HC Deb 01 August 1911 vol 29 cc275-85

Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed on Consideration of Bill, as amended [28th July]. (By Order.)

Which Amendment was in Article XI., Sub-section (2), at the end of paragraph (b), to insert:

"For the purposes of Part XVIII. of the Act of 1900 teachers who, at the commencement of this Order, are, or hereafter shall be, permanently and exclusively employed by the Corporation as the local education authority for the borough, or are permanently and exclusively employed in any public elementary school in the borough (whether provided by the Corporation as the local education authority or not), or are permanently and exclusively employed in any school, college, or hostel provided by the Corporation as the local education authority for the purpose of Part II. of the Education Act, 1902 (and any such teacher is in this Section called "the teacher"), shall be deemed, if the Corporation in their discre- tion think fit, to be persons in the employment of the Corporation whom, or some of whom (according to their qualifications or conditions of service or otherwise) the Corporation may, in their discretion, determine to be a class or classes of persons entitled to contribute to and participate in the benefit of any fund established under the provisions of the Act of 1900, and upon any such determination such provisions shall apply accordingly.

Provided that in exercising their discretion under this section the Corporation shall not differentiate between classes of teachers on the ground alone that any such class is composed of persons employed in public elementary schools provided by them or in public elementary schools not so provided, or of persons who were, before the commencement of this Order, employed in the existing borough, or of persons employed in the added area.

  1. (a) In the application of the Act of 1900 to any teacher to whom the Elementary School Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1898 (in this section called "the Act of 1898"), applies, the amount of the superannuation allowance to be made to the teacher upon retirement under the provisions of the Act of 1900 shall be complementary to the amount of the deferred annuity to which the teacher is entitled and to the superannuation allowance which may be granted to the teacher under the Act of 1898 (in this section hereinafter called "the benefits under the Act of 1898"), and the salary or wages in respect of which he shall contribute to and receive an annual allowance from the superannuation fund under the provisions of the Act of 1900 shall be so much (if any) of the actual salary or wages for the time being receivable by him as remains after deducted from that last-named salary or wages a sum equal to one and a-half times the amount of the benefits under the Act of 1898 receivable by him, provided that the total amount of the contributions to be so made by him shall be at such rate or rates per centum per annum on the salary or wages calculated as aforesaid as the Corporation, acting on the advice of an actuary (being a Fellow either of the Institute of Actuaries or of the Faculty of Actuaries in Scotland), shall determine to be proper, so that the total amount of 277 the contributions made by the teacher at the time when he becomes entitled to an annual allowance from the superannuation fund shall be nearly as may be bear the same ratio to the amount of such allowance as the total amount of the contributions made at the like time by any other officer or servant admitted to the benefits of the Act of 1900 with a like service shall bear to the amount of the annual allowance receivable by that officer or servant;
  2. (b) For the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of this sub-section the Corporation shall by resolution from time to time determine the amount of the benefits under the Act of 1898, and prescribe a scale determining the rate or rates of contribution aforesaid;
  3. (c) If at any time hereafter under the Act of 1898 or by reason of the passing of any general Act of Parliament, whether in this or in any subsequent Session of Parliament or otherwise, the benefits under the provisions of the Act of 1898, or otherwise, shall be materially increased, the Corporation shall by an amending resolution make such provision as shall be necessary to meet the altered circumstances, and by that resolution shall provide for the return to the teacher or the credit to him in respect of future contributions to the superannuation fund of the amount of any payments made by him to that fund in respect of service before the date of the amending resolution in respect of any part, proportion, or amount of his salary or wages in excess of the part, proportion, or amount in respect of which, as determined by the said amending resolution, he will thereafter be entitled to contribute to and receive an annual allowance from the superannuation fund;
  4. (d) No part of any benefit or superannuation allowance received by any teacher from the superannuation fund shall be deemed to be paid out of or received from any public money within the meaning of the 1898 Act or any rules made there under or otherwise." —[Sir James Yoxall.]

Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."


I do not wish to detain the House long on this particular Amendment, but I think it necessary to ask for some declaration from the representatives of the teachers in this House. The hon. Member for Southport (Major White), in speaking to this Amendment the other day, used rather remarkable words. He said: I have been requested by the promoters of this Order, the Southport Order, to say that, in view of the lateness of the Session and the possibility of losing their Bill, they accept this Clause but under protest. They consider it is irrelevant matter and has nothing at all to do with an order for the extension of the boundaries of the town. They think it ought to be included in some national scheme, and I personally agree, but, as it is, they accept the Clause."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 28th July, 1911, col. 1911.] It does seem to me that if the hon. Member believes those words, he should have had the courage of his opinions and have opposed this Amendment. The only inference one can draw is that the teachers or their representatives in looking after the interests of the elementary teachers in the district, have been endeavouring to force something upon the promoters of this order which is unreasonable and cannot be justified. The teachers are just as much entitled to consideration—they are in fact rather more entitled to consideration than many of the persons who are very well cared for indeed in this order, and to suggest that the other people shall have their salaries increased and their terms extended while the teachers' demands are treated as unreasonable does seem to be unwarrantable. I think I am right in asking some representative of teachers in this House to defend their own proposal, and to say whether my interpretation is reasonably right or whether the condemnation passed by the hon. Member for Southport is justified.


As this Motion stands in my name, I do not know whether I have exhausted my right to speak by having formally moved it.


I daresay the House will be glad to hear the hon. Member, although I think, technically, he has exhausted his right to speak.


When I moved the Amendment without a speech I did so on the understanding that it was an agreed Amendment. The hon. Member for Southport followed with the statement which has just been referred to, and that prevented the matter going any further on that particular date. I wish to point out that four Bills which contained Clauses dealing with superannuation powers on the part of local authorities have this year come before the Education Committee, and a Clause exactly similar in purport and largely similar in wording to the Amendment I have put down has been adopted, approved by the Committee, and placed in the Bills. That was done with the goodwill and approval of the Treasury. But the Committee which had to deal with this Bill refused to introduce such an Amendment. An endeavour was made to induce the Committee in the ordinary way by argument to agree to the insertion of this Amendment, but it having failed I gave notice of my intention to move the addition of this Clause in this House.


On a point of Order. May I suggest I will be content with moving only one of my notices, and I do that out of consideration for the House itself. I think it will be quite possible for me to make my protest on the one Amendment, and, by way of personal explanation, I should like to add that, as the Insurance Bill was interrupted by a Debate on a private Bill last night, I feel a great sense of responsibility in occupying time which is required for the consideration of that Bill. I beg to move, to leave out Article XIII.:—

  1. "(1) The town clerk and all other officers and servants of the corporation of the existing borough who hold office at the commencement of this Order shall continue to be the town clerk and officers and servants of the corporation of the borough and shall hold their offices by the same tenure as at that date.
  2. "(2) The auditors of the existing borough who are in office at the commencement of this Order shall continue in office and shall for the purposes of the Municipal Corporations Acts be the borough auditors until the next ordinary day of election of borough auditors."
This is, I think, a convenient Clause on which to draw the attention of the House to the proceedings that have taken place. The town clerk in question has written one or two letters to the local Press with which I shall feel it my duty to acquaint the House. By way of explanation, I may say that the borough of Southport was anxious many years ago to become a county borough, but difficulties arose in connection with the district of Birkdale. Many efforts were made to get the two districts united, but they were all unsuccessful. Now the matter has been approached in a rather different way, and I am taking this step in order to protest against the methods adopted in, the district, and to warn the rest of the country to be exceedingly careful not to allow a conspiracy of this kind to go on in another place. I should have thought that where two democratic authorities and two sets of ratepayers freely wished to unite it ought to be easy of accomplishment. I do not think the House will be inclined to sanction some of the proceedings that have taken place in this instance. One of the methods adopted was to form a ratepayers' association in the smaller urban district, and I think I shall be able to show from the correspondence that, instead of this association voicing the independent views of the Birkdale ratepayers it was really the town clerk of Southport who was pulling the wires. I propose to read a letter, dated 22nd September, 1910, sent by the town clerk of Southport to the president of this ratepayers' association at Birkdale. It is as follows:— Adverting to mine of the 19th instant, and the interview thereon, which you and Mr. H. T. Smith had with my Parliamentary Committee yesterday, I am directed to say that my committee cannot give financial assistance to your association. If, however, you will let me have permission to use the manifesto, which we understand you are issuing and publishing in favour of amalgamation, I am authorised by my committee to have copies printed and placed in the hands of the Birkdale and Ainsdale ratepayers. This shows that there was collusion between this group of ratepayers forming the association in Birkdale and the town clerk's office in Southport. They were arranging manifestoes together, and arranging for distribution, and quite naturally this ratepayers' association in Birkdale thought that justified a claim for the usual liberal scale of expenses and disbursements, and the president in question, in a very long letter to the local Press, is justifying his conduct in trying to get money out of the Southport Corporation for what he calls expenses and disbursements, although the association was ostensibly acting solely in the interests of Birkdale and Ainsdale. I want hon. Members to realise that if a big borough is endeavouring to look round for a desirable urban district to incorporate, and is allowed to make proposals to the officials to secure them in their posts, as this Order does, and make ample provision for them, and coax them over if you like by the well-known species of argument, and when they have sapped and mined the local authorities and the urban district, to foster and aid and buy collusion with the ratepayers' association, disseminating literature and then making financial claims, they are discrediting local government throughout the country. This is the first instance that has been brought to my knowledge, though I am in touch with a great many local authorities, and I am bound to bring it forward and make a public example of this manner of securing amalgamation. That money was expended, I think, will be perfectly clear, because it was on the advice of the solicitor of this ratepayers' association that they sought to get these funds. The president, in a letter dated from Birkdale on July 21st, says:— I explained to the Southport Parliamentary Committee that the disbursements of the Birkdale Kate-payers' Association incurred in furthering the cause of amalgamation, should be repaid by Southport as soon as amalgamation was accomplished. After interviewing the Town Clerk on the subject, the Parliamentary Committee gave me an appointment to appear before them and, in company with Mr. H. T. Smith, I did so appear and my request was refused. There you see this president of the association got on so well that he thought he would be able to get a cheque for expenses, and the Committee met him to debate it with him, but he finally failed, and my own interpretation, and I can put no other on the matter, is that having failed to get this money he then proceeds to expose the whole thing in the Press, and fills two or three columns with diatribes against every one concerned. It is most remarkable. To make it quite clear I will read another letter from this same town clerk, which will show this application for money. This is a letter of 19th September, dated from the Town Hall of Southport, 1910:— Dear Mr. O'Regan.— Adverting to the interviews which you and Mr. H. T. Smith had on Saturday with myself and afterwards with the Chairman of my Parliamentary Committee, when you asked for an assurance of financial assistance for the operations of the Birkdale Ratepayers Association, the Chairman desires me to say that he will lay your request before the Parliamentary Committee at their meeting on Wednesday. The Chairman evidently thought it was a request that the Committee should consider. I bring this matter forward at the request of many of the inhabitants of Birkdale who by this time have repented of the whole transaction. I do not think it quite fair to the House to begin a game of obstruction against a measure that has gone so far. It may be that they can appear before the Committee in another place. I hope they can, but I want to ask, in view of these transactions, for some assurance from the Local Government Board, which takes a kind of paternal interest in all these authorities and is very carefully on the watch, that when their auditor goes down he will carefully examine all the payments and vouchers to see that no money actually did pass on such an object as this. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to send a special inspector down to inquire into the whole circumstances, but from the evidence I have been able to place before the House this is not a bonâ fide amalgamation. The agitation was spurious, the connection between the agitators in both places is entirely complicated, and I do not think that people who sincerely desire progress in local government would indulge in tactics of this kind. At this stage, though I have a number of Amendments down, if I can get any assurance from any quarter that the thing will be inquired into on the spot and that we shall get to the bottom of the charges, because the people are demanding an inquiry into the whole circumstances, it may influence my further opposition to this Order.


I beg to second the Amendment.


My hon. Friend is to be congratulated upon the sweet reasonableness that has characterised his proceedings this evening, because he has twenty-five Amendments down on the Paper, and, with a generosity amounting almost to magnanimity, he has decided to speak on one, and not move the other twenty-four. For this condescension many thanks. My hon. Friend has brought before the House a case which at first I thought had more in it than now appears, the facts principally being these: He makes great play of the fact that a ratepayers' association was formed in Birkdale, the urban district which was going to be included in the Southport Order, and he rather implied that that was a gross and improper proceeding. Speaking generally, I never did attach a great deal of importance to what are ordinarily known as ratepayers' associations, with whatever political party they may be associated, but the formation of a ratepayers' association is not yet an illegal or a seditious act and therefore they are within their rights in forming such an association. Then my hon. Friend quoted the town clerk's letter, and I had expected from the way in which ho read it that the town clerk had been asked and had consented to supply the money that the president and secretary of the ratepayers' association thought they were entitled to claim from the Southport Town Council through their clerk for supposed services rendered in the amalgamation of Birkdale with Southport. But my hon. Friend failed to prove any financial collusion between the town clerk and the president of the association, and therefore the suggestion that the town clerk had squandered the ratepayers' money was not maintained.


I did not suggest that.


No; but it has been suggested in correspondence. Then the piece de resistance of the hon. Member's case was some remarks about a manifesto. It seemed to me that the only thing the town clerk has expressed a willingness to do was to circulate some manifestoes in the event of their being sent to him. Whether that was so or not I have no information, but this is evident that the town clerk did decline to pay any expenses. The money may have been expected by Mr. O'Regan, but the cash was not forthcoming, therefore the town clerk seems to me not to have committed himself to the extent that was thought. That is demonstrated by the fact that a request was made definitely in one or two letters for money, but that failed. No cheque for expenses was sent, and the result of it is that Mr. O'Regan and his secretary were unable to be reimbursed what they considered the reasonable expenses they had been out of pocket in negotiating the unity of Birkdale with Southport.

My hon. Friend, as he was perfectly entitled to do, appealed to me as the President of the Local Government Board, who tries to be in these matters the guide, philosopher, and friend of these authorities, to make some promise to him as to the regularity of these proceedings. My hon. Friend has now an opportunity of knowing what could have been done in the event of irregularities taking place of the kind first suspected. To his credit he did not suggest that irregularities had occurred in the ease of the Southport town clerk. If any expense has been improperly incurred by the town council of Southport, and if their accounts are audited by the Local Government Board auditor, then it is very easy for anybody, not necessarily a ratepayer, to bring these irregularities within the purview of the Local Government Board auditor. In this case the accounts of Southport are not audited by the Local Government Board auditor, and therefore my jurisdiction does not apply. If the accounts of Southport are audited by an elected auditor any ratepayer can bring the matter before the elected auditor. In the event of irregular expenses having been incurred by the town council or one of its officers acting presumably on its behalf, any ratepayer can apply to the Attorney-General for his fiat to be issued against allowing these expenses whether the accounts are audited by the Local Government Board auditor or an elected auditor. My hon. Friend in the last resort could get a ratepayer to apply to the Attorney-General for his fiat. I would appeal to my hon. Friend not to press this further. He can rest assured that if the Local Government Board thought it was as serious as he anticipated, and if the auditor of the Local Government Board audited the accounts, it would be brought within his jurisdiction. My hon. Friend no doubt thinks he has done a public service in calling attention to this matter. I have pointed out to him how he can proceed if anything of the sort occurs again. I trust he will be satisfied with the statement I have made. I hope he will allow Birkdale to be included in Southport. If he does so, he will have the satisfaction of having discharged a public duty and of having at the same time added a picturesque interest to what would otherwise have been a quiet, dull and, perhaps, monotonous proceeding.


I think my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) has got hold of a mare's nest. If he had been able to prove that money had passed between the town clerk and the ratepayers' association, that would have been another matter, but it is officially denied by the corporation that any money passed at all. On the contrary the ratepayers' association came to them and they refused to give them money. The Parliamentary Committee of the Southport Corporation refused to take part in the newspaper correspondence which has been so prominent lately. With regard to what the hon. Member said about the question of teachers, I would like to offer one or two words in reply to what was said yesterday. It is no lack of interest in the teachers that has led the corporation to take the line they have taken, and there is certainly no lack of interest on my part. The Southport Corporation fully desire that the question of teachers should be dealt with, but they think it should not be dealt with in a Provisional Order Bill. I know that was the feeling of all the Committee before which this Bill came. When speaking to the Chairman of the Committee he said to me that they sympathised with the teachers, but did not think their case was relevant to this Bill. I need hardly assure the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Sir James Yoxall) that it is from no lack of sympathy with the teachers that I opposed his Motion. Now that he has brought the subject before the House, perhaps he will be satisfied.


I do think that the hon. Member for Pontefract has done a service by calling attention to this matter. When these bogus associations are brought forward great harm may be done. I think that these associations meet in a hole and corner fashion, and they may do a good cause a deal of injury. I hope municipalities will not insult the intelligence of this House by endeavouring to promote their scheme by enlisting the help of bogus associations.


After the courteous and friendly reply I have got from the President of the Local Government Board, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill ordered for Third Reading.