§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 71 A.
§ [Mr. ROBERT YOUNG in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient, in pursuance of any Act of the present Session, to amend the Education (Scotland) (Superannuation) Act, 1922, to authorise the payment, into the Education (Scotland) Fund, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of such sums as may become payable thereinto in respect of the amount collected and recovered in the years commencing the 1st day of April, 1924, and the 1st day of April, 1925, by the Scottish Education Department under Section one of the Education (Scotland) (Superannuation) Act, 1922, as amended by the said Act of the present Session"—(King's Recommendation Signified.)
The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. W. Adamson)
I have issued a memorandum explaining fully the need for this Resolution. As the Committee are aware, the pensions and allowances of Scottish teachers are met, not by the Exchequer directly. They are paid out of the Education (Scotland) Fund. Under the terms of Section 6 of the Education (Scotland) (Superannuation) Act, 1919, there is annually paid into this Fund, as the Exchequer contribution towards the Superannuation of Scottish teachers, a sum equal to 11/80ths of the corresponding expenditure in England. The obvious intention of Parliament was that Scotland should receive actually 11/80ths of the corresponding figure in England. It is fairly certain that during the next two years the produce of the 5 per cent. levy on the salaries of Scottish teachers will amount to more than 11/80ths of the corresponding sum which is raised in England. As the moneys so obtained are to be used in Appropriations-in-Aid, or, in other words, to reduce the gross total of the Votes, the effect would be, that unless some adjustment were made, the net amount that Scotland would receive would fall short of the 11/80ths which was guaranteed her by the Act of 1919. It is true that the sum would not be largo, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor 1864 of the Exchequer has agreed that, however small it may be, it ought to be made good. Accordingly, the Bill provides that the Fund will receive compensation from the Exchequer for any adverse balance. That is the object with which this Financial Resolution has been introduced, and I hope that it will receive the consent of the Committee.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I have no desire to occupy the time of the Committee very long commenting upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. He has explained the precise financial effect of this proposal during the present year, and I should like to congratulate him on having got out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer this sum of money which will rectify what would have been an injustice. The right hon. Gentleman knows, of course, that this Resolution is open to the very strong objection which we raised on the introduction of the Bill, in that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take the contributions of the teachers of Scotland and use them, not to establish, fortify, or to buttress a permanent fund for paying pensions, but to allow the money to go into the General Education (Scotland) Fund; thus, instead of it being used for the purpose for which it is nominally to be used, it is merely swamped in the ordinary expenditure for education: to that extent it relieves the taxes. I am quite certain the right hon. Gentleman recognises the effects of this system. He knows that it is unjust and unfair to the teachers of Scotland that this contribution, which ought to be building up their pension fund, is instead being used in connection with the present rotten and unsound system. What we want is to establish a permanent and sound system of pensions on the lines of the scheme laid down in the Emmott Committee's Report. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to continue this for the present, for he considers that this year he could not carry a Bill to put the matter on a sound basis. I trust he will agree with me that the shorter time the present system exists the better; we trust that he will try to sweep it away as quickly as he can. I think in Committee we shall try to cut the period down to one year instead of two. Although this Resolution embodies the evil effects which he pointed out on the First Reading of the Bill, I do not propose to object to the passing of the Resolution as it stands, and I con- 1865 gratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having got very favourable terms from the Treasury.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I beg to move, in line 5, to leave out the word "years."
I desire subsequently to follow this proposed Amendment up by leaving out the wordsand the 1st day of April, 1925.The effect, of these two Amendments would be to limit the Resolution to a period of one year. If the Amendments are carried it would make it necessary for the Government, in Committee, to amend their Bill, so that only one year would be allowed to them in which to bring forward their new scheme of superannuation. I do not want to go over again the ground which was so well covered in the Debate when the Bill was introduced, but I wish to impress this point upon the Secretary for Scotland. There is a feeling that it is not necessary to hang up the final scheme for a couple of years. I am bound to say in the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made on the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill he did not advance a single reason why two years should be required for the purpose. He spoke about keeping in step with the English Regulations, but he did not give us any valid reason why all that was needful could not be done in the course of one year. I am moving this Amendment in the hope that it may persuade the right, hon. Gentleman to give a definite, undertaking that in Committee he will reduce the period of two years to one year. The danger of passing this Resolution as it is is that in the Committee the Government will have an additional argument for making two years the period, for they will say that the House considered the matter and deliberately passed a Resolution giving the two years, and that that, therefore, was an argument in favour of the longer period. I want to deprive the right hon. Gentleman of any such argument. I want to show him that, so far as Scottish opinion is concerned, there is complete unanimity on this point. I want to ask one or two definite questions. It is a regular weapon of Parliamentary defence to defer everything till we arrive at the Committee stage, and he has done it. I want to ask 1866 him that when this matter comes before the Committee—of course, the Scottish Committee—will he leave it to the free vote of the Committee? The second question I put is: supposing the Scottish Committee do decide to curtail the period, making it one instead of two years, will the right hon. Gentleman be satisfied with that decision, or will he, when the Bill comes up on Report, put on all the powerful machinery of the Government and seek the assistance of the English and the Welsh Members to over-ride the definite decision of the Scottish Committee? If the right hon. Gentleman can answer those questions satisfactorily I shall be very pleased to withdraw my Amendment in order to put the Committee to as little trouble as possible.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) and with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leith (Captain Benn). I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this proposed scheme of superannuation is to be placed in an altogether unsound financial position, and I also agree with my hon. and gallant Friend below me that one year ought to be quite sufficient to endeavour to carry into effect a satisfactory scheme. This Resolution deals with two years, beginning with the 1st of June, 1024. The Act of 1922 has already been two years in operation. I understand that during those two years the Scottish contributions have very considerably exceeded the 11/80ths. I should like the Secretary for Scotland to take particular note of this point. In introducing the Bill, he said that "being Scotsmen we will be sure to look after the financial side of the matter." As I have said, the 1922 Act has already been in operation two years. I understand a surplus has accrued which ought to be paid to Scotland, such as the surplus under this Bill is proposed to be paid to Scotland. I therefore would like the Secretary for Scotland to tell us whether that accrued surplus of the two years, 1922–24, has already been paid into the Scottish Educational Fund, or whether it is proposed that it shall be so paid? If not, why not?
§ 4.0 P.M.
I shall try to deal as satisfactorily as possible with the questions that have been put to me. The 1867 right hon. Baronet the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) began by complimenting me on having got a little extra money for the Scottish teacher. Then he went on to point out that the money would be going into the Education (Scotland) Fund, and in this way was not being used for what it was originally intended. He hoped that I would make the time as short as possible. I think my right hon. Friend will agree, when I remind him, that I made my position very clear on that point.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The right hon. Gentleman made his own opinion quite clear, but he did not bind his Government. He showed what his own wishes were, but I do not think that he committed his Government.
§ Captain BENN
The right hon. Gentleman was extremely genial, but he was not clear. He can be clear by answering the questions which I put to him categorically. Then I shall be quite satisfied.
I was pointing out that on the particular point with which I am dealing I made my position very clear. As a matter of fact, I practically used the words of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain Benn). I made it perfectly clear that in Scotland the feeling was unanimously in favour of this being made a permanent instead of a temporary arrangement as provided in the present Bill.
All that I was going to add was to assure my right hon. Friend that I would make the time of the temporary arrangement as short as possible. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith has moved an Amendment for the purpose of putting some questions, one of which was whether I would be in favour of leaving this matter, reducing the period from two years to one year, to a free and open vote of the Committee without the Welsh and English Members.
I thought my hon. and gallant Friend said without bringing in the English and Welsh Members.
He said that he moved the Amendment because there was a unanimous feeling in Scotland in favour of reducing the period to one year. I have already stated that I believed there was such a unanimous feeling. I had an opportunity of meeting the teachers' representatives and of discussing the matter with them, and I know that they are anxious for this Bill to be made permanent as early as possible.
Well, to bring in a Bill to make the scheme permanent instead of temporary. I took that opportunity of doing more. I discussed with them some of the difficulties that stood in the way, and I want to say, quite frankly, that I am not at all sure that if the teachers, whose interests are involved, were sitting in the places that the hon. and gallant Member for Leith and I occupy, they would not recognise more clearly than he does the difficulties which stand in the way of limiting this to one year while the corresponding Measure for England is for two years.
§ Captain BENN
Is the right bon. Gentleman now saying that the English Bill necessitates a Bill of two years for Scotland before a scheme is put forward?
No, it is not absolutely necessary that the Scottish Bill should be for more than one year, but I would point out that, if you had a Scottish Bill operating for only one year, whereas the English Bill is for two years, you might at the end of one year require to bring in another temporary Measure for another year in order to bring you in line with England, and, as I pointed out on the First Heading, unless the two schemes run together it will place the teachers, not only in Scotland but also in England, under disabilities. I therefore think that my hon. and gallant Friend would be well advised not to press his Amendment, but to leave the matter to be fully discussed in the Committee.
I think my hon. and gallant Friend had better not press me further. My hon. Friend the Member for 1869 the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan) pointed out that this temporary arrangement had already been in operation for two years, and that as a result the Scottish teachers had suffered certain financial disabilities, in that they had not secured the amount of money to which they were entitled. He asked whether it was true that there was a balance somewhere from which the shortage of those two years might be made up. All I can say is if he will put me on the track of any additional money I will take immediate steps to see if I can get it.
The fact that I have introduced Clause 2 into this temporary Bill will show my hon. Friend that I saw there was a disability. I hope my hon. Friends representing Scotland in all parts of the House will now permit me to get the Financial Resolution.
§ Mr. F. C. THOMSON
I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir. H. Craik) and to the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) for raising this question, because I feel sure that they will have strengthened his hands in dealing with the matter in the way in which I am sure he agrees that it ought to be dealt with, namely, that this Bill should be made to operate for only one year and that we should get a permanent settlement next year. I feel that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, looking at it from the point of view of national finance, must be willing to lend his assistance to my right hon. Friend, not only as a Scotsman, but as a high official at the Treasury, to get a permanent settlement at as early a date as possible. I feel sure that the Treasury must wish to have this matter settled on a permanent footing. Therefore, I think we are really fighting his battle in supporting strongly the view that this Bill should be for only one year, and that the Amendment should be carried. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is highly desirable that England and Scotland should proceed together, but that is all the more reason 1870 why, having a well-founded case, he should press on his colleague, the President of the Board of Education for England, the necessity for early action. His case is a perfectly sound and strong one, and he should press on his English colleague for an early settlement. It seems to me that there is nothing to be said for hanging the matter up for more than a year and that we ought to get a permanent settlement next spring. No doubt there is a good deal in the point that the two countries should move together, because different regulations with regard to superannuation on the one side of the border and on the other are a serious drawback, as the teachers find at the present time, and I do not know that it will be to their advantage to have a permanent settlement in England before there is one in Scotland. There ought to be a permanent settlement for both countries next year.
§ Captain BENN
I do not desire at this stage to put the Committee to unnecessary trouble, and I have yet some hopes of my right hon. Friend. I think, when it comes, to the Committee, a decision will be arrived at in one sense, and I only hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to accede to the demand unanimously made from Scotland. But it would be premature to divide now, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.