Committee on Finance. - Army Pensions Bill, 1959—Second Stage.

Tairgim go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois.

Is é is mó atá i gceist sa Bhille seo lamháltais a dheonadh agus aimhrial-tachtaí a chur as an tslí inithe a bhaineann leis na hAchtanna Arm-Phinsean, agus is deimhin liom go dtiocfaidh le Teachtaí glacadh leis gan dua.

Déanann ailt 2 agus 3 soláthar chun liúntais a dheonadh do bhaintreacha agus do leanaí i gcásanna áirithe faoi na hAchtanna 1923 agus 1927 nárbh fhéidir roimhe seo, toisc na gcoin-níollacha a forordaíodh i dtaobh cleithiúnais, ach aiscí amháin a dheonadh nó muna ndéanfaí sin nárbh fhéidir dámhachtain ar bith a dhéanamh. Ní éiríonn an deacracht seo ach i gcásanna áirithe; san Acht 1932, mar shampla, níl a leithéid ann in aon chor. Measaim go n-aontófar, chomh fada is a bhaineann le bain-treacha agus leanaí, gur rud saorga, ar an gcuid is mó de, aon cheist i dtaobh bheith i gcleithiúnas ar fhearchéile nó ar athair marbh agus is é éifeacht ailt a 2 agus ailt a 3 na coinníollacha i leith cleithiúnais a bhaint amach.

Ar an gcuma chéanna, tá Alt 4 ceaptha chun ceartú a dhéanamh i dtaobh leanaí dílleachtacha áirithe de chomhaltaí d'Óglaigh na hÉireann atá faoi bhun na n-aoiseanna forordaithe agus nach féidir leo cáiliú le haghaidh liúntas toisc, mar gheall ar oibriú na nAchtanna áirithe faoina bhfuair an t-athair a phinsean, nach raibh sé ag fáil pinsin phósta le linn báis dó. Sin deacracht freisin nach mbíonn ann i gcónaí. Ní thagann sé i gceist ach i dhá chás—san Acht 1946 agus san Acht 1949—agus tá cúis an-láidir ann lena cur as an tslí.

Mar is eol do Theachtaí, is ionann agus atá do dhaoine neamhphósta, "an tsuim fhorordaithe bhliantúil" chun críocha liúntais speisialta i gcás daoine a pósadh ar nó tar éis an lú Deireadh Fómhair, 1942. Is míbhuntáiste do na daoine pósta sin an t-idirdhealú sin atá gan bhailíocht anois, pé fáth a bhí leis nuair a tugadh isteach na liúntais speisialta don chéad uair. Ar an ábhar sin, tá an t-idirdhealú á chur as an tslí le hAlt 6 den Bhille agus, as seo amach, is mar a chéile an tsuim iomchuí bhliantúil do gach duine pósta lena mbaineann, gan toradh ar an dáta pósta.

I gCuid II den Acht 1953, rinneadh soláthar chun liúntais a íoc le gaolta áirithe de dhaoine marbha a raibh seirbhís acu roimh an sos agus a fuair bás de dheasca cúrsaí do b'inchurtha i leith seirbhíse le linn na tréimhse, 1916-1923. Ar na gaol-aicmí dá ndearnadh soláthar i gCuid II níor áiríodh leanaí buan-easlána agus beartaítear anois in Alt 8 den Bhille, liúntas de £125 sa bhliain a dheonadh do mhac buan-easlán amháin nó, más neamhphósta nó ina baintreach di, d'iníon bhuan-easlán amháin d'aon duine marbh a mbeadh feidhm ag Cuid II ina leith. Beidh sé ina choinníoll ar aon dámhachtain dá leithéid sin an bhuan-easláinte a bheith ar an leanbh, más mac é, sula raibh 18 mbliana slánaithe aige agus, más iníon í, 21 bliain—is é sin le rá, le linn an leanbh a bheith go fóill i gcleithiúnas ar an athair, de réir prionsabail na nAchtanna Arm-Phinsean.

Toirmisceadh roinnt iarratas faoi Chuid II den Acht 1953 mar gheall ar an teorainn ama a leagadh síos sa Chuid sin. Le hAlt 9 den Bhille seo, tá an teorainn ama sin á fadú. Glacfar le hiarratais a dhéanfar laistigh de dhá mhí dhéag tar éis don Bhille seo teacht ina dhlí.

Baineann Alt 10 le teorainn ama freisin. Mhaolaigh an tAcht 1953 na coinníollacha maidir leis an dáta pósta chun cáiliú le haghaidh pinsin phósta i gcás duine a raibh seirbhís aige roimh an sos ach níorbh fholáir do dhaoine a bhí i dteideal chuige agus a raibh pinsin mhíchumais ach nach raibh pinsin phósta acu, iarratas a dhéanamh laistigh de dhá mhí dhéag tar éis an tAcht a rith. Tharla i gcás duine a raibh pinsean míchumais aige sula dtáinig an tAcht 1953 ina dhlí, gur cuireadh an pinsean sin ar fionraí, áfach, i rith na teorann ama ar an ábhar, mar a bhí an scéal, gur thit grád a mhíchumais faoi bhun na teorann inphinsin. Tugadh an pinsean thar n-ais ina dhiaidh sin ach, má tugadh, bhí sé ró-dhéanach aige ansin iarratas a dhéanamh ar an bpinsean pósta. Ceartóidh Alt 10 an cás sin anois agus, ina theannta sin, déanfaidh sé soláthar do chásanna eile den sórt céanna, a fhéadfadh tárlú, i gcúrsaí áirithe, san am le teacht.

I Scéim Óglaigh na hÉireann (Pinsin) lenar ghlac An Dáil agus An Seanad le déanaí, rinneadh soláthar trína ndéanfaí, faoi réir coinníollacha áirithe, féachaint ar leanaí a uchtaítear faoin Acht Uchtála, 1952, amhail is dá mba leanaí iad a rugadh de phósadh dleathach do na tuisimitheoirí uchtála. Tugann Alt 13 den Bhille seo an prionsabal céanna isteach chun críocha na nAchtanna Arm-Phinsean.

Is é an lamháltas deireanach atá agam le lua, gach teorainn ama a bhaint amach maidir le hiarratas a dhéanamh ar Bhonn Seirbhíse (1917-1921), a gcuirfeadh a bhronnadh an duine a gheobhadh é i dteideal iarratas a dhéanamh ar liúntas speisialta. Labhras ina thaobh seo agus Meastachán an nArm-Phinsean á thabhairt isteach agam tamaillín ó shin agus is ar éigean is gá dom a thuilleadh a rá mar gheall air anois. Bainfear amach an teorainn ama de bhua ailt 14 agus an Sceidil.

Tá na hailt eile den Bhille teicniúil iontu féin. I leith forálacha áirithe de na hAchtanna, leagann amach ailt 5, 7 agus 12 an prionsabal ginearálta a rialaíonn cód iomlán na bPinsean—is é sin, nach féidir dámhachtana a dhéanamh a bhfuil baint ag pósadh leo ach amháin nuair a rinneadh an pósadh roimh an dáta urscaoilte i gcás galair nó roimh dháta na créachta i gcás créachta. Beartaítear a chur as an tslí le Alt 10 rud is deacair a léiriú.

This Bill is concerned in the main with the granting of concessions and the removal of anomalies in matters affecting the Army Pensions Acts, and I feel sure that Deputies will find no difficulty in accepting it.

Sections 2 and 3 provide for the award of allowances to widows and children in certain cases under the Acts of 1923 and 1927 in which heretofore, owing to prescribed conditions as to dependency, only gratuities could be awarded or no award could be made at all. This difficulty arises in some cases only; it does not, for instance, occur in the Act of 1932. I think it will be agreed that, where widows and children are concerned, any question of dependency on the deceased husband or father is largely artificial, and the effect of Sections 2 and 3 is to remove the dependency conditions.

In the same way, Section 4 is designed to adjust a position under which certain orphaned children of members of the Forces under the prescribed ages cannot qualify for allowances because, owing to the operation of the particular Acts under which the father received his pension, he was not in receipt of a married pension when he died. This difficulty, again, is not of general application. It arises only in the case of two of the Acts—those of 1946 and 1949—and there is a very strong case for its removal.

As Deputies are aware, the "prescribed annual sum" for special allowance purposes is, in the case of persons married on or after the 1st October, 1942, the same as that for unmarried persons. The distinction operates to the disadvantage of such married persons and has no validity now, whatever its justification may have been when special allowances were first introduced. By section 6 of the Bill, therefore, the distinction is being removed, and for the future, the appropriate annual sum will be the same for all married persons, irrespective of the date of marriage.

In Part II of the Act of 1953, provision was made for the payment of allowances to certain relatives of deceased persons who had pre-truce service and who died as a result of circumstances attributable to service during the 1916-1923 period. The classes of relative covered by Part II did not include permanently invalided children, and it is now proposed, in section 8 of the Bill, to grant an allowance of £125 a year to one permanently invalided son or to one permanently invalided daughter, provided she is unmarried or a widow, of any deceased person in respect of whom Part II would apply. It will be a condition of any such award that the permanent invalidism existed before the child, if a son, attained the age of 18 years, and if a daughter, the age of 21 years— that is to say, while the child would still, in accordance with the principles of the Army Pensions Acts, have been dependent on the father.

A number of applications under Part II of the Act of 1953 have been debarred by reason of the time-limit laid down in that Part. By Section 9 of the Bill, the time-limit in question is being extended. Applications will be accepted if made within twelve months after this Bill becomes law.

Section 10 also relates to a time-limit. The Act of 1953 relaxed the conditions as to the date of marriage for the purpose of qualifying for a married pension in the case of a person with pre-truce service, but application had to be made within twelve months of the passing of the Act by eligible persons who had disablement pensions but not married pensions. A case arose of a person who, before the Act of 1953 became law, had a disablement pension which was, however, suspended during the period of the time-limit because, as it happened, his degree of disability had fallen below the pensionable limit. The pension was subsequently restored, but it was then too late for him to apply for the married pension. Section 10 will now adjust this case, and will also cover other such cases which, in certain circumstances, could arise in the future.

In the Defence Forces (Pensions) Scheme which was recently approved by the Dáil and Seanad, provision was made whereby children adopted under the Adoption Act 1952 would, subject to certain conditions, be regarded as if they were children born in lawful wedlock to the adopting parents. Section 13 of the present Bill introduces the same principle for the purposes of the Army Pensions Acts.

The last concession which I have to mention is the removal of any time-limit for applying for a Service (1917-1921) Medal, the award of which would render the recipient eligible to apply for a special allowance. I spoke about this matter when introducing the Estimate for Army Pensions a short time ago, and it is hardly necessary for me to say any more about it now. The time-limit will be removed by virtue of Section 14 and the Schedule.

The remaining sections of the Bill are technical in nature. Sections 5, 7 and 12 set out, in respect of certain provisions of the Acts, the general principle which governs the entire pensions code, namely, that awards affected by marriage may be made only if the marriage took place before the date of discharge in the case of disease or, in a wound case, before the date of the wound. Section 10 is intended to remove a difficulty of interpretation.

I hope that, taken in conjunction with the explanatory memorandum which accompanied the Bill, my remarks will have made its provisions quite clear to Deputies.

On reading the memorandum accompanying the Bill, one is forced to the conclusion that it is as clear as mud. I doubt if there is a single member of the old I.R.A. or of the Defence Forces to whom this Bill applies who could say whether it applies to his particular case or not. I should much prefer that the Minister, in his memorandum or in his statement introducing the Bill, had given us a picture of the types of cases he has in mind and in whose favour this Bill will operate. It appears that it will be of benefit to a number of people, but who they are or what the type of officer, N.C.O. or man is, it is impossible to say. I may be dense, but I have gone through the Pensions Acts to try to find out exactly to what type of person this Bill refers, and I find it very difficult to decide.

The Minister, in his statement, I admit, gave us some indication of the nature of the Bill. The nature of the Bill can be summed up in these few words, that it will be of benefit to somebody and that the number is not large. I should like the Minister to say how many are likely to be involved and what the types of cases are.

I know that there is some part of the Bill that we can accept right away. The Minister says he is removing the time-limit on applications for a military service medal. That was clear enough and that is a thing he has announced already as being his intention. It is a right thing to do and everyone can accept it.

Again, in the case of children, where the question of dependency had to be proved, he is removing now a very unreasonable disability which applied to these children. It is right that that should be done; but again, we have no indication as to the extent of its operation. Are they to apply? How is application to be made? How are these people to get information relating to this? Will they be informed that, because they had applied before, there is a record in the Department, that this is so and so's widow who had some means at some stage or when her husband died in the Forces and therefore she was not regarded as totally dependent and entitled to a gratuity, and so on? Will they be informed? I think the Minister should tell them.

Anyone we know of.

In introducing a measure such as this, the Minister should give all the information possible to those who may benefit under it. If that is not done, it will be argued that some people, because of political affiliations or something or another, are the only ones who will benefit. I object thoroughly to that, no matter what Government does it. When a measure like this is brought in, it should be for the benefit of all who come under it.

This Bill brings the 1923 and 1927 Acts into line with the 1932 Act. There is nothing political about that, surely?

I am fully aware of that. The Minister has said that he is amending those Acts, but the extent of the amendment is as clear as mud. To find out to whom the Act applies would tax the ingenuity of the most intelligent back-bencher over there. If he did not have a talk with the Minister he would not know to whom it applies.

I am disappointed with the Bill because there are widows of officers, N.C.O.s and men of both forces who for one reason or another were unable to qualify. There has always been a promise that an amending Act would bring them in at some stage but this Act does not do that. There are people in both forces who are not covered yet. However, I suppose we must be grateful for what we get. Every effort made to alleviate the hardship and suffering of the children and widows of those who serve the State is to be commended and I commend the Minister in so far as he has gone.

I am aware of cases concerning officers who had disability pensions for pre-Truce service and who got married subsequent to 1922. When they died their widows were not covered. The point of view is that the widow knew she was marrying a person with a disability at the time she married him. That matter should be re-examined. I am aware that the Department know something about it and I should be glad if the Minister would direct the Department to have a look at it so that, even at this late stage, it might be amended.

The extension of the time and the increase in regard to the special allowance are very welcome. I am surprised to learn that the number of applications is so large. The Minister was wise in removing the time-limit. Whenever there is evidence substantiating a person's claim to a medal, he should get it. I believe that is the correct view. I have always held that view and I am glad that the Minister is taking it now.

On the question of the allocation of medals, I am still dissatisfied. There is grave dissatisfaction in regard to the whole question of verification. I mentioned it when the Minister's Estimate was going through. There must be some method that will give satisfaction and appear to give justice. There is dissatisfaction that verification is not as it should be and is left to certain people in certain areas. I know for a fact that people who have been asked to verify members of the volunteers were people who could not possibly be in a position to give any information personally. What they had to do was to inquire from somebody else. That is unsatisfactory because if there is any dispute, either political or otherwise, between them, you can very easily get an adverse report. Sworn affidavits, by people who had service, who are aware of every fact about the person concerned and in a position to testify whether or not he was a member of the Defence Forces, should be accepted.

It is sheer nonsense to accept a report from anybody on this matter. That might open up a very wide field but where a volunteer is arguing and saying he is entitled, then I think sworn affidavits should be the order of the day where there is any doubt. Let there be an explanation as to why the name was not on the roll in the 1924 Act. Everybody knows some doubtful names were included in that Act and other names left out. I do not think that was done maliciously, but at the same time there is evidence to substantiate that. I feel this is merely a piecemeal amendment. I should like to have more time to examine the Minister's introductory speech and his reply before saying whether I accept the Bill wholeheartedly.

It appears from what the Minister intervened to say while Deputy MacEoin was speaking that it was not the Minister's intention or that of his Department to bring home to persons who may be affected by this proposed legislation the changes that are being made. That is to be regretted.

I think I said the opposite. I said anyone I know of would be informed.

The Minister knows of?

There will be an advertisement in the papers too.

That will be better.

Deputy MacEoin asked me would we let the people affected know. I said certainly, anyone we knew of, anyone whose application had been turned down.

I would be extremely concerned that it would be merely those the Minister knows of——

I was merely asked a question.

I understand the position may be that everybody, even those the Minister does not know of, may benefit.

And the only way they can be notified is by an advertisement in the paper.

And that will be done?

That will be done.

I am glad to think that will be so.

And the Minister when concluding will perhaps give us examples of the cases he has in mind.

Not being as familiar with this code as the Minister and Deputy MacEoin are, I was at a loss to understand how this legislation is likely to affect cases of which I am aware. I hope the Minister will avail of Deputy MacEoin's invitation and explain by example how the legislation may affect individual cases. My real purpose in intervening in this debate is to raise one case, not in relation to any individual, but as the type of case which should be covered by this type of amending legislation. I hope I shall not be told before I deal with it that it is not in order. I am concerned with the case—and I believe there are a number of them—of a widow who is entitled to receive a pension by reason of the services given by her husband in the Defence Forces of this country. If a person who is entitled to a widow's pension under our present legislation becomes a widow at an age which permits her to do so, and takes up employment from which she receives payment from the Central Fund—do not stop me for a moment—she now finds that she is not entitled to receive her pension. I have been trying to raise this matter from time to time but I have always been told it was the wrong occasion.

There was an opportunity a couple of weeks ago.

Apparently, I was not in a position to do it at that time.

When the Defence Forces Pension Scheme was before the House.

Is there likely to be a further opportunity?

There should be another opportunity in the autumn.

We shall have to bring in another amendment to provide for the six per cent. increase.

Will the Minister accept what I am saying as due notice that I shall raise the matter again? I am certain the Minister is aware of these few cases in which considerable hardship is involved and it is not clear why, since ameliorating legislation has been introduced on other facets of the same problem, it could not be done in relation to these cases and so bring finality to the matter.

The Bill, to my mind, is very desirable and welcome legislation in so far as pensions are concerned because, in recent years, a number of anomalies and difficulties of various kinds have come to light under the heading of disability pensions, and the Bill goes a fair way to meet such difficulties.

I agree with the point made by Deputy MacEoin in connection with the very limited number of applicants for service medals who have been refused because satisfactory verification was not forthcoming. I find from my short experience in the House, dealing with applications of this kind as a Deputy, that the Department of Defence is inclined to refuse the issue of a medal in circumstances where one of a panel reports unfavourably on an applicant's eligibility.

So far as I know, the application forms, which are issued to applicants for medals under this heading, require the applicant to state the names of four people who were officers, or who are competent to verify his application. We find, however, from our experience, that the Department take it on themselves to issue query forms to other verifiers outside the four mentioned. It is quite understood, of course, that where any of the four might not be available—one might be dead or have left the country—it would be quite reasonable for the Department to substitute the name of another person and send queries for the relevant information. I find, however, that, in quite a number of cases, information is sought from persons who could not reasonably be expected to be in possession of any facts which might make it possible for them to speak for or against the applicant.

I have seen a number of those cases also where one of the four or five people invited to give information might report unfavourably and the other three might report favourably, and the report of the person who reported unfavourably was very often taken. There are certainly a number of cases where applicants were refused in such circumstances.

I hope the Bill makes provision for the re-hearing of these cases. The Minister could devise some machinery under the authority of the Bill to reexamine them. I often feel myself that a very desirable way of dealing with such applications would be to have them examined at local level. The Minister would be justified in setting up a panel of inquirers to visit a particular district and notify such applicants to come along to be examined by this inquiring body, with a view to ascertaining whether or not they could qualify for the issue of a medal.

Up to the present, the inquiries have been carried out through the post and an applicant was not informed of the exact reason which justified the Minister in refusing his application. He was merely told that from the evidence available, he did not appear to qualify for the issue of a medal and beyond that, he got no information. There is, to my mind, some justification for the appeal which has been made by Deputy MacEoin that such cases should be re-examined and that applicants, some of whom have been pushing their applications for a number of years, should now get an opportunity of a re-hearing. The Minister, I would say, should give them the benefit of the doubt whenever there is any doubt in such cases.

An appeal was made also for some amendment of existing legislation with regard to the payment to widows of disability pension allowances where the date of marriage was later than that already stipulated. I know one case myself where, because of the second marriage of the applicant, his dependants would not qualify for the allowance, whereas if he had not married the second time, his first wife would qualify. That probably is an unusual type of case, but there are a limited number of such cases throughout the country. I should be inclined to suggest that the number is not very large and that the financial implication would not be considerable if the Minister were in a position to make provision for border-line cases of that kind. These people are suffering from a sense of insecurity at the moment and just because the date of marriage happens to be a little later than that which was set down some ten or 15 years ago, they have no hope of being in a position to get something which would otherwise be forthcoming. I sincerely hope the Minister will find it possible to examine into this point and try to give some relief in regard to it.

It is wise to have the period extended and, from that point of view, this Bill is welcome. There cannot be so many left now. I am concerned mainly with two or three cases in which guarantees were given, either by the Minister or his predecessor, both to me here in this House and to Senator Ted O'Sullivan in the Seanad in relation to the dependants of men who lost their lives, who were murdered by the British Forces here. I have one case in mind in the Carrigtwohill area where due to the circumstances in which an unfortunate man was murdered his child is still dependent upon charity.

That is covered.

A definite guarantee was given by the Minister.

That case is covered.

I am very glad that particular case is covered.

I think Deputies will find in the statement I made that the provisions in the Bill have been explained as well as they can be explained. The case mentioned by Deputy Corry is being dealt with. As Deputies know, the Act of 1953 included a provision whereunder an annual allowance of £125 would be paid to certain dependants of people who lost their lives or incurred disability in the period 1916 to 1923 on active service. However, permanently invalided children were not included and we are now, in this Bill, extending the application of the section to include one permanently invalided son or one permanently invalided daughter of such people. A son or daughter will now be entitled under this Bill to an annual allowance of £125. The Bill also extends the time limit for applications for allowances under the particular section by 12 months.

The Army Pensions Act of 1953 relaxed the conditions relative to the date of marriage for the purpose of qualifying for married pensions. There was a time limit of 12 months in which to make these applications. A case arose where a person who had a disability pension prior to 1953 had not got this pension during the period this time limit was in existence. In other words, his pensionable disability had fallen below the grade which qualified him for a pension. The result was that during the period of this time limit he had not, in fact, got a disability pension, but the pension was restored later because the percentage disability increased later. He was then too late to apply for a married pension. We are now covering that case and any other cases of a similar nature which may arise in the future. At the moment we know of only one case.

I think the provision with regard to the appropriate annual sum for special allowances is clear and there is no need for me to go into it any further.

Two other provisions deal with the removal of the necessity for the widow or children of a deceased officer or soldier to prove absolute dependency. I do not know how many will be affected. At the moment we know of only one case which will be covered by Section 2 and three cases which will be covered by Section 3 of this Bill. Others may arise.

With regard to the extension of the time limit for applications under Part II of the 1953 Act, we know of 37 late applications in that respect. There may be more. Others may not have applied because they knew that the time for making applications had lapsed. I cannot give any estimate of the number of new cases that may be affected.

It was suggested that marriages taking place at any time should qualify for married pensions. That would be quite contrary to the principles which have always operated. It universally applies, I think, that the married pensions element in a disability pension is paid only if the marriage takes place, in the case of a wound, before the date of the wound, or, in the case of a person who retired due to disability, before the date of retirement from the Army. In the 1953 Act, a big concession was given; the date was in fact extended to 10th December, 1932. I think it is unreasonable to ask now that it should be extended still further, particularly when a second marriage is involved which took place after the 1932 Act had actually been passed. The justification for extending the date to 10th December, 1932, in the 1953 Act was that the 1932 Act was the last of the principal Acts relating to disability arising from 1916-1923 service and it was felt desirable to fix the date of that Act as the latest qualifying date by which marriages should have taken place.

On the Estimate for Army Pensions we had arguments about the verifications for medals. I pointed out the difficulties then. The present system seems to be the most satisfactory that can be devised. When there is a conflict of evidence, there is no way that I know of in which to resolve it.

Swear them.

People resent being sworn. One loses co-operation altogether then.

It they do, then they are just shirking their responsibility.

If a man will deliberately verify a person whom he knows in fact not to have been a member, it is doubtful if swearing will make very much difference. It is wrong to suggest that, if there are three who verify but one who does not verify, we automatically rule such cases out. There is always some other consideration, such as the absence of the name from the rolls that were submitted. Certainly, I have gone through a number of these cases in very great detail and I feel quite satisfied that in any case where the due award of a medal has been refused the person had not in fact been a member as, otherwise, it should have been possible to prove it. I certainly cannot think of any better system of verification and I do not think that the idea of looking for sworn affidavits in all these cases—and there is a very great number of them —would prove effective.

The question that Deputy O'Higgins raised is not, as I said, appropriate to this Bill but he will be able to raise it when the proposed amendment to the Defence Forces Pensions Scheme is being brought in in the next session.

Deputies will find, if they study the matter, that what we are doing is reasonably clear and, as I said in reply to Deputy MacEoin and Deputy O'Higgins during the debate, in any cases that we know of, where applications have been turned down because they were not covered up to this and which are now covered, the persons concerned will be notified of the present position and, in regard to other people whom we do not know of, there will be an advertisement published in the papers. I do not see what else we can do about it.

I should like to ask the Minister a question. A constant complaint that reaches me from my constituents is that a man who applies is turned down without interview.

That is for a military service pension. This Bill has nothing to do with it.

It arises on the military service pensions scheme.

I doubt if it could be debated on this Bill.

These are only disability pensions.

Is there any case where these persons are turned down without personal interview?

That does not arise either, although it has been dealt with. They are not personally interviewed for the award of the medals. What we do is to approach the appropriate officers for verification. The Deputy is thinking of an applicant for a military service pension. Some applicants were turned down without getting a hearing because the referee held that they had not established a prima facie case in their application and there was no point, therefore, in calling them up and giving them a hearing.

It leaves them with a great sense of grievance.

They have all had several opportunities of presenting their case.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 7th July, 1959.