HC Deb 10 February 1902 vol 102 cc826-33

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

*(3.15.) MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)

said he thought it was highly desirable that the House should not give a Second Reading to this Bill without thoroughly understanding the principles and circumstances involved, and therefore he thought it would be better either to move its rejection or to propose some strict Instruction to the Committee with regard to certain matters to which he proposed to draw attention. The object of the Bill was set forth in a long preamble filling eight pages. It was to the effect that from 1886 down to the present time the London School Board had been engaged in endeavouring to set upon its legs a superannuation scheme for its officers and staff. Undoubtedly the matter appeared to have been badly mismanaged by the Board. So far as the teachers were concerned, however, the Board had been relieved by the Teachers' Superannuation Act of 1898, but all the other officers were still dependent on the Board's efforts for a superannuation scheme. Up till now the Board had been unable to establish any substantial scheme, and it now came to Parliament with what was practically a Relief Bill. His contention was firstly that if any provision were enacted to enable clerks and officers of the London School Board to be superannuated, it ought to be not for the London School Board only, but it should be part of a general scheme for the whole country. Any such scheme ought to be of general application. Secondly, it was not right, without due consideration at any rate, that the House should give the London School Board powers to charge the school fund, that was to say, the London rates, with this extra scheme of superannuation. Parliament had already decided that teachers throughout the Kingdom should be superannuated from imperial taxation, and there had been for several years before the House a Local Authorities' Officers Superannuation Bill which also proposed to charge imperial taxaton for superannuation purposes in the case of the various employees. He did not think it was right in a Bill of that kind to make an exception and to give powers to place upon the school fund a charge which was certainly not contemplated when the fund was created in 1870. His third point was that there was no statement in the Bill as to the cost to the rates of the scheme, and, if the House did decide to send the Bill to a Committee, it certainly ought, in his humble opinion, to instruct that Committee to carefully investigate the question of cost. Fourthly, he had some suspicion—perhaps it did not amount to more than suspicion—that the scheme proposed in the Bill was not acceptable to the beneficiaries whom it endeavoured to assist, and he for one would like to be assured, before the Bill was passed, that it would be acceptable. That information might be obtained by another Instruction to Committee. On these grounds he begged to move the rejection of the Bill.

(3.20.) MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)

said he desired, in the fewest possible words, to second the Amendment. He would like to assure the House that he had no general objection to the superannuation of the staff of the London School Board, and he voted gladly for the Act of 1898, which provided a superannuation allowance for the teachers. But he objected, as did his hon. friend, most strongly to the Bill, because it proposed to deal with the general question in a partial and local manner, and by a private instead of a public Act. It must be remembered that they could not deal merely with the officers of the London School Board, they must consider the claims of the whole class of Government officers, including those under Poor Law Boards, Sanitary Authorities, and Borough Councils. If School Board officers were entitled to compensation, so also were the officers serving under other public bodies, and it was a very strong order indeed to ask the House to grant, by a private Bill to the London School Board employees, that which should be applicable to a very much wider class. Secondly, there was the question of throwing the expense on the school fund. He ventured to think there was no precedent for that. The Act of 1898 laid it down that, in cases where the teachers made a certain contribution, the Treasury might grant a further sum out of money to be provided by Parliament. But the proposition contained in this Bill was very different. It was most unfair to the ratepayers of London, who already paid very heavily for educational and other matters, that this additional charge should be put upon them, when Parliament had decided that, in the case of the teachers, it should be a national charge. It was becoming more and more recognised that education was of national rather than of local concern, and that the State should pay more towards the cost and the local authorities less. For that reason he thought it was contrary to the general drift of opinion that this additional charge should be thrown on the school fund. He was afraid the fact was that the London School Board, with excellent intentions, had thrown out certain somewhat delusive hopes to their employees which had not been fulfilled. They had been unable to carry out their proposed scheme, and they now came to Parliament to get them out of the difficulty, in a way which he thought Parliament ought not to do. Under these circumstances he had much pleasure in seconding the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Evelyn Cecil.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

*(3.25.) DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N)

said the observations of the hon. Members who had just spoken made it necessary that he should briefly explain why the Bill was brought forward and what it proposed to do. The matter was a very complicated one, but if the House would bear with him for a moment or two he would endeavour to clear it up. In 1886 the London School Board agreed that it was desirable to superannuate all its Officers—the head office staff, teachers, inspectors, superintendents, visitors, and caretakers—and it was decided that they should be subjected to a two per cent. deduction of salary, while the benefit was to be on the Civil Service scale—in other words, a retiring allowance equal to one-sixtieth of the final salary for every year of service up to forty-sixtieths. He admitted at once that that was a reckless and profligate thing to do, but they immediately commenced to pay the full Civil Service benefit, not merely on the years of which there had been a deduction of salary, but also on all the years of back service for which the retiring officers had paid nothing at all. As a consequence the younger members of the staff soon found that they were paying two per cent. of their salaries simply to secure a superannuation allowance for the older members, and before 1893 they asked the Board to let them come out of the fund, and take out their premium payments. In that year the Board resolved that all teachers who desired to leave the fund should be allowed to do so, taking out their premium payment, together with interest, and the result was that of the 7,552 teachers in the fund, 5,875 at once went out, and of the £86,000 invested at the time they carried with them £61,058. The Board was consequently compelled to revolutionise the benefits which he admitted ought never to have been offered, unless rate assistance had been secured. They agreed that the benefits for the time should not be on the Civil Service scale—which was to be suspended until such time as Parliament gave power to supplement the fund out of the rates, but on a scale which actuarial examination made from time to time should prove it was able to bear. The result was that the people who came on the fund after that revolution only got one-seventh of the scale originally promised, and to-day the fund was only able to bear about one-sixth. In 1898 the House passed a general scheme of superannuation for all elementary teachers partly aided out of the Imperial Exchequer fund. A large number of the teachers, therefore, were now compelled to pay to two funds, the Government fund and the School Board fund. A general agreement had been substantially come to that those who desired to come out of the School Board fund, and to take their premium payments, without interest, should be allowed to do so, and that was the first thing that this Bill proposed to do. But they desired to do something more than they were doing at present for their other officers, who were paying into the fund and were only getting in return 17.5 per cent, of the original Scale of Civil Service pension. To-day the Board had 48 officers on the fund and the average superannuation they had been able to pay them was £8 9s. 7d. a year after an average of 20 years and 8 months service. The Board resolved to set up the scheme which was now set up by this Bill, and it was a little remarkable that at all the subsequent stages there had been absolute unanimity with regard to these proposals so far as the School Board for London was concerned. What did the Board desire to do? First of all they desired to carry on the scheme as it now stood and to continue the precise benefits that that fund could bear, both of which desires could be carried out without the aid of Parliament; but they further require to supplement the benefit, by an equivalent amount from the public rates. Beneficiaries under the fund to-day reached 17.5 per cent. of the Civil Service scale; if the Bill were passed they would get 35 per cent. The three last persons to come upon the fund had been in the service of the School Board for 18 years, 28 years and 18 years, respectively, and were in receipt of £6 8s. 4d., £11 13s. 6d. and £6 0s. 9d. a year, respectively. Those amounts were grotesque after so long a service, but if the Bill were passed they could be doubled. But the Bill asked for power to do something else. The Board was precluded from adding to the amount of the superannuation, so as to make the total receivable more than the Civil Service scale. With regard to the aggregate cost to the rates, he pointed out that if they took next year and put upon the fund every person liable to come upon it, and took the basis of 17.5 of the Civil Service scale, the total cost to the rates would be £1,227, whilst that of the year 1914, when the largest charge that was possible would fall upon the fund, the liability of the fund itself, and consequently the cost to the ratepayers, would be £3,290 or 1/50th of a penny in the £on the rateable value of London. But even supposing that the fund by a stroke of good luck could afford to pay 50 per cent. of the Civil Service scale; although that was a prospect he found great difficulty in supposing then the cost next year to the ratepayers would only be £3,505, and in 1914 with the fund at its highest limit, the ultimate maximum charge would be £9,400 or 1/15th of a penny in the £ and if the fund ever paid more than 50 per cent. of the Civil Service scale the public of obligation would of course be reduced accordingly. He appealed to the House therefore, as the Bill was a moderate measure, although in the opinion of the staff it did not go far enough, to give it a Second Reading at any rate.

*(3.38.) MR. FLOWER (Bradford, W.)

supported the Second Reading of the Bill for very much the same reasons that were given by the hon. Members who opposed it. In his opinion it was the best scheme that could be desired in the interest of the ratepayers. The hon. Gentleman had said due consideration ought to be given to the Bill, and he doubted whether it could receive the consideration it merited at the present time. That no doubt was so, but to summarily reject a Bill for that reason was a most arbitrary course to adopt, although he could quite understand such a ground being put forward for the Second Reading being adjourned. It was an extremely complicated question which had engaged the attention of the School Board for many years, and one which a few moments debate could not be expected to settle. The Bill was to disentangle a knot into which the School Board finances had got. The fact as to whether the scheme originated with one party or the other ought not to affect the House of Committee in their judgment on the present method of relieving the Board from the scheme. The plain fact was that, so far back as 1886, the School Board for London thought of superannuation for their teachers, and they could not be blamed for having endeavoured to carry the plan out. The hon Member for Tunbridge had rather deprecated dealing in a private Bill of this kind, with a matter relating specially to London, but the London County Council under both private and public Bills had obtained similar powers, and the Poor Law Officers also enjoyed large benefits under the Act of 1896. The claim on the ratepayers would not be a heavy one, and this Bill was the best bargain the ratepayers could make to get them out of the difficulty. The details could be thrashed ont in Committee, as it was manifestly impossible to discuss them fully on a Second Reading debate. He hoped therefore that the House would not, on the very slight grounds alleged by his hon. friend, summarily refuse further progress to this Bill, but that they would give the Bill a Second Reading and send it to a Committee.


said he had served on a Committee on this question some years ago, but could not now enter into actual figures. Since that Committee investigated the question pensions had been given through the action of this House to teachers, and he thought they ought to rest satisfied with that provision, which referred to all teachers, board school as well as voluntary school teachers.

(3.46.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

said that as a London Member he was very much interested in the rates, and he should like to draw attention to the extraordinary way in which the finance of small matters before the House seemed to have been managed. No thought had apparently been given as to whether the scheme was sound or not, and the officials concerned were led to believe that they would receive pensions which were impossible under the scheme. If that were a specimen of the way in which the finance of the London School Board was managed, he was not surprised that the opinion generally entertained regarding it was that it was unsatisfactory. It was a very simple matter to calculate the premiums; yet a scheme was estab- lished without any trouble being taken in that direction, and now the unfortunate London ratepayer was called on to make good the amount.


said he would be willing to withdraw his Amendment on the understanding that some Instruction such as the following be agreed to—"That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power (1) to consider whether it is desirable that the scheme of superannuation contained in the Bill should be extended to the non-teaching staffs of all elementary schools in the Kingdom; and (2) whether the charge involved should fall on the school fund or the Treasury."


Do I understand that the hon. Member is willing to withdraw his Amendment?


Yes. Sir, if an Instruction is agreed to.


said that the scheme before the House contained the nucleus of a fund for London, which did not exist in the rest of the country.


said he could not assent to the proposal of his hon. friend. The Treasury would be intimately concerned in the proposed Instruction, and he could not be a party to any bargain of the kind.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.