HC Deb 27 October 1919 vol 120 cc400-2

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. BALDWIN (Joint Financial Secretary to the Treasury)

I beg to move. "That the Bill be now read a second time."

May I point out that this is a one-Clause Bill, which I will explain in a few words, and I trust it will commend itself to the judgment of the House. The Bill deals with a single class—officers employed in the prisons of the United Kingdom and the criminal lunatic asylums. It may be within the recollection of the House that during the Secretary-ship of Lord Cave at the Home Office a Committee was appointed to investigate the position of these officers, especially in regard to this one point whether or not the nature of their work was such that they were entitled to special consideration in regard to all matters concerning superannuation. The Committee met and carried out their functions with great care. They decided that a case had been made out, and that some special treatment was due to this class of workers on the ground that—as Members may well understand--the arduous duties in prisons and criminal lunatic asylums tended to cause more wear and tear to those responsible for carrying out the work than almost any other work in the Civil Service.

The unanimous Report of the Committee was that whereas normal retirement in the Civil Service is optional at sixty and compulsory at sixty-five, for these offices optional retirement should be at fifty-five and normal retirement at sixty. They also proposed a method by which some consideration might be given to them for the work they had done which would put them in a rather better position with regard to superannuation than they had enjoyed before, without disturbing the Acts as they exist at present and the method in which those Acts applied to ordinary Civil servants. It was proposed—and this is the scheme embodied in the Bill—that after twenty years' service each year's service shall count as two. I may mention at this point that the age at which the warders are recruited for this service is rather later than that which they are recruited for any other service. It is considered that until a man is twenty-four he is really not fitted to take charge of prisoners. As a matter of fact the average age at which they enter the prison service to-day is about twenty-eight years. If the Bill is carried, as I hope and believe it will ho in its present form, the result of it is that at the end of thirty years' service a man will work op to the maximum to which is entitled under the Superannuation Acts, having regard to the benefit he gets specially by this Act, and after thirty-three years' service he will be able to claim full benefits, if this is extended, and special allowances if he happens to come under the 1909 Superannuation Act, and not the Act of 1859. I have caused to he issued a brief White Paper explaining the features of the Bill. In that Paper hon. Members will have seen that the position in which a member of this service finds himself at the end of twenty-five years' service is a considerably better position than he enjoys to-day.

I was unable to get any actuarial calculation of the cost to the Exchequer of these changes which we propose, but the benefits are estimated, very roughly, to increase the advantages of this position by something like 30 per cent. This is not the cost at first, but only after the process of years. As men come in under this Act it will cost on an estimated maximum something like £25,000 or £30,000 per year. The numbers affected under this Bill are something like 3,000 men and 600 women. Hon, Members may notice that we are proposing to make the date of the effective Action of this Bill retrospective from the 18th of September, 1918. The reason for that is that it was about that time that Lord Cave saw the representatives of the interests affected, and he gave an undertaking that favourable consideration should be given to their claims. The Committee was set up in the late autumn of last year and reported without delay, and it is owing to the amount of legislation which has had to be introduced during the past Session that I have been unable to place this small Bill before the House until now. I trust that explanation will be satisfactory, and that hon. Members will be willing to affirm this proposal for the benefit of a very deserving branch of the service in this country. If it is the pleasure of the House that a Second Reading should be given to this Bill to-night, I shall then move that it be committed to a Committee of the Whole House for further examination.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow.—[Mr. Baldwin.]