The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said that a proposed new pension scheme for public servants will benefit lower paid government employees more than high flyers.

Addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform, he also said the scheme will permit many future public servants to retire on pensions in excess of half their final salary.

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

Minister Howlin pension scheme for new entrants is aimed at cutting the state pension bill.

He said future 'high-flyers' like department secretaries general who could could currently get "Rolls Royce" pensions would have that reduced by averaging pension contributions across their entire career.

Unions had sought this to accommodate lower grades of public servants who might seek to work at a lower grade in their latter years - or who might have to work for longer, he added.

However, the cap will remain for officeholders including the President, the Taoiseach, politicians and the judiciary - but won't apply to top civil servants like secretaries general - a point which infuriated several committee members.

Spouse pension to cease if they remarry

Minister Howlin defended the practice of stripping a public servant's widow or widower of their survivor's pension if they remarry.

He said that where a public servant dies, their spouse would be entitled to half their pension. However, should they remarry, the pension would cease.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly described the practice as bizarre, saying it raised a huge financial disincentive for survivors of public servants remarrying.

He raised the example of a widow of a public sector worker receiving a survivor's pension of €40,000, who might fall in love with and marry someone who was unemployed - and might need the pension income.

Minister Howlin pointed out that the object of the survivor's pension was to sustain the survivor - and that the removal of the benefit on remarriage was also the practice in relation to the social welfare widow's pension.