Dáil Éireann - Volume 155 - 14 March, 1956
Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Scheme, 1956—Motion of Confirmation.
Minister for Defence (General MacEoin) Seán (Major-General) Mac Eoin
Minister for Defence (General MacEoin): I move:—
That the Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Scheme, 1956, prepared by the Minister for Defence, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, under Sections 2, 3 and 5 of the Defence Forces (Pensions) Act, 1932, and Section 4 of the Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Act, 1938, and laid before the House on the 6th day of March, 1956, be confirmed.
The Defence Forces (Pensions) Acts, 1932 to 1949, authorise me as Minister for Defence, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to prepare a scheme to provide retired pay, service pensions and gratuities for former members of the Permanent Defence Force and of the chaplaincy service. Section 4 of the 1932 Act provides that any such scheme shall not come into force unless and until it has been laid before each House of the Oireachtas and has been duly confirmed by a resolution of each House.
The first scheme—the principal scheme as it is called—became effective in 1937 and it was amended by subsequent schemes in 1940, 1947, 1949 and 1953. The main purpose of the scheme now before the House for approval is to grant increases in the retired pay of officers, the pensions of N.C.O.s and men and the gratuities payable to or in respect of both classes. These increases will apply to personnel who were serving when the last two increases in service pay took effect, that is, on the 1st November, 1952, and the 1st November, 1955.
Specific provision by way of an  amendment to the existing pensions schemes is necessary in the case of officers and men because their retired pay and pensions are not expressly related to their pay as is the case in many other codes and indeed in these schemes in relation to chaplains and nurses. Consequently the retired pay or pensions of officers and men do not automatically follow any changes in their pay and express provision must be made for pension increases in order to reflect pay increases. That is why the scheme provides two sets of increases—one for those officers and men who were serving and who got the benefit of the pay increases which became effective as from 1st November, 1952—the other for those who were serving and who got the benefit of the further pay increases recently authorised and which became effective as from 1st November, 1955.
The explanatory memorandum which has been circulated with the scheme has, I hope, proved helpful to Deputies and if what I have to say now leaves any points unanswered I shall be pleased to try and make good the deficiency when I come to reply.
Article 4 of the scheme provides for new percentage increases by rank on the retired pay of officers who retired or were retired since 1st November, 1952, and before 2nd November, 1955, and further increases for those whose retirements took effect on or after the 2nd November, 1955. These percentages reflect the percentage increases in pay by rank since 1937, the year the principal scheme came into being.
Article 5 applies the same percentage increases to the gratuities payable to married officers who on retirement qualify for a grant of retired pay. In regard to the increases in retired pay, the married captain is in a singular position. In respect of each date, the percentage increase strictly appropriate in his case is lower than the corresponding percentage increase for a single captain. In order, however, to avoid the anomaly of giving the married captain less by way of retired pay than the single captain, Article 4, which deals with the retired pay increases, gives the married captain the benefit of the higher percentage increase appropriate to his unmarried  colleague. In Article 5, however, which deals with the married officer's gratuity, which is not, of course, payable to an unmarried officer, the percentage increase applied represents the actual percentage increase in the pay of a married captain. The increase in the gratuity payable to or in respect of a married officer with the rank of lieutenant-general is provided for separately in Article 6. The percentage increase provided for in this case is much less than that for other officer ranks because the basic gratuity for a lieutenant-general which was first provided in the 1953 scheme is an inclusive figure fixed in relation to the January 1951 pay level. The percentage increase now provided for reflects the corresponding pay increase as from November, 1955. As there has been no retirement of a lieutenant-general since the 1953 Pensions Scheme became effective, it is not necessary to go back farther in this case than the most recent pay increase.
Article 7 provides for increased short service gratuities for dental officers who have held temporary commissions. These increases have been found necessary as an inducement to dentists to come into the Army on short-term commissions.
Article 8 guards against an anomaly possible under the scheme but which has not occurred in practice to date. The anomaly is that at certain stages of service a retiring commandant would be better off, in so far as retired pay is concerned, if his retiring rank were that of captain and not that of commandant. Article 8 provides that if such a case should arise, the higher pension based on the retiring rank of captain would be payable.
Article 9 deals with a group of soldiers who served in the Survey Company of the Corps of Engineers but who were transferred to the Reserve in 1940 in order to take up appointments as civilians in the Ordnance Survey. This was part of a general scheme to get Ordnance Survey work established on a civilian basis. The soldiers concerned were all long service men who had not got the minimum period of 21 years' Army service necessary in order to qualify for pensions  under the Defence Forces Pensions Scheme. Article 9 now waives the requirement in their case of the minimum of 21 years' service for pension and renders them eligible for pensions based on their actual Army service. The pensions will not, however, be payable until the persons concerned will have retired from their civil posts in circumstances entitling them to awards under the Superannuation Acts.
Article 10 provides that a person to whom a pension is awarded in future under Article 19 of the principal scheme will be subject to the provisions which apply at present regarding the cessation or reduction of retired pay of a retired officer who takes up an appointment remunerated out of public moneys. The Article 19 to which I have referred provides pensions for officers who leave the Army without the requisite service to render them eligible for retired pay and who take up pensionable posts in the Civil Service or Garda Síochána and who retire from such posts in circumstances entitling them to awards under the superannuation codes governing the Civil Service or Garda Síochána.
Article 11 arises from a change in the Defence Force Regulations governing the pay of officers whereby an officer after a certain period of sick leave is placed on a reduced rate of pay instead of, as formerly, being placed under stoppage of pay. The existing provisions of the scheme refer to stoppage of pay, hence the necessity for this Article. I might explain that the position under this Article is that if, through retirement or death, a gratuity based on pay at date of retirement or death, becomes payable to or in respect of an officer, the rate of pay taken is that which the officer would have been eligible for had he not been placed on the reduced rate. That is to say, the gratuity is calculated at a higher rate than if the reduced rate of pay was taken. The opportunity is also being taken to apply the same principle to a gratuity which might become payable to relatives of officers under Article 20 of the amending scheme of 1949.
Article 12 is a drafting amendment  necessary in order to make clear that certain conditions which apply by virtue of Article 16 of the Amending Scheme of 1953 to a pension or gratuity payable to the widow or children of an officer who retired voluntarily apply also in respect of an officer who was compulsorily retired.
Article 13 provides for increased rates of pension, including married pension, for non-commissioned officers and men discharged on or after 1st November, 1952, and before 1st November, 1955, and further increases for those discharged on or after the latter date. These increases arise as a result of the pay increases granted as from the 1st November, 1952, and the 1st November, 1955, and reflect the percentage by which the rates of pay applicable as from these dates exceed the rates applicable as from September, 1946.
The Article also amends the provisions governing married pensions so that a widower soldier who remarried before his discharge will not, in certain circumstances, be deprived of a married pension by reason of his remarriage. This amendment is a technical one necessary to remove an anomaly in the existing provisions which came to light in a particular case. It is retrospective to 7th February, 1950, to deal with the case in question.
Article 14 provides for corresponding increases in the rates of gratuities payable to non-commissioned officers and privates who are discharged or transferred to the Reserve, on or after the dates mentioned, in circumstances not entitling them to pensions.
Article 15 relates to the existing provisions of Article 38 of the scheme which, as amended by Article 20 of the 1953 scheme, apply where an officer or soldier is entitled to a disablement pension under the Army Pensions Acts in addition to a service pension under the schemes. The provision, broadly, is that no reduction is effected at all if the sum of both pensions does not exceed £150 a year. If they do exceed that figure, then, subject to the maintenance of the minimum of £ 150, the greater of the two plus one half the other is payable. In the calculation in  this respect, however, the legal position is that the married pension payable under the scheme to a soldier may not be taken into account, with the result that in some cases full married pensions under the Army Pensions Acts and under the schemes may be payable concurrently. This anomalous position arises not by design and this amending Article will put matters on a logical basis by including the married pension payable under the scheme in the calculations. The change will, however, apply only to soldiers discharged on or after the commencing date of this scheme so that the position of anyone who benefits under the present arrangement will not be affected.
Article 16 is a technical amendment to remove a doubt in the interpretation of Article 20, sub-article (4), of the 1949 scheme by making it clear that a gratuity referred to in a particular context in that sub-paragraph does not mean a married officer's gratuity. If the contrary were the case, it would be to the detriment of a beneficiary under the Article.
Article 17 which substitutes a new sub-article (5) for the existing sub-article (5) in Article 20 of the amending scheme of 1949, arises from a flaw in the existing sub-article which, it has been found, does not provide for the payment of a gratuity to a widow or children of a deceased officer who dies in certain circumstances. The new sub-article makes good this deficiency.
Article 18 amends Article 4 of the 1953 scheme which provided increases in retired pay for officers. These increases varied according to rank and as to whether the officer was married or single. In the case of officers retiring from 1951 onwards, the increases reflected the percentage increases in the pay of married and single officers by rank between 1937 and 1951. The percentage increase for a married captain so reached was 58 per cent., whereas that for a single captain was 59 per cent. This, I feel, was anomalous and the amendment contained in Article 18 will apply the 59 per cent. increase to the married captain. This will be retrospective to the date from which these percentages first applied, namely, the 16th January, 1951.
Article 19 is a drafting amendment  which provides that certain conditions governing the payment of married officers' gratuities, which apply to officers who retire voluntarily also apply to officers who are compulsorily retired.
The last Article—Article 20—is also a drafting one to bring soldiers who were transferred to the Reserve within the provisions of Article 19 of the 1953 scheme, which provided increased gratuities for discharged soldiers. This amendment is retrospective to the date of operation of Article 19 of the 1953 scheme, namely, 1st September, 1949.
The foregoing concludes what I have to say in explanation of the terms of this scheme. As I have said earlier, if any Deputy requires elucidation of any other points I shall do my best when concluding to furnish the answers.
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: I presume that the function of this scheme is merely to adjust the pensions to the recent increases in pay that came about as a result of the recent award. I think the scheme could be described more or less as a tidying-up scheme, adjusting some of these straggling points that we all find exist from time to time in these schemes, regulations and Acts.
The only complaint I have heard is the usual complaint, that the officers, the commissioned ranks, benefit to a much greater extent than the non-commissioned ranks. That, however, is a complaint which is general; it is a complaint that I had over the many years in which I acted in the position that the Minister now occupies. I have no doubt that many Deputies got the circular which I received and which probably the Minister himself received. It deals with Article 9 to which the Minister himself referred in the course of his statement. It happens that in 1940 it was found necessary to transfer a whole company of corps of engineers to the Ordnance Survey for the purpose—which at that time was very urgent—of utilising their experience in the mapping section of the Department of Ordnance Survey. It further appears that at the outset a number of these men, to the extent, I think, of nine, had something like 15 years' service to their credit and that the transfer  of these men would entail a hardship upon them if they were not given the right to have their service in the Ordnance Survey counted as service in the Army if they should complete, say, 21 years.
The Minister has gone some way to correct that in a modified way. Paragraph 3 of Article 9 states:—
“A pension (or a married pension) under this Article shall not become payable unless and until the person eligible therefor has retired from the Civil Service in circumstances entitling him to a superannuation or other allowance or gratuity under the Superannuation Acts.”
The case that these men make is that they are the only ones in the whole outfit who are not being allowed to have the privilege of drawing their pensions. I am sure that the Minister himself examined that situation; I am sure it was brought to his attention before the scheme was completed and that he made whatever effort it was possible to make within the stringent financial regulations which hold most Ministers down; but in view of the fact that this operates against only a very limited number of men—I cannot say now whether they were given the option or not of transferring—it is quite possible that at the time, as soldiers in a company of engineers, they were just simply transferred without the option of remaining in Army service, as against being transferred into what then became civilian service although they were doing work of national and military importance. All I can say at the present moment is that if the Minister has been examining this, if he can see any possible way of inducing the Department of Finance to agree that these nine men should be given the same privilege as that extended to the other men who appear to be drawing full pensions, then I would ask the Minister to administer the scheme as far as possible in that direction.
Mr. S. Collins Mr. S. Collins
Mr. S. Collins: One finds oneself always in a difficulty in this House when the Minister brings in a scheme  of this nature because, in trying to oppose it, one may be defeating the best interests of some sections of the Army and at the same time one may not be able to deal effectively with what we all know to be the long-outstanding grouse of those who retired from the Army in the 1946, 1947 or 1948 period. The Order was clearly designed to clear up a number of anomalies and, at the same time, put some kind of shape on the general pension scheme, but it certainly seems to have been deliberately designed to exclude the people from benefits who have been a constant source of worry to any of us in this House who have served in the National Army.
We have to say that the scheme, in so far as it goes, is an excellent one but it is in so far as it does not go that our difficulty arises. There are sections other than the nine people referred to by the former Minister for Defence, Deputy Traynor, who are affected. We have representations from dependents of Air Corps personnel who have died; we have representations from general sections of officers who undoubtedly were rather harshly treated at a period when, I suggest, they were induced to leave the Force before they could receive the benefit of certain increases that were then pending. The Department which at the time rather encouraged these people out of the Army was well aware of the changes that were about to come in the situation of these people, and they have been axed very heavily indeed.
It is, of course, the more lamentable when you find that particular group of people not covered, the people who were the real background, the strength and force that kept this Army together in the early years of its foundation. I am not offering this speech as a kind of censorship on the scheme the Minister has proposed. I know perfectly well that the Minister has the interests of the Defence Forces at heart and the members of the Defence Forces know that the Minister has a deep-seated interest in their well-being, but it does seem harsh in the circumstances of the general over-all scheme that its design  and effect again deliberately refuse to recognise the consistent and oft-repeated claims of these people.
On the other hand, I am glad to see the manner in which the Department have endeavoured to bring some realism into the pension scheme proposed for officers. I have often had occasion before to advert to some peculiar situations which arose, particularly the case mentioned by the Minister where it was possible for an unmarried officer to have a better pension than his married colleague and where, under a certain section of the pensions scheme, having merited promotion to a senior rank, an officer might find himself ultimately on retired pay at a lower rate than that enjoyed by a lower rank.
These kind of anomalies we are all grateful to see obviated but I fear, with my colleagues in the House who have the same interest in the well-being of the Defence Forces as has the Minister himself, that this pensions scheme was deliberately designed so that it particularly precludes a section of the Army which has been a source of concern over a period of years. These people who will not get any benefit through the scheme will naturally feel that they are nobody's children. I know it is not possible under the system by which Parliament implements this Order to put down amendments to the scheme and force the issue in a way that would lead the House to come to certain decisions. That parliamentary design and procedure is one that may be reviewed but under present circumstances it is not possible to do what we really have in mind to do.
I know we have to commend the Order in so far as it goes. It is excellent, reasonable and expeditious but while I find myself in the position that I must commend the Minister's expedition and the clarity with which the Order has been presented, it still leaves us with the problem of the forgotten ones who merited particular consideration because they were the initial core and background of the present Army. I am talking about the people who built and maintained  the Army. They were the source from which issued the excellent non-commissioned officers and officers that trained the emergency Army into an effective force. These men merited special consideration but they have not been considered in this pension scheme.
Mr. James Tully Mr. James Tully
Mr. James Tully: I wish to join with the people who have commended the Minister on bringing in this Order but, like Deputy Seán Collins, I also wish to state that I feel very disappointed that the Order seems to be specially framed to exclude certain people from any benefit. I am particularly interested in the N.C.O.s and men. As Deputy Traynor says the Order appears to favour the commissioned ranks as against the ordinary non-commissioned officer and private soldier. That could be overlooked if provision had been made for the people who went out in 1946, 1947 and 1948. To those of us who did serve in the Defence Forces it is only too well known that for those who took on the responsibility in the early emergency period of training the raw recruits going in in their hundreds this is very cold comfort. They find that this Order seems to have left them where they were.
For that reason I must say I am very disappointed with it. Surely something better could have been done. Surely the Minister could have covered those particular people. Possibly the argument was that it would cost too much but I do not think that in so deserving a case such an argument should be put forward. Still, I believe that was the argument which was at the back of the minds of the people who drafted the Order. If anything can be done to cover the men to whom I refer, I would strongly urge on the Minister to do it.
Mr. P.J. Burke Mr. P.J. Burke
Mr. P.J. Burke: I, like my colleagues on this side of the House, welcome any steps to improve the pensions of members of the Defence Forces, but I should like to see something better done for the private soldier. In my constituency every time a private soldier retires I hear the same story that he has very little to get after his time. I should like to  suggest that the Minister should reconsider this at a later date in order to see what are the possibilities of improving the pensions of private soldiers and non-commissioned officers. The argument against such action may be the old question of the necessity for increased taxation to meet any such improvement but, in face of such arguments, I am suggesting that we should try to be a little bit fairer to the private soldiers. With reference to old officers who have been retired for some years on small pensions and who had not the benefit of increased salaries I think sympathetic consideration should be given to that section. I will not open up on that field because I should be forced to make a case for all pensioners but I would ask the Minister to keep them in mind.
Mr. A. Barry Mr. A. Barry
Mr. A. Barry: I too would beg of the Minister to consider the case of the retired officers who were personal friends of the Minister and myself in the Army 30 years ago. They remained on and they were the backbone of the Defence Forces we have to-day. They were unlucky they could not remain in the service a few years longer to get the benefit of improved conditions. There are very few of these men and justice demands that they should be treated as well, at least, as those who were fortunate enough to be a few years younger. There is also the good old type of N.C.O. whom I frequently meet. Some of them have been retired on very meagre pensions.
Mr. O'Malley Mr. O'Malley
Mr. O'Malley: There are two points I would like the Minister to clarify. In certain cases where a soldier dies, the fact that the illness or disease from which he died had been contracted during the emergency period has to be established.
General MacEoin General MacEoin
General MacEoin: Not on this.
Mr. O'Malley Mr. O'Malley
Mr. O'Malley: It does not arise on this? The other point is: does the Minister propose to give any increase to existing pensioners or to the widows of deceased pensioners under this?
General MacEoin General MacEoin
General MacEoin: That would be disability. Such people do not come  under this at all. They come under separate Acts. I am very grateful to the House for the manner in which it has received this instrument. With regard to the nine who elected to go to the Ordnance Survey, I think we are treating them very generously. We trained them for this particular type of work and they were given the option of staying on in the Army or taking these appointments. They elected to take these particular posts. When they reach pensionable age in their present service, these years will be added. I think that is a reasonable offer.
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: Did they actually opt?
General MacEoin General MacEoin
General MacEoin: I am informed they were given the option of transferring to the Reserve and taking up the posts in the Ordnance Survey; they elected to be transferred. The question of going back is rather difficult. This scheme is related to present retirements and to the pay at the date of such retirements. Any question of giving increases to personnel who left the Army prior to November, 1952, raises a very wide issue involving all State pensioners, such as civic guards, civil servants, teachers and so forth. Deputies will appreciate that, that being the case, until such time as these wider issues are decided, the Minister for Defence has very little hope of coming in here and getting any improvement for one particular section.
The increases for N.C.O.s and men are on a percentage basis, as they are in the case of officers. Apparently that has always been the system in the Civil Service and everywhere else and that system still obtains.
The claim made by the Defence Forces ex-non-commissioned officers and men pensioners' association is still under consideration. I regret I am not in a position to say when I will be able to make an announcement on the matter, but I am doing everything I can to have the decision expedited and, of course, favourably. I could get a decision quickly enough, but it would be an unfavourable one, and I do not want that. I am trying to do what I  think is fair and equitable. That is as far as I can go on that. I am sure Deputy Traynor fully understands the difficulty of a Minister in that respect.
Question put and agreed to.
Dáil Éireann 155 Defence Forces (Pensions) (Amendment) Scheme, 1956—Motion of Confirmation.