HC Deb 10 May 1948 vol 450 cc1897-902

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

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew (Ayr and Bute, Northern)

I have an Amendment down to leave out this Clause, and it is linked with the new Clause which I have down—[Cessation of reports by Government Actuary]. On the Second Reading I pointed out that I thought the Government Actuary could not possibly give a report worth anything. We have to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General in our investments. I thought then that the Actuary's report was unnecessary. Now I feel it is more than ever wholly unnecessary because the new Clause in the name of the Leader of the House, which makes contributions and pensions variable, means that however good the report may be and however complete and accurate, it is no earthly use to anyone. All of us who are trustees have put our names to the Amendment to leave out the Clause, and I trust that it will be omitted.

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

I hope the Committee will not agree to the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It is perfectly true that we are going to make certain changes under the new Clause in the name of the Lord President of the Council. In my submission the fact that the Committee may agree to these changes makes it all the more desirable that we should have an expert view on these matters.

Sir C. MacAndrew

On what matters?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

On the pension, the rate of contribution, and the extent to which, in the light of experience, a reserve should be built up. I would remind the Committee that we are working rather in the dark. When actuaries are called in on funds of this kind, they normally make use of well-established tables relating to the classes of persons who will join the fund in question. They can tell from these tables what the rate of attrition is, how many will die, under pensionable age, how many will go out of the fund, and how many, if widows, will be entitled to pension in their own right as widows of Members who have died.

A great body of evidence has been built up, which it is extremely useful to have. I hope therefore that the Committee will not accede to this request. It is true that the last quinquennial valuation and another inquiry took place at the same time and that the charge then appeared to some Members to be rather excessive. I should, however, imagine—that in time, the cost will not be excessive unless the calls on the Fund expand very much. There were reasons why it was slightly greater during the war than it would otherwise have been. We have had only eight years and only one Dissolution of Parliament since the Fund came into operation. We have not any real data as to what the calls on this Fund will be when normality returns. We know that 55 members have died, and that a number of widows have come on to the Fund, but that is no indication of the number of widows who might later come to the trustees for help.

We have looked at this matter with the utmost sympathy, and it does seem to us to be unwise—I put it no higher than that—to do without the actuaries. When a body of evidence is gathered, the Government Actuary will be able to be, and undoubtedly will be, of the utmost use to the trustees.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I really cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman. His argument is perfectly "dotty," if he will forgive me for saying so. I am being perfectly fair—not making a debating point. I can see the point of having the Government Actuary's report if we do not know what the reserves ought to be, but what is the sense when we can come to this House under the new Clause and say that we want so much money because there are so many widows or so many M.P.'s? We do not need an actuary's report. It is absurd. The right hon.

Gentleman's argument is absurd. I used the word "dotty"—it is just crazy.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

The right hon. Gentleman says "It seems to us, this, that and the other." Will he tell us—who "us" is?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I thought the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knew. I will explain. This is a purely domestic matter. It is for the House to judge how this Fund should be run. The Government are, I think, fully entitled to make suggestions to the House, and it is our considered view that it would be right and fair to get an actuarial report. This is what the House in 1939 thought desirable and it would be wrong to go back on it now. However, it is for the Committee to decide.

Question put: "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 87; Noes, 46.

Division No. 147.] AYES. [12.25 a.m.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V Hardy, E. A. Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Attewell, H. C. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Baird, J. Holman, P. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Barton, C. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Sargood, R.
Bechervaise, A. E. House, G. Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)
Bing, G. H. C. Hoy, J. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Blyton, W. R. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Simmons, C. J
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Skeffington, A. M
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Snow, J. W.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Janner, B. Sorensen, R. W.
Brown, George (Belper) Jay, D. P. T. Soskice, Sir Frank
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E) Stubbs, A. E.
Champion, A. J. Jenkins, R H Swingler, S.
Comyns, Dr. L. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Symonds, A. L.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K (Camb'well, N. W.) Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Corlett, Dr. J. King, E. M. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Crossman, R. H. S Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Deer, G. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McLeavy, F. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Mitchison, G. R Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E)
Evans, John (Ogmore) Monslow, W. White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Farthing, W. J. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Foot, M. M. Palmer, A. M. F Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Pargiter, G. A. Williams, R. W. (Wigan)
Gibson, C. W. Porter, G. (Leeds) Woodburn, A.
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Price, M. Philips Younger, Hon Kenneth
Gunter, R. J. Pritt, D. N.
Guy, W. H. Pursey, Cmdr. H TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Rankin, J. Mr. Pearson and
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Mr. Richard Adams.
Baldwin, A. E. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lambert, Hon. G.
Bossom, A. C Drewe, C. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H
Bowen, R. Duthie, W. S. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.
Butcher, H. W. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) MoCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Howard, Hon. A. Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Maclay, Hon. J. S.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C Jeffreys, General Sir G. Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
De la Bère, R. Kinley, J. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Orr-Ewing, I. L. Sutcliffe, H. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Ramsay, Maj. S Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow) Turton, R. H. Colonel Ropner and
Strauss, H. G. (English Universities) Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.) Lieut.-Commander Gurney
Studholme, H. G. Braithwaite.

Question put, and agreed to.

12.30 a.m.

Captain Crookshank

I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I do not understand what has happened about this Bill. On the Second Reading the Lord President of the Council said: I hope I shall secure agreement of all sides of the House in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. If, however, as I believe and hope is unlikely, a Division should be challenged, the Whips will be off, as this is a matter for the Members of the House in their individual capacity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1948; Vol. 450, C. 1403.] Those words, which in the first place were directed to the Motion for the Second Reading, obviously applied also to the subsequent stages of the Bill. I must say that I was astounded that on the Division which has just taken place the Whips of the Government were put on. I hope that we shall at least have the presence of the Lord President of the Council to explain why this change has taken place. Is this now becoming a Government Measure, because if it is a matter for Private Members only, there is no reason why the Whips on either side should be put on?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

When the right hon. and gallant Member rose I was about to apologise to the House for what would appear to be a breach of faith, in that Government Tellers, though not Government Whips, were put on in the Division which has just taken place. It is true that the Lord President of the Council on Second Reading indicated what I think is generally known, that this is a domestic and not a party matter, and that the Whips would not be put on. He was referring to Second Reading, but I do not want to make a point of that. In Divisions taken on Second Reading, Committee, Report, or Third Reading of a Measure of this kind, it is desirable that the vote should be quite free as I hope the last vote was. The Whips were not on, but two Government Tellers told in the Lobbies, and for that I apologise. It was an oversight on my part and I hope that no damage was done.

Sir C. MacAndrew

I hope that it will not be thought that I am a bad loser, but I have been working on the Fund for a good long time, and have always acted in a completely non-party manner. It has been the rule, and I honestly believe we have been trying to save the money of the people who are going to benefit. To put the Whips on for an Amendment which stands in the name of the trustees of the Fund is not fair, and does not do much to encourage those who want to help those who fall by the way.

Captain Crookshank

While, of course, we accept the apology of the right hon. Gentleman, the fact remains that if one comes in and sees that the Government Whips are Tellers it is a very narrow distinction between that and the Government Whips being on. I hope, therefore, that at a subsequent stage of the Bill, which I do not suppose is going to be taken tonight, the matter will be left and reconsideration may be given even by the right hon. Gentleman to the Clause which has now been left in the Bill.

Question put, and negatived.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.