Senate Begins Debate on Pensions (Prime Minister) Bill


Debate on amendments to the Pensions (Prime Minister) Act, to allow for changes to the formula by which a retired Prime Minister receives pension, began in the Senate on February 22.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator Dwight Nelson, explained that under the existing Act, a Prime Minister, on ceasing to hold that office and who is no longer a legislator, is eligible to receive pension equivalent to the current salary pertaining to that office.
However, under the proposed amendments, he said, a person who ceases to be Prime Minister at any time after September 11, 2007, will receive a pension equivalent to two thirds of the annual salary appertaining to the current office of Prime Minister, instead of an equivalent salary.
The entitlement of persons, who have held the office of Prime Minister prior to September 11, 2007 and who have ceased to be legislators, should not be affected.
Other proposed amendments include a provision to allow surviving spouses and dependents of former Prime Ministers, who are currently receiving benefits, to continue receiving such benefits, and also a requirement for the current holder of the office of the Prime Minister to elect to receive either the current pension entitlement or the proposed pension entitlement.
“It is reasonable to query the grounds on which the honourable Prime Minister will be given a power to elect to receive the current proposed pensions and no other person will be given that option. The answer is that it is a necessary measure to safe guard the protections afforded by the Constitution over vested property rights and further to avoid a retrospective operation of the proposed amendments to the detriment of vested rights,” Senator Nelson explained.
He also added that the Government recognises the duties and responsibilities that are attached to a former Prime Minister.
“The policy that is reflected in the Bill ensures that a retired Prime Minister will be entitled to receive a pension and allowances that will enable that person to enjoy a lifestyle that is appropriate to the office they held,” Senator Nelson noted.
The debate was suspended so as to allow for the participation of other members of the Senate on Friday (Feb 29). The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on February 12 without amendments.

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