HC Deb 04 December 1950 vol 482 cc151-4
The Attorney-General

I beg to move, in page 2, line 33, at the end, to add: (2) Subject to the provisions of this Act, on the death after the passing of this Act of a female person (hereafter in this Act referred to as "the deceased") who—

  1. (a) had become eligible for a pension for service in one of the capacities listed in the First Schedule to this Act, or
  2. (b) was serving in any of the said capacities at the time of her death and would, if she had then retired on the ground of permanent infirmity, have become eligible for a pension for that service,
there may be granted in respect of her service a pension for the benefit of children of any marriage of hers and of children adopted by her (hereafter in this Act referred to as a "children's pension"). In moving this Amendment, I should like to refer to a number of others which are related to or consequential upon it. This Amendment, at the instance of my hon. Friend the Member for Fint, East (Mrs. White), does something to improve the Bill. This is not one of the cases where the better is the enemy of the good. Sometimes the better can be the fatal enemy of the good. In this matter we have been able to meet the suggestion that was put forward by my hon. Friend and this Amendment, together with others in later Clauses, brings it within the scope of certain of the provisions of the Bill.

These Amendments are designed to permit a woman—I think at the moment there is only one, but the day may come when there will be many more—serving in any of the capacities covered by the First Schedule to the Bill, to pay a special contribution in order to secure for any fatherless children of hers, or any children whom she has adopted, either after her death in service or after her retirement, pensions similar to those which would be given to the children of a male occupant. The rate of contribution, from the nature of things, has to be different. It will be payable on the basis of tables prepared by the Government actuary and will vary according to the relative ages of the woman herself and the children concerned. I am told that in most cases the contribution works out at a very, very small sum indeed. We can go into that later on particular Amendments, if the Committee desires to do so.

The contribution will always be calculated ad hoc in relation to the particular woman concerned. On the other hand, the pension of the children will always be calculated at the higher rate applicable to children where there is no widow. Unlike the main scheme for widows and children, this does not represent any reduction in the lump sum, equal in every case. The contribution is based on the circumstances of the particular case and I have no doubt it will be beneficial to those women officers, if any there be, who, on retirement, find themselves with children still dependent upon them.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

We cannot discuss all these Amendments at the same time, but I am sure the Committee are grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for explaining them all at the same time. I am sure it is a good thing that this Bill should have its provisions extended so as to cover any women who hold, or will hold in the future, any of the offices specified in the First Schedule.

There are, however, one or two points to which I draw the attention of the Committee, while welcoming this provision. In the first place, I think it is clear—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that under this provision there is no possibility of any kind of pension being received by the widower of the woman who has held office. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but cases may occur where, from physical infirmity, the husband is incapable of earning his livelihood, where the woman holding office has been maintaining him, and where he will be deprived of all support by her death.

We have had many debates in this House on the question of equal pay and things of that sort, and I would point out that, unless there is provision for a grant of a pension to widowers in certain circumstances, this would appear to be a case in which women and men are being differently treated with the advantage, as usual, lying in the woman's favour. I do not ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give me an answer now, but I should like to ask him about the possibility of making provision for the widower—it might be a discretionary provision—to meet the sort of case I have indicated.

9.45 p.m.

I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the remarkable wording of one of the Amendments to which the Attorney-General has referred—the Amendment to Clause 7, page 5, line 23. The Committee will see that it says: Where are deceased was a woman, subsection (2) of this section shall apply as it applies where the deceased was a man leaving no widow and subsections (3) and (4) of this section shall not apply. At first sight that does take a good deal of working out, but I am sure it is not the nonsense one may think it to be at first sight.

I should be glad if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would confirm whether I am right about this other thing. There is one departure also being made, in these provisions extending this Bill to women, from the general scheme of the Bill, and the departure is not unimportant, as I see it. It is in the Amendment to Clause 5, by which any woman office holder appointed in the future will have the right of election as to whether she is going to make a contribution for her children—a right of election which will be denied, if the Bill goes through in its present form, to every male person appointed after the passage of the Bill.

The Attorney-General

Yes. The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right, and that provision is made for the reason that the contribution is to be based actuarially on her particular circumstances. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will consider whether he wants to apply that principle to the judges—there is a very great difference—to provide an election where the actuarial basis of the scheme is averaged out over the judges as a whole. If we were to provide an actuarial pension based on the circumstances of each particular case, no doubt the Government could do it; no doubt, they could do it just as well as a life office could do it; but it would not be so beneficial to the beneficiaries.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.