HC Deb 30 March 1944 vol 398 cc1678-81
Mr. Messer

I beg to move, in page 63, line 19, at the end, to add: Any such person as aforesaid shall for the purposes of the provisions of this Act relating to the transfer and compensation of officers be deemed to have been employed by the council of such county district immediately before the date of the commencement of Part II of this Act on the duties which he was undertaking immediately before he so ceased to serve, except that where any such officer was not employed substantially lull-time in connection with the functions of such county district council as local education authority such council shall continue to be the appropriate authority and shall be under any statutory obligation for the reinstatement of such person and provided that an agreement for transfer of any such person to the service of the county council may he made within six months from his demobilisation. And provided further that for the purposes of section ninety-one of this Act an officer of a county council who ceased to serve in order to undertake war service shall be deemed immediately before the commencement of Part II of this Act to have been in the service of such county council and discharging the duties which he undertook immediately before he so ceased to serve. The object of this Amendment is to clear up a situation that might otherwise be ambiguous. A statement from the Parliamentary Secretary might be sufficient to prevent the possibility of difficulties arising when the Bill becomes an Act. Under the Local Government Staffs (War Service) Act, 1939, local authorities are empowered to make up the remuneration of members of their staffs on war service, and they have a legal obligation in regard to the preservation of superannuation rights. The Clause deals with the application of that Act, but it is not clear what is to happen to officers who might be doing partly educational work and partly other work. There must be a large number if members of staffs of Part III authorities working in municipal offices who are not spending full time on educational matters but are doing some educational work and some work relating to the general municipal life.

The final part of the Amendment is intended to make it clear that an officer of the county council on war service shall be deemed immediately before the commencement of Part II of this Act to have been in the service of such county council and discharging the duties which he undertook immediately before he so ceased to serve. I have no desire to argue the matter at this juncture, but I would be glad if we could have clarity on this situation, so that officers and serving members of staffs may have their rights protected. The Amendment is moved for no other purpose than to secure that that shall be done.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)

I am glad to support this Amendment. I do so with every reservation. I do not desire to divide the Committee, to imperil the Second Front or the position of the Minister or of the Parliamentary Secretary. I am concerned only with education, and with doing justice to a small body of local government servants whose rights, as I read the Clause, are not sufficiently protected by the Clause as it stands. The Committee will now understand that we are dealing with a matter of small compass with nothing world-shattering in it—but there is a lacuna. The position of persons engaged under local authorities to do work, which is partly their own education work and partly in another direction, is not sufficiently protected.

If the Committee were prepared to endure it, I could expatiate at considerable length upon the exact meaning and interpretation of the words in the Clause, and the way in which their defect is going to be filled by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer). I do not propose to do so. AU I say is that it is not clear in the Clause now that the position of a person employed by a local education authority, partly for educational purposes and partly for other purposes, is sufficiently protected. There are any number of examples of this throughout the country. There are, indeed, some in my own constituency. A Part II authority in my constituency employed the same architects as were employed by the county council. The architect is not a person who is likely to fall within the purview of the provisions relating to those who have joined His Majesty's Forces, but he might well be affected and his position should surely be clear under the provisions of the Clause. The Amendment, as moved by my hon. Friend, would certainly protect him were that to occur. I think the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister should make it clear, either in terms within the Clause or by declaration here in Committee, that the position of such a person is completely protected, that it makes no difference whether he is partly or fully employed.

Mr. Ede

My hon. and learned Friend has said that there was nothing world shattering in this, but after all if a person was left out, his particular world might very well be shattered. We are dealing here with the rights of individuals whose incomes and compensation and things like that, when compared with the colossal amounts we talk of nowadays, do not sound very big but they represent the whole of their lives to them. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) and my hon. and learned Friend have given weight to the fact that since this Clause was placed in the Bill the Reinstatement Act has been passed. The Clause was drafted with a knowledge that that Act was on its way to the Statute Book. We do not desire that any person, whether he be a person engaged whole-time on education or only part-time engaged on education, should be deprived of any rights he would have had but for the passing of this Bill. We are advised that the Clause is ample to cover all the cases, but if my hon. and learned Friend will give me the particular case he has in mind, I will have it examined, because generally it is by the examination of particular cases that one can discover a flaw in such a Clause as this. We will see if that is the case, because the very last thing we would desire would be that anyone, especially of the people who are uncertain as to which employer they will be coming back to, should be injured in any way by this Clause. But we did take care to draft it as widely as we possibly could to cover as many people as possible, having in mind all the time that the Reinstatement Act was on its way to the Statute Book.

Mr. Messer

I must admit that I am not completely satisfied because the Reinstatement Act does give to those who are entitled to go back to a job a job that is waiting for them. Now when we are transferring the functions of one authority to another authority and we have got somebody doing part-time education work, the very thing I wanted to avoid was any dubiety as to the job he was going back to when he returns to the service. Is he going back to an authority that wants him as an architect or an authority that wants him for educational purposes?

Mr. Ede

On an earlier Clause we had some discussion on the question as to which authority was to take a man in the position my hon. Friend has indicated, whether a man is on service or not. Quite clearly that can be settled between the two authorities where the man is engaged part-time on educational work and part-time on other work. I do not think his absence on war service will make the settlement of his ultimate destination in the public service any mare difficult.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.