HC Deb 04 May 1944 vol 399 cc1489-93

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)

Before we part with this Clause, I would like to ask the Government to explain the principles on which they are proposing to act in this matter. I notice that an Amendment that was down on the Order Paper in the name of one of my hon. Friends, to include all public utility undertakings, has not been called. I would like the Government to explain why they have taken this course, and I would also like to receive an assurance—

The Deputy-Chairman

I am sorry to interrupt, but the Government could not possibly reply to that, because it would be considered out of Order. The Amendment itself is out of Order.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

I think I can cover my point by asking on what principles the Government are going to act in dealing with this Order in Council, and, if the particular point referred to in this Amendment is out of Order, the Chancellor can explain the general principles on which the Government are proceeding to act. There is another point to which I want to call attention. I understand there are certain local government officers who have not spent their whole time as officers of local government. I would like to have an assurance that any period of service undergone by them in so-called private employment will be counted for the purpose of pension as if it had all been served directly in local government.

Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

Would it be convenient for the Chancellor to give some indication of what is meant by the first two or three lines of the Clause?

Sir J. Anderson

That is the question which I thought was put by the right hon. Gentleman. As to the general effect of the Bill in regard to different classes of pension, what we have tried to do is to cover pensions which are payable out of public funds. We are not dealing with pensions payable otherwise, of which there are very many, as hon. Members know. We found, in drafting this Bill, that there was a great variety of pensions within the first category I have mentioned, that is, pensions payable out of public funds, that had to be covered. Some of them are provided under private Acts and it is not possible to be sure that, in a general way, even if the terms of this Bill are made fairly wide, they would cover all the pensions we desire to include. We, therefore, have this omnibus provision for bringing in, by Order in Council, other kinds of pensions that may come to light, according to the division of the pensions field which I have just indicated.

One case in particular is the kind of case that my right hon. Friend specified. There are officers who have been what used to be called in the Civil Service, "lump sum-ers," and some of them have gone on being "lump sum-ers," and were paid remuneration out of a lump sum put at the disposal of an officer of the local council. In some cases, there used to be lump sums given to civil servants—persons paid direct by the Exchequer—for the purpose of remunerating clerks and servants. These people, in certain conditions, became eligible for pension, and, in some cases, the whole of their service was remunerated by such lump sums. In other cases, they passed from being "lump sum-ers" into the ordinary category of salaried officials. We certainly do want to bring them in, if they satisfy the general conditions of the Bill, in respect of the whole of their pension, whether payable in virtue of service remunerated by the lump sum or otherwise. I hope that explanation will satisfy my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)

May I put this to my right hon. Friend? I think my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) put it to the Chancellor as his first point. There are a number of pensioners who were in the service of bodies which are public authorities, such bodies, for example, as the Port of London Authority. As I understand my right hon. Friend's reply, it will not be possible for an Order to be made under this Clause which will deal with that class of pension.

The Deputy-Chairman

That type of person is definitely outside the scope of this Bill.

Mr. Hutchinson

I understood that to be my right hon. Friend's reply. But I should like to ask whether it is proposed to take any action in regard to that particular class of pensioners, because they seem to be, in a sense, within exactly the same class as the persons whom this Bill is intended to benefit.

Sir J. Anderson

The position is perfectly simple. The Government have thought it right to embrace, in this Bill, all classes of pensioners for whom the State, through the executive Government, could be thought to have some sort of responsibility. There are of course cases near the borderline; some come into the Bill, unlike the Port of London Authority, which is outside. Thus there is the case of the Metropolitan Water Board which will be covered by the Bill, because it is regarded as a local authority in relation with the executive Government. We have gone as far as we could, but we could not possibly have gone to the point of requiring all sorts of authorities and organisations, which have an obligation to pay pensions to whoever it may be, to assume, without any possibility of prior consultation, an additional responsibility under this Bill. It may be that some of them will consider that the Government being specially good employers, would not wish to follow the example of the Government in this matter. But, on the other hand, it may be that some will be willing to give additions to pensions, following the precedent of the Bill. I should be delighted if that were so, but we could not, in a Bill of this kind, extend the obligation to grant additional pensions in the manner suggested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

I want to raise the question of the pensions of a very small group of persons on the Civil List. It includes a small number of people—

Sir J. Anderson

These are outside the scope of the Bill. These are prerogative pensions which are in the discretion of His Majesty, and which could be adjusted if it were thought fit, but we could not properly discuss the position in regard to them.

Mr. Maxton

Surely the general principle which led this House to demand and the Chancellor to accede to it—it is almost a meagre amount—

The Deputy-Chairman

This is clearly outside the scope of the Bill. They are entirely a different category, provided for in a different Measure.

Mr. Maxton

This Sub-section is very wide, and I thought it was a matter for the Chancellor, to whom we were giving power. The distinction that was previously drawn referred to those for whom the State had some responsibility as dis- tinct from local authorities and others. The right hon. Gentleman defended this Sub-section on the ground that it covers, in the widest way, all those for whom the State has some direct responsibility.

Sir J. Anderson

indicated dissent.

Mr. Maxton

The right hon. Gentleman says "No."

Sir J. Anderson

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say what the position is, as I understand it. This Bill is concerned with pensions which are governed by Statute. It is because these pensions are governed by Statute—practically all of them are, but not quite all—that legislation is necessary. This Bill does not deal with Service pensions —the ordinary pensions granted under Royal Warrant—because they are not statutory, and there is no need to provide for them in the Bill, but, in regard to the particular allowances which the hon. Member has in mind, the position is that these allowances come out of the Civil List granted to the Sovereign, and no Minister is responsible to Parliament for the allowances so granted; and, though it might be said that they come in the category of pensions for which the State, in its highest significance, has a concern, they could not properly be dealt with by this Bill, nor could action be taken by the Government under this Bill.

Mr. Maxton

Presumably, the Chancellor could make a suggestion to His Majesty with regard to the generosity of this House?

Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)

This Bill applies to pensions and pension schemes governed by Statute, but I think my right hon. Friend would agree that there are quite a number of statutory funds not within the scope of this Bill, and the only question I want to ask is this. Seeing that these people, responsible for these funds, may wish to give the benefits equivalent to, or something like, the benefits provided in this Bill, will facilities be given to ensure that these benefits can be provided without the cumbersome legislation to give effect to these desires?

The Deputy-Chairman

I do not think the Chancellor could possibly answer that under this Clause.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clauses 5, 6 and 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.