§ Considered in Committee. [7th Allotted Day.]
§ [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
§ Clause 27.—(COMPENSATION TO OFFICERS AND SERVANTS.)
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I beg to move, in page 35, line 39, to leave out "the modifications," and to insert "any modification."
I do not know whether it would be convenient for me to deal at the same time with the two following Amendments in my name: in page 35, line 40, after "by," insert "or by virtue of.": in line 40, at end, insert:or in consequence of any schemes made by the Commission and approved by the Minister in pursuance of this Act for any reorganisation of the whole or any part of the Commission's undertaking or in consequence of the abolition of any Executive before or after the passing of this Act.All three Amendments deal with the same matter.
§ The Chairman
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we took the three together.
§ Sir R. Glyn
The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that as a result of any change that takes place in consequence of this legislation, the officials and servants of the Commission who may be employed in one or other of the Executives are adequately covered. I understand that these words are necessary to make perfectly certain that there will be no doubt whatever as to the position in which these people are placed.
It has always been the desire of the House that any legislation that is passed should act fairly towards people who, through no fault of their own, may find that their work ceases. That is especially true in the matter of transport, when men have been in the industry all their lives and when, as in this case, there are some of the leading representatives of transport at present employed in various capacities by the Railway Executive.
It may be said that it is a bad principle to compensate people for loss of office which results merely from an adjustment 1632 of a previous Act, but in the past the House has always been careful to see that there was no undue hardship. The officers who were in the pension schemes of the old railway companies which existed from 1921 onwards were all provided for by the terms of the Railway Act of that year.
My right hon. Friend may be able to give an assurance that, under the 1947 Act and previous Acts, all these people are safeguarded and my additional words are not necessary. But they have been given to me by retired friends of mine who were formerly employed in a legal capacity in more than one of the old companies. They very strongly hold the view that the drafting of the Bill jeopardises the future of a number of people. It is unfair to men who have given loyal service to the public for all these years that they should be left in any doubt about their future.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I support the Amendments because I think that the wording of the Clause is entirely inadequate and is not sufficiently comprehensive. I should have preferred the Clause to read much more shortly, in terms that compensation should be paid to anyone who suffers loss of employment by virtue of this Act. In effect, the hon. Baronet's Amendment brings about that position.
I do not like the proposal in the Clause that compensation shall be subject to the Minister's decision by regulations as to the cases and the extent to which the compensation shall be payable. That is far too wide. It would be much better either to specify clearly what was intended, or to leave it to the Tribunal or to whatever body is to decide the compensation.
Neither do I like the fact that the compensation is to be payable by the Commission. After all, when the transport organisations were nationalised, it was the Commission that had to pay the compensation for loss of employment and emoluments and any other factors arising from nationalisation. Now that the Commission are being forced by legislation to hand over these vehicles to private owners in the event of an employee of the Commission suffering loss of office or of emolument as a result, it is not the new employer who is to make up the loss, 1633 but the Commission have to make it up again.
I can well imagine the possibility of an employee of the Commission being taken on by one who has purchased some of the vehicles and being given detrimental conditions of employment deliberately for a period in order that he may claim compensation from the Commission and, when that compensation has been obtained and the period has elapsed, his conditions being put on a proper footing. I can imagine all kinds of difficulties arising from this. I think it fundamentally wrong that the Commission should have to pay, and therefore have to bear a further burden which ought to be borne by the Exchequer, because the situation has been created by an act of the Government.
I cannot avoid the suspicion that this is one other attempt among those evident throughout the Bill to impose on the Commission such difficulties and such shackles as will make it easier for the private enterprise competitor to point to the difficulties of the Commission in running their business because they have to bear all these burdens.
The main point of the Amendments and the main point with which I am primarily concerned is that the present Clause is too widely drawn and would make a lawyers' paradise. It says that compensation will be paid for thosewho suffer loss of employment or loss or diminution of emoluments or pension rights, or whose position is worsened, in consequence of the duties imposed on the Commission by this Act as to the disposal of the property held by the Commission for the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking or of the modifications of the functions of the Commission effected by this Act.What one would assume was the intention of the Clause could easily have been met, and honestly met, by saying, "whose position has been worsened by virtue of this Act" and leaving it at that. That would be a clear direction to the authority which is to decide on compensation.
My point is met largely by the Amendments put down by the hon. Baronet extending "the modifications" to "any modification" and extending "by this Act" to "or by virtue of this Act," and by the words it is proposed to add at the end of line 40. I hope that the Minister will give very serious consideration to 1634 these Amendments and that it will be possible for him to accept all three of them.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
I do not think there is really any difficulty about the early part of the Clause and about compensation in respect of those in road transportwho suffer loss of employment or loss or diminution of emoluments or pension rights, or whose position is worsened, in consequence of the duties imposed on the Commission by this Act as to the disposal of the property held by the Commission for the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking.That is clear enough. It is where the railway organisation side is concerned that we have a difficulty. Past history is fairly clear on this. In the Railways Act, 1921, in the Third Schedule, it is laid down specifically that compensation is payable and may only arise—I am not giving the exact words—by reason of the "amalgamation or absorption" of the old railway companies by the big railway groupings of 1921. There is nothing laid down in that Act which requires compensation to be paid as a result of any re-organisation which might take place either then or subsequently in the then new railway groupings.
When we come to the 1947 Act, we see the same principle faithfully carried out in Section 101:The Minister shall by regulations require the Commission to pay, in such cases and to such extent as may be specified in the regulations, compensation"—to a variety of peoplebeing officers or servants who suffer loss of employment or loss or diminution of emoluments or pension rights or whose position is worsened in consequence.Then it lays down specifically that those consequences are the acquisition of the railway companies and their shares by the Commission.
What now arises is a new set of circumstances by which the Commission are required to undertake some sort of reorganisation; but that re-organisation is already implicit in the 1947 Act. The Commission have there both powers and duties entitling them to make any reorganisation, and there is nothing in the 1947 Act which requires the Commission to pay compensation as a result of that sort of re-organisation. I have searched the Regulations which were published by the then Minister of Transport in the early 1635 part of 1950 to see whether any provision at all was made for compensation arising otherwise than directly through the nationalisation Measure, and it is quite clear that that was not so.
We are now down to the exact definition of the word "functions" and the phrase,modifications of the functions of the Commissionin the subsection under discussion. If we interpret "functions" as meaning that part of the new duties and activities which the Commission will have in re-organising the railways into a new de-centralised grouping, then if anyone suffered diminution of emoluments or had his position worsened, it might result in his being compensated. But that is not the case if that cannot be ascertained and laid down; he will not get his compensation.
I think the Committee are in some doubt as to what precisely can be done, and it seems to me that we shall have to leave this matter open until the Minister makes the Regulations—which are prayable against by the House—so that it can then be seen to what extent the functions are definable. An attempt to amend the Clause now would perhaps produce a disastrous state of affairs.
I think the Committee are in full sympathy with the ideas which lie behind the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), but if adopted it might carry us very far indeed. It might mean admitting a new principle into railway compensation—that if at any time the manager of a newly de-centralised railway were to carry out some sort of re-organisation within his own railway group, or down to the districts of that group, people would be able to say, "This results from the de-nationlisation Act of 1953 and, therefore, we are entitled to compensation."
Indeed, the principle might go wider still. People might say, "This sets up a new standard of compensation in the railway world. Why should it not be repeated in the State itself?" We might get temporary civil servants employed by the Ministry of Food saying, "If you are doing this for the railways, then clearly, because rationing is being abolished, and our jobs are going, we are suffering diminution of our position and a pecuniary 1636 loss, and so we require the same form of compensation."
I do not wish to labour the point any further. I think that, subject to what my right hon. Friend may tell the Committee this afternoon, it would be wiser to wait until the Regulations are published.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)
Apart from taking away a man's liberty, I do not think anyone can do another individual a greater injury than to take away his job. One of the remarkable things about this Bill and the action of the Government is the heartless way in which legislation which will have the effect of disrupting the transport industry and causing the loss of their employment to many thousands of people in this country, is being rushed through the House.
I hope the Minister will give the most careful thought to this matter. We know his powers are not excessive, and that he is acting under orders. I believe he has been shanghaied into the job for the purpose of pushing this Bill through the House. I am sorry to see him in this position, and not in his former position in the Colonial Office. where his mind was more attuned to the needs of the hour.
This is a very vital matter for hon. Members on this side of the Committee. Reference has been made to some new principle which might be brought even into State employment. We on this side of the Committee look upon it as the duty of the State to provide its citizens with employment. When I regard the re-organisation which is to take place in the railway industry—the abolition of the Railway Executive and the consequent re-organisation—I feel I must plead with the Minister to consider, not compensation for lost jobs, but the question of preserving jobs. I believe it possible for every person displaced as a result of the re-organisation to remain in the railway service. I hope the Minister will not allow any trained officer, any brilliant mind we have in Transport, to be pushed out of the service of the railway industry.
I have a rooted objection to paying compensation for loss of office if that can be avoided. I do not like paying people for doing nothing—that is one of the 1637 reasons I am a Socialist. One of the greatest difficulties, following redundancy in the industry, is that men are reduced from one position to another and push someone else out of a job. If the Minister can take every person made redundant in this re-organisation and use him for the most useful job which can be found for him, and maintain his rate of wages without disturbing a host of other people, that will be to the benefit of the State and the industry.
So far as road transport is concerned—the road transport section of the Commission's interests—I do not think we can avoid a certain amount of unemployment. That is inevitable. We are handing them over to ruthless private enterprise organisations, and I do not see how we can protect the personnel in the same way as is possible when the State has control of the industry. I hope the Minister will give the most careful thought to giving proper compensation and as much protection as possible to those people who are displaced. We should not forget that they came to the service of the State.
I shall not attempt to quote what has been said by the Tory Party about "quislings" who came to the service of the State; but I hope that the people who came to assist us in building up a nationalised road industry will be regarded as having responded to the highest call of the State; and that we shall do everything we can to protect their interests and to ensure that the injury inflicted on them will be as little as possible.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) and I endorse his plea that as many people as possible at present employed in the transport service should be retained. It seems to me, however, that the numbers likely to be displaced on the road haulage side of the organisation have been exaggerated, because not only is the Commission retaining an interest in a considerable amount of road services of one sort and another under the previous part of the Bill, but presumably those persons who are buying transport units will have to employ someone, and certainly in the lower grades the normal person to employ would be the man already on the job.
1638 Regarding these Amendments, perhaps there has been a little misunderstanding about the position. With due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), I would remind the Committee that the principle of compensation in connection with the displacement of personnel on the alteration of railway services is very old-established. It has been in the last two Acts which have been worked for a considerable time. From what the Minister has said in our previous debates, it is clear that we intend to continue with that principle, and that it is the intention of the Minister that all persons who suffer by reason of the alterations which would arise in connection with this Bill will be compensated on an adequate basis. The Government have made that clear time and again.
On this matter I am talking from personal experience. Yesterday the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) accused me of not knowing what I was talking about. But on this subject he cannot dispute that I do know what I am talking about, because for a long period I had a lot to do with questions of compensation arising under the 1921 Act. One of the difficulties I encountered was that the Regulations under that Act were much too definite. There were a large number of borderline cases which everyone wished to compensate, but which could not be fitted into the rules and regulations. Arguments were still going on about some of these cases at the outbreak of the war, when there were still outstanding cases.
I would point out to the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), who commented on the rather indefinite nature of this Clause, that possibly it might be an advantage to employees if it is not too definite, because it would give a greater scope for the Regulations to be thrashed out and put into a form suitable to representatives of the employed men. We have already heard that the Minister is in touch with the trade unions. I have no doubt that this is one of the subjects which will be mentioned and that the Regulations will be produced in such a form as would appear desirable from experience of previous compensation legislation. 1639 I hope that all interested parties will be consulted, and not merely the trade unions, because there are other groups which do not come into the trade union side at all. I have particularly in mind those personnel who are members of the British Transport Officers' Guild. Though not a trade union, the guild is recognised to a certain extent for negotiating purposes. I have no interest in it, and never have had, but I have been in contact with members of the guild which represents a considerable number of men, both from road and rail, who will be much affected by reorganisation.
I hope they may be brought into the discussions, because, while I am sure they will continue loyally to serve any form of organisation which emerges as a result of the operation of this Bill, in the same way as they did the existing organisation, they will be particularly affected, and on their enthusiasm for working any alterations will largely depend the success of any scheme of re-organisation.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
Did I hear the hon. Gentleman say that he had been briefed by the British Transport Officers" Guild?
§ Mr. Wilson
No. I said that I had no interest whatever in that guild, and never have had. I mentioned that because I was a railway officer, but members of my department were advised not to join that body, and did not do so. The reason was that we might have to give legal advice which might affect members of that guild. It was not a rule, but it was the understood thing that we remained separate, as I think that we should.
I feel that the Minister should perhaps look again at this Clause to see whether there are any circumstances which are not covered by existing legislation. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South referred to the provisions of previous Acts which are still in force. It is not clear to what extent they would operate in connection with the alterations which will take place as a result of this Bill. It is not clear how far one could, under sections of previous Acts, deal with any worsening of conditions under this Bill. It seems to me that the matter could be dealt with by Regulations. No doubt the Minister, when he consults representative 1640 bodies, will be able to come to an appropriate decision.
§ Mr. A. Hargreaves (Carlisle)
This series of Amendments makes clear the need for embracing within the terms of any compensation Clause full details of those who are affected. The dismissal of the Railway Executive and the Road Haulage Executive is the result of the policy of the Government, entirely apart from any question of re-organising the railways. The second Amendment in line 40, the third of the series, would ensure that, if any Executive were abolished, the employees would come within the terms of this Clause. The Clause as drafted does not make that clear.
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) discussed the possibility of the acceptance of this Amendment widening immensely the responsibility of Parliament for compensation. He must recognise that this proposed re-organisation of the railways is part of a process which is going on continually and which has gone on for generations. In the past re-organisation created redundancy in many spheres, and it had to be met within the organisation itself. There was no question of compensation. Indeed, the normal process of death and resignation made available about 30,000 vacancies a year.
One cannot deny that this railway re-organisation is a completely new and novel idea which creates its own problems. Redundancy will continue to occur, as it always has done; but here we have a special case created by the action of the Government in abolishing the two Executives. There is need to embody within this legislation protection which I am certain Parliament would agree is due to those concerned.
I suggest that the compensation Sections of the 1921 Act and the 1947 Act, as they have worked, have revealed anomalies and difficulties which possibly the Minister might overcome if he takes advantage of the experience of both sides who have been engaged in carrying out the instructions contained in those two Acts of Parliament. There is a wealth of experience since 1921 available to the Minister on this question of Regulations. It has been said that we can, if necessary, pray against these Regulations. I ask 1641 the Minister to consider using the affirmative procedure in this connection.
The right hon. Gentleman must recognise that ever since his proposals were first published months ago there was created in the transport industry as a whole a good deal of uncertainty and doubt. The Minister should do whatever he can to clear that away. It is not necessary to coddle the people engaged in the industry—they do not want that—but they want to be assured of a fair deal. The Minister must recognise that he has created a period of doubt for all these people who knew that they would be affected by this Bill. That situation of uncertainty could be cleared up, to a large extent, if the Minister would go as far as possible towards putting in the Bill an assurance to these people who are affected by the Government's action.
I do not deal with this matter in a party sense. We all recognise that transport re-organisation has been under consideration for a long time and that the position of these people has been uncertain. I ask the Minister to include within the Bill itself as much reassurance as possible. These people are entitled to that. We must recognise that the hiving off of great parts of the industry creates considerable difficulties for the employees. Some officers and servants in this industry have been members of superannuation funds, and they have certain protection.
The Minister recognises that there are many operatives to whom such protection does not apply in any way. These people who are deprived of their occupation by the operation of this Bill may do well when the road haulage industry goes into private hands. On the other hand, they may not, and in the case of these people, if the Minister deals with the matter in a sympathetic way, he can give a good deal of assurance to them by the way these compensation Clauses are handled.
My final word is this. I ask the Minister to take advice on the actual wording of the compensation Clauses from people who, ever since 1921, have had to deal with this problem. The trade unions have an immense experience extending over all that time, and I ask the Minister to take advantage of that experience, which is freely available to him, and to use it to the best advantage.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervened at this stage, and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport would hope to speak briefly towards the end of the debate. If it is wondered why I intervene in this debate, many of the matters we are now discussing under these two Clauses touch my Department, and, if I may adduce a personal reason. it would be to say that I am very delighted to do what I can to bear a very tiny share of the burden which the Minister and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary have borne so well, as I think the whole Committee would agree, during the long days of this Committee stage.
I think that, above all, these two Clauses deal with what is essentially a human problem, and one cannot but be impressed by the general consensus of opinion expressed in the Committee that it is a human problem which has, to some extent—and we must accept it—been created by the deliberate action of the Government.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
I think it would be helpful to the Committee if we could get the position clear. I understand that we are discussing certain Amendments moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and we on this side expected that we would have a rather general debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," with a separate debate on each of the two compensation Clauses. I thought it would be convenient for us—indeed, we were looking forward to it—to have a general statement from the Parliamentary Secretary and also from the Minister, but I feel that it would be more convenient if it took place when the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" was reached and not on the Amendments.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Perhaps I misled the hon. Gentleman, but I was only proposing to deal with the issue raised in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and I was also going to reply to some of the points raised in the debate on this particular Amendment, which perhaps did go a little wide of the Amendment itself. 1643 If that would be agreeable to hon. Members opposite, I shall not detain the Committee very long.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
May I ask what time there will be for back-benchers to participate in the debate? It is all very well, but some of us have sat here for eight hours and yet have not been called, because of these arrangements. If the matter is to be debated on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," should not Members on the Front Benches on either side deny themselves a little in favour of the back benchers?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am entirely in the hands of the Committee, and if hon. Members prefer that this particular part of the debate should go unanswered, I shall be very delighted to resume my seat. It is entirely a matter for the Committee to deal with, but I think there are certain points that should be answered, and they happen to be the responsibility of my particular Ministry. I thought it would be for the convenience of the Committee to hear some statement on the part we are proposing to play in what is a very difficult operation, and I would propose to deal with that as quickly as may be.
What I was saying when interrupted was that, if the State intervenes in industry, it does undertake the obligation of protecting as far as it can those whose livelihood has been affected by this intervention. Let me deal first with the practical points and say that there are two ways in which I think my Ministry can help in this operation. It is essentially, from the practical point of view, an operation of job-switching within the industry. We hope that in this expanding transport industry there will be jobs for all, but we have to protect people who either want or have to change their jobs. Therefore, the first difficulty that we have to meet is that of some machinery to enable people to switch their jobs, and I will deal with that for a moment, and then go on to cover the points on compensation raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon.
I will deal first with the practical points. The first one is that the whole of the services of the Ministry of Labour will be fully available to people who are displaced, either from the railways or the road transport side of the industry, and 1644 we shall try to arrange that advanced notification is given to the employment exchanges so that placing work can begin and preparations be made beforehand to find out whether people either want or have to change their jobs.
There is another thing we can do, and this relates to the cases of senior railway officers who may be displaced or have to change their jobs in the re-organisation scheme. It concerns the work of our Appointments Branch, which maintains appointments officers in London, Manchester and Glasgow. We propose to set up there a special section in each office which will deal with these senior members of the staff appropriate to the grades dealt with by the Appointments Branch, through whom we hope to get advance notice and deal with the matter as sympathetically and practically as we can.
Therefore, we have only to meet the compensation point in a certain number of cases, because we hope men will be placed in or outside industry and will not attract compensation at all, and I think that, in the view of the Committee, that is the right solution; not to have to fall back on compensation, but to try to do without it by placing these men scientifically and sympathetically.
If I may come to the more narrow points raised in the Amendments, perhaps I might begin by answering a point raised by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Hargreaves) on consultation. I want to make it quite plain that, on any matter arising from either of these Clauses, we shall have the fullest possible consultation, not only with the trade unions, but with all the bodies that are representative of the employees in this great industry, and amongst them, certainly, is the one mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson)—the British Transport Officers' Guild. There are many others as well, and one should include the Scottish Horse and Motormen's Union, the Transport and General Workers' Union and the Transport Salaried Staff Association.
I think it is the sense of the Committee that, in the terms of the explanation which I tried to state at the beginning of the debate, where the State takes responsibility for a major change in a major industry, it must also take responsibility for trying to see that the change does not 1645 create a lot of human problems which remain unsolved. From that point of view, I think one cannot but be sympathetic to the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon and by other hon. Members who have spoken from both sides of the Committee.
This is, however, a very difficult technical problem, because it might just as well be argued that there was ample scope for re-organisation within the railway industry under the 1947 Act, and, while it was not tested, it is a matter for argument whether or not the Railway Executive could not have been greatly modified, if not disposed of altogether, under that Act. One might argue the counter-case that this operation should not attract compensation because it could equally well have been carried out under the terms of the 1947 Act, but I do not think that it is in that narrow, legalistic way in which my right hon. Friend wants to look at this problem, because it is, as I said earlier, a human problem.
Therefore, I am certainly empowered to say that he will consider this matter sympathetically between now and the Report stage, but I think I should make it plain, because some of the difficulties have been referred to by several hon. Members, that we shall have some very complicated tasks, and my difficulty will be to draw a dividing line between what could have been done under the existing Acts and what might be changed under the Bill we are now discussing. We can fairly promise to examine this very complex matter in the light of what has been said in this discussion today, in order to see whether we cannot find some method by which we can meet this problem.
I do not wish to delay the Committee, but one or two hon. Members have raised points on this particular discussion with which I want to deal. I would point out to the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), who raised the point of compensation being an additional burden on the Commission, that the Commission will, of course, be reimbursed from the Transport Fund in respect of compensation which it will have to pay.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
In that case, will the Minister please explain the reason for the difference in phraseology of Clause 11 and this Clause? Clause 11, which 1646 provides for the payment of compensation from the levy, refers topayments to the Commission equal to so much of the payments falling to be made by the Commission under the provisions of this Act relating to compensation to officers and servants as is ascribable to the duties imposed by this Act on the Commission as to the disposal of the property held by the Commission for the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking,whereas the compensation for which the Commission is liable under Clause 27 is not onlyfor the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking,but alsothe modifications of the functions of the Commission effected by this Act.That surely means that there is a burden of compensation to be borne by the Commission which will not be covered by the levy and which the Amendments proposed by the hon. Baronet wish to bring within the ambit of the Act, and to make even wider.
§ Mr. Watkinson
It is true that there is a special section of compensation here, but I understood the hon. Gentleman to say in his earlier remarks that he was referring to the broad general position. The fact that he is right on this point is another example of the difficulties that arise when we are trying to solve a very complex problem, and that is another reason these two Clauses are distinctly drawn in general terms and follow the precedent of the 1947 Act.
If we do not define them too closely now, my right hon. Friend the Minister, when he comes to make the Regulations, will be able to meet the right problems in the right way. That is why I made it plain that he would be anxious to consult all the interests involved, because the real crux of the matter will be the making of the Regulations, because a similar position was experienced under the 1947 Act.
In answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) regarding employment, I would again stress that my Ministry will definitely make this a separate and distinct operation, either in the employment exchanges or in the Appointments Branch. As I say, by having advance notice and dealing in advance with these cases, we hope to have a smooth job switch rather than to have people waiting before finding work.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Although it is quite true that the hon. Gentleman's Ministry already have pockets of unemployment so far as the road haulage section of the transport industry is concerned, if his offices in those areas were to make themselves responsible for finding jobs for the people who are displaced under this arrangement it would be better than the men concerned accepting jobs a long distance away. If the hon. Gentleman has considered that matter, will he tell the Committee what steps it is proposed to take to make it financially and practically possible for such men in the areas where there is already a pocket of unemployment to take jobs elsewhere?
§ Mr. Watkinson
Of course, that is a continuing problem for us anyhow. In Coventry, for example, there is at present a shortage of transport drivers, while in other areas of the country there is no such shortage. I am not aware of any pool of unemployed transport drivers at any point in the country. But we must face the position when the operation actually takes place, because the pattern that exists today may be quite different from the pattern that will exist at that time. We will certainly undertake to look at the point, but I think we can best meet it in the way I have suggested.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is quite customary today for an employer who is going to make any significant number of people redundant to give the manager of our local employment exchange advance notice, amounting, in some cases, to several weeks and in others much longer. The longer, the better. We hope to arrange with the Road Haulage Executive to give advance notice to the manager of the local employment exchange, or, in the case of a big operation, to our regional office regarding job-switching and changing. I feel that if we get adequate notice we can fit the jobs to the people.
In conclusion, I would say that if this whole operation is carried out with sympathy and understanding on both sides, I believe it may go much more smoothly than most people think possible. I also think that those in the industry who may be seriously disturbed about the effect which this operation may have on their livelihood should take some comfort from the fact that both sides of the Committee 1648 are obviously determined that this thing should go smoothly. It is not a matter of party politics in any way, but an operation in which we want to try to meet what is a human problem, because it arises from the Bill.
Whatever our arguments may have been on the Bill itself, we are surely not going to transfer them to the practical sphere of trying to fit people into the right jobs at the right time. As I say, I do not think the Committee can accuse my right hon. Friend of not having made it plain throughout the whole of this debate that, above all, we will try to meet the human needs and problems that may arise from this Bill. We are entirely confident that in an expanding industry there will be better chances of better jobs for everyone. That is not a bad thing to which to look forward.
Finally, I will only say once more, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon, that his Amendments deal with a very difficult and complex problem. I do not think it would be fair to commit ourselves to anything more than to state that we will look at the matter again to see whether we can meet fairly and properly some of the special difficulties that may arise, and, having said that, I will not detain the Committee longer.
§ Mr. Sparks
I am not wholly satisfied with what the Parliamentary Secretary has said on this matter, but that is not to say that I would deny that he is trying to do his best in the circumstances. The hon. Gentleman must realise that the problem is much more than just one of job-switching, because he knows that what really took place under the 1947 Act was that a large number of road haulage employees who enjoyed many and varied conditions of employment and wages, all of which were very inferior to the standard enjoyed by the road haulage employees of the railway companies, were brought together and integrated into the Road Haulage Executive organisation. Therefore, their standards of wages and employment rose considerably.
In addition, the Parliamentary Secretary must also be aware that an employee of the Road Haulage Executive has greater security of employment than is to be found in very many private enterprise organisations.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he is now 1649 accusing me of the very thing he asked me not to do. I did not deal with the matter at any great length because he accused me of wasting the time of the Committee, but if he wishes, I shall be delighted to go further into it.
In answer to his particular point, may I say that, while I agree that there may perhaps be some greater prospect of continuity of service under the Road Haulage Executive as it now stands, I am not happy about his statement with regard to earnings. He knows as well as I do that in many cases there will be the possibility of earning more by getting return loads. That was quite a common thing before the days of nationalisation. In those days, earnings, though perhaps more patchy, were in some cases much more than they are now.
§ Mr. Sparks
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says, but I had not quite completed my emphasis on the very important fact that now the process is taking place in reverse. There are 80,000 road haulage employees who are enjoying the highest standard of wages and conditions and of security of employment to be found anywhere. Now the process is taking place in reverse, and from one good employer they may be dispersed over any number of employers who may be good, bad or indifferent.
There is also not the same degree of security of employment in the new jobs to which the hon. Gentleman may be able to switch a Road Haulage Executive employee. What is to happen in the case of an ex-Road Haulage Executive employee for whom the Ministry of Labour have provided another job and who finds that, after six or 12 months, or even less, his new employer is unable to continue to employ him? Does such a person become entitled to any form of compensation? If the Road Haulage Executive had not been disturbed, and provided that there was no misconduct on the part of the individual concerned, that employee would have remained in the service of the Executive indefinitely; and in certain grades he would have qualified in time for a gratuity or pension. I know that there are other grades to which that provision does not apply.
If the hon. Gentleman is going to switch a road haulage employee to another job, then in fairness he must 1650 have attached to the other job the same conditions of security of employment and, as near as possible, the same conditions relating to wages, otherwise the switch will not be comparable in any way.
I should like also to know from the Minister whether this proposed arrangement will cover not only road haulage employees but railwaymen whose positions are likely to be made redundant as a result of the loss of traffic from the railways to the new road haulage organisations. It is no use the Government saying that that will not happen, because in the original Bill they provided for exactly that contingency. They are hoping, of course, that as a result of the new charges scheme that will not happen. I doubt their hope. The danger is there, and there is the clear possibility that a number of railwaymen at various points will find themselves facing redundancy as a result of loss of traffic from the railways to the roads.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The hon. Member will know that the Regulations have yet to be made. Those Regulations will set out the compensation and will be made in close consultation with the trade unions. If the Regulations cause hard cases they will go to the Tribunals set up by my Ministry, and the same Tribunals have been functioning under the 1947 Act with every satisfaction.
§ Mr. Sparks
If it is recognised that redundancy is caused by the provisions of this Bill and these cases come within the compensation provisions, that will satisfy all of us. But we want to make sure that they are not left out. Nobody knows what is to be the fate of these 80,000 employees, and this Clause and Clause 26 are vital to these men. We do not know how many of them are to be placed in comparable employment and how many are not, because there is no guarantee that all the vehicles will be sold.
The chances are that the British Transport Commission will be left with a substantial number of vehicles operating on unremunerative routes and that the Commission will have to carry a staff of road haulage employees for whom, it is very likely, there will be redundancy, because the Road Haulage Executive will not be expected to maintain a road service which is not economic. Therefore, there is the 1651 possibility of redundancy arising with regard to that section of road haulage employees who are left.
This question is fraught with very grave consequences for a considerable number of men. I know that the hon. Gentleman will be as sympathetic as he possibly can be, and if he is prepared to maintain the closest consultation with the trade unions concerned in this matter and to adopt their advice from time to time, I am sure that he will not go very far wrong.
I have received a copy of a letter addressed to the Prime Minister by one of my constituents who is an assistant super-intendent at one of the principal British Road Services depots. It emphasises the reaction of these men who are affected by this provision of the Bill. It epitomises exactly their anxieties and how they feel. It is dated 26th November, and states:Many of us who hold clerical and administrative positions with the Road Haulage Executive are perturbed about our future if and when you pass your Transport Bill into law and de-nationalise the British Road Services.We wonder how we shall fare if and when the units and/or groups in which we are employed are disposed of. Shall we be taken into the service of the purchasers in positions of equal status to those we now fill and at rates of pay commensurate with those we at present enjoy?Will there be anything in your Bill when it does become law which will guarantee to us continuity of service or compensation for the loss of employment and payment of such compensation at rates which will give us security to meet our financial commitments to our families until such time as we can be found positions equal to those we may be turned out of because of de-nationalisation?Many of us are over the 50 years of age limit and will find employment hard and the finding of alternative employment even harder. Many of us have given to transport both prior to and after nationalisation conscientious service, knowing that we were selling a service to the public because that was what we were paid for. We have not considered our jobs or our industry from the political angle and we wish only to serve the public as we have been used to do. Will the public after taking our jobs from us give us the same security as we have learned to appreciate since 1948?Your personal assurances upon these matters will be greatly appreciated.
§ Mr. Sparks
All that this gentleman received was a printed acknowledgment 1652 from an obscure private secretary to the Prime Minister. Whether he had seen that letter or not, I do not know.
This is only one of 80,000 employees of the Road Haulage Executive. I think that the letter clearly represents what is in the minds of a great band of men who have done an excellent job for the country and who are alarmed and concerned about their future prospects when this Bill becomes an Act. I feel that they deserve the utmost consideration from the Minister and his colleagues. When the Minister frames his Regulations, he should make them as wide and generous as he is able to do, so as to ensure that no one suffers as a result of the changes which the Government propose.
Sir Patrick Spells (Kensington, South)
I rise to try to confirm the necessity for reconsidering Clause 27 (1). Promises have been made by the Parliamentary Secretary about what it is hoped to put in the Regulations, but it will not be possible for the Regulations to be made operative unless statutory authority covers what is put in them. That is why subsection (1) has to be most carefully considered by the Committee and, I hope, amended before the Report stage.
So far as compensation for those connected with the road haulage undertaking is concerned, the operative words—although they are somewhat clumsy—are at any rate extremely broad, and I believe it would be possible for the Regulations affecting employees in the road haulage undertaking to be in whatever form the Government want them to be. But, as my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) pointed out, compensation for the railway employees appears to depend entirely on the last words of subsection (1), which are:… modifications of the functions of the Commission effected by this Act.Then I look at what this Bill imposes on the Commission. Clause 14 imposes the all-important work of preparing and submitting schemes and carrying them through and, as has been pointed out, subsection (2) of that Clause is imperative as to what the schemes are to provide for. Some years ago I was a railway director and I am fairly familiar with the Railway Acts, though I was away when the 1947 Act was passed, which I very much regret. I do not think that it is an existing 1653 function of the Commission to prepare a scheme as indicated in Clause 14.
Therefore, it is not a modification of their existing functions to prepare such a scheme, and if the only Regulations they can make for the railway employees must come within the ambit of the modification of their existing functions, some of the promises I have listened to with great pleasure simply could not be validly carried out by the Regulations. It seems to me that not only must Clause 27 include the modification of existing functions, but it must include the new functions which are imposed on the Commission by this Bill. If the words were broad enough, the Regulations could be made in whatever form is thought right and proper.
I am a person who has suffered from an Act of Parliament which has brought my job to an end, and I have a very considerable interest in what Parliament does for those people who may find themselves in a similar position. I subscribe to the view that, while no obligation is recognised by Parliament to pay compensation or for compensation to be provided to people who lose their jobs in the ordinary course of redundancy in their trade or employment, it has been recognised for years that when Parliament deliberately passes a Bill which will or may bring to an end the occupations of certain people, Parliament should make proper provision for compensation.
It is because I think that subsection (1) is not sufficiently wide to carry out what I know to be the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers, that I say it needs very serious reconsideration.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)
I should like to reinforce the plea to which we have just listened, which is based upon the same reasoning as that which actuated the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) in moving this Amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour intervened in the debate on this Amendment and, as I understood it, said that careful consideration would be given to the Amendment.
It is an anxiety of the hon. Member who put down the Amendment, and certainly of my hon. Friends, that the terms of Clause 27 (1) should be sufficiently wide to enable the compensation to be 1654 payable in respect of any change brought about by the provisions of this Bill. The anxiety we all feel is whether the words:…or of the modifications of the functions of the Commission effected by this Act.are sufficiently wide to achieve that purpose. Many hon. Members desire to discuss Clause 27 on rather a broader basis, but at the moment we are concentrating our attention on the more limited question of the precise meaning of the words I have just read.
The Parliamentary Secretary intimated that consideration was to be given to this Amendment, but I venture to ask him whether he could amplify what he has already said, by saying that not only will that consideration be given, but that he and the Minister will put down an Amendment, if they are advised that it is necessary—and I should think that it was necessary—which would be so phrased as to put it beyond any doubt not only that the change in road haulage is going to be brought within the scope of Clause 27 (1) but that the other change—the re-organisation of the railways which is brought about by this Bill—will also be brought within the scope of that subsection.
I think the Parliamentary Secretary had that in mind, and it may be that that is what the Minister himself intends, but it would be a great consolation to the very large number of persons who are in a state of considerable uncertainty as to what is their immediate, or almost immediate, future if the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary were able, in terms, to assure the Committee not only that they will consider the Amendment very carefully but will so remodel subsection (1) as to make it absolutely certain that the Regulations made under it can in fact, intra vires the subsection, cover any change in the employment or conditions of any person which may be brought about by any of the provisions of this Bill.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I had intended to reserve my remarks until we were discussing the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," but, in reply to that specific inquiry, the best answer I can give is that we are in general sympathy with the three Amendments put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and it is certainly our intention that where, for example, 1655 in the case of the railways, a re-organisation scheme is imposed on the Commission by statute—as it were—there must be an obligation that people affected by that re-organisation scheme are covered by the compensation Regulations.
But the reason I could not go so far as might be expected in replying to the query of the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) is the question which was referred to by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), that it is possible that in the future there will be a diversion of traffic from rail to road consequent upon greater competition. It would be clearly impracticable for any compensation Regulations to cover people who in future years might lose their employment because road transport began to replace rail transport.
On reflection, I do not think the hon. Gentleman would push that point further or expect it to be covered, but within the limited and defined field in which it brings the railwaymen affected within the same broad assurance as the road hauliers have, I can certainly give the right hon. and learned Gentleman the assurance for which he asks.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I think I am right in saying that when we reach the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," hon. Members in every part of the Committee will have an opportunity of dealing with this matter in the widest possible way. Before asking leave to withdraw the Amendment, upon which this narrow discussion has taken place, I should like to say that I am very much obliged to the Minister for his remarks and to my hon. Friends who are learned in the law.
What we want to do is to see that all these admirable people, who have served the country so well, have a happy Christmas and feel less anxiety. I take it that what we have just been told will give them that assurance, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. P. Morris
The Committee will have gathered from the discussion that has already taken place that there is widespread anxiety over this Clause, 1656 and I should like to put two or three questions to the Minister in the hope that, when he replies, he can alleviate the anxieties in the minds of many people. Thousands of men employed in the transport industry are wondering whether they are likely to be victims of this Bill. At least three categories occur to me: those affected by the abolition of the Railway Executive, of the Road Haulage Executive, and the de-centralisation of the railways. These are major operations, but there may be many others, and unless some assurance is given these men will feel that their live-lihood is in very grave danger.
It is not often that I find myself in agreement with the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), but just now he mentioned that there is no compensation for men who are redundant as a result of normal re-organisation. Those of us who have been dealing with this subject for many years know that the line of demarcation between redundancy that has arisen out of absorption and redundancy due to re-organisation is very thin, and we have been to courts of appeal on more than one occasion asking other people to decide the issue for us.
We should like to ask the Minister to indicate in categorical terms how he proposes to provide for this new class of displaced persons. We have just heard a very significant statement from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. I do not blame him one bit. It is all that the Ministry could say, but it is obvious that the Government anticipate a good deal of redundancy, and there are likely to be very many men and women who will be displaced as a result of the implementation of the scheme contained in this Bill.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I do not think I mentioned the word "redundancy" in the whole of my speech. The point I was making was that within an expanding transport industry, if there is a change in ownership there must be a good deal of job-switching, a thing of which we have had a good deal of experience in the rearmament programme.
§ Mr. Morris
That is purely hypothetical. Experience under the Act of 1921 and even under the Act of 1947, has taught us that the Minister's answer is quite hypothetical, and it will be too 1657 late to shut the stable door when the horse has run away. His Ministry anticipates the need to make special provision for people who will be thrown out of work.
I should like to refer to a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks). What is to be done for a man who is protected at the time the undertaking was sold but who in two or three months' time is dismissed? He can be dismissed without any claim for compensation at all. We feel that something ought to be done to safeguard the position of such people. I gathered from the preliminary reply of the right hon. Gentleman that he is going to continue his conversations with the trade unions about these Regulations, and I hope that, as a result of those discussions, he will frame the Regulations in such a way that they will be acceptable to the House.
There are one or two other important factors that must be mentioned. There is the operative date for compensation. We feel that it should be 1st May, 1952, that is, from the time the White Paper was published, because up to that time all the men who went into road haulage and the railway industry had every reason to believe that they were starting a career, and were likely to have permanent employment. It is only since the publication of the Government's intention on that matter that they have had cause to be very worried, and we hope that when the Minister examines this aspect of the matter he will make the operative date 1st May.
What about the "cause of action period"? That is a technical term which may puzzle some hon. Members, but it is vital for the people involved. Under Section 101 of the 1947 Act the "cause of action period" was laid down as 10 years, and we hope the Minister will be able to keep that period in these new Regulations, because it is of great importance that if these people are to lose their posts they will be given reasonable compensation.
Yesterday the Minister referred to a turnover of 23,000 in this industry. I must confess that the figure surprised me, and I have checked it since. Whilst it is accurate, the implications of it are not. The inference I drew from what the right hon. Gentleman said was that there were 23,000 people coming in and out of the 1658 transport industry, but it is not quite like that. What happened was that when the Road Haulage Executive set about their business of organising that side of the industry, they took over the staff that were employed by the companies they were acquiring, and when that organisation had reached a certain stage they were able to dispense with very many employees.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
If the hon. Gentleman refers to pages 176 and 177 of last year's Accounts he will find that, in fact, during the year 1951 the total number employed by the Road Haulage Executive went up by about 4,700.
§ Mr. Morris
But the turnover is not due to people flitting in and out of the industry. There were special circumstances applying to the acquisition of these undertakings that made it necessary for one or other of the Executives to get rid of their temporary staff.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
We are not trying to make any ideological points out of this, but so much is said about the insecurity of private employment and the security of Government employment that I am bound to put these figures to the Committee. Over the last three years there was the following wastage—last year, 23,000; the year before, 22,000, and the year before that, 15,000. As my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) said, there has been an actual increase in the staff, and this is not over the field of the Executives; it is for the British Road Services alone.
§ Mr. Morris
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes me to take a retrospective view of the matter, he will find that no improvement or stability was effected until the employees concerned were able to get satisfactory wages and salaries as a result of going to the various tribunals. In fact, we had reached the point when the industry was losing thousands of people, and then with the help of the Minister of Labour in the last Government we were able to get our standards improved to a reasonable extent, and this enabled us to retain people in the industry.
These are the three points I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman—whether he will consider the operative date as 1st May; whether he will tell us what he 1659 has in mind about the cause of action period; and to what extent he will consult the trade unions in framing the Regulations before submitting them to the House for confirmation.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I hope the Committee will forgive my intervention in this debate. This is the first time that I have addressed the Committee during consideration of this Bill, and I only do so now because in the middle of my constituency there happens to be one of the biggest railway marshalling yards in Europe. I would endorse the opinion expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that railway workers are chiefly concerned about the significance of this particular part of the Bill.
I realise that anyone who wants to go into the subject of compensation in detail needs a very much greater knowledge of the background of this question than I have. It is a complicated process and the Committee is automatically faced with the problem of deciding whether logic is the only thing that ought to matter, or whether we should get down to the details of what is practicable. However, in matters of compensation logic and practicability are not always the same thing.
I think that probably many of us would feel that, from the point of view of logic, as the Commission is the main body concerned in this matter, compensation for the road haulage people displaced ought to be exactly the same as the compensation for the railwaymen, but I think, also, that all those who know the railway side of the question would at once say that there is a great tradition in these matters on the railway side, and that it would be catastrophic to upset it, and that we simply must, if we can, ensure that that great tradition is maintained and that the compensation is mutually agreed by all concerned, even if that should mean that it cannot be identical as between the railwaymen and the road haulage men. It would be preferable to have an arrangement in which everybody concerned could feel real confidence.
I feel that confidence, which was, perhaps, a little shaky before, ought to have been restored today by what we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary 1660 to the Ministry of Labour. I think that he answered the questions that the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) asked about having consultations with the trade unions. I think he made it abundantly clear that he does intend to bring in the trade unions on this matter. I am sure we are all very glad of that, because I suppose that there are few industries in which the trade unions are stronger or have more members, and it would be a great tragedy if the trade unions were left out. I was delighted to hear what my hon. Friend said.
So far as the matter affects people in my own constituency—and I make no apology for making rather a constituency speech on this particular matter—I would say that these men have shown as well as any others in any section of British Railways that nationalisation can be made to run extremely efficiently. In those marshalling yards in my constituency they have cut out Sunday work. That has often meant getting less money in a week, but they have worked well.
I hope that, as a result of Clause 14 in the Bill, we shall not unnecessarily upset those sections of these workers who are working well, but, if it does so happen that there are displacements so that the scheme may be a more practicable proposition over the country as a whole—I realise that we cannot deal only with one district, however important, but must deal with a matter like this on a national scale—then I hope that proper compensation will be worked out, in the greatest possible detail, and by bringing in all concerned for thorough consultation, so that we may all feel that everybody is working together, rather than that it should be worked out simply as a first proposition to which reactions merely are asked for. It will be so much better for everybody if everybody concerned is in on the matter right from the beginning. I hope that my hon. Friend's assurance means that the trade unions will be brought in right from the very beginning.
There was one particular point that I should like to take up that was made by the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) when we were discussing an Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and that was the point he made about Clause 11 (1) and the difference between that subsection and Clause 27 (1). I personally 1661 was impressed very much. The point had not occurred to me before. I hope that when my right hon. Friend replies to the debate he will give us an assurance that that particular matter will be looked into, because I think it is very important, if we are to try to make sure that the Commission will have sufficient funds to carry out its obligations, that we do not leave out that obligation whereby it will have to pay compensation. It appears on the face of it, as the Bill stands, that so far as compensation for road haulage workers is concerned, all is satisfactory, but that so far as the railwaymen are concerned there is need, perhaps, to tidy up the two Clauses.
In this debate, and in the previous debate on the Amendment, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have been talking almost with one voice, and I hope that that is a happy augury for the future, because I think we are all agreed, so far as the railways are concerned, that their job is absolutely indispensable, and that many of the workers in the industry are doing their best to make it a success, no matter what their politics. Let us hope they will go on doing that.
I am quite certain that those who remain in the industry as a result of this reorganisation will work very much more happily if they know that those who have to leave the industry to make it a working proposition under the new set-up approved by Parliament are properly compensated and looked after. I therefore feel that this is perhaps one of the most important Clauses in the Bill from the point of view of the smooth working of the industry.
As regards road haulage, I do hope that hon. Members will banish from their minds the idea that the majority of employers are likely to be worse employers than British Road Services. I am quite convinced myself from what I have learned in talking to road haulage drivers that there are many advantages that can be derived from private enterprise actually from the point of view of the workers, the drivers and the workers on the maintenance of the vehicles.
I am sure that one of the most important things concerning compensation is the announcement which was made some time ago by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour that 1662 the Ministry were discussing the possibility of implementing our party's Workers' Charter. One of the things that has always been to the forefront in our Industrial Charter has been the idea that there should be proper compensation for loss of employment through no fault of the worker himself, and I hope very much that this does mean that we are going ahead on those lines, to try to ensure that the individual operative—in all industries—whether he or she be working for a nationalised industry or a privately-owned industry will have a general minimum standard of rights and protection that will ensure that nobody is put in the position of sweated slave labour and unfair treatment.
Therefore, I feel that the general approach of the Government towards this problem is one which is designed not merely to make the industry efficient—because there are ways of doing that without being humane—but also to give this assurance to those who work in industry, whether nationalised or under private enterprise. It is vital that this principle should be established in people's minds.
I believe that the general intention of the Government has been made clear by what we have heard today—a good deal clearer than it was on a first reading of the Bill. I do hope, therefore, that there will be Amendments to the Bill which will make it abundantly clear, not only what the Government's intentions are, but also that there are feasible propositions for carrying out what the Government want to do and what we all want to do, too.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
This is a very vital part of the Bill, and deals with people's livelihood and the question of compensation for those who may be displaced under its provisions. I think hon. Members in all parts of the Committee were impressed by the letter read out by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) from one of the officers who was concerned about his position in respect to the de-nationalisation of the road transport industry. I think that was a typical expression of the sincere fear of hundreds and thousands of men engaged in the industry—the fear that their jobs, their conditions of employment, their standards generally will be impaired by the application of the Bill. 1663 We are very much indebted to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour for the statement which he has made. Nevertheless, while we are always satisfied that the machinery of the Ministry of Labour will be used to its fullest extent in trying to provide employment for the men displaced, they are going to find it increasingly difficult to do so, in view of the number of unemployed in the transport industry at the present time.
It appears to me that here is a real tragedy. Here we have a Government which intends to create, presumably, a problem of unemployment for the Ministry of Labour to solve in an industry which is performing an essential national service, and which is showing very definite results as an industry and from the point of view of finance. I think that it is regrettable that the Government, at this particular time of industrial difficulty for our nation, should come forward with a Bill of this character and cause such disturbances in the transport industry, when the Minister of Labour and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and, indeed, the whole of the Cabinet—are putting emphasis upon the need for increased production throughout the country.
This is not the time for the dislocation of industry and causing difficulties of transport which the Bill will undoubtedly do. It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Labour to talk glibly of there being more employment for the industrial workers under competitive enterprise. That is absolute nonsense. There can be no more employment for the transport workers than would normally be provided, not by the private enterprise of road hauliers, but by the activities and energies of the workers in the factories and workshops throughout the country. We shall get a demand for increased transport, not arising from handing over the road transport industry to the vested interests of private enterprise.
The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
I do not think that the hon. Member can very well touch upon that. This Clause deals with the payment of compensation.
§ Mr. McLeavy
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, in the 1664 course of his statement, which would have been more appropriate on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," dealt with the policy which the Ministry of Labour were to apply, and the machinery which they intended to use, in providing employment for any men displaced as a result of the Bill. He was arguing that as a result of that policy compensation might not be such an important factor. The point which I am trying to make is: why should the Ministry of Labour, in view of the need for increasing production, be called upon by the provisions of this Clause to start building up, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, a special section to deal with unemployment arising from the operations of this Bill?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I think that it is as well to make the position quite plain. This is part of the normal working of the Department, and my main object in saying that is not in any way to suggest that we are expecting a large amount of redundancy. What we want is that every Department of State that can help shall help to make this operation a success. It is to that end that my Ministry is prepared and willing to play its full part.
That is not provided in this Clause. This Clause provides for the payment of compensation where there is displacement.
§ Mr. McLeavy
In view of your Ruling, Mr. Hopkin Morris, I do not propose to attempt to answer, tempted as I am, the further interjection of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. I will come, therefore, to the Ministry of Transport.
Under this Clause, the Minister of Transport will bring in Regulations relating to how compensation is to be paid. I am glad that on both sides of the Committee there has been emphasis laid upon the need for the utmost consultation with the trade unions concerned in the industry. I can only underline the view that has generally been expressed throughout the Committee that the Minister should take every possible step to ensure that the trade unions concerned will be consulted in adequate time to allow them to make their representations to the Minister, and to allow the Minister to consider them in detail so that, if possible, there may be discussions as to how the Regulations should be drawn. 1665 I want to raise with the Minister some of the points which I am doubtful whether the Regulations can cover—points on which I think the Committee are entitled to receive some explanation. The road haulage section of the Transport Commission had embarked upon an educational training scheme for its staff in order to train members of the staff to take administrative and eventually, if competent, executive posts. Can the Minister of Transport tell us precisely how there can be compensation for this loss of training under this Clause?
A man may have given 10, 20 or 25 years' service in the transport industry. He is taken over by the State. Plans are made for educational training to fit him for the position of an administrator or an executive. If he is to be denied these facilities under private enterprise, how can the Minister, and how can Parliament, compensate him for his loss of the possibility of going up the ladder to the position of an executive officer?
Another question which arises is that of security of employment. I do not know whether I dare mention again the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who seems to be quite happy about this position. He did not seem to realise that by change of ownership there may be a serious danger to the men employed, whether on the driving or the administrative side. It is perfectly clear to me that in some cases the new owner will prefer, for some reason or other, to take on staff other than those employed by the Transport Commission in this particular section of transport. It may well be that if we break up the undertaking to the extent proposed the administrative jobs will not be there under the new set-up, and these men will be left high and dry.
This is an important matter. If the Government had given as much time and consideration to the welfare and interests of the men serving the industry as they have given to the interests of the Road Hauliers' Association the Opposition would have been happier. With regard to amenities, the bigger undertaking is able to provide canteen arrangements and all kinds of facilities. The long-distance road transport workers have better facilities today than were ever provided under private enterprise, facilities which, judged 1666 by the private enterprise standard, might well not be provided in the case of smaller private undertakings.
These are very important factors, affecting the interests of road transport workers, and we are entitled to a statement from the Minister to allay the very real and serious concern among the men. Will they lose their employment? Will they be given adequate compensation for the losses which arise through the transfer to private industry? I appeal to the Minister to consider these matters very carefully. The Regulations will be all-important. The Minister should allow adequate time for discussion with the trade union movement whose views should be given the utmost consideration. Everything should be done under this miserable Bill to give the men engaged on the road and the railways the very best possible compensation provisions.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
I wish to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the importance of speed in paying compensation. It is essential not only that compensation should be fair and adequate, but also that those who are entitled to it should obtain it quickly. I hope he will bear that in mind in making the Regulations under subsection (3) when setting out the procedure for making claims and for the making and hearing of appeals. A great deal of hardship can be caused by slowness in paying compensation.
My hon. Friends and I welcome what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour about consultation with trade unions and other staff associations before the Regulations are prepared. We had down an Amendment, which has not been selected, drawing attention to this matter, and we are, therefore, particularly glad that the Parliamentary Secretary gave us such an assurance. My hon. Friends and I feel—I am glad that the feeling is shared by hon. Members opposite—that trade unions should, and must, be consulted in matters which affect the interest of employees. I am sorry that at an earlier stage we could not get the agreement of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who seemed to think that it was wrong that the trade unions should be brought in. My hon. Friends and I believe that in all matters affecting the interests of employees it is right and proper that trade unions and 1667 similar associations of the servants of an industry like this should be brought into consideration.
As soon as we begin to talk about compensation we are faced with the cause of compensation, which is loss of employment. I agree with hon. Members who have said that we want to see compensation paid to as few people as possible. We want the minimum amount of dislocation, and certainly the absolute minimum amount of loss of employment.
We have heard some very highly coloured remarks about the fear of unemployment arising out of the Bill. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) spoke of thousands of people losing their jobs. I gathered that his main fear arose from the road haulage part of the Bill. He said that unemployment would be unavoidable because workers were to be handed over to ruthless private enterprise. The hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) voiced the same theme.
How can this happen? What is this bogy about fantastically bad conditions under private enterprise operators in the industry? I am well aware that, in the past, conditions of employment under some employers may have been unsatisfactory. That was by no means confined to this industry. Some of us took a great interest last Friday in the Bill to provide further improvements in the conditions of foundry workers. Hon. Members opposite must realise that in these matters progress has been taking place, and is constantly taking place. That progress is not a monopoly of hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
What was the purpose of the Bill last Friday? If progress had been taking place there would have been no need to introduce it.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
Have not all Governments at all times 1668 brought in factory legislation and similar legislation and have they not always been 20 years behind the best employers? We are complaining not about the good employer, but about the many hundreds of employers who do not come up to standard unless they are compelled to do so by legislation.
§ Mr. Carr
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. All I am saying is that progress is not a monopoly of the Opposition. While there may have been bad employers. there have also been many good ones. Surely, with the present trade union organisation and with the powers which my right hon. Friend will have, not only under the Bill, we can ensure that conditions will be reasonable.
What hon. Gentlemen opposite have been saying does not tie up with the facts. Private enterprise employers have no difficulty in getting drivers for their road haulage vehicles. These drivers are not so desperately wedded to the nationalised undertaking that they are reluctant to go to private employers. The fear which hon. Gentlemen opposite have expressed has been grossly exaggerated.
I would remind hon. Members of the figures which appear in the Report of the Transport Commission. Out of a total of between 70,000 and 80,000 employees, in the year 1951, 23,045 left the employment of the Commission—and by any standard that is a high rate of wastage and does not suggest that employment under the Commission is so very much better than employment has been in the past, quite apart from what it will be in the future, under private employers.
There is a contradiction in the arguments which we have heard on this subject from hon. Members opposite today. The hon. Member for Eccles argued that many thousands would lose their jobs on the road haulage side, while the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) expressed the fear of redundancies on the railways because the Bill would attract traffic from the railways to road haulage. It cannot happen both ways. If the Bill will create more work for lorries and less for the railways, how can there be large-scale unemployment among lorry drivers? It is not possible. Hon. Members opposite are arguing against each other. Both these things cannot happen; one of the arguments must fall.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
First, unemployment would be created by uneconomic road services being dispensed with. Unemployment could also be caused among railwaymen by the road hauliers duplicating services on the lucrative busy routes and thereby drawing traffic from the rail to the road.
§ Mr. Carr
It is true that I cannot speak for Scotland. I represent a constituency in the south and live and work in the south. Nevertheless, this idea that before 1947 there was never transport to take goods into the so-called unprofitable areas is nonsense.
What new transport has been introduced in this direction in the last five years? What new industries have been able to grow up in these five years simply because new transport services have been introduced to take their goods? As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said yesterday, these services were provided. There always has been and always must be some measure of internal subsidy in any transport system.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
On a point of order. Are we still discussing the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," or are we discussing the main purposes of the Bill?
§ Mr. Carr
I am sorry, Sir Charles, if I have been led rather far afield by interventions of hon. Members opposite.
I will return to the main point: what is the fact about this danger of unemployment? We must all agree that there can be serious unemployment in the transport industry as a result of the new organisation under the Bill only if one thing happens, and one thing only: that is if the transport of the country can be done with fewer people than are doing it at present under the nationalised undertaking.
Do hon. Members opposite say that the nationalised undertaking is so inefficient and is employing so many more people 1670 than are necessary to do the work? Unless they are saying that, this Bill will not create unemployment. After all, the same volume of traffic will have to be carried. Unless it can be carried with many fewer people, there can be no large-scale unemployment created by the Bill. I should have thought that that was an incontrovertible argument.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
It is not so much a question of unemployment as of worsening of conditions.
§ 5.45 p.m.
I feel that I must not go back to that argument, because I fear I was straying rather wide when I was dealing with it. Perhaps I may have another opportunity of entering into argument with the hon. Member on that point.
I say this with great sincerity: I realise that any re-organisation of a fundamental nature of an industry of this kind must cause concern and anxiety to all those who work in it, because if only one worker out of every thousand is affected, until the results are seen, all the other 999 will also suffer anxiety. It is because I realise that, and because I appreciate this anxiety, that I want to make sure that the compensation provided in the Bill is full and fair and is obtainable speedily. Not only do I want to see that this will eventually happen; I also want to make sure that people can, here and now, have confidence that that will be so when the Bill becomes law.
§ Mr. G. Brown
Following the speech of the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) is a little difficult. He said only one thing with which I agree; at the end he said that even if only one out of every thousand workers were affected, the other 999 will be worried. He said that the Regulation made under the Clause should be in a form which appeals to these men, even if they are not affected.
I do not propose to argue at great length whether his highly-coloured and Walt Disney-like description of the road haulage industry is accurate or not. I only ask him to accept from me that those of us who, sometimes as trade union officials and sometimes, earlier, as workers in the industry or children of workers in the industry, could never have recognised the private enterprise road haulage industry from his description of it. 1671 When we had the National Conciliation Board under a very distinguished man, Sir Richard Redmayne, as an experiment in voluntary negotiation in the road haulage industry, it failed, and we had to have a National Statutory Wages Board because the employers said, "Please, you must have a Statutory Wages Board. We are being under-cut by these other chaps and it is making our business impossible."
That happened in 1939, and the makeup of the industry and the identity of the people in the re-created industry which the Government are establishing is almost exactly the same. I ask the hon. Member to recognise that, however much he might think this industry under private enterprise form will live up to his best ideats for private industry—and I credit him with having them—it does not happen, and will not happen, whatever the nature of the people concerned.
It will not happen because of the nature of the job. The whole business of getting road traffic services from one place to another can turn only on one thing—on being able and willing to run a vehicle rather longer or further or in a shorter time. Since it turns on that, the conditions of the men are bound to deteriorate.
That is the problem and that is why the men who work for the British Road Services, whether the one or the 999, are extremely worried about what will happen to them and about whether the Minister has, either in this Clause or in his mind, the right approach to their problem. They are afraid that they will pass from a period of settled, to some extent protected and to some extent secure conditions under which they have been working. Because the previous criterion has not applied, there has not been the same drive to use one man for as long as possible and to break the law in order to do it, as was done under private enterprise.
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's figure. I am saying that the men in the employment of the Road Haulage Executive today are afraid that 1672 they will go from conditions of employment that are attractive, settled, secure and decent to conditions of employment that are not. Therefore, the question of compensation must go wider than the simple question of compensation for loss of office.
I have a good deal of sympathy and understanding, even across the barrier that divides us politically, for the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), but I also have a special interest in the fellows who work the vehicles and keep them running. The problem in their case is not quite the same as the problem of compensation for loss of office by a senior official of the railways.
Some hon. Members opposite were rather pleased at what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour said. To show how beauty is in the eye of the beholder let me say that I was horrified at the Minister's whole approach. Some years ago, in a much more humble capacity than that of the Parliamentary Secretary, I had the pleasure of spending two or three years in his Department. I cannot believe that the Ministry of Labour in those days or in the days of the late Ernest Bevin would have displayed—I will use the kindest word I can—the cavalier approach of the hon. Gentleman this afternoon.
He talked about what he was going to do, and said he was faced with a very complex business in which there were many difficulties. "The fairest thing I can say," he said, "is that I will look very fully into the problem." This is a problem that the Government are choosing to create and to make worse. The Parliamentary Secretary cannot go to thousands of lorry drivers and mates, and fitters and their mates, in the garages and say, "I am sorry I cannot give you the assurance that good Conservatives want me to give you. The fairest thing I can say is that this is a very difficult problem and I will look fully into it." They are entitled to reply, "You should look into it before you throw this problem at us. It is your decision that we are to be faced with it, and it must be your decision what you are going to do about it."
§ Mr. Watkinson
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to confuse two entirely different things. My hon. Friend 1673 the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) was dealing with senior railway officials, and I referred to that matter when I said that it was a very complex and difficult problem. When I referred to the functions of my Ministry I said that I did not think it was a difficult problem at all and that it was one with which we fully intended to deal.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman seems to have only just discovered what he was speaking about. Part of his speech got mixed up with some general observations and was almost irretrievably lost in it. I am sorry that he was not talking about the road haulage operatives. In that case, I cannot understand why, when I interrupted him and asked him how he was going to place men in an area where there was a pocket of unemployment, he did not say he was not talking about them. He gave me what I thought was an answer, and it is only just now that he says that he was not talking about them.
I beg hon. Gentlemen to get out of their minds the idea that there is not going to be a change to worse conditions than those which are now enjoyed in British Road Services. I beg hon. Gentlemen to have regard to such things as welfare work, training work, national negotiating machinery and national consultative machinery, and all the other things which are so much more than the activities actually connected with the day's work. All those things British Road Services provide, and we could not possibly expect any private operator to provide them.
I could not go along, as a trade union official, to a man who has bought a unit of 10 or even 50 lorries and say, "I want you to provide the services and the other things which have gone to make up good conditions of employment." We shall lose something by the mere fact of breaking up this large organisation. Hon. Gentleman opposite are entitled to say that it is well lost, but it is no use their pretending that my chaps are not going to lose something. Of course they are.
Therefore, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said, we have to face not only the question of limited compensation when a man loses his job but the question whether the Minister intends that this Clause and the Regulations he proposes to make under it shall cover all the people who will lose something which makes their present 1674 working life more attractive to them than it was under the old system. I ask the Minister to give us an answer on that point. Is it his intention to accept the principle that if a man's position is worsened by the loss of the centralised services of British Road Services that man shall rank for compensation? Frankly, I do not see how he can accept it.
But it is not open to the Minister to say that he does not know how he will do it. I am not creating this problem. It is the Minister who is proposing to do so, and to use the Guillotine procedure to that end. He cannot say, "I do not know what I am going to do about this problem, and I am awfully sorry." This is not only a transport problem but a human problem. It is a proposal to rob these men of something while saying, "We are all agreed that it is a miserable thing to do." It is a problem of the Minister's choosing. Is he prepared to give us an assurance that he will not sell off any units until he is able to do what we are asking?
He made a point earlier in the debate that it took us two years after we had passed the Act of 1947 to bring the Regulations out. He says, "I will do better than that. I will have consultations with everybody and will do my utmost to see that the Regulations are ready by the time that these units are sold off." If the Minister says he will undertake to do it, we know that he will do his utmost. But I am entitled to go further and say that he owes it to these chaps to give an undertaking not to break up the organisation, and thereby rob them of something, until he has solved the problem of compensation. Nobody would accept that position for a senior officer or a local government officer or a high civil servant, so why should it be accepted for lorry drivers and their mates?
I hope the Minister will not answer, "This is what you did; these are virtually your words," because the situation is entirely different. If someone promises me a balloon if I buy a quarter of a 1b. of tea, and I buy it, I get the balloon. If, later on, I become a seller of tea and I am still promised a balloon if I buy a quarter of a 1b. of tea, those are the same words, but what is the point of them, since I am no longer buying tea 1675 but selling it? That is what is happening here.
When we used this measure of compensation, what were we doing? We were taking in all the little things and building them up into a big thing in which there would be great chances of promotion. The British Transport Commission were taking in component parts and they had the responsibility of compensating anyone they could not fit into the machine. When that obligation was put on the B.T.C., it was up to them to keep their compensation expenses as low as possible by making the best use of these people. What happens now? We still make the B.T.C. compensate them, but we let other people take things out of the machine. In other words, the buyer of tea has turned into a seller.
Now, however, the B.T.C. cannot decide what use is to be made of those people and it cannot see that they are fitted into the new set-up. All that now happens, therefore, is that B.T.C. have to compensate somebody because somebody else will not fit into the machine. So we are in a reverse position. Frankly, I believe that the Minister just lifted these words out of the Act. I can imagine, from my limited knowledge, a conference around his table attended by all the wise senior civil servants, with a lot of discussion and many proposals coming forward—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I hope my right hon. Friend will not assume that there was too much discussion, because there was nothing in the White Paper about compensation.
§ Mr. Brown
Well, I am sure there was one meeting. I can see it. I can hear the Minister asking, "What am I to do about this?" I can imagine the Permanent Secretary pointing out the problem and I can see the Minister, with a gleam in his eye, because he is a wily political bird, saying, "I know; we will put in the words that were in their Act and they will not be able to argue so much because I can say that they were their own words." So they were put in and the wretched civil servants were so overworked that they could not point out that these circumstances were not the same. If I want to make somebody do something, I make them face a penalty if they do not do it. Yet it is no use 1676 my putting a penalty on somebody for something they cannot influence. That is why these compensation provisions are serious.
Now I come to one or two detailed suggestions which I hope the Minister will bear in mind. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that there will be early, full and continuing consultation with all the trade unions and bodies concerned. We accept that and are glad to have it on record. I am sure he will be asked questions, and I am therefore doing him a favour in putting the following point to him now so that he has a chance of one more consultation, before he answers questions, outside the House.
Involved in this break-up as a by-product is a wholesale breaking of industrial agreements without notice, without any of the clauses being operated, and being broken not by the will of the employer but upon the instructions of the Government. It is surely unique in the development of industrial relations in this country that a Government should come along and instruct an employer to break industrial agreements without any proposals to replace them. And this comes from the people who talk about the Workers' Charter.
What faith will there be once those industrial agreements are broken in that way? And what compensation will be offered for a wanton, quite unconstitutional, wrongful, forced abrogation of industrial agreements voluntarily entered into? What do the Ministry of Labour have to say about it? What is the advice of the Chief Industrial Commissioner whose job it is to see that industrial agreements are made and kept? What advice will he give to a trade union official who asks, "What do I say and do in these circumstances?" Will he call the two parties together, and what will he do about getting them to meet?
Arising out of the break-up, two things will happen once the units begin to be sold off. Some men will go with the people who buy the vehicles, some will have to stay behind. With regard to those who go, even if their wages in the immediate future are as good as now, even if their ordinary working conditions are as good as now, for how long must that remain so before they are entitled to compensation? Remember these are mostly weekly employees, not monthly. 1677 If they go over to the new concerns tomorrow, if they work a week or a month and then get a week's notice—which is all they are entitled to—are they still entitled to compensation or is the fact that they worked a week enough to rob them of it? We must have an answer to this question, because it is no use talking about human sympathy and understanding unless we know the answer; and it is no use saying that this is a complex problem, because it has to be faced.
What about those who do not go because there is no demand for them? There will be some. The R.H.E. has a redundancy agreement—one of the things we shall lose with the break-up—but presumably while they remain with the Commission the redundancy agreement operates. They get a month's notice under that agreement before they leave. What happens then? Are they entitled to compensation? They have become redundant under their own agreement, but they have done so because the Government have sold off the vehicles. Are they entitled to their redundancy notice and to compensation, or will it be argued that, because they have become redundant under the agreement, they are not entitled to compensation?
I repeat, we want answers on these questions. It is no use talking about human understanding unless the answers are known, and there is no right to break up and to sell off the units until we have the answers.
Then there is the problem of the older driver, the man whom the big organisation can work in. I have the highest of all human reasons for being concerned about this. I know it from the closest possible personal circumstances. What is to be done with the older man, who has a perfectly good chance of earning his corn in the Road Haulage Executive because they can fit him in, but who now has to go into the much more violent competition of private enterprise road haulage, where he must be prepared to do much longer night runs and all that that involves?
There may be a job offered to him. [An HON. MEMBER: "There may not."] I am taking the best view. A job may be offered to him, but perhaps he cannot hold it. Is he to be refused compensation because a job was offered to him and he 1678 could not stick it, or will it be accepted that morally he cannot do it because he was thrown out of the one that he could do perfectly well?
I have gone on more than I am entitled to do, but this is a vital matter. The Committee are tending to push these things through and, I ask the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) not to deal with them academically. It is true there will be Regulations, but they are negative procedure Regulations. In our Measure they were affirmative. We all know how much chance there is to deal with negative procedure Regulations. I beg the Minister to change that, and I am sure that he will. These are vital things. We ought to discuss them in full and to have the fullest answers. I beg the Minister at least to say that he will not sell off any units until he has the answers to these very important human questions.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I should like just to make the point that there is another Clause, to which there are important Amendments, and that we are working under the Guillotine.
§ Mr. Brown
That is why I did not refer to wastage. In part, this is an industry which attracts the restive sort of man, and it always will. It will always have a higher rate of wastage, as it did in the past. The answer to the hon. Member—I will discuss the figures with him if he likes—is that in part the figures hide various changes that are going on all the time, and numbers are classed as wastage although really they are not.
If there is a higher wastage, it is not as high as the figures would show. There was always wastage in the old days, and it is no criticism of the British Road Services. If the hon. Member wants to 1679 compare the conditions of the two things, let him go now, before the Government break it up, to the British Road Services and study the figures and arrangements, and then look at any private employer's books.
§ Mr. P. Morris
On a point of order. May we ask for your consideration, Sir Charles? In view of the fact that our discussions are dependent on the operation of the Guillotine and there is another Clause to be discussed, cannot the Government give us the courtesy of the facility to which we are entitled, so that we may hear the Minister?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am not getting up to reply. I understand that there was a certain feeling of resentment that there were to be two Ministerial speeches close together. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said, "What about us back benchers? What about agreements made between the two Front Benches?" Then I understood from private talks with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that he did not mind—in fact he wished it—if this debate ran on for quite a time. We all recognise that Clause 27 is more important than Clause 26. That is why we altered the order in the Business Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) has already been called, but immediately after he speaks I am quite prepared to reply.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It is true that I expressed the hope that we should allow the major part of the time to be taken on this Clause, but I hope it was conveyed to the Minister that we hoped we would finish the Clause at about 6.15, because there are important Amendments on the next Clause. I hope, therefore, it will be possible for the Minister to reply as soon as he catches your eye, Sir Charles.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am sorry that we are not to have an opportunity of a contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), 1680 who, although he may be accused of approaching some problems from an academic angle, knows a great deal about the road haulage industry and certainly has a practical experience of life which equips him to offer valuable contributions.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who made the first Ministerial speech on the Clause. If it was true, as the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) said, that I was shanghaied out of the Colonial Office into the Ministry of Transport, one of the inducements offered to me in the Ministry of Transport was that my hon. Friend was my Parliamentary Private Secretary. No sooner had I been successfully shanghaied than he was transferred and made a Minister himself in the Ministry of Labour. Their again is the loss of my Department.
This has been, on the whole, a very harmonious debate, despite the efforts of the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) to raise the atmosphere in its concluding stages. It is a harmonious debate, because although we have violent differences of opinion as to the best way to organise our economic life, we are at one in the desire to minimise the hardship and, as far as possible, the inconvenience to our fellow citizens by these violent changes in the economic set-up.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) said that there was widespread anxiety about the Clause; and no doubt anticipating that this would be my answer, the right hon. Member for Belper said that he hoped I would not reply by saying that we had reproduced almost the exact wording—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I will come to that. It will be for the Regulations to take account of the changed circumstances.
I wholly agree that problems such as, for example, that of a man who gets a good job immediately after the sale of a unit and then loses that job, create issues which did not exist, or existed only to a lesser extent, in 1947. It must be for the Regulations to pick up problems of that kind. The broad principles, however, are comparable in both the Act and, now, in our Bill. 1681 In order that the right hon. Gentleman should recognise that the Bill is not exactly a reproduction of the 1947 proposals as contained in Section 101 of the Act, I must point out that there are two differences. We do not reproduce in our Clause the safeguards given to employees by the Railways Act and by Part VII of the London Passenger Transport Act. We have been advised that this is quite unnecessary, since the rights under these Acts could not be prejudiced in any case as the result of the Clause. Rights under those two Acts remain as sacrosanct as they were before. I say that only because it is conceivable that workers in, say, London Transport might feel that they were being left out. If the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) would like to look at my note, I will let him have it and then, perhaps, he would like to give me some penetrating comment upon it.
The other difference in the Bill as compared with the Act is that we do not provide for the, affirmative procedure. I should be the last person to be able successfully to stand at this Box and defend negative procedure when our predecessors had an affirmative procedure. I certainly think that a case has been made that the Regulations should be treated in the same way as those under the 1947 Act, and I shall certainly advise my colleagues, with whom, naturally, the final decision lies, accordingly.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
There is one further difference, if the right hon. Gentleman will look at Section 102 (1) of the 1947 Act, which gave the Minister of that time power to decline to sanction any scheme of transfer until he was satisfied with the compensation arrangements.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
My belief is—and I speak subject to correction—that Section 102 is not touched by this Measure. Hon. Members ought at the same time to look at the Third Schedule from which they will see that only the Sections and Schedules of the 1947 Act repealed as a result of this Measure are affected. The remainder, including, I think, Section 102, remain.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That is an entirely new point and I shall have to have another look at it but, so far as I understand, Section 102 remains as obligatory as before, and nothing is done by this Bill to weaken it.
I share fully the view of the hon. Member for Eccles, who made a very moving speech at the beginning of this general debate, that the vast majority of men, whether road or rail workers, are more concerned about security of employment and good and happy employment than about questions of compensation. We believe that as a result of this transfer there will be no loss of opportunity on the roads. We believe that in fact the same volume—we hope in time an ever-growing volume—of goods will have to carry what we trust will be Britain's expanding industrial production. We are not dealing here with a declining industry, but with a growing industry. I do not think we need be unduly disturbed about the chances of employment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) in the course of discussing his three Amendments, referred to the consequences of the third Amendment and the abolition of the Executives. That is one of the reasons I shall ask the Committee to allow us to look again at certain aspects of this Clause. Under the original Bill the Minister could abolish Executives, provided one remained. The only change we make is to take power to abolish all the Executives. It would be a point of great complexity, if someone found he was suffering some loss through the abolition of an Executive, to decide whether that was a result of my taking power to abolish all of them or of the Opposition, when they were the Government, having the power to abolish all but one. We have a great deal of sympathy with the point of view of my hon. Friend, which has been supported on both sides of the Committee, and we will certainly look at this matter again.
I think that the machinery in regard to road hauliers is watertight. All who suffer loss through the consequences of this Measure, along the lines laid down in Section 101 of the 1947 Act, and with Regulations suitably adapted to what I recognise is a different problem, will fall due for compensation. It is in the field of the railways that there are greater difficulties. Here I come up against a 1683 number of problems which we are discussing with the trade unions and which I will discuss with colleagues and those qualified to help.
Talking of discussion, I should like to give this undertaking. When the Labour Government, in 1947, brought out its Road Haulage Compensation Regulations they consulted the Trades Union Congress, the Transport and General Workers' Union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, the British Transport Officers' Guild, the National Association of Local Government Officers, the Scottish Horse and Motormen's Association, the United Road Transport Workers' Association of England, the A.E.U., the E.T.U., the National Union of Vehicle Builders and the Scottish Transport and General Workers' Union. I am perfectly prepared to have as wide a consultation as that. Indeed, if anyone can make out a case for being included, I would err on the side of adding to the list and would certainly not diminish it.
The railway side does provide a problem because the railways can re-organise themselves at any time. It is exceedingly difficult to say that some incident of redundancy is due to an act of the State or due to an act of internal reorganisation within the power of the railways already provided. But I recognise that here we are imposing on the railways, by statute, a statutory obligation, for example, to decentralise. I am approaching the talks with the unions and others with a desire to see that men who suffer through this deliberate act of Government policy will fall into the same categories for compensation as those who are in road haulage.
I have been asked a number of detailed questions and will do my best to deal with them quickly. The hon. Member for Swansea, West asked about the period of action. The period of action is not laid down in the Act of 1947, but in the Regulations. The period is 10 years in the Labour Government's Regulations. I see no reason why it should be different, but that is the sort of point I should like to discuss with the various bodies I have mentioned.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) quite rightly said that where the 1684 railways have an historic and traditional way of looking after these things, we ought to follow that method. That is one of the lines which no doubt the railway unions and the Trades Union Congress will put to me. He asked why there was a difference in the reimbursement to the Commission. The answer is that it would be clearly inequitable to put on the levy the cost of compensation to displaced railwaymen as the levy is an inseparable part of the disposal of the Road Haulage Executive alone.
The hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) asked about the educational and training of staffs schemes. I have had a word with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour about this. We will look at it and see whether the Ministry of Labour Training for Industry Scheme can help in that field. This will need a little discussion and thought, and I do not pretend that it will be in every way a satisfactory form of continuation of the existing scheme.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If they want to go to a real night school, they had better come here.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) asked about speed in getting these Regulations out and paying compensation. I could not agree more with him. The Labour Government found it impossible to bring out their Regulations until two and a half years after the passing of the Act, with all the power of the State behind them. The people affected by these Regulations were, very many of them, small people who had not the ample resources of the State behind them. I have already announced that I hope we shall get our Regulations out before the disposal begins, and I will consult with all interested parties. I agree also with my hon. Friend that not only is it important to get the Regulations out quickly but it is equally important to see that the compensation is paid quickly.
I thought that the right hon. Member for Belper confused the road haulier and the railwayman. I believe the road haulage industry is fully safeguarded. Where we express some doubt and are anxious to look again at the Clause—to this alone my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon 1685 directed attention—is in the field of the railways. There I am undertaking, in consultation with the various bodies mentioned, to look at the matter again to see what we can do.
I should like to thank hon. Members on both sides of the Committee for the friendly way in which the discussion has taken place. I hope that it will be taken by workers in this great industry as an earnest of the fact that, although we have political differences and differences of policy, their welfare and interests are dear to both sides of the Committee, although sometimes, reading HANSARD or the daily newspapers on the following clay, they may wonder whether that really is so.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 26.—(PROVISIONS AS TO PENSION RIGHTS.)
The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
It may be convenient to the Committee to consider with this Amendment the following two Amendments, in line 23, leave out "(b) for amending," and insert "any such regulations may"; and after "aforesaid," insert "amend."
§ Mr. Morris
I agree, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that it is convenient for these three Amendments to be discussed together.
I want to help the Committee, especially in view of the Guillotine, and I trust that the brevity of my contribution will not be taken as minimising the importance of the item with which we are dealing. I wish to thank the Minister for the statement he has made. We found it reassuring in respect of several important features. Yesterday, and again this afternoon, he emphasised that men attach greater importance to security of employment than to compensation. Of course, broadly speaking, that is true. But the Minister will appreciate that thousands of people in the industry are also very worried about their provision for superannuation, and they are anxious that nothing in this Bill shall interfere with their pension rights.
1686 In view of his limited experience in the transport world, the Minister is a very refreshing witness, and we are grateful to him for the trouble he has taken regarding many matters. I hope, therefore, he will not think it presumptuous on my part if I remind him that this story of pensions or superannuation is a very long one. So far as trade unions are concerned, the outcome is the result of a tremendous struggle over a very long period. In my own sphere we have been working on it for something like 40 years.
I do not want to be ungrateful about the measure of consideration given by an earlier Government when, after a great deal of agitation, arrangements were made to get consolidated funds for the most important lines. But now that there are such tremendous changes impending in the transport world, hon. Members are anxious to have an assurance that the existing statutory railway funds will not be interfered with in any way.
I am not a lawyer, and the advice I have been given is that under the Clause there is no danger to the existing funds. But if the Minister can reassure us, we shall be grateful. There are many people who are in funds that are not statutory, and we would like to think that they will be given the same safeguard. If they are not, we should, on Report stage, endeavour to find ways and means of helping them. Young people may be a little indifferent to the prospects of superannuation, but when servants and officers have been engaged for 20, 25 or 30 years it is hopeless for them, on quitting their employment, to find work in some different sphere. They have been specially trained for the work in railway transport and the road haulage industry, and unless their future, so far as superannuation is concerned, is guaranteed, they will have many anxious moments.
Another feature which is troubling us is the fact that there are thousands of employees who are now paying into provisional funds, by agreement with the unions and the B.T.C. The B.T.C. have given the unions an undertaking, as and when we can agree on the actual terms, that they will set up a superannuation fund which will provide for the men now making provisional payments. We would like to think that their position is fully safeguarded. 1687 The 1947 Act provided for pension appeal tribunals, but our experience of such tribunals causes us to feel that we would like to have another look at them in order to eliminate some unsatisfactory features. I beg the Minister to realise that this question of pensions is a natural corollary to the matter with which we are dealing. The two things are complementary. Men wish to be assured of security of employment and also, having given their lifetime to a particular industry, that the superannuation which they have, endeavoured to provide for themselves will be forthcoming. If the Minister can assure us on those points, I shall be content to bow to the Guillotine, and to thank him for any promise which he may make.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) for the expressions he has used. Had the electorate decided otherwise, I might have been his neighbour in South Wales, but unfortunately they decided to keep the hon. Gentleman who is, I think, now the father of the House.
I agree that this is a very important Clause and the fact that the Committee have taken so much longer over the compensation Clauses will not, I hope, lead anybody to think that we are not concerned about the preservation of existing pension rights and the carry-over of any of those rights into a life which may be different for a number of the men concerned. I know of the great interest of the hon. Gentleman in the salaried staff funds, wage rates and pensions schemes of the old railway companies and the Commission.
I have had a number of talks with the Commission on this matter, and with the unions, and fundamental problems arise for which I think any Government would find it difficult to provide an early solution. I can give this assurance, that all the existing statutory funds are absolutely untouched by this Clause, which is solely designed to try to see that men and women who have pension rights do not lose those rights as a result of this Bill.
I am prepared to accept these three Amendments, and I am glad that they have been introduced. I agree that wherever possible there should be an absolute obligation on the Minister of the 1688 day to do whatever is possible to protect the pension rights of any unfortunate enough to lose pensionable employment through the Bill.
Actually, the former Labour Government's own Act did not make this obligatory on the Minister. I think it read, "The Minister may," in the case of pensions. We are prepared to say, "The Minister shall." I think it important that we should get quite clear exactly what this means, because I want people to know the maximum of their rights. But at the same time I do not want in any way to mislead any who may be following this debate.
The purpose of the Regulations under this Clause will be to preserve to the greatest possible extent pension rights already earned before the loss of employment. Supposing for example, someone who was in a pension scheme in a private transport business went into the Road Haulage Executive's employment. He might have behind him 15 or 20 years of pension contributions. If he now loses employment, he would receive a pension at retiring age based on that length of service.
It would not be possible to make any provision for a man to earn a further pension after he leaves the Commission. He may go to a firm with its own pension scheme, in which case we have drawn subsection (2) of this Clause in such a way that the Regulations may provide that he can carry over into the new employment all his accrued rights, whatever the terms of the employment scheme into which he is going to enter.
§ Mr. Sparks
Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying that if the pension scheme of British Road Services is superior to the scheme in a man's new employment, he would be entitled to retain the benefits under the better scheme, or would he have to accept the new scheme which might not be quite so good?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
All I have said is that he will retain the contributions he has made which will rank towards pension if he goes into a firm with its own pension scheme.
If he does not, what would happen? Normally, when a man leaves a job he loses any rights in any pension scheme associated with it, unless, of course, he 1689 leaves the job on the termination of his employment, when his pension is due. In the best schemes he gets back his own contributions, but usually, I am advised, the rules of the schemes involve this consequence and allow for no alternative.
We propose to get free of this obligation, to override such rules and to ensure that the man receives the benefit, possibly as a deferred annuity, not only of his own contributions but the contributions put in by his employer on his behalf. The hon. Member for Swansea, West spoke about provisional payments which have been made. They would fall to be dealt with in this way. The man would be entitled to recover any provisional payments made.
Some trade unionists have suggested to me that the expectation of a pension right is a valuable asset. Where it is only a question of a year or so, it would not be a very marketable commodity. I will discuss that further with the unions and others, but I could not hold out any hope on that limited field. But over the main field, which I know is what mostly worries hon. Gentlemen opposite, I give the assurance that I have given. I am pleased to accept these three Amendments to make the provision obligatory upon the Minister.
§ Mr. P. Morris
I am worried about what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the provisional payments. There are many who are paying into this provisional fund. The Commission are already committed to set up a fund to cater for them on a permanent basis. The delay has been due to failure to agree on the actual terms of a scheme, but there is the arrangement on the part of the Commission that they should provide a fund as soon as the negotiating parties have reached agreement. I hope that the Minister will not lose sight of that.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
No, I will not lose sight of that. We agree that the man should get back his contribution and the employer's contribution as well. He can carry those into another job with a pension scheme, as an accrued annuity or in some other way, and get what he has contributed for already. But the qualification which I feel obliged to put—and it is only fair to do so straight away—is whether or not the expectation of a pension scheme which has not yet arisen is a valuable commodity.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman says that it is. How could he in practice administer any provision of that kind? The road haulage services are four years old. I do not know how long these provisional payments have been going on. I should be interested to know. I ought to know.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Provisional payments for two years would be recovered, but the expectation that after 20 years there might be a pension could not be compensated for. A pension could not be given, though it is for consideration whether or not this is something which could be dealt with in the Regulations dealing with compensation. That is another matter. One could not give an undertaking that there will be a pension right attached, though repayment will be made of the money already paid.
§ Mr. Morris
What of the men who are retained in the employment of the Commission? Will they be transferred to one of the existing funds?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That is a matter for the Commission. I have no doubt that they will do that for the men who are retained. Throughout on questions of wages and salaries, pensions schemes and in all these other fields, the Commission have shown every anxiety to live up to their reputation as very good employers.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In line 23, leave out "(b) for amending," and insert "any such regulations may."
In line 23, after "aforesaid," insert "amend."—[Mr. Callaghan.]
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Callaghan
I know that some of my hon. Friends wish to make some comments about this Clause. I should like to acknowledge our thanks to the Minister for accepting the three Amendments. We readily appreciate that he has met the point of view put to him by the trade unions, and for that we are grateful. 1691 I do not know why they should insist upon the word "shall" being better in the case of a Conservative Government than the word "may" in the case of a Labour Government. Perhaps it would be indelicate to explore that matter too far. At any rate, there seems to have been some point that has concerned them, and the Minister has recognised that perhaps a Labour Government's "may" has at least the equivalent value of a Conservative Government's "shall." It would not be for me to dissent from a point of view like that.
There are important questions about these pension provisions, especially in the case of members of the Road Haulage Executive who have brought in pension rights, who have accumulated further pension rights during the time they have been in the service of the Commission, and who may now have to leave the service of the Commission and go into an industry where there are no pension rights. I am not clear—perhaps I should be—in what way those rights will be preserved. Will their superannuation contributions and the employer's contributions be repaid to them at the moment they leave, or will they in fact be able to regard the superannuation rights that they have accumulated over a period of years as being frozen up to the date of retirement? I gather that the latter is correct.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That is the sort of question which I should like to discuss with the unions and others. The present intention would be that they would be held frozen until the man in question reached retiring age, but I am prepared to consider—though it may raise other problems of Government policy and general considerations—an alternative procedure.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It seems to be at least a good starting point that these super-annuation contributions from both sides should be regarded as frozen and payable to a man when he could normally expect to retire. It would be a reduced pension, as it were. That is a very good starting point for the negotiations. I hope that, if the unions wish to put it to the Minister that further concessions should be made in that way, he will be willing to consider them.
1692 For example, the sort of case that they might wish to put to him is that of a man who has no desire to draw his superannuation rights because they are frozen and because they are a safeguard for the future. He may find himself falling on bad times because he has gone into another industry, or indeed into a part of the private road haulage industry, which has not come up to his expectations and in which he cannot qualify for any compensation. It may be that the unions would like to put to the Minister a proposal that, in such a case, a man should be able to draw a certain part of his superannuation rights, not by way of advance pension but perhaps by way of commuting it into a lump sum.
All these are complications which I fully recognise would have to be dealt with by Regulations. I am sure that some reasonably satisfactory arrangement will be made. It follows on what my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said that a man who has had an umbrella for his old age over his head which, by the action of someone else, is taken away leaving him out in the cold—especially once he has passed the age of 40—starts to look askance at the future. It is of the greatest importance—and I believe that it is the desire of the Minister to meet such cases—that they should be assured that the action of the State, an action the rights and wrongs of which we can argue on other Clauses, which has deprived them of that cover should not operate to their disadvantage. That is what we wish to ensure.
The other point is that we notice that subsection (5) provides that the Regulations:… shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of any resolution of either House of Parliament.We put it to the Minister that this is another matter which he should reconsider while he is considering what his line of action should be on the whole question. For reasons which I shall not waste time in advancing now, we suggest that there should be an affirmative rather than a negative Resolution for this purpose.
§ Mr. Sparks
I want to put one point to the right hon. Gentleman by way of further development of the point which I put to him earlier, probably not in clear language. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, under the Transport Act, 1693 1947, Regulation 1612, which was made in September of this year, provided for the pensions of employees of the transferred undertakings, with specific reference to whole-time employees of the road haulage undertakings which were acquired by the British Transport Commission., That Regulation makes it quite clear that they are to give to an employee who enters their service pension rights the same or as good as those which he had before the transfer, subject to the same conditions.
The Explanatory Note says:The pension payable is to be reduced if the employee has already received from the fund a return of his contributions, but he is to have an opportunity to refund the amount received and if he does so his full pension rights are to be restored.The Regulation was based upon the principle that the value of pension rights of a transferred employee was to be as good in the employment of the British Transport Commission as it was in his previous employment. Is that to apply in the reverse direction now? I was not clear whether the right hon. Gentleman said it would be or not, because it is obvious that a road haulage employee may be transferred to a private firm in which the pension scheme is far less in value to him than would have been the pension scheme in the road haulage organisation.
If he can be permitted to transfer to the pension scheme of his new employer and retain his pension rights under the old scheme, even if that might involve, to some extent, an increased contribution on his part, that would be desirable. We all know that there may be a number of different pension schemes attaching to private organisations which, perhaps, in some cases may be superior and in other cases may not be as good as that of the Road Haulage Executive. If the right hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that he intends in the new Regulations to maintain that principle, as embodied in the Regulations issued under the 1947 Act in regard to this matter, I am sure that would give satisfaction to all of us.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
May I say straight away, in reply to the hon. Gentleman, that there is no pension scheme. There is only this provisional payments scheme, so that there is nothing that the British Transport Commission or the Road Haulage Executive could transfer to a private operator—
§ Mr. Lindgren
I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to mislead the Committee, but in fact there were some road haulage undertakings which did have pensions schemes. Some of them have been taken over, and some of these people have been dispersed. Some of them will be taken away with a couple of lorries which the Minister is going to give away to some of his pals. We are concerned about the fellow who entered into the road haulage organisation 15 or 20 years ago and who may now be a manager in Lancashire.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman did not let me finish the sentence. There is no quarrel between us over the facts. In 1947, it was provided in the Labour Government's Measure that, where there were pensions rights in private firms, these could be taken over by the British Transport Commission. If there was a working transport pensions scheme under the Road Haulage Executive now, quite other considerations would arise, but all there is are these provisional payments, and we have provided that these provisional payments shall go forward and be credited to the man in the way, which I will discuss in a wider field. most suited to the circumstances.
I think that, even if there were a pensions scheme under the British Transport Commission, we must as realists recognise that, although there may have been a number of large firms in road haulage, the diversity of the industry will be rather as it was in 1947, with a large number of comparatively small employers. If we are anxious about the continued employment of all British Road Services drivers, nothing is less likely to secure that than to have an obligation imposed on a man who has two lorries to pay pensions, perhaps for life, to men now entering his employ.
§ Mr. Lindgren
We have had an example in the Minister's speech which just shows how, under these de-nationalisation proposals of the Tory Government, they are even going far worse than normal private enterprise. If, in fact, there is an amalgamation or a change-over of two firms, any reasonable trade union officer always secures, even under private enterprise, that, as far as those who are absorbed are concerned, their conditions of service and rates of pay are not worsened. 1695 Let us see what the Minister is saying in this Clause. Let us take the case of a man who was in one of the largest road haulage undertakings. So far as the larger undertakings were concerned, the men's rates of pay and conditions of service were reasonable, and there was a trade union agreement. It was the thousand and one little hauliers who avoided trade union rates of pay, hours and statutory conditions. Now, under this larger British Road Services organisation, fellows who have come in with road haulage experience have been transferred to various parts of the country.
Under this Bill, the units are to be sold in small lots, so that the man who has made progress and is now assistant depot manager somewhere in a rural area is going to find that 10 or 15 lorries from that depot are to be sold and that his job has gone. The Minister is really saying that the man with up to 25 years' service in road haulage, who, at the behest of one Government, gave his services to the larger organisation and went away to give the benefit of his experience to a rural organisation, is now to be left high and dry, without the Government saying that any employer who takes him over must at least provide as good conditions of service as those he enjoyed in his old job.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Surely, the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the Committee. Let me make this plain. In so far as the record of service for a long time with a big firm is concerned, there would be a very strong likelihood of his getting back into some other comparable firm, not only with his accrued pensions contributions from his earlier private employment, but also his contributions from the British Transport Commission and those made by himself.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I wish that were true, but the Minister, in the discussion on an earlier Clause, prevented the British Transport Commission from maintaining more than an additional one-fifth of the number of vehicles they had at the time of the 1947 Act, so that the Minister places a limitation on the man's pension rights. Let us take, as an example, a man with Pickford's or some other undertaking. Because of his large-scale experience, he had the opportunity of moving out, and now wants to come back 1696 to this organisation, if they will have him and if the Commission would like them to do so. I hope that some men may be able to do it, but no guarantee can be given because, under the Bill, the British Transport Commission are limited to an addition of only one-fifth to the vehicles held by them at the time of the 1947 Act, and to suggest otherwise is, I think, rather leading people to believe that something is likely to happen when it is not.
Therefore, I feel that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are taking this action simply from the point of view of breaking up an organisation because they feel that private individuals and private profit are of greater concern than service to the community or the wages and conditions of the people in the industry.
The last point concerns the people within the industry—
It being Seven o'Clock, The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Orders. to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.