§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Although some provision, to which I shall refer in a moment, is made for widows, orphans and other dependants of deceased civil servants, the absence of such provision on anything like an adequate scale is a defect in the present superannuation code for the Civil Service. This Bill seeks to remedy that state of affairs. At present, the only provision is that where an individual dies during his period of service, what is known as a "death gratuity" is paid. This ranges from one year's salary, for those who die after five years' service, to one and a half year's salary for those who have served 40 years.
For those who retire as pensioners, provision was made in the Superanuation Act, 1935, to enable them to allocate part of their pension to their wives. The disadvantages of this arrangement are that the civil servant cannot allocate until after he has retired, and that he has then to satisfy the doctor that he is what is called a "good life." This places those wishing to take advantage of this provision in a situation of uncertainty as they approach the date of their retirement and, if they have reason to believe that their health is not too good, I think that the House will agree that their position is a pretty hopeless one. To make any pension for his wife worth while, the reduction of the individual's own pension has to be fairly substantial. Because of this and because of the need for a medical examination after retirement, not a very large number of civil servants have taken advantage of this provision; in fact, up to the end of last year only something like 7,000 have allocated part of their pensions to their wives in this way.
Pension schemes to cover dependants usually take one of two forms; they can be either a flat rate annuity, so that the same amount is payable to all, or they can be an annuity based on the earnings at the time of retirement or at the time of death. Those who have studied the 1198 Bill will see that the provisions are based on the second alternative. The reason for this is that, just as under the existing Civil Service code a man's pension is based on his income just before retirement so that the drop from the salary to the pension shall not be too drastic, so under the provisions of this Bill his widow's income in our view should similarly not be unreasonably reduced below that which the family enjoyed at the time of the man's death. For that reason, we have followed the Civil Service code and taken, as I said, the second alternative.
Perhaps before I go any further, I should make it clear that there is in the Civil Service a minimum qualifying period which is necessary before a civil servant is entitled to a pension. This qualifying period is 10 years. It therefore follows, that no benefits can accrue to dependants of civil servants under the Bill unless the civil servant concerned has first become pensionable by completing 10 years' service. I want that to be quite clear in the minds of Members before I proceed to indicate what we propose under the various parts of this Measure.
The Bill provides that a civil servant's widow shall receive one-third of his pension if he has retired, or one-third of his accrued pension if he dies while still in the service. This formula would not by itself prevent a considerable fall in family income when a man dies relatively early in his career. For example, if a man dies after only 12 years' service, the widow's pension will be only one-twentieth of her husband's salary. To mitigate the hardship which would be caused by strict application of this formula, the scheme therefore provides that, where a civil servant dies with at least 10 years' service but with less than 20 years' service, the widow's pension shall be calculated as if he had in fact completed 20 years' service. This will give her at least one-twelfth of her husband's salary as a pension. Even with this safeguard, the pension payable to many widows would unfortunately still be small and, to prevent them from being completely derisory, the scheme provides that a widow's pension shall not in any case be less than £26 a year.
I now come to the benefits which the Bill proposes for children. The scheme differentiates between the case where a 1199 civil servant leaves a widow and children, and the case where the civil servant leaves motherless children. What does the Bill provide for widows with children? In addition to the widow's pension to which I have just referred, the Bill provides for each child up to four that the widow's pension should be increased by 25 per cent.; that is, the widow with four children will receive twice as much as a childless widow. Even so, if her husband has not had considerable service, the widow and four children will receive only one-sixth of her husband's salary at the time of his death. As to motherless children, the benefits are based on what the widow's pension would have been, if she had lived. A single orphan for example, will get under the Bill one-half of the mother's pension; two children will get three-quarters; and three or more children will get the full widow's pension that would have accrued to the mother.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Perhaps we can discuss individual cases later. I have already indicated that in some cases it is likely that the pension will be small. All I am doing now is to indicate the basis of the scheme. Children's benefits will be paid in any case up to the age of 16, and thereafter as long as the child is at school or undergoing an apprenticeship.
The scheme is to be compulsory on marriage for all future entrants into the Civil Service. Existing civil servants may contract out of it if they so desire, in view of the fact that it was not part of their contract when they entered the Service. It is, however, confidently expected that most of the present established staff will desire to avail themselves of the facilities. The scheme is contributory. Those entering it, if they are fully established and come in after the Bill passes into law, will contribute half the cost. This is the actuaries' estimate of what will happen when the scheme is actually going and all new entrants come in on a compulsory basis. This is assured by the scales of contributions prescribed; as to the other half, the Crown will meet it, as a good employer should.
How will contributions be levied? Those participating will be required to 1200 pay 1¼ per cent. of their salary or, if they prefer, an equivalent capitalised payment from the lump sum paid them on retirement or the death gratuity paid to a man's estate, if he dies during his service. If the person so prefers, he may pay part of his liability by the first method and the rest by the second. The existence of these lump sum payments in the superannuation code not only makes it possible to provide for this alternative method of payment, but solves the awkward problem of back payments. These back payments are bound to arise. Most civil servants who come in in future will enter the scheme only on marriage or establishment, and a number of years will have to be made good, if their full pensionable service is to be taken into account. So far as existing civil servants are concerned, they must inevitably have this back log of payments to make up for past years. There will, of course, be no question of requiring a civil servant to pay contribution in respect of any part of his service during which he has no wife living. If his wife dies, he must pay contributions up to her death, since he has been covered for that period. Thereafter he has no liability, unless he marries again before he retires.
The scheme introduces a provision which is perhaps not usual in Measures of this kind. It provides that a married woman who has a dependent husband shall be able to make provision for him. The scheme is, of course, primarily for married men and, although there are a number of married women in the Service, it is safe to say that, generally speaking, their husbands are not economically dependent upon them. However, even now—and very probably in the future—there may be married women in the Service whose husbands have been disabled in some way, and who are completely dependent upon them. Provision is made for such women to enter this scheme, if they so desire, just as if they were men. This will enable them to provide not only for their disabled husbands but for any children that they may have.
What about the man who has retired? Unfortunately, it is impossible to extend the scheme to all those who have retired. I wish it were possible, but I regret that it is quite out of the question. A line must be drawn somewhere. It has been decided—and it is for the House to agree 1201 —that those who did not retire until after VE-day or, if they did so retire, did six months' service as a re-engaged pensioner after that date, may come in if they wish.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
The right hon. Gentleman says that it is impossible to apply the scheme universally to those men and women who have already retired. That may be so, but can he tell us why it is impossible? The whereabouts of these people are known.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I think that is a Committee point to which we can come later. I know that a number of Members are interested and that outside interests have approached certain Members, quite properly, to ventilate their case. It would be difficult, for instance, to collect the rather substantial contributions that would fall to be paid from such pensioners who had been retired for a good many years and who may have quite properly dissipated the gratuity which had been paid to them.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
It is the view of the Treasury, and it was agreed by the staff side of the National Whitley Council, that the provisions in the Measure for pensioners who have retired should be as they are set forth in the Bill.
Part I of the Bill enables a married man to provide for his widow and children and a married woman to provide for a dependent husband and children. The scheme could stop there, but it has been considered right that further provision should be made to enable women and unmarried men to provide for any near relatives who may be dependent upon them. A man may not have married because of an obligation to look after such a dependent relative, and it is only fair, in our view, that such cases should be recognised and, in so far as we can, provided for in the code.
This scheme is dealt with in Part II of the Bill. It is open to any established civil servant, man or woman, who has a near relative wholly or mainly dependent upon him or her, and subject only to this: that participation in the widows' and children's scheme will, with one exception, make them ineligible to take 1202 part in the dependants' scheme. The exception is that the person subject to Part I of the Bill may, in addition, if he so wishes, cover an incapacitated child under Part II of the Bill. Those joining the dependants' scheme will be able to provide for one adult, such as a mother or a dependent sister, or up to three children. For instance, a married woman in the service may want to make provision for a child if she has been deserted by her husband, and also for one incapacitated child.
The benefits in the dependants' scheme, outlined in Part II, will be on the same basis as the pensions payable under the widows' and children's scheme outlined in Part I; that is to say, a dependent mother or sister will get the same pension as a widow, and a dependent child the same pension as a child taken care of under Part I. This part of the scheme must, I think, be optional. Its provisions can only apply to those who have certain near relatives dependent upon them, and feel that they should make proper provisions for them.
What about contributions? These must, in the nature of the case, vary. They cannot be on the flat rate of 1¼ per cent., the reason for which is pretty obvious. The scheme is optional, and it would not result in the cost being evenly spread as between employer and employee. Moreover, the difference in ages between insurer and insured will often vary considerably, whereas the normal difference between the ages of a man and his wife is not very great. Therefore, it is laid down that contributions shall be fixed by tables to be drawn up by the Government Actuary. Apart from this the ordinary machinery of levying contributions will be the same as is laid down in Part I.
The Bill runs to 60 Clauses. It is a longer Measure than we had at first contemplated, but it is our view that the extra Clauses have, in fact, meant greater clarity. The House will have noticed that in Part III we have inserted a miscellaneous collection of provisions, which can properly be dealt with when we reach the Committee stage. I should like to tell the House, however, of the contents of certain of these because, unless I misjudge what I hear, some of them will undoubtedly be raised during this Debate and on the Committee stage of the Bill.
1203 Perhaps I should first draw the attention of the House to Clause 34. What this Clause does is to facilitate compulsory retirement on proportionate pension of civil servants who, having reached the age of 50, are no longer fully efficient. The Crown has, of course, the right to discharge any civil servant without notice and without pension, and nothing in this provision derogates from that power. That, plainly, is not the way to deal with the question of relative inefficiency. Section 2 of the Superannuation Act, 1887, gives power to retire on proportionate pension any civil servant who is unable—and here I quote—on account of inability to discharge efficiently the duties of his office.The procedure, however, requires the laying of a minute before Parliament, giving the name of the individual concerned and the reason for his discharge—a not altogether humane way of treating an individual who has really done nothing criminal, and who has failed to live up to expectations, through a variety of causes like sickness. It has therefore been thought that we should introduce this provision into this Measure in order that such a civil servant, after the age of 50, can be pensioned with a proportionate pension on a certificate from his Minister that his retirement is desirable in the interests of efficiency.
At the same time, it is only fair that the same option should be given to an individual civil servant when he reaches the age of 50 and himself wants to retire. We permit that in this Bill. If a civil servant goes in this way, he will go without an immediate pension, except in certain compassionate cases; but he will take with him the right, as soon as he reaches the normal retiring age, to draw a proportionate pension which he has earned up to the time he retired.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Where a Minister determines that a civil servant must retire, will the civil servant have any means of appeal from the decision of the Minister who examines his case?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
That was the instance I was giving a moment or two 1204 ago. There is always the Whitley machinery, and no doubt attention will be given to any representation that an individual might make; but, if the hon. Member means an outside tribunal or machinery of that kind, the answer is "No."
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
Would the individual not be covered by the ordinary appeal machinery already existing in the public service?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I thought the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) meant something additional to that.
There are two other Clauses, 35 and 36, to which I should like to make reference. Here we make provision to retain a retiring civil servant if that seems right and proper. If it is thought in the best interests of the Service that a civil servant should stay on after he reaches retiring age, provision is made not only to allow him to do so—he can do that now—but to count those added years up to five towards extra pension.
Before I sit down, I should like to say one or two words about unestablished staff. All the provisions so far relate to established civil servants. Certain proposals are made in the Bill for additional benefits to unestablished staff. Clause 39 permits provision to be made to widen the circumstances in which a gratuity may be paid to those who are not established, and to shorten the qualifying period from 15 to 7 years where the retirement is due to ill-health or age. In addition, Clause 40 permits the reckoning of certain kinds of part-time unestablished service for gratuity or, if the person becomes established, towards pension. It is the policy of the Government to reduce the proportion of unestablished staff to a minimum. In fact, large numbers are already being established. As more and more of these unestablished members of the service join the permanent staff, they will come under the provisions which I have outlined, and which are laid down in Parts I and II of the Bill. The benefits which are there provided enure to them as to those who are now or may be permanent civil servants.
One word as to cost. The charges likely to fall upon the Exchequer are fully dealt with in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill, and I shall not repeat them now. But those 1205 who have read the Memorandum will know that, owing to the contributions made during the early years, it is estimated that, not until 10 years after the passing of the Bill, will there be any net cost to the Exchequer under Parts I and II. Thereafter the net cost will exceed receipts until, after 20 years, the cost of the pensions to the State may reach a figure of £3¼ million. Under Part III of the Bill, the cost should not exceed £500,000 in the first year; thereafter, it will be a diminishing amount.
The proposals embodied in the Bill give effect to an agreement come to between the official and staff sides of the Civil Service National Whitley Council. By that I do not mean to say that the staff side has been completely satisfied. I only mention it in order to show that, so far as the Bill goes, it carries the willing assent of the staff side to what is proposed. Civil servants are of course human, and they are liable to errors and by no means perfect. Nevertheless, it is repeatedly asserted, and it is true, that this country has the finest Civil Service in the world. Though civil servants are often the butt of every little red-nosed comedian who fancies himself to be a side-splitting humorist, though they are often unjustly criticised by people who ought to know better, they go quietly ahead with their work year after year. I am pleased to realise that this Measure gives further recognition to their work and their service to the community. I therefore commend the Bill to the House, and I hope that it will receive the willing assent of hon. Members in all quarters.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Assheton (City of London)
This House has always taken a very special interest in matters connected with the Civil Service. Indeed, we have a very special responsibility for these people, and I think we can say that in all quarters of the House that responsibility has always been recognised and appreciated. I should like to thank the Financial Secretary for the very careful way in which he has introduced the Bill and explained it to us. It is rather a difficult and complicated Bill to those who have been trying to understand it, but although it is rather long, I agree with the Financial Secretary in thinking that the Parliamentary draftsmen, at any rate, have done their best to make it clear and have 1206 avoided, as far as possible, trying to make this House legislate by reference. The whole House should be grateful for that.
We on this side of the House give our general support to the Bill and we shall certainly support its Second Reading. I am sure that the Financial Secretary will be the first to agree that there will have to be a close examination of some of its Clauses in Committee, and I have no doubt that we may find that there are certain changes which it may be desirable to make. No doubt points will be raised by hon. Members from both sides of the House. A good many hon. Members have received certain representations about the Bill.
We have received representations from the unestablished civil servants. There are several points which they want raised, points which will no doubt he discussed in Committee. They want unestablished service to count in full for superannuation purposes, they want gratuities to unestablished civil servants which, under the Bill, are payable as of right, to be given after five years' service and the amount increased to one-tenth of the salary for each year of service, and they want some other things, all of which we shall have to discuss with great care on the Committee stage.
The Opposition, of course, as is well known, desire to see a reduction in the work which is placed upon civil servants; that is to say, they would be glad to see certain alterations which would make it possible for the number of civil servants to be fewer than it is at present. The latest return, which we got only yesterday, shows that we still have about 700,000 civil servants. That is, of course, a very swollen figure compared with prewar years. Nevertheless, we believe just as much as hon. Members on the other side that the British Civil Service is the best in the world. We are immensely proud of it.
I am glad that the Financial Secretary said what he did because all of us have heard people jeering at the Civil Service, a quite unworthy thing to do. Very often the criticism which should really be levelled against Ministers is levelled against civil servants; that is to say, people do not always understand that the civil servant is carrying out the policy of his Minister, and if there is any 1207 criticism to make about the policy, that criticism must be made against the Minister and not the civil servant. Sometimes people may criticise civil servants and think they are not perfect, but if it is policy which has to be criticised, those who criticise the civil servants are certainly on the wrong tack.
If we agree that we have a fine Civil Service, we must surely also agree that the Civil Service ought to be fairly and properly remunerated and treated as a good employer would treat a good employee. On the question of the salaries of civil servants, this is not the time to make observations, but it is relevant to the Bill to observe that civil servants get non-contributory pensions which, in fact, make their salaries somewhat higher than they appear to be on the face of it. I believe it has been suggested that one ought to add something like one-fifth to the salary to get the full salary compared with—
§ Mr. Assheton
It is suggested by the hon. Member who knows so much about these things, that it should be 12½ per cent. At any rate, some sum should be added to the present salary to make it equivalent to a salary which is not pensionable. The Financial Secretary told us that various calculations had been made by the actuary and I should like to know what numbers of civil servants were calculated as likely to be employed over the period for which the actuary made the calculation. The House would be interested to know that.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but perhaps he would be good enough to clarify the question which he puts and I can then be sure of giving him the correct answer. When he talks about the number employed, does he mean the numbers likely to come into the scheme, and if so, which scheme, the optional scheme under Part II, or that under Part I, which is through marriage?
§ Mr. Assheton
I am principally interested in the scheme under Part I which will be compulsory to new entrants. The Bill has four parts. Part I deals with pensions to widows and children, Part II 1208 deals with dependants' pensions, in Part III there are certain amendments to the Superannuation Acts, and in Part IV there are some miscellaneous Clauses. The first two Parts, which deal with the modest pensions on a contributory basis for both widows and dependants, will I am sure generally meet with the approval of this House, subject to the discussion which we shall have in Committee. As the Financial Secretary said, that provision will not involve the Exchequer in any net cost for 10 years and even ultimately it will not involve a large contribution relative to the numbers employed. I think it is right that civil servants should receive encouragement to make provision for those to whom they have obligations and for the first time, under this Bill, we are giving them the opportunity to do so. Indeed, the fact that it is to be a compulsory contribution in the case of new entrants is something that I am sure the House will welcome.
There are a large number of professional and business people in this country who do not have the advantage which civil servants enjoy now, and which civil servants will enjoy under this Bill. There are many people who, because they are self-employed or for other reasons, cannot participate in superannuation schemes. It is a real difficulty in these days for people, particularly in the professional classes, to make provision for their latter days and also for their wives and children. I hope very much that the Financial Secretary and the Government will give consideration to this point, because they, too, are taxpayers and on them, too, will fall such burdens as there may be as a result of this Bill.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will give some thought to what might be done to help these people in some other form. Possibly an opportunity will occur in the Finance Bill. There is a considerable feeling in the country that the professional man is at present hard hit. It is much more difficult for him than it was. In some cases it is almost impossible for him to make provision out of his taxed income owing to the steep increases which have been made in taxation in recent years, a matter with which we are all too sadly familiar. Although this is not a matter which could be appropriately inserted in this Bill, it 1209 is one to which I hope the Government will give their serious attention, because such people need security for their old age and for their dependants just as much as civil servants or those who are in the happy position of being able to join other superannuation schemes.
In Part III there are certainly some useful provisions and I was glad to see Clause 34 which deals with superannuation benefit in certain cases of premature retirement. The Financial Secretary referred to that Clause and explained the circumstances in which it might be valuable. There are some who doubt whether the age of 50 which is specified in this Clause is the right age, but that is a matter which can be discussed when we come to the Committee stage.
Clause 39 deals with the gratuities to unestablished civil servants. This is a matter upon which I have already touched and which, again, we shall have to consider in Committee. Clause 40, I am glad to see, gives the opportunity of granting gratuities to certain part-time civil servants who may have served the Government a long time. The particular illustration of that which springs to one's mind is the village postmistress who may have served the Post Office faithfully for many years and to whom a small gratuity at the end of her time will be welcome.
I do not think there is anything further I want to say at this stage. We are certainly anxious to examine all the points which have been submitted to us and the representations made on behalf of the unestablished civil servants, but to go into them at great length today would not be appropriate.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Randall (Clitheroe)
It is not inappropriate that I should follow the right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) who is one of my illustrious constituents. I am happy in the knowledge that he supports the Bill because he probably will not give me difficulty in my constituency. I, too, desire to support this Bill warmly and to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way he has introduced it and to thank him for his great interest in the Civil Service. It has been a great joy to some of us who were in the Civil Service for some years to find my right hon. 1210 Friend, holding the office of Financial Secretary, taking that great interest.
Like most of the Bills that come before the House this is a Bill which we laymen find it exceedingly difficult to read and understand. For instance the first few lines of Clause 46:Where a civil servant marries and— … (c) the Treasury are of the opinion that his death within the year beginning with the date of the marriage was, at that date, to be foreseen by him, …How it is possible for a civil servant to anticipate his death and for it to be foreseen by him, I do not understand. I suppose the lawyers have a good reason for putting it in the Bill, but we laymen are at a loss to understand such legal phraseology. Because superannuation is dealt with mainly by legislation it is necessary for us to have it in this form, and if we are to have a reform of the superannuation law affecting all the civil servants, from the highest to the lowest, then of course we must have legislation of this kind.
I was overawed, almost overwhelmed, when I first read the Bill because I am sure that some hon. Members who are not so familiar with the Civil Service as others, may feel that the Bill is overgenerous. I want to represent this Bill to the House as a human document that uncovers a good deal of personal tragedy in the Civil Service over a number of years. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to pay a compliment to the Civil Service. Such speeches are not always made from the opposite benches. Outside this House, and on the party political platform, we have heard such references to civil servants by hon. Members opposite as "spivs," "unproductive," "work-shy," "unimaginative," "hidebound," "hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats," and "let us get rid of them." On one occasion I even heard the phrase "altogether unnecessary." Those things have been said outside, and they disturb those in the Civil Service who are unable to answer back. However, this afternoon we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman a compliment which, knowing him as I do, I am sure he meant.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
May I interrupt the hon. Gentlemen? Surely he recognises that it is possible to have too much even of a very good thing?
§ Mr. Randall
Oh, yes, but sometimes we have criticism from the other side which may be much too much of a good thing, and I am bound to say that on occasions full opportunity is taken of criticising the Civil Service without giving—
§ Mr. Randall
Oh, yes. However, I will not pursue it. These things have been said, but I was glad this afternoon to hear from the right hon. Gentleman his appreciation of the value of the Civil Service.
The fact that civil servants have suffered for many years is something which was known to previous Governments. There is the Rowland Hill Fund, with files mountain high, showing the tragedy which has gone on within the ranks of the Civil Service. Then there is the Postmaster-General's Special Fund, which had to be instituted because many ex-servants of the Post Office were destitute. It is exceedingly difficult to get anything out of this fund. In fact, many ex-servants of the Post Office must undergo a means test in order to get money from it. Past Governments have known all about what has been happening in the Civil Service, but nothing has been done. It is not untrue to say that the Civil Service has suffered too long for its mock respectability and that that mock respectability has been fostered too long by previous Governments.
As I have said, in making my contribution to the Debate, I want to approach the Bill from its human aspect. There have been hundreds and thousands of cases of widows and orphans being left destitute. It has been the remaining staff who have shouldered their problem and burden. The only way in which it has been possible to relieve such situations has been either by starting a sheet or by taking up a collection, and usually the chief of the department has had to head the list. The Bill will go a long way to relieving this state of affairs which has existed for too long.
Civil servants in substantial numbers have been forced by ill-health to go into early retirement. I know of many a colleague in the Post Office who has had to retire on a pension of as low as 12s. a week. I am glad to know that those in a similar position who retire after the 1212 passing of the Bill, will have such a pension raised to £1 4s. This section of the Bill represents an advance of which the men in the Civil Service will be proud.
Very many unestablished civil servants have never had a right to a gratuity, although they have served for as long as 50 years and left the Service at the age of 70 or 75. Although these men gave a lifetime of service they had no right to any gratuity at the end. The hon. Gentleman the junior Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) cited especially the case of the postmistress. I should like to mention the auxiliary postman as an example of someone who is unestablished. This grand old English gentleman who walks around the countryside, in season and out, over mountains and bogs and in the remotest parts of the land, goes his rounds and makes his deliveries year after year, sometimes for as long as 50 years. He may not leave the service until he is 65, 70 or even 75 years of age, but when he has done so in the past there has been no right to a gratuity for him. The Bill goes a long way to make it possible for these good friends of ours now to be able to get a gratuity as a matter of course.
Many thousands of civil servants who have subsequently become established, have not been allowed to reckon their part-time service for pension purposes. These part-timers—the auxiliary postman and the assistant postman—are men similar to those of whom I have already spoken. I was myself an assistant postman. Despite the fact that I had been a boy messenger since I was aged 14, I could not receive my appointment as an established postman until I was 21. As a result, had I remained in the service until I was 60 years of age, all that I would have been entitled to count towards a pension was 40 years' established service. It would have been impossible for me to claim the full pension because for one year I had been an assistant postman.
I do not wish to stress my own case but shall quote instead that of one of my colleagues, a Mr. C. Barnes, beside whom I worked for many years at the E.C.D.O. In 1900 he was a boy messenger at Woodford. In about 1903 he became an assistant postman. He retired in 1947, having been a good postman and reliable servant, of whom people 1213 on his rounds were proud. Although he had been in the service of the Post Office from 1900 until 1947, he was retired on a pension of only 37 years' reckonability—without, therefore, a full pension. The Bill will help to remedy this kind of deficiency. Mr. Barnes, however, unfortunately has gone and will not enjoy the benefits arising from this Measure.
I hope that in Committee the Financial Secretary will be able to consider the possibility of retrospective action in cases of this kind. There are not very many men still within this category, but it would be a very great stimulus to them to feel that they could obtain this additional assistance. I am sorry that only one quarter of part-time service is to count towards pension. I hope that during the Committee stage it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to indicate that he is prepared to raise this figure to at least one half for purposes of reckonability towards pension.
I hope that anything I may say on the deficiencies of the Bill will not be regarded as criticism against it, for it is a very good Measure indeed. I mention them, however, to give the Financial Secretary an opportunity to look again at some of the grievances which have existed in the Civil Service for a very long time. If we are to have superannuation reform, if there is to be a cleaning-up through the medium of the Bill, then let us try to deal with one or two other matters of real grievance to the staff which could, I feel, be removed.
There is the issue of the length of Colour Service which may be counted. Service in His Majesty's Forces prior to enlistment should be made reckonable for pension purposes. My reason for raising this question is that some 50 per cent. of postmen, for example, are recruited from the Forces. In other words, they have a reservation. Those who are accepted for short-service engagements of three years have an opportunity of entering the service of the Post Office up to 30 years of age. If the engagement is a longer one, of from 7 to 12 years, then the age limit for entry into the postman class is raised to 45 years of age. This is an inducement to men to join the Forces when at the end of their Service they have an opportunity of coming into the Post Office service, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State 1214 for War will be interested in this as it is an opportunity for encouraging recruitment. These men can go in for short engagements and their Service with the Colours can count when they come into the Post Office service.
I would remind my right hon. Friend that there is support for this claim. In 1906 a Departmental Committee under Colonel Sir E. Ward supported the claim. The Superannuation Act, 1948, made provision for men to count their service in World War II as half service and, surely, there should be equity of treatment. These men who come into the Post Office should have an opportunity of counting their service towards pension. The merit of such a scheme is that it would act as an incentive to men to enter the Forces on a short period of engagement and would act as a spur to recruitment. At present, conditions are not such as would encourage men to come into the Post Office and take up appointments as postmen, but here is an opportunity of dealing with two problems—pressing forward with recruitment and encouraging postmen to come into the service.
Another aspect which ought to be looked at is that of counting service performed prior to establishment in the Civil Service. This is another bone of contention and a grievance to the men. Why should not unestablished service performed immediately prior to establishment be counted in full? At present, as from 1935, we have what is known as the half service rule; service as to half of unestablished is counted as established and reckonable for pension. There is a good case for unestablished service, continuing with established service, counting as full.
I wish to commend my right hon. Friend for what he has done in regard to the gratuities. The reduction of the qualifying period from 15 to seven years is excellent and. I am proud that this is being done by a Labour Government. I am also very proud that payment to these men will become a matter of course. Both these reforms were long overdue and I am glad to see them in the Bill, but the scale of payment of gratuities is too low. It is suggested in the Bill that there should be £1 or one week's pay for each year of service, and I think that quite inadequate as a reward for service. It is quite inadequate to make provision 1215 which results from the contingencies whereby retirement is necessary. Those contingencies are, death in harness, discharge through redundancy, or discharge from ill health and age. Those conditions of cessation of employment surely demand that there should be a better reward than that provided in the Bill. I hope that we shall have an opportunity of dealing with that point in Committee.
I hope also that the points I have mentioned—Colour service to count, counting of unestablished service in full, gratuities, and part-timers obtaining establishment—can be looked at more fully when we reach the Committee stage. I also hope that the Minister will apply his mind to seeing if it is possible to make some advance. I warmly welcome the Bill and am proud that it is a Labour Government which has produced another charter for the Civil Service.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I share the appreciation of hon. Members in all parts of the House of the very clear exposition of the Bill which we have had from the Financial Secretary this afternoon. It is an important Bill; it is a Bill which embodies a number of distinctively new features in Civil Service superannuation law and practice. In particular, at a later stage, I shall comment on the widows and dependants scheme, the provision for either compulsory or voluntary retirement prior to reaching normal age limit, and other main features of the Bill.
I wish to begin by saying that we have to look at this Bill in relation to the existing background of Civil Service law and practice. The assumption is that existing law and practice as modified by the contents of this Bill, will produce a satisfactory superannuation system in the public service. That is the assumption which underlies the presentation of this Bill, and, at the risk of appearing ungrateful, I propose to begin by sharply challenging that assumption. I challenge it as regards the men and women who have left the public service, and I challenge it in relation to the hundreds of thousands of people still employed in it. We do not make injustice just by adding a modicum of justice to an unjust basis. It is my first submission to the House that, both as respects the men who have 1216 gone, and the men who remain, the existing situation is an unjust one, which is not remedied by the terms of this Bill.
The position of the men and women who have completed their period of service and are receiving pensions of one sort or another is governed by the Superannuation Act, 1909, plus the two Acts passed in recent years, the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1944, and the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1947. They receive what they are entitled to under the 1909 Act, plus what was given by those subsequent Acts of Parliament. I said at the time, to both sides of this House—I said it in 1944 and repeated it in 1947—that the provisions of those two Measures were utterly inadequate to the situation. I invited both sides of the House to impel the Government into giving increases of pensions which had some relation to the increase in the cost of living. I regret to say that I received the support of neither side of the House, although, since then, numbers of Members of Parliament have come to me with cases of injustice among Civil Service pensioners and asked, "What can we do about it?" Those cases were the direct result of not compelling the Government to do the right thing in 1944 and in 1947.
Consider what we did, at a time when the cost of living was immeasurably higher than in 1939. We gave miserably inadequate increases of pension, of as little as 10 per cent., in a situation where the cost of living had risen, officially, by perhaps 70 per cent. and, unofficially, by a good deal more. We accompanied the increases which we gave by a means test. In all the years when the cost of living was coming down, and pensions were being reduced in accordance with that, no one ever suggested applying a "survival test." It was only when these miserably inadequate increases were proposed that it was suggested that even they should not be given unless the individual pensioner could pass the prescribed means test laid down in the Acts. Finally, we imported a wholly unjustified and unprecedented differentiation of treatment as between the male pensioner and the female pensioner.
All these things were said at the time. and at that stage neither side of the House was willing to do elementary justice to those retired pensioners. And what we are now doing is to accept that unjust situation except in so far as it is 1217 qualified by the terms of this Bill. Those terms provide no increase whatever for the vast mass of the pensioners; they still leave a means test applying to the increase given, and still perpetuate the differentiation of treatment as between women pensioners on the one hand and men pensioners on the other. That is the existing basis in regard to the pensioners.
What about the civil servants who still remain, and who will one day become pensioners? In connection with the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1947—not the Pensions (Increase) Act but the last Civil Service Superannuation Act with which we dealt in this Parliament—I pointed out that the grievance in relation to unestablished service was not removed by the terms of that Act. It enabled half unestablished service to count, and to that extent it was an improvement on the earlier practice, under which no earlier unestablished service counted.
I invite the House to consider the kind of thing that actually exists. My Civil Service colleagues on the Government side of the House will bear me out in what I am about to say. The hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Randall) was perfectly right in saying that until 1947 it was perfectly possible for a man to enter the public service of this country in one capacity or another, to spend 20 years or more in an unestablished capacity before becoming established, and then to find that, when he retired at the end of his career, none of that unestablished service counted for pension. He was only pensioned on the basis of what was called his established service.
For 40 years I have held, and have passionately proclaimed, that that differentiation between unestablished and established service was complete and utter humbug. If I employ a servant from the age of 20 to the age of 60, and the time comes for her to go into retirement, there is an obligation on me to do something about her maintenance in her old age. I do not escape that obligation by saying, "It is perfectly true you have been with me 40 years, but for 20 of those years you were unestablished. Therefore, I have no obligation to you in respect of those 20 years, but only in relation to the 20 years to which I have attached an adjective and called 1218 'established.' "Although the 1947 Act did for the first time, enable half the unestablished service to count—in some but not all circumstances—it is still the case that a substantial proportion of the service of large numbers of public servants continues to be disregarded when the time comes to assess the amount of their pension. That, I still affirm, is wrong, and we ought to put it right. This Bill provides an opportunity to do so.
There is another injustice, which is quite small by comparison with the two big issues I have so far mentioned, but which is extremely important to the individuals who are affected by it. It relates to service in the First World War. When that war came, candidates were being drawn from various examinations, and appointed to posts in the public service. If, after their appointment, they then volunteered for the Armed Forces, or if they were called up from 1916 onwards under the Conscription Acts, their service while with the Colours counted towards Civil Service superannuation. No dispute or complaint arises in relation to them. But there were other men who had passed their Civil Service examination at the time war came, but had not yet been appointed to posts in the public service. Many of them did not wait for the war to come. They became Territorials, with the result that on the first day of the war they were summoned to the Colours, and spent four or five years, as the case might be, with the Armed Forces. None of their period of service with the Armed Forces has been allowed to count on the technicality that they had not been appointed to a Civil Service post.
The reason they were not so appointed was because they were already in the Army, having joined the volunteers, and having been mobilised. These men have been deprived, on that technicality, of the opportunity of counting for pension the three, four or five years, or whatever the period was, which they spent in the Armed Forces. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe said, it would be an inducement to people to go into the Army if Colour service were in future allowed to count—and I agree with what he said on that point—I affirm that the denial of the opportunity to count those years of service in the case of the men I have mentioned is a positive deterrent to anyone contemplating joining the Armed Forces. I ask the Financial Secretary to 1219 see that that is put right when we reach the Committee stage.
I turn from what the Bill ought to have contained, but does not—and that phrase describes comprehensively what I have had to say up to now, that it ought to have included all sorts of things to put the situation right, but does not include them—to what it does. Perhaps from this point onwards I can assume a slightly less minatory note. I welcome the provision for pensions for widows and orphans which this Bill makes. Up to now, with the single exception of the recent provision which the Financial Secretary mentioned, whereby a man could allocate part of his pension, but in circumstances in which only about 7,000 have done so, the dependants of the civil servants who have died in harness have received nothing but a lump sum amounting in round figures to about a year's salary. The wife and family were thereafter left completely unaided so far as the Civil Service was concerned, although they might be aided by the social services. If a man retired on pension, and then died, his pension died with him, and his wife and family were left completely unprovided for.
I know, as does every Civil Service colleague in the House, that this absence of pensions for widowers, widows and children, has been the occasion of many a tragedy, and not only in the lower grades. Without mentioning names, I will refer to a case which came to my notice a little while ago. There is still living in England today the widow of a Permanent Secretary of one of our great Departments, who died some years ago. He died in circumstances in which nothing came to the wife, apart from the ordinary one year's pay by way of gratuity. That good lady has been kept going, for many years past, on the kindness of one of those newspaper proprietors who are so frequently abused in this House. It is not right that the widow of a distinguished public servant should be dependent for continued existence upon charity, however well intentioned it may be.
I welcome this Bill as beginning the first of the provisions for pensions for the widows and children of civil servants who die. But could we not give the option to come into this scheme—after all, it 1220 is a contributory scheme—to people who have gone from the Service? The Financial Secretary said that it was impossible. I ventured to interrupt him and say that it might be impossible, but why? We have not had an answer to that question, and I assert that it is perfectly possible. Government Departments know the whereabouts of every retired public servant who is drawing a pension from the public funds. They must know that in order to be able to pay the pension. It would be perfectly possible to send a circular letter to those men, whether they retired before 1945 or after, and say to them, "This scheme has been adopted and we are now giving you the option to come into it, so far as the provision for wives and dependants is concerned, if you want to."
§ Mr. Brown
Is that any reason why we should deny the opportunity of coming in to those who either have, or can somehow find, the money? I think the least that we can do is to give that option to the people who have got the money.
I welcome the provision for retirement at an age earlier than the normal retiring age of 60. But I am one of those of whom the right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway spoke when he said he doubted whether 50 was the right age. For about 40 years I have been preoccupied with the problem of the square pegs in round holes in the public service. However justified that preoccupation was in regard to the old civil servants, when it was very largely a simple administrative machine, it is doubly important with every extension that is made in the functions of the State. In the public service of today, with nationalised industries, and with more industries scheduled for nationalisation as time goes on, it is vitally important to get square pegs out of round holes in the interests of the whole community.
In the past it has been practically impossible to do that with the public service. It could not be done, because any civil servant, who voluntarily retired, forfeited the whole of his pension rights, however long he had been in the Service. What used to happen—and still happens—was that by the time a man had found 1221 that he had no vocation in the Civil Service, his acquired pension rights were too considerable for him to risk throwing them away by voluntary retirement. Any number of people who have no real vocation for the work have stayed on, functioning at perhaps a 60 per cent. level of efficiency, who would be very much better out of the way and their places occupied by someone with a real interest in the job.
We have positively discouraged the voluntary retirement of square pegs, and we have made it impossible to get rid of them by sacking them. If a civil servant develops the amiable habit of batting his superior over the head, or is dishonest in dealing with public money, of course he can be sacked. And on occasions of that kind sacking takes place. But short of that, it is practically impossible to sack a civil servant. No head of a Department throws a man out on the street, knowing that dismissal will involve the total loss of pension rights, unless the offence is very grave indeed. The result is not only a deterrent to voluntary retirement, but it is extremely difficult for Departments to get rid of people, even though they are functioning at considerably less than 100 per cent. efficiency.
I have held, and still hold, that the solution to that problem is to allow anybody to go, at any time, with the proportion of the pension that he has earned to that date. That simple rule would result in more voluntary retirements than any other step which I can think of. It would make the practice possible of retiring people compulsorily, in order to improve the efficiency of the Service, and possible for the first time in the history of the public service. I have advocated that for 40 years past. This Bill does not do it, but it does begin to introduce the principle, at any rate during the last 10 years of a man's official life. It says that after he has reached 50 the Department can sack him, if it is in the interests of efficiency, giving him his appropriate proportion of accrued pension rights.
It says also that a man can go voluntarily. But if he does he will not actually start to draw his pension until he reaches the age of 60; although there is a Clause here, as the Financial Secretary said, which excepts cases where hardship would demand that something 1222 should be done. Does not the Financial Secretary see that if the pension cannot actually be drawn for 10 years after the man retires that will act as another deterrent to his going? It means for all practical purposes that he cannot go unless he has some resources to carry him over the period between the date when he goes and the date when he reaches the age of 60.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The hon. Member should remember that we do not want people to come in and go out of the Civil Service after a few years. We do want them to stop, providing they are efficient. We do not want to make it easy for them to say, "I am fed up, I want to get out; after all, I shall get all the pension that there is."
§ Mr. Brown
No, we do not want that altogether, but the right hon. Gentleman himself is proposing in this Bill to take powers to dismiss them after the age of 50. I am suggesting that there are two wings to the problem. One is the wing of voluntary retirement, and the other is the wing of compulsory retirement, and both should be invoked. Any man who wishes to go from the public service after he has done 30 years ought not to be kept in. From a business point of view it is folly to keep an unwilling man after he has done 30 years. If we provide that he is not to have any pension until 10 years afterwards, we inhibit—
§ Mr. Assheton
May I ask the hon. Member after how many years would he bring this into operation? Would it be right that a man should leave after he had been 10 years in the Civil Service and had all his training and so on?
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Does it apply to the ordinary worker? Is the hon. Member referring to the ordinary worker?
§ Mr. Brown
If I did, I should be completely out of Order. It does so happen that we are discussing a Bill dealing with public servants, and I cannot refer to anybody other than public servants without breaking the rules of Order. With regard to the question by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton), I think that there is no fundamental solution for this except allowing a person to go at any time. If a man is retained in any job against his will, 1223 he does not give good service. I should be very much happier if the figure of 40 were substituted for the figure of 50. I hope that when we get to the Committee stage it will be possible to alter the Bill in that sense.
I welcome the provision that officers who retired on health grounds with not less than 10 years' service will be treated, for the purpose of computing their pension, as if they had put in 20 years. This is a distinct improvement in the present situation, and it is very welcome. Must we limit that provision, however, to people who come into the service in the future? Can we not find out the people who have already gone? This provision is an admission that to calculate the pension only on the basis of 10 years' service results in an utterly inadequate pension. Otherwise we should be proposing to increase it. Can we not find out the people who have already gone out on these inadequate retiring allowances, and give them the benefit of the Clause? I hope that, when we come to the Committee stage, we shall be able to agree to find these men and give them the benefit. There is nothing physically impossible about doing so.
There is another category of people whose position is left unremedied by the Bill. When the war came we were short of civil servants, while the volume of work expanded with terrific rapidity. In order to get through that emergency, the Government encouraged civil servants to stay beyond the normal retiring age of 60 or 65, if they were fit. It also invited men who had retired on pension, and were still capable of rendering a contribution, to come back and work in Whitehall. A substantial number of pensioners responded to what they conceived to be the need of the country, and they came back, although they were under no obligation to do so.
When they came back we treated them shamefully because of an old Act of Parliament, passed in 1834, which laid it down that when a Civil Service or State pensioner came back from retirement to do a Government job the amount of his pension must be deducted from the rate of pay he received for the work that he did. I understand that the same principle was applied to the teachers. All injustices are tried out on the Civil 1224 Service, and then are extended to the civil-service-once-removed.
I was not knocking around in 1834. And it may be that Clause 20 of that Act was designed to stop a racket. It may be that, in the somewhat disordered condition of the public service of that day, somebody had hit on the bright idea of drawing pension and pay in perpetuity, and that a Section in an Act of Parliament was necessary to prevent it. I do not know. All that I know is that it was inappropriate to invoke that 110-year-old Act of Parliament to prevent the retired pensioner who came back at the request of the Government from receiving the rate for the job in addition to the pension which he had already earned. I would like to see a Clause in the Bill to repeal Section 20 of the Act of 1834, so far as those men are concerned.
All the points I have mentioned seem to be rather more than Committee points, and to be points of substance. But there is a final point to which I would draw the attention of the House. Taking the Civil Service as a whole, the main avenue of recruitment up till now has been by competitive examination at the school-leaving ages. If we wanted clerks, we took the secondary school-leaving age. If we wanted executive officers, we took the intermediate school-leaving age. If we wanted first division men, administrative class officers, we took the university-leaving age. That has been a suitable method in relation to the Civil Service in the past. It meant that almost everybody coming into the Civil Service would be able to put in about 40 years' service.
But the character of the public service is changing with sharp rapidity under our very eyes. More and more jobs are now having to be created in the public service which cannot be filled by boys or girls at the school-leaving age. There are jobs requiring prior and anterior scientific education, or long business experience. The more industries we nationalise, the more necessary will it be to recruit people at well above the ordinary school-leaving age. If we are to get them in—and we must have them—we ought to make some provision to ensure that when they reach the age of 60 they do not go out on an inadequate pension because they have come into the public service only at a 1225 fairly late stage in life. We must develop the instrument of giving "added years" to ensure that such men go out with a pension which is not completely inadequate.
There are other points which I should like to raise but which seem more appropriate to the Committee stage. Therefore I will stop. I will only say that so far as the Bill goes, its provisions commend themselves to me. To suppose that the Bill puts the superannuation problems of the Civil Service upon a just or upon a final basis would be a complete illusion. I hope very much that the Bill will not merely be amended in detail in Committee, but that it will be sharply amended in its whole conception and in substance, before we leave it, under the impression that we have done the right thing in regard to superannuation in the public service.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow, East)
I do not propose to go into all the details of the points that have been raised by hon. Members who have preceded me. I was glad to hear the Financial Secretary say that a large measure of agreement in regard to the Bill had been reached upon the National Whitley Council, a body which is well qualified to deal with these matters. I think it was recognised at a meeting of that council that the staff side were not completely satisfied and that there were omissions, as the Financial Secretary has pointed out. There was however an agreement that staff were free to take action to raise the matters in the House. I do not think that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) represents the position if he says that this was the final conception and that the Government representatives had urged that nothing more could be said.
I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend indicate that many points would be examined in Committee. I was gratified to hear from the Front Bench opposite an indication to the same effect. The hon. Member for Rugby also intimated that he expects much examination of the Bill in Committee. I hope that many points will be there fully examined. I agree, and I am sure that other hon. Members will agree, with the hon. Member for Rugby that we do not like to draw a line 1226 and see some people left out in the cold. I met an old colleague today who is celebrating his 85th birthday. Do we go back 20 years, 30 years or 40 years? There is something to be said for the suggested review of the position of those who have left the service.
The hon. Member for Rugby referred to re-employed pensioners, and he rightly pointed out that although they came back in the wartime to help the Service, if their pension plus their earnings exceeded their pre-retirement earnings the pension was reduced. I never could see the justice of that arrangement, because the men have done 20, 30 or 40 years' service and it seems to me that they are entitled to keep their pension in full. There should be a review so that service given during the war could count for pension. It has been suggested, and hon. Members may think, that every civil servant comes into the service at about 20 years of age and then works until he is 60 when he retires on half pay—with 40/80ths of his pay as a pension. In the branch of the service with which I am familiar, the pension on the average is based probably upon 20 years' and not 40 years' service. Half of the men have served with the Colours, giving the best years of their lives to the country. If that service could be recognised, it would be a great help to those men. I hope, therefore, that the examination in Committee will be thorough, and that it will be possible to make this Bill more comprehensive.
I shall not dwell upon the question of widows' pensions. I have no doubt there are many pensioners who will be glad of the opportunity to come within the scope of this scheme. There are, however, tens of thousands who simply will not have the money necessary to enable them to come within the scheme. Just as the hon. Member for Rugby referred to those who have a grievance under the Pensions Increases Act, something more will eventually have to be done in respect of the present scheme. Perhaps something could be done for those men who are on very low pensions through having given the best years of their lives serving with the Colours.
I should like to say a few words about the counting of Colour service. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the Superannuation Act, 1834. I believe that that is the Act which says that the 1227 effect of one period of time cannot count for two pensions. If, therefore, a man serves with the Colours for nine or 12 years, he receives no Service pension for that period. In time of war he is called to the Colours; he serves and then returns to civil life. That further service may have made him eligible for pension, but the Act says that one period of time cannot count for two pensions, and the man must make up his mind whether he will have a military pension or a civil pension; if he decides on the latter he will have to sacrifice his military pension. Why cannot the Minister give that man the option of combining his Colour service and his civil service so that he may have an adequate pension when he retires? That would seem to me to be fair.
It is not proper for me now to discuss the question of recruitment to the Services, but I ask the Government to think more carefully about short-term service with the Colours. Those responsible for employment in civil life ought to have a real regard for the interests of the men who have served with the Colours, instead of ignoring them, allowing them to become nobody's responsibility and, indeed, being inclined to look down upon these men who in their youth have served with the Colours. I think that to a large extent that attitude has now disappeared, but still the Government ought to do something in that respect. When men serve a short period of service with the Colours and return to civil life, their service with the Colours should not be ignored. Surely, there can be an allocation of the cost as between the War Office and the civil side. That is a very old grievance, and I hope the Government will consider it, if only from the point of view of helping recruitment. As they know, there is difficulty in recruiting postmen; it would help if recognition were given to service with the Colours.
Will the Financial Secretary tell us whether "pension" includes "gratuity"? Under the 1859 Act a pension is based upon one-sixtieth of a man's pay multiplied by his years of service. Under the later Act of 1909, it is one-eightieth. The difference between one-sixtieth and one-eightieth provides a gratuity on retirement, on the assumtion that a man might live 12 years after he retires. Is. The 1228 gratuity not pension? That is very important. I understand that a man cannot have a gratuity if he retires voluntarily, say at the age of 50. If a man had an opportunity to join his sons or daughters in Canada, Australia or New Zealand, a gratuity would help. Therefore, that provision ought to be reconsidered.
I am inclined to take the view that a gratuity is part of a pension. A gratuity is described as "an additional allowance," but I understand that an additional allowance will not be granted in the case of voluntary retirement, although it will be in the case of medical disqualification. Why not let us sweep aside that restriction and have a rational system? I do not take the view that every man and woman in the Civil Service wants to leave at the age of 30, 40 or 50, but there is a case for optional retirement. Let us make retirement optional from a given age, say 50 or 55, and when a man decides to leave let him go with his pension and gratuity.
I shall not dwell upon war service; I think the hon. Member for Rugby made the point quite clear. I do not see why service during the 1939–45 war should be allowed to count to some extent, while service in the 1914–18 war is not allowed to count. There are many complications concerning men who, because they were serving with the Colours, could not take part in examinations at home and compete for appointments. In that respect, too, there is great need for careful consideration in Committee.
I pay my sincere tribute to the Financial Secretary and to the Government for their recognition of part-time service as something which can be reckoned for pension purposes. The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant), when he was Assistant Postmaster-General, opened the door for these men to progress to establishment. The former Member for Woolwich, the late Sir Kingsley Wood, when he was Postmaster-General, opened that door wider. Those two men rendered great service to the Post Office, to the public and to these men who had been under-employed for 20, 30, and even 40 years. I do not think that the recognition of the service as to one-quarter is adequate. The great majority of these men work for 24 hours and more weekly. As was suggested, 1229 there is a case for changing the one-quarter to one-half, but I prefer to put it in this way: these men can work for 12 hours, in some instances, and some up to 36 hours a week. It does not seem just to say to a man who is giving 36 hours that he can count only one-quarter and to a man who is giving 18 hours that he can count one-quarter. Equity demands something better.
These part-time officers whom I have in mind, the auxiliary postmen, were the trained and regular reserve of the Post Office. After notice of a given period they could be required to perform a full-time duty. Year after year many of these men performed full-time duties for short or long periods. If that full-time service were aggregated they would have a very good case for more favourable treatment. In justice and equity that ought to be done. I say that because the hours of attendance of these men can be changed under certain conditions at the will of the Post Office, and the men might lose private employment for which they would get no compensation. That position should be examined. I hope that in Committee we shall see some real improvement achieved.
On the question of these part-time officers described as assistant postmen, this is really scandalous treatment of whole-time officers. Under the Superannuation Acts the phrase used is not "full-time" but "whole-time." These men described as assistant postmen, to give the impression that they only assist. Their service was whole time but they could also be employed for full time for four, six, or nine months of the year, but that service is not permitted to count for pension. During the term of service as an assistant postman a man may be performing considerable full-time duties. From time to time down the years this matter has been discussed. I may be correct in saying that the administrative officers of the Post Office were in agreement with the views expressed on behalf of the staff, though I do not know. The Post Office have told us, "We have no records and therefore we cannot recognise the full-time service of some of these men." The men concerned have the records but their records were not accepted. One can imagine the feeling of a man who has served with the Colours and given the best years of his youth 1230 who returns and goes through the fictional grade of assistant postman, which is a whole-time post, and then finds that in virtue of that he loses pensionable service. That last time we discussed this matter with the administration they would not accept one case because they had not got the records though the men had.
I consider that the Government are making a great mistake in not recognising the claim for added years of service when they recruit men with professional qualifications. The Government must make the service attractive. If it were in Order for me to discuss the Chorley Report, I could make out a very strong case for added years, but I leave it that if we are to get the best type of men the Government must give recognition in the form of added years, especially when they need men with high qualifications in the interests of the service and in the interest of the public. The Government should be prepared if not to count one year as the equivalent of two, at least to give some weight to the time these men have spent in gaining their qualifications and proving their worth to such an extent that the Civil Service is anxious to recruit them.
About gratuities. These are paid under Section 4 of the Act of 1887. I am a strong supporter of the Government. I have great admiration for them, but I wish to goodness that they would give up the 1887 Act and replace it with something a little more modern. That Act talks of £1 or one week's pay. I have no doubt that when the Act was passed £1 was probably higher than a week's pay. My knowledge of Post Office history tells me at that period £1 would be—I almost used an adjective—nearly two weeks' pay. Today £1 means six packets of cigarettes. Why should we maintain this provision? It really is ridiculous. I should like to see it wiped off the slate. The time has come when the Government ought to be prepared to pay one month's pay for each year's service, or one-tenth. I am certain that we can find a basis of agreement. This is a hurtful grievance, and I hope that in Committee we shall be able to do something about it.
I welcome the Bill. It is another instalment of what this Government is doing to recognise the worth of the Civil Service, and to reach down, not to the man with £2,000 or £3,000, but to the man 1231 whose earnings are only 30s. or 40s. a week. It is true that, when we look at some of the figures here, the pensions are very small, and, of course, they very often reflect upon the lower wages. For example, I am not so optimistic about the number of men coming within this scheme. We have these long incremental scales still in the service. When a man marries and has years to go before he reaches the next one, I cannot see him being able to make any contribution. He has to make his decision between serving the period before coming on to the establishment or getting married, and my friend was in some difficulty about it. It is what I might call the breach of promise period, and it is possible that many an engagement may not lead to marriage. For the young people in the service, unlike those in outside industry, who receive their maximum when qualified, there is going to be some hardship, and I am not at all sure that they will be able to take advantage of these conditions. I would rather see an improvement take place not so much there as in cutting down these long incremental scales, which are out of date and are only a provocation to the young men and women of today.
Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill and the improvements suggested in it, though I hope that in Committee we shall have a thorough examination in detail which will make this Measure more comprehensive. I hope that the Government will also be able to make some concessions in getting rid of some of these old grievances, the miserable gratuity, the old assistant postman and the auxiliary question, and that they may wipe them out, and, by doing so, stimulate a greater interest in the service. I know that tens of thousands of men and women in the services will be very grateful if the Government on this occasion will bring to an end some of these old grievances which still hurt.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I should like to say that I welcome this Bill. I served for 27 years in the public service and retired without any pension at all. That was the rule in my day—40 years' service and nothing at all. Therefore, I sympathise very strongly with any action 1232 of the Government which enables people leaving the service to have some mark of appreciation of the work they have done by way of a pension.
I gather that this Bill is welcomed by the Civil Service, and I hope very much that it will become an Act of Parliament, but I feel that the question of war service that has been raised this afternoon is one that should most certainly be considered in Committee. It is only fair and reasonable that civil servants who have war service, whether in the years 1914–18 or during the last war, should receive full pensions for such service. It seems to me unfair that men who sacrificed their careers, as they certainly did in 1914 when they joined the Armed Forces—because I understand that recruitment for the Civil Service went on for some time after the war began—and who, but for their war services, would most certainly have been in the Civil Service considerably earlier, should be penalised as they would be under the Bill as it now stands.