Military Service Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 1960—Second Stage.

Tairgim go léifí an Bille athuair anois. Faoi mar a fheicfidh Teachtaí, is Bille gairid é agus gan ann ach dhá fhoráil ar fad.

Is é an gá atá le hAlt 1 údarás reachtúil a thabhairt maidir le méaduithe ar na pinsin is iníoctha faoi Achtanna na bPinsean Seirbhíse Míleata, 1924 to 1953, i leith fianais sa tréimhse 1916 go 1923. £34,000 an tsuim a mheastar mar chostas bliantúil na méaduithe sin, a deonadh le héifeacht ón lú Lúnasa, 1959 amach, ar údarás Meastacháin Bhreise le haghaidh pinsean a ritheadh sa Teach seo ar an 22ú Iúil, 1959, agus atá de réir na méaduithe le haghaidh pinsinéirí Stáit, i gcoitinne, aúdaraíodh ag an Aire Airgeadais ina Ráiteas ar an gCáinaisnéis in Aibreán, 1959.

Tá Alt 2 den Bhille ceaptha chun go bhféadfar earráidí a cheartú a fuarthas bheith déanta ag an Réiteoir agus a chinneadh á leagadh amach aige i dtaobh dhá iarratas ar dheimhnithe seirbhíse faoi Acht na bPinsean Seirbhíse Míleata, 1934. Tá an dá chás sin sonraithe san Alt trí thagairt do na dátaí a rinneadh na hiarratais, a cuireadh go dtí an Réiteoir iad agus a tugadh tuarascáil orthu agus, cé go raibh ar intinn ag an Réiteoir tuarascálacha dearfacha a dhéanamh —rud go ndeonfaí deimhnithe agus pinsin dá bharr—thárla, ina ionad sin, gur shínigh sé tuarascálacha diúltacha. Cuireadh an dá chás de láimh sa tseachtain dheireanach de shealbhaíocht oifige an Réiteora. Fuair an Réiteoir bás sular tugadh na hearráidí faoi deara agus is é atá beartaithe sa Bhille an dá earráid a cheartú le comhaontú beirt chomhaltaí den Choiste Comhairlitheach a bhí ag cabhrú leis agus an dá chás á scrúdú.

Táim sásta gur leor-chosc ar earráidí den sórt sin, de gnáth, an córas oibre atá ann agus go raibh mar aon-chúis leo cur-as a rinneadh don ghnáth-nós sna codanna deireanacha d'obair an Réiteora. Táthar tar éis na cásanna go léir a cuireadh de láimh sa sé mhí dheireanacha dá shealbhaíocht oifige a scrúdú agus táthar sásta nach raibh aon chásanna eile den tsamhail chéanna ann i rith na tréimhse sin.

Ní dóigh liom gur gá a thuilleadh a rá mar gheall ar an mBille ach, má tharraingíonn Teachtaí aon phointí anuas, déanfaidh mé trácht orthu agus mé ag críochnú.

As Deputies will see, this is a short measure containing only two provisions. Section 1 is necessary in order to give statutory authority for increases in the pensions payable under the Military Service Pensions Acts 1924 to 1953 in respect of active service in the period 1916 to 1923. The annual cost of the increases which were granted with effect from 1st August 1959, on the authority of a Supplementary Estimate for pensions passed in this House on 22nd July 1959, is estimated at £34,000 and the increases are in accordance with those for State pensioners, generally, authorised by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement in April 1959.

Section 2 of the Bill is designed to provide power to correct errors which were found to have been made by the Referee in setting out his findings in respect of two applications under the Military Service Pensions Act, 1934, for the grant of service certificates. In the two cases (which are defined in the section by reference to the dates on which the applications were made, referred to the Referee and reported on) it transpired that the Referee, while intending to make affirmative reports which would have resulted in the award of certificates and pensions, did in fact sign negative reports. Both cases were dealt with in the last week of the Referee's tenure of office. The Referee had died before the errors were discovered and the proposal in the Bill is that the two errors should be corrected with the concurrence of two of the members of the Advisory Committee who assisted him in the investigation of the two cases.

I am satisfied that, in the ordinary course of events, the system would have prevented such errors occurring and that they occurred solely as a result of a disturbance of the ordinary routine in the concluding stages of the Referee's work. All the cases dealt with in the last six months of his tenure of office have been examined and it has been established that there were no other similar cases during that period.

I do not think that the Bill calls for any further comment, but I will be glad, in concluding, to deal with any points which Deputies may raise.

While the recipients of these increases are, of course, glad to get them many of the increases are completely ridiculous. A 6 per cent. increase on a military service pension of £9 distributed over twelve months comes to a princely figure. I repeat what I said on the other Bill that if you added the £34,000 and the £11,500 involved in these two proposals, and transferred that sum to the widows of people who died from disease you would have done a great day's work. I assert positively that I do not believe there is a single Old I.R.A. officer, N.C.O. or man who would begrudge that to see justice done. To some people like myself, or to people like the Minister for Finance, the 6 per cent. is a substantial sum, £18 to £24 a year, but to the man on the £9 a year pension it is 8d. a month. They are the majority.

I appeal to the Minister to be careful in what he is doing in Section 2 of this Bill. He tells us that the Referee made a negative report where he intended to make an affirmative report. He is now taking power to amend that report. Every Minister for Defence when he was challenged as to why a certain person did not get a military service pension—when the Deputy who was speaking knew that that person was entitled to it, that the reason he failed to get it was that he did not understand what were the qualifying factors through which he would be granted a pension—would reply that the decision of the referee was final and binding. The Minister is now taking steps to alter that.

Through clerical errors only.

I shall deal with that the next day. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.