HC Deb 07 December 1950 vol 482 cc627-31

Amendment made: In page 5, line 41, leave out "or in the case of a woman," and add: (4) Where the personal pension is or would he payable to a woman—

  1. (a) the preceding subsections shall not apply, but
  2. (b) a contribution towards the cost of the liabilities assumed under this Act for the benefit of the woman's children shall be made, taking the form of a reduction in the lump sum which may he granted under this Act in respect of that woman's service; and
  3. (c) the amount of that contribution shall be ascertained from tables prepared for the purposes of this subsection by the Government Actuary:
Provided that if the woman has at any time during her relevant service so elected, no contribution shall be made and no children's pension shall he payable for the benefit of her children. An election authorised to he made under this subsection shall be in writing, shall he made to the Treasury, and shall he made in the life-time of the person who makes it.—[The Attorney-General.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I should like to ask one or two questions with regard to the effect of the Clause, which appears to be somewhat curiously worded. While the first subsection says A contribution … for the benefit of a man's wife and children shall he made, we have now had it clearly from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, in fact, no contribution is to be made for the children.

The Attorney-General indicated dissent.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that, in the discussion on the last Amendment.

The Attorney-General

I did not put it in quite that wording. The contribution is made to the joint pension of the widow and children. Because no increase was made in the judge's contribution, it is no longer a 50–00 contribution. That is the point I made. The contribution to the children was left as it was.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I followed that, but what is not very clear on reading this Clause is on whom the liability to make the contribution will fall. If a man has a wife at the time of his retiring at a great age, and his wife is of considerable age, obviously he will still have to make the contribution; but under this Clause we get the position that apparently the contribution is to be made if he once had a wife, even though he has ceased to be married by the time of his retirement. Will a contribution be made—the words here are mandatory—where he once had a wife and, at the time of his retiring, is aged and without children? It would not appear that there is any widows' pension likely to inure, and indeed no possibility of a children's pension. I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider the wording of the Clause before the Report stage, and to make it clear in what event a man will be called upon to make his contribution out of his lump sum. That is not very clear from the wording of the Clause.

I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider one further point. Will he tell me to what the words "before that time" refer, in line 37. As I read them, looking back to see what "that" refers to, it refers to "the end of his relevant service," in line 33. I am sure that the words are not intended to mean that. I am sure that they are intended to refer to the time when he "last had a wife," although the last "time" referred to is the end of his relevant service. I therefore suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that a little redrafting here would appear to be necessary between now and the Report stage.

I have made two points. They are rather important, the first point in particular, which is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should make it clear in the Clause in what circumstances a man will have to pay the contribution. I do not think it is very clear now. Will he, for instance, have to pay a contribution where he has children of the age of 15 at the time of his retirement? I should like to know the answer to that question. If he has children of the age of 15 at the time of his retirement, I wonder what the actuarial result will be. It is very necessary that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should, if possible, explain those points to the Committee, and should reconsider the wording of the Clause.

The Attorney-General

My head almost reels when it is a question of discussing figures, because I am quite incapable of understanding even the most elementary ones. The principle that some sum should be payable in the circumstances which the hon. and learned Gentleman has envisaged is quite right. The judge has at all times been, as the insurance companies put it, covered during the period of his service in case he should die or in case he should retire. The fact may be that, fortunately, he does not die and that he is able to continue in service to a very old age. One of the best judges I ever knew was 94. He was very good at the beginning and at the end he was very good. The fact that a judge lives to an old age will not relieve him of the obligation to pay some contribution in respect of the cover which, all through those years, has been available for his wife and the children if he had died.

The position, following that general principle, with which I think the hon. and learned Gentleman would not disagree, is that a man whose wife dies before the end of his service pays a reduced contribution, which is calculated by multiplying the maximum contribution by the number of completed years of his service, up to the date when his wife dies, and dividing the sum thus obtained by the total number of years of his service until he retires. The relevant service is defined in one of the later Clauses of the Bill. I will give the hon. and learned Gentleman an example, for which I will not vouch and which I do not understand myself. This is how it works out in practice.

In the case of a judge who is married on appointment, whose wife dies after 10 years of his service, and to whom on his retirement after 20 years' total service a pension of £1,000 a year is granted, the contribution is £1,000 multiplied by 10—the period of service at which his wife died—divided by 25, the period of his total service. That results in £400, as I am inclined to think now on reflection, it probably does. That is one case, I think a fairly clear case. There is a lump sum of £2,000. It is the pension which is multiplied and divided.

The other case is of an officer who was a bachelor on appointment and after 20 years' service, marries, but unhappily ceases to have his wife after 24 years' service, because she dies. There, the appropriate contribution, if he retires, say, after 25 years on a pension of £1,000, would be £1,000 multiplied by 24 and divided by 25, in other words, £960. On that sum, the contribution is much larger, although the officer was married for only four years. The proportion is 24–45ths and not 4–45ths. That may seem to be a hardship on the officer, but here again that is the manner in which the matter has been dealt with in other schemes.

It is no more a hardship than the example in the earlier case, where the man was already married on appointment, since while the marriage continued the wife is, of course, contingently eligible to a pension which would have been assessed not by reference to the four years during which she had been married but to the whole period of the judge's service. Consequently, it would have been a very much larger pension. That is how the thing works out in practice. She would get a very much larger pension. I hope that that answer meets the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I have done my best to follow the mathematical calculations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and he seemed to me to reach the right mathematical conclusion, but I am not at all sure that I fully appreciate what the consequences will be in individual cases. I shall look at the matter in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and perhaps we shall have an opportunity of considering it again on the Report stage when we may table an Amendment just with a view to discussing the matter again.

Before we pass on I want to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider the drafting question with regard to subsection (1). Who is liable to make the contribution is not as clear as it might be. I take it that the liability arises once the officer is married and that the liability is not varied in any case by the age of the children or whether he has children or not.

The Attorney-General indicated assent.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I should also like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider the wording in line 37, because the words "before that time" appear to refer back to the relevant service and not to the date when the officer last had a wife.

Question put, and agreed to.

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