This Estimate for Superannuation and Retired Allowances is a very precious one to me. It refers to widows and orphans. I have told the story in this House of a colleague of mine who, when he came in here as a very young man, was met by the late Deputy Alfie Byrne who gave him certain hints on how any TD should act, and concluded the advice by saying: "Remember, you will be approached from time to time by widows and you will be asked to do unreasonable things. Never give them a short answer. Never refuse to listen to their stories. They suffered enough the day they lost their breadwinner to justify them in expecting a patient hearing from anyone whom they ask to share their burden."
I approve entirely of the scheme envisaged in respect of pensions for widows and children, but there is an anomaly. This scheme operates ex post facto from the time this Estimate is adopted by the House and the legislation which the Minister may hereafter bring in. However, we are leaving out of consideration a very moderate number of civil servants' widows who were bereaved before this scheme was thought up. I know that the deceased husbands of these ladies could have, under existing arrangements, compounded a part of their own pensions and converted their pensions into a pension extending to the life of themselves and their widows, but certain of them did not do it. We may deplore the improvidence of their decision, but in that we might not be altogether well advised.
Surely it would not tax the resources of the State to say to whatever surviving widows there are for whom no provision is made: "If you are prepared to pay into the fund a sum equivalent to what your husbands would have paid had they been subscribers to such a fund from the time they entered the Civil Service we will see that you get the same pension as the widows of men with equal periods of service will get under the new pensions scheme"? Mark you, when this matter was first brought to my attention, I said: "I do not believe we will need to bring to the attention of the Minister for Finance the fact that there is a relatively small number of women whose husbands died. The Minister will make no difficulty about asking the House for a Supplementary Estimate to cover these few cases." This will be a nonrecurring charge. It can be written off over the years because widows, in the ordinary course of time, will themselves tend to die off, contrary to what Deputy Andrews thinks; he said here during the Health Estimate that he was greatly shocked by the rising death rate amongst our aged citizens.
It is not entirely odd that our aged citizens should show a higher death rate than the juveniles amongst us, but that, apparently, had not occurred to Deputy Andrews' mind. The number of widows will diminish over the years. Hereafter, every civil servant will have this scheme available to him. If the widows are prepared to pay the subscriptions which would have been collected from their husbands, will the Minister consider accepting them? I think he would be justified in accepting them for smaller sums than the total required because circumstances might not permit them to pay the full sum.
I should be glad if the Minister could see his way to bringing the widows of civil servants who died, prior to the emergence of this scheme, within the ambit of the new plan. Every Deputy would be much happier if he could feel that all widows of public servants were covered and that we were not leaving out of consideration a microscopic and diminishing number of widows, already in great difficulties, who could be made very modestly comfortable for the remainder of their days by a very slight effort on our part.
I heard with interest and sympathy what Deputy O'Higgins had to say about invoking sanctions against Britain for her failure to carry out here undertakings under the Free Trade Area Agreement. First, it never was a free trade agreement and that was made perfectly clear from this side of the House at the time it was implemented. It was a trade agreement and, so far as I was concerned, I was in favour of it because it protected agricultural exports, exports without which we could not survive. Thanks be to God, as a result of the principle established in the 1948 Trade Agreement, and carried over into this trade agreement, the good old bullock will pull us out of a great deal of trouble. Bullocks will be worth £12 a cwt. before the end of April, the highest price ever recorded in this country, and that entirely because he has linked them to the price paid for fat cattle in Britain. Thanks be to God.
We may see some of St. Michael's products floating about but, thanks be to God, we see Kerrygold butter appearing in the shops in London, Yorkshire and elsewhere. We hope to sell our cheese in Britain.