§ Amendment made: In page 3, line 2, leave out "an order made under."—[Sir K. Wood.]
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I beg to move, in page 3, line 7, at the end, to insert:(2) In Section twenty-nine of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1836 (which Section, as amended by Section thirty-one of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1874, and by Section seven of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1926, determines certain fees payable to registration officers in respect of the registration of births, stillbirths, and deaths), for the words 'one shilling' there shall be substituted the words 'one shilling and five pence.'Sub-section (1) of Section eight of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1926, shall cease to have effect.Notwithstanding the changes which have been made in the Bill and in the Schedule, a considerable amount of additional work is going to be thrown upon the registration officers. I am sure the Committee would not allow that to happen without seeing that the registration officers were adequately remunerated for the extra work. A great many of the registration officers are salaried, and, under Clause 3 as it is drafted, their salaries are to be adjusted. But there are 124 a number of men who are paid on a fee basis; they are paid on the basis of the number of entries they make, and not by means of a salary. It is rather a curious position at present. They are paid on the basis of a fee of 2s. 6d. for each entry, whether it is a birth or death, in each quarter up to the first 20 entries, and for all entries after the first 20 they are paid 1s. an entry if it is a birth, and 1s. 3d. if it is a death. I do not know whether the Committee will judge that the reason for the decline in the birth rate is that you have to pay more for registering a death than for registering a birth. The suggestion I am putting forward is that these men after the first 20 entries should be paid at the rate of 1s. 5d. per entry whether it is a birth or a death, and the inequality between the 1s. 3d. and 1s. removed. I think it is a fair figure. The National Association of Local Government Officers have discussed this matter with the Registrar-General, and I should like to pay a tribute to the sympathy and consideration which the Registrar-General has given to this matter. It is in collaboration with him that they have put forward to the Committee the figure of 1s. 5d. in the Amendment, which I hope the Committee will accept.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
I think the Committee will agree that this is a reasonable Amendment. We are increasing the remuneration of registration officers who are engaged on a salaried basis; this is to meet the case of a limited number of registration officers who have retained their old terms. Many, hon. Members who are familiar with the work of local government will know that the National Association of Local Government Officers have interested themselves in the matter and that they have seen the Registrar-General about it. We all think that this Amendment is a reasonable one. It will not mean in any way a charge on the public. The arrangement with regard to fees is carried over from the old days when the poor law guardians were entrusted with the work. From the point of view of the local authorities, it will mean little or nothing. I think the Committee may be satisfied that the Amendment is a reasonable one.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
At Question Time this afternoon, there was reference to the fact 125 that the workers had got a 4 per cent. increase in wages, and hon. Members opposite applauded that statement. The Minister has now accepted this Amendment without demur, and is giving these registrars a 42½ per cent. increase by one stroke of the pen.
§ Mr. Turton
The hon. Member has left out of account the fact that the fee of 2s. 6d. for the first 20 entries does not change. If he will work the figures out, he will find that the increase is less.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Apart from the first 20 entries, these men will get a 42½ per cent. increase. What I am complaining about is that when the workers, the people on the means test and the unemployed ask for an increase, the Government say, "Oh, no, we cannot do it; it will smash the Government." But when civil servants want a 42½ per cent. increase, the Minister says that it is very reasonable. I do not think it is reasonable, and I think we should oppose this increase of 5d. I hope my hon. Friends will go into the Division Lobby against the Amendment.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) does not seem to have realised that the fee of 1s. was fixed in the year 1836. I do not think the wages of the workers to whom he was referring were fixed 100 years ago. The proposal now is that the fee of 1s., which was fixed in 1836, should be increased to 1s. 5d. 100 years later. It is an increase which does not represent even the increase in the value of money.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I should like to know exactly on what basis the whole emoluments of these men are paid, and who pays them. I gather that it is to be squared up in the block grant. Does that mean that the money will come out of the Exchequer, or does it mean that the councils will have to foot the bill in the first instance, and that it will be squared up, as between one council and another, in the block grant? I have been asked by the County Councils Association of Scotland to move that all the additional costs involved by this Bill should be paid by the Exchequer on the 126 ground that it is for a public and not for a local purpose that the information is being sought. I imagined that an Amendment of that kind would be out of order, and consequently I did not put one on the Order Paper; but I should like to have a little more information from the Minister on the matter.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Sir K. Wood
I will gladly tell the right hon. Gentleman what I know about the matter. The employment of these registrars, some of whom are salaried, and some of whom are on a fee basis, as far as the financial relationships of the local authorities are concerned, would be dealt with under the Local Government Act, 1929. When the Poor Law guardians were abolished, their duties in connection with the registration of births and deaths were transferred to the local authorities. In the system which appertains at present, and which appertained when the Poor Law guardians were in existence, certain fees are payable to Registrars; but the salaried men instead of appropriating the fees surrender them to the local authorities, which pay them their salaries.
With regard to the registrars on a salaried basis, it is provided in the Bill that the slight increase in the duties which will fall upon them in connection with these proposals should be met by a adjustment of their remuneration by the local authorities. After the Bill had been presented the case of the registrars still on the old fee basis arose. It is to deal with these registrars, who are paid by fees, that the Amendment has been moved. The cost will fall upon the local authorities. It will be remembered that under the block grants, any minor increase of this kind during the quinquennium is to be regarded as part of the extra cost of the local authorities in their day-to-day activities. The right hon. Gentleman will probably remember that an additional sum was provided in order to meet cases of this nature. The extra cost to the local authorities will be trifling, and it will enable the fee-receiving registrars to have some increase in their remuneration, as is provided for in the case of the salaried registrars. I think the Amendment is a reasonable one. I hope that the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) will not ask his hon. Friends to vote against it. I think these registrars are 127 entitled to this increase in their remuneration, and the mere fact that other people do not get as much as the hon. Member would like is no reason for our not being fair to these registrars.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
The increase is to be 5d. for every birth and death. Last year there were, in round figures, 590,000 births. All those births will be registered.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 8, leave out sub-sections (2) and (3).—[Sir K. Wood.]
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.