§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 24, line 6, to leave out "transfer to,' and to insert" entry on service with."
Here, again, I think it would be convenient if I dealt also with the next Amendment, in line 12. These are both drafting Amendments providing for the transfer of pension assets, including rateable deductions, in cases where a professional fireman who has been away on war service joins a completely new brigade; that is to say, not his old brigade and not one which has absorbed his former brigade. As at present drafted, the Clause provides only for payment between authorities where the fireman transfers directly from one brigade to another, and, accordingly, does not cover the case of the fireman who enters a new brigade from war service in the Armed Forces.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 24, line 12, leave out "transfer to," and insert "entry on."—[Mr. Ede.]
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 24, line 14, at the end, to insert:(f) for the reimbursement of payments under the last foregoing paragraph out of any superannuation fund to which contributions have been made in respect of the previous service to which the payments related;(g) for the making, where a person enters on service with a fire authority in a case where no payment falls to be made under paragraph (e) of this subsection, of payments in respect of previous service with that authority out of any superannuation fund to which contributions have been made in respect of the previous service.1386 This is a purely technical Amendment which arises out of the extreme complexity of the arrangements which have been made for the fire service during recent years. This Amendment deals with the case of the professional firemen who opted to remain under the Local Government Superannuation Act, 1937, or the corresponding Scottish Act. The essential point is that under those Acts small local authorities frequently do not maintain their own superannuation funds, but pay into a joint superannuation fund because they have not in their own service sufficient people to warrant their having a superannuation fund.
§ Mr. Marlowe
There are already in the Bill, at lines 15 and 21, paragraphs (f) and (g). I do not see anything on the Order Paper with regard to those paragraphs. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what will happen to them, because it is not clear to me?
§ Mr. Ede
In a case like this, we move to insert two new paragraph (f) and (g), and before the Bill is sent to another place someone—I do not know whether it is the Clerk at the Table, or somebody who is more capable of manipulating the alphabet than we are—changes the original paragraphs (f) and (g) to (h) and (i), or whatever they should be.
§ Mr. Marlowe
I did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to move the deletion of the original paragraphs (f) and (g).
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
No. The purpose of this Amendment is to insert new paragraphs (f) and (g), and the original paragraphs will then become (h) and (i), I think; I am not certain. The Bill as it stands would not allow the payment of a transfer value in such cases, since the authority administering the fund would not be the authority employing the men. The Amendment is, accordingly, necessary to make these payments possible. Provision is also made, in the case where a person becomes a fireman with the same local authority, for the necessary payments to be transferred from the superannuation fund of the fire brigade to the fire brigade 1387 pension fund. He was in one pension fund before he goes to a new one, and if he is to get the benefit of his brigade service we must provide for the transfer of the value to him from the original fund to the fund to which he will contribute in future.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Bing
I beg to move, in page 24, line 39, at the end, to insert:(i) for reckoning, for all or any of the purposes of the Scheme, the period of service of a person in the Armed Forces of the Crown, or in the Mercantile Marine, or the period of war-time service of a person on duties connected with the provision of fire services, as may be specified in the Scheme, as.if it were service as a member of a fire brigade maintained in pursuance of this Act for twice such period, or any less time than twice such period, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as may be so specified and either as respect the whole of the service so specified or as respects such fraction thereof as may be so specified.I ought to apologise to the Committee for having my Amendment in the wrong italicised alphabetical order, and for not having moved it in Committee. The object of the Amendment is to make it permissible for the Home Secretary to weight pension schemes in favour of those people who have done war service of some sort or another. First, a regular fireman who has served side by side with a man who has done war service gets no gratuity, while the man who has done war service and gets the same pay enjoys a war gratuity by an extra period being counted for pension., He is able in this way to get the gratuity. The second ground on which I urge this Amendment on my right hon. Friend is that, while it is not altogether possible to determine the degree of sickness occasioned by war service, if one looks at actual figures one sees there has been a considerable increase during the war years in the number of firemen who have had to leave the service owing to sickness during the war period, as compared with the period prior to the war. The rate of discharge during the war period and the post-war period has more than trebled. The rate of discharge with pension has increased from somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 per cent. to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 33 per cent. I do not hold out this Amendment as the best solution of the matter, but in the hope that my right hon. Friend 1388 will be able to do something to meet the anomalies.
§ Mr. Ede
This new proposal, as far as I know, is a complete innovation in the pension law and in the relationships between local authorities and their servants in the matter of war service. I cannot help thinking that if anything like this is to be done, it must be done as part of general legislation and not brought into a Measure of this kind. I am sure that if we bring it in here it will create far more anomalies than it will cure. I do not think that at this stage anyone could apply to these rates only, the doctrine that one year in the Forces has to count as two years in civilian life in reckoning service which qualifies a man for pension. If that is to be done, clearly it cannot be done for firemen only. I am sure it would be quite wrong for this Committee, on a Bill like this, to start a movement like that without having given the matter the very fullest consideration. I am sure the Committee will require a solution of that matter before such a principle is inserted. There are powers within the Pension Acts to deal with some of the cases, and I suggest to my hon. Friend that, having ventilated this matter on this Bill, he should, if he desires to see the principle applied, put it forward as a matter of general policy. If we were to insert this provision in the Bill for these particular people, we should create differences and difficulties that would not make the future working of the service any easier. It is not possible to accept this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Bing
I beg to move, in page 25, line 4, to leave out "twenty-five," and to insert" fifteen."
In view of the argument made on the last Amendment, I have much greater hope of succeeding with this one, for this, far from being a departure, is a return to precedent, and if my right hon. Friend is basing himself on precedent, then I have great hopes that he will support me in this Amendment. What I and my hon. Friends seek to do here is to restore to the fire services as a whole what I believe was a very satisfactory principle that was adopted in the London fire service before the war. The object is to 1389 make it possible for a man to be pensioned after a period of 15 years. The present pension scheme is devised on the analogy with the police force. Hon. Members will know that we could not be better served by the police than we are by those in the House, but we have only to look around to realise that, however suitable they are for the duties they are doing at present, they might be unsuitable for scaling a ladder during a fire. After a period of 15 years, individuals, by reason of corpulence, or for other reasons, cannot continue in the service of the fire brigade without danger to themselves, or even to their rescuers. I hope the Home Secretary will accept the plan in the Amendment, which was extremely successful in the London fire service, and make it possible to arrange for a man to retire after 15 years' service.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend has not quite accurately stated the case. I understand that under the old London fire service a man had to be 47 years of age before he could claim to retire in the way that has been suggested, and that did not mean, if he came in at the latest possible age under the scheme, he would have had 16 years' service before he could do it. Here, again, I do not think one should contemplate asking the ratepayers of this country to agree to allow a man to retire without a medical certificate. I suggest that a man, if he is physically unfit—a corpulent man, for instance—should have to get a medical certificate to say so. Certainly, some of the fittest men I have known have been rather more corpulent than myself. The man has to get a medical certificate. I suggest to my hon. Friend that this Amendment goes a great deal farther than he would get any reasonable local authority in this country to go, and that it would be very ill-advised on the part of the Committee to insert such an Amendment. After all, the number of years' service that a man is now required to perform before he can retire on full pension is 30 years.
I suggest that we should leave this figure as it is. If, in the course of years, experience proves that it works harshly, I have no doubt that local authorities and the representatives of the men will be able to make appropriate representations to get it altered. But I have no evidence in front of me that so drastic an Amendment as this is required.
§ Mr. Henry Wallace (Walthamstow, East)
On the previous Amendment my right hon. Friend pointed out that if he accepted the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) he would be setting up a precedent for the whole of the Government service outside the fire service. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that there are many precedents which would support the reduction to this period of 15 years. I could give him precedent for 10 years.
§ Mr. Ede
I want hon. Members in all parts of the Committee to understand what I have said. This Amendment is designed to give men the right to retire after 15 years without a medical certificate. If it were accepted it would give a man the right to say: "I have served in the fire service long enough. I want to leave, and I claim my pension. "I do not think there is any other service in which that happens, certainly under the Superannuation Acts. Of course, after 10 years a person can get a small allowance with a medical certificate, and the same thing can be done in local government service and in the police, but that is not the proposal in this Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Colonel Wheatley
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will remember that on a previous occasion I raised the question of firemen being allowed to retire at the age of 50. I wonder whether that is covered in Subsection (3, b). A man may not be medically unfit, but firemen have to climb over high buildings; it is very strenuous work, and when they reach the age of 50 they are not really capable of doing that sort of work. Would that type of case be covered under Subsection (3, b)?
§ Mr. Ede
We cannot allow the man himself to say: "I no longer feel that I am fit to do this particular part of the 1391 job; therefore, I claim to draw my pension "—on a fund which is based on the idea that a man can only claim a pension before completing a certain number of years if he can get a medical certificate. If we give him the right to clear out earlier it would destroy the whole actuarial basis of the fund. If a fireman feels that he is ageing prematurely he must go to the medical officer and get the certificate which will support his application for a pension.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.