HC Deb 23 April 1948 vol 449 cc2212-24
Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 16, to leave out paragraph (c).

This paragraph is entirely valueless so far as teachers are concerned. It provides that if a teacher is in contributory service when he is called up to do his period of National Service, his period of National Service will count for pensionable service. In point of fact, no teacher will be in contributory service when called upon to perform his period of National Service. The teacher does not come into contributory service until he has left college, and has become a qualified teacher. The Minister of Education has laid it down recently, by regulation, that intending teachers must do their period of National Service before entering college. The position outlined by this paragraph will, therefore, be as follows: that women, who do not have to do National Service, and men who have been rejected on physical or other grounds for National Service, will enter college at the age of 18, will leave at 20, and enter into contributory service.

At 60, they will have completed 40 years' service, and will be entitled to draw their full pension under the various Teachers' Superannuation Acts. But the young man who is accepted for National Service will not enter on that service, as the regulations are at: present, until he is 18 years and nine months old. He will not complete his National Service until he is 19 years and nine months old. There is bound to be a waiting period between the termination of his National Service and the time he enters college, so even in the best of circumstances the intending teacher who has done his period of National Service will not enter college until he is 20, perhaps 21 or, in some cases, 22. He will not have completed his 40 years' service until he is 61, 62 or 63. He will lose one, two, or three years' pensionable service as a result of the wording of paragraph (c) of this Clause.

Intending teachers are being penalised because they are tendering a National Service. I pointed this out at some length on the Second Reading of the Bill when, in reply to the arguments that were adduced, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education said: … inasmuch as I am responsible for the policy which has been entered upon, whereby young people take their training before they enter college, I am prepared to give an undertaking, at least, that the point will be looked into, and that we will see whether it cannot be dealt … with when we reach the Committee stage.… Inasmuch as women teachers form part of the superannuation scheme, unless something can be done to help forward this suggestion it might give rise to rancour between the sexes in the ranks of teachers, which is the last thing we want in the education service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 2327–3.] That seemed to be a definite assurance; at least, we so regarded it, and I was surprised to find, when the Committee stage was reached, that no Amendment embodying this assurance had been put down by the Minister of Education. Accordingly, my hon. Friends and I, on the Committee stage, moved another Amendment, asking that if a teacher had passed the qualifying examination for entrance to college before taking up his National Service, his period of National Service, and the waiting period between the termination of that service and entering college, should count for pensionable purposes. That seemed to be a reasonable Amendment and, again, we had an assurance from the Minister, who said: I ask my hon. Friends to withdraw the Amendment. I promise that it will receive further consideration between now and the Report stage.… I ask my hon. Friends to withdraw it, on the undertaking that between now and the Report stage we will see what can be done in the matter."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C, 16th March, 1948; c. 6–7.] That was the second definite undertaking given by the responsible Minister. To our astonishment and sorrow, however, we did not see anything at all On the Order Paper which had been put down by the Minister of Education for this stage of the Bill. It looks very much like a breach of faith. I am not accusing my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, or my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, although he gave us two definite assurances. I am quite aware that both my right hon. Friends, like the assassins whose daggers stabbed Caesar, are honourable men. I rather suspect that they have done their best behind the scenes to give effect to the assurances which were made on two different occasions, and that there is some sinister influence, unknown to me and my hon. Friends, at work in this matter.

2.15 p.m.

We are entitled to have an explanation. We are entitled to know why teachers have been singled out for special penalisation. The rights of civil servants have been fully guarded. The Bill states that if a man has passed the examination for a Civil Service appointment before taking up National Service his period of National Service will be counted for pensionable purposes. Further, most local Government employees are safeguarded by the Bill, because they enter such employment at the age of 16, and come into contributory service before they go into National Service thereby satisfying the conditions laid down in Clause 1.

I and my hon. Friends, and teachers throughout the country, expect an explanation of the Government's action. There is nothing invidious in making this concession to teachers. It does not affect other bodies of men and women in the country. The ordinary industrial worker does not have to serve 40 years as a teacher does before he enjoys his full pension. He will enjoy it at the age of 65 if he has 10 years' contributions on his insurance card. I realise that it is now too late for anything to be done—

Mr. Assheton indicated dissent.

Mr. Morley

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will help us to secure a concession. I have been given to understand hat a Bill to consolidate the various Teachers' Superannuation Acts will be introduced early next Session. If the Minister cannot do anything now I hope he will do something then to make a reasonable concession to what I think is a reasonable demand.

Finally, I would point out that it may not be possible even for a man who has done his year's National Service, and who serves as a teacher until he is 61, 62 or 63, to complete his 40 years' service, because there are some local authorities, especially in South Wales, which have passed by-laws making the retirement of teachers compulsory at the age of 60. This means that no teacher performing his year's National Service could ever draw his full pension. I hope the Government will make a concession to what, I submit, is a very reasonable demand.

Mr. G. Thomas

The extent of the anxiety of my hon. Friends and I about the injustice to teachers will have been measured by the House in noticing the alacrity with which we jumped at the offer of support from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton). "Any port in a storm" is an old saying which we in South Wales, as well as others, accept. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to think that I regard him as any port, but any support he can give on this issue will be very welcome.

The Government Front Bench must be feeling very uncomfortable on this issue. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) was very mild in the observations he put forward, and in saying that the Government's action was almost a breach of faith. I notice that there is no one from the Ministry of Education sitting on the Front Bench when this matter of first importance to the teacher is being discussed.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

May I say, in justice to the Minister, that he is very sorry to be unable to be here? He had a very important and long-standing engagement in the provinces, and, unfortunately, at the last minute, his Parliamentary Secretary was taken ill. I can assure my hon. Friend that no discourtesy is intended by the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Thomas

I can only trust that he is in South Wales. Those teachers who are involved in this injustice will lose at least £600 during the course of their professional career as a result of the withholding of the recognition which is being given to people in other walks of life. Civil servants can take their qualifying examination before they go. Local government officers, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Mr. Berry) has shown, are well pleased with what was done under the Bill. The police and everybody appear to be well catered for, and justice is meted out with regard to superannuation, except in this instance of the young men coming into the teaching profession. We are penalising the young man for being physically fit. If he had flat feet, or poor sight, or poor hearing he could receive f600 additional money. He could go to college and get into school and draw the full pension; but because he is a fit young man and gives a year of his life to the Armed Services, we say that he shall suffer all the way through his professional career.

There is another important point at stake. In promotion to headship in the teaching profession, the length of service in schools is an issue which is always taken into consideration; and it may well be that there will be members of the teaching profession held back and suffering even further loss due to the injustice which is implicit in this legislation. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has already proved that he is progressive in his approach to the realm of education. We realise that. In the Second Reading of this Bill he told the House that he agreed with the observations which my hon. Friend had made except one, and the only one with which he disagreed was the alternative suggestion put forward by my hon. Friend as to the way in which this injustice could be put right. Having had from the Government an admission that there is an injustice—that this thing is wrong—surely, we will not have any Minister standing at the Treasury Box today, trying to tell us that, although it is wrong, nothing can be done. We have been sweetly reasonable in our approach to the Government on this question, but apparently that is the wrong line to take with our masters. I see the Financial Secretary looking at me very severely, but he will be aware that the teaching profession feel that once the Government are aware of this injustice, they ought to be prepared to take steps to remove it.

We have embarked on a recruiting campaign for the teaching profession, and we hope to get some of the finest quality into the profession. I am pleased to see that there is already an infusion of the very best type of young man in the profession—but what an advertisement this will be. If they want a square deal they had better join another profession. They had better go into the Civil Service, or into local government, or anything except teaching. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will tell us that the expression of opinion put forward by the Minister of Education will be given effect, and that when he said on the Committee stage that further consideration would be given before the Report stage, and he promised on the Second Reading that he would examine this injustice to see if it could be removed, he was not merely giving us sweet words which mean exactly nothing. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to tell us that a further Amendment will be submitted.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

One of the main objects of Clause i is to permit civil servants, local authority employees and teachers to count for superannuation pur- poses any period of compulsory military service which interrupts their civil duties. When we discussed this on Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, in response to appeals made to him by hon. Members on this side of the House, undertook to see whether it was possible to include teachers who, although they had not begun their service as teachers, had started their training to become teachers. I can tell the House that he has done his best to see whether something can be done to meet the point of view which hon. Members put forward then, as now, with such grace and felicity.

It has been quite impossible, for reasons which I will give in a few minutes, for my right hon. Friend to do anything within the four quarters of this Bill. The hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) suggested that it might be possible for his wishes to be implemented in some Measure which might be introduced next Session. It is possible that something of the sort may be done, but I am sorry to say that it is quite out of the question for it to be done today.

I would like to add that the Bill proposed for next Session cannot be a consolidating Bill, because a consolidating Bill cannot alter the law but only consolidate it. It will have to be another kind of Measure and we have it in mind to make certain provisions which, in our view, will improve the Superannuation Acts now on the Statute Book. I will not say more about it now. We shall have to consider it next Session if and when such a Bill is introduced, as it is my earnest hope that it will be. I can assure my hon. Friend that one of the last things my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education said to me was that he would like me to assure those who raised this matter in the House that he would be very happy to see what could be done along the lines requested, if that proves possible, in another amending Measure next Session.

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) said that teachers have been singled out for special penal treatment. That it not true. If we had a provision for teachers on the lines suggested by my hon. Friends the Members for Central Cardiff and Southampton, it would be singling them out. What Clause 1 does is to allow civil servants and others to count towards superannuation any period which interrupts their service in the Civil Service or in local government employment or as teachers.

2.30 p.m.

Mr. G. Thomas

I know my right hon. Friend is trying to be just, and that he wants to consider every point of view, but is it not true that a civil servant or a local government officer will already have entered into employment?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I was coming to that. Obviously, some will take advantage of this provision; otherwise, there will be no point in putting it into the Bill. As I understood my hon. Friend's remarks, they tended to suggest that all civil servants and local government employees could take advantage of Clause r, and that the only people left out were the teachers. If I misunderstood or if I am doing him an injustice, I am sure he will say so; but I understood that that was the purport of his remarks, and that for that reason he thought some special arrangement should be made so that teachers would be placed in the same position as civil servants and local government officials.

Only a certain number of civil servants can take advantage of Clause 1. They are those who come into the Service at a fairly early age—16, 17 or 18. If they have started their service in the Civil Service before they are called up at 18 years of age, they can take advantage of this Clause and they can count towards their pension the service they have to give in the Armed Forces. There are, however, large numbers of people who enter the Civil Service not at the age of 16, 17 or 18, but at the age of 22, 23, 24, and even now in certain technical and professional grades at as high an age as 35 or 40. That has been one of our difficulties. Practically the whole of the administrative class will obviously come in at a later stage, and will be quite unable to take advantage of this Clause. Therefore, they are exactly in the same position as the teachers whose cause has been pleaded so well this afternoon.

If we included teachers here and gave them special treatment, we should be doing for them what, unfortunately, at the moment we are unable to do for other equally deserving classes. It has been suggested that the teachers who miss their service cannot count the extra year for pension. They have not lost it for good, although they have lost it at this end of their service. There is no reason why teachers should not be willing to continue for another year if they desire to make up that year and include it towards their superannuation. They retire at the age of 60, and nowadays 60 is looked upon as relatively young. My experience has been that even men of 65 feel that they have a grievance when they are asked to retire. Therefore, we cannot see any real grievance if a teacher, who is now able to retire at 60, is asked to continue for another year if he wants to, so as to make up this extra year towards his pension.

Mr. G. Thomas

I am sorry to interrupt again, but there are authorities who do not allow a teacher to continue his service beyond the age of 60. Perhaps my right hon. Friend would consult with the Minister of Education with a view to approaching those authorities.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Oh, yes. We have got heaps of time. This, will not begin to take effect for about 40 years. The people who will suffer because they spent a year in the Armed Forces now or in the years immediately ahead will not begin to feel it—if they ever do—in the way suggested by my two hon. Friends for another 30 or 40 years. It is quite possible that a great deal may have happened between now and then.

I think I have dealt with most of the points that have been raised, and answered the charge that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has in some way broken a promise. If my two hon. Friends will re-read the Debates which took place in this House on the Second Reading and upstairs when we dealt with the Committee stage, they will see that my right hon. Friend is much too old a bird to have made a promise of that sort. He certainly indicated that he would look into this matter and see what he could do to meet the point of view put forward. I can say on his behalf—because I happen to know; I was in on these discussions—that he tried very hard to implement the promise that he made, namely that he would see what could be done and that, if something were possible, he would do it. He certainly got that point of view ventilated in the proper quarters, and he did his best to see whether some provision to meet it could be inserted in the Bill.

I hope my two hon. Friends will realise that it is impossible, without creating anomalies, to insert the provision which they suggest. However, I hope that another superannuation Measure will be brought forward next Session or the Session after, and we will bear this matter in mind. If it is possible to do something for teachers and others in the Civil Service and local government service who are in a like position, we shall do our best to do it. That being so, I hope my hon. Friend will be willing to withdraw his Amendment.

Mr. Assheton

I am naturally sorry that the Financial Secretary has not been able to see his way to meet this difficulty which has been pointed out to us. When it was raised on the Second Reading, I expressed sympathy with the position in which the teachers had been put, as would be expected of a representative of the party which has done more for education than any other party.

Mr. G. Thomas

That is a tall one.

Mr. Assheton

It is not a tall one at all. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at the history of education—

Mr. John R. Thomas (Dover)

Public school or elementary?

Mr. Assheton

—and the various laws which have been passed in this House during the last zoo years, he, will find that the Conservative Party's contributions have been absolutely outstanding. I was interested to hear the assertion of the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) that there had been a breach of faith. He was very shocked at that. He said he could not believe that the Financial Secretary or the Minister of Education could be guilty of a breach of faith, and, knowing them both so well, of course I, too, would find that very difficult to believe. He suggested that there must be some sinister influence somewhere. Can that mean that there is in the Cabinet some Minister less honourable than these two right hon. Gentlemen? It is a very dangerous suggestion for Members of the party opposite to put forward.

Mr. Morley

I meant that there might be in the Cabinet some Minister who himself personally did not give a pledge as the Minister of Education did, but who, not understanding the situation, took an entirely wrong attitude, and that his influence unfortunately prevailed.

Mr. Assheton

I understand that. The point about pledges is that when Ministers make them, those pledges, of course, are binding upon the Cabinet of which they are members, unless they resign from the Cabinet and thus free their colleagues from any obligations. I am not suggesting that there was a breach of faith in this case, but I would say to the hon. Member for Southampton that a breach of faith on the part of this Government would not surprise me, of course. It may have been the fate of some hon. Members to have listened to Debates which have taken place in this House on another matter, in which I have been personally deeply concerned, and on a number of occasions the suggestion has been made that a breach of faith has been committed. To those of us on this side of the House it does not come as so great a shock as it does to the hon. Members for Southampton and Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), who perhaps did not take part in the Debate on that other matter.

When we come to the merits of the matter I would say that I listened very attentively to the case which the Financial Secretary put forward. I was not quite convinced by it. He said that he could not do anything now but that he hoped something might be done next year. If something is to be done to get over the difficulty—which the right hon. Gentleman said could not be gone over—why cannot it be done now? If the difficulty is insuperable, he will not be able to get over it next year. Why should we not have the benefit of the Financial Secretary's knowledge now, if there is a way of getting over it? Let the remedy be applied in another place, where Amendments can be moved to make the Bill more acceptable to this House.

When the hon. Member for Southampton says that there is no more time for change, I would remind him that there is another place where he has friends. If he used his influence he might be able to find some means of putting this injustice right. The Financial Secretary told the House a story that has often been told us before, which was that if we put the injustice right it will be rather hard on somebody else whose grievances will not have been put right. At least, there will be fewer injustices, and I am sure that none of those whose injustices had not been remedied will complain of the fact that somebody else's grievance has been put right. There is time for hon. Members who are interested in this matter to take some action to get this matter ventilated in another place.

We were told by the Financial Secretary that the consequences of the Bill will not be felt for 30 or 40 years. Certainly, there is time to make changes. I cannot pretend that the matter is desperately urgent this afternoon. For that reason, it may be that hon. Members opposite might withdraw their Amendment. I do not know whether they will, but whether they do so or not, they have 30 or 40 years of work ahead of them. They must make the remedying of these grievances their great Parliamentary duty. They must see that this injustice is remedied. I have a feeling that they will be able to get this matter put right somehow or other in that time, if it is not beyond human ingenuity to find a way. Both the hon. Member for Southampton and the hon. Member for Central Cardiff are persevering people with great influence and they may be able, by the end of 30 or 40 years, to put this matter right.

Mr. Berry

I wonder whether the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton), when he was suggesting that some of my hon. Friends should use their influence with their friends in another place, was really giving one of those subtle signals that used to be given in Balfourian times by way of warning to his own friends in another place. Friendly as I am to teachers, I think the offer held out by the Financial Secretary that the matter will be considered with other germane matters when legislation is next considered, was quite reasonable. I know the pertinacity of my Welsh friends. It has been said that Welshmen pray on their knees on Sunday, and on their neighbours for the rest of the week. I say that not by way of reflection upon any Member of this House. I hope that the teachers who are adversely affected still receive consideration, and that measures will be devised by those who advise my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to meet the undoubted hardships which have been pointed out by my two hon. Friends who have supported the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.