HC Deb 30 November 1936 vol 318 cc934-43

"(1) Every officer of a local authority, any of whose functions become exercisable by the Minister in pursuance of this Act, who is employed by that authority in or in connection with the exercise of their functions as a highway authority and who by virtue of this Act or of anything done in pursuance or in consequence thereof suffers any direct pecuniary loss by the determination of his appointment or by 'diminution or loss of fees, salary, or emoluments and for whose compensation for that loss provision is not made by any other enactment for the time being in force shall be entitled to compensation under this Act for that loss.

(2) The provisions contained in the Fourth Schedule to the Road Traffic Act, 1930, as set out in that Act (except paragraph 14 of that schedule) shall apply to the determination and payment of compensation under this Act to officers and all sums payable under that Schedule by way of compensation shall be paid by the Minister.

(3) For the purposes of this section and of the said schedule the expression 'officer' includes servant."—[Mr. Dingle Foot.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

8.21 p.m.


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

This Clause, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) and myself, is designed to safeguard the interests of Local Government officers who are now concerned in the administration of highways and who may be affected by this Measure. As I understand the Bill, it is intended that in the great majority of cases the maintenance and repair of these trunk roads will continue to be carried out by the local authorities. I assume that in the majority of cases the Minister will exercise his power of delegation under Clause 5 (1), but that will not necessarily be so in all cases, because while it is provided by that Sub-section that the Minister may by agreement delegate his functions, it is further provided by Sub-section (3) of the same Clause that the delegation may be determined by the Minister. In cases where the Minister does not exercise his right to delegate, or where he determines the delegation, there may be officers who have been employed by the local authority in the management of roads who will be affected by this Bill.

It is conceivable that an officer may lose his position altogether, though I do not think that will happen very often. What is far more likely to arise is a situation in which an officer finds that his duties have been to some extent diminished through certain roads being taken out of his care, and that as a result he suffers a reduction in salary. It may, of course, be said by the Minister that he is taking over only a small section of the roads which are in the charge of various councils, and that the greater part of their highway functions will still remain in their hands, but we may have cases in which the care of the particular trunk roads taken over have formed a large and important part of the work of particular officers, and I submit there may very well be cases where the duties of officers are quite seriously diminished. I am not proposing anything which is very new or novel in this Clause, because in recent years Parliament has passed a great many Statutes dealing with the transfer of functions from one public authority to another or their transfer from local authorities to some new public body created by the Statute or to some existing Ministry. In almost all cases of transfer of that kind, a Clause has been inserted on these lines to safeguard the interests of officers who were formerly administering the duties. The Committee will see that the proposed Clause does in fact refer to the Fourth Schedule to the Road Traffic Act, 1930, in which provision is made for officers who might be affected in their employ- ment. In the Local Government Act and in the Road Traffic Act, 1934, as well as in other Statutes, we have made provisions of this sort.

I would suggest to the Under-Secretary that if the Ministry cannot see their way to accept the new Clause as it stands, they might accept it with an Amendment to limit its operation to officers who are now carrying out functions with regard to housing. It may be said that those who come into local government service at some future time will know of the provisions of this Measure and will take them into account, but officers who are now carrying out these duties could not possibly know, when they began, that their functions might be curtailed by future legislation. I do not suggest that many officers are likely to suffer, but possibly there are numbers of them, and I think it would be the wish of the Committee to carry out our usual policy by making provision to guard against possible hardship.

8.27 p.m.


I desire to associate my hon. Friends and myself with the arguments that have just been used by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) and to support the proposed new Clause. It is usual to insert such a provision in Measures affecting local government officers, and we sincerely hope that this new Clause will be accepted.

8.28 p.m.

Captain HUDSON

The Committee will naturally have considerable sympathy with a suggestion that compensation should be provided to any officer of a local authority who may suffer loss of employment or of emoluments as a result of the passage of the Bill. I can assure the Committee that the Government gave much consideration to the question, and had various consultations, before introducing the Bill. They finally reached the conclusion that a Clause of this character would be superfluous. The hon. Gentleman who moved it will know that it is not in every Bill transferring functions that a Clause of this kind is included, although I admit that it is usual. For instance, there was no compensation Clause in Part II of the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934. The reasons which induced my right hon. Friend not to put a Clause of this kind are. first,—


Might I interrupt the Minister there? I am speaking only from recollection of Part II of the Unemployment Act, 1934, when I say that officers who were there affected were, for the most part, temporary officers who had been taken on by public assistance committees in order to administer the means test. My recollection is that although no statutory provision was made for them, an undertaking—a very definite undertaking—was given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, that special consideration should be given to the case of those officers.

Captain HUDSON

I hope to convince the Committee that we are taking as much care as we can that no injustice is done. We are taking over only some 2 per cent. of the total road mileage. It is, therefore, extremely unlikely that if a given county council did not remain as agent of the Minister for maintenance, etc., sufficient employment could not be found on the remaining roads for any officers who had previously been employed, part-time or whole-time, on the trunk roads. It has been stated by the Minister and by myself, that it is the intention of the Ministry to utilise the existing machinery of local authorities, whenever that is possible. Again and again my right hon. Friend has said that he intends to use the councils as his agents. We are of opinion, and I think most of the Committee will be, that when the Bill has passed through the House and is in operation, so far from having the effect of throwing people out of employment it will, we hope, stimulate development, and that more people will be employed.

Furthermore, it seems to us that liability for compensation, if such liability lies, should rest not on the Ministry but on the local authority who are being financially relieved of the burden of the roads. The usual procedure, as I understand it., in that matter, is for the authority which compensates also to determine whether the transferred officer shall be retained or not. It would be an almost indefensible position if a local authority could decide upon retirement and profit—if there is any profit—by the economy so made, while the Exchequer paid the cost without any effective voice in the decision. If there is to be compensation of officers because of the Bill, although I am certain that no such case of compensation will arise, it should be the local authority who should compensate rather than the Exchequer who should pay the money. I am informed that the proposed new Clause is not supported by the County Councils Association. I can assure the Committee that we have considered this very carefully, and are convinced that no injustice is being done by not putting provisions of this kind in. For the reasons I have given, I am afraid that I must resist the proposed new Clause.

8.35 p.m.


As the Minister has told the House that the Government do not contemplate any retirements as a result of the Bill, what can be the objection to providing for a contingency which they think might not arise? The Committee, while taking note of what the Minister has said about the County Councils Association, is not bound by any decision come to by that association. Its duty is to decide upon legislation and not to be cajoled or commanded by any outside body. The Minister said we cannot accept the proposed new Clause, on the grounds he stated, but if the Clause is badly drafted could not the Minister draft it so that if the Exchequer is not to be called upon to meet any such liability the county councils so discharging officers shall be compelled to meet the liability?

8.36 p.m.


The Minister has not convinced me that the Government are taking the right line. It appears that they are defending their action, not on the ground of principle, but on the ground of the number of people who will be affected. I cannot see the logic of that attitude. We cannot consider only the aggregate. It is possible that one county council may have an immense amount of work taken from it as a result of the Government taking over these trunk roads. Huntingdonshire is an example. Consequently there is the possibility of displacement of officers because of the passage of the Bill. I should have been comforted if the Government had shown that they accepted the principle, because, whatever may be said for the County Councils Association, it is the officers who need to be safeguarded. Can we be assured that there is not the possibility of officers losing their positions without compensation? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would show us what the position is. As a member of an important county council, I realise the objections to our omitting from an Act of Parliament a Clause that will safeguard officers who might be relieved of their positions as a result of the passing of the Act.

8.37 p.m.


I was surprised to hear the attempt at justification made by the Parliamentary Secretary. When we were discussing the Electricity Bill in 1926, much the same point was put to us, but it was found later that many people were displaced, and many had their position worsened, by reason of the amalgamations which took place. Now we are going to take over 2½ per cent., and it may be that the method to be adopted for the maintenance and care of these roads may result in people being displaced. If that is so, surely it is for the Government, who are taking the responsibility and making the county councils simply their agents in this matter, to take over the responsibility with respect to compensation where there is displacement or worsening of conditions and also with respect to compensation for the pensions to which these people may have been entitled. As a member of a county council which will not be affected by this Measure, namely, the London County Council, I would ask the Government not to be led by the decision of the County Councils Association, particularly in a matter of this kind. I could wish that they were more sound on the question of compensation, and particularly compensation for displacement or worsening of conditions. I ask the Government to take their responsibility. They have no right to allow the position of any servants or workpeople to be worsened by reason of this new method of looking after our trunk roads. I hope the Minister will reconsider his decision and agree to accept the proposed new Clause, which will be to the advantage and will be but justice to those people who will be in our employ.

8.39 p.m.

Captain HUDSON

The hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith) asked me why, if there were no one, or only very few, affected, it mattered whether we accepted the Clause or not, but that was only one of the arguments that I used. I also said that I considered it equitable that the local authorities, who had the dismissal or otherwise of these people, should be responsible, and not the Exchequer.


The county councils are to be the agents of the Ministry. Suppose that the Ministry said to them: "We think you are employing too many men on this job. You have too many draughtsmen getting the plans ready, and you must dismiss one or two." Who is responsible for that order being carried out? Should not the compensation fall on the Ministry?

Captain HUDSON

I do not think anything like that is at all likely to happen. After all, they are the agents. We are adding to the work of the county councils, and not detracting from it. The argument of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), that such a Clause was inserted in an Electricity Bill, is not parallel to this case. In eases of that kind, where units are amalgamated in order to get efficiency, one does envisage that certain people may be thrown out of employment, but in the present case that is not so. I assure the Committee that the fact that the County Councils Association have given a view on this matter does not make the Government either accept the principle of the Clause or reject it. At the same time, in this case, in which the Ministry is taking the place of the county councils, we have endeavoured as far as possible to frame the Bill by agreement and it is an argument on the side of the Minister that the county councils show no inclination and are unlikely to throw any employés out of work or treat them unjustly.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman told us that the county councils at any rate do not support this proposal, and now he says they do not like it. Can he give any reason why they do not like it?

Captain HUDSON

I said at the beginning of my remarks on the Clause that it is not supported and is not liked by the county councils. That is the information given to me. The reasons, I expect, are very much the reasons for whi3h I now ask the Committee to reject the Clause.


Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman prepared to give the matter some consideration in the event of such a contingency arising? The fact remains that the work of planning these roads, involving the employment of draughtsmen, might be done by the Ministry itself and not by the county

council, and that might have the effect of putting out of employment people who are at present employed. Surely the Minister can tell us that he will give a guarantee that no such discharges shall take place; or, in the absence of such a guarantee, cannot he say that someone competent to compensate these people shall be brought within the terms of the Bill?

Question put. "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes 98; Noes, 144.

Division No. 23.] AYES [8.45 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Oliver, G. H.
Acland, R. T, D. (Barnstaple) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Paling, W.
Adams, D. (Consett) Hardie, G. D. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Adarason, W. M. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Potts, J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Price, M. P.
Ammon, C. G. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Qulbell, D. J. K.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hollins, A. Rlley, B.
Atholl, Duchess of Jagger, J. Ritson, J.
Barnes, A. J. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Batey, J. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Rowson, G.
Bellenger, F. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Sanders, W. S.
Broad, F. A. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Seely, Sir H. M.
Bromfield, W. Kelly, W. T. Sexton, T. M.
Brooke, W. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Shinwell, E.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Kirby, B. V. Silkin, L.
Burke, W. A. Lathan, G. Simpson, F. B.
Cluse, W. S. Lawson, J. J. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Dagger, G. Leach, W. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Dalton, H. Leslie, J. R. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Little, Sir E. Graham- Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Dobble, W. Logan, D. G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lunn, W. Thorne, W.
Ede, J. C. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Thurtle, E.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) McEntee, V. La T. Tinker, J. J.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. McGhee, H. G. Watkins, F. C.
Fool, D. M. MacLaren, A. Watson, W. McL.
Gallacher, W. Maclean, N. Welsh, J. C.
Gardner, B. W. Mainwaring, W. H. Westwood, J.
Gardner Jones, G. M. Mothers, G. Wilson. C. H. (Attercliffe)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Messer, F. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Milner, Major J. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Gralam, D. M. (Hamilton) Muff, G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Noel-Baker, P. J. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Charleton.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Craddock, Sir R. H. Gridley, Sir A. B.
Albery, Sir Irving Craven-Ellis, W. Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Crooke, J. S. Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)
Ansley, Lord Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Harbord, A.
Ask,, Sir R. W. Croom-Johnson, R. P. Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cross, R. H. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)
Balniel, Lord Crossley, A. C. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Baxter, A. Beverley Crowder, J. F. E. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
Blair, Sir R. Davies, C. (Montgomery) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
Blindell, Sir. J. Dawson, Sir P. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Bossom, A. C. Denman, Hon. R. D. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)
Boulton, W. W. Denville, Alfred Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Hopkinson, A.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Dower, Capt. A. V. G. Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.
Bull, B. B. Duggan, H. J. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Eiliston, G. S. Hudson, R. S. (Southport)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Elmley, Viscount Hume, Sir G. H.
Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead) Emmott, C. E. G. C. Jones, H. Haydn (Merloneth)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Fleming, E. L. Keeling, E. H.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Fox, Sir G. W. G. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Furness, S. N. Kimball, L.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Ganzonl, Sir J. Lamb, Sir J. O.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.) Gluckstein, L. H. Latham, Sir P.
Courtauld, Major J. S. Graham. Captain A. C. (Wirral) Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)
Leech, Dr. J. W. Procter, Major H. A. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Lees-Jones, J. Raikes, H. V. A. M. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Liddall, W. S. Ramsbotham, H. Spens, W.P.
Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Rankin, R. Strauss, E.A. (Southwark, N)
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Scot. U.) Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Stauss, H. G. (Norwhich
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Rayner, Major R.H. Strickland, Captain W.F.
McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Reed, A.C. (Exeter) Stuart, Hon J. (Moray and Nairn)
Makins, Brig.- Gen. E. Remer, J.R. Tate, Mavis C.
Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Rickards, G.W. (Skipton) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E.A. (Padd., S.)
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.D.R. Robinson, J.R. (Blackpool Tree, A.R. L. F.
Markham, S. F. Ropner, Colonel. L Turton, R. H.
Maxwell, S.A. Ross, Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Wakefield, W.W.
Mayhew, Lt-Col. J. Rowlands, G. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A.L. (Hull)
Mellor, Sir J.S.P. (Tamworth) Ruggles- Bries, Colonel Sir E.A. Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Mills, Major J.D. (New Forest) Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen Wardlaw- Milne, Sir J.S.
Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Salt, E.W. Warrender, Sir V.
Moore, Lieut.- Col. T. C. R. Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Morris, J.P. (Salford, N.) Sanderson, Sir F.B. Wise, A.R.
Morris- Jones, Dr. J. H. Selley, H. R. Withers, Sir J. J.
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Shakespeare, G. H. Wragg, H.
Murihead, Lt.- Col. A.J. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Wright, Squardon- Leader J. A. C.
Orr-Ewing, L. L. Shaw, Captain W.T. (Forter) Young, A. S. L. (Patrick)
Perkins, W. R. D. Shepperson, Sir E.W.
Petherick, M. Simmonds, O. E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Simon, Rt. Hon, Sir J. A. Commander Southby and Captain