HC Deb 27 February 1891 vol 350 cc1807-18

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir J. Lubbock.)

(3.10.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

On a former occasion I opposed the Second Reading of this Bill.

SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)

Perhaps if I may be allowed to interpose I can say a word or two upon the subject of the Second Reading of this Bill, which I think may probably save the time of the House. The fact of the case is that the London County Council have consented to omit the clause which proposes to take part of Clapham Common for building purposes. Although it is called Clapham Common the proposal was to take a piece of land which forms no part of the main Common, but is simply a piece of out-lying ground of a triangular shape. At the present moment we have a Fire Brigade Station on that piece of ground, which is large enough for the fire-engines, but it is not adequate for the accommodation of the men and horses, and, it is obviously desirable that the men and horses should be in the same place as the fire-engines, so that in case of fire they may reach the spot as soon as possible. The Council are, however, always anxious to meet the views of the Local Authorities and the residents, and they have been given to understand that there is a general feeling against taking any more of what may be termed the Common. The omission of the clause will, to some extent, increase the danger of fire; but as the Local Authority wish it omitted, we do not propose to insist upon it, but will withdraw it in Committee. I therefore trust that the hon. Member will not press the Instruction of which he has given notice.

(3.12.) MR. MORTON

If it is understood that the London County Council assent to the Instruction which I had intended to move later on for the omission of Sub-section B of Clause 6 I have nothing further to say. But I do not understand from the promoters of the Bill, in the Paper which they have circulated to-day, that that is so. All they say is that they will withdraw it in Committee, but we who oppose the clause have no wish to incur the expense of going before a Committee at all. Let me explain what my position is in regard to this matter.

(3.13.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

May I be allowed t o interpose for a moment. If an arrangement is made in this House by which the promoters undertake to withdraw a particular clause, it is just as binding as an Instruction to the Committee to omit the clause.


I am not quite satisfied, and I hope that I may be allowed to make a statement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University (Sir J. Lubbock) has said that the action we are taking in this matter may interfere with the work of the Fire Brigade. That is not so. The right hon. Baronet says that this piece of land is not a portion of the Common. I think there is no doubt that it is. It is shown on the plans in the office of the London County Council as being part of Clapham Common, and it is not quite so small as the right hon. Baronet has suggested. The piece scheduled by the London County Council is 1,400ft., or nearly one-third of an acre. I am aware that it is not intended to use the whole of it, but the Council propose to take the whole.


I merely pointed out that it was an outlying piece of land on the verge of the Common, and, speaking on behalf of the London County Council, I have already given the hon. Member an assurance that this part of the clause will be left out.


I am quite prepared to accept that offer, but I was desirous of showing that in 1878 the then Metropolitan Board of Works, who always took great care of this Common, actually gave us notice that we must give up our temporary occupation of this very piece of land. At that time we did what the London County Council ought to do now on their part—we removed a stone yard from that site, and purchased a piece of land for a stone yard in another part of the parish. Another complaint I have to make against the London County Council is this: They never recognised us as the Local Authorities until we gave notice in this House of opposition to the present Bill. A letter sent by the Local Authorities last year was not even replied to, and it was only when it was found that we intended to oppose the Bill upon the Second Reading that we received a recognition; and yet we now find that our views are to be assented to. As I have now an assurance that it will not be necessary for the Local Authorities to go to any expense in appearing before the Committee upstairs I shall be quite satisfied to withdraw the Instruction which was put down in the interests of the Local Authorities and of the people who reside in the vicinity of Clapham Common.

(3.15.) MR. BOULNOIS (Marylebone, E.)

I think that the Instruction may now be withdrawn after the explanation of my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the London County Council that nothing will be done to interfere with Clapham Common. I may say that this morning I received an intimation from the Local Board stating that, in view of the concession which the promoters of the Bill are prepared to make, they intend to withdraw their Petition against the Bill.

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N)

May I ask whether any decision has been come to in regard to the notice which stands on the Paper in my name to omit Clauses 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63 and 64 from the Bill?


I am afraid that on behalf of the London County Council I must resist that Instruction.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed.

(3.20.) MR. BARTLEY

I have now to move— That it be an Instruction to the Committee to omit Clauses 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63 and 64 from the Bill. These clauses propose to enable the London County Council to provide a superannuation and provident fund for the provision and payment of other allowances on death, superannuation, resignation, retirement and discharge to persons who have been taken into the employment of the Council since the 21st of March, 1889. I object entirely to the way in which this scheme has been introduced into the Bill. It is an Omnibus Bill, which proposes to give the London County Council a number of powers of various kinds, and it involves a very comprehensive scheme of pension and superannuation allowances to the officers of the Council. In the past we have had various schemes for this object introduced into Parliament—for instance, in the case of the London Police, when the subject was introduced in a Government Bill and in a scheme which was proposed by the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir R. Temple) for the officers of the London School Board. But this scheme for the superannuation of the officers of the London County Council instead of being brought in as a public measure is tacked on to a Private Bill with various other proposals in connection with the Council. It will be referred in due course to a Committee upstairs and it will be there fought out; but the scheme will not be necessarily examined in any way as to the basis of the actuarial valuation, or upon the lines upon which such a scheme of superannuation ought to be considered. I have referred to the scheme of pensions and superannuation allowances for the officers of the School Board, and I cannot see why the two schemes should be treated in a wholly different manner. As a matter of fact, this scheme is a very large one. The number of persons employed by the London County Council is, I am told, something like 4,000. Therefore the scheme is a very large and important one. It is not like the ordinary superannuation scheme of a Railway Company or of a bank where the whole cost is paid by the company themselves; but in this case we are asked to sanction a scheme mixed up with certain other proposals which is to throw one half of the cost upon the local rates of London. So far as the Bill itself is concerned, I find that it contains no real scheme at all. I have been informed privately that the London County Council have a scheme before them, but it has not been scheduled in the bill, and no information is given to us as to the basis on which that scheme is founded. All that we know is that unlimited power is given to the London County Council to do exactly what it likes. I know that I shall be accused by the hon. Member for West St. Pancras (Mr. Lawson) of attacking the London County Council. But I do not think it is attacking the County Council to say that it is only reasonable they should show us, some way or other, what the scheme is and how it is to be worked. Is it to be a scheme like that which was put into the London School Board Bill, in which an actuarial valuation was made an incident of the scheme without having undergone a sound examination. I object to any scheme being propounded until we know what that scheme is to be, and can have it laid upon the Table of the House, so that we may give an opinion upon it. Some of the clauses contained in the Bill are of a very startling character. The London County Council are to have power to frame this superannuation scheme, and they are to have the power of contributing one-half of the superannuation fund from the rates. Individually, I do not object to that proposal, but I find that the London County Council is to have, of its own ipse dixit, the right to say which of its officers shall belong to the fund, and which shall not. The Council is to be able to disqualify any person from going upon the fund, or to allow others to belong to it, just as it likes. I do not think that Parliament would be justified in handing over to the London County Council the right of saying to its employés that one shall be allowed to join, but that another shall not; and in that way to have a discretionary power to prescribe who may join and who may not. One of the clauses of the Bill says that there are to be a set of rules laying down who are to contribute and be benefitted by the fund, and who are to be disqualified from becoming contributors and participators in the benefits. I think it is only right to know whether it is to be a compulsory or a voluntary scheme. Indeed, it is a matter of essential importance that we should know that fact. Then, again, the London County Council is to have a discretionary power, dismissing any person from the benefits of the scheme whenever it may think proper; also to divide the fund into different classes, and to remove any contributor from one class to another. I would ask the House to remember what the fund is that we are going to ask the employésof the London County Council to contribute to. It is a fund for the superannuation of officers, and we are asked to give the County Council a discretionary power, when they dismiss an officer, whether for a fraudulent cause or not, to decide whether any part of the money he has contributed shall be returned to him. I maintain that the essence of a fund of this nature is that the money taken from a man's salary belongs to him whatever may afterwards occur. It is quite clear that the Council ought to have no discretion in the matter at all, but that a fund deducted from the salaries of individuals should go absolutely to the persons from whom the money has been taken. Although I know there is a difference of opinion as to the allocation of that part of the fund which is contributed from the local rates, I hold that you have no right to take a benefit away, paid for at one period of a man's life, because that person subsequently has done something wrong. There are a great number of points concerning this fund which I think ought to be threshed out by a Select Committee on the basis of some tangible and distinct plan. The right hon. Baronet opposite says that it has been considered undesirable in a scheme of this kind to go into details; but in Clause 60 the Bill descends to the smallest detail, and prescribes that copies of any scheme in force under the Act shall be supplied at a price not exceeding 6d. to any person in the employ of the Council interested in the fund. I propose that it shall be an Instruction to the Select Committee to omit all the clauses relating to the superannuation scheme. I think that they ought to be embodied in a separate Bill. It is said that a separate Bill would increase the cost; but the scheme of the County Council, in reference to sky advertisements, has been introduced as a separate measure, although it might reasonably have formed the subject of clauses in an Omnibus Bill. The question of pension and superannuation allowances, following former precedents, ought to form the subject of a separate and distinct measure. I am afraid, unless I have satisfactory assurances, that I shall be compelled to press this Instruction to a Division.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee to omit Clauses 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, and 64 from the Bill"—(Mr. Bartley.)

(3.25.) SIR J. LUBBOCK

I can make no complaint of the manner in which my hon. Friend opposite has brought forward this Instruction. At the same time I hope the House will not consent to it, but will allow these clauses to go to a Committee upstairs, by whom they can be thoroughly investigated. When the London County Council came into existence they found that there was already a scheme for pensions and superannuation which had been going on for some time under the auspices of the Metropolitan Board of Works. There were certain difficulties in connection with that scheme, and the County Council felt that without interfering with any of the servants already employed, it would be wise to place the matter upon a more satisfactory footing. They therefore made inquiries into the system, adopted by other municipalities, by the great Railway Companies, and other large bodies, and having obtained the necessary information, they prepared the scheme which they now ask Parliament to sanction in order to enable them to put it into operation. The hon. Gentleman, opposite says that the House ought to have an opportunity of considering whether, from an actuarial point of view, the scheme is satisfactory. But the scheme is one that does not require any actuarial calculation; practically, what it comes to is this: the employésof the London County Council make contributions out of their own salaries to a fund, and the County Council supply an amount equal to that contributed by the officers themselves. There is no need, therefore, for any actuarial valuation in the matter.


Is that in the Bill?


No; but I make the statement by way of explanation. Then, my hon. Friend says that the scheme may lead to an increase of the rates. That cannot be the case, because under the system in force, when the County Council was established the whole amount of the pensions was paid out of the rates, whereas if this Bill is passed practically one-half only will be paid out of the rates, while the other half will be contributed by the officers. The hon. Member wishes the rules and regulations to be laid down in the Bill. This is not usual, and, moreover, we have found under the old system considerable difficulty in determining what the real meaning of the Acts of Parliament was. We have been put to much legal expense in endeavouring to ascertain this, and we therefore propose to leave the County Council to decide what are the classes of servants who are to be brought under the operation of the scheme. Surely, if London is to have a County Council at all, that is a detail of administration which the House may well entrust to them. As to the return of the contributions of those who have ceased to contribute to the fund or to be in the service of the County Council it is proposed that when an officer leaves voluntarily he should receive back the whole of his contribution with compound interest. But in the case of a person who has been discharged for fraud, we thought that the amount standing to his credit in the fund should be utilised for the purpose of making good his defalcation as far as possible.


What clause is that?


It is not in the clauses of the Bill, but it is part of the scheme. If we were to put all these provisions into the Bill it would make it a very complex measure, and would involve the London County Council in a serious expenditure besides occupying the valuable time of the House in an unnecessary discussion. The terms of the Bill have been very carefully considered, and it is for that reason and not from a desire to keep any details back from the knowledge of the House, that I think it is not advisable to put them in the Bill. Of course all this information will be completely open to the Select Committee upstairs, from whom there is no desire on the part of the London County Council to keep anything back. All that I ask the House to do now is to allow the Bill to go to a Select Committee for its consideration. If the Instruction were carried the County Council would be precluded, for some time to come, from awarding any pension at all; and all those who have been in the habit of dealing with large organisations will agree with me that unless there is some system of superannuation allowances and pensions the result is the adoption of the undesirable and expensive system of keeping on employés long after they have ceased to be fit for work. All these matters have been carefully and thoroughly considered, and when the Bill comes back from the Select Committee, if it is not satisfactory my hon. Friend will have an opportunity of bringing the subject forward again. I hope that after this explanation the hon. Member will not press the Instruction.


I certainly sympathise to some extent with the remarks which have fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Mr.Bartley). At the same time I hope that he will not press the Instruction he has moved, but will allow the Bill to be considered by a Select Committee upstairs. So far as the alterations proposed by the Bill in connection with superannuation are concerned I think they will commend themselves to the approval of the House. The London County Council inherited from the Metropolitan Board of Works a definite system of superannuation, so that they can give superannuation now, but the whole of it is provided out of the rates. The County Council are bound by a scale which is very much like that of the Civil Service.

MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)

It is the Civil Service scale.


It is proposed by the present Bill that some provision shall be made for contributions towards the fund from the servants themselves. That is a principle which the general tendency of public opinion favours, and it is one which I think will commend itself to hon. Members in most parts of the House. Therefore, so far as that alteration is concerned, I am disposed to regard it as a distinct improvement upon the existing state of things. What I think is not an improvement is this: at present there is a distinct scheme upon which the London County Council are bound to give their superannuation and pension. There is no definite scheme whatever in this Bill.


That will have to go before the Committee upstairs.


It ought not only to be put before the Committee, but I think it ought to be included in the Bill with all its main features. At the same time, I would ask my hon. Friend not to press the Instruction, because I believe the Select Committee will regard the matter from very much the same standpoint, and that in dealing with the question they will consider it desirable that some of the main features of the scheme ought to be included in the Bill itself. If the Instruction is not agreed to and the Amendment is not proposed, the Bill will come back to the House in a more satisfactory shape than that in which it will leave the House. There is another matter upon which I desire to say a word, namely, the exclusion of the Government Auditor from any control or supervision over these superannuation allowances. Parliament has given to the Auditor of the Local Government Board the power of auditing the accounts of the London County Council, and I think it would be an unfortunate thing if we were to exclude this particular item from his audit. I trust that the Committee upstairs will direct its attention to that point.

(3.36.) MR. J. R. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

Before the Bill is disposed of I desire to say a few words. I want to know what the position of the ratepayers is. I do not agree altogether with the Bill as it has been submitted to Parliament by the London County Council, and I think that Clause 51, which repeals the Act for the acquisition of Raleigh Park in Brixton, ought to be omitted. So far as the superannuation of the officers of the London County Council is concerned, I fail to see upon what principle the ratepayers of London should be called upon to contribute one-half of the fund. If the London County Council wish to deal with the matter and will bring in a specific Bill, I do not see why they should not do so; but surely the ratepayers are entitled to be considered and to have a voice in the matter. I certainly cannot see any analogy between the servants of the London School Board and those of the County Council, and I want to know what real objection there is to dealing with the question by a separate Bill. Why is this Bill to be chucked at the head of a Committee without any details whatever? The right hon. Baronet opposite objects to an actuarial calculation.


What I said was that in this case an actuarial calculation was absolutely unnecessary.


I understood the right hon. Baronet to object to the observations made by the Mover of the Instruction, as to the absence of an actuarial calculation. The ratepayers of London will have to make good any deficiency that may arise in any actuarial calculation. Are the London County Council to be treated differently from any other body of employers? Are the ratepayers to be represented or not? They are represented in the Council, and some of their representatives have seats in this House, but in no other way are they represented here. But if the County Council suppress all the details of their measure, the ratepayers will have no representation here at all. I fail to see why they should not be represented generally, in addition to their representation on the Council. In the absence of a complete scheme the ratepayers will have no voice in the matter, and I hope the hon. Member below me will press the Instruction he has moved.

(3.40.) MR. COURTNEY

I should like to say a word or two in consequence of what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. He thinks that a scheme of superannuation ought to have been included in the Bill. Now I have had to deal with several Private Bills brought in by the great Railway Companies in which the question of superannuation has been introduced, and it has always been an important point for consideration whether schemes of superannuation ought or ought not to be incorporated in such Bills. Personally I have always found myself incompetent to judge or express an opinion as to the actuarial accuracy of the scheme submitted to me. The Committee to which this Bill will be referred, may have precedents to guide, them and larger powers, but I confess that I entertain some doubt whether their opinion will be of much value. I have often felt that something ought to be done in the matter, and that safeguards should be inserted in Private Bills dealing with cases where servants retire in consequence of a reduction of staff, or from being dismissed for misconduct, or when they retire of their own free will, so that they may not be deprived of the entire benefit of a fund to which they have largely contributed. I have no doubt that the London County Council will provide safeguards to prevent abuse, and conditions might be inserted in the Bill that such safeguards, shall be provided, but I cannot think that their full scheme ought to have been inserted in the Bill. Hitherto, in the case of London, the rates have supplied the fund, and the proposed alteration does not constitute a reason, why the entire scheme of the County Council ought to have been presented. I have thought it right to utter a word of caution in consequence of the great weight attached to the words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, especially when I heard him say that, in his opinion, it might be expedient after all to incorporate the scheme in the Bill.


On the undertaking which has been given that an outline of the scheme will be submitted to the Committee, and time will be allowed to consider it, I beg to withdraw the Instruction.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.