§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. CLYNES
I wish to ask you, Sir, a question on a point of procedure. I think it is generally felt that it would be to the convenience of the House to have one Debate on these two Bills, taking two Divisions, if need be, later on. They are similar in character, and I hope you will be able to announce that that course will be taken.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
It has already been suggested to me that, as the subject matter of the two Bills is the same, it would be for the 1533 convenience of the House if they could be debated together, without prejudice of course, to separate Divisions being taken. If that course commends itself generally to the House, I should have no objection to allowing it.
§ Sir ELLIS HUME-WILLIAMS
No suggestion of that kind has been made to the promoters, and I think it would be most inconvenient. The circumstances of the London and North Eastern Company and of the Southern Company are totally different. The considerations are by no means the same and, with the sole exception that the purpose of each Bill is to establish a superannuation fund for the staff, there is, as far as I know, no similarity between them at all. It would be very inconvenient that Bills differing in their details and only having a similar object should for that reason be discussed at the same time. It would be very inconvenient and somewhat of an injustice to the London and North Eastern Railway.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I had the impression that there was a consensus of opinion that this would be convenient. If I am misinformed as to that, of course I cannot force any such procedure upon the House. If it is felt by the parties on either side that this is not a convenient course, and that the cases in respect of the two Bills should be separately stated, of course either side, whether it is in favour or whether it opposes the Bill, has a right to a separate Debate.
§ Mr. J. JONES
The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite practically stated that he was representing the London and North Eastern Railway Company. I want to know whether he represents his constituents.
§ Mr. TOWNEND
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "upon this day six months."
I hope the House will bear with me, particularly if I transgress any of its traditions arising out of the fact that this is the first time I have inflicted a speech on it. I had hoped that those responsible for the Bills would agree that they should be taken together. [Interruption.] I understand they are to be taken together. That being so, if I make reference to one Bill, it may be understood that the argument applies to both equally, 1534 because the point of our objection applies to both. The crux of the whole position from our point of view is that these Bills fail to carry out what we believe to have been an understanding come to at a time when the Railways Bill was before the House and subsequent thereto. I know this may be challenged, but the challenge can very easily be met by those who were in the discussions that took place, and the interpretations of the understanding will be left to subsequent speakers.
These two Bills affect the interests of something like 45,000 railwaymen, who have contributed to the Superannuation Funds sums amounting to something like £8,000,000. The functioning of these Funds is a very important matter indeed. I want to bring the House back to the time when, prior to the Railways Bill, the Government had to consider the claims put up by the railway companies about 1919 or 1920 against the Government for commitments entered into during the time the railways were under the control of the Government, and the Colwyn Committee was appointed for the purpose of going into possible claims that could be made against the Government for what took place during that time. I believe it was submitted before that Committee, even at that time, that one of the claims might be something in respect to added financial responsibility in respect of the development of the Superannuation Funds during that time. I would remind the House of a statement made by the spokesman of the Government, Sir George Beharrell, who, on behalf of the Ministry of Transport, suggested that, arising out of the developments of the Railways Act, the Superannuation Funds should be grouped together. As a matter of fact, he visualised one national Railway Superannuation Fund, and the very least he anticipated was that each group that emerged from the Railways Act would have a co-ordinated fund when the time arrived.
Concurrent with that time there was brought about a standardisation of conditions of service and of the salaries and wages of the men in the railway companies. The superannuation funds, however, particularly concerned the salaried staffs. At that time I was a railway servant. I am a railway servant, and am paying into the superannuation fund 1535 of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Therefore, the House will understand that from many points of view I am vitally concerned and interested in this matter. Under the Railways Bill, when the four groups were emerging, those who spoke on behalf of the staff desired, not only that the conditions and salaries should be standardised, but that the superannuation should also be standardised. We approached the Government of the day, and as a result consultations took place. It was then suggested that whilst our claim might be legitimate, the Railways Bill was a huge transaction, and' the superannuation question introduced many complexities. A Clause was thereupon introduced to the effect that whilst it was inconvenient it the time to deal with the matter, because it might overload the Bill, there should be a subsequent occasion when provisions should be made for dealing with the superannuation funds on the lines of consolidation within each of the groups. That interpretation is objected to from the other side of the House.
We find to-night that in these Bills there is no such proposition, and it is because of that error of commission or omission, so vital and so essential to the staffs of the London and North Eastern Railway and the Southern Railway, that objection is taken to these Bills. Despite the understanding arrived at, there has been no provision made in these Bills whereby the different funds that now operate within the London and North Eastern Group and in the Southern Group should be consolidated. It may be argued that that was not the correct interpretation, but may I draw the attention of the House to the fact that that was the interpretation of those who represented the staff, and it has been corroborated since that time. In the summer of 1924, hon. Members were bombarded with postcards, letters and telegrams in connection with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway superannuation fund. At that time there was submitted to this House what we believed to be the fructifying of the intention of those who, during the passage of the Railways Act, came to an understanding.
The London, Midland and Scottish fund has a direct bearing upon the subject before the House to-night. On that 1536 occasion we had the London and North Western, the Midland, the Lancashire and Yorkshire, the Glasgow and South Western, and one or two smaller railway funds operating. The London, Midland and Scottish Group had been formed, and the contributors' committee men, of which I happened to be one—I have sat on a committee for something like 10 or 12 years; there were six committee men drawn from the staff and six from the company's side, generally speaking—were called into consultation with the officials of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, and various schemes were considered. We had our ideas and they had their ideas. The discussions which then took place resulted in the scheme being agreed to. As a result of that mutual agreement, a mutually-agreed fund was submitted to this House, in the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Superannuation Fund Bill. As a result of that, we find that Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway men, London and North Western men and Midland men, who sit side by side in the same office, will receive exactly the same standardized pension, just as they receive the same standardized salaries and the same standardized conditions of service.
The London and North Eastern Railway and the Southern Railway, in exactly the same way as the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, called together the contributors' committee men in an attempt to come to a mutual agreement with regard to the superannuation fund. At that time, the North Eastern, the Great Central, the Great Northern and the Great Eastern funds were functioning separately, while on the Southern Railway the London, Brighton and South Coast, the South Eastern, and the South Western funds were functioning separately.
§ Mr. TOWNEND
The London and North Eastern Railway called the contributors committee-men together, meetings were arranged and certain progress was made. We who represented the Railway Clerks' Association, of which association I am a member of the executive committee, were of the opinion that we were going to reach the same degree of satisfaction as obtained in the case of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. All at once the negotiations were 1537 broken off, and from that day to this as far as meeting for the purpose of endeavoring to arrive at an agreement is concerned no move has been made from the company's side. We have before us a Bill which refers only to the new entrants to the London and North Eastern Railway Company. That is to say, only those who have entered the service since 1923 are to become members of the new fund. It is a fund based upon a totally different basis from any of which we have had experience in the past. The result will be that men from the Great Central, the Great Northern, the Great Eastern, the North Eastern and the Scottish Companies, who sit in the same office, having been drawn from each of these originally different companies, will ultimately receive, despite the fact that their conditions and salaries are exactly the same, when they retire from the company's service, pensions that may vary from £108 to something like £180 per annum.
What we object to is that these old funds have not been consolidated in the same way that the London, Midland and Scottish superannuation fund has been consolidated. The understanding was that these funds would be consolidated and that every member would be placed on an equal footing, that the old funds of the different companies now forming the London and North Eastern Group would be wiped out, and that a new fund equally as satisfactory and equally as unified as the London, Midland and Scottish Fund would be established. That is the crux of the opposition to this Bill. While it might be argued that the benefits are not as good as the London, Midland and Scottish benefits, the main contention that we submit to the House is that we have this variation on the pensions question obtaining throughout the length and breadth of the London and North Eastern system, and the intense dissatisfaction which has been demonstrated through the post to-day, does not speak well for the conditions that obtain or for the industrial future of the railways. In view of the fact that this great public body, subject in no small degree to the control of this House, was a party to the understanding arrived at—an understanding that has materialized as far as the London, Midland and Scottish Railway is concerned—and in 1538 view of the fact that this House is desirous of giving these men justice and equity, I appeal to the House to reject this Bill.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so on three grounds. First, because of the failure of the company to carry out a previously understood arrangement between the men and themselves. Secondly, because of their failure to negotiate on the basis of equity, after they had broken away from the previous arrangement. Thirdly, on the ground that it is going to leave constant room for irritation amongst men who are performing the same tasks under exactly similar conditions but with a change in their superannuation allowance. I know there are many Members who are desirous of speaking against both these Bills, who know the details much better than I do, and for that reason I simply formally second the Amendment for rejection.
§ Mr. DENNIS HERBERT
I am neither in the employment of any railway company nor am I beneficially a shareholder in any railway company in this country. I approach this question from the point of view of my duty as a Member of Parliament, and as representing a large body of constituents, many of whom are railway servants.
I put down my Amendment to reject this Bill with the intention of getting a discussion on the Floor of the House with regard to two points. In the first place, I desired to raise a question affecting the interests of the old pre-War superannuitants. Those who were Members of the House of Commons two years ago will remember that when the London Midland and Scottish Superannuation Bill came before it some of my hon. Friends and I adopted a similar course in the interests of the old superannuitants. In that Bill the super-annuitants had a locus, and they opposed it by petition. As a result of that opposition, and also as a result of the discussions which took place on the Floor of the House, the Committee made a special Report to the effect that, in their opinion, the company ought to do more for the old superannuitants. The company then came forward with an offer, and although, perhaps, no offer is entirely satisfactory, this offer was accepted with goodwill on both sides.
1539 The position is not quite the same here. The superannuitants have no locus which gives them a right to petition against this particular Bill, and on their behalf I appeal to the House to give some expression to their claims for benevolent treatment by the company. I am not going into the hardships of old pensioners. I do not want to waste the time of the House on a matter which has been discussed over and over again, but in order to avoid a lengthy discussion later on, may I refer to the fact that I have put down on the Order Paper an Instruction to the Committee on this Bill to consider the case of these superannuitants. In regard to this company, and certainly with regard to the other company, it is not unsympathetic to the claims of the old pre-War superannuitants. It is merely a question of the amount they can afford to, or the amount they will, give. I shall be asking the House later on to support my Instruction to the Committee, and I must make it clear that one of the reasons why I put down an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill was to bring to the sympathetic attention of the House of Commons the claims of the old pre-War superannuitants of the London and North Eastern Railway Company in the hope that the company will treat them with the same amount of generosity as the old superannuitants were treated by the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company.
My other reason for putting down an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill is that I consider the Bill to be thoroughly unsatisfactory. I do not think it is right, or likely to lead to the peaceful and amicable working of this great institution in the future, that you should have men working in the same positions and on the same lines at the same salaries and yet entitled to quite different rates of compensation on their retirement. And consider, moreover, there are objections to the new schemes by those who are not covered by the old superannuation schemes; although it is hardly a point to make now (as to what sums should be paid) as that is a matter which can be considered under later stages. But this Bill is very unsatisfactory in this one particular important respect, that it leaves men who are in the service of one employer, doing the same work at the same salary, in a totally different 1540 footing in regard to their pensions, and it also makes a difference, for which there is no sufficient reason, between those who were in the employ of the company before a certain date, and who come under the old schemes, and those who came into the employ of the company later and who come under the scheme now proposed.
Those are my objections to the Bill, put shortly, which induced me to put down the Amendment for rejection. I have, however, to consider in the interests of the country as a whole—and it is a very vital interest at the present moment in the successful working of our railways—and in the best interests of those men for whom I have been speaking, who are directly concerned in this superannuation fund, whether the right course for the House to adopt is to turn down this Bill on Second Reading or rather to send it to a Committee and watch what may take place there. It must be remembered, in the interests of the men for whom I have been speaking, and for whom hon. Members before me have been speaking, what would be their position if this Bill were thrown out on Second Reading. The position then would be that those who are members of the existing superannuation funds would be members of schemes which are admitted by them to be insolvent, which is unsatisfactory, and the later entrants into the service would have no superannuation scheme whatever, in spite of the fact that deductions are being made from their salaries at the present time for the purpose of a superannuation scheme.
It would be very unsatisfactory if the thing were left in that position, and that will be admitted by everyone. But if a satisfactory scheme cannot be established, it may perhaps be better to have none. We will take that for granted for the purpose of argument. What I want to put to those who are more directly concerned than I am with regard to the matter—like the hon. Member who opened this Debate, who is himself one of those concerned—is that if the proposals of the Company are turned down on Second Reading without going before a Committee to be thrashed out at all, it may be very much more difficult to negotiate or to get the Company to start a new and more satisfactory scheme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] For a reason which is one of human nature, that if you take up 1541 that position you are likely to make the Company say, "Very well, you would not have it, and the next move is with you." This is a question of policy. My right hon. Friend opposite, I am sure, will listen to me, and if he differs from me he can say so later.
The men are opposing this Bill by petition and are opposing it on preamble. If the Bill goes before a Committee, if they are successful in opposing it on preamble, because it is such a perfectly hopeless Bill that it cannot be made a right one, or in persuading the Company to withdraw it, well and good. If, on the other hand, the Bill can be made satisfactory, there is an opportunity of making it satisfactory in Committee. What I want to put is this: There is that possibility of getting a satisfactory scheme if this Bill goes before a Committee. The House, and those who are interested in the case, and the men concerned, have got this further chance, and I shall for one he most careful to watch it: If, in spite of the opposition on petition by the men themselves, the Bill emerges from Committee in a no more satisfactory state than that in which it is now, the House will be in a position, and to my mind it will be the duty of the House, to throw out the Bill.
That is the position which I take up, with all respect, in the interests of the men principally concerned. It is for that reason that I hope I may persuade some of those more directly interested than myself to adopt that point of view, and to realise that the best course—after expressions of opinion such as I have given, I hope decidedly and strongly—is for the Bill to go before a Committee, and to see what can be made of it there, and for this House to reserve its rights and to turn down the Bill at a later stage if it does not emerge from the Committee in a satisfactory state. I have tried to put my ease very shortly. In conclusion, I want to say a word or two about what I conceive to be the position of what I might call the ordinary Member of Parliament with regard to the Second Reading of Private Bills generally. One of the essential characteristics of our Private Bill procedure, is that, whereas those Private Bills are calculated to affect private individuals or corporations, or groups of individuals or corporations, all those who are 1542 affected by them should have the right of being heard before a quasi-judicial body, namely, the Private Bill Committees. Before that Committee the rights of the case are heard under far more favourable circumstances than anything of the kind can ever be heard in this House. They are heard under conditions equivalent to those of a Court of Justice, where the parties are represented by trained advocates who put forward their case, and it is there that the rights of the parties should be threshed out.
That being so, it seems to me that it is not the business of this House to refuse to send a Private Bill to a Committee unless for specially good reasons. Two of those reasons—there may be others—come to my mind at this moment. One of them is, if the Bill should be in its nature one which would be regarded as contrary to the public interest generally. The establishment of a superannuation fund is not contrary to the public interest. There is another ground on which the House would be justified in refusing a Second Reading, and that is if such a Bill was likely injuriously to affect any person or body of persons or corporations who could not be properly heard and properly represented before the Committee. That is the case in regard to the old super-annuitants under this Bill. But, in their interests, those who are specially trying to put forward their case do not desire to throw out this Bill, but merely desire to ask the Committee to consider their case.
With regard to the other men, those who are directly concerned, I have ventured to suggest that if this Bill goes to Committee, there is a chance that they may be able so to prove their case as to make it a Bill satisfactory to them, or, if they cannot do that, they will be able to get the Bill defeated on Preamble. In these circumstances, I suggest to any of those Members who may be inclined to follow my course, that the best course, in the interests of the men themselves, is to give a Second Reading to this Bill, after protests on the Floor of the House against the very serious defects in it, and with a definite warning—if I may do so without offence—to those who are in charge of the Bills of the companies, that those of us who adopt that particular course will watch the progress of this Bill through Committee with very 1543 great interest, and that unless it emerges in a very different form from that in which it is now, we shall do our best to defeat it when it comes before the House at a later stage.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
Whatever may be the result of this Debate, I think the House will agree with me in congratulating the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Townend) upon the speech with which he introduced his Amendment. I think it was a very earnest and remarkably able speech, and I congratulate the House, and particularly the party to which the hon. Member has the honour to belong, upon what has been a most valuable contribution to this Debate. I fear I must ask for the patience of the House, but I will try not to strain it unduly while I lay before hon. Members the position of the London and North Eastern Railway Company in connection with this Bill. It is necessary to go a little way into the history of the company in order to appreciate their responsibility towards the various superannuation funds which have resulted from the amalgamation.
When the amalgamation took place a number of these superannuation funds were in existence. The funds were all worked on the same principle, namely, the principle of a contribution by the worker, and a commensurate contribution by the company. In every case the company also guaranteed the solvency of the fund. The company made an additional contribution to the funds of the superannuation society to preserve the solvency of the fund. In the case of the Great Northern and North British a subsidy was added. The North Eastern gave an enhanced rate of interest—that is, a rate of interest beyond the market rate—so as to ensure the solvency of the fund, and the Great Eastern paid the difference between the income of the fund and its outgoings. The contributions were nearly all based on the period of service, and in each case the company had made itself responsible for the solvency of the fund.
Then came 1919. In that year salary and bonus were amalgamated, and the result of this sudden accretion—the amalgamation of bonus and salary and the increase of salary as well—was to upset the actuarial calculations relating to the superannuation funds. To give an 1544 example of what happened, I take the case of a man in the Great Northern Railway who had joined the fund in 19014 and who retired with 30 years' service on 31st July, 1919. His salary then would have been £120. The pension, which had accumulated for him in the fund, was £50, but he was entitled to £60—half his salary—and, consequently, the company would have had to find £10. On 1st August, 1919, that man's salary was increased to £240. On that basis his retiring pension would be £120, and the fund had accumulated for him only £50, so that the company instead of having to find £10 would have to find £70. That is only one example. In the case of one fund a surplus of £38,000 was converted into a deficiency of £130,000. It would not be fair to say that the whole burden fell upon the companies, because the contributions of the members were increased to some extent, but a very heavy burden had already fallen on the shoulders of the companies, the amount which they had to pay in 1913 being, I think, about £127,000 a year.
I pass by the Resolution of 1920 and come to 1921. The House will remember the Railways Act, 1921, and the discussions which then took place. The real anxiety expressed at that time by members of various funds was that the new development would affect rights and continuity of management in connection with the existing funds, and, consequently, legislation was passed to put that right. The Railways Act of 1921 preserves the continuity of management in the funds. Section 3, Sub-section (1e) of the Act under which the companies were amalgamated, preserves the rights of all members of the existing funds, and the discussions at that time turned entirely upon the question of preserving the rights of the annuitants. I find on looking back to the discussions which took place, a phrase which will I am sure appeal to the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. William Graham) because it comes from a person whom he must hold in high esteem and whom the House holds in high esteem. In the OFFICIAL REPORT I find that Mr. Graham said this:All we are asking in this Clause, and in this matter we have the support, I think of representatives of many of the railway companies, is that provision should be inserted which makes it perfectly certain that, whatever happens, these funds, and, 1545 above all, the system of management of those funds, will be continued unimpaired until the question can be treated as whole, or until some other situation arises in which we shall be able to deal adequately with railway superannuation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1921; cols. 495–496, Vol. 145.]On another occasion he said—All we want is to make it absolutely certain that every man after amalgamation has the same right as he has now, and, secondly, that the management of the fund will not be altered.That was the basis of the discussion at that time. I pass from 1921 and go to 1923, when the amalgamation took place. On the amalgamation of the various companies in the form in which they exist now, two questions arose: first, how to deal with these various superannuation funds, and secondly, how to deal with the new employés who were coming into the employment of the companies, and who were not included in any existing fund. The question was whether they should be allowed to join these funds, and if so, on what terms. It became obvious that it would be practically impossible to allow new entrants—with whom this Bill alone deals—to join existing funds. Accordingly, by arrangement with the Railway Clerks Association, so ably represented by the proposer and seconder of this Amendment, the existing funds were closed to the new entrants. No new man was allowed to join the existing funds, and that was provided for in Section 50 of the London and North Eastern Railway Act. Then came 1924.
In 1924, the London and North Eastern Railway Company introduced a Bill, in which they sought powers to establish a new fund for those not entitled to superannuation, and for powers to propose and devise a scheme which should enable the members of existing organisations to be absorbed into this new scheme which was to be provided for them—practically what the hon. Members opposite are asking for now. What happened? When this Bill was before the House, the Railway Clerks' Association presented a petition against it. The London Midland and Scottish Railway Scheme, called, in railway parlance, the Euston Scheme, was made public at the same time, and the Railway Clerks' Association opposed the suggestion of the London and North Eastern Railway that they should formulate such a scheme, 1546 presented a petition, and the petition was only withdrawn upon the undertaking of the railway company that they would not proceed with any scheme at that time.
The next thing that happened was an investigation of the London, Midland and Scottish scheme. It was a very favourable one. It was on very generous lines, and very attractive to all members of the superannuation fund, and, consequently, it was closely investigated by the railway company and by the Railway Clerks' Association. They examined it together, actuarial advice was sought, and an actuary, I believe, was appointed on behalf of the railway company and also on behalf of the Railway Clerks' Association. The actuaries agreed—and I am afraid this is the sordid crux of the whole matter—that it would involve an additional cost, if it were adopted by the London and North Eastern Railway Company, of £120,000 a year in perpetuity. The question that arose was this: Was this railway company at that time entitled to adopt a scheme which would involve an additional expenditure on the railway company of £120,000 a year. As a result of the alteration in salaries in 1919, and various other things that had happened, let me point out what the financial position of this company was in 1924.
The existing liability to the schemes which they had chosen was of a capital value of £11,000,000. Unless the staff on those funds would increase their contributions, which, I am bound to say, was in those times unthinkable, and the solvency of the funds could be assured, there was no doubt that this company must add, in respect to the liability to these insurance funds, a further burden of £120,000 a year. And at what time did the question arise? In 1924. In that year the London and North Eastern Railway Company took from reserve £2,750,000 in order to maintain the dividend. In 1925, they have had to take in order to maintain the dividend, a sum of £4,000,000 from reserve, and even then they have not been able to pay more than 1 per cent. on the deferred stock, instead of 2½ per cent. They have carried forward in the balance sheet of the year £147,000 less than last year. The Pensions Act, which a fatherly and protective Government have passed, has increased the liability of the company by £135,000 a year, and, owing to 1547 the various increases in salaries of the men, of which I have already spoken, the expenditure in support of these various funds, to keep them solvent, by the company, which, as I told the House, was in 1913 £127,000, has now risen to £330,000 a year.
I know this House, in its fairness, will try to put itself in the position of the board of this company, and consider what was their duty to all those whom they represent, because they not only owe a debt to their staff, but they owe a debt to their shareholders. It is an easy thing to say that the shareholders of a large company of this sort are among the idle rich, and that they can, and ought to be made to contribute more largely towards the necessities of the poor. Let us consider that. With regard to the shareholders of this company, there are 253,000 separate accounts, of which 171,000 are investments under £1,000, and, of the remainder, many of the larger investments represent the thrift and industrial associations of the country, and, therefore, are really contributed by the poor.
What is the position of these shareholders? Supposing a man had invested £100 in a share of the company, instead of paying into his Superannuation Fund. A holder of £100 North Eastern consols received, by way of dividend, in 1913, £7. In the year 1925, the same person is receiving £6 18s. A holder of Great Northern deferred ordinary stock in 1913 received £3, and now £2 8s. Many of these are persons of small means. It is quite true that the cost of living has gone up by about 75 per cent. That is a factor which is the very legitimate basis of the complaint of those men who are receiving the pensions to which they subscribed, and are now receiving them on the pre-War basis, but think of the position of the shareholders. Their income has gone down; it does not even remain stationary. Their interest has gone down, the capital value of their security has, of course, decreased, and there is no provision for them to meet the increased cost of living.
Under these circumstances, what is the company to do? Let me summarise in one sentence the position, as it was when it was considered, as to whether they could extend the scheme to their employés or not. They are paying re- 1548 spectively £130,000 a year to the superannuation fund, and added to their liabilities £135,000 a year; then it is suggested that they are to shoulder a further amount of £120,000! I have received scores of letters and many telegrams, and I think I shall be safe in saying that the real crux of the objection to this Bill can be stated in one sentence—the objectors want this company to adopt the London, Midland and Scottish scheme. The members of the existing superannuation scheme want it—I do not wonder—because it gives them more. It does not give them very much more in the course of time, but it gives them a lower subscription, 2½ per cent. of their salary instead of 3 per cent.
The answer is a very simple one. What is asked for can not be done. It is not the duty of this company to do anything of the kind. This Bill is only introduced because the new entrants have to be provided for, and let me point out that if the House rejects this Bill, no member of any superannuation fund is going to get 6d. extra; no one will get another shilling. The only result will be that superannuation funds will remain as they are, everybody's pension will remain as it is, and a very considerable number of new entrants will be left stranded with no scheme at all. Let me in conclusion say just another word. I have every sympathy with the unfortunate men who have rendered service and who, having paid for a pension which they expected to be sufficient for their needs, now find that it is not. But it is a universal grievance. It touches not only men in the railway funds, it touches the police force, and it touches every class of person who purchased before the War an annuity which is now obviously inadequate. I always have the most hearty sympathy, perhaps, with the case of the women who had saved sufficient to buy a small annuity which, before the War, was barely sufficient to maintain her and which is now quite inadequate. Does anybody suggest that the insurance company ought to pay more because times are bad? If these railway annuitants had subscribed to insurance companies, instead of paying into these funds, they would have had to pay more, a great deal more in premiums, because the company pays an equivalent to their subscriptions, and they would have 1549 been no better off. I think it was Sydney Smith, who once said that a charitable appeal made to him had moved him so deeply that he had advised his friends to subscribe. Let me say that the railway company takes a little more practical view of the situation. The men themselves, with that wonderful sympathy and generosity which always distinguishes men of that class, have themselves subscribed a fund of £10,000 a year which goes to meet the deficiency and to help these weekly pensions which are obviously inadequate. The company have added to that the sum of £23,000. Hon. Members may say that that is not much. The answer to that is that it is something.
Do not let it be supposed that the directors of these companies are not anxious to have a scheme which will give their men all possible advantages. No sane directorate in the world would desire to take away a scheme of this sort if they could help it. What is going to happen? A petition has been presented which raises all the points covered by the speeches which have been made—a petition which really can be dealt with better in Committee upstairs if this Bill gets its Second Reading. At that time all questions of figures and accounts, and the pros and cons, can be gone into with greater detail. I would say to the House that that would be a much more satisfactory way of dealing with the question. If you are going to destroy the Bill now, to say that this Bill is going to get no further, and the Committee stage goes, the sole result will be that the new entrants remain without any scheme, and with nothing to look forward to in the future. The amalgamated men, whose interests are not touched by this Bill, have taken advantage of the Bill to get something more for themselves—for that is what it comes to, and I do not blame them—by opposing the Bill; but if this Bill is thrown out, nobody is 6d. the better or 6d. the richer than they were before.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
Is it the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman that, if a Second Reading be given to this Bill and the petition is referred to Committee, it will be competent for the Committee to enlarge the Bill so as to cover the old members as well as the new entrants?
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I do not say that. The Committee can make 1550 recommendations, but there is no advantage gained by throwing out these Bills.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his champion. I am sorry anything personal should have been introduced, and if anybody can suggest anything disrespectful to the right hon. Gentleman in what I said, I will withdraw it at once. He is an old friend of mine and he is the last person to whom I should wish to be disrespectful. In conclusion, I do beg the House to consider deeply before they take the extreme step of throwing out this Bill. I suggest that every Member would be just if he would put this question to himself, "Supposing I were one of the directors or managers of this; company, should I have done otherwise? Realising the trust for the shareholders and all that is involved, should I have done otherwise than this company has done?" We are not shutting the door for all time. When trade improves for the heavy lines, like the London and North Eastern, let us all hope that the superannuation funds can be improved so as to give the men as much as they get under the London, Midland and Scottish scheme. I give no pledge. I am saying that we are not closing the door for ever. If we can, and when we-can, we will. At the present time we cannot, and we deeply regret that it is-wholly out of the question. I hope that the House of Commons will give this Bill a Second Reading. I am very sorry I have taken up so much time of the Houser and I am very much obliged for the deep attention given to the case I have had to make.
§ Major HILLS
The hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me if I do not follow him in all the details of the able speech he has just made. I want' to bring the discussion back to what has occurred since the Debates on the Railways Act of 1921. Every Member of this House will remember how we sat through that hot summer for four, five or six weeks slowly thrashing out the numerous 1551 and complicated Clauses and Schedules of that Bill. I find that on the 20th day of the discussion, 14th July, 1921, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) moved a Clause dealing with the superannuation funds of the then existing railway companies. I should mention that the Bill, as introduced, did not deal with these points at all. The right hon. Gentleman's new Clause stabilised and kept alive the rights of all subscribers and all annuitants and kept alive the machinery and management of these funds. That Clause did not pass through Committee—I see I voted against it myself—but between the Committee stage and the Report stage of that Bill the right hon. Gentleman and I conferred together and he brought me a Clause which met the objections that I had seen to the original Clause.
We had many discussions on this Clause and, if I remember rightly, at least one of those discussions took place in the presence of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, who was then Mr. Neal, and we agreed a Clause. That Clause was moved by the right hon. Gentleman on the Report stage of the Bill and, though it was not accepted by the Minister of Transport, who was then Sir Erie Geddes, a similar Clause was inserted in the Bill in the House of Lords. I quite agree that that Clause does not impose any obligation on the amalgamated companies to set up a unified fund. I agree that there was no Parliamentary contract which bound the companies to start a unified fund for all the members of the grouped companies. All it said was that no men should be worse off through grouping. Therefore, supposing a unified fund were started, the effect of that must have been that men were graded up and were not graded down. That is as far as the Parliamentary position went, but I should not be fair to the House if I left the matter there. I feel that I am bound to tell the House my own impression of what the understanding was on this important question.
Let me quite shortly sketch the position. All the world knew the railways were going to be grouped; all the world knew that these groups were composed of various companies with very different scales of contribution and very different 1552 scales of benefit; all the world knew that the men who formed part of the new groups would all receive the same salaries. I had in my mind—and I am perfectly clear—an understanding quite clearly that when the groups were amalgamated all the superannuation funds would be unified inside the group. I can only speak for myself, but I remember well in conferences that I held with the right hon. Gentleman it was not so much that we talked about or expressed the certainty that there would be a unified fund for each group as that it was the undercurrent and the basis of our conversation. I assumed that that was an agreed fact. Now, when I come to that point, and when I realise that no unification can take place unless you grade the men up, and that in the case of this particular Bill you cannot have a unified fund unless you put all the members of the superannuation fund on the terms of the best fund, and when I recollect that in my mind there was a very strong understanding that we were to have this unified fund, how do I vote when I see this Bill before me?
The Bill does not do what I understood was to be done. First of all, it leaves all the separate classes, all the salaried officers of the different companies on their old and varied rates of contribution and scales of benefit, and secondly it makes a special scale for new entrants. Now I heard the argument of my hon. Friend for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert). He made a speech, the second part of which I thought contradicted the first, because in the first part he spoke very strongly against the Bill as a most discreditable Bill and, in the second part of his speech, he urged the House to implement the Bill. I do not like voting against a Private Bill on Second Reading. It is a thing I have very rarely done in the many years I used to be in this House.
I feel I cannot either vote for the Bill or abstain from voting. I feel the Bill is one that does not carry out what I thought was the understanding, and what I believe to be the only business basis upon which one can run this group of railways. Surely, it is an impossible position to have men working alongside each other who receive totally different scales of benefit? I do not say anything about the question of whether the scale 1553 of the London and North Eastern Group ought to be raised to the standard of the London Midland and Scottish Group; and I would like to mention that in the many letters I have received opposing this Bill, I have not found that point raised. The only point that has been raised is that the new entrants are being asked to pay increased contributions. I do not see how we can make this Bill a satisfactory Bill. It is perfectly certain that it cannot deal with the case of the pre-War annuitants—that is so clearly outside the scope of it that no instruction could bring it in. This Bill, also, could never deal with the varying classes under the funds of the old companies. It deals entirely with the new entrants, and places them upon a different scale, and, that being so, I think it my duty to vote against this Bill.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
Although the Eleven o'clock Rule has been suspended for this purpose to-night, I think hon. Members will feel that our time is limited, and perhaps the House will bear with me if I deal only very briefly indeed with the case before us. I am driven to speak because, along with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), I was in the 1921 Parliament a party to certain negotiations which took place during the prolonged proceedings on the Railways Act upstairs, on the Report stage later, and on the final stages. I venture to ask the attention of Members for a minute or two while I try to confirm the summary which my hon. and gallant Friend has just presented to the House. During the nine weeks of that very hot summer that we discussed this Bill upstairs there was, perhaps, no part of the Measure of greater importance, certainly to the salaried staffs of the railway companies, than that part which referred to the position of their superannuation funds. I believe that at that time a figure of anything from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000 in the aggregate was regarded as the sum we then had under discussion.
The Railways Act, 1921, proposed to wipe out the railway companies of this country and to combine them in four great amalgamations on a geographical basis. It was plain to everyone that that would involve in due course a great change in the position of the superannuation funds, and in our endeavours to safe- 1554 guard the interests of the salaried staffs we were very anxious at that time—during the Committee stage—to secure the insertion of such a Clause as would provide for the amalgamation of the existing superannuation funds, or would at all events take a definite step towards that end. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport of that day argued that that could only be done after considerable actuarial investigation. There was a good deal of doubt as to the position of the old funds, which had been in existence for many years, there was some doubt as to the position that new entrants to those funds would occupy, and in the long run the Government decided they were unable to embark upon a Clause of that kind. Accordingly we were driven to try to safeguard the position of the people who were in the then funds by getting into the Railways Act such general Clauses as would retain those funds in their management, and all the rest, until a consideration or reconsideration of the whole scheme was possible.
If hon. Members turn to the Railways Act, 1921, they will find a Clause in it upon those lines. The common understanding at that date was that they would proceed almost immediately to this kind of amalgamation. May I recall to the House the ideas which were in the minds of the members of the Government on that day—the Coalition Government—of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and of their expert advisers? It was said by one of the leading advisers that the most desirable scheme was one united scheme that would cover the salaried and for all I know, all other staffs of the railway amalgamations. Under that there would be a very wide basis. But at all events nobody believed for a single moment that there would be other than one comprehensive scheme for each amalgamation, at the lowest. That was the view entertained by members of the Committee, by the expert advisers, and, I think, by all people interested in the Measure at that date.
The negotiations since that time, while they have been protracted, and even complex, can be very simply described. The London Midland and Scottish amalgamation—entirely to its credit—proceeded to a discussion with the Railway 1555 Clerks' Association and to the framing of a scheme in terms of the understanding we all had in our minds in 1921. That scheme provided for the fusion of the old funds, and for the inclusion within the one scheme of the new entrants—a comprehensive proposal, which included all grades of the staff. As has been pointed out, that was entirely satisfactory to all concerned. On the other hand, there have been prolonged negotiations with the London and North Eastern Railway Company, and also, I think, some minor discussion with the Southern Company, but in the result it has been impossible, unfortunately, to reach agreement. I want to make it perfectly plain that all along the members of the Railway Clerks' Association, and the other people interested from the staff side, have done everything in their power to reach an agreement. They have legitimately taken the view that what was done in the case of the London Midland and Scottish Company was nothing more than what was the understanding in 1921, and that that should be applied in this case.
Let us be perfectly clear in our minds as to what it exactly is that is before the House. So far from introducing one united comprehensive scheme of that character, the proposal of the London and North Eastern Group is that the old funds, admittedly difficult and unsatisfactory, should be left in their present position, and that from the 1st January, 1923, there should be a new fund, for new entrants coming in after that date, with different scales of contribution. They set up within the one railway group the old funds, and this new, separate and distinct fund confined to the new entrants. I think I have only got to state that case from the principle of mere superannuation to show how thoroughly unsound the whole proposal is, and to prove how manifestly contrary it is to what was intended in 1921.
Let me take one or two points which have been raised in this Debate. The hon. and learned Gentleman who put the case for the Second Reading of this Bill built it very largely upon the difficulties which in the main have overtaken the London and Northern Eastern amalgamation. We on this side of the House are fully aware of the industrial difficulties, and we know that they have been hit to 1556 a very considerable extent, but when the hon. Member goes out of his way and places part of these difficulties on the ground of the extra liabilities incurred in regard to widows' and orphans' pensions, then I think he is referring more to legislation which applies to things at large and equally to the case of the London, Midland and Scottish as well as to the North Eastern Company. To the best of my knowledge what is now put forward has never been claimed by any promoters of superannuation at all. The superannuation which has been referred to is on a contributory basis, and applies to 12,000,000 or 15,000,000 of our people, and therefore that is not an argument which can be imported into this Debate.
There is one other consideration which I am sure this House will not ignore. The railway amalgamations in this country are in a peculiar position. It is perfectly true that the burden of industrial distress is falling upon them, and this House should do what it can to meet the difficulty. It should not be forgotten, however, that after the War, during the period of early reconstruction, £51,000,000 net was paid to them. The fact that this was paid to them has enabled them to take certain sums from reserves to meet years of admitted difficulty during industrial depression. The same Act of Parliament gave a direction to fix the rates and charges in order to give those amalgamations as near as may be the net revenue of 1913, and I think that fact ought to be kept in mind when considering the elementary justice to be done to the staffs of the two large and important groups which are under discussion to-night.
We have been asked why we are opposing the Second Reading of this Bill and why we are not willing to allow it to go upstairs for discussion where all the details could be hammered out. Hon. Members who may be in favour of the Second Reading know quite well that in Committee upstairs you cannot go beyond the scope of the scheme, and that is the final reply to that argument. You can really only discuss these things between the railway amalgamations and the representatives of the staffs; you must discuss these matters with the people who are intimately concerned, not necessarily before a Committee of this House, but before the people who know all the details.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
Is it not the case that this question could be raised on the Preamble in Committee if the Bill receives a Second Reading?
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I am afraid I cannot agree, because this is a matter for discussion with the people immediately concerned, and it is because you cannot bring this Bill into line at all with the proposals of the Midland and Scottish Company, in carrying out the understanding of 1921, that we invite the House to reject the Second Reading of this Measure. The House knows perfectly well that there must be superannuation for staffs in this position, and at the present time contributions are being deducted from their salaries for this purpose. Accordingly at a very early date there must be a reconsideration of the whole matter. I trust I have now said sufficient in regard to the understanding of 1921 to lead this House to reject the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The responsibility of every hon. Member of this House when a great corporation like a railway company asks for the Second Reading of a Bill is of course very grave, and I think the crowded state of the House at the present moment shows that we all desire to take that responsibility seriously. Speaking for myself I am much obliged to hon. and learned Members opposite for the clear exposition which has been given of this Bill, and I thoroughly sympathise with the claim that one must not put burdens upon railway companies like this on the ground that, after all, it is only the rich shareholders who are going to suffer. My own view is that I think there are quite as many people interested in dividends as there are employés, and therefore the argument about the rich shareholders is a false one. I think hon. Members opposite may be quite right in asking the House to pause before deciding to reject this Bill on its Second Reading.
Although I do not know so much about these matters as the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, I have always taken a deep interest in the question of superannuation, and I know a good deal about it, and if it is thought that this is the proper solution, then I think the result is deplorable. It certainly is deplorable to find that some people in the 1558 same office or town and people who may be moved about should find themselves working side by side with somebody else doing the same work on quite a different scale of remuneration. You might as well have Members of Parliament receiving different salaries, although they were sitting side by side in this House. After listening to the arguments my own impression has been very much confirmed that really this sort of solution was not what was meant when the Railways Act was passed. I had that impression, and I am now quite satisfied that it was right, in view of what I have heard. Let me, with great respect, say that, if it be the case that this railway company was seriously considering whether it could amalgamate these funds, and then came to the conclusion that it could not do so because of the burden of widows' and orphans' pensions, that is no argument at all. I could not help noting that the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned a figure representing the cost of the burden thrown upon this railway company by that Act—
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
All that I did was to state that sum when I was enumerating the liability which the company now has to discharge.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I do not know whether there is any relation between the two things or not. I can understand that you may have the last straw, which seems to be almost breaking the camel's back, but I do suggest to the House that it is necessary to take a bold stand, and that burdens of that kind—which are, no doubt, grievous for many large employers of labour—cannot be made the reason why the proper solution is not pursued, and cannot be any justification for a Bill which is otherwise so deplorably unsatisfactory. I interrupted the hon. and learned Gentleman because it seemed to me that, in urging upon the House of Commons that, if it passed the Second Reading of this Bill, the petition would then come before a Committee, he was in fact suggesting or implying that improvements could then be made which would meet our present difficulty. I am not very familiar with Private Bill procedure, but I was surprised at that, and I gather it is agreed on all hands that nothing of the sort can be done. Therefore, speaking for myself, although I do 1559 so very reluctantly, because I think it is a most serious thing to throw out on Second Reading the proposals of a great corporation which is serving the public as faithfully as it can, I must take the course which the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Major Hills) said he felt obliged to take, because this Bill really would not produce a solution of the question. On the whole, it would rather delay than hasten a solution, and it is necessary, I think, for those concerned in this matter to make another effort to arrive at a reasonable arrangement which will satisfy both sides.
§ Mr. REMER
I want to say a word on behalf of the superannuitants—the old men men whose case for some seven or eight years I and my hon. Friend the Member for St Pancras have been putting forward in this House. I want to join issue with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) on this matter. I have in my hand the figures of the various companies of the London and North Eastern Company. It is quite true that the North-Eastern section of that company has given supplements in a scheme which it has put forward, but I have here the figures relating to the Great Northern Company. In the case of one man, who was receiving a salary of £116 a year on retirement, he receives a regular pension of £48 11s., and receives no supplement whatever. Another man, whose salary on retirement was £109 per annum, is receiving a regular pension of £94 13s., and also receives no supplement. A third man, who was receiving a salary on retirement of £108, receives a pension of only £35 19s. I put these cases forward to show that the statement that these old people have received supplements is not quite accurate.
Before I sit down I want to place before the House the views of the association which has been pleading this case for a very long time. After a very hard fight, they managed to get their way with the London, Midland and Scottish Company. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Townend) has mentioned how we received many telegrams and letters on that occasion. I received 300,000. These old men are still trying to put their case forward, but I am satisfied, having heard 1560 the Debate this evening, that it is impossible, owing to the framework of this Bill, for any alteration to be made in it which would deal with their case. The London and North Eastern Company and the Southern Railway Company have so drafted their Bills that I think it will be found impossible, even with the instruction of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert), to put forward any Amendment which will meet their case. The sum of money involved is not very large. A suggestion has been made that grants of supplementary pensions should be made by a committee on a graduated scale, that no pension shall be less than £100, that no existing pension over £150 shall receive more than £5o as a supplement, that pensions between £150 and £350 shall be dealt with by the Board direct, and that no claim shall be made in respect of any pension over £350. These suggestions seem to me to be so reasonable that they might well be adopted. I shall certainly go into the Lobby against the Bill.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
It is a long time since such a full House listened with the interest that has been shown to-night to a Debate on a Private Bill. I do not associate myself, and never have associated myself, with the policy of merely opposing a railway Bill because it happened to be brought forward by a railway company. On the contrary, even when it involved disagreement with my friends on this side, I have always endeavoured to consider the question on its merits. I am approaching this Bill in precisely the same way, and, if I were in a position to advise the railway companies, in their own best interests, and equally keeping in mind that there must of necessity be further negotiations whatever happens—let the House please keep that in mind—instead of seeing both these Bills defeated, which appears to me to be inevitable, I would like to see them withdrawn.
I will give my reasons for that. Do not let any hon. Member vote for the Second Reading on what is called the principle of this Bill with the idea that the real basis of the grievance can be amended in Committee. I do not know what was in the mind of the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert), but he went so far as to say that he was totally opposed to this Bill, but that, 1561 because all his grievances could be remedied in Committee—and he would watch them carefully during the proceedings there, and then throw it out on Third Reading—he asked that a Second Reading should be given to the Bill. If he was speaking in ignorance of what can take place, he must of necessity alter his mind and vote against the Bill now.
On the other hand I think my hon. and learned Friend went too far in stating the railway company's view by merely saying that if you reject this Bill that ends it. That will not do; it may go away with some, but it cannot possibly come off with me. No one speaking for the railway companies and knowing the facts would desire to convey that impression. It must be admitted, first, that a superannuation scheme is essential. It must be admitted, secondly, that if the companies claim and exercise, and rightly exercise, the right to transfer Great Northern men to the North Eastern, and Great Eastern men to the North Eastern offices, and so on, it is an absurd and impossible position to have a superannuation scheme on one basis for one and another basis for the other. It is impossible, and the railway companies know that as well as we do.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
Would the right hon. Gentleman mind me interrupting him for one moment? My point was that so far as this Bill could not deal with the existing superannuation fund the point could be raised on the Preamble, and if it could not be dealt with on this Bill it was open to be dealt with on the representations that could then be made that the existing superannuation funds. The question of new entrants is an entirely different matter. My point was that it would be unfortunate if what we call the new entrants were thrown out without discussion.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I quite understand the point, but now that the hon. Member has heard the explanation dealing with the point he so strongly emphasised, and which he now realises is impossible, I think it would be better to take the advice of my hon. and learned Friend who spoke for the railway companies, and save them that unnecessary cost. I am thinking of their money at the moment. Then I come to the next point, and it is this. Everyone who took part in that 1562 great Railways Bill will pay tribute to the remarkable fairness, interest, and skill displayed by the present hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills), who throughout the whole of those negotiations—except on one occasion when Lord Banbury interrupted him—spoke for and represented the railway companies' interests. He not only represented them well, but fairly, and I say that from the other side. You have heard him to-night tell the House frankly that, although there were not only on this, but on many other occasions, attempts made to insert Clauses in the Railways Bill for tactical and other reasons, discussions took place and there was an implied understanding—sometimes they were withdrawn and sometimes negatived—but I have never known that bargain to be broken.
Whenever I have been able to say to the railway companies that there was an understanding, it has been loyally kept. You have heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon to-night what actually took place. He knew that standardisation in conditions was accepted by the railway companies and the Government. He also knew that if amalgamations were to follow with groups of men whose conditions were standardised, superannuation, if it was to be standardised, must be on the highest level and not the lowest. Common sense and experience told him that that was to be the position. That is all we ask. We do not ask the House to reject this Bill merely for the sake of rejection. I am asking the promoters to withdraw both Bills, and let the practical people come together again, and the practical people are not a Committee of this House.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman one moment? The petition, which is the petition to be considered if this Bill goes upstairs to Committee, is the petition of the Railway Clerks' Association, and it contains nine-tenths of the arguments which have been addressed to the House this evening, including a great number of those now being presented by the right hon. Gentleman. These matters would be cogent for the consideration of the Committee.
§ Mr. THOMAS
In negotiations where the contributions and the management 1563 are shared and where goodwill is essential, I merely ask the House to remember this. Is it not better for the companies and their own men, who are the only people affected, to sit down round the table like the London, Midland and Scottish and the Great Western did, and hammer it out for themselves? It is no good saying the petition says this and that. The fact remains that you get the six best brains in this House, and they would not be equal to the six humblest porters on the railway to-day. For all these reasons I regret that I have to oppose this Bill if the Amendment goes to a Division, but in the beet interests of the companies and the men, and of goodwill and of an industry which is doing better for itself than outsiders can do for it, I again urge the promoters not to risk the inevitable fate that I am quite sure will overtake it.
§ Colonel MURROUGH WILSON
It is difficult to follow the distinguished orators who have been speaking on the Bill, but as a mere director of one of the companies involved, the London and North Eastern, I should like to say a word or two, more especially with regard to the last speech and to that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills). The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has given various reasons in urging the withdrawal of the Bill, and in doing so he referred to what took place upstairs during the passing of the Railways Act. I was on that Committee, and to a large extent I agree absolutely with what he said, but there is this small difference. I, like I think all Members of the Committee, wished to see a scheme of amalgamation which would cover all the funds, and I think the way in which negotiations have progressed since that date, as between the Railway Clerks' Association and the London and North Eastern Railway Company, shows that that company also wished to get complete amalgamation.
I think it is within the knowledge of the House, at any rate, of all those who have read the great amount of literature that has been flying around in regard to this Bill, that negotiations on the lines of having complete amalgamation continued for some years, but although it has shown that the railway companies wished to have that complete amalgamation of funds, what, in fact, 1564 prevented it was the case so ably put by my hon. and learned Friend beside me (Sir E. Hume-Williams) and the total incapacity of the railway companies to raise the necessary money to take on the liabilities that will be created by the creation of those funds. There is no desire on the part of the railway companies to avoid an amalgamation of the funds. What we desire to avoid is having it forced upon us at the present juncture when funds are extraordinarily difficult to find, and we think this is the wrong moment, owing to that fact, for such an amalgamation to take place.
If the House sees its way to give the Bill a Second Reading, as I hope it wilt, there is nothing in it which will prevent the Railway Clerks' Association raising the whole question of amalgamation of funds on a future occasion, which we hope will arrive soon. My hon. and learned Friend says it is possible to raise this in Committee but I should not like to suggest that even if it were raised in Committee at present the railway companies could accept it. I do not think they could.
It has been suggested that a very bad precedent will be formed inasmuch as under this Bill we are starting a new class of men who will be working under different conditions from men working alongside of them. That is one of the weakest arguments I have ever heard. What, in fact, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon suggested was that the Bill should be thrown out because of this anomaly that we were creating. If the Bill is thrown out he creates a still greater anomaly inasmuch as he is proposing, not that there should be men who are on a different footing in regard to superannuation, but that we are to create a class who have no superannuation fund at all. Surely his cure is going to create an even greater evil. In these circumstances his suggestion absolutely falls to the ground.
I cannot help thinking the House is rather getting misled in regard to the whole matter. We have had the question put to us, and we have had a great discussion in regard to this amalgamation of funds. There is nothing at all to prevent the whole question of amalgamation being brought up again by the Railway Clerks' Association and fully discussed. I agree that the effect of passing this Bill will be to create another 1565 class who will have to be considered. We have seven now. It does not make much difference whether you have eight, but the fact that we ask the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill does not to my mind make any greater difficulties in regard to discussing the whole question of the amalgamation of funds at some future time. I trust that, owing to this fact, and owing to the obvious fact that the railway company cannot at the moment face the expense and the liability
§ of amalgamation, the House will consider that these new entrants are entitled to a superannuation scheme and will recognise the fact that no one on the opposite benches has said the new entrants themselves do not want a superannuation scheme, and under the circumstances will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 10; Noes, 341.1567
|Division No. 62.]||AYES.||[10.20 p.m.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Colonel Murrough Wilson and Sir Ellis Hume-Williams.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G. (Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Fleiden, E. B.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Connolly, M.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Cooper, A. Duff||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cove, W. G.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro-)||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Crawfurd, H. E.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hanbury, C.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hardie, George D.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Harland, A.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Dalton, Hugh||Harris, Percy A.|
|Baker, Walter||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Balniel, Lord||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hastings, Sir Patrick|
|Barnes, A.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harpy||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hayday, Arthur|
|Batey, Joseph||Day, Colonel Harry||Hayes, John Henry|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Bethel, A.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Blundell, F. N.||England, Colonel A.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hirst, G. H.|
|Briant, Frank||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Broad, F. A.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Bromfield, William||Fenby, T. D.||Holt, Captain H. P.|
|Bromley, J.||Fermoy, Lord||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Forrest, W.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)|
|Buchanan, G.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Burman, J. B.||Gadie, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Ganzoni, Sir John.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Cape, Thomas||Gates, Percy||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Gee, Captain R.||Jacob, A, E.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Gillett, George M.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Gosling, Harry||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Grace, John||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Christie, J. A.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Clowes, S.||Greenall, T.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunei||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Grotrian, H. Brent||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Groves, T.||Kennedy, T.|
|Compton, Joseph||Grundy, T. W.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Palin, John Henry||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Paling, W.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Pennefather, Sir John||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Lamb, J. Q||Philipson, Mabel||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Lansbury, George||Potts, John S.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Lawson, John James||Power, Sir John Cecil||Taylor, R. A.|
|Lee, F.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Preston, William||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Livingstone, A. M.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Pureed, A. A.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Radford, E. A.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Lowth, T.||Raine, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Ramsden, E.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Lumley, L. R.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Townend, A. E.|
|Lunn, William||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Varley, Frank B.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Viant, S. P.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Riley, Ben||Waddington, R.|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|MacIntyre, Ian||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Mackinder, W.||Ropner, Major L.||Warne, G. H.|
|McLean, Major A.||Rose, Frank H.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Ruggies-Brise, Major E. A.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Watson, W. M. (Dumfermline)|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Rye, F. G.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|MacRobert, Alexander M.||Salmon, Major I.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Wells, S. R.|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Sandon, Lord||Welsh, J. C.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Savery, S. S.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|March, S.||Scrymgeour, E.||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Sexton, James||Whiteley, W.|
|Maxton, James||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mel. (Renfrew, W)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Meller, R. J.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Merriman, F. B.||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Montague, Frederick||Sin on, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sitch, Charles, H.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Morden, Col. W. Grant||Skelton, A. N.||Windsor, Walter|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Smith, H. B. Lees-(Keighley)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Murchison, C. K.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Neville, R. J.||Snell, Harry||Wright, W.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Sprot, Sir Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Scurr and Mr. Remer.|
|Oliver, George Harold||Stamford, T. W.|
|Owen, Major G.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.