§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 14, line 16, at the end, to insert:and for the making, by any such authority to an authority which in pursuance of this paragraph is substituted therefor for the purposes of the last mentioned Act, of such payments in respect of liabilities thereunder transferred from the one authority to the other as may be so prescribed.The object of this Amendment is to provide for the transfer of pension assets and any kind of rateable deduction in cases where a pensionable fireman is away serving in the Armed Forces at the appointed day, and, on returning, has to join a brigade which has absorbed the brigade in which he was formerly serving. Unless we are able to do this, the man will lose all his pension service and will be regarded as a raw recruit coming into the service, and I am quite sure that no one would desire that that should happen.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 15, to leave out lines i and 2, and to insert "or pension."
This is consequential on an Amendment made in the Committee upstairs, and it deals with the possible case of a former local authority employee who does not secure fresh employment on the appointed day. He may suffer not only the loss of his salary, but also the loss of his pension which he had expected to enjoy, and there should be power in assessing the compensation to have regard to this loss of pension.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Grimston
I beg to move, in page 15, Line 16, after "employment," to insert: "in the National Fire Service."
1376 This arises out of an inconclusive discussion which we had on the Committee stage. We consider that a man should be compensated on the basis of the rank which he attained in the National Fire Service, and not a rank—which might be lower—which he might have had in the fire brigade service before the war. We had a discussion on this point, and I think it was generally, agreed that it is reasonable to assume that, had a man spent the intervening period in his own brigade, instead of in the National Fire Service, he would have attained promotion and a higher rate of pay. In the Committee discussions, the Under-Secretary said that the point was not quite so simple as I had suggested because, in some cases, men in the National Fire Service who were taken over enjoyed higher rates of pay than in the service to which they belonged before they were taken over, and that, therefore, in these cases, the Amendment would operate in a manner detrimental to these men.
I am advised, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, that the point made by the Under-Secretary is not correct, because I understand that all those in the fire services who were transferred to the N.F.S. got what was known as "preserved pay," even if they were in a lower rank when transferred, so that it would appear that the grounds on which the Under-Secretary turned down this Amendment are not valid. Eventually I withdrew my Amendment on 'the understanding that we would raise this matter again at a later stage. Having regard to the information which I have received, I would suggest that, whatever the rate of pay may have been in the old fire service, if it was lower than that in the N.F.S., the man will benefit by the Amendment. I think that this is the intention of the Home Secretary, but we think that if he put it in the Bill it would be very much better, so that the compensation paid to the men is on the basis of their rank in the N.F.S. It seems to me that this Amendment should be accepted also in order to make the position quite clear.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Colonel Wheatley
It is quite true that we had a long discussion on this matter upstairs in Committee, when the Under-Secretary of State undertook to convey our views to the Minister. We felt that a 1377 man should not lose by coming into this new service, and that, as it would not affect many men, the Minister might be generous and give them the best of both worlds, whether they lost or gained by not getting promotion in their own service. If, as my hon. Friend explained, these men had their pay made up, the case is not so glaring as it appeared to be when we discussed it in Committee. I hope that the Minister will accept this Amendment as being fair and doing justice to these men, which I am quite sure is what he would wish to do.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Before my right hon. Friend replies, I should like to raise one point. I understand that a number of men belonging to the administrative staff of the National Fire Service have been circularised by the chief regional officer with a memorandum dealing with transfer under this proposed legislation. Sections 3 and 4 of that memorandum say:That they may be employed on duties not connected with the fire brigade and, in any case, will probably not be employed in a uniformed capacity.That their remuneration will be in accordance with the grade of salary adopte4 by the local authority for the particular employment in which they will be engaged.It seems to me that it might conceivably happen that they will be offered positions in local government service which are not commensurate with the positions they occupy in the National Fire Service at the present time. I should like to know whether, in those circumstances, provision will be made to compensate these people for loss of office, or whether it will be considered that the obligation to them will have been fulfilled if they are merely offered a job in local government service for less pay and under conditions worse than they enjoy at the moment.
§ Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I wish to ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary whether there is any obligation on the Home Office, or whoever is responsible for the fire services to maintain the positions which obviously came into being as the result of the National Fire Service, because it seems to me that many thousands of posts will now become redundant? Will men be compensated for loss in this connection?
§ Mr. Ede
With regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepr, ols (Mr. D. Jones), I do not 1378 think that matter arises on this Amendment, because the men concerned were not firemen before they were taken over, but were engaged on services connected with the Fire Service. Arrangements have been made with the local authority associations whereby those men will be returned to their appropriate employment in the service of the new fire authority, and will be able to use the particular skill that led to their transfer to the National Fire Service when the municipal services were nationalised at the beginning of the war.
§ Mr. D. Jones
They are a section of administrative officers in the National Fire Service who have been recruited to the Service since it came into operation.
§ Mr. Ede
But they do not come under this Amendment. With regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan), I do not think that we shall be faced with the large redundancy of staff that he anticipates. I believe that. by the time we hand back the fire service, we shall have got down to about the appropriate establishment.
I want now to direct my observations to the remarks of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Grimston) and of the hon. and gallant Member for East Dorset (Colonel Wheatley). This is a very difficult and complicated matter. There is a class of person who was not mentioned by the hon. Member for Westbury, who, in fact, owing to something which happened in the National Fire Service, is now getting less than he was getting in the old service There are a few people in that position, and it would be better for those people to get what is called their preserved pay "rather than the National Fire Service pay They are people who have gone up the ladder and who have then gone down it rather further than the point at which they started in the Service.
I am very anxious, not that people should get the best of both worlds, because that is a promise which no politician can ever keep if he is foolish enough to make it, but to do something, which represents a little more generosity than justice. At the moment, I am hampered by the fact that the local authority associations are very reluctant to go beyond the preserved pay. They are the people who have to pay in these cases, and I have not finished my negotiations with 1379 them. As was explained to the Committee upstairs, I propose to make regulations, and I hope that, by the time they are framed, I shall be able to do something that will enable me to deal with the case of the men who, in justice, would appear to be entitled to something more than their preserved pay in these matters. I hope to be able to include something in the regulations to secure that.
The regulations will have to be submitted to the House, and if I were to insert these words I might have the gravest difficulties with the National Fire Service over the whole range of our negotiations. I have given the Committee an indication of what is my own line in the matter, and, if when the time comes, the regulations do not conform with the wishes of the House, the House, will then have the opportunity of considering them, and of rejecting them if they are not in accordance with what it feels to be just. The issue is not a simple one, and cannot be stated as simply as the hon. Member for Westbury stated it this afternoon. It must be clear that when men from all sorts of local authorities, who have no standardised conditions of wages or hours, or anything like that, are brought into a national service, and are allowed to preserve the emoluments they previously received while holding the rank that they held at the time of transfer, and who are then transferred back to the municipalities, the position is bound to present complications.
I doubt whether prior to nationalisation any two fire services in the country had exactly the same conditions with regard to emoluments, hours of work and the other things that go to make up a contract of service. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will be prepared to leave the matter at this stage. I have made known my mind and the mind of the Government in regard to it, and I hope that the Committee will leave us to carry on our negotiations with the local authorities, and to submit the regulations to the House when the new service has been constituted. If it will help hon. Members—I know it is complained that a good many regulations are made from time to time—I will undertake to communicate with the hon. Member for Westbury, and with any one else who may be closely associated with this matter, when I make the regulations so that they shall not merely slip through 1380 because it was not noticed that they had been made before the 40 days had elapsed.
§ Mr. Grimston
I am much obliged to the Home Secretary. Do I understand that the purport of his remarks is that he is concerned about preserving the position, so that a man in certain circumstances may acquire a higher compensation than he would if these words were inserted in the Bill? That is really what it amounts to. It is to preserve for him a better compensation, which may be better than the N.F.S. rate, and that rate can only be the N.F.S. rate if this is put into the Bill.
§ Mr. Grimston
I am much obliged to the Home Secretary especially for what he said about the regulations. It will be obviously in the interests of the men themselves that I should beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 15, line 17, at the end, to insert:(c) to persons who immediately before the eighteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-one were employed by a local authority, or engaged in war service (within the meaning of the Local Government Staffs (War Service) Act, 1939) having left employment with a local authority to undertake such service, and immediately before the appointed day were employed for the purposes of the Fire Services (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1941, otherwise than as members of the National Fire Service, and who either—This Amendment proposes to extend the compensation provisions in Subsection (6) to cover certain former local government employees. Some of the people for whom my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) was concerned earlier on will come under it.
- (i) become employed on the appointed day by a local authority and suffer a reduction in emoluments in comparison with the emoluments determined by the regulations to be appropriate as aforesaid, or
- (ii) do not on the appointed day become employed by a local authority."
When the fire brigades were nationalised, many local authority clerks in the fire brigade offices of local authorities were transferred to the employment of the National Fire Service for similar clerical duties, but they did not become actual members of the National Fire Service. When the fire services return to local 1381 authority control, these officers will return to local employment. Some of them were employees of county district authorities who will no longer be fire authorities. Anyone who was serving a non-county borough, such as Cambridge or Accrington, will, of course, not go back to those authorities. There may, nevertheless, be employment for them with the district authorities, or arrangements may be made for their transfer to the county councils. Should no suitable employment be available, however, or only employment at a lower salary, it may be right to pay compensation.
A similar position may arise as regards former local authority employees who were employed on duty in connection with fire brigades, but who had joined the Armed forces. On demobilisation some of those men have been taken into the employment of the National Fire Service which, so far as they are concerned, is the successor at the moment to their former localauthority employer, accepting the employer's obligations under the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act. These persons are covered in the Amendment. Usually, these local authority clerks have been paid by the National Fire Service at the rate of pay which they would have received if they had remained in local authority employment. Accordingly, no difficulty will arise in determining the appropriate emoluments for purposes of compensation. It is clear that we must include adequate provision to cover these people, and I am advised that the words now proposed will do it.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)
I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would clear up one point which occurs in line 8 of the Amendment. At the beginning of what will now become paragraph (c, i) are the words:become employed on the appointed day by a local authority.I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could tell me precisely what is meant by "the appointed day" in this connection. It presupposes continuity of employment. The man is employed in one service. At a particular moment he becomes employed by a local authority. What would happen if he had a gap of a day or two, and if he were employed by the local authority a day or two after the appointed day? As I 1382 understand from Clauses which appear later, "the appointed day" is a day appointed by the Secretary of State. The various references to an appointed day may refer to different days. I take it that the appointed day in the case I have mentioned is not the same appointed day as in Clause 2, which is a day that the Secretary of State may appoint under the appropriate paragraph. Otherwise, the position may be that if the man who is employed does not get re-employed immediately, he will not qualify under the Subsection as it stands.
§ Mr. Ede
I contemplate that the appointed day will be the same throughout the Bill. I do not think there will be any need for more than one appointed day. This is what will happen. The man is in the service of the National Fire Service at the moment as a clerk, or in some ancillary occupation, or as a fitter, or in connection with the vehicles. On the appointed day the National Fire Service will come to an end, and we hope that the man in question will go into the service of the fire authorities. There may be cases where the fire authority may not want to employ him because they have an adequate number of men of that qualification. He can be transferred, not necessarily to a fire authority, but to the service of a local authority.
The case which we have mainly in mind under the proposed new Subsection concerns the local authority which was previously a fire authority in a non-county borough, or urban and rural district, but will cease to be a fire authority under the Bill. If the man goes back to that service, his former service, or to the service of any local authority, whether it be his former local authority or not, and suffers a reduction in emoluments, he is entitled to compensation. It may be that the words proposed do not cover the case where the man is not wanted by the county council. Let us assume that the appointed day is 1st April, 1948, and that the man does not get back to a local authority until 8th April. That is the kind of case which the hon. and learned Member opposite has in mind. I fully intend that man to be covered. If he is not covered by these words, I will undertake to see that an appropriate Amendment is inserted in another place so that the man shall not be deprived of his rights merely because, in the shuffling that he has gone 1383 through in the last six or seven years, he cannot just be fitted into the proper niche, but has to wait for a short time to get in. Where the continuity of employment is quite reasonable and can be traced, I will try to find words to cover the matter, if it is not covered by the words which I have proposed.
§ Mr. Marlowe
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I think he will find that as the words stand at the moment, the man would have to be employed on the appointed day, so that I think it does require some amendment on the lines I have suggested. The same point occurs with reference to line 13, but as we have passed it, I cannot deal with it now.
§ Mr. D. Jones
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for having cleared up that part of the point, but I understand there are in the country 400 members of the administrative staff of the National Fire Service who were not previously employed by a local authority, but who have been recruited to the National Fire Service. Will my right hon. Friend explain what is to happen to those people? Will they be forced to accept employment of an inferior character with a local authority, or will their existing status be protected?
§ Colonel Wheatley
Taking the right hon. Gentleman's hypothetical case of 1st April and 8th April, I would like to know who will pay the man during those eight days. Will he continue to be paid by the State, or who will be expected to pay him?
§ Mr. Ede
We are now getting rather beyond the subject of compensation. I hope we shall be able to find some way in which such a man could be transferred on the appointed day to the service of the new fire authority if it has not been possible to sort him out into some other job before. I will have that particular complication examined also.
§ Mr. S. Marshall
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain on what basis compen- 1384 sation will be paid to the class of persons mentioned for having had to accept a lower-paid post with the same local authority by whom they were previously employed? How long will that compensation last? It is conceivable that in a year a man might get a higher post with the same authority.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 16, line 2, after "fireman," to insert" in the case of."
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I also dealt with the next Amendment in line 6. These are mainly drafting Amendments. They deal with the case of the fireman who is serving in the Armed Forces, and the object of the Amendment is to make certain that his pension rights are preserved, whether he comes back and resumes service as a fireman or whether he is prevented from doing so because of injury while on war service. These Amendments preserve his rights, and I am sure the Committee would desire that that should happen.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 16, line 6, leave out from "1938,"to end of line and insert:
- "(a) engagement in service in the National Fire Service shall be treated for the purposes of the said Acts of 1939 and 1944 as resumption of service as a constable;
- (b) if he is prevented as mentioned in those Acts from engaging in service in the National Fire Service or a fire brigade mantained in pursuance of this Act, he shall be treated for the purposes of those Acts as having been so prevented from resuming service as a constable."—[Mr. Ede.]
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.