HC Deb 12 December 1956 vol 562 cc584-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in pursuance of Section 4 of the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1944, as applied by the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1952 and 1956, praying that the Pensions (Increase) Act (Extension) Order, 1956, be made in the form of the Draft laid before this House on 22nd November. —[Mr. H. Brooke.]

11.8 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

May I divert the attention of the Financial Secretary from petrol to pensions and ask him whether he will kindly confirm that the classes to whom the Order applies will receive increased pensions from the effective date of the 1956 Act? I think that that is clear and that they will get their increase from the same date as everybody else.

A feature of the Order seems to be that, except for paragraph 1 of the Second Schedule, everybody in Scotland is left out. I assume that is because either the classes mentioned in the First Schedule do not exist in Scotland or, if they do, they are already covered by the main Act itself. For example, paragraph 3 of the First Schedule covers probation officers. There are, I believe, probation officers in Scotland. They, I understand, are covered by the provisions of the Act, and, therefore, it is not necessary to extend the scope of the Act to include them as it is necessary to extend it to include probation officers in England.

I hope I am in order in asking, finally, whether this is the end of the extension Orders. Are there more to come? I believe that this is the third. There may well be some classes which have not yet been covered by Orders to complete the job we set about doing in passing the 1956 Act. It would be comforting if we knew that there are no more cases, or that those that there are will very quickly be brought within the scope of the 1956 Act. It is, after all, a long time since we passed the Act. All other arrears have been paid, and some people may be waiting rather longer than they expected they would for their pension increase. I hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to satisfy me on these points.

11.11 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)

I hope I shall be able to satisfy the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). This Order is essentially a tidying-up measure. As the hon. Member will appreciate, for it was explained to the House at the time when the Bill was before us. it was impossible to cover every conceivable case in the Statute itself because there were so many of them, and the main purpose of the Act would have been utterly submerged if we had tried to enact hundreds of Clauses so that we could provide in detail for every conceivable class of person.

This Order deals with quite a few people—literally a handful of people—on the fringe of local government service, and that fringe is, if I may say so without discourtesy to local government, so ragged that it really would have been impossible to have made specific provision in the Act for all the oddments—again, I mean no disrespect to the people concerned—in the sense of special positions which do exist but may not come within the words of the Statute.

There are in the Schedules to the Order five classes of people. In one of those five classes we know of only a single person, but we do feel that the benefit of the Act should be extended to that individual because it is purely by chance that the existing words cannot be stretched to cover her. We therefore feel that it is right to use this power to make Orders in order that justice may be done.

I can assure the hon. Member that we are bringing these people within all the benefits of the Pensions (Increase) Act. We are simply applying the Act, with the date of commencement and everything. I should like the House to recognise that in the Second Schedule we are actually going further. There we are extending the Acts of 1944 and 1952 as well as the Act of 1956 to these people. One may ask why we are doing that. I want to be quite frank with the House. The answer is that these two categories described in the Second Schedule to the Order have only recently been brought to our notice. We thought they ought to have the benefit of the two previous Acts as well as this last Act.

Mr. Houghton

From the date of commencement of the earlier Acts?

Mr. Brooke

From the date of the commencement of these Acts, I think I am right in saying. If I am wrong I will let the hon. Member know.

The hon. Member asked me whether there were any further Orders of this kind coming along. From time to time people do communicate with us and ask whether a person is entitled to, or could be brought within, the provisions of the Act. I will certainly give the undertaking that if any further categories of that sort are brought to our notice they will be considered, and the question whether it would be desirable to make an Order examined. The statutory power to make an Order is fairly narrow, but I hope that I have proved to the House, in the remarks which I made when taking the Bill through its stages here, that we are anxious to do justice to every person concerned.

There is one class of persons whom the hon. Gentleman probably has in mind; that is the class known, in the jargon of pension increases, as the London tramway men. It may be that he is familiar with their case. They do not come within the scope of this particular Order, but I can tell the House that the local authorities concerned have asked the Treasury to make regulations under other powers and it is hoped shortly to submit those regulations to Parliament. That is so far as the local authority individuals are concerned.

I hope that I have answered the hon. Gentleman's questions. I welcome the fact that the House takes an interest in these matters. It was only because of the very small number of persons covered, and because of the extreme intricacy of the subject, that I did not wish to worry the House in the first instance.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in pursuance of Section 4 of the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1944, as applied by the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1952 and 1956, praying that the Pensions (Increase) Act (Extension) Order, 1956, be made in the form of the Draft laid before this House on 22nd November.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.