HC Deb 13 July 1922 vol 156 cc1594-9

Order for Second Reading read.


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

Despite recent happenings I am sanguine enough to hope that the Bill which is now before the House will receive its Second Reading as an agreed Measure. As the House is aware, there is nothing novel in the principle of contribution so far as the teaching profession in Scotland is concerned. From 1912 to 1919 we in Scotland had a contributory scheme of our own in operation. That scheme worked with perfect smoothness and to the complete satisfaction of all the parties interested in it. Of this the teachers themselves have made the most generous acknowledgment. Most of us, no doubt, have seen the manifesto which was issued some time ago by the Educational Institute of Scotland referring to the proposal now before the House. Referring to the scheme of 1912 to which I alluded the manifesto said: During the seven years of its existence no murmur of complaint was heard in regard to its operation. The manifesto goes on to speak with no uncertain note of the Scottish contributory scheme "which has been so carefully planned and developed." Scottish teachers, I think I am right in saying, parted from the contributory scheme with a considerable amount of reluctance. I am not going to suggest that that is a reason why they should welcome a return to the contributory principle now. I feel bound, however, to point out that the reason which made a contributory scheme imperative in 1919 makes the passage of this Bill not less imperative to-day. In 1919 it was not, I fear— though the manifesto seems to suggest it—the persuasive arguments of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education that reconciled Scottish teachers to the scheme. It was the hard fact that the arguments which he used had convinced the House of Commons. The interests of the profession in the two countries are so very closely interwoven that when England instituted, as she did, a non-contributory scheme it would have been quite hopeless for Scotland to stand aside. And so to-day the same result appears. The House has given a Second Reading to a Bill which imposes a 5 per cent. contribution for superannuation purposes on the salaries of English teachers, and no reasonable Scottish teacher—I assume that they are all reasonable—will maintain that there is any reason for differentiation of treatment between the teachers of Scotland and the teachers in England. On the circumstances which have rendered it necessary to impose a 5 per cent. contribution from English as well as from Scottish teachers I do not feel called upon to enlarge. The existing financial stringency is only too well known to all of us, and it constitutes, I think, an unanswerable argument in favour of the proposal which is made. That this stringency should have been so great as to demand the present Bill is, to myself, a matter of considerable regret. Had the national finances been to-day in the position anticipated when the gift of a non-contributory scheme was made to the teachers, there would have been no going back on the liberal concessions which were then made. The disappointment of our expectations, however, leaves us no option, and forces us to reconsider the whole position. And so far as Scotland is concerned, the hands of Parliament are, I hold, absolutely free. A letter was addressed by the Secretary for the Scottish Education Department to the Select Committee so ably presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland), and it indicated quite clearly that in Scotland the situation was governed by conditions quite different to those in England. As one who has consistently wished the teachers of Scotland well, I have no hesitation in saying that I think it would be in their own best interests to leave the matter there. I am quite prepared to discuss it further if necessary, but I am satisfied that any such discussion, instead of benefiting the teachers in Scotland, would do them a real dis-service.

Therefore, I pass at once to the details of the Bill which can be quite briefly explained. Clause 1, which follows the English analogy, provides for the collection from every teacher by way of contribution towards the cost of providing benefits under the superannuation scheme of an amount equal to 5 per cent. of his salary. The machinery which it is proposed to employ for this purpose is identical with that which ran so smoothly between 1912 and 1919. The end once granted, I do not think the means can be improved upon. Should any modifications be made in the English Bill, I shall make it my business to see that these changes are reflected by changes in the present Bill at a corresponding stage so far as the conditions in Scotland admit of it.

Clause 2, as the House will see, directs the Department to frame and lay before both Houses of Parliament, with a view to approval by Order in Council, an amending scheme to provide for the repayment to individual teachers, in such cases and on such conditions as may be prescribed therein, of any sums which may have been, or may be. deducted from their salaries in terms of the first Clause of this Bill. It is necessary to have that provision in cases of teachers who die or who may retire. Circumstances in Scotland render it necessary to proceed in this matter in what may seem an indirect fashion. The House will remember that the Scottish Act is an enabling Act merely, and that the real framework of the whole superannuation arrangements is an approved scheme. This scheme regulates the relation between the Department and the managers on the one hand, and between the Department and individual teachers on the other hand. It is, therefore, by an Amendment of this scheme that provision for the replayment of contributions can in: most simply and appropriately be made. The conditions of their return to be laid down in the amended scheme will be determined by the shape which Clause 2 of the English Bill may take as it passes through the House. It will be generally agreed, I think, that the terms offered to the English and the Scottish teachers should be as nearly alike as the differing circumstances of the two countries permit.

The second part of Clause 2 is not mandatory as is the first. It is permissive in its character, and its object is to keep open the possibility of reviving what was undoubtedly a very valuable feature of the old contributory scheme, namely, payment by individual bodies of managers of a definite contribution towards the cost of the pensions of the teachers whose salaries they were fixing. Whether advantage will be taken of the possibility thus left open, is a point upon which no decision can be come to until steps have been taken to ascertain the views of the educational authorities in Scotland. The cost of the superannuation of Scottish teachers is borne wholly by the educational authorities of Scotland collectively and, obviously, these authorities ought to have a say on the question whether payment should be made collectively from the undivided fund or partly collectively and partly individually. So far as I am concerned, I am strongly in favour of the latter alternative. The experience of the 1912 scheme proved it to be both practicable and efficacious and, under the changed conditions, there is the added advantage that it would bring a reasonable contribution from the managers of non-grant-earning schools where such schools have been admitted to the privileges of the scheme. But I should not think it right to come to a final decision on that matter until I had before me the views of the parties mainly interested. So much for Clause 2.

Clause 3 of the Bill follows the analogy of the English Measure, and I need not detain the House by reading it. Clause 4 has no corresponding provision in the English Measure. Its counterpart is found in Section 12 of the School Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1918. This has a rather curious history. When the arrangement made in that Section for the payment of annuities received the approval of Parliament it was not realised that as the English Act applied only to England, the reference to the deferred annuity fund could only be to the English portion of that fund. The Scottish teachers had contributed to that fund, and the Law Officers of the Crown having advised that the English Measure applied only to the English conditions, the Clause which I am now moving is designed merely to extend the provisions for the payment of the annuities to Scotland. That provision, I may remind the House, was that instead of annuities being paid from the Deferred Annuity Fund they should form a charge on the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom. That Deferred Annuity Fund has now been cancelled and such money as has since been required has been annually provided by the Treasury under a separate Sub-head in the Estimates. The Treasury and the Department I represent are at one in thinking that advantage should be taken of the present opportunity to have the position regularised.

May I say this one final word? It will be noted that in the present Bill there are no provisions which correspond to Clauses 3 and 4 of the English Bill, the reason being that, in the circumstances of Scotland, no such provisions are required. The Scottish scheme contains nothing that is equivalent to the English scheme embodied in Section 14 of the English Act, which made withdrawal from any other pension scheme a condition of admission to the benefits of the Act. No question, therefore, of compensation arises. On the other hand, the Scottish scheme already gives the Department all the powers which Clause 4 of the new English Bill seeks to confer upon the Board of Education. These, in very brief outline, are the provisions of this Bill. I hope that I have not been too sanguine in the expectation which I have expressed, that the discussion, which I apprehend may be continued to-morrow, will result in showing that it is an agreed-on Measure, with regard to the principle of which there is no division at all.

Major GLYN

The right hon. Gentleman has passed over Clause 3. Under the Act of 1911 the payment was made to the National Debt Commissioners, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to say a word on this Clause.


I thought I had dealt with that, but if there is any difficulty about it I shall be very happy to give an explanation.

Captain W. BENN

I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

I express no opinion on the Bill itself. I am inclined to agree with very much of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but, in view of the fact that many Scottish Members wish to speak, and that the Bill has come on rather unexpectedly, I think that, perhaps, it would meet the general convenience of the House that the Debate should be now adjourned.

Colonel LESLIE WILSON (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)

In accordance with the arrangement arrived at with my hon. Friends opposite, I shall be quite willing to agree that the Debate be now adjourned.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.