I think we all agree with what the Minister said and what Senator Kissane has said about welcoming this Bill. It is quite obvious that it meets a case which has been made by the civil servants, and that it will be appreciated by them, and consequently will be approved, I think, by all of them without exception. Therefore, we in this House will, I assume, unanimously accept the general principles behind the Bill.
It does seem to me, however, that this is a Bill which is pre-eminently capable of improvement in such a deliberative body as ours. I noticed that in the Dáil the whole discussion was contained in two speeches, including that of the Minister, and that the Committee, and all other stages went through in about four and a half minutes. I feel there are some clauses and some points of general principle which we ought to discuss before we pass this Bill and it is my contention there are some amendments—not very big ones—which might nevertheless be made.
I should like, first, to consider the general principle of a pension. The general principle behind granting a pension is a recognition of the fact that the salary is not sufficient to save on in order to provide for the old age of the worker concerned. Therefore, the employer—in this case the State— grants, over and above the salary, a pension on retirement. The point has been made before, in relation to superannuation of local authority servants, that many people accept posts with relatively low salaries because of the advantage they carry with them of having a pension at the end. That is an understandable attitute of mind— accepting a post at a relatively low salary because it gives both security of tenure and a pension at the end of it.
If you ask any of our civil servants why they were content to be civil servants when, in the business world, the commercial world, the world of the professions, they might reasonably, with their training and ability, have expected to earn more, £ for £, outside, I think, some would reply that the pension is a valuable part of the salary. I think, that is basic, and it is the pension is a valuable part of the salary. I think that is basic, and it is related to some of the things I want to suggest presently.
If the salary is not big enough to permit saving for old age, I would argue that, similarly, the pension deriving from such a salary to the retiring civil servant is not big enough to allow him to save for the surviving years of his partner, his wife, his widow. I think that is clearly demonstrated. The pension itself, being much smaller than the salary, would not be enough to enable him, out of that pension, to provide for whatever remaining years there would be for the surviving partner, or for the dependents, if the retired civil servant dies. Therefore, the Government has quite rightly decided to introduce this Bill to allow a civil servant to make over, in advance, portion of his pension, which is part of his right, which is part of his salary, which is fully earned by him, which is not a charitable grant made to him by a kindly Government. He is enabled by this Bill to make over part of that pension to be dependent should he die.
Basically, I take it that the salary given to a married civil servant is regarded as big enough to support himself, his wife and his family. I say it is "regarded" as being sufficient. That might be open to private discussion. Nevertheless, the general assumption is that the salary paid to the married civil servant is big enough to support himself, his wife and family and is intended to cover such expenditure. Therefore, I would contend that the pension is calculated with a view to making it big enough to support the retired pensioner and his wife—one may assume, perhaps, that the family is self-supporting by that time.
I would contend that, just as the wife might be taken to have a right to a share of the man's salary, so, too, the wife has a right to a share of his pension. Although the pension is not paid to her, in common equity and in common justice, the pension right ought to vest in the wife as much as in the husband. Consequently, I would say there ought to be a continuing right, if the husband dies, in respect of the surviving years of the widow. I would say that this Bill does not quite recognise that, but recognises at any rate the right of the pensioner to give some of his pension to his widow, should he die. I cannot help wondering whether that is sufficiently generous. The Minister has made it clear that the State will not lose any money by this measure. They have worked it all out. It has been done on an actuarial basis. The basis is that the civil servant may make over some of his pension rights for the sake of his widow and family, but we are not going to lose a farthing by it; there will be no loss to the State.
I feel that, although civil servants have requested this Bill, yet if they were not civil servants, shall we say, they might be inclined to say, when both Houses of the Oireachtas, have passed it, "Thank you—for nothing", because what we are giving them is the right to give some of their own money to some of their own family. I feel, therefore, that this right by itself is not sufficient—in other words, this giving of the right to a civil servant to provide for his widow out of his own pension rights, sacrificed in advance is not enough. The idea behind it is good but it is not couched in sufficiently generous terms. To make quite clear what I mean: I should like to see a widow being granted half the value other deceased husband's pension as an automatic right. That would cost the State money, of course. However, I would like to feel that the Minister would be prepared at least to give that proposal some consideration—the recognition of the right of the widow to some pension in her own right. I should say that the ordinary expenses of life will be for her at least half what they were when her husband was alive, if she is the surviving partner.
I should like a Bill which, quite simply, would allow the Government to pay half the civil servant's pension to the surviving partner. My criticism is not of the basic principle of the Bill, but of its being hedged round with exclusions and exceptions which will be found in the Bill as it is at present framed. I think it would be unfair to say that the major aim of the farmers of the Bill has been to see to it that the State does not lose anything by it. Nevertheless, one feels that they have not given much away—by conceding the right to a man on his retiral from the Civil Service to give some of his pension money away to his family. The State is not giving anything at all. The Minister has told us just now that there will be no loss to the State.
I should like now, therefore, to examine some of the precautionary clauses with which this Bill is surrounded. I would refer to Section 3, sub-section 4 (b) which reads:—
"a person shall not be entitled to make a surrender under this Act unless the Minister decides that the person is of sound health."
That means that this surrender has to be made before retirement, and that a civil servant whose health is not first-class will be excluded by the conditions of the Bill. A civil servant who is not in sound health will not be covered by this Bill! The Minister has to be satisfied, after medical examination, that the person who wants to make this kind of surrender of his own pension right—for which he has worked and for which he has made sacrifices in terms of salary—is in sound health: he will not have the right to give that up if he is not in sound health.
What civil servants are most likely to be actively and urgently concerned with this right to make provision for their dependents and widows, should they die? They are those very civil servants who are not in sound health. More, by far, than those who are in good health, those who are not in good health will be worried, will be concerned, and will wish to avail themselves of the power granted by this Bill to provide, out of their own hard-won pensions, for their widows and dependents. However, by this clause they are excluded. I feel entitled to call that kind of discrimination and that kind of "hedging round" ungenerous. Those who will most feel the need of this newly-granted right are automatically deprived of that right by the Bill itself! I feel that that is a bad principle.
I notice also, and it is a related objection on my part, that, under Section 3, this surrender right shall be granted to male established civil servants retiring on or after the appointed day "otherwise than on the ground of ill-health". That is another section of the Civil Service to be excluded from the use of this Bill, namely, civil servants who retire, not on reaching the retirement age, but by reason of ill-health. This may be ill-health contracted in the course of their duties as civil servants. If they are bound for medical reasons to retire on grounds of ill-health, they will not be allowed to make over any of their pension in this way to any of their dependents or their widow.
Furthermore, I notice that in Section 3, sub-section (4) (f) we find:—
"Where a person is required to undergo medical examination under the regulations, the person shall be responsible for payment of the fee for the examination."
The Minister requires that the person shall undergo a medical examination, but the civil servant pays the fee. That is a very small point and probably only a question of a guinea or two, but I wonder if the basic principle is sound. Who asks for the medical examination? The Minister. Who pays for it? The victim, the person being examined. It may be an unnecessary request; the examination may prove that there was no need for it. It may be a case of over-caution on the part of the Minister requiring such an examination, but the civil servant is the person who has to pay for it. Oddly enough, I note under Section 12, sub-section (2) that
"...the sums received by the Minister in respect of medical examinations for the purposes of this Act shall be paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister may direct."
These few odd guineas will go to the Exchequer. I think that rather odd: I should like to see this Bill giving rights to the Minister to pay for any medical examinations he sees fit to prescribe.
Furthermore—and this point is related to this question of the health either of the retired pensioner or of his dependents—I notice in Section 7, sub-section (2) (c) that, in the case of the substitution of a certain pension grant for another form of grant, the Minister may require the dependent to undergo medical examination and so on. In paragraph (b), before that, the Bill says that a substitution shall not be made unless the Minister decides that the dependent is in good health. Apparently you are not allowed to make a child, a dependent of yours, the beneficiary of an annuity under this kind of Bill, unless you can show that your child is in good health.
I wonder if the Minister has considered fully the implications of that. Clearly, of course, if the child is suffering from some disease from which it may die before being able to benefit from whatever annuity or pension is made over to it by its father, this clause will protect the child and protect the pensioner; but supposing the child is suffering from a mental affliction. That child may live for very many years; it cannot be said to be "in good health"; and so the pensioner will be precluded from making any provision for it under the terms of this sub-section. Again, perhaps the full implications of that have not been considered.
There is one other point before I ask two questions. It is in connection with the definition of the dependents. This is in Section 1, sub-section (1), line 15. The dependents are pretty widely defined. I am not going to read them out but you will see that almost every legitimate possibility is catered for, every person fairly near to the pensioner. It includes his father, mother, step-father, step-mother, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and so on. I should like to make a plea that two others be added to this list. I know that the Minister said in the Dáil that the list was made pretty wide, and that it was felt there had to be such a list because it could not be endlessly extended. I should like to see the addition of the mother-in-law and the father-in-law. The mother-in-law is regarded as a subject for music hall comedy, but I would suggest that in real life the mother-in-law is the person who is frequently turned to in times of stress. I could imagine a case of a pensioner who was a widower and whose wife's family—his father-in law and mother-in-law—were living with him and whose mother-in-law in fact had been of the greatest assistance to him in the bringing up of his motherless children. It is quite obvious that in such cases such a mother-in-law and such a father-in-law will be very really dependents, a very close part of the family; yet under this Bill, although such a mother-in-law may, in fact, be the only surviving dependent, in the real sense of the word, the children having grown up, she is not included in this clause, nor is the father-in-law included, and they cannot be beneficiaries under this Bill.
I would stress here that, as Senator Kissane has said, this is an enabling Bill, giving discretionary power. Nobody is forcing the pensioner to give up portion of his pension to his father-in-law or mother-in-law—or to his father, mother or wife for that matter—but it enables him to do so. I contend that there would be cases of hardship were the mother-in-law or the father-in-law to be excluded from these clauses, and I should like to see an amendment accepted which would allow them to be included.
There are just two questions I should like to ask the Minister before sitting down. One is in relation to Section 4. The Minister has quoted portion of that section and has explained that the pension under this Bill shall be "of such value as, on the date of retirement, is actually equivalent", and so on. I should like a little explanation of that. I take it that that means the pension will be calculated on the average expectation of life of the pensioner at such and such an age, or of the ordinary average person. It is stated here that the Minister is having tables drawn up in connection with this problem. I should like a little more explanation from the Minister as to the basis upon which these tables will be drawn up. Are they to be average tables relating to a cross-section of the population, or are they to relate to particular professions; or, in other words, how is the expectation of life to be calculated?
I should like to ask the Minister will these actuarial tables not be upset by the fact that by this Act we shall have excluded from its jurisdiction people in bad health? I wonder if the Minister has adverted to the fact that the exclusion of civil servants in bad health means that the people to whom the Act will apply are all people presumed to be in good health and who would consequently actuarially be expected to have a longer expectation of life than if the Minister did not, by the terms of the Bill, exclude those who were not in a good risk, who were in poor health. Will the actuarial tables take that into account?
My second question relates to Section 9. I should like to ask whether Section 9 is necessary at all? It seems to me to be a clumsy section. Its aim is to see to it that the pensioner does not give up too much or too little. I do not intend to read the whole section, but I would ask Senators to read it themselves and to ask themselves whether it is not clumsy and whether it is unnecessary.
One final question I should like to ask in connection with Section 3, sub-section (4), paragraph (e). I feel this paragraph is not very happily phrased and I would like to know whether it could not be redrafted? It reads as follows:—
"Notice of a surrender shall become null and void if, on a day on which the person wishing to make a surrender under this Act is an established civil servant, either that person or the proposed grantee of the pension under this Act dies,"
The meaning of that is, I think, fairly clear: if a person dies before he can fulfil this surrender, the whole thing becomes null and void, but I wonder if that could not be expressed in simpler terms and if the intention could not be more clearly expressed? As I say, I believe this is a good Bill, but hedged around with too many precautionary devices. I should like to see it slightly more "givish", more generous, and I should like to see amendments made along the lines which I have suggested.