§ 35. Mr. P. Thorneycroft
asked the Minister of Transport what are the grounds of national policy referred to in paragraph 46 of the Second Annual Report of the Transport Commission for 1949, which preclude the Commission from introducing a pension scheme for their staff.
§ Mr. Barnes
In the discharge of my responsibilities for pensions under the Transport Act, I must take account of all the relevant circumstances, including the economic position of the industry and the general economic background of the country. At the time referred to in the Report, the Government did not consider that it would be in the national interest that there should be any large scale extension of supplementary pensions schemes, and we thought it right to make this view known to the boards of the socialised industries. Without being committed in any way as to the decision in the event of such schemes being 17 put forward, we have now made it clear that the boards are entirely free to negotiate with the unions on the matter. Any proposals which resulted would, of course, have to he considered on their merits in the light of the circumstances at the time.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Am I to understand that the original objection put up to the Transport Commission that, quite apart from the financial consideration, a pension scheme could not be introduced because it was against the Government's policy, has now been abandoned?
§ Mr. Barnes
If the hon. Gentleman will read the reply I have given to him he will find it perfectly clear. He is not entitled to put his own construction on the answer I have given.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
Arising out of the Minister's remark that it was contrary to Government policy to encourage supplementary schemes of this kind, will he say since when it has become so contrary, because when his right hon. Friend the then Minister of National Insurance, who is now Secretary of State for the Colonies, introduced the National Insurance Bill, he said that supplementary schemes should be encouraged.
§ Mr. Barnes
I see no particular departure here from general Government policy. In many directions, the Government have indicated the need not to increase the cost of production if it can be avoided—we know the references with regard to wages—and in this case it was felt that the attention of the Commission should be drawn to the matter. It is perfectly right and proper for the Commission to discuss with the unions, but the Minister must eventually reserve the responsibility for deciding on the merits of any proposal put forward.