I congratulate the Executive on this Bill, and I do not want to offer any hostile criticism of it. I think it is a necessary Bill and a good Bill. There are just one or two points I would like to be clear about. Section 8 of the Bill deals with the question of remuneration in regard to pensions, and I would like to know if the receipt of unemployment benefit by one of these discharged soldiers would interfere with his pension under the Bill.
PUBLIC BUSINESS. - MILITARY SERVICE PENSIONS BILL, 1924—SECOND STAGE.
I should say, offhand, that it would not, but I am afraid it is a law point. It was not intended that it should interfere. I take unemployment benefit to mean £1 per week. If the Senator looks at the schedule he will find that £100 is the initial sum in respect of which deduction is made. It starts them with a deduction of 5 per cent. of the pension. In any case, whatever deduction would be made it would be in respect of the pension it would be made, and not in respect of whatever benefit one would derive either from employment under a local authority or under the Government. A man at present in receipt of, let us say, £100 per year, would be entitled under this Act to £60 a year. The deduction is in respect of the £60. He still retains his full salary.
I am satisfied with the explanation. I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill, which supplies a great want. I know of many people who will benefit by the Bill and who deserve well of the State. I am sure that the idea underlying the Bill is that the State should do its duty by people who deserve well of the State.
I would like to know what is the implication of Section 4 (1) which reads:—
The Minister may with the sanction of the Minister for Finance and subject to the provisions of this Act grant to any person to whom the Minister shall have granted a certificate of military service under this Act a military service pension commencing as from the first day of October, 1924, or the day of his discharge from the National Forces or the Defence Forces of Saorstát Eireann, whichever of those days shall be the later, provided however that no person shall receive any such military service pension unless money for the payment of such military service pension shall have been voted by the Oireachtas.
I understand that the moneys will be voted by the Oireachtas, but does it mean that at any stage the Oireachtas may discontinue any pension, or will the pensions of each individual be open to discussion on each occasion on which the Vote is discussed?
It would mean that the Oireachtas would have to pass money each year in respect of this service and in respect of any liability that the State is under, under this Bill. As to the other matter mentioned, "whichever of those days shall be the later," refers to officers and men at present serving in the Army—that they would be able on leaving the Army to make application for a pension if they were so entitled. It was considered that unless that section were put in, the Bill would apply only to those who were at present out of the Army, and that, in consequence, men who are at present serving might elect to leave the Army in order to get the benefit of the Bill. It was considered fair that it should not only refer to those who had resigned or had been demobilised, but that it should apply in respect of persons who are at present serving.
Will it mean that all who served during any of the periods mentioned will at any future time they may leave the Army, be entitled to pensions based upon this First Schedule?
Yes, but there are conditional periods. There must be pre-Truce service and there must be service in the National Forces. Granted these conditions, every man in the Army maintains his claim. But he will not get the pension while serving in the Army. He is entitled on demobilisation or resignation to make a claim. Claims are conditional upon (1) pre-Truce service in certain periods, (2) service in National Forces or Defence Forces since 1st July, 1922.