§ 5.53 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)
I beg to move,That the Draft Transferred Undertakings (Compensation to Employees) Regulations, 1950. a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th March, be approved.The House, in considering these Regulations, should keep in mind that this is the first time in the history of the road haulage industry that any effort has been made to establish a code for compensation. In the case of the railways, electricity and the London Passenger Transport Board, codes have been established and are generally recognised. There is a good deal of knowledge concerning those industries, but that is not the case with the road haulage industry. Regulations in connection with nationalised industries have been before the House from time to time, and we have become aware of certain common features that run through them all. There are certain features which also apply to the road haulage compensation Regulations, although in other respects they are different for the reason I have indicated.
Perhaps it might be for the convenience of the House if I referred to one or two of the main features that are common to all these Regulations, namely, the qualifying conditions. As in the other Regulations, an individual, to qualify for 2339 compensation, must have served in the industry since 1st January, 1940. He can then establish his entitlement to compensation for loss of employment, for loss or diminution of emolument or pension rights, and for worsening of conditions. The cause of the claim must arise within 10 years of the date at which the British Transport Commission took over the undertaking in which he was employed. I think we can claim that to be a reasonable period. I hardly think anyone would argue that a cause for claims should go on for ever. There must be a period fixed when normal circumstances of business management must prevail.
A claim must be made within two years of the cause arising, or within two years of when the individual might reasonably have been aware that a claim could arise. Provision is made for the payment of interim amounts. If there is any delay while a claim is being assessed and it is not settled within the period of 13 weeks, then the individual can resort to the appeal machinery. These Regulations are the same as those in the case of electricity and gas in regard to appeals, namely, that a dissatisfied claimant can resort to an independent board of referees established by the Ministry of Labour. These tribunals of the Ministry of Labour are a well-established feature of that Department and are brought in under these Regulations.
I do not pretend for a moment that an industry of this description which has no history, will have many individuals who can establish their rights to pensions, but we must make the necessary provisions in the Regulations. I am proposing to introduce Regulations under Section 98 of the Transport Act to cover any claimant who had pension rights, including expectation of pension, under his old employment. These will be fully preserved in the form in which they existed at the time of the loss of employment.
It would have been very desirable if I could have introduced the pensions Regulations at the same time as the compensation Regulations, but, as Members are aware, we have had some 2,000 to 3,000 undertakings that have been in process of passing from their owners to the adminis- 2340 tration of the British Transport Commission, and it was essential that we should have complete knowledge of what existed in these undertakings before we could provide pension Regulations. We now feel that the process is sufficiently complete to proceed, and the drafting of these Regulations is being considered by my legal advisers.
I want to allay any anxiety that may exist in this respect, because whilst it may not represent a general interest, it is a personal matter. Any individual who was entitled to any pension facility under his old employers might feel anxious as to whether his rights are safeguarded under the new regime. I can give the assurance that this will be done under these new Regulations. The present Regulations provide an addition to pension rights in the case of men over 40 who are likely to experience more difficulty than younger men in securing settled employment if, by any chance, their services should not be required by the British Transport Commission. The addition is equal to the amount by which pensions would have been increased had there been one additional year reckonable on the basis of each year the man served after the age of 40, up to a maximum of 10 such added years.
At this stage I should like to make another point clear. Under the procedure adopted by the British Transport Commission in taking over road haulage undertakings, many have been acquired by voluntary agreements. These Regulations only cover those which have been compulsorily acquired, but I think it is essential for me to make it plain now that, although the Regulations as drafted do not apply to the undertakings that have been taken over voluntarily, all these conditions will be accorded to the staff and the employees of those voluntarily acquired undertakings, and there need be no anxiety at all on that point.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Does this extend to a working partner of an undertaking taken over, because he, too, is a workman?
§ Mr. Barnes
No, not if he is part-owner of the undertaking. He would get capital compensation for the business. We have to bear in mind that in the road haulage industry a large proportion of the owners 2341 worked very hard in their business, but this applies only to their staff and employees.
In arranging this compensation there was no previous code within the industry to follow, but we have endeavoured to adhere as closely as we can to other compensation schemes. Because there is no code, we are aiming to establish here the standard of a very good employer rather than basing it on a code. I would not wish to convey that a great majority of the people in this industry will get other than the minimum benefit that the Regulations propose. While that may be the case, there is a provision that any person who can prove expectation to any compensation better than the minimum provisions shall be adequately safeguarded.
Another point I ought to emphasise is that these Regulations are very different from those of some of the other nationalised industries that have been taken over. They deal not only with the problem of expectation, but with the problem of whether any individual whose services are dispensed with will suffer an undue handicap in getting similar other employment. In that connection it should be noted that the fleet of vehicles in the possession of the British Transport Commission does not establish a monopoly in road transport, and such a thing cannot be argued. The present fleet of the Executive numbers 37,000 vehicles engaged in the main in long-distance transport, and there are 13,000 vehicles engaged in railway work which are, of course, not covered by these Regulations.
There is no monopoly here, for there are alternative forms of employment in the industry. In March of this year the independently owned vehicles with A licences, including A2 licences, numbered 62,000 vehicles, the B licences numbered 64,000 and there were 691,000 commercial vehicles operating under the C licence system. If the 37,000 vehicles owned and operated by the British Road Services are compared with the licences under private enterprise, we can see quite easily that the greater part of this industry is not covered by the conditions here, and if any individual should lose his employment as a result of nationalisation, there is a very wide field for obtaining other employment.
2342 The other matter which it is desirable to emphasise in regard to the period of qualification is that of any break in service. An individual who qualifies within the period must have served continuously under either some A or B licensed operator, and he would only be eliminated from continuous employment if he were absent from those undertakings for a period of more than 18 months. War service, Civil Defence service and all wartime service considered by the Government to be National Service, are disregarded in this respect.
These Regulations were discussed extensively with a great number of organisations interested in the subject. I do not propose to read out the list unless any hon. Gentleman wishes to know whether a particular organisation was consulted, and I am not suggesting that we obtained enthusiastic agreement from all the trade unions in regard to the conditions. They naturally desired us to be more generous. Nevertheless, they recognised that we were taking a very considerable step forward in this industry. Nobody with knowledge of the road haulage industry would suggest that it has been the practice of private employers who dismissed an operator to give him 13 weeks' pay on the basis of two-thirds of his wages less unemployment or sickness benefit. If the employee had been in private service up to the age of 45 years, he would not have had an additional week's pay for every year of service up to 26 weeks. We are establishing, if you like to call it so, a minimum code which represents a very substantial advantage.
I can recollect 20 years ago when there was no order in the road haulage industry with regard to the regulation and licensing of vehicles or the conditions of labour. With the coming of the Road Traffic Act, 1933, and the licensing of road haulage vehicles, the trade unions were gradually put into the position of establishing fairly reasonable conditions for the staffs. It is left to this moment for the road haulage industry to be lifted, perhaps not to the same level as the railway or the electricity industries, but at least to be started on the road by Parliament establishing the right of compensation to an individual who is displaced by any Parliamentary Act for loss of employment, if his emoluments are in 2343 any way impaired, or with regard to his pension rights if there is any change which represents a worsening of his conditions. Therefore, I commend the Regulations to the House. Some hon. Members may wish we could have done more, but this is a very substantial beginning and I trust it will receive unanimous approval.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
We do not propose to divide the House upon these Regulations. As a matter of fact, we think they ought to have been presented before and we have been waiting for them for a very long time. I have constantly sought such opportunities as one can take in transport matters, which are precious few, to press the right hon. Gentleman to tell us when we should see these Regulations. I have no doubt that there are other hon. Members with knowledge of the trade unions who have done so, too. I do not know the cause of the delay, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may tell us at some stage of the proceedings.
In any event, we now have them here. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, their purpose is to compensate people who have been thrown out of work owing to the process of nationalising or integrating the road haulage system. They may be drivers or managers. The Regulations cover a wide field of persons who may be servants of the individual companies. There is quite a large number of them and there will be a good number more by next year, because the British Transport Commission, if not a monopoly at the moment, as the right hon. Gentleman claims, are doing their best to make themselves a monopoly at the earliest possible occasion.
I have received a letter from Sir Cyril Hurcomb saying that the permits under which many firms are operating at the present time will probably be withdrawn. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman could confirm that. It will mean that more of these men may find themselves out of work, because the activities in which they were engaged will be no longer there. The firms which now employ them will be bankrupt or be taken over by the British Transport Commission. [An HON. MEMBER: "The 2344 same thing."] I agree that it may be the same thing. They will find themselves seeking to get what relief they can from these Regulations.
These Regulations are not very controversial at the moment. They are accepted, but I take the opportunity of making one or two comments upon them. They will apply to some very hard cases, such as the man of 50 or 60 years of age who may have spent the whole of his life in this industry. He suddenly finds his livelihood taken away through no fault of his own. It is very right and proper that we should look carefully at the conditions under which compensation is to be paid, to see that it is done justly and properly. The first thing that the Regulations do, in Regulation 1 (3) is to lay down the conditions under which a man is regarded as anexisting officer or servant.He has to fulfil those conditions in order to come within the Regulations at all. He has to have been employed for between eight and 10 years, since January, 1940. Why did the Government make that particular condition? It seems rather a long time for a man to have to establish.
The Government are making it harder in this and other fields for anybody to get compensation for injury suffered through action of the Government or of any other person. Later on, we are to discuss compensation for local government officers, which is the same kind of point. Under the Local Government Act, 1933, a local government officer thrown out of work by the operations of the Boundary Commission did not need to show eight or 10 years. This is a new clause introduced by the Ministry of Health. There was the Indian Civil Servants Act, 1947. They were given five years. This condition of eight or 10 years' service is too much, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the point and to give us the Government's reasons for insisting upon that length of time.
I want to ask the Minister another question, perhaps a subsidiary but still an important one. It is about what I might call the hybrid case of the man who at one moment was the owner of a business and then became its servant. Several cases of that kind have been brought to my attention. For example, in 2345 1940, a man was the owner of a business in the ordinary sense. Perhaps he was a partner, or was his own master. He turned the business into a limited liability company between 1940 and the date when it is taken over. From that moment, he became the servant, though he was not the servant in 1940. Therefore, he cannot claim under these provisions.
That seems to me to be a hardship, and I think the House might consider it to be a hardship. He has been in the business, but his status has changed during that period. On the face of it, one would think that he should have the right to claim the same compensation as a servant who had been employed for a longer period, and that is a matter on which we should like to have an answer from the right hon. Gentleman.
Then there is one other matter which arises under the proviso to the second Regulation. I do not think anyone would have any objection to the proviso as such, but the gist of it is that if a man is offered a job, it need not necessarily be in the same area as that in which he has hitherto been working. He may have to move from one part of the country to another, and that is taken as an offer of an alternative employment. I am not objecting to it, but I think it is a matter which ought to be administered rather sensibly.
It is not easy for people to move from one part of the country to another, particularly a married man without a large income who may, let us say, have been working in Cornwall and who is offered an alternative job in Northampton, where there may be no house for his family. He is up against all sorts of difficulties. If that proviso is to remain, the people who are to judge these cases—the British Transport Commission—ought to be given instructions to administer this arrangement in a generous spirit, and not expect people to move about the country as easily as the order happens to be made.
The third and most important point to which I wish to draw attention is the provision in the Second Schedule which says that in the granting of these compensation paymentsregard shall be had to the existence in his case of any right or expectation under customary practice to the payment of compensation in the event of discharge, of reduction in earnings, or of worsening conditions.According to the right hon. Gentleman's 2346 speech today, that Regulation could be held as a complete case against granting almost any compensation at all, because the whole gist of his speech was that they never had this sort of right before. If the Minister told us once, he told us half a dozen times that he was doing something new in the transport industry, and that in the old days these rights to compensation did not exist. If regard is to be had to the fact that they did not exist, it will mean that the British Transport Commission will say, "You did not have the right before; we are not going to give it to you now."
It is no good our just being amiable and helpful with one another in this House and saying how much we would like to help everybody; we must remember that the people who will administer this will have to look at the wording of the Regulation under which the compensation is given. Indeed, they would be failing in their duty if they went widely outside it. I am deeply concerned about that particular provision. I think that the test is a wholly unfair one.
Of course, it is perfectly true that in the road haulage industry there were no widespread arrangements for compensating people who lost their jobs. But then they did not contemplate being nationalised. That is the answer. We cannot altogether criticise them for not having arrangements of this kind. They would be arrangements to meet a contingency which simply was not anticipated. Individuals might lose their jobs, but nobody visualised a sort of wholesale reorientation and reorganisation of the whole industry. To suggest that they ought to have foreseen that and made arrangements for dealing with a changeover of that size is really quite remarkable.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
The hon. Gentleman is adducing a very interesting argument, but surely he must take account of the point that this is a comparatively new industry and that the people in it were not exercised a few years ago about compensation, but only about a decent rate of remuneration for the job. In fact, there was intensive competition some 15 or 20 years ago, and a chap considered himself lucky to have a job at a reasonable rate of pay. Legislation had to be introduced after investigation.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right, and I do not quarrel with what he says. It was a young, growing, expanding, competitive industry. I would also add that there were lots of firms in it. Indeed, one of the criticisms which used to be made was that there were too many firms in it. Of course, we can differ on each side of the House as to the weight which ought to be attached to that argument, but the fact is that if in those days a man found he was no longer required in one particular firm, there were the competitors down the road to whom he could go for a job.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Yes, some of them started on their own, but in circumstances of that kind it would be rather remarkable to find a widespread system of compensation arranged for loss of office and matters of that kind which are much more appropriate to a solidified, developed industry, such as the railway industry, where one naturally expects to find arrangements of that character.
In those circumstances, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look very carefully at this point. I do not think it is he who is going to administer the Regulations. The decision, in the first place, is to be made by the British Transport Commission, and then there is the court of appeal. I am not saying anything against either of those bodies, but they will have to consider and be bound by the Regulations. If they look at the Regulations as drafted at the moment, and if they have regard to the existence or otherwise of compensation arrangements—which we know did not exist—I am not sure that they will not have the duty to refuse a great many of these claims, and I do not think that is what is wanted by either side of this House.
That is all I wish to say about these matters. I hope we are all anxious to have these Regulations drafted in a way which will enable the people concerned to deal with the real cases of hardship which arise under this nationalisation scheme. There are many matters of controversy between us regarding transport, but I sincerely hope that everybody will try to make these Regulations as fair and as generous as possible. That being so, I ask the Minister to think carefully over 2348 what I have tried to say as moderately as possible, and to do what he can to bring about that position.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
I wish, first, to thank my right hon. Friend for the assurance he has given in respect of the staffs of undertakings which are voluntarily acquired. It would be manifestly unfair if, because of the reasonableness and good will of their former employers, they should be penalised compared with employees of a firm which had been compulsorily acquired. The only thing which made me hesitate to speak in this Debate was that I found myself in almost complete agreement with what was said by the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft). Like him, I have been watching the Order Paper for a considerable time, hoping that these Regulations would come before the House for approval and that they would be implemented as speedily as possible.
Generally speaking, the Regulations are in harmony with conditions which apply in other nationalised industries. They are good Regulations, but they could be better, and if the points made by the hon. Member for Monmouth and my colleagues who intervene are noted by the Minister, I hope he will take an early opportunity of improving the Regulations. I cannot forbear reminding hon. Members opposite that the task of the Minister would be much easier if anything in the nature of superannuation schemes or compensation provisions had obtained in the industry long before nationalisation came about. Nobody can deny that the legislation of the past two years has done much to improve the conditions of service of people in that sphere of transport.
The hon. Member for Monmouth drew attention, in his closing remarks, to the most important point of these Regulations, namely that the onus is placed upon a man of proving the right of expectation. Surely that is imposing an impossible task upon many men who are likely to suffer the grievous disability of worsened conditions, of being made redundant, or of being asked to remove from one part of the country to another. Reference has been made to the railways, but there was a time when there was no expectancy so far as they were concerned. Expectancy was created by 2349 people who were interested in the welfare of railway employees, and if the argument in favour of these Regulations had been used then, railway employees would have been denied compensation terms for all time. Surely expectancy is a natural and legitimate right of men who, through legislation, have their conditions worsened or are transferred many miles from home or who may be made completely redundant.
So in welcoming the Regulations in a general sense, I beg the Minister to give heed to the point made by the Member for Monmouth which I am emphasising, namely, the unfairness of imposing upon a man the difficult task of proving the right of expectation. I would prefer the Minister readily to admit that all men possess that right, and that in making provision for compensation he will give them equal opportunity.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I want to reinforce two of the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) because they concern many hundreds of people engaged in the road haulage industry at present. The first relates to the 10-year period. I am convinced that it is wrong to put any such period in the Regulations. I should have thought that 12 months would have been a fair safeguard that they were bona fide employees, and that between 12 months and five years there could have been one rate of compensation, going up as it went beyond that time, pro rata with their length of service. Since there are no concerns which will be outside the scope of the Regulations if they go through in their present form, I want to underline that point.
The second argument concerns the man who was a part-owner within the 10 years but is now an employee. If the Minister insists on retaining this 10-year period, the man's period as owner ought to count. It is not a question of wanting to protect a wealthy road haulage proprietor. We all know that in our constituencies there are ordinary workmen who have invested their savings to start up in business.
I was concerned at the reference of my hon. Friend to the fact that the Transport Commission may be taking away some of the permits given over the last few years. 2350 I hope they will be reluctant to do that on a large scale because of the hardship it is likely to bring to people who have over the last 12 months or two years bought new lorries at considerable cost. If they are taken away on the same compensation terms as we have had in the past, that will be a real hardship.
I have a personal question to put to the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the British Transport Commission now own 37,000 vehicles. Do we really own them? How many of the 37,000 are paid for? I never feel I own anything unless I have paid for it and have a receipt. However, my real purpose in intervening was to underline the two main points made by my hon. Friend. I am certain we shall be causing hardship to genuine employees if we retain the 10-year period and I am certain we shall not be just, if we exclude people who were part-owners within the 10 years and have since become employees.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)
I suggest to the House, in its consideration of these Regulations, that of all the nationalised projects none has borne more harshly on the individual than this part that took over the small road haulier. I am prepared to do everything I can to improve the terms of compensation, both for the owner and also for the workman who may be displaced.
The terms envisaged in these Regulations are not very generous, and to my mind do not completely do justice to the workman displaced from his employment. The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) pointed out how Regulations of this character might be avoided completely by the substantial terms of the Second Schedule. I hope the Minister will deal with that point fully before we agree to these Regulations.
There has been some criticism of the fact that the Regulations were not brought forward earlier. I cannot join in that criticism, because February of this year was the vesting day for most of these firms. I cannot see how the Minister could have visualised those whom he had to compensate before this time of the year, since it has allowed him only three or four months to form some estimate of the bill to be faced in this direction.
My next point concerns the qualifying period of service and broken service for 2351 Army, Navy, or other National Service purposes. I should like the Minister to place on record that these Regulations cover a man who has been directed by the Minister of Labour. I shall be grateful if he will deal with that point before the House agrees to these Regulations which we all welcome.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I want only to make two short points, one of which is to reinforce the reference made by the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), to the fact that a man must be employed for eight or 10 years in order to comply with these Regulations. I do not see the relevance of that period in any way. This is compensation for loss of office, and I think we should look to the future expectation of a man remaining in his job and to the terms of his service rather than to the past. The only relevant requirement is that he should have been actually serving when the undertaking was taken over.
The other point which I want to mention is that under Regulation 2 (1), on page 4, one of the conditions which the man has to satisfy is that—he is without his consent in a worse position with respect to the conditions of his service as a whole (including tenure of office, emoluments, sick fund or sick pay, and pension rights) as compared with the conditions of service formerly obtaining in respect of him.I think the phrase "conditions of service" is intentionally wide enough to cover broadly the case of a man who may be offered another job in another part of the country and in totally different conditions of employment. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to clear up that point when he replies to the Debate.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
I should like to draw attention to one matter in these Regulations which I think is of some importance. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) on the extreme importance of this matter to the person who may be making a claim for compensation under the Regulations. Anyone making such a claim will want to understand the Regulations and will want to know exactly how much he will be entitled to. I recognise the virtues and merits of the 2352 Regulations, but, on the other hand, it is also true that a man who has been discharged, even when he succeeds in understanding these complicated Regulations, can in certain cases have no kind of certainty, when looking to his own future, about the payment that he will receive.
If I may take the example of a case to which I want to draw my right hon. Friend's attention, it is that of a man of 64 who has done as many as 20 years' service with the company which has been acquired, and who was earning £7 per week at the time of his discharge. That is quite a common type of case. The amount which he can get, or be certain of getting as of right, under these Regulations, is one annual payment of £242. It is only one year's payment because that is the period which brings him up to the normal maximum retiring age, and it is only £242 because that represents two-thirds of his current emoluments.
The man may have had an arrangement with his employer to continue at work until he was 70 or until some much later age. As likely as not, there is no pension scheme to which he can look for benefit, so that he finds himself in a serious situation, and that is the maximum which these Regulations offer him firmly and definitely. It is quite true that in paragraphs 11 and 12 of the Second Schedule, the Commission has a discretion to extend the period of the award, and may even extend it at half the rate for the rest of his lifetime.
It is only fair to these Regulations to point out that it is within the discretion of the Commission, in such a case as I have indicated, to make a very generous and handsome award, but it is a pity that it should be discretionary—and why should it be? To put the point as shortly as I can, in paragraphs 11 and 12, instead of the words "may in their discretion award," I suggest there should be the words "shall award," because such an alteration would get over the uncertainty which is just the element to which I object in the provisions as they affect many of these cases.
I would add that my observations are not only relevant to the cases of men who are discharged just before reaching the normal maximum retiring age, but are also relevant—and there are several cases of this sort—to those who are discharged after having reached the normal 2353 maximum retiring age, the men going out after 65. Under the Regulations, they get no definite award whatever. All they get is that it is open to the Commission, in the exercise of its discretion, to assess an award for them on the basis that they have, in fact, been discharged a little before they reached the normal maximum retiring age. The uncertainty in these paragraphs constitutes a defect in these Regulations which in many other respects are extremely fair and generous, I should be extremely grateful to the Minister if he would deal with that point.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Barnes
If I may have the permission of the House to speak again, in order to reply to some of these points, I would deem it a favour if we could get these Regulations before we pass to other Business.
I much appreciate the assistance given by hon. Members and the atmosphere of the House in facilitating the passage of these Regulations, and I hope that I did not say anything in my introductory remarks which conveyed the impression that I thought these Regulations were generous or over-generous. I make no such claim. What I do feel is that we are making a start in this industry, and, for that reason, I am gratified to find that in all quarters of the House these Regulations have been approved.
In reply to the points made by the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), I would state that these Regulations, in the first instance, were laid before the House on 15th March, and they are only now being considered at the end of June. That is a matter of Parliamentary Business, which is not exactly my responsibility. I hope the hon. Member will appreciate that this process of acquisition only started, either voluntarily or compulsorily, on 1st January, 1948. The process has been continuously proceeding and a considerable time had to elapse before we could gain any experience of the problem which we had to tackle.
In a case like this, when we cannot issue Regulations without consulting all those persons and bodies concerned in this indusry negotiations conducted with a great number of organisations of necessity take a considerable amount of time, but, nevertheless, I think it has been to our common advantage, because it has 2354 removed a good many difficulties which I would have had to face if I had avoided any consultations of that character. I would remind hon. Members that with this type of Regulation we have no power to amend. We either have to approve it or reject it. If this had been a Debate in which we could have drawn on the experience of hon. Members by way of Amendments, it would have been another matter, but I had to obtain that advice before the Regulations were submitted.
The hon. Members for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) and for Monmouth referred to the eight years' qualification in order to establish a claim. I think the hon. Member for Peterborough thought it was a period of 10 years, but the period of 10 years is a period within which a cause of claim can arise, qualification dating from 1st January, 1940, until 31st December, 1947, when the matter passed into the hands of the British Transport Commission. Whether that period is right or wrong, this is one of those principles or conditions that have been established in all these regulations and it would not be possible to use in these nationalisation regulations—
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. It would be 10 years under the relevant Act, but this is being put here from 1st January, 1940, and the fact that he has done it on another occasion is no reason why we should follow a bad precedent.
§ Mr. Barnes
No, but the point I was making in relation to whether we could change like this, is that this period has been established in the other regulations. I do not think that in this instance there is a case in which I could have departed from that general condition.
In regard to the part-owner case which the hon. Member for Monmouth submitted to me, the hon. Member for Peterborough asked why, if a person who owned a road haulage undertaking in 1940, and in 1942 or 1944 turned it into a limited company, he should not be entitled to compensation. The answer is that he does not conform to that qualification, and I do not see why—whether the condition is right or wrong for the moment I am not arguing—a person who is an ordinary wage-earner, operator, or driver of a vehicle and comes into the industry in 1942 or 1944, should not 2355 qualify, but an owner who has transformed his business for his personal advantage should qualify. I do not think one could meet a case of that kind in equity.
§ Mr. Nicholls
Surely the part-owner was relying on that particular firm for his livelihood for the whole time, and an ordinary employer, who came in at a later date, would not have been relying on that particular firm for his livelihood.
§ Mr. Barnes
I do not agree. A person who becomes a limited liability company is making a good thing out of it and that is why he follows a process of that description. I fully accept the general view and presentation of the case put forward by the hon. Member for Monmouth. The regulations are drawn in a fairly wide sense, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has indicated. My hon. Friend the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) stressed that discretionary power is to be given to the British Transport Commission, or the referees, as the case may be. That should not be interpreted this evening as being for the purpose of evading responsibilities. In an industry of this kind, in which there is no previous history, it was necessary for this drafting to be in a wide and generous sense with a view to being as generous as we possibly can.
I am satisfied that comments made by hon. Members will be borne in mind by those who have to administer these regulations, especially where there are discretionary powers. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris), pressed the point that the onus is placed on the man to prove expectations. Certainly it is, and I do not attempt to evade that—that is, if he wishes to establish a claim beyond the minimum condition. Everyone gets the minimum period of 13 weeks, and provision is made that any person who can establish expectation beyond that gets benefit comparable to the value of the expectation. But I would not wish it to be assumed that a person who loses his employment and who, under some previous administration would have been dismissed at a week's notice, would not receive consideration.
In reply to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edge Hill about the 64 years of age claim and the 2356 65 years of age claim, as he pointed out, in the case of 64 years of age the Commission would have the right to proceed beyond that period. Hon. Members have quoted the man of 65 years of age, and have said that it is hard if he loses his employment at that age, that it arises out of nationalisation, and, therefore, he should get compensation. While that appeals very strongly to one's sympathy, one must bear in mind that an individual of 65 years of age has given the whole of his life employment to the road haulage undertaking as a private firm. In the normal way, many concerns retire persons of 65 years of age, and it would place an undue burden on the British Transport Commission if we argued that they ought to have a statutory right of compensation.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to look again at the Second Schedule. If he reads it he will see that the whole question of compensation, ignoring the 13 weeks, is dependent upon whether or not there is a right established in the industry in respect of the person. At the end of eight weeks the Transport Commission can write back and say, "No, we are sorry. There was no expectation in your case and you are not entitled to anything." I beg the right hon. Gentleman to look at this matter again. It is not a question of a man getting the minimum. Could I have an answer?
§ Mr. Barnes
I do not think there is anything to answer on that point. As I have indicated, anyone who can establish a claim under the eight-year qualifying period in the 10 years in which the claim arises, and especially any right of expectation, can get the minimum conditions. If a person can establish a claim or expectation beyond those minimum conditions, he can get compensated in proportion.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
But to get a penny piece they have to establish a custom in the industry which, the right hon. Gentleman admits, does not exist, and this makes the Regulations quite meaningless, as hon. Members opposite quite properly argued.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That the Draft Transferred Undertakings (Compensation to Employees) Regulations, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th March, be approved.