Therefore, stabilisation was effective in respect of the Civil Service for almost a year prior to the operation of stabilisation outside. After many years of pleading, the Government finally recognised that was an inequitable position and they sought to make partial restitution by increasing the index figure from 85 to 110.

Now, if the Minister had not so precipitately stabilised the cost-of-living bonus in July, 1940, the staffs would have been entitled to a much higher index figure between 1940 and 1944. Between those years the staff lost. However, when making restitution, the Minister said: "Forgive me for my past sins in respect of stabilisation. I will make things right partially as from 1st January in respect of those who are serving." But in respect of those who retired between July, 1940, and December, 1944, who are not now in the service, the Minister is not able to make restitution to them as serving officers and so far he has declined to make restitution to them as retired officers.

What the Minister is really doing as from the 1st of January is, he is saying: "Look here, I am going to give you something I know I ought not to have deprived you of years ago." So far as it goes that is all right in respect of those who are serving, but the Minister is really taking advantage of the position of those who retired between January, 1940, and December, 1944, because he is giving them nothing whatever in the form of an increased pension in respect of the money which he now admits he rather hastily deducted from them when he stabilised the bonus in 1940.

I addressed a question to the Minister recently as to how many persons retired between July, 1940, and December, 1944. The Minister had not got the information for 1940 and the figures had not been compiled in respect of 1944 up to the date of the question, but the information I got showed that, in respect of 1941, 1942 and 1943, a period of three years, less than 500 established officers had retired, indicating that the probable rate of retirement was about 160 per year. That is not a very large number to be concerned with in a matter of this kind, and as many of these persons retired on reaching the age limit, it is a wasting liability so far as expenditure from State funds is concerned.

I put it to the Minister that he ought not at this stage to take advantage of the fact that these officers did retire. The cost of adjusting their pensions on the assumption that they had remained in the service from 1940 to 1944 would not be very considerable, and the Minister would then be giving back to persons the amount which, by the alteration of the bonus figure as from 1st January this year, he really has tacitly admitted properly belonged to them while serving. If they had got it while serving, their pensions would have been calculated on that higher scale of remuneration. The cost of meeting the claim would not be very considerable, nor is the duration of the liability likely to be very considerable, because the persons concerned retired, either on the ground of being in very bad health or on reaching the age of 65 years.

If the Minister would agree to concede that claim, he would adjust a matter which is a source of very considerable grievance to persons who feel that the restoration having been made and they having been affected by the earlier stabilisation, they ought not now to be deprived of having that restitution made operative in their cases. It is a special type of case and a matter for sympathetic examination. The Minister can calculate the cost and knows it cannot be considerable, and I should be glad if he would look into the matter specially. If he is not in a position to say that he will meet the claim now, I hope he will find it possible to examine the matter sympathetically, with a view to endeavouring to meet it. I do not think it is beyond the resources of the State, having regard to the relatively infinitesimal expense involved.

I should like to add a few words on similar lines. I think the Minister appreciates, in view of the increase which he has seen fit to grant, that those people whom Deputy Norton mentions have laboured under a very serious disability since the emergency, or since the cost of living increased so rapidly, which is almost the same thing. I have in mind particular cases like former postmen who retired and are in receipt of pensions of something less than £1 per week. These people are in the unfortunate position that they have too much to allow them to receive other benefit and too little to live on. A number of them in that class possibly live on a slightly higher standard than, say, people who get home assistance or other relief from local authorities, and they find themselves in the position that they have to sell or pawn their furniture or leave the houses in which they are living.

The pension originally was barely sufficient to provide the mere necessaries of life, but that pension which, before 1939, bought enough, is now entirely inadequate and these people fall between two stools. As Deputy Norton has said, it would not involve a very considerable sum, because the number of State pensioners in this category is not very large, and the duration of the pension is likely to be short. I ask the Minister particularly to investigate the number of people in the class, and, if possible, to increase the allowances paid to them.

I do not pretend to turn a deaf ear to appeals of the kind made by the two Deputies who have spoken, or to say that I do not feel that, even in addition to the good things which have been said, there is not a good deal which could be put forward in favour of the pensioners particularly referred to, but the same arguments could be used regarding the position of all pensioners as they find themselves now, whatever kind of pension they are drawing from the State, directly or indirectly—whether in the form of old age pension, superannuation allowances, or any other.

My difficulty is that I cannot select one body of pensioners, even one small body, and give them treatment which I am not prepared to ask the Government to give to other classes of pensioners. If I thought our financial situation was such that we could be a little more generous to pensioners of all types—old age, Gárda, Civil Service, national teachers, postmen to whom Deputy Cosgrave referred, and others—I certainly would ask the Government to do so, but I do not think I would be just in selecting a small body of pensioners and treating them advantageously, or disadvantageously, if we compare them with the position in which the vast bulk of those drawing pensions would be placed if I were guilty of such action.

I agree, as I have said before, that when I am paying extra allowances, paying on a higher cost-of-living figure —110 instead of 85—to the serving civil servants and bringing the pensions of those who have gone out of the service since July 1st, 1940, into line with that decision with regard to the increased cost-of-living bonus, I admit that I am doing something for the Civil Service and for the pensioners of that short period which has not been done for everybody, but I think Deputy Norton knows well, and the House understands fully, the reasons for doing that for the Civil Service particularly.

Civil servants were placed in a very disadvantageous position compared with other classes of the community, and the furthest I could ask the Government, or maybe get the Government to go, was to bring civil servants into line, so far as their remuneration and the cost-of-living figure associated with it was concerned, with what was being done for people in private employment. I do not think I could face the extra cost. I have not been without examining it. I have examined it both with regard to the limited class Deputy Norton referred to and to others. I can truthfully say that the figure would not be very large, but it would make an exception and, if I made that exception, there would be reason for somebody else coming along and getting the circle further expanded. Any Deputy then would have a good argument in saying: "You ought to go a little further," and I know what the end would be from the financial point of view. I do not think I could do it.

May I put this to the Minister? I think he will appreciate that in the case of an officer who retired in September of last year—the case of a postman, for instance, who retired in September last—he will have his pension based on an index figure of 85, whereas if he had not retired until January of this year it would be based on a figure of 110. The application of the figure of 110 is for the purpose of giving back to people something that ought not to have been taken from them, something that is now being given to them. Why not, therefore, give it to the one who retired in September, seeing the very great disparity there would be in his pension over a mere three months? Could the Minister not meet the case of persons who retire on a small pension?

There are some claims I would regard as acute—the type of case referred to by Deputy Cosgrave, where people have only £1 a week and where maybe a man is trying to keep himself and his wife on that £1. These are the people I would like to come to the rescue of.

Would you not make the bonus retrospective to 1939?

I do not think so.

Vote put and agreed to.