Wednesday, 21 July 1965
Dáil Eireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £1,210,700 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1966, for Pensions, Superannuation, Compensation (including Workmen's Compensation), and Additional and other Allowances and Gratuities under the Superannuation Acts, 1834 to 1963, and sundry other Statutes; Extra-Statutory Pensions, Allowances and Gratuities awarded by the Minister for Finance; fees to Medical Referees and occasional fees to Doctors; Compensation and other Payments in respect of Personal Injuries; etc.”
Mr. Cosgrave: The Minister is aware of the representations made to his predecessor concerning parity in relation to retired State pensioners, civil servants, Army personnel, gardaí, teachers, and so on. The Additional Estimate provides for certain increases which were granted in the Budget. So far as I am aware, the increases granted range round about 9 per cent  and apply to categories of pensioners who are retired for some years and whose pensions are substantially lower than those of their colleagues who retired since. I know the stereotyped answer always given is that the Minister would like to do more but that pensions are based on pay on retirement. While that is true in relation to the method of calculating pensions, it must be remembered that the system was adopted at a time when money substantially held its value and there was no great variation between one period and another. Nowadays cost of living increases are regularly given to serving personnel and, with a certain time lag, increases have been granted over a number of years under various Pension Increase Acts to bring up retired personnel, but not to bring them up to parity with those who retired at a later date.
I urge the Minister to have a fresh look at this situation. Undoubtedly, the commission, committee, or interdepartmental group which considered this recommended certain increases, but I understand from some of those concerned that the lower paid pensioners consider that the personnel on that body were not sufficiently conversant with the conditions of the lower paid categories and consequently did not in their recommendations advert to their circumstances. The Minister will appreciate and understand the position of a State pensioner, whether he is an ex-civil servant, a garda, an ex-member of the Army, a teacher, or something else, who held five, six or seven years ago a particular office and who retired on reaching the age limit and was awarded a pension based on pay at the time of retiral, who sees his colleague, who retired, perhaps, this year, or last year, and who filled precisely the same office and retired at precisely the same age limit, but, because he retired five or six or seven years later, and pay increases in the meantime had been granted, retired at a substantially higher pension.
I believe in present circumstances that is inequitable and unfair and has caused, and is causing, considerable hardship. Undoubtedly some of these increases will modify or ease the problem  but I want the Minister to consider sympathetically, and I hope in a practical manner, the problems of a great many State pensioners. This is undoubtedly a diminishing charge, particularly in the case of those who retired a number of years ago on relatively low pensions. I want him to consider the possibility of providing for those retired for some years parity with their colleagues in whatever department or section of the Service they served and who retired under the present appropriate salary scale for the particular category concerned.
Mr. James Tully: I should like to add my voice to what Deputy Cosgrave has said, I think it is generally accepted by those who have studied the matter that State servants who retired many years ago are now being treated rather shabbily. The Committee did not do them full justice, if they did any justice at all. It would be a sobering thought if the existing civil servants would appreciate the fact that the retired State servants were the civil servants of some years ago and that they themselves will be the pensioners of tomorrow. If they took that into consideration, perhaps the recommendations they make on the question of pensions would be more human than they appear to have been over the past few years.
It is extraordinary that in the months immediately preceding 1963 the Minister's predecessor appeared to be attempting to equate the pensions. Suddenly he stopped, and there must be a reason for that, although I have never been able to find it out. I suggest that if the Minister is going to look at that situation, he might possibly go back to the position in 1963 and see what it was that caused the then Minister to stop making adjustments which up to that time appeared to be leading in the right direction and appeared to be about to straighten out all this mess concerning retired State servants.
The Minister is probably aware that there is a mass of documents available, if he wants to study this matter. I do not propose to use even the one I have here tonight because of the time factor  but I would suggest to the Minister that he might usefully, when he has time, go into this whole question because it is causing a lot of discontent among people who gave very good service to the State.
A deputation of members of the House proposed to wait on the Minister but because of the fact that he had a very heavy day yesterday and an equally heavy evening this evening, we did not ask him to meet us but, if for no other reason than that, I think the Minister might consider what has been said on this subject.
Mr. Ryan: I wish to endorse what the Leader of my Party said. It is unfortunate that we have stopped the trend towards closing the gap between the recently-retired and the long-retired State pensioners. The time to consider pensioners is the time when there is a general agreement on wages or salaries and at any time when the State is estimating the cost of these increases, an effort should be made to close the gap and provide all pensioners, instead of giving them the pension related to what they were earning when they retired, with a pension which would be a percentage of the pay paid to the rank which they occupied when they were serving. In other words, their pension should be related to the current salary and not to what these people were paid ten or 20 years ago.
Probably as people become older, their expenses increase and as that happens, the support which they might have received from single members of their family is cut off by reason of marriage of their children or their movement away from home, but their medical expenses may increase and the rates threat is forever increasing for these people while their pensions are paid at a rate which bears no relation to the burdens they have to bear in the autumn of their days.
One understands the great problem facing any Minister for Finance in trying to close this gap but I think we members of this society who might be regarded by some people as being on the right side of 60—perhaps as far as  age is concerned we might be; but not in wisdom—would be prepared to postpone their own selfish advances for some months in order to give parity to these pensioners because if the Lord allows us to live sufficiently long in this world, we shall all be pensioners some day. I should like to see that before the young generation today become old, justice would at last be given to all pensioners.
Mr. J. Lynch: The trend to which Deputy James Tully and Deputy Ryan referred as having stopped was never in fact there. An attempt was made in recent and successive years to make increases available to keep pace to some extent with the cost of living increases but the type of parity suggested by the Deputies was never part of the trend.
Mr. J. Lynch: I find that in the years 1962, 1963, 1964, increases were given totalling in all about £1.4 million. That averaged something less than £500,000 a year. The increase that is being given this year following the report of the committee on post-retirement adjustments in public servants' pensions amounts to about £600,000 a year, so that there is that amount of increase available at any rate.
This is a very wide field and like many other things appertaining to the Department, it is fairly complex. Superannuation is something that I have always regarded as a matter that requires very close study. I have not had time to give it that close study but naturally I must do so. Pending informing myself more fully of the system, I shall have to reserve my comment.
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