§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 8.50 p.m.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Bill is designed to amend and extend the law relating to the superannuation of local government employees both in England and in Scotland. At this moment, as hon. Members may know, there are two separate Acts in force, one in each country; but the law is practically identical. The main purpose of this Bill is to provide for improved benefits, and principally for widows' pensions, without placing any additional burden on the superannuation funds or the rates and, consequently, without increasing the existing contributions of the employees.
The House, I think. may allow me just for a moment to survey the background of this Bill. Local government superannuation in this country has grown up gradually, and comparatively recently. Poor Law officers, officers in the mental hospital service, and the officers of a handful of the major local authorities were brought under superannuation schemes from about 1880 onwards, but other local government officers did not become entitled to superannuation until the passing of a Private Member's Bill, in 1922, enabling any local authority in Great Britain to make provision for this purpose. That, naturally, led to a very big growth of superannuation schemes, but they were still far from being universal.
From 1st April, 1939, in England and Wales, and from 16th May of the same year in Scotland, every whole-time permanent officer in local government service received the benefits of superannuation. That was as a result of the passing of the Local Government Superannuation Act, 1937, and the corresponding Scottish Measure. Those Acts sprang from efforts—extended over some 30 years—of the Association of Local Government Officers to secure superannuation arrangements for local government 288 employees. The Bills which latterly became the Acts of 1937 received very little criticism, and were passed rapidly through all their various stages, and I hope that that may be a good precedent for the present Bill.
Fourteen years have passed since the Acts of 1937 became law in 1939. After the war the National Association of Local Government Officers raised the question of further improvements with the associations of local authorities, and when the two sides had agreed on the main outlines of the legislation that was required, working parties were set up composed of representatives of the local authority associations and of the employees, along with officials of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Scottish Home Department, and, as a result, the proposals which form the basis of the present Measure were agreed upon.
I may say for the benefit of hon. Gentlemen that the measure of agreement has been very wide indeed, but I will not pretend for an instant that the local authority associations were able to accept all the suggestions which were put forward by the associations representing the employees. I suppose that that would have been too much to have expected. Moreover, neither side is prepared at this stage to abolish the compulsory retiring age of 65, although in fact, as I think I shall be able to show the House a little later, that is not the absolute bar to further employment that it may appear at first sight.
Both sides are very anxious that this Bill should become law at the earliest possible moment, and I am sure that we may leave it to them, as responsible bodies, to work the Act when it does become law in the spirit as well as in the letter, and to have due regard to national as well as sectional interests.
Some hon. Members may well feel that superannuation is a matter on which the local authorities as employers might have been left to make their own arrangements in consultation with the representatives of their employees. I have already referred to the fact that in certain cases local authorities have promoted their own superannuation legislation, and I may add that in so doing they have rendered a very considerable service to the growth of superannuation. There is general 289 agreement, however, that in this matter a single uniform system is a very great advantage, not only in saving administrative expense but also in facilitating the transfer of employees from the service of one local authority to that of another.
When the Acts of 1937 were passed, authorities who had local Act powers in relation to superannuation were required to modify their local schemes to fit in with the new Statutes, and a similar obligation is necessary at this time—that is, if all employees are to benefit from the improvements made possible by this Bill. I hope that the authorities may feel that the best course is for them to give up their local Acts under which they are working at present, and to come in under the new provisions in their entirety.
There is one major difference, which I am sure hon. Members have noticed, between this Bill and the Act of 1937. Most of the provisions setting out the details of the benefits are to be taken out of the Acts and will be provided by regulations which will require affirmative Resolution. That change follows what is now the normal practice in such matters, and is largely occasioned by the voluminous and extremely complicated but essential subsidiary provisions which are necessary.
The House well knows that once such details are put in an Act of Parliament they can only be altered or amended by an amending Act; but if they are prescribed by Regulations and it is found that some little change may be required, there is the simple process of amending Regulations. These Regulations, in conformity with the usual practice, will naturally be the subject of very detailed consultation with all the various interests.
Hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies may well ask me at this point: Why, since the existing Acts are separate, is there only one Bill now covering the two countries? The reason is simply that the changes which are now being made are exactly the same in principle, and it would therefore seem to be unnecessary to have separate Bills, both to be debated in the House, dealing with exactly the same subject for England and Wales and for Scotland.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman comes back to 290 this side of the House, I hope he will keep that good common sense in mind.
There is another point to which I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention, which is that the history of this Bill also supports the case for making a change in principle in one single Measure. Local government officers, who are represented by one body for the whole of Great Britain, negotiated with the local authority associations in both countries jointly about the possibility of introducing widows' pension schemes, and in these negotiations agreement was reached. It is that agreement to which the present Bill gives effect.
It is obviously in the interests of local government officers in both countries that the new arrangements should be introduced as early as possible and at the same time in each of the two countries. The best way of achieving that is, I think, by laying down the general principles for Great Britain in a single Measure, and that is what the Government have done. This Bill expressly provides that the regulations applying to Scotland are to be separate and to be made by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I will now deal very briefly with some of the main features in the Bill. First, may I remind the House that under the two Acts of 1937, when an employee retires he may, if he is in good health, allocate part of his pension to provide a pension for his widow. But he is unable to do that if he is not in good health. In that event, or if he dies before retirement, his widow cannot get a pension from the superannuation funds in any circumstances whatever. Under the Bill it is proposed to empower Ministers to make regulations containing very much wider provision for widows. I think that I might state briefly the benefits that are envisaged.
A married employee will be entitled to a reduced benefit on retirement, but, in return, his widow will receive a pension in the event of his death at any time after he has qualified for pension by completing 10 years' service. The amount of the widow's pension will depend on the amount of the pension which the husband was receiving or for which the husband's service and pay had qualified him at the time of his death.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Never more than one-third, of course. There is a ceiling, I gather.
Yes, naturally. That is all worked out on an actuarial basis.
There is another point in connection with widows to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. The widow of an employee who ceases work through permanent incapacity as the result of an injury sustained in the actual discharge of his duty will receive a pension in the event of his death. These provisions for widows are the most important single provision of the new legislation.
Since the passage of the 1937 legislation, which provided that all retirement benefits had to be taken as pensions only, it has become generally agreed that it is advantageous to a retiring employee to be able to take his retirement benefit partly in the form of a pension and partly as a lump sum. Accordingly, the Bill provides that in future a retiring employee may receive his benefit in that form. Bachelors and married men will receive the same rate of pension, but a married man will get a smaller lump sum as the price of providing a pension for his widow.
That, I think, illustrates another of the most important characteristics of the Bill. It would obviously not have been difficult to provide increased benefits by increasing the contributions to be paid both by employer and employee, but, understandably, neither side was willing to make this additional contribution. Therefore, the whole of the benefits to be provided under the Bill have been designed, if I may use a technical phrase, to be actuarially equivalent to those in the 1937 Acts, that is to say, taken all round, the whole amount spent on benefits after the passage of the Bill should not be greater than the amount spent for a comparable number of employees of similar type under the two Acts of 1937. This is a not important feature of this Bill since, of course, many alternative schemes that might, on the surface, appear more attractive have the disadvantage that, in one way or another, they would increase the burden on the superannuation funds.
None of the benefits under the two Acts of 1937, with negligible exceptions, is available until the completion 292 of 10 years' service. Naturally, in the event of service terminating before that period is reached, employees, for the most part, were able to recover the contributions that they had made.
It is proposed to provide by the Regulations two short-service benefits available where more than five years' service has been completed but less than 10. In the case of retirement from ill-health in that period, the employee will be given a title to a single payment of one year's pay, and in the event of his death within the same period, his legal representatives will be given title to a similar amount.
One of the other major features of the Bill has been introduced on the initiative of the Government. In Section 7 of the 1937 Act it is provided that compulsory retirement shall take place at 65 years of age but further employment is also allowed year by year without any limit, though the extended service does not count for benefit. As I said earlier, that Section is not the bar to the employment of the elderly that it might appear at first sight to be, but the fact that no employee can earn additional pension after the age of 65, naturally, to some extent discourages elderly employees from remaining at work.
In view of the importance which the Government attaches to extending the working life of the average man and woman, I should like to pay my tribute to the fact that the local authorities in England and Wales and Scotland are already employing a very considerable number of persons who are over the age of 65. It is hoped that that number may be very substantially increased, and to that end, where the employing authority considers that good service can still be given, the Bill makes it possible, broadly speaking, for an employee to continue earning pension up to the age of 70. That should afford a valuable inducement to employees to continue at work.
Apart from the major matters of which I have spoken, there are a number of minor alterations. That is natural in complex legislation of this kind. The Acts of 1937 have now been in operation for a period and defects naturally show up, and the Government are, accordingly, taking this opportunity to correct a number of them. None of them is really significant, save to a comparatively small group of 293 people who are intimately concerned, none of them is believed to be controversial, and they have all been agreed by the associations.
To illustrate what is being done, one amendment is designed to prevent short breaks in service from prejudicing an employee's superannuation position on his again taking up local authority employment. For example, at present a whole-time employee transferring without break of service to part-time employment can continue to contribute, but a very short break, perhaps quite accidental, may put him in the position of an ordinary part-time employee who is not entitled to contribute. All that matters for the purpose which we are considering is whether there is any substantial break, and the Bill proposes to disregard any break of less than 12 months' duration.
Another amendment is designed to avoid interruption in the payment of contributions during leave of absence without pay so that the employee's rights shall not be prejudiced. These absences are often of considerable advantage to the public interest, for it may be that they enable an employee to take an advanced course of study or to be loaned in some public capacity.
The provision for the forfeiture of superannuation rights is limited by another amendment. Forfeiture occurs if an employee commits an offence of a fraudulent nature or misbehaves. We intend to limit the provision of forfeiture to cases where the offence or misbehaviour is related to the performance of the employee's duties, and we also intend to give local authorities some discretion in connection with the imposition of the penalty. That, I believe, is mitigating what is being felt to be a somewhat harsh and indiscriminating provision.
There is one further amendment. It provides for an earlier age of normal retirement for certain of the female staff in children's homes, and that naturally follows the normal provision in regard to female nurses who retire early on account of their arduous duties.
It may be convenient if, at this stage, I refer to the fact that the English Act of 1937 was applied by other statutes to two classes of persons, the justices' clerks and the probation officers. If the statutes were not amended by the Bill, 294 these officers would have been left under the 1937 legislation as it was originally enacted. We are taking the opportunity, accordingly, to bring them and their superannuation arrangements up to date and into line.
Then there is the question of those local authorities who have their own superannuation Acts. This Bill leaves those local Acts in being unless the authorities wish to adopt the main legislation. The House may remember that the authorities which are concerned here are the County Council of London, the Common Council of the City of London, 19 of the Metropolitan Boroughs, Manchester City Council and the Town Councils of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Bill requires that these local authorities should submit appropriate schemes to the Minister affording their employees benefits that in certain important respects are at least as good as those which the employees of the 1937 Act authorities will enjoy under the Bill and the Regulations which are to prescribe the benefits.
The main improvements to be incorporated in these schemes are the provision of widows' pensions and the new short-service benefits. The proposal that no local authority should lag behind in this respect will command general support in the House. I may say that that view is shared by the authorities themselves, though some of them feel there may be some considerable difficulties in bringing their schemes up to date. They are inevitably suffering as all pioneers do, but I can assure them that their difficulties will be most carefully considered. I would add this. It will be in their interests as employers, as well as for the benefit of their employees, if they do come into line.
In addition to the authorities that I have mentioned, there are 13 authorities who are subject to the Act of 1937, but have since 1948 by local Act substituted improved benefits, including the provision of widows' pensions. It may be found that the benefits to be prescribed under Clause 1 of this Bill, which are slightly different, should be adopted by these authorities for the sake of uniformity. We have accordingly made provision in the Bill to enable these authorities to amend their local Acts to bring their benefits into line with the 295 approved benefits prescribed by the Regulations under the Bill.
There is no doubt at all that with a complex Bill of this kind it is only right and proper that there should be very full and careful consideration of its details in order to ensure that the many different circumstances have been satisfactorily dealt with. I am quite sure that the Bill will get that consideration during the Committee stage. In principle, however, I can recommend the Bill to the House with confidence as being in the interests of those in the employment of local authorities and as being in its main respects an agreed Measure.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, quoting from the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill, its main object is to enable improved benefits to be provided for employees of local authorities without imposing any appreciable extra burden on superannuation funds. I must admit that when I first read this, it occurred to me that it must be too good to be true. It seemed to me highly unlikely that one could improve the benefits which local government officials could get under superannuation funds without in some way increasing the burden. Then I noticed the use of the word "appreciable."
I listened carefully to what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said and I hoped that he would give us an indication of what these changes will cost. I know it is not too easy, but it would have been useful to have some estimate. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government will be able to let us have this when he replies to the debate? As the right hon. and gallant Member said, this is only an enabling Bill and we are to get the regulations later. That puts us tonight under a certain disability, for it would have been useful to have before us, at any rate in outline, something on which we could have judged whether this Bill is or is not a good one.
I am told, I do not know with what truth, that the regulations, for some sections at least, will follow the lines of the National Health Service Superannuation Scheme. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman told us that consultations 296 have taken place, and I assume that the trade unions have been drawn into them and have thus been able to put their views before the Government. Before we reach the Committee stage of this Bill it would be desirable if Members of Parliament could be given as much information as possible as to the figures the working parties have been considering and have, to a large extent, agreed. We realise that until the Bill is passed it is impossible to publish the regulations, but from a number of observations which fell from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I gather that their make-up has been agreed to in some detail.
This is the third Bill of its kind. There seems to be an urge on the part of Governments every 15 years to produce a Measure of this sort. We had the first in 1922 as a Private Members' Bill, but it was the outcome of what was known as the Norman Committee. That Committee laid it down in their report that it would be useful to secure uniformity as far as possible in the provision by local authorities of pensions for their staffs. There is no doubt, certainly so far as officials in the higher reaches are concerned, that it is useful if there is uniformity of pension making it possible for an officer easily to transfer from one local authority to another.
In 1935 we had the Selby-Bigge Committee, which many of us now in the House remember very well. That Committee reaffirmed the principle of compulsory and uniform superannuation for whole-time local government officers. Unfortunately, the Report of that Committee was not unanimous. A minority of about five or seven—I cannot charge my memory with the exact number——
§ Mr. Hall
My hon. Friend says seven. Seven members of that Committee objected to the principle of compulsion being extended to other classes in the municipal service, and a majority of the Committee were in favour. It was unfortunate that the Government of the day, instead of accepting, as, in my submission, they should have done, the report of the majority, preferred to accept the view of the minority and failed to extend the system of compulsion and uniform superannuation provisions to the whole of local government employees. 297 When that Bill was going through Committee, the late Sir Kingsley Wood, in reply to an Amendment which sought to extend the 1937 Act to what are called the manual grades, said:We are taking a big step forward this morning"—he was referring to the 1937 Bill, now an Act—in improving the conditions of this great body of men and women, who certainly deserve well of the country…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 22nd June, 1937; c. 892.]Every one of us will echo what he then said. This is a great and deserving body of men and women who serve local authorities, and through them the nation, with great efficiency.
But when the late Sir Kingsley Wood talked as he then did, in resisting an Amendment to extend the principle to manual workers in local government employ, what did he mean when he said "We are taking a big step forward." All that that Act did was to provide for the insertion of a provision which would permit local authorities to extend their superannuation schemes to the classes I have been mentioning, by a simple majority instead of two-thirds. In my view, and, I am sure, in the view of my hon. Friends behind me, that was certainly not a very big step.
That was 15 years ago, and if we are to make progress in these matters, I for one had hoped that in this Measure we should find that the Government at long last were ready to extend the compulsory principle to the manual classes. It has been given an excellent opportunity to implement the majority view of the Selby-Bigge Committee, and we on this side regret that the opportunity has not been taken.
The manual grades are just as deserving as the administrative, professional of clerical classes. In fact, not only are they equally deserving, but they need more help when they come to retirement—and the Bill deals very largely with retirement pensions. They have had less opportunity than the administrative grades of saving, and therefore, when they reach old age, they need the help of a superannuation fund even more than do those who are higher up in the social scale.
One of the arguments that was used formerly was that the manual grades 298 would, at any rate, have the benefit of the contributory pensions scheme. That is no longer valid as an argument because all of us now come under the contributory pensions scheme. If what was done in 1937 was good for local government officers, obviously it can be said to be equally good now, not only for them, but for the manual workers.
We on this side of the House realise that many local authorities do include the manual workers in their schemes. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies will have any figures as to the number of authorities who have not yet opened their funds to the so-called lower grades of employees. If, as I think he may he tells us that a very large number of them have now come into line, I would suggest to him that that is an additional reason why we should now make it compulsory. Otherwise, the more reactionary local authorities will contrive to get away with it.
This is a complicated Measure. It is not too easy either to make it interesting to discuss or to follow it. Yet it is a Measure which is of the utmost use to thousands, and we hope that when we have finished with it in Committee it will be of even greater benefit to them. It is not desirable on Second Reading to discuss in great detail the proposals which have been made, particularly as the actual figures are not in the Bill. We have to wait for them until we see that regulations are promulgated. The Bill runs to 25 Clauses and four Schedules. Those of us who have gone through it on this side have quite a number of questions on its various provisions about which we should like more information.
I do not intend at this hour and on Second Reading, to ask many of the questions on which in good time we shall seek information from the Government. I should, however, like briefly to refer to one or two of the major changes the Bill proposes, and to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was also good enough to refer. Obviously some of the things in this Bill—like the curate's egg—are good. In so far as they are good, we welcome them. Some, we think, are open to criticism, and we shall certainly do our share of that if we think it necessary when the Bill reaches Committee stage.
Among the provisions we welcome are the proposals dealing with the injury 299 allowance, to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred, the short service gratuity and the death grant: All are superior to anything contained in the 1937 Act. As far as I know—perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me if I am wrong—even these, good although they are, are limited in the number of employees they will help. We should like to know from him, if I am not putting too great burden on him in a Second Reading debate, just how many are to be assisted by these provisions, which are excellent and which we welcome, but which we are very much afraid will not assist all those whom we should like to see assisted.
These are largely the trimmings—excellent trimmings though they are. But this is really a pension scheme, and when one looks at the proposals one looks mainly at the kind of pension which it is proposed to give. I am sorry that so far as we can see the pension which is to be awarded under the Bill when it becomes an Act will be drastically reduced. In the 1937 Act pension was based on sixtieths for contributory services and one-hundred-and-twentieths for non-contributory on the average pay over the last five years of an employee's service. Under this Bill the pension is to be based on eightieths and one-hundred-and-sixtieths, respectively, on the average pay of the last three years.
Surely that means the pension will be lower by a quarter than under the present Act. For every £4 of pension received by a man or woman under the 1937 Act they will receive £3 under the present Measure. I hasten to add that this lower pension is to be compensated for by a lump sum payment, and on this the question arises whether that payment followed by the granting of a lower pension will be automatic.
In his opening speech the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the case of a married man in fairly good health who has put in 10 years' service and who, when he retires, can at present opt to devote one-third of his pension to providing an annuity for his widow. Should his wife die first he is unlucky and loses that amount. But he can make up his mind whether his wife will, in his opinion, out-live him, and he can himself decide what to do. But here I understand quite 300 definitely there is to be no option as to the surrendering of two-thirds of his lump sum payment.
Is that quite fair? When I look at some of the pension figures provided under this new scheme they do not appear to be very large, considering the increase in the cost of living. A man receiving a pension of £75 under the present legislation will, I understand, receive a pension of £56 5s. and a lump sum payment of the same amount, if he is married. A single man would, of course, get three times the lump sum. If the married man buys an annuity with his lump sum he would not get such a large addition for it. It is true his widow will receive one-third of his pension if he dies, but frankly one-third of £56 5s. is not much. During the Committee stage, therefore, we propose to ask the Government to look at these figures again.
I know the reply will be that the figures are laid down by the Government actuaries. That may be so, and one realises that the Government do not want to add appreciably to the burden on the Superannuation funds. But we are here concerned with people who deserve a proper pension when they reach retiring age. We are worried to notice that on these figures their position would appear to be worse than under the 1937 Act, when the cost of living was less than now and the value of money much greater.
Let us consider the position of a man who would be getting £200 under the present Act. He will receive £150 under this new legislation, with a lump sum payment of a similar amount. Again, of course, his wife will get an annuity or pension if he dies, but, nevertheless, he may not die first, and if he does not he will have sunk £300, without any option on his part, in the expectation that she might outlive him. Normally, of course, women do live longer than men but we ought to look at these figures again.
Then, we also have some doubts about fixing the average at three years instead of five. It is true that, with the administrative and professional grades, that is an excellent thing and helps the officer concerned, but, when we come to the manual grades, quite the reverse obtains. A man reaches the age of 65, or stays on, perhaps until he is 66, 68 or even 70. The difficulty in his case is for him to retain his powers. More often than not, 301 because such a man is getting old he is put on a job which commands less pay, and the result then will be that his pension will be less because we have reduced the average from five to three years.
I will not say any more tonight, because my hon. Friends behind me much mare versed in these matters than I am, will desire to speak, I will only say that we welcome this Measure, in spite of the criticism which I have offered. There are some good things in it. But it does need very careful consideration in Committee, and we hope that the hon. Gentleman who will reply, and those associated with him, will not, when we come to the Committee stage, follow the example of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the last time we discussed a similar pensions Measure, and simply dig his toes in and refuse to budge at all.
I do not intend to invite my hon. and right hon. Friends tonight to divide against this Bill. We shall accept it in the hope that, in Committee, we shall be able to introduce necessary improvements in what is, we believe, a Measure which should generally be supported.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
It appears from what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) that this Bill is rather like the curate's egg; it has its good parts and its bad parts. I assume that, as the provisions of the Bill have been negotiated and accepted by the professional associations, there must be more to be said on the credit side than on the debit side, and I am therefore glad that the right hon. Gentleman gave it a welcome.
I shall confine myself to one or two points which I have been specifically asked to raise on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing. The Royal College is somewhat perturbed that, in Clause 9, there is no specific mention of State registered nurses or State enrolled assistant nurses. I have had a copy of the correspondence which has passed between the Royal College and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to peruse, and I find it rather puzzling; indeed, all the more puzzling because, from what has been said by my right hon. and 302 gallant Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who opened the debate, special provision has been made in the Bill for justices' clerks and their staffs and the probation officer services.
I also noted with a certain amount of interest that, when my right hon. and gallant Friend said that this Bill had been negotiated with the associations—and I think he used the plural—he did not give us a list of the associations which had been brought into the consultations. As I have been asked to raise this matter on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing, I can only assume that they were not consulted about the position of State registered nurses who are in the employ of the local authorities.
A deputation from the Royal College of Nursing was received by the Department of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and I find that the correspondence in this case is rather difficult to justify. The Royal College of Nursing asked for the inclusion in Clause 9 of State registered nurses, State enrolled assistant nurses, State registered children's nurses and State registered fever nurses employed in the homes or hostels which are within the scope of the Clause. That seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. Having regard to the magnificent reputation of the nursing service in this country, I should have thought that proper steps would have been taken to safeguard their position in a way which would be satisfactory to their professional organisation before this Bill came before the House.
In a letter from the official concerned to the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, dated 27th February, 1953, there is this extraordinary passage:I said that while it would not be possible to go all the way with you the question of extending the benefits of the Clause to qualified nurses employed in the residential homes and hospitals would be considered. This has now been done and we think the position can best be met by designation under Clause 9 (2, c).Then the official goes on to refer to the classes of nurses whom I have just mentioned.
That is not satisfactory to the Royal College of Nursing. They see no reason at all why members of the nursing profession who, by virtue of their qualifications, which are very high, are employed 303 in local authority service, should have to rely upon a Minister's designation of them under Clause 9 (2, c). They think that it is a most extraordinary thing that they have not been specifically provided for, and I am requested to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary whether he will reconsider these provisions and make what they consider to be adequate provision for this distinguished profession.
I point out with very great regret that that letter was only dated 27th February. Had the information been sent a little earlier to the Royal College of Nursing I would have asked my hon. Friend if he would receive representations from me on this matter. In fact, all that I was able to do was to telephone and give him notice that I would raise this question. I find it extraordinary that the Royal College of Nursing had to make these representations at all. Quite frankly, I cannot understand why, in a matter of this importance, covering a body of people to whom the whole country pays tribute, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government have not consulted the professional organisations associated with the nursing profession to find out their views on this very important Bill.
I can only say with the greatest emphasis that I can command that I hope my hon. Friend will reconsider this matter and will see that the desires of the Royal College of Nursing in respect of their professional members are adequately safeguarded in this Bill. I should also like to have a further assurance that in future when a matter relating to the nursing profession is under consideration proper consultations will take place with the appropriate bodies, because I do not like the way in which things have been done in this case.
The other point raised by the Royal College was with regard to their members who are employed in clinics and day nurseries. In that connection, this extraordinary letter says:In the view of the Minister they do not come within the Clause.He goes on to say:As to the former"—that is, the nurses employed in the clinics—it seems likely that the nurses employed there may already be covered under the Health Service Regulations.304 I should have thought that when my hon. Friend was writing to the nursing profession and the professional organisation he would have taken steps to find out whether they were, in fact, covered under those regulations. Before writing a letter of this kind it is odd that trouble should not have been taken to find out specifically what was the real position of these nurses. I do not feel at all pleased about the matter and I hope that my hon. Friend will bear that in mind.
He goes on to say:As to the latter"—the people in the day nurseries—we, after obtaining the views of the other interested Departments, are not convinced that the duties of nurses employed in day nurseries dealing with healthy children justify inclusion in the Clause.I am not an expert on this matter and I should not like to pass any observation on that comment except to say that it seems that some of the major provisions of this Bill apply also to the superannuation arrangements of teachers who, in the main, are dealing with healthy children. I am therefore a little surprised at this differentiation between teachers and nurses employed by local authorities. I find the position very unsatisfactory, and again I should like to know who spoke with the Ministry on behalf of the nursing profession and what is meant by "other interested Departments."
Those are the only two points I want to make at this stage, but from what I have said I think my hon. Friend will understand that neither I nor the Royal College think that sufficient trouble has been taken by the Department to safeguard the interests of this very important body of women. I only hope that other sections of local government employees are adequately covered.
I notice that my right hon. and gallant Friend said that the Bill had been agreed with the associations. I only hope that that is so. It is common form to say that agreements have been reached with professional organisations, but I wonder just how far the professional organisations did come to an agreement or how far my right hon. and gallant Friend persuaded them into an agreement. I also have recollections of superannuation Bills, covering people who have rendered this country great service, which are far from satisfactory. I should not be in 305 order in raising that particular matter tonight, but I hope that what I have said has made its impression on the Front Bench, because I am not very pleased about being told that things have been agreed. It all sounds so pleasant until one goes into it and finds that a compromise has had to be arrived at which is not at all satisfactory.
All I can say is that I hope that the points I have raised tonight will commend themselves to my hon. Friend. I can only assume that he has been so busy creating his magnificent housing record that he has not had the time to pay the attention that he should to the local government side of this business. If he wants to do what he can for the nursing profession—and there may come a day when he will be glad to do so—I can only suggest that he takes note of their wishes and sees that they are adequately safeguarded in the Bill.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
It is customary for hon. Members to declare their interest in connection with matters that come before the House, so perhaps it will be proper for me to declare that I am associated with a trade union—the National Union of Public Employees—the membership of which is directly affected by the provisions of this Bill.
This debate brings back nostalgic memories for me, because I was one of the representatives of the Trades Union Congress who was in discussion with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the late Sir Kingsley Wood on the Superannuation Bill of 1937. I did not think at that time that I should be in this House tonight taking part in a debate like this. To use an Irishism, I might say that the importance of this Bill is in what is left out of it and not what is in it, because the Regulations are the important part. The Bill is the framework within which the Regulations will be made.
I want to deal with two points. The first is the absence of the compulsory application of the superannuation provisions to what are called in law the "servants" employed by local authorities. The Bill applies compulsorily to officers engaged in administrative and technical and clerical duties and other 306 duties of that kind, but not to what are loosely called "manual workers." The Joint Under-Secretary has said that the 1937 Act, on the occasion of its Second Reading as a Bill, was subjected to little criticism. That is not quite true, because there was strong criticism from the Opposition Benches by my right hon. Friend the then Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) against the absence of the compulsory application of the superannuation provisions of the 1937 Act to servants.
That Act was based upon the recommendations of a Departmental committee of 1925 which, by a majority, declared in favour of the compulsory application of those superannuation provisions to manual workers in local government offices. When we discussed the matter with the late Sir Kingsley Wood, he was very much impressed by our contention in favour of general compulsion, but he was not prepared at that time to take the plunge.
His main arguments against the compulsory application of the Act were two. One, which has already been referred to, was the benefits that the manual workers derived from the contributory pensions Act, and that no longer exists; and the second was that officers were liable to a greater measure of mobility in transfer from one authority to another, which did not apply to manual workers, and that, therefore, it was desirable in the interests of uniformity that the superannuation Act should be compulsorily applied to officers, so that there would be, as it were, complete fluidity, where desirable, as between one employing authority and another.
There was some truth in the contention at that time, but that contention has lost much of its force because in the Act of 1937 we did establish interchangeability of pension rights, of pensionable service, as between the principal Act, local Acts, such as that of the London County Council and other local authorities, and the asylum and other officers superannuation Act. In short, for the first time the manual worker could carry his pension rights wherever he was employed throughout the whole range of the local government service in consequence of the Act of 1937; and now that we have the National Health Service superannuation scheme of 1950, there is, of course, a 307 wider area of mobility or interchangeability than was the case before.
Therefore, I ask the Government to reconsider the position in respect of the compulsory application of this Bill by introducing an amendment to the Act of 1937, not merely because of the evidence that I have adduced, but on the grounds of equity. Is there any Member supporting the Government who will get up at a public meeting and justify this distinction between officers and servants? Is there? There is not one of them who would do it, because it cannot be sustained in equity; it cannot be sustained in the interests of administration.
In the days of the late Sir Kingsley Wood—and here I give my own account of what transpired—we failed to get that provision in respect of compulsion; but he did seek to meet us by trying to make the position less inequitable than it was by two things. First, he introduced in the Regulations a provision that a council, by a simple majority of one, could bring their manual workers within superannuation, provided that a ballot had been taken of the men and women concerned declaring in favour of its acceptance
The other provision that he brought in was that a local authority should be advised to bring within a superannuation scheme those men and women who had been employed continuously for two years. He also declared that the main object of the 1937 Act was to bring pension schemes within a general uniformity. He wanted pension rights to be available throughout the whole of the local government service without any doubt.
In February of last year my organisation, the National Union of Public Employees, conducted a survey to find to what extent borough councils were failing to bring manual employees within the provisions of the 1937 Act. We circulated 240 borough councils, from whom we received returns on which is based the following information.
Approximately 20 per cent. had not brought their servants within any superannuation scheme at all. Over the remaining authorities, it was found that the terms of the statutory resolu- 308 tions passed were so varied as to bring in widely differing proportions of manual workers. The proportions ranged from 2 per cent. to 40 per cent. In other cases we found that all the manual workers eligible had been brought in. We also found that the statutory resolutions varied widely as to the age limits. That evidence shows, I think, the absence of uniformity, which was one of the main objects of the 1937 Act.
Let me give two instances to show the anomaly which has arisen as a result of the non-compulsory application of this Act. I am advised that the Dover Borough Council has not filled one designated post in its superannuation scheme from the manual staff for the last 10 years. Folkestone, on the other hand, has brought into its scheme all its manual employees eligible. That variation is not good for local government; it is not tidy administration, and I ask the Government to consider this matter once again. They will carry local authorities with them, and also officers throughout the service, who do not like this unhappy distinction which has gone on for far too long.
I ask the Government to do the right thing for manual workers in deciding the basis of determining the average remuneration. I want the average remuneration determined on the basis of the average earnings of the manual worker as a whole—say, from 21 to 55 years of age. In the 1937 Act, as in the 1922 Act, five years preceding the end of employment was taken as the basis upon which pensions should be determined; that is to say. to ascertain the average remuneration.
We did not get the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Kingsley Wood, to meet our point; but he did bring in two amendments. He provided that in those cases where wages were suspended or reduced as the result of sickness during the last five years preceding retirement, such periods would be ignored in the ascertainment, and in cases where manual workers were transferred to light employment, such as tree pruning, for example, which carried with it a lesser rate of pay, the employee had the right to opt to continue to pay his former contributions, so that his pension would not be prejudiced by this reduction in pay at the end of his career. 309 I am advised that in the Regulations that period is now to be reduced to three years prior to the retirement of the employee. I think that that is a gross injustice to the manual worker who, at the end of his days, is less likely to sustain physically his normal occupation, and I think that that provision, if I am advised rightly, will be taken, as it were, from the National Health superannuation regulations and incorporated in this Bill. That will mean that the manual worker will be more unjustly dealt with than has been the case even under the Act of 1937.
These are two points which I wanted to advance for the consideration of the Government, and I earnestly hope that both will be looked at, and that more just provisions will be introduced that will knock out, as it were, the injustices that arise from the application of both the proposals which I have indicated and dealt with tonight.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford, North)
The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) speaks from a breadth of experience on these matters which I cannot claim, but my impression has always been that there was a considerable divergence of opinion among manual employees of local authorities on this question whether they ought compulsorily to be brought within superannuation.
I would have said, before the hon. Member gave his figures, that the majority of local authorities had brought in their manual staffs. Of course, there is a great variation in the conditions of their work. Many of the manual staffs are only in the service of the local authorities for a comparatively short time, and, unlike the administrative staff, when they change their employment they do not necessarily go into the employment of other local authorities.
§ Mr. Moyle
Speaking from over 20 years' experience in dealing with this as well as other local government matters, I have known of no case in which manual workers turned down any pension scheme based either on the Act of 1922 or the Act of 1937. May I say to the hon. and learned Gentleman, who, I know, speaks with authority on behalf of one of the organisations concerned, that I am perfectly prepared to test that point of view 310 by hinging to the proposal I made of a compulsory application of the scheme a ballot being taken among the men concerned.
§ Sir G. Hutchinson
I am by no means contradicting or seeking to contradict what the hon. Gentleman says. I recognise that he speaks with great knowledge and experience of these matters. I was only drawing attention to the fact that there are other considerations which, I think, have to be taken into account before the Government take the course which has been urged upon them and make the inclusion of manual staffs compulsory on all local authorities. It is certainly a matter which ought to be investigated. It might be that the local authorities themselves would welcome the compulsory inclusion of their manual staffs. I am only drawing attention to the fact that there are a number of matters affecting this rather complicated subject to which the House ought to give consideration before the Parliamentary Secretary replies.
As my right hon. and gallant Friend said, the Bill is the result of prolonged negotiations which have eventually ended in agreement. I believe it is about six or seven years since the negotiations began. The most important change that the Bill introduces into the local authority superannuation schemes is the provision for the payment of pensions to widows and other dependants of local government officers. That is a change for which the local government service has waited patiently for a very long time. Local government officers have witnessed other branches of the public service enjoying that very great advantage. The Civil Service has it, local authority employees who were transferred to the National Health Service enjoy it, I understand that the nationalised electricity authority and the nationalised gas authority have both introduced it, and now, last on the list, come the local government officers.
It is right to say that the scheme will not involve any increased contributions from local authorities or members of their staffs. When he introduced the Bill, my right hon. and gallant Friend said that it would not entail any appreciable contribution. He was then invited to estimate what the increase, if there was to 311 be one, would be. No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with that matter. I should have thought it was almost impossible to estimate what increased charge, if there is to be one, is likely to fall on public funds. It is clear that the Bill will not involve any increase in contribution. I suppose the only way in which some increase in the charge on public funds could be brought about would be by some increased charge on the superannuation fund which would be reflected in the periodical valuation in the sum which the local authority had to bring in in order to make the superannuation fund actuarially solvent. I see no other way in which an additional charge could be laid upon public funds.
One has to offset that against the fact that it will be possible under the Bill for local government officers to continue in pensionable service until 70. Whether there will be any charge on public funds in the way that I have mentioned or not will depend on the number of local government officers who are induced to continue in the service until they reach 70. The more officers who do that, the more the superannuation fund will be actuarially relieved. The result of the Bill may, in individual cases, be that the charge on public funds will be reduced and not increased. The Parliamentary Secretary is going to make an estimate about this, but it will surprise me if he is able to do so.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) drew attention to the fact that the benefits under this Bill will be reduced. That is perfectly true, and it is of course the inevitable result that both sides in these negotiations were not willing to pay the increased contributions. Accordingly, within that very severe limitation the additional benefits which this Bill is designed to give have had to be provided. Indeed, I think it reflects some credit upon the negotiators that they appear to have produced a result which is satisfactory to both parties to the negotiations.
Before I conclude, I should like to make a further observation. The officers under this Bill will get something for which they have waited for many years—the assurance that some provision will be made for the widow after the officer's death and retirement. That is not only 312 an advantage to the officer; it is a very substantial advantage to the local authorities. Like many hon. Members in this House, I have had some little experience of service with local authorities, and I know that there is nothing more embarrassing in a case where an individual, who has served a local authority well for many years, dies perhaps in the service of the authority and it is known that no provision or very inadequate provision has been made for his widow.
Local authorities will welcome this additional provision. In one or two cases it may be necessary to make some payment for it, but I think they will be very glad to do so. They will be glad to be relieved of the embarrassment which arises in this case where a servant dies in the service of the authority and the authority quite rightly feels that an obligation rests upon it to make some contribution towards the widow which the official has not been able to make himself.
In conclusion, may I say that the Government are to be congratulated upon this Bill. Local government officers will be grateful that at a time when the Government are not embarking upon legislation which they can avoid owing to the difficulties in this House, they have found time in the present Session for this Bill which means a very great deal to the local government officials. We all feel grateful to the Government for being able to include this Bill in the programme of legislation in this Session.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
I am glad that this Bill was introduced by one of the Joint Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland. It seems that for once our Scottish Ministers have insisted on playing some part in a Bill that covers the United Kingdom. There are one or two points I should have liked to put to the Joint Under-Secretary, but he has left the House, though he may be back before I have finished. One thing has struck me considerably about this Bill. We do not have any figures and there is a great deal that we are asked to take on trust. In other words, it is one of the finest examples of delegated legislation, the sort of thing that time and time again we were criticised for when we formed the Government. 313 The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Miss Ward) made a strong plea for certain representations that had been made by the Royal College of Nurses. In part of that plea I want to back her. I feel that when important legislation like this is brought before the House, and when negotiations have been going on for a long time, an important body like the Royal College of Nurses ought to have been asked their opinions long before they tried themselves to put forward those opinions.
There is one point on which I disagree with the hon. Lady and with the Royal College of Nurses, who have asked that the provisions of Clause 9 should apply to nurses in day nurseries. That would lead to great difficulties. The provisions of Clause 9 are for women who are doing difficult and exacting work; women in homes and in hostels, sometimes, though not always, looking after subnormal children and on call 24 hours a day. They are in a very different position from the nurses in day nurseries where there is both an educational staff and a nursing staff. The educational staff are treated as teachers for retirement purposes. They have just as heavy a job as the nurses, and it would create anomalies if the nurses in day nurseries were treated differently from the teachers there.
I find that Clause 9 applies only to what are termed certain female contributory employees, in other words, to women. We are to give women certain advantages under the Clause, and I welcome that because they are being given to women who have a most difficult and tiring job to do. But in those homes and hostels there are also men employed. I believe in equality of the sexes. If we are to give advantages to women employed in this work, I ask the Minister why only to women? Why not to men?
The same reasons must be applicable to men in this work as are applicable to women. We do it first because of the difficult job they have to do, but also because of the children or young people under their control, and because of the bad effect it might have on them if women were to continue to work when they were no longer able to do so. Since those conditions apply in the same way to men, I ask the Minister to look at this Clause again to see whether it might be made applicable to them also.
314 I return now to Clause 3, which deals with the amendment of local government Acts. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland mentioned certain local authorities that have their own schemes. As far as I could follow him, he mentioned Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland. In page 5, line 33, we are told:but the authority may"—that is, the local authority—and if so required by the Minister…shall, make a scheme for the purpose of adapting, modifying or repealing the local Act so far as appears…In certain instances, that may be a good thing. The local authority Act may not make such good provision as is made by the Bill, but in some cases the existing Act will have provisions that may be better than those in the Bill. Do the words which I have quoted mean that the Secretary of State for Scotland, or the Minister of Housing and Local Government in England, is going to require of local authorities—the word used is "shall," which is mandatory—that whether or not their scheme is better than that which is being introduced, they make their scheme conform to it? If so, there will be a great deal of heartburning amongst local authority employees.
Quite a number of Members have spoken about the provision for widows. I am very glad that at last, in the Bill, we are getting down to providing pensions for the widows of local government employees. I know that this pension, so far as I can find out from the Bill, is to be provided in the main at the expense of the pension of the husband. I hope that when we reach the Committee stage we will be able to examine more carefully the provisions for the widows and to find out whether there is some method by which the provision of pension for the widow will not militate so greatly against the pension that will be enjoyed by the husband and wife on retirement.
There is one point that I should like to have made to the Joint Under-Secretary. I do not know what obtains in England and Wales, but I know what obtains in Scotland. The Bill is making provision for the widows of local government employees. In Scotland, almost 100 per cent. of our teachers are local government employees. The position in England may be different. The Bill, I understand. does not cover teachers, and yet the widows of teachers are in exactly the 315 same position as the widows of the other local government employees. I should have hoped that the Joint Under-Secretary would have been able to clear up this point, but it is one which, I hope, will be raised in the Committee stage, particularly when it is remembered that in Scotland almost 100 per cent. of our teachers are the employees of local authorities and that we have been asking for a long time that their widows ought to have some pension scheme.
I welcome very much the provision in Clause 5 whereby pension will still be able to be earned, not merely until the age of 65, but until 70 years of age. In other words, there is an inducement to these men to carry on with their work. This follows what we in the last Government did for teachers in Scotland. Again, I do not know about England and Wales. When we were trying to retain more teachers after the age of 65, one of the ways we tried to do it was by allowing their work after the age of 65 to count for pension purposes. I welcome that provision very much indeed.
My last point is one which has been made by my hon. Friends. In the main, this Bill will cover the administrative class, and not the manual class of workers. It was the case previously when superannuation was introduced that the manual workers had their pension on retirement, very small though it was. My right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) showed quite clearly that that argument no longer obtains. Every person, even Members of Parliament, will now have an ordinary retirement pension. Those of us who have no superannuation will be very glad indeed of that pension. Not merely those who are already covered by local arrangements for superannuation but all manual workers ought to be covered by this Bill, and I add to the pleas of my hon. Friends to that effect. I welcome this Bill. It brings good provisions to many people, and we hope that by the end of the Committee stage it will bring even better provisions to even more people.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Grimston (Westbury)
I rise to draw attention to one point which has not been mentioned so far in this debate. I think that it is broadly agreed 316 that this Bill has the support and approval of the local authority associations, but there is one matter concerning one of the smaller associations, namely, the Urban District Councils' Association, to which I should like to draw attention on their behalf.
Under the 1937 Act, the Minister has power to close down a local fund and to transfer the employees to another fund if there are fewer than 100 in the fund. Under Clause 3 (3) of this Bill it is proposed to raise that figure from 100 to 200, and that will bring in another 100 funds which may be liable to be closed down. I do not wish to develop that point at this late hour, and in many ways perhaps it would be better discussed in Committee. But there are two matters. One is the question of prestige. We should remember at this time that we ought to do everything we can to maintain the prestige of local government. The other point is that in many cases a fund which is in the hands of a local authority can perhaps treat cases with greater sympathy, knowledge and understanding than if those cases were transferred to a larger fund.
I very much hope that in Committee the Minister will give his attention to what I think is the desire of the smaller local authority associations, namely, that the figure of 100 should not be raised and that the proposed figure of 200 should be cut out of the Bill.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
The Explanatory Memorandum states:The main object of this Bill is to enable improved benefits to be provided for employees of local authorities…without imposing any appreciable extra burden on superannuation funds.But one can hardly see how one can provide great extra benefits without increasing costs.
We all welcome these aims, though I do not think that they go far enough. I ought to declare my interest in this debate, because I am by trade a local government officer. This Bill amends the Local Government Superannuation Act, 1937. Section 8 of that Act lays down 40 years' service and provides that no pension is payable before the age of 60, except a breakdown pension after 10 years' service. A youngster enters the 317 local government service at the age of 16 and will put in 44 years' service before becoming eligible for any pension. Section 10 of the 1937 Act lays down that an officer who voluntarily resigns cannot get interest on the contributions paid, although in some circumstances compound interest is paid. Yet local authority contributions are sometimes referred to as deferred salary. I think that that provision is rather mean. I hope that it will be possible for an Amendment to be accepted during the Committee stage at least to provide for interest to be paid on contributions when a member has voluntarily resigned.
Section 12 of the 1937 Act prohibits the reckoning of service for which superannuation contributions have been returned, so that an officer who leaves the service and does not re-enter it within 12 months forfeits the service he has already put in. Section 13 of the 1937 Act lays down that an officer may, in certain circumstances, return to the service and retain benefits of previous qualifying service but not if his break has exceeded 12 months.
Clause 2(3) of this Bill enables certain non-contributory service to be reckoned as contributory in nature if he complies with stated conditions, and Clause 8 reenacts the 12 months' limitation for the resumption of superannuation rights, and so does Clause 10(3). Certain gratuities payable under Clause 14 are denied to an officer who voluntarily resigns, irrespective of length of service.
A school teacher can qualify with 30 years' service, and there is no disability arising from a break in service. A local government officer has to serve for 40 years before receiving pension, and civil servants and policemen have the same rights as teachers, and in some cases there is allowance for lengthy breaks, although the pension is reduced. The local government officer is treated less generously. Is he inferior to his colleagues in the other of the public services? We have been told tonight that workers in local government are a great and deserving body of men and women. Does anyone, at the same time, contend that there is any logical reason for differentiation against the local government officer? A pensioner of any of the other services can serve as a local government officer, and, in addition, qualify for a second pension—something 318 which is denied the local government officer who has had a break of more than 12 months.
I have been a member of the National Association of Local Government Officers for a long time; since 1918, in fact, but I think that that organisation, and the trades unions, seem to have failed to look after the interests of officials such as I have mentioned. One has only to read the report of a school speech day to find reference very often to the claim by headmasters, or some other person, that youngsters of today are less bold than their predecessors; that they are always seeking something safe. Yet, Parliament is denying to those youngsters who decide to enter the local government service an opportunity to branch out into some other sphere and then perhaps come back again to local government employment. This is an anomaly of which the House may not be aware.
The local government officer, by training and experience, is well qualified to branch out into some other sphere of activity, and he ought to be allowed to do so and come back without forfeiting his contributions. I speak with some feeling on the subject, because I have been in that position. I had 36 years of qualifying service but, on coming here, I had to resign my post. I eventually got back my contributions without interest, although the superannuation was supposed to have been a kind of deferred salary. What I ask can obviously be of little benefit to me, but I request the Government to take that matter into account when the Committee stage of this Bill is reached.
There will never be a great number of officers who want to do this, but we ought to bear in mind that after a man or woman has had 25 or 30 years of any service there may be a sense of frustration, and it would be to the benefit of the individual and to the community as a whole if he or she were permitted to branch out into some other sphere of activity where a better service could be rendered.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
In a very few sentences I want to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to one point which, I hope, is of sufficient general interest and application to justify raising it now instead of leaving it until the Committee stage is reached. 319 The legislation which deals with local government superannuation necessarily goes into the most extraordinary detail in determining who shall be paid, what they shall be paid, and in respect of what they shall be paid. This being so, it is particularly incumbent upon the Minister and Parliament to avoid ambiguities of any kind. Bearing that consideration in mind, I draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary—who is so unfailingly helpful on these points—to the effect of Clause 14 of the Bill which, in subsection (4), repeals the greater part of Section 11 of the 1937 Act but reenacts subsection (2) of that Section.
When one looks at Section 11(2) of the 1937 Act, one finds that it deals with the powers of a local authority to grant a gratuity to an employee who ceases to be employed because he becomes incapacitated as a result of an accident incurred in the course of his employment, and in determining what amount shall be payable to him the local authority must have regard to several matters.
One is whether he is receiving any statutory right of compensation. That is the phrase used in the 1937 Act, and it was meant to apply to workmen's compensation. But that phrase is quite inappropriate to refer to benefits being paid under the National Assistance Act and the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. It is very undesirable that expressions such as "the authority shall have regard to all the circumstances including any statutory right of compensation" should creep into this new Bill by its being re-enacted under this Clause, when such phrases are appropriate only to workmen's compensation, long since deceased.
Under the existing law, local authorities which desire to pay a gratuity to a servant who has suffered an accident are in a difficulty in deciding whether, in setting the amount of gratuity, they should have regard to the payment of benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act. They are in doubt whether that is statutory compensation within the meaning of the 1937 Act. It is a pity that these doubts should be perpetuated through the matter to which I have referred being incorporated in a new Bill. This may be a Committee point, but it may also be symptomatic of failure, in this Measure, to keep up with the times, and failure 320 to make all the alterations in the law for which the production of a new Bill gives opportunity.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
There has been some discussion about who were the appropriate bodies to be consulted, and a suggestion that one particular body ought to have been consulted. I thought that the bodies to be consulted in matters of this kind were the contributing parties. They happen to be the local authorities, through their associations, and the employees, through their trade unions. If we are going to say that all sorts of professional bodies are entitled to come into negotiations of this kind, [...]t is going to lead not only the Minister, but everyone else, into considerable difficulties. I thought that all bodies had been consulted, and that this was a generally agreed Measure as a result of that.
We have heard tonight a demand, with which I have some sympathy, for increasing some of the benefits. I want to look back for a moment to the original conception of superannuation schemes for local authorities. This was that the employer and employee contributed equally to a fund to provide certain benefits. I thought that that was still the principle. If there is to be a major change in the scale of benefits, the burden must be equally borne. That is inherent if the same principle is to be applied.
Most local authorities are carrying a heavy burden in deficiency payments as a result of actuarial devaluation. I believe that the deficiency payment which my local authority has to make is equal to almost half the total amount subscribed by the employees. This is important, because this is being contributed out of the ratepayers' pockets. While they would wish their employees to be well treated, there must be regard to the burden put upon one side of the contributors to a scheme for the benefit of the other side. The matter must be kept in balance.
The County Councils' Association considers that this Bill might well carry a slight additional provision. Present employees are required to contribute to superannuation schemes at the rate of 6 per cent. Previous employees who have been employed a certain time have to continue to contribute at 5 per cent. There is no reason why there should be 321 a distinction between one employee and another such as this. One of the causes of the deficiency contributions, so that employees now entering the service have to contribute 6 per cent., is the considerable increase in the volume and the amount of salaries paid to local government officers in the last few years. They are paid superannuation on the average of their salaries in the last three or five years' employment. I know of certain officers whose salaries have been increased by £1,000 a year, and they will continue to contribute at the rate of 5 per cent. Officers now coming in have to contribute at 6 per cent. on their salaries, which are relatively lower.
I see no logical reason, nor do the County Councils' Association, why contributions should not be an all-round 6 per cent. If that requires legislation, I would ask the Government to consider it. I do not think the employees would object. On the grounds of equity, it would be preferable to make the rate an all-round 6 per cent., or, alternatively, 5 per cent. There is one other point to which I should like to refer. In Clause 20 there is a date fixed of 30th September, 1950. I do not know what particular merit there is in that in connection with this Bill. I do not know whether that date is applicable to classes besides those mentioned in the Clause, but there does not appear to be any merit in it, and I would ask the hon. Gentleman to explain whether he really thinks it necessary.
Speaking generally, this Bill has been welcomed by the County Councils' Association. It will do a certain amount of cleaning and tidying up, inasmuch as it brings local Acts into conformity with the General Acts; and that, I think, will be a good thing because it is desirable that officers of local authorities should move reasonably freely between one local authority and another, and, of course, it is desirable that the benefits they receive should be uniform. I hope the Bill will have a swift passage. The matter has been hanging about for quite a long time now, and I hope the Bill will be passed reasonably quickly, and that the Regulations will be made quickly thereafter, because they are the important things, and when they appear we shall have the opportunity of judging their merits.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Ernest Marples)
This has been a very interesting and valuable debate on what is a non-controversial and generally acceptable Measure. I am glad to be able to say that the local authorities' associations have been agreed upon the measures the Government propose, and it is rather unique—certainly, from my point of view as a junior Minister, it is a very agreeable situation—to know that the local authorities' associations are in agreement with a Government Measure. They are anxious to see it passed as quickly as possible.
I think this has been an example of the House of Commons at its best, debating a Measure which involves necessarily a great deal of human interest. It has been very easy to suggest improvements, but some of those suggested would mean increased liabilities for the funds. They involve increases in the employees' contributions, or increased payments by the local authorities, or, perhaps, both. None of these consequences will be acceptable to the parties concerned, and that, frankly, is the short answer to some of the suggestions made.
The Pensions (Increase) Act, 1952, recently increased the burden local authorities have to bear. It provided increases in the pensions of certain local government employees to meet the rise in the cost of living, and these increases fall on the rates. The main point I should like to make is that the benefits in the Bill have been agreed on the national scale, between representatives of employers and employees, as the best arrangement of benefits they can devise at the moment.
During the Second Reading debate on this necessarily intricate, complicated, and complex Bill many matters have been raised which would possibly be more suited to the Committee stage. On the other hand, many hon. Members who have taken part in this debate will probably not be present during the Committee stage, in which case we shall not have the benefit of their advice. However, in Committee we shall discuss these points in greater detail.
I must repeat what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said, that these 323 benefits are, in general, actuarially equivalent to the benefits of the Act of 1937. It is not merely that the Government Actuary's Department has advised these benefits, but that the actuaries advising the associations of local authorities and the National Association of Local Government Officers have independently advised their respective bodies accordingly.
The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) opened this debate for the Opposition with great knowledge, with the infinite moderation I always associate with him, and the agreeable kindliness we have always had from him when he was either in the Government or in opposition. He asked whom we had consulted. As the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) said, we have consulted everybody who was concerned financially. It is very difficult for the Government to consult people who are not concerned financially. If the Government extended their consultations to all sorts of bodies, they might go on consulting for an infinitely long time, which would make it difficult to reach any conclusion. N.A.L.G.O. has been consulted and they, in turn, have consulted, although they do not represent them, the Local Government Advisory Committee of the T.U.C.
I would not like to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley in his historical survey, because he urged the desirability of the transfer of pensions from one class to another and his knowledge of history is far greater than mine.
§ Mr. Marples
I do not accept that from the right hon. Gentleman. He has been in this House a long time and has been saturated in this sort of financial transaction. He asked one point about manual workers and another about the cost of the Bill, while he referred to the words, "No appreciable increase." No figure can be given of the cost. The words, "No appreciable increase," were used because it is impossible to calculate precisely the effect of the Bill.
The hon. and learned Member for Ilford, North (Sir G. Hutchinson) was correct in his prophecy that the Parlia- 324 mentary Secretary would not be able to give an accurate figure in reply to this question. As far as can be foreseen, the improvements will roughly balance financially. The right hon. Gentleman also criticised the Bill, but welcomed certain proposals on injury and death allowances. He said that these would be limited to a number of cases and he asked how many. We do not know the numbers who would be affected. The death grant would be three-eightieths of the remuneration for every year of contribution, and entitlement would be after five years' contribution. As far as injury is concerned, there is no qualifying period. It is limited to two-thirds of the average remuneration. The right hon. Gentleman will realise the infinite and incredible difficulties involved in making an accurate assessment to answer his question. The Government are grateful for the support of the right hon. Gentleman, who presented his case reasonably, and I hope that he will put down some of his points in the form of Amendments for the Committee stage so that the Government can go into their effect in greater detail, and we can then discuss them at greater length.
Then we had a speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward)—who, I am glad to say, is not at present in her place; she is indeed a formidable and tenacious opponent on anything connected with equal pay for equal work. I would agree—if I may say so hurriedly before my hon. Friend reenters the Chamber—with the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire. North (Miss Herbison), who said that it would be impossible to consult everyone. If my hon. Friend would like to make her representations on what the nurses' associations really consider should be done the Government would be prepared to consider them.
§ Miss Herbison
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman did not hear what I said. On that part of it I backed up the hon. Lady. I disagreed with her on certain points, but not on the representations.
§ Mr. Marples
That just goes to confirm my oft-felt suspicion that the opposite sex can be extremely fickle on certain occasions.
On the question of the Royal College of Nurses, one can go on for ever extend- 325 ing the scope of this Bill. Section 16 of the principal Act provides that the age of compulsory retirement, pensionable age, shall be 60 years instead of 65 years for female nurses, midwives and health visitors. Now this provision was made on account of the arduous nature of these people's duties, and it applied only to the female nurses who were actually engaged in nursing. For example, it would apply to female nurses but not to the matron in a boy's school, who is not actually a female nurse in the school; she spends her time mainly looking after healthy boys instead of invalids, and obviously that is not as arduous as looking after the sick.
§ Mr. Marples
Obviously my hon. Friend has returned.
Under Clause 9 the same provisions were extended to certain of the female staff of children's homes on the ground that their duties also are arduous, and for this purpose they should be regarded as being in the same position as nurses. After that was agreed, further representations were received from the Royal College of Nurses that female nurses employed by children's homes should have the same provisions even though they were not primarily for sick nursing, and that provision should be extended also to the staffs of children's day nurseries, and possibly to certain nurses in schools.
It is extremely difficult to know where to draw the line regarding nursing, and I ask my hon. Friend, who has great knowledge of these nursing matters, to let us have the benefit of her advice, perhaps in Committee. If she would put down an Amendment it could be considered in the usual way. She said that perhaps I had no knowledge of nurses. All I can say is that every time I have been in hospital undergoing an operation I have been terrified of those rather trim, neat figures who have exercised over me a discipline which has never been exercised by anyone outside a hospital.
The main point of the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) was the same as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley—why were not the manual workers included in this scheme? There are three principal reasons. Firstly, not all manual workers 326 wish to pay more than the National Insurance contributions, even for the sake of increased benefits. There is some evidence, although it is not wholly conclusive, that servants look to the Assistance Board to provide for their widows. Secondly, superannuation contributions are lower for servants than for officers, because the pay scales are different, and a complete levelling would involve increasing the contributions of manual workers. There is no general demand for alteration of the present system. The T.U.C. may have some alteration to propose, but they have been silent so far, and perhaps this is another point which can be discussed in Committee.
§ Mr. Moyle
I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the compulsory application of this proposal would increase the cost and would bring about an increase in contribution by the manual worker. That is not borne out by the facts, because those local authorities who have brought the whole of their manual employers within a scheme have in no way increased the contribution beyond that paid in respect of those schemes confined to officers.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
As I understand it, it is 5 per cent. now for the lower grades, and the administrative and technical officers pay 6 per cent. So at the moment they are 1 per cent. above the others. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the contribution would have to go up to 6 per cent., or even beyond, to 7 per cent.?
§ Mr. Marples
I think, first of all, the percentage would have to be increased, and it must be borne in mind that the manual worker generally receives a lower rate of pay than the administrative worker, and the percentage increase might have to be greater than in the case of the administrative officer, in order to make the case actuarially tenable.
The third point is that the manual worker is more inclined than officers in local government service to serve for short and broken periods so that universal superannuation would increase the administrative work to some extent. There again, if the hon. Gentleman is with us in Committee, perhaps he will put down an Amendment so that we can thrash the point out in detail. 327 The hon. and learned Member for Ilford, North, who has great experience of local government, was perfectly correct in saying that this Bill is the result of long negotiations lasting some six or seven years, and it does, more than anything else, give pensions to widows and dependants. As he said, the main point is that the re-adjustment of the benefits has taken place without any increased contribution from the local authority or the staffs. That is the most important point.
I found the role taken by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North curious, agreeable, and acceptable. Supporting equal pay for men was an extremely attractive role for her to adopt. But no case has been put during the negotiations on the point she raised. It is an entirely new one, and one which deserves to be looked into.
§ Mr. Marples
I agree with the hon. Lady. If she were in my position and had to reply to some of her own questions, she would support equal pay for men too. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North said that the widows and teachers in Scotland should be treated the same as widows of local government employees, but this is a special question for Scotland and she would not expect me, as a mere Englishman, to deal with that peculiar and difficult position in Scotland.
§ Miss Herbison
I take it that in Committee we shall have a Scottish Minister present who will be able to deal with that point?
§ Mr. Marples
I do not know which Scottish Ministers out of the large number will be there, but no doubt there will be a representative of that famous country who will show the great assiduity which we always associate with them. The hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) raised what was really a Committee point and can be dealt with at that stage. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Cam-borne (Mr. Hayman) said that N.A.L.G.O. had failed to look after the officers he mentioned. I am not sure that those strictures would be accepted by the officers of N.A.L.G.O., who have been tenacious in pursuing the interests of their own members.
328 The hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) raised a legal point. He may not be with us on the Committee stage, and we shall miss his wise and learned counsel. [HON. MEMBERS: "He will."] I hope he will. He said that the re-enactment of Section 11(2) of the 1937 Act in Clause 14(4) would raise a legal difficulty. With all the diffidence of a layman, may I say that if he turns to Clause 4(2) of this Bill he will find that the rest of Section 11 of the 1937 Act has been repealed?
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
With great respect, that does not in the least answer the point, but I shall be content if the hon. Gentleman says that he will be good enough to consider the point when he reads it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. Marples
It can be dealt with in Committee, but, if the hon. Gentleman is not with us, I hope he will see that one of his hon. Friends on that side of the House raises the point.
Finally we had the contribution of the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter), who has great experience in local government matters and who raised the important point that all the financially contributing parties had been consulted. His main point was that there should be an all-round contribution of 6 per cent. or 5 per cent. Again, that is inherent in the nature of complicated Measures such as this and it is a Committee point which can be dealt with later.
I am grateful to the Opposition for facilitating the Second Reading of this Bill and I hope we shall have an amiable, although I fear rather intricate and lengthy, Committee stage. I hope this Bill will go through and that hon. Members will try to make it workable, because it is a useful and workmanlike Measure which will benefit people in local government.
§ Miss Herbison
Before the Minister sits down, would he answer the point which is of great interest to Edinburgh and Glasgow and a number of cities in England? Has the Minister power to compel local authorities to modify, to adapt or to repeal the local Act so that it may conform with the Regulations?
§ Mr. Marples
Answering, as they say in England, "off the cuff," I should say 329 the Minister has, but perhaps the hon. Lady will raise that at a later stage of the Bill?
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.