HC Deb 15 October 1918 vol 110 cc69-78

Resolution reported: That it is expedient to make provision, out of the moneys to be provided by Parliament, for the grant of Superannuation Allowances and Gratuities to Teachers and of Gratuities to legal personal representatives of deceased Teachers, of charging deferred annuities under the Elementary School Teachers (Superannuation) Acts, 1896 to 1912, on the Consolidated Fund, and of otherwise amending these Acts.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


It is far from my wish to do anything to retard the progress of a Bill for the advantage of teachers. At the same time, I am bound to say, from the Paper that has been placed in our hands containing the main headings of the Superannuation Bill, which is not yet in our hands, that I regard it with some—I will not say trepidation—but considerable doubt, and I feel that the principles embodied in the Bill are very large, and, I would say, of an almost revolutionary character. The Bill proposes to abolish, practically for the whole of the teaching profession, the contributory pension system, and to abolish that not only as established by Parliament, but also all local systems of contributory pensions for the profession. In place of that it proposes to establish a system for the pensioning of teachers in aided schools on a non-contributory system at special rates, and, as we are told, as nearly as possible on the model of the Civil Service. This really means that, if we pass this Bill, we are going to transform the teaching profession very largely into a branch of the Civil Service. I am not perfectly certain that that would be in the long run for the advantage of the teaching profession. I gravely doubt whether the same good work, the same freedom, the same elasticity of that profession will prevail when you go so far as you do in this Bill, by means of an entirely new system of pensioning, to transform them into a branch of the Civil Service.

I want to point out that there are other schools than aided schools in the country. There are a very large number of endowed schools and private schools. I have suspicions that in the administration of the Board of Education there is a little too much desire to make all our schools of a uniform type, and to crush, if possible, all private schools, all independent schools, all those who do not come within the State system and receive Grants under that system. I am quite certain that that is a system which will not suit this country. We shall not preserve the elasticity and force of our education if we turn it altogether into a State machine. Remember, if we establish this wide scheme of non-contributory pensions for all teachers, certificated and uncertificated, so long only as they are in State-aided schools, we put a very severe penalty and a very severe drag upon all schools outside that system. We add difficulty to the managers of those schools in maintaining themselves against the powerful competition of the State system. If we pass this Bill, it will undoubtedly be a very long step towards discouraging all outside influences and all outside organisations, and bringing the whole of our education and the whole system under the Civil Service system, and making them conform in their curriculum to one model. I should be false to the whole work of my life if I did anything which would delay and hinder a real benefit to the teacher. As I have urged over and over again, be liberal in your salaries and pensions; but I am not quite sure that this benefit, accompanied as it is by a transformation of the whole profession into what will come very nearly to a Civil Service system, will be in the long run for the real advantage of that profession or for the advantage of education. I raise this doubt because I wish my right hon. Friend to recognise that there are questions that must be raised when this Bill comes before the House, and that although we may pass this Resolution just now it is with certain reservations on my part which may or may not subsequently be put forward by me.


I think first of all everybody must congratulate the President of the Board of Education on the simply magnificent sweep and grandeur of this scheme. Not content with having passed a Bill which is going to transform and enlarge the education of the Kingdom, he at this time introduces a scheme—for the Bill is not yet introduced, this being simply a Money Resolution previous to introducing the Bill—which is going to give every teacher in the country a pension at the age of sixty.


It is not every teacher in the country, but only the teachers in aided schools.


Yes, of course, I am coming to that. As a matter of fact the offer of this pension and the other facilities will bring all teachers who are not in aided schools into aided schools. There is such a deficiency of teachers in aided schools that one result I foresee from this scheme is that there will be a great rush from the private schools into the public schools and the aided schools, and it will practically mean all, for this scheme will have to be extended until it does mean a pension for every teacher in the land. We ought, I say, first to congratulate the President on this scheme—a scheme which has magnificent objects and a great many useful and admirable provisions. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had in Committee said a word or two about this Resolution. There were then only a few present, and I was pressed not to say anything because it was desired to get on with the business. I think he should have risen at the very opening of the proceedings and explained a little more about this scheme. I suppose the President will answer questions that are raised, and therefore I should like to ask, "How much does he expect this scheme will cost the country in two years, in ten years, and in twenty years?" It looks like being a matter of many million pounds per year. Unless it is many millions it will not be effective. In any case I congratulate him on having got the consent of the Treasury to this really immense scheme. It shows his desire to make the education of this country something bigger than it has ever been before.

To come to the details of the scheme, there are, I think, one or two fundamental conditions which are imposed as set out in the White Paper—a sheet of notepaper—which has been circulated. There are certain provisions which to my mind are very difficult and objectionable. It is going to sweep away all local pensions schemes; not entirely, and not at once, but the result of this scheme will sooner or later be that there will be one great national scheme of pensions for teachers, and all local schemes which have been in operation, and are still operating, will gradually cease to operate. That being so, I conceive it to be a great disadvantage that under this scheme no teacher is to get a pension until he or she is sixty years of age. I venture to suggest that there are many teachers, a majority of teachers, especially in the elementary schools where they have to teach small boys and girls, who are past being effective teachers when they have got, certainly, say, to fifty, and in cases of the sort the scheme, if carried out in the form in which it is at present, will mean that it will keep a number of worn-out teachers working on until they are sixty, when they ought to retire at forty-five, fifty, fifty-five, at a time when they are still able to take up some other work. I suspect the President will say that thirty-years of service will be sufficient to qualify for a pension, and that with many teachers beginning to teach before they are twenty it will mean with thirty years service they will be qualified, by length of service, before they are fifty. As I understand the Bill which is to be introduced, though the point is not quite clear, they will be able to leave their teaching at forty-eight, say, after thirty years' service, and so will be qualified for a pension when they reach the age of sixty.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Fisher)

The Bill says so.


Very good. But what have they to do between the age of forty-eight and sixty? They have to live, I suppose, on the prospect of getting a pension in twelve years time! If I have the chance when the Bill is in Committee, I shall attempt to alter the provisions so that a reduced pension may be granted at an earlier age after thirty years' service. Any teacher, especially those in elementary schools, ought to be qualified for some pension or other after thirty years' service. Give them the full pension if you like when they attain sixty, or allow them to contribute in some way or other; but in justice to the teacher you must give an option before sixty years of age. After all, we are not dealing with old age pensioners. I suppose that is the analogy that has been followed—that if the average man gets a pension at seventy, teachers who may be worn out should be given one ten years earlier. My opinion is that teachers are often worn out twenty years earlier—at any rate, if they have special duties and responsibilities. These points, I hope, will receive the attention of the President, and I trust we shall have some discussion when the Bill is brought in, and some opportunity, even this Session and in a dying Parliament, to pass this Bill in a thoroughly considered, fair, and practical form.

May I call attention to the fact that time and consideration is necessary, because we are told in this White Paper that besides the matter of pensions there are about ten or twelve other large subjects which will be dealt with in the Bill. For instance, there is the extension of the Bill to the Isle of Man, to the Channel Islands, its application to industrial schools, and so forth. The Bill, therefore, I take it must to a large extent be detailed and comprehensive, and possibly fairly lengthy. We shall see when it is brought in. I wish, however, to conclude by asking the President to elucidate the scheme a little further, and especially to tell us how much the scheme is going to cost the country. I want to press, perhaps most earnestly of all, upon him that there should be some alternative pensions with the object of giving either a reduced pension or one under different conditions to those teachers who before sixty years of age wish to retire, having done the full thirty years' service, and who are not eligible to receive the full pension granted till sixty. This scheme and these proposals are to be welcomed. They do show a very real grasp and intent to tackle a very big subject. Passed in some more satisfactory form than this White Paper suggests they will do a very great deal to make possible all the provisions of the great Education Bill which we passed a few months ago.


I should like to say-that I agree to a very large extent with the remarks which have been made by my hon. Friend opposite as regards the importance of the measure which the President of the Board of Education proposes to introduce. I have always thought that it was absolutely essential, if our teachers are to do their work satisfactorily, that they shall be free from those monetary anxieties which for many years have oppressed them. It has been my privilege to call attention on more than one occasion to the very small salaries received by the teachers in our elementary and secondary schools and to take such steps as I was able to take to have those salaries increased. It is very desirable, in addition to increasing the salaries of the teachers, that provision should be made for their receiving some pension in comparative old age which shall diminish the anxieties from which they suffer. I must, however, at the same time say that I have very full sympathy with a good many of the remarks which have fallen from my right hon. Friend on my right (Sir H. Craik). The Bill does a great deal to remove what I call the disabilities under which the members of the teaching profession have existed for many years; in some respects it does not go far enough. I take it, however, and I hope, that when the Bill is introduced and goes to Committee that the President will again be as willing to accept Amendments which are likely to improve the Bill as he was in the case of the great Education Bill which is now an Act of Parliament.

I feel very strongly indeed that these pensions should not be restricted to teachers engaged in State-aided schools. I agree very much indeed with what my right hon. Friend has said that the tendency of a Bill framed on the lines indicated in this White Paper will be to bring all our schools under the practical control of the Board of Education, and will destroy that variety and elasticity which previously has existed in our schools and that freedom which teachers have enjoyed, very much to the advantage of education in this country. This is not a time to bureaucratise too strongly the schools of this country. We have the awful example of Germany before us. That example ought to induce us to retain, as far as we possibly can, the freedom of our schools and the individuality of the teaching. I feel very strongly indeed that to exclude from the provision of this Bill a large number of our very best schools, schools of a quasi-public character, schools belonging, not to the different religious denominations, but schools like the Lancing School, Dulwich, Mill Hill, and a great many others of the same description—to exclude from the privilege of pensions teachers in schools like these seems to me a great defect of the Bill if the latter is founded on the conditions here laid down. I need scarcely say that I do not intend to vote against the proposal which has been made by the President of the Board of Education to obtain from the Treasury Grants for pensions. I think it is so desirable that I should be one of the first to support a proposal of that kind, but I do take it that in supporting this proposal we are not committing ourselves definitely to all the provisions laid down in this White Paper, nor are we committing ourselves to a scheme of pensions, which will necessarily exclude such public schools as those which were referred to by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think it would be desirable if the President, in speaking to this Resolution, would give us some idea of the probable cost of the scheme, and I hope, at the same time, he will tell us that when the Bill is introduced he will be prepared to consider very carefully in the interests of education generally, Amendments which I feel it will be the duty of many hon. Gentlemen of this House to propose.


Perhaps the House will hardly expect me to follow hon. members in all the points which they have raised with respect to this Resolution. I do not propose to reply to them now, not because I have any doubt as to the importance or the interests of the points which have been raised, but because they seem to me to be more appropriate to a Second Reading discussion on the Bill. Upon that occasion I shall endeavour to deal with the points which have been raised, and I can assure the hon. Baronet, who has just spoken, that I should be very willing to give careful consideration to any Amendments which he or any other hon. Members may choose to suggest. There is, however, one question which has been asked by the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. King), which is germane to the financial resolution which we are now discussing. I have been asked to furnish an estimate of the cost. Of course hon. Members will realise that the cost of the Pensions Bill, or any system of pensions, cannot be very accurately estimated. There are a number of uncertain factors in any preliminary calculation, but I will, however, offer the House an estimate which will, I think, be as good as can be provided at the present juncture.

There are at present about 100,000 teachers serving the State under the existing law, and this Bill will increase that number by about 70,000, and it will also increase the amounts of the pensions to be granted in the future, besides giving other benefits in addition. The existing Pensions Scheme now costs us £256,000 yearly, and would probably cost in ten years' time, if left undisturbed, about £428,000. The Pensions Scheme now pro-posed will probably, in ten years' time, cost about £2,000,000 per annum more than this. I ought to add that, in giving this estimate, I make no attempt to forecast the rise in salaries which may take place in ten years' time. I have endeavoured to take account of the rise which has been going on through this year but not beyond that. Any further increase in salaries will ultimately bring with it a corresponding increase in pensions.

I have taken account of the increase in the number of pensionable teachers which will immediately result from the inclusion within the pensions system of 70,000 teachers who are now outside the system, but I have not attempted to forecast what may be the increase in the number of teachers in this country due to the extension of our educational system. As that grows so must also the expenditure grow, both on salaries and on pensions. To carry the forecast beyond ten years would involve too many problematical results. My hon. Friend asked me for an estimate twenty years hence, but that would be very difficult to give. On the whole the best indication I can give of the expected cost of the present measure is to say that at the present moment the salaries of teachers granted in schools amount to something over £20,000,000 a year, and on those teachers and those salaries we expect the pension system ten years from now to cost something like £2,500,000 per annum, of which £2,000,000 will be new money, and the remainder is what the present system would cost if left unaltered. That is as far as I can go at the present moment, and I hope that indication will satisfy my hon. Friend opposite.


I desire to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the successful way in which he has been able to deal with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have spent some ten or twelve years in this House knocking at the door of successive Presidents of the Board of Education. I have introduced deputations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the figures we have been allowed to work upon have been meagre in the extreme. I have complained, not once, but frequently of the niggardliness of successive administration, and the right hon. Gentleman's figures really made my mouth water. I never for one moment anticipated that any such rise could have been got by any President of the Board of Education, and I think the amount which has been announced reflects very great credit upon the right hon. Gentleman. This means £2,000,000 a year on existing salaries ten years hence, when the real expenditure on a pensions system will not come into full swing for long after the ten years, and consequently these figures are most satisfactory. Although I am glad that we have got, this money for pensions, I think we might make better use of it than has been done in the scheme put before us. The White Paper which was circulated on the 8th of August sets out the Bill in advance. I am not going to discuss the details, but I notice many of the recommendations made by various Committees, including those made by some Committees on which I sat, have been adopted.

One of these points is that pensionable service should continue until sixty-five. There is one point which the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with, and that is the extension of the scheme to those public schools which were mentioned by the hon. Member for the London University (Sir P. Magnus). Schools which are not under State aid are placed under an enormous disadvantage under this new scheme, and I hope this point will be borne in mind and generously dealt with. The scheme is not sufficiently generous to such schools as Harrow, Mill Hill, and others, some of which are under Government inspection. I am aware that Harrow is in a somewhat unique position, but I think the position of all these schools should certainly be considered, otherwise they are placed at a great disadvantage. I might make many other criticisms, but I hope the points which I have mentioned will be considered between now and the time the Bill is brought in. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the effect of his proposal upon our national system of education, and consider whether you are not unintentionally doing a certain injustice to all those schools which do not come under State provision. I hope the Bill will go a step further, so as not to operate unequaliy on those schools which are not receiving State aid. Apart from this injustice, I believe you will do a disservice to education if you hamper the schools which are outside your ordinary school system.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in upon the said Resolution by Mr. Herbert Fisher, Mr. Baldwin, and Mr. Herbert Lewis.

SCHOOL TEACHERS (SUPERANNUATION) BILL,—"to make provision with respect to the Grant of Superannuation Allowances to Teachers and of Gratuities to their legal personal representatives, and to amend the Elementary School Teachers (Superannuation) Acts, 1898 to 1912,"—presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second tïme To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 97.]

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.