HC Deb 31 May 1949 vol 465 cc1942-81

As amended (in the Standing Committee, and on recommittal) again considered.

Amendment: In page 32, line 4, to leave out from "shall" to "apply" in line 8.—[Sir S. Cripps.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill.'

Mr. Thorneycroft

The speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman will, as I was saying, be a great disappointment not only to thousands of civil servants, but also to many Members sitting behind the right hon. and learned Gentleman who feel strongly upon this particular point. I listened, as the whole House did, very carefully for any arguments the right hon. and learned Gentleman could adduce upon the merits of the case, and it would be no reflection upon him to say that there were no arguments adduced by him, for the very good reason that there are none that can be adduced. He had to restrict himself, therefore, to the issue of the cost, about which I shall say a few words in a moment. The only other point I should like to make about his speech just now is that I think he rather over-estimated the effect of the Amendment he has put upon the Order Paper. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, under the Government's proposal it would be difficult to see how anyone could benefit, for 10 years at any rate, and even that would be a very rare and exceptional case because these people would become eligible only 10 years from now and presumably most of them would go on serving a considerable time thereafter.

What this really amounts to is that we are paying these people with a postdated cheque, and a cheque which is dated very far ahead indeed. I, like most other Members, have been inundated with letters from Civil Service organisation and from individual civil servants. There was one point which was brought to my notice this morning, which comes from the Civil Service Superannuation Joint Committee and merits special emphasis. They say: It will hit especially hard those very lowly-paid messengers and paper-keeper grades, and Post Office grades, where it was the custom for many years of temporary service to precede establishment. That is an important point which the House should take note of in dealing with this matter.

The case has already been elaborately argued during the Committee stage, and I am not going to make a long speech about its merits. The Committee came to a decision, and the Bill as it now stands represents that decision. The decision is that unestablished service should count in full for pension as soon as the civil servant becomes established. That is the position for which we shall contend, and I hope very much that Members opposite will also contend for it and use words to persuade the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and that if their words are of no avail they will use their votes. I do not think that anyone in private life with a servant who had served him faithfully for 20 years would turn round and tell him that he will get less pension because part of his service was on an unestablished basis. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who started it?"] It would be regarded as a monstrous argument, and it would not be tolerated by Members opposite in their private affairs. Therefore, I see no reason why any of us should tolerate it in this case.

5.15 p.m.

The civil servant is paid less on balance than his colleagues in industry, and he is paid less because at the end of his period of service, he hopes to get a pension. The temporary civil servant is often paid even less, and so, a fortiori, he ought to rank for pension during the period when he was unestablished and lower paid. That his service should count for only half, is a position we cannot maintain. Of course, the position would be much easier if Governments before had taken a different line. But all reforms would be unnecessary if previous Governments had already carried them into effect.

Of course it would be easier if there were no unestablished civil servants, but there always will be unestablished civil servants. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We live in times when we have wars and matters of that kind when the Civil Service is widely expanded on a temporary basis, at the end of which it is necessary and proper that the Civil Service should be scaled down to some extent, when some go into industry and others elect to carry on in the public service. In such circumstances, there is no reason why people who remain in the Service should not count their unestablished time. Of course it can be said that a previous Government should have done something better, or that the Conservatives ought to have taken a different line in 1935; but it is a most extraordinary thing for any Government to model itself on the actions of its predecessors some 30 years previously. That would be an astonishing agument to adduce, and I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman would ever use it.

As far as the costs are concerned, which is the substantial point to which the Chancellor addressed himself, I will say just this. A number of suggestions as to how this Bill could be amended were made in Committee, and some of those suggestions would have cost quite a lot of money. This was the one that was pressed the hardest, and it was probably the one which had the most merit. It was the one that was carried even in a Committee with a majority of Socialists upon it. But look at the Amendments and concessions which have been made, all of which have cost very little indeed. There was the concession made earlier today about the case where pensions had been cut off because the widow had been cohabiting. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that the cost was negligible in that case. Then there was the point made by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Charles Smith). That was met, and again the cost was negligible. There was Clause 36 and a certain amendment to the position about additional pension, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman said would cost really nothing, at all. Then there was the point of the Service civil servant. A new Clause met the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker), and I think that only 80 or 90 civil servants were involved.

No one can say that we have been extravagant so far with the concessions we have won from the Treasury in Amendments to this Bill. It is true that the cost in the first year will be between £1 million and £2 million, rising, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman says, to between £5 million and £7 million in 15 years' time. I must say, however, that when I first heard these figures I thought they were rather lower than the anticipated total cost might be of an Amendment of this kind. But every doing of justice of this character must cost money. I do not believe we are justified in saving money by doing less than justice to the servants of the Crown. We can argue very forcibly that fewer people should be employed in the Civil Service, but in so far as people are employed, and will be employed, in substantial numbers in that Service it is to everybody's interest, irrespective of party, to see that they are fairly treated. To postpone the whole matter for another 10 or 20 years cannot be accepted at all.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has given us the figures. He said that last year 86,000 civil servants became established. That means that these people will suffer. It is only unestablished service after the passing of the Bill which will count for pension. All these 86,000 are eliminated from the benefits of the Bill if the Government Amendment is carried. I do not think it would be the wish of the House that we should proceed in that way, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will use their undoubted influence to persuade the Chancellor to take a more generous view of this matter. I hope they will put not only the cost, which is important, but the justice of the case foremost in their argument. If we cannot get such a concession, then I very much hope they will join with us in putting the matter to the issue, because it is votes which eventually count and not speeches.

Mr. W. J. Brown

I do not in the least want to make any party points about the Bill; indeed, I have no party for which to make them, and I do not pretend for a moment that the Bill as it stands has not substantial merits and attractions from the point of view of the Civil Service. Nevertheless, I want to appeal to the Chancellor not to press the Government Amendment but to accept the decision reached by the Committee upstairs. It is true, as he said, that the decision in Committee was reached by a very narrow margin—a majority of two in a Committee of 20 to 22 Members. But it is also the case—and I am sure I am within the recollection of every Member of that Committee—that there was not one speech in the whole of the Debate on this matter—Conservative, Labour, Liberal or Independent—which did not beg the Chancellor to do what the Committee upstairs ultimately decided by a small majority should be done. We must, therefore, start with the fact that it is the considered desire of the Committee, which represented all sides of the House, that the Clause should stand as it is in the Bill now and should not be amended as the Chancellor proposes to amend it today.

I want to make clear to the House, if I can, although I think most Members are familiar with this issue, what is the difference between the position of the Committee and the position now adopted by the Chancellor. For many decades the public service in this country has been troubled by a grotesque anomaly and a very substantial grievance; it is that when a man went out of the service at the end of his days he was pensioned not on the total length of service he had put in, but only on that portion of it which had been labelled with the word "established." All the rest of his service was completely disregarded.

I shall give one striking example, out of many hundreds which could be quoted, of the effect of that sort of thing. There is a servant of this House—there is not need to go across to Whitehall to find cases—who became established last year after having put in 44 years' service. In short, there is no relation at all between the meaning of the word "established" and the total length of time that the civil servant puts in.

Until a little while ago no unestablished service was allowed to count at all. Then, by the 1946 Act, a distinct improvement was made in that situation; it was decided that half of the service in an unestablished capacity, put in from 1919 onwards, should count for pension. Here is a point which is not without bearing on today's Debate. If the then Chancellor had taken the same line in 1946 as the present Chancellor is taking today, we would not have got in that year the half service to count which, in fact, we did get. If he had said, "You cannot expect me, as Chancellor, to make up for the sins of my predecessors," that would have barred the 1946 Act and, indeed, would bar reforms of any kind. It is the constant and repeated fate of Governments to have to do things because of the shortcomings of their predecessors. That is the whole idea of a change of Government. The whole idea is to get a new Government to do things which the old one did not do. The doctrine which the Chancellor has enunciated today would strike at the root of every conceivable kind of progress, both inside and outside the public service.

In Committee upstairs and today no Minister of the Crown attacked the merits of the proposal which was put forward. No word was said in defence of the situation in which only a half of unestablished service counted for pension. Today, the Chancellor has not sought to make any defence; rather has he confirmed the case. By saying that in future that kind of situation should never be allowed to arise he is really saying that it should not have been allowed to arise in the past. If it ought not to have been allowed to arise in the past, we ought, therefore, to put it right now.

In effect, the Chancellor says, "I will concede the case that you have made, but not to you. I will concede the merits of your argument, and I will see that anyone who enters the service in future will not be badly treated in this way, but I will do nothing to alleviate the bad treatment of those who have borne the heat and burden of the day in the past, and who are still in the Service." There is a Scriptural precedent for this in the case of the labourer who enters the vineyard at the eleventh hour, and who gets the same trade union rate as the man who enters at nine o'clock in the morning. But there is no precedent, Scriptural, or otherwise, that I can think of, which would justify the giving of a penny a day to the man who has not yet entered and only a halfpenny to those who have done 30 to 40 years' service.

Suppose we do not retain the Clause as it stands, and accept the Government Amendment. Does not the Chancellor realise, as I am sure most of us do, that the fact of making that provision for future entrants will intensify, rather than diminish, the sense of grievance of those who have put in long service and who are still working. He confronts us with the situation in which, year after year, theses public servants will be coming to us to ask that this matter should be put right, and neither he nor we will be able to give any answer on the merits except "You cannot ask this Government to bear and pay for the sins of their predecessors."

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Cobb (Elland)

We should "go broke" if they did.

Mr. Brown

It may be that we shall even go broke without the Government having remedied the sins of their predecessors. Is it not plain that we shall have a permanent canker of discontent on this matter if we do not put it right?

The Chancellor makes the point, which is a fair one for him to make, and I do not complain about it, that if they are to put things right for people in every walk of life the result would be, so to speak, to break the camel's back. That is a perfectly fair point, but does not the Chancellor recognise, as I think the rest of us will, that we stand in a special relation to the people about whom we are now talking? In a general way the Government are responsible for the whole of the people of the country, and still more grave, the people of the country are responsible for the Government, but there is no doubt that there is a special relationship between the Government and the people about whom we are speaking today. These men are our servants, and though there may be many injustices affecting sections of the community who are not our servants, many injustices which we would desire to put right, here is an injustice touching our own servants, and we cannot shelter from the responsibility for putting that right by any consideration that there are a lot of other people who also suffer injustice.

I apologise for the fact that I shall not be able to be here later, because I have to go to a conference at Cardiff, and I have to travel tonight. That will explain my absence from the Division Lobby, if we have to go through the Division lobbies, which I hope we shall not have to do. I ask the Chancellor to deliver us from the intolerable position which the passage of his Amendment would create. I have never seen, in a long life of agitation—I have done about 35 years of Civil Service work—all this House in agreement that something should be done on a particular Civil Service matter. I have known occasions when the Labour Party have rendered extremely valuable support for claims which I, with others, was advancing on behalf of civil servants. I have known cases when I have had support from Members on this side of the House, for which I have been grateful, I cannot remember an occasion when the cumulative disposition of all was so great in favour of justice being done to the civil servants of this country. On every count, I ask the Chancellor not to press his Amendment, but to accept the decision of the Committee upstairs, which faithfully reflects the view of the House, and to leave the Clause as it now stands in the Bill.

Mr. H. Wallace

I do not propose to go over points which have already been raised, because I am in agreement with the views which have been expressed. Like the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), I agree that there are merits, and substantial merits, in this Bill. It has been said that we should not make a party question of this; certainly I do not wish to do so. Like the hon. Member for Rugby also I have spent most of my life seeking for improvements, of which this has certainly been one. I cannot but feel happy that all parts of the House are at last united that this fiction of unestablished service should be abolished. From the passing of this Bill it will be abolished, and I attach great value to that fact.

I am sorry that I cannot accept the doctrine of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that nothing can be done here because of the repercussions elsewhere. I take the view that the unestablished civil servant is in a special position. He was engaged by the Civil Service to do certain duties. He was denied the proper pay for those duties and the proper emoluments. The Chancellor speaks of the cost. May I remind him of the loss to the men who did the work, received a lower rate of pay and were robbed of their pensionable service? I cannot agree that those unestablished civil servants are only in the position of people outside the Service because an unestablished civil servant is in a special position. They have got their certificates, and look forward to establishment.

I wish to join in the appeal to the Chancellor to have another look at this matter. I do not intend to be dogmatic. He has talked about the cost. There are other ways of approaching this question. I should like to feel that he would try to meet the desire of the House and not alter the Bill as it now stands. Before I sit down, because I do not think there is any need for a long argument, I wish to say that the agitation for this reform will not cease until it has been carried out. How can a civil servant who will have three years' unestablished service after the passing of the Act, which will count in full, be satisfied when he has three years' service before the passing of the Act which will count only as to one half. The matter cannot stop there and it would be far better if an attempt were made now to settle the question. I hope that the Chancellor will look again at the date.

I have referred to the fact that there are what I call small areas here which might be put right. In view of what has been said by the Financial Secretary, I wish to see if I can get some statement this afternoon about those points. I would remind the Chancellor that although the Government were defeated upstairs by a small majority, a number of Members voted with the Government because we had a promise that all the points raised would be looked at as a whole. As has been said, there was finally a concentration upon this particular point. The Chancellor ought therefore to appreciate that in order to try to get this reform, quite a number of points are not being pressed.

The two points which I wish to raise are as follow: I have previously referred to the grade known as assistant postman. Technically, a man in that grade was a part-time but really a whole time officer——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am afraid that the hon. Member is going rather wide of the point before the House. He must concentrate on the Amendment which is before the House, and not refer to other matters which have been dropped in order that the Government should not make this Amendment.

Mr. Wallace

I think that when we reached this discussion you indicated, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you would allow it to be rather wide to permit of reference being made to a later Amendment, in Clause 40, page 34, line 45, because the two questions are related.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member may proceed, and I will see how far he goes.

Mr. Wallace

I am pressing now the point of view of a service which was unestablished, the assistant postman service. Technically the duty is part-time, but they were whole-time servants. I wish to ask the Chancellor whether that case can be considered Departmentally. I hope it can.

With regard to the other I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I may run counter to your Ruling. If so, I shall abide by your decision. As I understand it what is to happen to the part-time civil servants is related to the decision now made by the House on the Amendment in the name of the Chancellor. I have emphasised the point that many of these men did do full time duty for a number of months each year and may have so done this duty for 10, 15 or 20 years. I wish to ask whether those cases can be specially considered departmentally. If those two grievances could be removed it would help considerably in connection with the main point.

I hope the Chancellor will listen to the appeals which have been made to—I will put it this way—modify this date and make some concession to those men and women who have given so many years of service. If after twenty years of agitation have been conducted we say, "You will get nothing, but those who come in the future will," it really is expecting too much of human nature to think that they can accept a decision like that; though I appreciate very much that the Chancellor wishes to bring this obnoxious system to an end. Hon. Members have not pressed other points, because they hoped that the Chancellor would be able to make some concession with regard to the date of application. I hope that the appeal which has been made will not be in vain.

Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer used an argument today with which I think hon. Members in all parts of the House would agree. He said that unestablished service was something in the nature of a probationary period. If that had been observed, this problem would never have arisen. We were given an illustration by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) of a man who had given unestablished service for a period of over 40 years. That is not probation or anything in the nature of probation. It is clearly an unjustified period of service, if he is to serve for a period of 40 years and to be given no pension at the end of it because it was unestablished service. It does not even come within the very correct definition of what unestablished service should be which was given by the Chancellor himself. Parliament has recognised that that definition is unfair and in 1946 passed an Act making provision for half of that service.

But by what principle can we say that half of it shall count? Taking again the instance given by the hon. Member for Rugby, that would reduce the period to 20 years. Twenty years is quite as long a probationary period as 40 years. From the probationary point of view, there is no difference between 20 years and 40 years. Therefore, using the argument of the Chancellor himself and applying that test to it, surely if he is abolishing it from the present date forward, as he is in this Bill, that is quite a strong argument for abolishing it for the previous period too. I add my voice to the appeals made by other hon. Members that the Chancellor should look at this again.

The only argument he has given is one of additional cost. As the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) pointed out, he can meet that additional cost by combing the Civil Service. It is a great deal too big and it is being increased. He should meet that cost. Those people who have given long service should be given justice first of all, before the Civil Service Vote is increased. There are other methods, there are certain economies which he could effect, but this is not one of them, because in this case justice is involved. I hope that he will look at this again and reconsider the matter.

5.45 p.m.

Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)

I would add my words to the appeals which are being made that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should consider this again, and I would put forward three points. The first is that recently there has been brought into the Civil Service men who have given up positions outside in order to assist the Government in the very important work of a technical type which is now thrust upon them. There are a large number of these people who, if this proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is accepted, will be particularly hardly treated. They are men who certainly deserve special consideration.

The second point I would make is that if a summary date is fixed, which just happens to be that of the passing of an Act, I am convinced that it is an arrangement which cannot last for any appreciable period of time. What is much more important is that a feeling of utter discontent will be created right through the Civil Service, and nothing is more essential than that the Civil Service should be a contented service and a service with prospects to look forward to. Knowing a good many of these men who happen to work in my part of the country, I feel that they have given loyal service. To treat them differently from those now coming in, will create a very false impression, and one not in the best interests of the Civil Service itself.

There is, thirdly, the question of the reduction of numbers in the Civil Service. I believe an efficient service is what all good civil servants wish to see established, but I do not think we shall ever get efficiency if we generate a sense of grievance. I am convinced that there will be a sense of grievance, because this proposal will be interpreted as being unfair. Ever since the days of Michael Hicks Beach it has been the business of the Chancellor to say, "No." This may cost something like £8 million, ultimately, but surely it is money well spent and equal savings could be made in other directions. The Civil Service should be contented and the right type of person encouraged to come into it.

This is not a party matter; I think all parties wish to see efficiency in the Civil Service. I have not heard one argument which would justify the proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I hope that this will be dealt with without our having to go into the Division Lobby, because I believe that a great many hon. Members would be put in a most difficult position. As the Chancellor and the Treasury are nominally the directors of the Civil Service it is to them that the service should look for fair treatment, and this proposal is not treating the service fairly and properly and that appears to be the view of all hon. Members who have spoken.

Mr. W. R. Williams

It is not easy to adduce any arguments which have not already been used in this Debate, but I feel I cannot let the occasion pass without at least placing on record how I feel in this matter. In the first place, I should disclose my interest, which is that for the past 25 years, if not longer, I have been associated with the national staff side of the Civil Service and with associations in the Civil Service. There are two or three problems which are so old that we were dealing with them as far back as 25 years ago. It is, therefore, very difficult for a person in my position to feel that he can discard altogether the labour and the agitation of a quarter of a century, especially if one feels keenly that right is on one's side, as I feel it is here. I think that, in general, civil servants will agree when I say that never in the history of this country has so much been done in regard to the conditions of the Civil Service as has been done by this Government in the short time that they have been in power. We ought to make that perfectly clear.

I believe that this is the third occasion on which we have tried to improve the superannuation scheme in the Service. I recall with particular gratitude the effort of my right hon. and learned Friend's predecessor who agreed that half the period of unestablished service should count as from 1st January, 1919. That was a distinct improvement on the Act of 1935, which merely permitted the counting of half of that service as from the date of the application of that Act. But I felt, as I am sure did many other hon. Members, that although the then Chancellor could not concede the whole of the case we put forward at that time—he could not concede the years in full as some of us asked—it was only a matter of time before this Government in any future review of the Superannuation Acts would reach the same conclusion as some of us did, and that the time was opportune to redress what had been an injustice over many years.

In regard to this Bill I agree with those who say that there have been substantial improvements. However, I qualify that by saying that if I had had my personal choice, with my long experience of the agitation in the Civil Service, I should have chosen to deal with one or two of the aspects under discussion today rather than some of the other matters which are in the Bill. I think that they go more deeply to the roots of the problem which has been agitating the minds of members of the Civil Service for the best part of a quarter of a century. I suppose that I should be ruled out of Order if I refered to the new Clause in the name of myself and my hon. Friends. I think I had better take note of your gesture, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think that hon. Members will know what I mean when I say that I am referring to the suggestion that service with the colours should count, and so on. That is one aspect. The other is undeniably the argument that unestablished service should count.

Only one matter grieves me in all this business. I have been reading a letter written by some hon. Gentleman opposite as to the attitude of certain people towards this Bill. I do not know how hon. Gentlemen opposite have the effrontery to do this. I think that it is cheek and impertinence on their part. They are trying to prove in the letter that there are some people on this side of the House who have not voted in favour of this provision upstairs.

Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)

What does the letter say?

Mr. Williams

It is a letter of which I have seen a copy. If hon. Members want it to be read, I do not mind. It says: The Committee stage was taken, not on the Floor of the House, but by a Standing Committee of which I was unfortunately not a member. I replied accordingly, but promised … [HON. MEMBERS: "What Member?"] If hon. Gentlemen want the name, I do not mind giving it, but I thought that I would keep out any reference to it. The hon. Member writes: I replied accordingly, but promised that the three following points would be ventilated on the Committee by Conservative Members. Conservative Members put down an Amendment in favour of counting full temporary service for superannuation. … The point I wish to make is that I think that they have got real cheek and impertinence to try to make people in the Civil Service and in the constituencies believe that had the Tories been in power now, they would have done something more and given something more to the Civil Service than is contained in this Bill. I wish to make it clear that in my opinion nothing would have been given by a Tory Government at this stage, having regard to what has been done before by this Government in the period of three years.

Mr. Keeling

I think that the hon. Member is quoting from a letter which I sent to some of my constituents. Is that so?

Mr. Williams

I should say that it was, yes.

Mr. Keeling

The letter is signed, so there cannot be any doubt about it. Is it so or not?

Mr. Williams


Mr. Keeling

Why not say so? There is no statement in the letter which is not a precise and accurate statement of the facts. There is no attempt whatever to make any party capital except such as may accrue from the facts themselves.

Mr. Williams

I will not deny that. It is the truth all right, but it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is my difficulty with a statement of this kind, when a Tory who has done nothing for the Civil Service worth talking about for 25 or 30 years, has the effrontery now, when this Government have done so much, to try to belittle what has been done and to try to mislead the civil servants of the country.

Mr. Keeling

Would the hon. Gentleman say what he means when he says that it is not the whole truth? In what respect is it not the whole truth? It purports to be a statement of what happened on this Amendment in the Committee upstairs. I studied the matter very carefully and I attempted to state the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Mr. Williams

If the hon. Member wanted to give the whole truth, possibly he might have suggested, "But this is infinitely more than my party would have given you had they been in power." I hope that with that explanation and understanding between the hon. Member for Twickenham and myself, I can proceed to my next point.

There are two important points involved. The first is the declaration made for the first time in my experience by any Government, that unestablished service is a vile thing, a bad thing which should not be countenanced any longer. That is a great declaration. Moreover, it is not only a declaration. We are assured by the Financial Secretary and by the Chancellor that steps have already been taken to make sure that the probationary period referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) is, in essence, a probationary period and not a lifetime of service in an unestablished capacity. Having said that, and having thanked the Government and my right hon. and learned Friend for this important declaration and concession, I must say that I am sorry that the Chancellor is now being so illogical as to say, having decided that a thing was evil and wrong and should not be countenanced, "I am sorry; I cannot give any redress whatever to the people who have suffered under that error for the best part of 40 or 50 years."

I appreciate the argument that we cannot remedy all these defects at the same time, and I quite understand the clamour that would be made by hon. Gentlemen opposite if increased taxation was necessary in order to do this. They would say that it was "reckless expenditure" as the Leader of the Opposition so pertinently and so often tries to state to the country.

Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

I heard the hon. Gentleman use the word "pertinently." Is that what he meant?

Mr. Williams

I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member has drawn my attention to that error. Of course, I meant "impertinently."

6.0 p.m.

I wish to make an appeal to my right hon. and learned Friend to give further consideration to this matter. Personally, I feel that £2,500,000 at present, and £7 million or £8 million in the ultimate in the next 15 years, is not too great a price to pay for removing something which has been a sore in the body politic of the Civil Service for a couple of generations, and I do not think the people of this country would think that an injustice had been done to any other workers in other industries, socialised or otherwise, if he took the decision, as I think he ought to, to do the right thing by loyal, faithful members of his own staff, servants of the Crown and of his own Department.

I shall not vote against him on it, but neither shall I vote for him on this occasion. I feel sure that there is an opportunity here for my right hon. and learned Friend to consider between now and the time when the Bill goes to another place, a way in which he could meet what seems to be the general view of the House in this matter.

Mr. Hollis

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams) wishes to get a majority of the House in support of the arguments which he has been advancing or not, but, if he was wooing us, he certainly wooed us in a rather peculiar manner. I do not think it necessary to delay the House by dealing at length with the contest between the hon. Member and my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling). I was on the Standing Committee and on the other hand I was quite unaware of the existence of the letter which the hon. Member quoted until this moment, but, so far as the portion of the letter which the hon. Member read out is concerned, it seemed to me a characteristically accurate account by my hon. Friend of what took place in Committee, and why complaint has been made against my hon. Friend I cannot imagine.

On the general merits of the question, this matter has been thoroughly threshed out both this afternoon and in the Committee upstairs, and I need not delay the House by going into the merits again. Indeed, there is less necessity to do so because there has been no dispute in any quarter of the House on the merits of the question. I would merely urge three considerations which weigh with me very much.

The first is that the concession which the Government are offering means practically nothing, and for this reason. The Chancellor and the Financial Secretary have told us that it is their intention radically to revise the whole system of unestablished service, and that in future it would only be used in a very narrow sense for people undergoing a merely probationary period. They are to get rid of what the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth considered "this vile thing, this bad thing," which has existed in the past. They may well deserve commendation for that, and I think they do, and I am not going to quarrel with it. But that means that the concession is nothing at all, because there will not therefore be these unestablished people in the future and it makes one ask why it should be put into the Bill; in fact, it would be much better if it were not in the Bill. If we cannot win our point, it is better not to have the Government's point in the Bill at all. It will simply have the effect of creating this sense of rank injustice and continuing it in the future.

The second point is a basic point, and it is that no attempt whatever has been made, either by the Financial Secretary upstairs or by the Chancellor today, to pretend that there is any argument whatever about the justice of this claim. If there had been a difference of opinion on whether it was just, that would be a different situation, but that is not the situation and that case goes entirely by default. It has been admitted by both the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary that all these suggestions are in themselves desirable suggestions. This is an absolutely just demand, and, that being so, we have before us a different proposition than if we were merely asking for something which was desirable.

We are asking for a matter of absolute justice. There can only be one answer in refusing a demand for absolute justice, and that is that it is impossible. No other justification should be given. The only case which the Government have put forward has rested entirely on the matter of cost. That is not one to which we have any right to be indifferent, but we have a right to say that, if there are certain things clamouring to be done and one is a matter of absolute justice while the others are merely desirable concessions, the absolute justice should be granted first, even if that answer means postponing other things until later. That appears to me to be an unanswerable argument.

The third point is that there has been a certain amount of talk, both in the Committee upstairs and in this Debate today, about the records of parties and Governments in the past and why these things were not done before. I make no complaint about that at all. Hon. Members who recollect the discussion in the Committee upstairs will remember the suggestion that, if we get the records of the parties, all the brickbats are by no means on one side. I shall not go into that, because I do want to approach this matter in a non-partisan spirit. I want hon. Members to approach it in the same spirit in order to see what is the correct conclusion to be drawn from these facts concerning this problem which has caused so much anguish in the past. When my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) was speaking about what happened in 1935, the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies), if I heard him aright, and I am not going to say anything to his discredit——

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield)

I have not spoken this afternoon.

Mr. Hollis

Well, one hon. Member in that part of the House said that it would have been much easier if it had been done in 1935. It was quite a proper observation and I am not complaining about it. What I would ask the hon. Member who made that interruption to do is to meditate on what is the true lesson to be drawn from that fact. It is surely that every year that this reform is delayed, it becomes more difficult to do. It is true that it would have been easier to have done it in 1935 than it is today, and it is a pity it was not done in 1935. Nevertheless, it is equally true that it will be much more difficult to do it in 1960 or some other time in future with every year that passes, because the additional sense of grievance which will grow will make the problem still more difficult.

Therefore, for those three reasons, I beg the House and the Chancellor very seriously to consider accepting the verdict given on a non-party basis by the Standing Committee upstairs.

Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)

I think it is about time that some- body on this side of the House spoke in a quite different strain from that of the speeches to which we have been listening. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) has referred to absolute justice. What, particularly, are we concerned about in this Amendment? We are concerned chiefly with giving a certain section of the population rather more of the national cake than they expected to have. I think that is a perfectly fair statement. If this superannuation is increased, as was proposed and decided in the Committee upstairs, somebody will get an additional share of the national cake over and above what they expected to receive.

It is true that the beneficiaries of this transaction will be certain members of the Civil Service, who in the past have been unestablished and who have found themselves without the emoluments of their established brethren. It is my experience, and probably the experience of every hon. Member in recent weeks, that these people have constituted themselves a pressure group. I, like other hon. Members, have received the attentions of this pressure group. Even if I make a vote-losing speech, I do not care; I think something wants saying at this stage. I do not propose in future to say "Yes" to every pressure group, even if their case does involve what the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) has just called "absolute justice."

The assumption in the minds of some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and in the mind of the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn)—whom I have always regarded as representing the more responsible and more respectable element in the party opposite—is that, if a given pressure group has got a case which on its merits stands up, then the Government must necessarily give in to that pressure group on the merits of its case. That assumption is fantastic. It is not fair to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, after all, has got his job to do as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has to administer a financial system which every hon. Member with one exception—the hon. Member for South Nottingham—accepts.

Seeing that that system is accepted, and that my right hon. and learned Friend is supposed to balance his Budget, why should he have to give in to a pressure group merely because that pressure group happens to have an inherently good case? It is no use considering this subject in a vacuum and dissociating this subject from all the other topics that crowd in on this House in an era like the present. This Labour Government took office in 1945 in a difficult epoch, and because they are a Labour Government, they are expected to do the right thing by everybody, irrespective of the economic circumstances in which the country finds itself.

From now until the General Election I am going to say to all pressure groups, "I think you have a good case—or you have not, as the case may be—but if you want to have a concession made to you, you must show me how I can put it up to the Chancellor of the Exchequer so that his course will be easy and so that nobody else will be deprived." Some hon. Members have actually had the effrontery to suggest that this concession should be paid for by docking somebody else, by giving somebody the sack, or something of that sort.

I believe that these civil servants have a good case, but I refuse to vote against this Government who are, though belatedly, arranging that this evil shall not recur. I defend my right hon. and learned Friend; I hope he will stand firm and challenge those who oppose either to abstain from voting or to vote against the Government, to show where the money is to come from under the existing orthodox and fantastic financial system.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

I respect the courage of the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith) in his stern resistance to what he describes as "pressure groups." I take it that by "pressure groups" he means those expressions of public opinion with which he happens to disagree. But I was a little surprised when he told the House that it made no difference whatever to his resistance to those pressure groups if their case happened to be inherently a good one. That is a very remarkable proposition, because it suggests that the hon. Member is not prepared to back an inherently good case if it happens to be put to him rather vocally and by numbers of his constituents or of other people. I disagree with that attitude.

Surely, it is for this House to take into account public opinion in the matter, and to come to the right decision upon the merits. Public opinion on the matter is a very real and relevant consideration. The public in this country have a very considerable inherent sense of justice, and if there is a strong expression of public opinion on a matter of this sort it is, at any rate, some evidence which this House should weigh in coming to a conclusion whether or not the case is, in the words of the hon. Member for South Nottingham, "inherently a good one."

Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendments, I did not have the privilege of serving upon the Standing Committee, but I think I can claim that I represent in this House at least as many civil servants as any other hon. Member. There is no doubt at all that the action of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in putting down these Amendments has aroused a very considerable degree of indignation. To any hon. Member who is accustomed to weighing the reactions and to weighing the genuineness of representations made to him, there can be little doubt that there is a very great deal of feeling aroused on this matter. It seemed to me that in moving these Amendments the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not appear fully to appreciate that in so doing he was outraging the sense of justice of a considerable section of the community.

As I understood them, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's arguments were two. First of all there was the question of cost, which went immediately from £1 million to £2 million. He did not tell the House whether that was a gross or net figure. With the present high rate of direct taxation, there may be a substantial difference between the two, and when the Financial Secretary winds up the House should be told whether this is a gross or net figure. The argument of public economy is one which it is absolutely right in the present situation for the House to consider, and did it come from a Chancellor of the Exchequer who in other respects was sedulously practising public economy, it would, perhaps, have even more compelling weight.

6.15 p.m.

But the figure involved is a sufficiently small one when compared with the total Budget of £3,200 million not to amount to an insuperable obstacle if there is—again quoting the hon. Member for South Nottingham—"an inherently good case." The Chancellor is a better mathematician than I am—that is a very limited compliment—and can work out what percentage a sum of between £1 million and £2 million is of £3,200 million. In any case, it is very small. There is no doubt, as my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes has said, that other claims upon the Exchequer at this time are less backed by elementary justice, and, therefore, should give place to this. I should be out of Order if I were to give the right hon. and learned Gentleman any suggestions, but he might perhaps cast his eye on the Central Office of Information.

The question that really arises is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to do by these Amendments. As I understand it, it is a compromise—perhaps very characteristic of the warm geniality for which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is famous—by which he accepts the principle and then proceeds to emasculate, to attenuate and to procrastinate the substance of the matter. He accepts the principle as being right. He has not said at that Box, and no one has stood there to say, that the principle that unestablished service prior to established service should rank for full pension is wrong. No hon. Member in the course of an hour and a half has said that, and by this very Amendment the right hon. and learned Gentleman is putting on record that in the view of the Government the principle is right.

Having done that, in the same breath metaphorically, and literally in the same Amendment, he proceeds so to arrange matters that no person shall benefit from these principles for the space of 10 years. That is a ludicrous position with which to confront the House of Commons. As my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes has said, it would be more intellectually honest not to put the principle into the Bill at all; it would be intellectually more honest to leave the whole matter open. To put the principle into the Bill and then to refuse to operate it is, in the opinion of many people affected and who have spoken to me, to add insult to injury. Surely, the issue is quite simple. In terms of contemporary finance, if this is the right thing to do it is quite absurd to say that from £1 million to £2 million, be it gross or net is too much. If it be the right thing to do, then this country, even under Socialist finance, has not reached the stage at which it cannot afford it.

Mr. Houghton (Sowerby)

The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) chided my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams) and said he was not wooing hon. Members on the other side towards the case that we have espoused. But I do not think some of the speeches from hon. Members opposite have been designed to woo the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, after all, holds the key to this situation.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The House holds the key.

Mr. Houghton

I agree at once that the House holds the key to the situation, but the Chancellor has a very special responsibility to this House as custodian of the nation's finances.

With regard to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith), I submit that civil servants are the servants of this House. We are the employers of civil servants and when civil servants exercise their due right of putting their grievances before hon. Members, it is a little unkind to suggest that they are a pressure group. They must be distinguished from pressure groups as we understand them, because this is the final court of appeal for the grievances of the servants of this House. They have no right to take a matter of this kind to any arbitration tribunal, and it so happens that, on matters of superannuation, legislation is necessary before any changes can be made in their conditions. In that respect they are in a very different position from the employees of private enterprise and, indeed, in a different position from the servants of socialised industries. I hope no hon. Members on either side of the House will feel prejudiced against the case that has been put to them because they have been troubled by individual civil servants who have written to them recently.

I want to assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we all appreciate that there is a great deal of good in this Bill. There are welcome reforms, long overdue, which will cause a great deal of satisfaction to the Civil Service, but it is too good a Bill to leave unremedied a widespread feeling of injustice among civil servants who are suffering from the mistakes of Governments in the past in regard to the discount of their unestablished service for pension purposes.

If, for a moment or two, I may examine what the Chancellor proposes to do, I hope to submit to him some of the features of his Amendment which are bound in the future to cause difficulty, a sense of unfairness and a sense of injustice. The Amendment proposes to concede some improvement in the case of future entrants without going back to put things right for those who are already established. That is exactly what the Government did in 1935, and they employed a precisely similar device; because in 1935, civil servants established after the passing of the 1935 Act were allowed to reckon half their unestablished service from the date of the passing of that Act.

In 1949, under the Bill before the House, the Chancellor proposes that those established after the passing of this Bill shall be allowed to reckon in full their unestablished service from the date of the passing of the Bill. That is a device, employed in 1949, which was employed in 1935 when bringing about a change in the reckoning of unestablished service for pension. As one hon. Member has already said, the device employed in 1935 was not accepted by the Civil Service and agitation for a remedy commenced almost immediately after the Act was passed. I prophesy that trouble lies before the House on this question for precisely the same reasons.

After the passing of the 1935 Act, the Civil Service made it clear that those proposals were not to be taken as implying any abandonment of the general principle that unestablished service should be reckoned in full for existing personnel. A short while after the passing of the 1935 Act an all-party committee was formed in the House, composed of Members of all sides, to work for the amendment of the 1935 Act with a view to counting the whole of unestablished service for pension. That all-party committee made periodical approaches to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. With the outbreak of the war that activity ceased and representations which were being made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer were held in abeyance. It was not until three years ago this month that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) announced: It is my view that these men had a raw deal in the past, and it is the duty of this new Parliament and new Government to help them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 28th May, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 992.] That was the beginning of the remedy which was later incorporated in the 1946 Act.

May I contrast the position of an entrant established after the passing of this Bill with that of persons who have been established quite recently? A person established after the passing of this Bill will, under certain conditions, count one-half of his military service during the war of 1939–45, one-half of his temporary service up to the date of the passing of the Bill and his full unestablished service thereafter. An entrant who had been established before the passing of the Bill counted no part of his unestablished service in full; he counted only one-half. We might find this difference between two persons: one established in 1948, after 10 years' combined war service and temporary service, would count one-half, that is five years, whereas a man established in 1951, after the same period of combined service of 10 years, will count one-half up to the passing of the Bill and in full thereafter—a total of six years. Thus, between two men with precisely the same length of unestablished service and with only two years or so dividing their establishment in the Civil Service, there will be a difference of one year in their reckonable service for pension.

Turning to the older entrants who were established some years ago, in between the two wars, they were not allowed to count for pension purposes any part of their military service between 1914–1918 and many of them were not allowed to count any part of their earlier unestablished service. We find that a man who entered as a temporary clerk in 1920, say at 30 years of age, and who was later established in, say, 1934, when he was 44, has put in 14 years of non-pensionable service. Under the 1946 Act he is allowed to count one-half of that service. If he retires at 65 he will have served 35 years, but only 28 years of that will count for pension. For a clerical officer retiring on, say, a salary of £450, that deprivation of seven years unestablished service, which may not count for pension, will make a difference to his superannuation of about £40 a year. Under this Bill it will mean a smaller pension to his widow if he dies in the meantime. It may make a difference of possibly £13 to £14 a year on a small pension of between £50 and £60 a year which his widow might receive under this Bill.

6.30 p.m.

Those are anomalies which the Civil Service will examine with close attention and which will undoubtedly make many members of the Service feel more acutely the deprivation of the past now that some concession is to be made for unestablished service in the future. I do hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will carefully consider the appeals and representations which have been made to him from all parts of the House. This is a question of justice to the servants of the Crown, and a special responsibility rests on the House to see justice is done.

As hon. Members have mentioned, my right hon. and learned Friend did not seek to defend what has happened in the past on the merits of the case, but now refers to the considerable cost which the full remedy would entail. I suggest respectfully to him that if the cost of this concession were laid upon the Votes of the several Departments, savings could and should be made in other directions to meet the additional charge. I am sure that if he made a strong appeal to Departments to achieve that purpose the response would be complete, and that he would have no worries on the score of cost. I hope that, in all the circumstances, my right hon. and learned Friend will reconsider his previous decision, and accede to the wishes which have been so earnestly expressed from all sides of the House.

Mr. Peake

There is nothing very new or fresh which can be said about this matter. I do not think that, in the 20 years I have been in the House, I can recall such a unanimous desire for the Chancellor to meet the wishes of Members in all quarters of the House. Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman must begin to have some doubts as to the rectitude of the position he has adopted when he finds that his only supporter is the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith). Surely, if nothing else can shake the Chancellor that fact ought to have some influence with him. I think Members in all parts of the House have some legitimate sense of grievance against the Government for the way in which this matter has been handled. The procedure adopted by the Government has, in fact, invited hon. Members to take up matters of this kind and to introduce Amendments of the character of the one which was introduced into this Clause in the Standing Committee. The Government might perfectly well and perfectly reasonably have said, "This Bill represents an agreement reached between the official and staff sides of the National Whitley Council. As it represents an agreement, we for our part, as a Government, intend to stand firm on the agreement, and we are not prepared to go beyond or alter that agreement in any way." That would have been a perfectly reasonable attitude for the Government to have taken up. In pursuit of such a line they could then have drawn the Financial Resolution which governs the Bill in such a way as to have all Amendments out of Order that were designed to increase the benefits to be drawn by any class of civil servants. Had the Government followed that policy, all of us would have known exactly where we stood.

The Government, however, have not done that. At no time during the discussion of this Bill in Standing Committee or on Report have the Government taken a rigid stand upon agreement reached between the Civil Service unions on the one hand and the representatives of the official side on the other. In fact, about an hour and a quarter ago, when we were looking at Clause 32, which provides that where civil servants retire with less than 20 years' service on account of ill-health they shall receive pension as if they have had 20 years' service, the Government made a concession today which goes beyond the agreement reached between the two sides of the Whitley Council. They have made that Amendment apply not only to those who retire from the Civil Service after the passage of this Bill, but to people who are already upon superannuation, to persons who have already retired from the Service. The Government, by their own action, have shown that they do not stand pat upon the agreement, and that they are prepared to make concessions which go beyond the terms of the agreement reached.

When we come to compare what has been done under Clause 32 with what the Chancellor now proposes should be done, we see a most extraordinary contrast, because there is an additional benefit for civil servants upon superannuation, which is to apply to those who have already retired. Here we have an additional benefit, also affecting superannuation, but it is going to apply only to those who become established civil servants after the passage of this Bill. That is to say, in the average case, what the Chancellor now proposes in regard to this class will not and cannot confer benefits upon members of the Civil Service until 30 or 40 years hence. That. I think, shows that there is no principle involved here of any sort or kind.

In the Standing Committee we had speeches from every Labour Member who contributed to the Debates, in favour of the proposal which stands in the Bill as it has come back to us from the Standing Committee. I should like to quote one sentence—because I think it is a precise statement of the facts—from a speech made by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Binns). He said: It is just as well that the Financial Secretary should know that this is not merely a question of a pressure group or any special interest but that there is a genuine and unanimous desire on the part of the Committee that something should be done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 10th May, 1949; c. 164.] That is a precise description of the feeling in the Standing Committee.

The one and only objection raised to this proposal is upon the score of its cost. At different stages we have been given different figures as to what this proposal would cost. When it was first raised in Standing Committee we were told that the immediate cost of this proposal, which is that unestablished service rendered after the year 1919 should rank in full for superannuation—we were told that the initial figure for the first year would be £2 million. Later on, in the Standing Committee the initial figure was said to be £1,750,000. Today the Chancellor tells us that the initial cost will be somewhere between £1 million and £2 million. Presumably his guess now is that it would cost £1,500,000. As regards the ultimate cost, in Standing Committee we were told it would be £7 million in 15 years' time, and today the figure has come down to somewhere between £5 million and £7 million in 15 years' time. So the longer we discuss the matter the lower the cost seems to get. Therefore, there seems to be a great deal to be said for continuing this discussion.

Let us assume that the cost is of the order of £1,500,000 at the outset, growing to £5 million in 15 years' time. Of course, what the Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposes is going to cost the Exchequer nothing at all; it cannot cost it a single penny for, at any rate, 11 or 12 years, and it will not really begin to cost anything at all for 30 or 40 years. Let us assume that the Chancellor is seriously frightened at the idea of adding £1 million or £1,500,000 to expenditure at the present time. I would only draw his attention to the fact that in the case of the Police Force, the Home Secretary announced the other day proposals which would cost between £3 and £4 million a year at the outset and increase as time went on. The Chancellor clearly is not determined to resist all demands for increases if he thinks they are justified, and this case, as we all know, is justified. There has been no suggestion of any argument against the merits of the case; the argument is based entirely upon the cost.

In Standing Committee we said that unestablished service should count in full rather than at any time after 1919. The Chancellor's proposal now is that unestablished service shall count only if it was rendered after 1949. If the Chancellor is really frightened on the score of cost, and he thinks that £1 million or £1,500,000 is more than he can possibly afford to add to expenditure at the present time, I should have thought he might have come forward with some proposal to choose some intermediate date between 1919 and 1949. There is a whole generation separating 1919 entrants from entrants in 1949. Let it be observed that the Chancellor's proposal of counting unestablished service rendered only after 1949 does have this particularly unfair effect. During the war from 1939 to 1945, all establishments to the Civil Service came to an end. No one was established during those years. Many of those who would normally have become established in 1939, 1940 or 1941 were precluded by war-time conditions from gaining establishment when they entered the Civil Service. It therefore seems that the Chancellor's proposal now is designed deliberately to prevent those people from securing any benefit from this new proposal.

What has happened? Many of these unestablished civil servants who were serving all through the war years have been selected for permanent establishment, and during the years 1945 to 1948 or 1949 very large numbers of excellent civil servants have been put on full establishment. These persons, by what the Chancellor proposes, are being deliberately prohibited from obtaining any benefit whatever from this proposal. I suggest to the Chancellor that, even if he is frightened at the idea of adding £1,250,000 or £1,500,000 at the outset, to £5 million in 15 years, it is only expedient to meet the cases of these people by choosing some intermediate date which would result in the cost being rather less and to do justice to those who rendered to the country excellent service during the war years. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport has said—and I know how strongly he is in favour of this proposal, which he proposed himself during the Debate in 1946——

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. James Callaghan)

As the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to refer to me, let me say that, having experienced during the 1930's some of the miseries to which our folk were subjected by the absence of any provision then, I have listened with a growing feeling of nausea to the remarks which have characterised many of the speeches today.

Mr. Peake

I hardly think that the observations of the hon. Gentleman are in keeping with the tone of the Debate this afternoon, and I do not think they merit any reply. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will see his way to accede to the appeals which have been made to him from all quarters of the House.

6.45 p.m.

Sir S. Capps

With the permission of the House perhaps I may be allowed to reply to this Debate because I have been brought into a number of speeches and my arguments have been mentioned. I am a little surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman complain that he was not gagged at an earlier stage in this Bill. I think it is the first time that I have ever heard a representative of the Opposition get up and suggest to the Government they they might have put down a Financial Resolution which would have resulted in no amendment being possible at all. We did not think that a reasonable thing to do. Despite the desires of the right hon. Gentleman, we refrained from taking such an action. We felt it reasonable, in a matter of this importance, for views to be expressed in the House, but that did not mean that we did not reserve to ourselves naturally as a Government the position as to what we thought we were right to express to the House as regards expenditure which was permissible for certain purposes.

Let me get two things clear. The first is the effect of the Amendment which I am moving, about which there seems to be some doubt. The Amendment will have immediate effect as regards every unestablished person in the Civil Service. As from the date of the passing of the Bill, instead of two years counting as one, two years will count for two, and in reckoning up their pensions, whenever they happen to come to be paid, they will get the benefit of that extra period of time. It is not right to say that 10 years' established service has to be served before a pension is payable. Ten years which will reckon for pension has to be served.

That is to say, we can count unestablished service as well as established service which has accrued before a pension becomes payable to an established person. Therefore we say: A person has 14 years' service before this, seven years of which count towards pension and subsequently he does three years after this which will make up the ten years that are necessary. I only put that in to correct what the right hon. Gentleman put forward. This will be an immediate benefit not merely for new entrants but for everyone not up to this stage established in the Civil Service.

A great deal has been said about justice and injustice. This is not a question of justice or injustice at all. The mere justice of the situation is that these people enter upon a service on certain conditions which have been carried out. It may be said that the conditions ought to have been better. Anyone can say that with regard to the miners, the railwaymen, or anyone else. But no one suggests that we should legislate retrospectively to alter the condition under which they were then serving. It is a very unusual situation to go back retrospectively and alter conditions of service of a large class of persons.

Therefore, it is not really a question of justice or injustice, but a question of whether it is right and expedient to go back and, at the expense of the community, alter the conditions of the service which ruled and under which the service was given of a certain class of people. It has been said that I have agreed that the conditions under which the service was then given was not as good as they should have been. Certainly I agree with that. But that applies to a host of other people in the country as well.

It is not only these people who were serving during that period under conditions which were not as good as they should have been. We must remember that if we do something special for these people others may come along and ask, "What about us?" What about, for instance, the servants of the National Coal Board, to whom exactly the same provisions have been applied as regards their unpensionable period of service before they came under the Coal Board; that is to say, they are to be allowed half the period of time. If this is done for civil servants, may it not well be suggested that it should be done for 75,000 people under the Coal Board scheme? What about the local government staff who under the 1937 Act were put on a similar basis to civil servants? That is to say, half their period of service, unestablished or without a pension scheme, was to be counted.

This is a matter which cannot be settled entirely in isolation. If we are to be retrospective with legislation as regards conditions of service we must bear in mind the fact that there are other people who will come along and say: "We are just as entitled to an extra share of the national wealth as this particular body of persons." Therein lies my great difficulty. Obviously, I should like, as we should all like—it is almost too simple to say "Yes" to all these quite reasonable demands of people who say that the conditions under which they served in the past were not as good as they ought to have been—we should all like to say, "By all means let us put them right. Let us now give you compensation for those bad conditions in the past." But when it comes to paying the Bill we do not all like it, and that is just the difference.

Hon. Gentlemen who press me today say, "Look how just. Why not do it? You are only trebling the cost of the Bill. That is all that we are asking you to do. You estimated that the Bill would cost £3¼ million. We are only asking you to raise it to £10¾ million now. How reasonable! Why not do it?" Well, I should like to do it very much indeed, but I do not think that my responsibility as Chancellor of the Exchequer permits me to do it. I have to look at this matter in the setting of the people who have got to pay the money as well as the people who have to receive the money, and of all the other competitive requests that may be made.

When we got out this Bill, in agreement very largely with the Civil Service, we came to the conclusion that we were justified in spending a certain amount of money on a superannuation scheme, although there were financial difficulties and stringencies, and so on. Having come to that conclusion we framed a scheme which would come within that ambit.

Mr. Peake

I am sorry to interrupt, but I do want to be clear upon the question of the cost of the Bill and the cost of this proposal. Just now the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that we were trebling the cost of the Bill, and that the cost of the Bill as introduced would have been £3¾ million.

Sir S. Cripps

Three and a quarter million increased to £10¾ million.

Mr. Peake

The Financial Memorandum on the back of the Bill as originally printed says: The total cost of Part III of the Bill is … unlikely to exceed £500,000 in the first year and will diminish thereafter. Parts I and II … will result in a temporary increase in administrative costs of about £20,000 a year. I cannot square these figures on the back of the Bill, which total just over half a million, with the figure of £3¼ million which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just given.

Sir S. Cripps

I do not know which document the right hon. Gentleman has got, but at the bottom of page iii the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says: Thereafter payments will exceed receipts till ultimately, after twenty years, the net cost of these pensions may reach a peak of £3.25 million a year.

Mr. Peake

After 20 years.

Sir S. Cripps

Well, this other figure is after 15 years; it creeps up to £7 million, so it is, roughly speaking, a comparable period. There is nothing very much in it. What we have to try to do is by this Amendment to establish a system which will avoid the possibility of this kind of difficulty arising in the future. We have made that applicable to everybody who has unestablished service.

Some hon. Members have suggested, certainly the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), that it is much better not to do this at all. Well, I do ask him to think again about that. It will not make the contrast any worse than it is today. It will obviously make the contrast better than it is today. If, as we all agree, this is an undesirable incident of employment by the State, surely getting rid of it is a benefit. I think that every sensible hon. Member would agree with that proposition.

I must say quite definitely that, having given this the very deepest consideration that I can, with every possible desire to help that very great body of persons, the Civil Service of this country, I regret that it is not possible to add this new burden to the burden that we are already undertaking for this purpose. I must also point out that in matters of this kind, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must take the responsibility of telling the House fairly and fully what he considers to be the capacity for further payment of this kind, and once having made up his mind that nothing further should be charged on this account he would be gravely neglecting his duty if, for the sake of popularity or appeasement, he were to give way to demands of this kind.

Mr. Hale

Would my right hon. and learned Friend deal with one point, which I think important, which he mentioned in his earlier speech at the opening of this discussion. It is certainly not completely understood by myself, and not, I imagine, by many hon. Members who were not Members of the Standing Committee. He made what I thought a very important statement indeed when he said that it was his intention that unestablished service should gradually become a thing of the past. I thought that he was going rather to abolish that, so that most civil servants in future would be established. If the Chancellor could give us any elaboration of that I should be grateful.

Sir S. Cripps

The figures were given in Committee, and I think they were mentioned a little earlier today. Last year 86,000 civil servants in all were established, and the objective is—and of course this Amendment will encourage the objective, because directly upon the passing of this Bill unestablished service will equally count for pension, and there will be no distinction between the two——

Mr. Hale

If the man becomes established.

Sir S. Cripps


Mr. Hale

But not otherwise.

Sir S. Cripps

But not otherwise. The purpose, as we have stated, is to use unestablishment only as a stage, and not as a permanent method of employing people for the Civil Service.

Mr. H. Wallace

Would the Chancellor answer the two points I raised affecting the two smaller grades, whether they could be settled departmentally?

Sir S. Cripps

That is a matter which can be discussed, but it has no relevance to this Amendment.

Mr. Solley (Thurrock)

I am sorry to have to detain the House at this late stage, but I did attempt to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, before the Chancellor rose to reply to the Debate. I am intervening because I have been asked by civil servants in my constituency to support the Clause as it stands and to oppose the Amendment which the Government have now moved. A few weeks ago I received a letter from the Customs staff at Tilbury Docks, in which they say: Sir, We the undermentioned members of His Majesty's Customs Staff, Tilbury Docks would be grateful for your support in the House when the Civil Service Superannuation Bill Amendments are discussed. The Joint Committee of the Civil Service have sent you a copy of the proposed three Amendments. We have on our staff men with 28 years' unestablished service who are now established, but only half of this service counts for superannuation purposes. Knowing your record we know your support is a certainty. That was written on 14th March before my expulsion from the Labour Party.

7.0 p.m.

It is quite obvious from that, from conversations I have had with civil servants in my constituency and from what has been said on both sides of the House that there is deep feeling on this matter, and if this Amendment is accepted, grave injustice will be done to a fine body of public servants. As I understood the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, his fundamental opposition to the Clause as it now stands is that it will cost a sum of money which he cannot at this moment afford for this purpose. The hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith) put it in rather a different way when he called upon his right hon. and learned Friend not to give way to pressure groups. Incidentally, I regard it as an impertinence to call constituents of mine, who approached me constitutionally and democratically for my support, members of a pressure group.

Mr. Norman Smith

Does the hon. Gentleman believe it an impertinence to apply the term "pressure group" to people when, in the case of my constituency, I had seven letters from different persons all couched in identical language?

Mr. Solley

I have no doubt that the way Nottingham approaches its M.P. is different from the way Thurrock approaches its M.P. The hon. Member requested the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to give way to pressure groups. In the case of one particular pressure group, I have no doubt there would have been no difficulty in allocating this money. I refer, of course, to the pressure group of the Foreign Office.

The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) said that he hoped hon. Members on the Government side of the House would go into the Lobby to support the Conservative Party against the Government. The reason we have this Clause at all is that the Tory Government in 1935 made it impossible to do justice to civil servants. I would regard it as sheer hypocrisy for the hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues to challenge the Government on this matter, because for many years they had it within their power to put right that which they are now asking the Labour Government to put right. It is for that reason, although I am in opposition to the Government Amendment, that I will not share in the hypocrisy of the Tories, and I will not

go into their Lobby. My opposition is not the same as the Tory opposition, but is based on what I conceive to be a Socialist point of view. This Clause as it now stands remedies an injustice, and the Amendment would restore that injustice. In those difficult circumstances, I shall abstain from voting.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 130; Noes, 237.

Division No. 158.] AYES [7.5 p.m
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Odey, G. W.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Glyn, Sir R. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Gridley, Sir A. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Astor, Hon. M. Grimston, R. V. Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Baldwin, A. E. Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Baxter, A. B. Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Pickthorn, K.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Haughton, Colonel S. G. (Antrim) Platts-Mills, J. F. F.
Birch, Nigel Head, Brig. A. H. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Bossom, A. C. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Bowen, R. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Raikes, H. V.
Bower, N. Hollis, M. C. Renton, D.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hope, Lord J. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt-Col. W. Hutchison Lt-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.) Ropner, Col. L.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Savory, Prof. D. L.
Bullock, Capt. M. Keeling, E. H. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Butcher, H. W. Kendall, W. D. Smithers, Sir W.
Butler, Rt. Hn R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Lambert, Hon. G. Spearman, A. C. M.
Byers, Frank Langford-Holt, J. Stanley, Rt. Hon O.
Challen, C. Law, Rt Hon. R. K. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Channon, H. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Studholme, H. G.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Low, A. R. W. Sutcliffe, H.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lucas, Major Sir J. Teeling, William
Davidson, Viscountess MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness) Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Davits, Rt. Hn Clement (Montgomery) MacDonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
De la Bère, R. McFarlane, C. S. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Digby, Simon Wingfield McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Touche, G. C.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Turton, R. H.
Dower, Col A. V. G. (Penrith) Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Drewe, C. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Vane, W. M. F.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Duthie, W. S. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Eccles, D. M. Manningham-Butler, R. E. Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt Hon. Walter Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Fletcher, W. (Bury) Medlicott, Brigadier F. William, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Metlor, Sir J. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone) Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Gage, C. Neven-Spence, Sir B. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Nicholson, G. Brigadier Mackeson and
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Nield, B. (Chester) Colonel Wheatley.
George, Maj Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Acland, Sir Richard Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Bottomley, A. G.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Barstow, P. G. Bowden, Fig. Offr. H. W.
Albu, A. H. Battley, J. R. Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl Exch'ge)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. Bechervaise, A. E. Braddock, T. (Mitcham)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Brook, D. (Halifax)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Benson, G. Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)
Alpass, J. H. Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Bing, G. H. C. Brown, T. J. (Ince)
Attewell, H. C. Binns, J. Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.
Awbery, S. S. Blackburn, A. R. Callaghan, James
Bacon, Miss A. Blyton, W. R. Champion, A. J.
Balfour, A. Boardman, H. Cluse, W. S.
Cobb, F. A. Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Cocks, F. S. Irving, W. J. (Tottenham N.) Rhodes, H.
Collindridge, F. Isaacs, Rt. Hon G. A. Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Collins, V. J. Jay, D. P. T. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Colman, Miss G. M. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Cook, T. F. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Corlett, Dr. J. Keenan, W. Rogers, G. H. R.
Cove, W. G. Key, Rt. Hon C. W. Royle, C.
Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Scollan, T.
Daggar, G. Kinley, J. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Daines, P. Kirby, B. V. Sharp, Granville
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lang, G. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras S. W.) Lee, F. (Hulme) Shawcross, Rt Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)
Deer, G. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Leslie, J. R. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Diamond, J. Lewis, A. W. J. (Uplon) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Dobbie, W. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Simmons, C. J.
Dodds, N. N. Lindgren, G. S. Skeffington, A. M.
Donovan, T. Lipton, Lt.-Col M. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Driberg, T. E. N. Logan, D. G. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Longden, F. Snow, J. W.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly) Lyne, A. W. Sorensen, R. W.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) McAdam, W. Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank
Evans, John (Ogmore) McAllister, G. Sparks, J. A.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) McGhee, H. G. Steele, T.
Ewart, R. Mack, J. D. Strauss, Rt Hon G. R. (Lambeth)
Fairhurst, F. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Stubbs, A. E.
Farthing, W. J. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.) Swingler, S.
Fernyhough, E. McKinlay, A. S. Sylvester, G. O.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Maclean, N. (Govan) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Foot, M. M. McLeavy, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Forman, J. C. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Freeman, J. (Watford) Macpherson, T. (Romford) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mainwaring, W. H. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Gibbins, J. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield) Thurtle, Ernest
Gilzean, A. Mann, Mrs. J. Timmons, J.
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mathers, Rt. Hon George Titterington, M. F.
Gooch, E. G. Mellish, R. J. Tolley, L.
Goodrich, H. E. Messer, F. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Middleton, Mm. L. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield) Mitchison, G. R. Viant, S. P.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Moody, A. S. Walker, G. H.
Grenfelt, D. R. Morley, R. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Grey, C. F. Murray, J. D. Watkins, T. E.
Grierson, E. Nally, W. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Naylor, T. E. Weitzman, D.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Neal, H. (Claycross) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Guest, Dr. L. Haden Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) West, D. G.
Gunter, R. J. Noel-Baker, Capt F. E. (Brentford) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edin'gh E.)
Hale, Leslie Oldfield, W. H. White, H. (Derbyshire N. E.)
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Oliver, G. H. Whiteley, Rt Hon W.
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R. Orbach, M. Wigg, George
Hardman, D. R. Paling, Rt. Hon Wilfred (Wentworth) Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Hardy, E. A. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Harrison, J. Parker, J. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Haworth, J. Parkin, B. T. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Herbison, Miss M. Paton, J. (Norwich) Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Hicks, G. Pearson, A. Wise, Major F. J.
Hobson, C. R. Popplewell, E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Porter, E. (Warrington) Woods, G. S.
Horabin, T. L. Porter, G. (Leeds) Wyatt, W.
Hubbard, T. Price, M. Philips Yates, V. F.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Proctor W. T. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Pryde, D. J. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pursey, Comdr. H.
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Ranger, J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Rankin, J. Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Mr. Hannan.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Further Amendments made: In page 32, line 13, leave out "This section," and insert "The preceding subsection."

In line 15, at end, insert: (3) Section three of the Superannuation Act, 1935, shall have effect, in relation to any service in an unestablished capacity rendered after the passing of this Act as if in subsection (1) thereof the words 'as to one half of the period thereof,' were omitted."—[Mr. Glenvil Hall.]

  2. c1983
  4. c1983
  5. Clause 57.—(POWER TO IGNORE BREAKS IN DEPENDENCE.) 35 words
  6. c1983
  7. Clause 61.—(INTERPRETATION.) 199 words