HC Deb 26 September 1944 vol 403 cc207-10

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

Mr. McKinlay

I think this Clause pretty well gives the whole show away. The difficulty of securing staff because of the lack of superannuation conditions seems to suggest that the staff best qualified to deal with this matter is drawn mainly from the service of local authorities, and a competent person in the service of a local authority who has had experience of housing administration would think twice before going into the service of this body. They would not be even temporary civil servants. The body exists, I suppose, with the good will of the Secretary of State for the time being. If I were a superannuated official of a local authority with technical knowledge of house building or of the administration of housing I do not know that they could induce me to go into the service and thereby sacrifice the superannuation that I had already contributed.

I am sorry the Committee is so thin because I intended taking this to a Division. When is a local authority not a local authority? When it is the Scottish Housing Association. I cannot understand how you can possibly link up this Association with the local government superannuation scheme. I could see the sense of the Minister saying, "This thing has come to stay and the full-time staff will assume the status of temporary civil servants, or even permanent civil servants if those who are permanent would permit such a change taking place without their passing the necessary examinations." While it may be desirable to attract the best people, it is more than desirable that we should get an explanation. If this is not part of an organisation created for the purpose of superseding the local authority in some of its functions, I do not see any reason why a modified scheme under the Local Government Superannuation Act should be applied to it at all. I feel very sore about this Clause. This is not a new attitude. If you look at the evidence of the Whitson Committee which sat in 1934, you will find that there were devil's advocates determined to advocate taking the building and the letting of houses out of the hands of the local authorities and giving them to housing associations. No wonder I am suspicious, and I should like my right hon. Friend to give a little more information on this Clause.

Mr. Johnston

The Clause seems to me to be a perfectly simple one. It enables the Scottish Special Housing Association to adopt the Superannuation Act and make provision for its employees. There are not many employees now, but there may be more in the difficult times in front of us. This provision has no sinister purpose behind it. There is no attempt to undermine local authorities. At every stage in this Measure local authorities have been consulted, and I can assure my hon. Friend that the very able ex-town clerk who resigned his office to assist here and the other officers who are run- ning the Special Housing Association have no ulterior motives whatever. There is no attempt on anybody's part to undermine the authority of local authorities. I repeat that this is an extra weapon in the hands of the Government for the purpose of aiding local authorities who are in difficult housing areas to augment their housing provision, and, as far as I know, it is welcomed by people in every sphere of local Government in Scotland. This Clause was designed simply to provide for the officials and staffs, such as they are, of this Association.

Mr. McKinlay

It is seldom I annoy the Front Bench, but I am just feeling like it at the moment. Can we have an occasion during any stage of the Bill to discuss this matter? I cannot understand why the Local Government Superannuation Act should have been seized on for this purpose. It may be that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate is satisfied that you can apply the Local Government Superannuation Act to a body which is not a local government body.

If I can have an assurance that, during the further stages of the Bill, we shall have some information on what the modifications are likely to be, I am sure there will be no further trouble from this quarter. I am annoyed about the extension of the Local Government Superannuation Scheme to the officers of this association, because it is neither local nor an association. As a matter of fact, by its constitution, it can almost be disowned by the Government themselves. We are entitled to a little more information than we have had.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and, 40 Members not being present, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER resumed the Chair; House counted, and, 40 Members not being present, the House was adjourned.