Dáil Éireann - Volume 535 - 09 May, 2001

Written Answers - Public Service Pensions.

149. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the current provision whereby some public [1610] servants do not have cover in their pension scheme for widows and orphans because of a voluntary opt-out clause, is in line with best practice in other European countries; if those who find themselves excluded from cover by virtue of a poorly informed decision to opt out have any rights in this regard; and if he will give an estimate of the cost to the Exchequer of requiring all public servants to have cover for widows and orphans within their pension coverage. [13128/01]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): Most of the spouses' and children's schemes in question were introduced between 1968 and 1971. On the introduction of the schemes, serving staff were given the option of becoming members of the schemes. This arrangement was agreed with staff interests and was necessary because of the contributory nature of the schemes. Further options were extended to serving non-members on the introduction of revised spouses' and children's schemes. From the date of commencement of the schemes new entrants automatically become members.

The spouses and children's scheme was the subject of a comprehensive review by the Commission on Public Service Pensions. The commission's final report has recently been published and I refer the Deputy to the very detailed analysis contained in it. The report indicates that the commission examined the public service occupational superannuation arrangements in the context of occupational pension schemes in the private sector and in the public sector abroad. It decided not to recommend a further membership option across the public service as a whole. It also referred to the costs involved: an estimated £103 million in accrued liabilities in respect of serving staff plus additional costs in respect of pensioners. There would also be very significant liabilities which the commission indicated it was not possible to quantify, in respect of the dependants of deceased former members.

I am not aware that European Law has implications for the arrangements which were followed and which were agreed with staff interests on the introduction of the scheme. There is no reference in this regard in the commission's report.