HC Deb 31 May 1954 vol 528 cc1049-52

Considered in Committee.

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]


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

11.10 p.m.

Mr. George Isaacs (Southwark)

On Second Reading some questions were asked relating to the senior officers of the court. As the Minister did not have an opportunity to give any information about them, I would ask him to give some information now. I support the proposal that the President should have a pension, especially knowing the valuable work of the present President, but I think that the Committee would be helped by some other information.

Are the other members full-time officers? Are they free to take other remunerative work? Apart from the work which he undertakes at the request of the Minister, can the President accept other remunerative work? Are the other members appointed for a fixed period subject to re-appointment or during the will and pleasure of the Minister?

Can the Minister say what salaries are paid to the other members? It is important to know whether their salary is paid on a full-time or a part-time basis. Were the salaries fixed on the understanding that the post was non-pensionable? If a pension is provided is it possible that the salaries will be reduced. If a pension was attached to the post, possibly after 10 years' service, would it lead to the feeling that the appointment of a part-time officer on a pensionable basis gave him a right to at least ten years' service.

If a member of the court was appointed on a part-time basis with a pension,' and that gave him a feeling that he had a guarantee of 10 years' service, would that handicap the Minister in that during that time other circumstances might arise making it necessary to make a change? I think that such information would be helpful in the future.

Sir Robert Perkins (Stroud and Thornbury)

I wish to support what has been said by the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs). Strong expressions of opinion came from both sides of the House on Second Reading that the Assessor should be included and that this Bill should not be restricted to the President. The Minister said that he would look into the matter, but for some reason, he has ignored those expressions of opinion. I hope that he has a satisfactory answer tonight, otherwise we may have to divide the Committee.

11.15 p.m.

The Minister of Labour and National Service (Sir Walter Monckton)

I hope that my answer will prove satisfactory. as I am sure that everyone wishes to see the Bill go forward so far as the President of the court is concerned. I think it will meet the point if I answer the questions put by the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), and then my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud and Thornbury (Sir R. Perkins) may feel more satisfied.

For the President this is a whole-time occupation and other work he does is done without remuneration. The other members of the court number 12. There are four on the Chairman's panel; three from the employers' panel; four from the workers' panel and a woman. All but two of those are occasionally called and paid by fee. There are two so-called full-time salaried members of the court. Their time is not fully taken up and they need not necessarily be called. Others may take their place. Nor do they have the same burden as falls on the President, though they are responsible for the decisions in which they participate.

I would point out that there is no necessary permanence under the Act by which those two people are salaried. It may well be that later on it may be unnecessary to have salaried members. It may be that those who work on a fee basis will prove sufficient. At any rate, it has not in the past proved in the least difficult to find suitable members for these full-time salaried posts.

We are considering the interests of those who are salaried members. If a pension were attached, the conditions would have to conform to those analogous posts in the Civil Service. There would have to be a qualifying period of 10 years analogous to that of comparable people in the Civil Service, with disadvantages which I will point out in a moment. This deals directly with the point which the right hon. Gentleman put to me.

The salaries paid at present are £1,725 per annum, which is not an inconsiderable sum. If the salaried members served less than 10 years and accordingly were ineligible for a pension, they would be worse off because of the diminution in the £1,725 a year which would have to take place to meet the right to a pension.

That brings me to the point which the right hon. Gentleman also mentioned. about the desirability of giving a pension on the basis of 10 years' service. I submit to the Committee that it is not really desirable that those persons should be people who are not fresh from industry. There is a great deal to be said for appointing to these posts people who have recently been on either side in industry. I do not think it would be any advantage to have people, who were there for 10 years in order to qualify for a pension, losing the advantage they at present enjoy of a shorter service and a higher salary. We want people who have been in industry fairly recently, and for them the pension would not be as satisfactory as the higher salary which they now earn.

I trust that I have given the right hon. Gentleman the information he wants. I would just point out that though one would wish to do everything possible to make these tasks satisfactory for those who undertake them, experience has proved that it is desirable that the President, who has quite a position and responsibilities different from the others, should have a pension for the reasons which I have given, quite apart from the fact that under the Bill I could not have expanded the subject matter. There is not the same case for giving a pension—and there are manifest disadvantages—in the case of the salaried members.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.

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