HC Deb 09 March 1949 vol 462 cc1233-56

Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

5.55 p.m.

Sir C. Headlam

I had almost completed what I had to say when the interruption took place. I only want to emphasise as strongly as I can the hope that a recognition of war service will be given by the Government in this Bill and that an Amendment to that effect will be produced in Committee.

5.56 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)

I have listened with very great interest to the informed speeches given to the House this afternoon by hon. Members who themselves have been members of the Civil Service. It is not unfitting, I believe, that the voice of somebody who has not been in the Civil Service should be heard in a Debate of this character. I join in the tribute which my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) so rightly paid to the members of the Civil Service. We are a fortunate country to have people who give us such service. It is obvious that when the State employs a great body of people many difficulties are bound to crop up from time to time. But the Civil Service has long-standing grievances, one of which was referred to by the right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam).

I wish to refer to the right which is now being given to civil servants—a pension for their dependants, for their widows, or for orphans. A man has no greater anxiety when nearing the end of his active service in a profession than the knowledge that if anything happens to him, his widow or his children will be unprovided for. It is elementary justice that provision should now be made for a contributory scheme which will protect these people.

I am interested because the teaching profession suffers from exactly the same defect at the present time. It is possible for a teacher, when reaching the end of his service, to decide to allocate a part of his pension for his widow, but only for his widow. That makes a serious incursion into the pension to which he has contributed, and it is in no small contribution. It means a life of hardship for the man and his wife, and it is a gamble as to which of them will die first. I wish to assure my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench that now that justice is being done in this regard for the civil servant, they may be sure that the teaching profession will be looking for a similar recognition for their members also.

I have received a number of letters from my constituents, for the City of Cardiff is now a great centre where civil servants are employed on a large scale. It has become the Whitehall of the provinces, and a tremendous number of these people are classified as unestablished. Like the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), I can never understand the reasoning by which a person is rated as unestablished after 20 years' service. On Friday last I had a meeting in my constituency at which a man stood up and told me that he had served for 25 years and yet was not recognised as being an officially established civil servant. I cannot conceive what logic lies behind it. Undoubtedly there is some lawyer's reason somewhere for this remarkable definition on the part of the Government.

I am glad of the improvements which I know have taken place as a result of the work of my hon. Friends who represent civil servants and of the Government's interest in this regard. It would, however, be a fine gesture on the part of the Government if they could meet the request which has been made so eloquently by my hon. Friends and, indeed, by hon. Members from the other side of the House, for service in the 1914–18 war to be recognised. I understand that at the beginning of the 1914–18 war recruitment for the Civil Service was not stopped, and that those who had already passed the open examination but who were unable to take up their appointments in the Civil Service because they were in the Colours are unable to count their time, while those who were not recruited because they were unfit for service are allowed to count their time. This is an obvious anomaly which cannot affect a very large number of people. It is only sound common sense and clear justice that the Government should, in the Committee stage, meet my hon. Friends on this point.

I have received correspondence today about the gratuity which it is suggested shall be paid to people with short service. My correspondence has been of a varied character, as it usually is, but in this case there are people who express a warm appreciation of the reduction of the period from 15 years to seven years, while there are others who have written to suggest that the amount is still pitifully small and unworthy of the service which these people will have rendered. This also might be regarded as a Committee point which we need not develop fully this afternoon, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the need for giving those people who serve in the unestablished category a sense that they have had a square deal. At present there is a real sense of frustration and of grievance. This Bill will go far towards wiping it out, but by a little more generosity in the Committee stage I believe my right hon. Friend can crown this Act with even greater glory than it possesses at the present time.

6.4 p.m.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I think every speaker in this Debate so far, with the exception of the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), has either been a civil servant or has served at the Treasury. It may, perhaps, be wondered why an ex-Regular soldier should dare to take part in a Debate which is so very specialised, but I do so for three main reasons. I do so, first, because I believe it is very important that we should realise that service to the State is not only done in the form of the Civil Service but is also done in a military way, and I also believe that the differentiation which has existed over such things as we are discussing today has led to many of the complaints which have been aired in this Debate.

I refer, in particular, to Colour service. I have long had a great admiration for the state of affairs which has existed for many years in France where anyone who serves the State, whether militarily or in a civil capacity, is looked upon as a servant of the State with equal status, and if his services are no longer required in one branch he is transferred to another. I believe we have something to learn in this matter, and that grievances of this kind, which have existed over many years, that in regard to Colour service in particular, would have been obviated had we decided to try to adopt the French system.

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman feels that this is a question which could possibly be considered in connection with this Bill, but I do believe that this differentiation is giving rise to a great deal of the unhappiness which has been aired in this Debate. When hon. Members opposite charge this side, as the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Randall) has charged us, with making derogatory remarks suggesting that there were too many civil servants, I feel the natural comeback to that should be that hon. Members opposite are inclined to criticise Governments for having too many soldiers. After that, I think we might call it quits for today.

So far as we are concerned, we want to make service to the State as good a service as it can possibly be. There is a lesson which I do not think even the Minister of Defence, nor the Secretary of State for War have yet learned, though I learned it while I was in the Army. It is a lesson which I hope the Financial Secretary will bear in mind throughout the Debates which will take place on this Bill. It is that if you want to make anything work well it is of cardinal importance that you should first of all get the cadre or whatever it may me, the organisation at the head, satisfied in their work. The last time some of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office they instituted a Royal Commission on the Civil Service. It was known as the Tomlin Commission and in its Report there were various recommendations. In the light of some of the things which have been said in today's Debate I thought it might be of interest if I read some of those recommendations, in particular those which concern a superannuation scheme on a contributory basis. I notice that the Commission said: We have considered whether it would be desirable that the existing 236,000 established civil servants should be brought within the new system. The Report went on: We think that it would be undesirable to attempt to enforce so large a change in conditions of service. I think the hon. Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) was a Member of that Commission, which perhaps explains her absence from today's Debate. Now that the right hon. Gentleman has decided to go a good deal further than that Royal Commission proposed, she cannot approve the Bill.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)

Would the hon. and gallant Member like to tell the House what he is seeking to prove from the quotation which he is reading, because it is not clear to me.

Major Legge-Bourke

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I am quoting from the Royal Commission under Lord Tomlin, which reported in 1931. The reference is Command Number 3909 of 1931. Continuing on the point I was making, the Commission thought it was undesirable to attempt to enforce so large a change in conditions. They went on: If the contributory schemes recommended are adopted, persons pensionable thereunder and paying contributions will be serving alongside of persons pensionable under the existing system, and the net remuneration of the former will be less than that of the latter. This disadvantage is unavoidable, but we do not regard it as an objection of much substance. Changes of this kind are frequently made in outside superannuation schemes, and it is understood that in practice no difficulty results. I hope we shall have overcome those difficulties in this Bill by the time of its Third Reading. Like hon. Members opposite we shall deal with it in Committee to the smallest detail.

This Report deals with Colour service in paragraph 687, to which I would refer the right hon. Gentleman. If hon. Members opposite blame past Governments for not having done something about it they will find one of the reasons for that in that Report. I think it is scandalous that something has not been done about it before. I have suggested a way in which the difficulty may be overcome. If we look upon all service for the State as one, whether it is military or civil service, and if we have a pension scheme for one part similar to that of the other parts we may put this business on a sensible basis and wash out many of these complaints.

I want to ask one or two questions about the Bill. I have a question arising out of the Report of the Committee on Higher Civil Service Remuneration, Command Paper 7635. The committee stated in paragraph 41 of their report: Another problem is raised by the fact that certain classes of civil servants (e.g., doctors and lawyers) do not as a rule enter the Service until they have had some postgraduate experience in other fields, and thus do not serve for long enough to qualify for maximum pension. Special arrangements have been made in exceptional cases, under Section 2 of the Superannuation Act, 1946, to credit late entrants with 'added years' for superannuation purposes; we think those arrangements ought to be extended more widely. I am not clear whether this Bill extends those arrangements more widely. If it does not, why does it not? The postgraduate experience for a particular branch of the Civil Service may take a long time to acquire. It is most important that those people who obtain it should not be victimised because they choose to go into such a branch. I concede, of course, that they know beforehand what the conditions will be, but I do not see why they should not benefit as much as the others.

I welcome in particular Clause 2 and Clause 34. I believe it is most important to ensure that we do not induce people to stay in the Service simply to qualify for superannuation. I believe that the arrangements under this Bill will avoid that. I am not quite happy about the age of 50. I am not quite certain why that particular age has been chosen. Nor, indeed am I sure why some of the other ages or periods of service have been fixed—as, for example, in Clause 8—of 40 years, 60 years, and 45 years. We shall obviously have to go into those questions in Committee. It seems to me that these figures have been fixed rather arbitrarily without any sort of principle to guide their selection, and I should welcome more information on that subject.

I am also interested in Clause 35, because it links—and there are other Clauses which do this, I think—the number of years' service with rights which, I believe, ought to depend upon the amount of contributions that have been put in. I am not clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said whether this scheme is to be worked out on an actuarial basis or upon the basis of the term of service. I should have thought it ought to have been actuarial.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It is both.

Major Legge-Bourke

I am grateful for the interruption. If it is both, I think it is very important to ensure that the individual concerned is not made to contribute an amount which he will never receive back in the event of his leaving the Service for some reason or another.

The right hon. Gentleman has brought me now to my second reason for speaking in this Debate. I followed the National Insurance Act in its course through the House, and I am extremely interested in it. I believe that there are discrepancies between the principles of that Act and the principles of this Bill. Those discrepancies are almost inexplicable. Under the National Insurance Act we have an Exchequer contribution from taxation, in just the same way as in this Bill, and also contributions by the individual. Over and over again, when I tried to move Amendments to the National Insurance Bill, I was told that that Bill was worked out actuarially. I think we have to examine these discrepancies in detail.

This brings me to the third reason why I am speaking in this Debate. I think we ought to examine those discrepancies in detail because I am most anxious that we should not do anything which is unfair to the ordinary run of individuals in the country simply in order to benefit members of the Civil Service. I believe, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that our Civil Service is a very good one. I think the Government are taxing it to the extreme at the moment, and that it is most important that they should do something to keep it happy. This is not the only way in which they ought to improve conditions, but this Bill is a step in the right direction. At the same time, I do not want it to be felt that civil servants are unduly favoured by the Bill. That was felt by a writer to "The Times" on 22nd February, who said that there were reasons for supposing civil servants were unduly favoured by the Bill. He wrote: In comparing the standing and remuneration of a senior civil servant with that of a Minister of the Crown or a professional or business man, it is the fact that the civil servant is entitled to a generous pension that makes his position immeasurably superior to that of a man whose gross income may be rather more than his own but who has no pension. Unless the professional or business man had acquired capital before the war it would not be possible for him to save an adequate sum for retirement under the present burden of taxation. There is not the slightest prospect that he will be able to save enough to retire approaching the pension of a senior civil servant who does not even have to con- tribute to his pension. The fact is that venal taxation has increased the value of pensioned jobs beyond all comparison. I think there are other people besides the writer of that letter who feel that way, and that is why I am so very anxious to ensure that the measures we adopt to meet many of the justified complaints by civil servants are not unfair to the rest of the community. I believe that if the right hon. Gentleman has a word with the Minister of National Insurance he will find that rules regarding what is considered part-time service and what is considered as part-time employment, compared with the present rules at pensionable age under the National Insurance scheme, show a great difference in principle—a difference which, in my opinion, is quite unjustified.

There is one provision in this Bill that I want to criticise very strongly, because I believe it to be utterly wrong. Why, under Clause 3, may a widow not remarry without fear of losing her pension? I know it is the theory that people should not receive a pension from two sources at once, but I believe that a civil servant would turn in his grave if he knew that his widow was not to get her pension, to which he had contributed, just because she married somebody else—in order, perhaps, thus to find for her children a stepfather to help her bring them up. That seems monstrously unfair. I have always objected to it, whenever I have found widows' second marriages penalised like this. I think it is very often extremely cruel and cruel not only to the principal individuals concerned, but to their dependants as well.

I hope I have made clear to the right hon. Gentleman the three reasons why I am interested in this Bill. I believe most strongly that he must try to unify the State service sooner or later. Secondly, I believe he must ensure that the principles of the National Insurance scheme are brought into this scheme as well; and thirdly, I believe that he must ensure that nothing is done unfairly to the ordinary common run of individuals in this country simply in order to meet the Civil Service needs. I believe that those needs are very real needs and I join with other hon. Members in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on introducing this Bill. I believe that it goes some of the way which must be gone sooner or later. I am glad that the Bill is doing at least some of the things which ought to have been done before, and I hope that when it comes back to this House at the end of the Committee stage we shall have improved it considerably and made it a Bill which will impress the country as a whole as being absolutely fair. At the present moment I think it tends to be unfair, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would deplore that just as much as we deplore it.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton)

I have only one point which I wish to make. I welcome the Bill very warmly, and I hope that it will have an easy and rapid passage through all its stages to the Statute Book. The great defect in pension schemes for all types of public servants in the past has been the lack of provision for widows and orphans, because the lump sum given in most of these schemes, unless the recipient occupied a very high-salaried post in the public service, was not sufficient to prevent anxiety so far as the widows and orphans are concerned. I, therefore, welcome the Bill, but I hope that steps will be taken to extend this Measure towards a wider range of public servants than the civil servants. I do not see why teachers and local government officials should not be included in a Bill of this kind.

It would seem more logical to have a Bill of this kind for the teaching profession than for civil servants, because the superannuation scheme in the teaching profession is a contributory scheme, whereas the superannuation scheme in the Civil Service is a non-contributory scheme. It is now proposed to graft a contributory scheme on to the non-contributory scheme of the Civil Service, whereas the provisions of this Bill could be applied to the teaching profession merely by extending the present rate of contribution. I am sorry that the Minister of Education has not been able to introduce a similar Bill to that which my right hon. Friend has introduced today with such clarity and persuasiveness. It is the business of the shepherd to look after his flock, and the Minister of Education, in this instance, seems rather to have neglected his flock.

I hope that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will have a kindly word with the Minister of Education and encourage him to engage in a little friendly rivalry in well doing in this matter, so that we may have the provisions of this very useful Bill applied to the teaching profession. I am certain that the teaching profession would welcome the application of this Measure to their superannuation scheme.

6.25 p.m.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

I join with other hon. Members on both sides of the House in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the introduction of this Bill. I am particularly glad that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) is present, because I should like to pay him a compliment for his advocacy of the interests of civil servants over a long period of years. I had the honour to be on the official side of the National Whitley Council for eight years, and opposite to me was the hon. Member for Rugby. I had never heard a more ardent, successful and convincing advocate of the interests of a great body of public servants than the hon. Member for Rugby was. The Civil Service of this country owes him a debt of gratitude for the constant vigilance he exercised during the years I was his opposite number on the National Whitley Council. I should like to join with other hon. Members in saying how proud we are of our Civil Service. Those of us who have travelled abroad and had the opportunity of seeing something of the Civil Service administration of other countries are always particularly proud of the efficiency and integrity of our Civil Service in the discharge of their great public duties.

I think that the Bill will need a good deal of amendment during its progress through Committee, and I am certain that the various suggestions that have been made will receive the careful and sympathetic attention of the Financial Secretary. He is one of the charming personalities in the House; he is always open to practical and helpful suggestions; and I am certain that the speeches which have been made by my hon. Friends on this side of the House will make a strong appeal to him, particularly in regard to service with the Colours—giving the soldier priority consideration in every branch of the public service when he has served his country and has a definite claim. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will also give careful consideration to the unestablished civil servant. There is a particular grievance at present between the relationship of the unestablished civil servant and His Majesty's administration, and I am certain that any amendments which are submitted during the Committee stage on that matter will receive sympathetic consideration.

I am particularly proud of the time when I was associated with Civil Service affairs. I am an old civil servant, and I served for nearly five years in one of our great Dominions. I am proud to pay a compliment to the Civil Service of our Dominions and to our own Civil Service at home. They have the same fine spirit of acceptance of responsibility, and the same high principles in carrying out the duties entrusted to them. My experience of the Civil Service in the various Dominions and throughout the Colonial Empire has been on all fours with my experience of the high standard of the character and quality of our Civil Service in this country.

I am quite certain that this Bill will give great satisfaction to a very large number of our silent citizens—the men who discharge their work from day to day faithfully and loyally. I am particularly glad that in this Bill provision has been made for the widows and children; that side of our Civil Service superannuation was sadly in need of careful consideration and improvement. I am sure that the Bill will have an easy passage through Committee, and that the Financial Secretary will sympathetically consider any practical proposals which will strengthen the Bill and make it more acceptable both from the point of the Civil Service and the mass of the public in this country who have to discharge duties to the State. In the introduction of this Measure a great wrong is being righted and improvements are being made for the benefit of those engaged in our public life and our civic life. Those of us who have been in the House for a long time are proud to be able to say a good word on behalf of a legislative proposal of this kind. I am very proud to be present this afternoon at the introduction of this Measure, and to see how well it has been received and how cordially it has been approved in its general provisions. Subject to certain modifications which must be made in Committee, I believe that the Bill is one which in the days to come will reflect highly on the dignity and prestige of this House of Commons.

6.31 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)

Before the hon. Gentleman spoke I did not know that it would be a case of one former civil servant following another. We learn something new every day in this House, and it gives me great pleasure to know that the hon. Gentleman has had experience of the great Civil Service of which he spoke so well. I share his views on the high advocacy of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) in the old days; I am not too sure that he is such a good man now as he used to be in those days. That is, of course, a personal view. However, in the days to which the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) referred, the hon. Member for Rugby certainly did great work on behalf of the Civil Service, for which we are very grateful.

Mr. W. J. Brown

I take it my hon. Friend is reflecting a political opinion and not casting a moral aspersion.

Mr. Williams

Quite so. I should not like to deal with the hon. Gentleman's morality; that is beyond me. I assure the hon. Member for Moseley that those high traditions of advocacy are being maintained in the National Whitley Council, and I think that part of this Bill is due in no small measure to the tenacity and skill in advocacy of those who followed the hon. Gentleman on the National Whitley Council.

I must be brief, because it would be unfair of me to address the House at any great length, since the ground has already been very well covered. First, let me pay my tribute to the Financial Secretary for the very clear way in which he introduced this Bill. Apart from one or two hon. Members—and I hope the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) will not take it too hardly if I suggest that he has not quite understood some parts of the Bill which my right hon. Friend explained—I think the House is perfectly clear on what the Bill is about. I wish to go further, and to pay tribute to the work of the Financial Secretary, in connection with not only this Bill but its predecessors, both of which have been of great value to civil servants and have gone some way to remove anomalies and defects in the Superannuation Acts. I am hoping that neither my right hon. Friend nor the House will regard this Bill as the final word on superannuation in the Civil Service, because I am bound to agree with the hon. Member for Rugby that, however good the provisions of this Bill, there are still many defects and anomalies to be put right if we are to do justice to the Civil Service.

I should like to deal quite briefly with the provision for widows' and orphans' pensions. This was an overdue reform. I have had a lot of experience of dealing with the cases of men who died while in the service, and I saw the effect on their dependants. It was no uncommon thing for them to have to seek outside public assistance because they were entitled to only a very small gratuity. That was by no means unusual. Here is an opportunity for those in the Civil Service to make some provision for that eventuality, and I am very glad indeed that that aspect of the problem is covered in this Bill.

If I had time I should also have liked to suggest to the Financial Secretary that the Government might reconsider the date from which this Bill can be applied. VJ-day or VE-day seems to be the effective date.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

May, 1945.

Mr. Williams

I should have thought it might have been possible, for the purpose of this reform, to have gone back as far as 1939. There may be come difficulties, but I ask him to consider, between now and the Committee stage, whether there is any possibility of doing that.

I am particularly glad to see the reform proposed in Clause 32; that is, retirement on ill-health after at least 10 years' service but less than 20 years' reckonable service. In this respect there has been something very strange about Superannuation Acts in the past, and I think there is a spark of compassion and generosity in this Clause, which meets a great need to provide for those who break down by the roadside. I wish this provision had been introduced many years ago, because much distress and hardship resulted from the lack of such a provision. Had a provision of this sort been in operation before, many of our old colleagues in the Civil Service and their dependants would have been saved considerable hardship and distress, and recourse to public assistance.

I leave that and pass to the question of retirement after reaching the age of 50. The Government are to be congratulated upon introducing this new feature into the Superannuation Acts. As my right hon. Friend said, there are two elements. First, there is the man who wants to leave the Civil Service, either because he feels he can no longer work effectively and efficiently in the service because of some psychological reason. The Government have made a great step forward in accepting, for the first time, the principle that a man may leave the Civil Service after a certain period of service without losing all the accrued benefits of the superannuation to which he has indirectly contributed.

Let me here remove one misunderstanding. Although notionally the Civil Service pension scheme is regarded as non-contributory, everyone who has been in the Civil Service knows that contributions have been made by accepting lower standards of wages and remuneration because of the superannuation and medical benefits. If any proof is required of that, hon. Members have only to read the evidence given before any arbitration tribunal connected with the Civil Service to discover that on almost every occasion the official side has reminded the members of the tribunal that at least 12½ per cent., and in some cases as much as 16 per cent., ought to be taken into consideration for superannuation benefits, and so on. Therefore, in that indirect sense, I cannot accept that they have not made a very substantial contribution to their superannuation in the past.

I am glad the principle has been established that the man who decides to go out of the service is not to lose the accrued benefits of his pension. I should not like to enter into a discussion as to what the age should be. I think there is scope for inquiry and examination here. It may be that 50 years is a little bit too high and that 45 years would be a better age, especially from the point of view of a man leaving the Civil Service, where he has reached the peak of his possibilities, to enable him to use his other qualifications in another direction. He may be able to give excellent service in some other industry which would be equally essential to the nation. I remember a man with whom I worked in Liverpool many years ago who was such a highly skilled electrical technician that any one of the telephone companies would have taken him on immediately for their research work and for day-to-day practical electrical and technical work. He seriously considered whether he ought not to go over to them, but at the back of his mind all the time was the question why, after 25 or 30 years' service with the Government, he should deny himself the advantages of his superannuation? Under the provisions of this Bill that man would have been in a position to make that change when he reached 50 years of age.

I am also interested in this from the point of view of the man who finds it difficult under certain circumstances to hang on until he reaches retirement age. I am not thinking of the man with medical defects, because he is in a position to be discharged on medical grounds, but rather of the man with psychological reasons for leaving the Service. During my 30 years' service in the Civil Service I have seen great changes introduced into some of the Departments. In the Post Office, for instance, big changes have taken place, such as new methods of procedure and new apparatus and equipment. What has amazed me is that men and women of advanced ages, used to the old methods and old equipment, have so rapidly and efficiently adapted themselves to the changed conditions, and have been able to work almost as effectively and efficiently as some of the junior elements of the staff. But there have been casualities in this direction. the odd one here and there who, as the hon. Member for Rugby has so pertinently said, find themselves square pegs in round holes. There has been no means for dealing with that situation, except the inhuman method of discharging the man as being inefficient, which means excluding him from any penson rights.

The provision in Clause 36 as to pensionable service after the normal retirement age is a concession that is long overdue. I suggest that here, too, this provision should be made retrospect- tive to the beginning of the war when we were appealing to Civil Service pensioners to come back and take over the duties of men who had gone into the Services. Many of them came back and gave excellent service, but they were not permitted to have their pensions in addition to the basic remuneration for the appropriate grade to which they returned. In a sense they were cheap labour to the Government at a time when their service was vitally necessary to the success of the war effort. I suggest that even now some consideration might be given to these people, because had they gone into industry they would have been paid the appropriate rate in addition to their pensions.

I wish now to say something about the unestablished civil servants. It has never made sense to me that two men can work on the same job, one being unestablished and the other being established and coming within the superannuation scheme. It is a relic of the old class days when there was a distinction made between the clerical, professional and manual workers. The sooner that disappears the better, and I was glad to hear that that is the policy of the Government. But why should those who are still in the Service be penalised because of something that happened in the past and which should never have been allowed to continue for so long? It would not cost the country much to count the full number of years. Only a comparatively small number of years would be involved in most cases. The alternative is to concentrate on the qualifying period, which I am glad to see has been reduced in many cases from 15 years to 7 years, or on the amount of the gratuity.

The other day I received some very interesting figures showing the sort of gratuities some of these people have been getting. A man in the Post Office Factory and Supplies Branch, after 61 years service—and it is a mystery to me how he survived without getting his whiskers caught up in the machine—received a gratuity of £118. Members will be disgusted, I think, that after 61 years' service to the country a man should receive a gratuity of that amount without any pension. Other examples are of a man with 43 years' service who received £196, and another of a man who received £243 after 45 years' service. I also have some cases of temporary civil servants who have not been subsequently established. A man with a salary of £260 received a gratuity of £75 after 15 years' service, and a man with a salary of £520 received a gratuity of £150.

I apologise for having taken up so much of the time of the House. I will deal with the position of assistant postmen if I am lucky enough to serve on the Committee that will deal with this Bill. I thank the House for its interest in this matter, which affects civil servants as a whole. I think we have the basis here for a fine Superannuation Act. There is plenty more to be done, but with the interest and goodwill of this Government and the Financial Secretary there is no reason why we should not do justice to all the grades covered by this Bill.

6.50 p.m.

Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)

Following the hon. Member for Heston and Isle-worth (Mr. W. R. Williams) makes us three of a kind in a row, although I think I am doing no injustice by saying that he was the only one of the three who was clever enough to survive until he had reached his time for superannuation.

Mr. W. R. Williams

No, I did not.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I withdraw that remark if the hon. Member did not get quite to that stage. I join in what has been said by Members in most parts of the House, and especially by my right hon. Friend the junior Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton), in generally welcoming this Bill. I think that the many points we wish to make are rather Committee points, and are much better left to that occasion. Nevertheless, it is most important, at this stage, that established civil servants, who are having greater burdens thrust on them than ever before—which many of us hope to remove or, at least, lessen in the days to come—should have certain of their family cares removed. This is something which affects not only the civil servants, but a great many members of the professional classes who are incapable, because of present taxation, to save enough money with which to look after their wives and educate their children in the ways in which they would like them to be educated and to which they themselves have been accustomed. The Bill makes certain that the widows and children of established civil servants will be looked after in the case of premature death of such servants.

Clause 34 deals with the premature retirement age of 50. Whether 50 is a good or bad age is not important at this stage of the Bill—we can argue about that later—but I think it is important that there should not only be a provision for compulsory retirement at this age, but that it should be linked with voluntary retirement at the same age if the person concerned so wishes. It may be that the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth took the opportunity to come to this House to give service here instead of continuing for his full time in his previous job. There are people of 50 and thereabouts who may find that their talents can be more usefully employed than in continuing in the Civil Service.

Finally, I would like to reinforce what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) about Colour service being counted in establishment towards superannuation. I believe there are many such cases, which are confined not only to the last war, but to the 1914–18 war. In a case brought to my notice a person entered the Civil Service in the year 1914–15, went to the war, was fortunate enough to survive but has not been able to have that service counted towards his pension since he returned. I join in the congratulations which have been bestowed upon the Financial Secretary, who has taken a great interest in this subject, and I hope that when the Bill reaches the Statute Book it will be acceptable to all in this House and to all civil servants for whom it will do so much.

6.55 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I do not wish to detain the House unduly, or to repeat any of the arguments put forward by other Members, but in view of the large volume of correspondence I have received from my constituents about this Bill there are one or two points I want to emphasise. Like all others who have spoken, I welcome the Bill and the recognition it gives to the legitimate claims of the Civil Service in regard to pension benefits and gratuities. There are, however, two or three blemishes in it which, I feel sure, on reconsideration in Committee, the Government will wish to remove.

The first is the failure to count unestablished service at the full rate for pensions purposes. A particularly glaring illustration of the injustice caused by the existing provisions in this respect affects a great number of people in my constituency who are telephone mechanics. They are in grades which were recognised for establishment a few years ago. Under the Bill as drafted their service before 1945 will be counted for pension purposes only at half rate, instead of the full rate. It is even worse than that because the recognition, for some reason which I am unable to understand, goes back only to 1919. The result is that a number of these telephone mechanics, some of whom have already put in 40 years' service, will be able to count for pension purposes at only half rate instead of what is recognised to be the full rate of an established grade. In some cases it means that people in this category will be even worse off under the Bill than they are today.

Let me give an illustration: a telephone mechanic entered the service of the Post Office in January, 1905. He is now 63. He was granted establishment in 1947, and if it were not for the Bill he would, normally, have had a gratuity of £278. Under the Bill he gets a reduced gratuity of £171 and a pension of £1 2s. 2d. a week. He not only loses over £100 on his gratuity, but the Bill has this other effect: it deprives him of what would otherwise be a legitimate claim to a supplemental pension. If, apart from the Bill, he had his gratuity, but no pension, he would get the ordinary old age pension and, under the generous recognition that is now given to claims for supplementary pension, he would undoubtedly get a supplemental allowance. As a result of the Bill his pension of £1 2s. 2d. a week will probably be taken into account, and he will be the loser as a result of getting his diminished gratuity. That defect can be removed in Committee if the Government are willing to recognise the principle that those who have been temporary or unestablished workers for a long time should qualify for pension calculations at the full rate and not the half rate. They have been doing the same work as those whose pensions are to be calculated on the full rate.

The second blemish on the Bill is one which has been referred to already, and which I wish to emphasise, namely, gratuities for unestablished staff. These seem to be totally inadequate. The rate of one week's salary for each year of service produces a quite inadequate result, and I urge the Government to increase that on pension to one-tenth of the salary for each year of service, instead of one week's salary for each year of service. In this connection I ask the Government why it is necessary to exclude from the benefits of the Bill those who are over 65 years of age on 25th June, 1947. I have in my own constituency, where there happen to be a large number of Post Office employees, nine elderly people who, owing to what seems to be a purely arbitrary date, are excluded from the benefits of gratuities for unestablished staff.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

In case I do not have the chance to answer all the points, I can assure my hon. Friend that this Bill benefits the recipient rather than damages his interests. It prevents him from suffering any diminution under the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1947.

Mr. Fletcher

I am grateful for that intervention, and I am sure it will relieve the anxiety of the individuals in question, who have brought this matter to my notice and asked me to bring it to the notice of the House. I shall let the Financial Secretary have the details, but I am very gratified to know that the people I have in mind will not, in fact, be jeopardised. There are other points of a Committee nature which I shall have an opportunity of raising on the Committee stage, when I hope we can remove those blemishes to which I have drawn attention.

7.2 p.m.

Mr. Cove (Aberavon)

I apologise for not having been here during the whole of the Debate, but I am Chairman of the Welsh Labour Group and I was trying to keep them in order. I heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, and I congratulate him on its clarity, particularly in relation to the technical difficulties of the subject with which he had to deal. In spite of the blemishes to which my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) referred, I should like to say that in its main outlines this is a really good Bill.

I happen to have had the experience of dealing over a period of years with the Teachers' Superannuation Act, which has been modelled on the Civil Service superannuation scheme. In the Teachers' Superannuation Act, as in the Civil Service scheme, one of the great weaknesses has been the provision for widows, orphans and other dependants. The death gratuity was not satisfactory, and I am glad, therefore, that the Government have come forward with a scheme to remedy that defect. I think I am right in saying that, so far as the Civil Service is concerned—and indeed, later on, as far as the teachers are concerned—an attempt was made to remedy that defect by allowing an allocation of pension. The lump sum did not provide adequate security for widows, orphans and other dependants, either to civil servants or teachers.

I heard the right hon. Gentleman mention the small number of civil servants who have taken advantage of the allocation scheme. That is also true of the teachers. The reason for this, of course, is that the pensions in these days, particularly on the lower and middle ranges of salary, do not provide a sufficient margin to allow of allocation. This scheme meets that defect. I congratulate the Government on the way they are doing it. It is far better to make provision for back service out of a lump sum than it is out of the current sum for pensions.

Apart from any details that may require to be rectified in Committee, I should like to give a whole-hearted welcome to this scheme. I will only add this—the scheme is so good for widows, orphans and other dependants of civil servants that I can assure the right hon. Gentleman there will be other claims upon the Government from other organisations for the same benefits. Throughout the whole field of public service, including municipal employees and teachers, there will be a demand for a Bill like this one. When any representations are made to the Government, I hope they will give the same sympathetic hearing to those classes of public servants as they have to civil servants. I heartily congratulate the Government on the scheme they have brought in.

7.7 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I can only speak again by leave of the House, but if that leave is accorded I should like first of all to say how much I appreciate the very generous things that have been said from every side of the House about the Bill and my small share in it. I realise that those observations are not so much directed to me as to those who are behind me and who have done the work. As many Members will remember, this Bill has been projected for several years now and I am proud to think it has fallen to me to introduce it.

Both my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been extremely eager for a Measure of this kind to reach the Statute Book. We have also to thank Mr. Day and his colleagues on the staff side of the National Whitley Council, who, along with the official side, have done their best to reach agreement. The scope of the Bill is a measure of the extent to which they found themselves in accord. We have reason to be grateful to those who have assisted the House in drafting this Bill and agreeing to its provisions.

All the points that have been raised in the Debate were brought up and discussed between the two sides of the National Whitley Council when the matter was negotiated. They have been carefully and sympathetically considered by the Government, and it is not possible within the limits of a short reply to go over all the ground that has been covered. We shall most carefully consider all the speeches and arguments we have heard, and I have not the slightest doubt that, when we reach the Committee stage, a good time will be had by all except myself and those who assist me. That is, after all, what Parliament is for, and we are anxious to see a really good Measure emerge. If during the Bill's passage through Committee, new facts can be brought to light which would help the Government to change their minds, no one will be happier than myself.

Perhaps in the two or three minutes which I have at my disposal, I might refer to the more outstanding points made during the Debate. I should say that the questions of service with the Colours, of pensions being added to pay when someone has retired and has returned, and of how far back additional allowances should be paid to those who come back under Clauses 35 and 36, are all points which have been considered. For the benefit of those who have not realised just what the difficulties are, I should like to say this about one or two of them.

First, earnings and pension. The underlying principle of Section 20 of the Superannuation Act, 1834, is that a pension is provided to support a man when he retires. If he comes back and re-engages in his former occupation, or even in a better paid one, he should not simultaneously enjoy a salary for working and a pension which has been given him for his retirement. However, at no time are the two together abated below the salary of the job to which he returns. That should be made clear. If it were not for Section 20, we should get the curious anomaly of a man with his salary plus pension receiving perhaps £1,200 a year whereas another man in a similar post, much younger and probably much more vigorous, because he has not reached his retiring age, is working for £800. For that reason and others into which I have no time to go now, it is felt that, if a man comes back, his pension rights should be preserved, but that we should not let him, if it is a State pension and the money is being found by the taxpayer, have pay and pension at one and the same time.

Sir P. Hannon

That would apply only to non-contributory pensions but surely not to pensions on a contributory basis.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

If the pension is contributory so that a contract is involved, there is a different set of circumstances; but we are dealing here with pensions payable to civil servants who do not get them in respect of any contributions.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Walthamstow (Mr. H. Wallace) wanted to know whether a man who retires voluntarily under Clause 34 gets his lump sum on retirement. He does not. He gets it when he reaches his pensionable age; when he begins to draw his proportionate pension, he will also get his proportionate lump sum.

We had a very interesting discussion as to whether civil servants should be allowed to retire at any time during their service. While I do not want to traverse the arguments, I think that, on reflection, most hon. Members will see that such retirement would lead to very curious results. The Civil Service relies to a very large extent on its senior members and without such men following the Civil Service as a career and growing up in it, we should find that a great deal of value would be lost both to the Service itself and to the community. If it were possible for a man to go out at any time without any financial hurt to himself, and later on regret it and want to come back, both he and the Service would suffer.

I do not propose to say any more now. I have a very large number of notes here, but it would be unfair to the House to attempt to go through them. Again, I thank the House for the way they have received this Measure; I hope that, as it passes through Committee, we shall be able to improve it and that it will be of benefit to the large body of men and women who serve the State well and deserve the best from the community.