Dáil Éireann - Volume 4 - 25 July, 1923

SUPERANNUATION AND PENSIONS BILL—SECOND STAGE.

The PRESIDENT: I move the Second Reading of this Bill. It deals, as I have already explained, first of all with the Dáil Civil Servants, and places them in a pensionable service, that is those who were in the service of the old Dáil Departments previous to the Truce. The Truce is taken as the dividing line. The Dáil Civil Servants appointed after the date of the Truce are eligible for appointments to the Civil Service in the ordinary way, the same as other temporary Civil Servants in the Government employment. Sub-section (2) is an exceptional provision. The Superannuation Act of 1914 abolished the provisions [1407] previously obtaining, which permitted of the addition of a certain number of years in the service. That occurred mainly, I think, in the cases of persons in the professions. Some of the officers of the Dáil were advanced in years, and power is taken there to add a certain number of years' service in such cases. Another question that has been before us for some time is the case of victimised Civil Servants during the last few years. It is necessary to provide that Civil Servants so victimised would not lose their pensionable rights, and we are providing for them in this Bill. There is another class which is not provided for in any of our Superannuation Acts, members of the C.I.D., the C.D.F., and the Protective Force. Some of these have been killed and some have been badly wounded, and we are proposing to take power to deal with them in this Bill. There is also provision for dealing with the pensions of certain pensionable National School Teachers. Another Clause deals with some cases of officials who have come over from the British. It means that where an officer is transferred from the British Civil Service he is granted on his ultimate retirement from the Free State Civil Service a pension based on his total service, a financial contribution in respect of this being payable by the British Government in respect of the period of service under the British Government. I beg to move the Second Reading.

Mr. JOHNSON: I must admit that I have not given much consideration to this Bill since it was circulated, but there are two or three points that I think ought to be considered before it passes even the Second Reading. Section 1 deals with the position of persons transferred from public departments of Dáil Eireann of the pre-Free State days, and it provides for the transfer of such officers and the granting of pension rights to such officers, but makes no call for any question of competence to be raised. While I do not want to cavil at all at fixing the status of those men and women, I think that some consideration should be given to their position with respect to the older Civil Servants, some of whom are senior in service and, I think, probably in experience, and possibly if not probably, in some cases in general efficiency. It occurs to me that [1408] there ought to be provided for at least some certificate of competency, and that the Civil Service Commissioners might be asked to say whether these officers are qualified to continue the offices in which they have been placed. Of more importance, I note that in Section 4 we are introduced officially to some organisation of which we have never heard officially. They are now introduced to the Dáil with the view of putting them into a position of being the recipients of pensionable rights. We have heard of the Criminal Investigation Department. I think we have even passed Votes for it, but we have not heard officially of the Citizens' Defence Force, and we have not heard anything of the Protective Force. The Protective Force, I think, was described to us as a body which was set up for the purpose of protecting citizens at a time of very great crisis, but the Citizens' Defence Force, I think, has not been referred to at all. I have no knowledge of such a Force. I do not know whether it is part of the Army or part of the Police Force, and I do not know whether the Dáil generally knows anything about this Force, but it is introduced in this Clause, which provides for the granting of pensions to members of those departments.

I think it is due to us that we should know something about their work, their constitution, who their officers are, or at least, if that is thought unsafe, that we should get some information about their constitution and their activities. It is not reasonable to come to the Dáil and tell us that pensions should be granted to persons who have been wounded who belong to those armed organisations specially raised by the Minister for Home Affairs, when we only now hear that there are such organisations. Can any Deputy of the Dáil tell us what the duties of the Citizens' Defence Force were or are? Or can any Deputy tell us what the different duties of the Protective Force were or are? Do they still exist? Out of what Vote have they been paid? One would have thought that the Criminal Investigation Department would have comprised all that was necessary for the maintenance of order and the protection of the persons and property. But now it seems that there were other forces acting under the authority of the Minister for Home Affairs of whom and of which we knew nothing. I, for one feel that it is [1409] quite necessary that we should have some more information with regard to those forces before we go very far with this Bill. One might ask also is it the intention to include this force in the Civic Guard Bill? If not, are they to be legalised? What is their position? What is to be their position in the future with regard to legalisation? I invite the Minister to give us pretty full information as to the constitution and activities of these forces, particularly the Citizens' Defence Force and the Protective Force, which organisations were specially raised before the introduction of this Act by the Minister for Home Affairs for the maintenance of order and the protection of persons and property.

Mr. O'CONNELL: The remarks that I have to make at this stage refer particularly to Section 5 of this Bill, which provides certain increases for pensioned teachers. It is only fair to say at the outset that the provision in the Bill does, so far as I can see, carry out the promise which was made twelve or fourteen months ago by the late Minister for Finance General Collins, even to the extent of making whatever sum is payable, or will be payable, retrospective as from the 1st April, 1922, the date from which the late Minister for Finance promised such should be payable. While saying that, I must again express my regret that the cumbrous machinery of the Pensions Increases Act of 1920 has been retained in this section, when it has been pointed out on more than one occasion to the Ministry that that system of distribution, or the system of distribution adopted under that Act, was not a fair system and not an equitable system. I do not wish to go into details again, except to point out that the increases are on a percentage basis so that a man who has a pension of £50 may get an increase of £25, while the man who has a pension of £20 can only get an increase of £10— 50 per cent. also. That does not seem to be fair.

The suggestion was made, and urged very strongly on the Minister, that the basis to be adopted should be the basis of service given by the person who has the pension and that for each year of service given a definite sum, say £1 per year or 15s. per year, or whatever would use up the amount that would be available under this particular provision. should be the basis adopted. That did [1410] not mean that a greater sum than is at present available would be needed. That was not the suggestion. The only suggestion was that a different, and in our opinion a more equitable, system of distribution should be adopted. I regret very much that that system was not adopted. I have looked into the regulations which were made under the Pensions Increases Act, and they are almost as complicated as income tax forms. All sorts of queries are asked and expected to be supplied with regard to the means of the pensioner and with regard to various other matters. The other system would be much simpler in administration, in addition to being more equitable to the general body to whom this Bill applies. I do not know whether it is still too late for the Minister to look into the suggestion which has been made. If it is not, I do hope that he will give it consideration.

There are one or two other matters in this connection that I would ask the Minister to give attention to. There is one body of pensioners—I do not know how many of them exist now; they would be very few indeed—who will derive no benefit whatever from this provision. They are those who retired before 1900. I do not know whether there are many of them left. Of course, if they retired at the full age limit they would be over 80 years now. But some of them may have retired on disablement pensions or in some other way. I believe there are a dozen or so of these left, and they do not benefit under these provisions, inasmuch as the rules of 1914 were made retrospective only to 1900. They shut out all who retired before 1900. I think it would be only right if the Minister introduced some provision whereby those few would get some increase under this special provision. There is another class, too, that I would like to see brought under the provision of the Bill. Some time ago, before 1900, there was a provision whereby a teacher could commute his pension for a lump sum. In some cases when there was extreme necessity or some special demand had to be met, men took advantage of that provision. There are some of these left still. Perhaps they were pushed by necessity to take advantage of getting a lump sum. but they have been blessed with long lives, and they are shut out, of course, under the provisions of this section. If [1411] it were possible I would like to see these, too, brought under the provision of this section. As this is a general Pensions Bill, or rather a Bill applying to various classes, there is just one point which I would like to point out to the Minister for his attention. All the teachers are paid their pensions quarterly, while, if I am not misinformed, the pensions of other public servants are paid monthly. If that is the case, I would urge that provision should be made whereby these payments, and they are very small, should be made monthly instead of quarterly. It is too long to wait three months for this small pension. If it could be arranged that these pensions would be paid every month it would be a very great benefit to those pensioners. That, possibly, is not a matter for legislation, but administration, but I take this opportunity of calling the Minister's attention to it.

The PRESIDENT: In answer to Deputy Johnson's questions, I may say a provision is in the Estimates, on page 87, for dealing with one of the forces referred to in this Bill, the Protective Force; and in the case of the other force, speaking entirely from recollection, it was organised to protect property which was believed to be in danger during the recent incendiary period. As far as I know, the Estimates had been prepared, and there was no Estimates out of which the expenses of that particular force could be met, and the expenses have been met out of the Secret Service Vote. I think they have done their work very well, and certainly, in one case, I know one man was killed by an explosion.

With regard to the questions raised by Deputy O'Connell, they were four in number. One dealt with a different method of distribution; the second with bringing in the people who are drawing pensions since 1900; the third with persons who had commuted their pensions; and the fourth dealt with a different period of payment. The way the Deputy introduced all those cases left me under the impression that he was making only one case, but it appears there were four, and to them may be added another, the undertaking given by the late General Collins. I am not in a position to make his mind easy with regard to any of those matters, but I will undertake to [1412] look into them. I think in the case of persons who commuted their pensions, they probably got good value for their money at a time when money was at a very much higher price than it is at present. With regard to the distribution of this money on a different basis to the one adopted in the Bill, I went into this matter very closely with the Officers of the Ministry of Finance, and I was satisfied, from the explanations given to me, that any other distribution than that mentioned, or even the alternative mentioned by Deputy O'Connell, would scarcely be fair.

There were cases in which small pensions have been granted by reason of certain short services, or dismissals, or something else of that sort. To bring those amounts up to something in the nature of an economic pension, might be drawing more from the amount of money it was intended to spend on these services than would be fair. After examining the cases very closely, I thought the method recommended under the Increases of Pensions Act, 1920, was the fairest. Before the matter is finally dealt with I would be willing to see Deputy O'Connell and some of the officials of the Ministry of Finance, and we will see if we cannot settle the matter. I am not at all satisfied that the suggestion he has put up is a better one than what we have suggested in the Bill.

Question: “That the Bill be read a second time,” put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Monday, 30th July.