Former taoisigh and other public servants receiving multiple pensions are facing a cut in their income under pension reforms described by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin as "far-reaching".

The minister told the Oireachtas Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform that a tiered level of cuts was imposed on public service pensions two years ago.

The first €12,000 was exempted from any cut.

The amount between €12,000 and €24,000 was cut by 6%.

Amounts between €24,000 and €60,000 faced a 9% cut, while pensions ranging from €60,000 to €100,000 suffered a 12% deduction.

Anyone with a pension exceeding €100,000 faced a 20% cut on the portion above €100,000.

Applying the cut was straightforward in the case of people with a single pension.

However, a number of public servants, including former taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, received multiple pensions.

Each of the former taoisigh currently receives combined pensions, for being a TD and for having been taoiseach, of around €150,000.

At present, each of those pensions is assessed separately for the cuts.

On that basis, the recipient can avail of the €12,000 exemption twice, and never reaches the 20% top rate of deduction.

However, the new legislation will allow the two pensions to be assessed together.

As a result, pension recipients such as Mr Ahern and Mr Cowen will only be able to avail of the €12,000 zero-rated portion once, and will hit the 20% threshold for a significant portion of the pension.

It is estimated they could lose up to €7,000 a year each from their pensions.

Mr Howlin said he wanted to ensure that all public servants were treated in the same way.

Asked by Fianna Fáil's Sean Fleming how many people would be affected, he said he imagined there would be "quite a number" and cited army officers who might have gone back to work in a different capacity.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald said if the holders of multiple pensions would only be able to avail of the €12,000 exemption once, it would be a very equitable and very welcome move.

New pension scheme 'to benefit lower paid'

Earlier today, Minister Howlin said that a proposed new pension scheme for public servants will benefit the lower paid more than higher paid.

The pension scheme for new entrants is aimed at cutting the State's pension bill.

It is proposed that pensions will be calculated on salaries across a career average, rather than on a worker's final salary.

Minister Howlin told the committee that the scheme will permit future public servants to retire on pensions in excess of half their final salary.

He said that the current cap of half the final salary would be retained for the President, Taoiseach, other politicians and the judiciary.

The minister said that the people who will benefit most from the new scheme are those who do not move up the career ladder.

He said future ''high-flyers'', such as department secretaries general who could currently get "Rolls Royce" pensions, will have them calculated across their entire career.