§ Mr. Vosper
I beg to move, in line 1, after "Amend", to insert: Superannuation Act), 1898.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We are now entering upon the final stage of the Bill's progress. It has had a long and somewhat troublesome passage, but we must all agree that the Bill emerges a great deal better than it was at the beginning. That, of course, is as it should be in a democratic assembly, and we may all claim some part of the credit for it. In the short time I mean to occupy in moving the Third Reading, I should like to direct attention to three main provisions of the Bill.
The main purpose of the Bill was and still is to restore and buttress for the future the solvency of the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme. The provisions in that regard have not been altered. With one exception, to which I shall refer in a moment, it can be fairly said that these basic provisions have won general approval in the country, and certainly majority approval during the Committee stage. There was, for example, and still is, no dispute about the actuary's finding that the Account was actuarially in heavy deficit. That is accepted, as is the fact that without the infusion of fresh credits in respect of the past and new guarantees in respect of the future, the deficit would have grown until it had virtually destroyed the Scheme.
The proposal that the Treasury should meet the whole of the deficit in respect of the past, has been and still is accepted by all as a just and proper arrangement. 1564 It is true that it has been discounted by some Members of the Opposition as being no more than a bookkeeping device. All I would say upon that is that, even judged upon that score, it is a device which I am bound to say the Opposition seemed strangely timorous about adopting when in power.
It may interest the House to note that, whereas at the time the Bill was introduced the deficiency was estimated at £324 million, today, with the additional benefits incorporated in the Bill during the Committee stage and on Report, and with the postponement of the increased contributions until October, the estimated deficit has risen to £338 million, made up of £302 million in respect of England and Wales and £36 million in respect of Scotland.
The local authorities' guarantee, which they undertook, encountered little real criticism in the Committee or outside. That was not surprising, because, without doubt, that guarantee affords the teachers' superannuation scheme an assurance or guarantee of stability better than has ever before been provided by Parliament. It means, as the Minister of Education said a few moments ago, that the contribution of the local authorities will rise beyond 6 per cent. for the next accounting period in 1961.
The only matter upon which there was in the early stage of the Bill any substantial difference of opinion was the proposed increased contribution by teachers. Without doubt we had strong opposition in that respect, and I suppose that we still have. We have discussed this proposal so fully already, however, that I need say only a few words about it. The increase in the teachers' contribution is an integral part of the tripartite plan to which Government, local authorities and teachers contribute. Without it, it is no exaggeration to say, there would have been no plan; there would have been no Treasury write-off; there would have been no local authority guarantee.
It was essential, in equity and common sense, that the teachers should play their part, through the 1 per cent. contribution, in establishing and maintaining the scheme on a sound basis. When I reflect that on 1st April next—ten days hence—all Scottish teachers will gain a 7 per cent. increase in their salaries—the Regulations are now in the Vote Office—and 1565 many will gain a great deal more than 7 per cent.—
§ Miss Herbison
On a point of order. Is it not the case that on the Third Reading of a Bill, one deals only with what is in the Bill? The Bill has no reference to negotiations on Scottish teachers' salaries.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Lady is perfectly correct. On Third Reading we can deal only with what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Stewart
I was merely talking about the teachers' increased contribution and saying, as has been said time and time again in the course of our discussions, that when we consider the conditions surrounding the new Bill, the Third Reading of which we are now discussing, and when, as my right hon. Friend indicated not very long ago, teachers in all parts of Great Britain may look for salary increases of substantial amounts before the end of the year, I feel justified in asserting that the price which we invite teachers to pay for their security is neither harsh nor unreasonable.
I come now to the second main provision which I want to examine. Had we been able to include a widows and orphans pension scheme, paid for in part by the employers, I well believe that the teachers' opposition to the Bill would have been much less severe than it was. I think that the hon. Lady agrees with me. For reasons which have already been fully discussed, and into which I shall not go now, the Government have been unable to make that particular financial provision but the Bill now contains all the powers necessary to establish, within a short time, a pensions scheme for widows, widowers, children and dependants which I may fairly claim to be broader and more enlightened than any other before enjoyed the teaching profession. It is in the Bill now.
In the name of Her Majesty's Government, I call upon the teachers' organisations in Scotland, England and Wales to combine with us and the local authorities at the earliest moment in discussing these provisions, and between us, with good will and determination, to institute an agreed scheme which will help to end the anxiety of teachers about the financial security of their widows and dependants. 1566 We are very ready to put our time and all our services at their disposal for this purpose. Metaphorically, I should say we are ready to start the talks tomorrow.
The third section of the Bill to which I would invite the attention of the House is that providing for the series of additional benefits which in its original or subsequently amended form the Bill now offers to teachers. I listed some of these benefits in the Standing Committee. I should like to summarise them now because most of them are improvements for which the teachers have made insistent demands over a long period and which, therefore, now being conceded, must be of substantial, or at any rate of high, value to them.
First, as to pensionable or average salary, the salary upon which retiring allowances are in future to be calculated is the average of the salary for the last three years of service instead of the last five years as at present. This is obviously of special advantage to teachers at a time when salaries are rising and are reviewed triennially. Further, when a teacher accepts a lower-paid post during his last three years of service, he is now to be given the option of contributing and having his pension calculated on his former higher salary. For many teachers that must be a considerable advantage.
Next, the additional allowance, or the lump sum, as we call it, in respect of future service will be calculated at the rate of three-eightieths of the pensionable or average salary instead of three-ninetieths as at present for each year of service up to forty-five years.
When a teacher who has completed ten but less than twenty years of service retires on account of any disablement, his retiring allowance will now, after this Bill becomes law, be calculated as it would have been if he had completed twenty years of service. I admit that will not affect large numbers of teachers, but to those whom it will affect it may well prove of great value.
In providing for years of service to count, the raising of the compulsory retiring age from 65 to 70 is accompanied by the raising of the number of years which may count for the calculation of pension from 40 to 45.
There was considerable discussion about incomplete years of service. The condition that only completed years of 1567 service may count in the calculation of retiring allowance is now abolished. Days of service after the last completed year may now be counted; and that, I am advised, is more generous than in any other public pensions scheme.
Teachers in Scotland who are employed on the temporary staff and paid by the day will in future count each day as a day and a fraction of a day in calculating the length of their service. That was put to me with considerable force by teachers more than once as a change which should be made.
Teachers who before they enter the profession, have had experience in other occupations of value to them as teachers, will be able now to buy in a period up to five years which will count in the calculation of their retiring allowances. However, as we have seen—and in some ways it is regrettable—National Service does not count there.
Teachers wishing to allocate a part of their pension in exchange for a pension to a spouse or a dependant may, under the Bill, take the medical examination on attaining the age of 60 instead of having to wait until they retire. I am sure that the hon. Lady knows, as I know, quite a number of cases where that change of date would in the past have made a very great difference to a man's position.
For the first time, teachers are to be given the option of exchanging part of their lump sum for additional pensions.
The pension of a teacher returning to full-time teaching employment after retirement will no longer be suspended unless he is entitled to the same or a larger salary on re-employment than the salary which he was drawing before retirement. When his salary on re-employment is less than his salary at retirement he will be able to draw as much in pay plus pension as he was receiving when he retired.
I will just mention two or three other provisions. I hope that the House will bear with me. It is very necessary to put on record exactly what this Bill does for the advantage of the tens of thousands of teachers concerned.
Returning to the subject of contributions, when a teacher returns to contributory service after retirement but his additional service does not lead to an increase 1568 in his pension, the contributions paid by him during his additional service will be returned to him. That, I think, is a matter of fairness and plain justice.
Scottish teachers have frequently put to me a point in regard to arrears of contributions for war service. Teachers in Scotland who are in arrears with payment of contributions in respect of war service will now be given the option of having the arrears and the accumulated interest written off, and the war service deleted from their record. I cannot tell the House how many appeals I have had for that to be done.
Scottish teachers who elected that the teachers' superannuation scheme as it was before 1926 should continue to apply to them without modifications are given the right now to elect that the new benefits provided by this Bill shall also apply to them.
Lastly, may I mention the monthly payment of pensions? As soon as arrangements can be made—as has been said by my right hon. Friend we hope it will be by about this time next year—pensions will be paid monthly instead of quarterly.
I readily acknowledge that some of these improvements formed the subject of Amendments tabled and supported by hon. Members opposite. I have already said that we have all taken our part in this general process of improvement, and it happens that in every case of that kind the Amendments were adopted by the Government. In other cases the initiative came from the Government, in a genuine effort to meet the needs of the teachers.
Together, these benefits form an impressive list of ameliorations; taken with the other provisions in the Bill to which I have drawn attention, and the developments outside which we know are happening, they constitute, I think it no exaggeration to say, the most liberal and imaginative charter of rights ever offered to the teaching profession.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am proud to have had a hand in bringing that about. What we do tonight is a piece of basic work, and without any doubt, the claim which I have made is justified. I am certain it will redound to the credit of Parliament—
§ Mr. Stewart
—and will, I trust, convince the teachers that they stand, as by virtue of their calling they ought to stand, high in the public esteem.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Miss Herbison
I am indeed astounded by the last few sentences of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I wish to refer to the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill when I complained that the Bill had been brought in with indecent haste. I say now that it has reached its Third Reading with the same type of indecent haste. When these complaints were made during the Second Reading debate, the Joint Under-Secretary of State said:I am sorry if inconvenience was caused to her or to the teachers of Scotland. Of course, ample opportunity will now be available to us all."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1955; Vol. 547, c. 316.]I think the Joint Under-Secretary said that in all sincerity and that he did hope that we should have ample opportunity. But he did not reckon with "Big Brother"—the Minister of Education.
After quite a considerable struggle, hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies were able to have that part of the Bill dealing with Scottish matters discussed in the Scottish Standing Committee. We find that the Minister of Education then told the hon. Members representing English and Welsh constituencies that they would have to speed up the consideration of their part of the Bill. He said:The interests of England and Wales demand that we here should have our debate on these important matters as near the same time as that on those affecting Scotland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 9th February, 1956; c. 295.]What arrogance does that man take unto himself. Almost every precedent shows that there is no substance in that argument advanced by the Minister. Indeed, the usual procedure on education Bills, housing Bills, and health Bills, is that the ones applying to England and Wales are taken first and those for Scotland follow. But this arrogant Minister could not see anything being discussed that applied to Scotland before he had had time to make his statements to the Committee dealing with that part of the Bill which applies 1570 to England and Wales. The final insult, not to hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies, but to the Scottish nation and particularly to the Scottish teachers, was that Part III of the Bill was taken in such a manner that Scottish Members were deprived from taking part in any of the discussion upon it or upon any Clauses that applied not only to England and Wales, but to Scotland also.
When the Minister tonight moved his Amendment to Clause 37 he was unable to explain to me why it had not been moved earlier. It was not moved earlier because the Joint Under-Secretary of State was glued to his seat in the Scottish Standing Committee while this Clause was being rushed through by the Minister of Education.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Earlier I did not understand what the hon. Lady meant, and I thank her for enlightening me.
§ Miss Herbison
It shows the type of treatment meted out to Scottish Members during the discussions on this Bill.
During the Committee discussions I witnessed the actions of a Minister who was telling us what a clever and fine fellow he was, and almost always he was riding roughshod over the hon. Members in the Committee, and he has been riding roughshod over the teachers in these matters.
So far as I know, not a word of protest was made by the Secretary of State for Scotland or by the Joint Under-Secretary about Scottish Members being deprived of their just rights. All through the discussions the Scottish Ministers have shown a willingness to be dragged at the heels of the Minister of Education, and that willingness is in direct contradiction to the fulsome promises they made to the Scottish people that Scottish affairs would be left much more in the hands of Scottish Members.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State seems to think, now that we have come to the Third Reading and he has announced a list of improvements, that this is an excellent Measure. I think his words were that it was one of the most "liberal" that had ever come before us.
§ Miss Herbison
I want to deal with the "liberal" side of the proposal. It may be that he used the word because the Minister goes under the guise of a "National Liberal." When the Bill came before us for Second Reading its provisions were completely inadequate. It is true that certain improvements have been made and that, although they might be considered as minor ones, each is of great importance to certain teachers in the United Kingdom. For these reasons we are glad that these minor improvements have been made. But almost every one of them came as a result of pressure from Labour Members. Time and time again Amendments appeared on the Order Paper in the names of hon. Members on this side of the House many days before similar Amendments appeared in the name of the Minister. At no time did a Scottish Tory Member support us by adding his name to our Amendments.
The Joint Under-Secretary told us tonight that almost every one of those minor improvements had been asked for for a considerable time by the teachers. In those circumstances, surely it would have been sensible if the Government, instead of hurrying the Bill before the House, had considered these matters carefully and had incorporated them in the Bill when it was presented, rather than wait for pressure to be brought to bear upon them to do so. Had the Government acted sensibly in that way, how much more contented would our teachers have been today? During the Second Reading debate the Minister said:I hope that what is said in the House today will stir up a little more public interest in the conditions and the prospects of the teaching profession.His hopes have materialised. Not only has what he said stirred up public interest, it has raised the wrath of every teacher in this country.
§ Miss Herbison
If the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) had been sitting here all day he might have been able to tell us how many teachers were pleased with what is happening.
Another of the provisions which we are expected to applaud is that which deals with the actuarial deficiency. The 1572 Joint Under-Secretary told us how important—almost how generous—a provision it was. The Joint Under-Secretary took great credit for it on behalf of the Government. During the Second Reading debate the Minister said:the Government are now taking over the whole of the deficiency as a charge on the Exchequer alone. That is a concession quite without precedent in size…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1955; Vol. 546, c. 210–212.]I would like to parody a well-known phrase in this instance. Here we have "Bighearted David" speaking. What do we find? What is this great generosity which the Government have shown? First, we do not regard it as a concession. We take it that the 1925 Act always meant that any actuarial deficiency would be covered by the Exchequer.
What does the supposed concession represent in terms of additional finance to be provided by the Government? The Chancellor of the Exchequer will not have to find one penny during the lifetime of this Government to clear up that actuarial deficiency. Indeed, if my calculations are correct it will be almost forty years before any Chancellor will be asked to provide anything from public funds to wipe out the actuarial deficiency. That is the extent of the Government's generosity. That is what the Joint Under-Secretary said he wanted the people to know about. Since he wanted them to know about it, I felt that it would be as well to give them all the facts. The Government have put the day of reckoning so far away that they will never be asked to honour their pledge. I have no doubt that it will be honoured, but it will certainly be by a Government of a very different colour.
Our chief criticism of the Bill is the hopeless inadequacy of its pension provisions. The Joint Under-Secretary outlined the improvement in those provisions, but the improvement for widows is at the expense of the superannuation provisions of the men themselves. All these improvements must be financed by the teachers, not by the Government. The teachers have said all along that they were willing to pay increased contributions provided there was a just pension scheme for widows, widowers, children and dependants. This is exactly what we have not been given in the Bill.
1573 In all their representations during the Committee the teachers made it clear that they thought the increase of 1 per cent. in their contributions was completely unjust so long as the Bill carried no adequate pension provisions for widows and dependants. The teachers today have not altered their opinion one whit. They still regard that increased contribution of 1 per cent. as an imposition which they ought not to have been asked to bear.
The Minister, in some of his Amendments today, and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland at other times, have been willing to call in aid what happens to civil servants, when it suited their argument. They did it today on National Service. They always resent when we or the teachers call in aid the adequate and just pension provisions that civil servants have. The Joint Under-Secretary of State said he was ready tomorrow and that the Government were ready tomorrow to get into consultation with the local authorities to work out a just pension scheme.
§ Miss Herbison
It may have been. I put no trust in it at all. The Government could have waited quite a considerable time to put the pension on a sound actuarial basis without spending Government or local government money.
There is evidence from Scotland, and I expect from England, that many local authorities are toeing the line that Glasgow made, alone, at the meeting to which reference has frequently been made. They are willing to consider a scheme that will be just. I gave the list to the Joint Under-Secretary of State in Committee. If the Government had been wise, if they had been liberal, as the Joint Under-Secretary of State said they had been, and if they had been worried about the shortage of teachers and the disastrous effect it is having on the education of many of our children, they would have waited and would have made many further attempts to get local authorities to agree to a proper scheme.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
It may be that the hon. Lady has news which is later than my information. The official letter we received from the Glasgow Corporation some little time ago on this point was at least vague and was not in the definite terms that the hon. Lady 1574 mentions. It may be that she has further information. If so, I should like to hear it.
§ Miss Herbison
I have not mentioned any definite term. The Joint Under-Secretary of State cannot deny that the representative from Glasgow at that meeting made it quite clear—I cannot go into the terms of a letter which I have not seen—that the Glasgow Corporation was willing to consider a scheme. I gave to the Joint Under-Secretary the list that had been given to me of other education authorities in Scotland. It was not denied in Committee. All I am saying to the Joint Under-Secretary of State is that there is evidently a change in the feelings of many local authorities on this matter and that the Government would have been wise to wait a little time in order to get for the teachers what the teachers justly demanded in pension provisions.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I think that the hon. Lady pointed out to me a little while ago that on Third Reading we could only discuss what is in the Bill.
§ Miss Herbison
There is, of course, a pension provision in the Bill. I am saying that it is an inadequate pension provision. What I have tried to do is to show why we on this side of the House are voting against the Third Reading of the Bill. We consider it a most inadequate Measure. We consider that this Measure, by arousing the wrath of the teachers in Britain and by making them dissatisfied, is the worst means of recruiting people to the teaching profession. The Government have done grave disservice by this Measure to the whole of the teaching and education prospects in Britain.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Dr. King
The great defect in this Bill was in the Bill when it began its rake's progress under the direction of the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) and lost her a seat in the Cabinet. It was in the Bill when it came to the House on First Reading. It has survived every stage of this Bill up to the Third Reading, and it has cost the Minister of Education the confidence and esteem of the teaching profession.
1575 It is a defect which, incidentally, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland did not mention when, in his imaginative peroration, he described the wonders of this Bill, which according to him surpassed the glory of all previous Measures, the great 1902 Education Act, the great 1918 Education Act, and even the quite useful 1925 Pensions Act. That defect is the now notorious imposition of the 6 per cent. contribution. Tonight we have no longer the opportunity of amending or removing it. All that we can do is to vote against the Bill and attempt to express and explain the bitter opposition of the teaching profession to this 6 per cent. contribution.
The fact that the 6 per cent. remains in the Bill is due to the lamentable running away of a considerable number of hon. Members opposite—some in spite of direct election promises—from their behaviour in the last Parliament, when in union with the Opposition they destroyed the 6 per cent. proposal. Tonight is the last chance of hon. Gentlemen opposite redeeming themselves. Instead of doing so, they will vote for the imposition of a wage cut on the teaching profession because, whatever salaries the teachers get from the present Burnham negotiations, the cut remains. No teacher is unintelligent enough to swallow the argument that because the cut is delayed and is now to be imposed after the new salary increases have been made, the levying of a 6 per cent. contribution on salary instead of 5 per cent. is not a real cut.
Why are the teachers angry? The hon. Member who has since left the Chamber and who interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) when she suggested that the teachers were angry does not really know the teaching profession. I want to try to explain just why the teachers are indignant. The simple facts are that in 1918, in a much more glorious epoch for education and under a very significant figure in the nation's march to democratic education, the great Mr. Fisher, the teachers were promised and even granted a non-contributory pension. This was whittled away by a 5 per cent. so-called voluntary contribution, and in 1925 to a permanent 5 per cent. contribution. That 5 per cent. contribution came to be regarded by the teaching profession as the 1576 highest amount which it would have to pay for what its members had always regarded, what Mr. Fisher regarded and what even the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) regarded, in his last speech before he became a Minister, as the goal of the teaching profession—a non-contributory pension scheme.
It is only against that background of what the teachers regard as a breach of faith that one can explain their present indignation. It is curious and well worth recalling that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), speaking in this Chamber over 30 years ago, prophesied the introduction of this Bill. Speaking in 1925 he told the House of Commons that unless the teachers' superannuation arrangements were made a fund some Minister would plead, as has this Minister, financial necessity as justification for this Measure. The Government at the time pooh-poohed the idea that any one like the two latest Ministers of Education would appear on the scene.
The Duchess of Atholl, who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, said:… it does not seem to us that what happened in 1922 "—that was the betrayal of the Fisher noncontributory scheme:is any reason why any one should fear that any Government will have a capricious policy in regard to teachers pensions.…Tonight's Third Reading debate shows how wrong the Duchess of Atholl was about that, even if right about Spain.
As for Lord Eustace Percy, the Minister, he was categoric on the subject. He said:… under our proposal "—the new proposals of 1925:the Treasury is solely responsible for finding the cash to pay the benefits.He prophesied—he went ahead of the period even of this Minister—that in 45 years' time:… the Treasury will be paying 13 per cent. The whole increased liability must fall on the Treasury."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1925; Vol. 183, c. 1783–1816.]It is no wonder, therefore, that the teachers regard this 6 per cent. as a breach of faith. But I believe that what has embittered them more than anything has been the long-drawn out manoeuvring 1577 of the Government—and of the last Government—over this Bill; the yielding to defeat two years ago and the return two years later with the same punishment. But whatever the main reason, whether Government shuffling over the Bill for two years, or the breach of faith, or the burden of an extra charge on income at a time when they are fighting a battle for increased income, the teachers are certainly angry.
It is a very loyal profession. There are few extra demands—and there have been many made on them in these postwar, expansive and difficult days—that the teachers of England have not loyally risen to. In fact, one must be true and say that, unlike the profession in most Continental countries, the teaching profession in this country is, on the whole, conservative. Heaven knows why, because its salaries have never been cut except by Conservative Governments. I would emphasise that today it is ale staid schoolmasters and the staid schoolmistresses, not just a handful of Communists, who talk wildly about action againt the Government if the Bill passes. It is Mr. Chips who puts down his chalk, takes off his gown and goes about waving the red flag.
I do not think that the Minister can be, or can afford to be, pleased about this. I do not think that he can be happy at the thought that he has turned a sedate group of patriotic and very respectable people into an irate profession. In the process, the right hon. Gentleman has, by this Bill, smashed the school savings movement which was manned, extended and developed year by year by the voluntary labours of the teachers.
Everybody who believes in Britain and in the proper training of our children believes in the value of the work of the National Savings Movement in schools. I know that some people have criticised the action of the teachers in refusing to continue that voluntary service as a protest against this Bill, but I think the teaching profession can quite rightly say that but for the direct action it took over savings very little notice would have been taken of their claim. Those who sneer at the triviality of the gesture might remember that that very triviality springs from the desire of the teaching profession 1578 not to do anything in its fight against this Bill which would hurt education itself.
Hence during the last stages of this Bill the hesitating behaviour of the Executive in moving towards direct action in withdrawing teachers from the work of looking after school meals and then, in the interests of the whole school meals service, the change of policy on the part of the Executive to what I think was a wise decision, not to take that drastic action: but that it was contemplated, and is still advocated by many teachers is some measure of the anger of the teaching profession which has been questioned tonight by an hon. Member.
The fact that a responsible Executive considered operating such a policy, the fact that even now many members of the teaching profession are prepared to withdraw their labour from school meals is something which the Minister can hardly feel very pleased about. Speaking for myself, I hope that when this Bill becomes law, as indeed it must, the teachers will return to their voluntary work on behalf of Britain. Let it be remembered that most of that voluntary work has never ceased. No one can make them do so. What they have withdrawn was, one tiny part—school savings—their own immense voluntary contribution to the nation's education. Having exhausted all constitutional processes against a proposed law, British people usually accept, even if they resent, the law of the land. After all, many people in England have to accept the other bad things which this Government are doing and console themselves in the thought that sooner or later—and it seems a very long time—a General Election must come. There is the consolation, as' the Evening Standard recently said in another context, that "There ain't gonna be another Tory Prime Minister."
But for the time being good will has vanished from the relationships between the teaching profession and the Ministry of Education. There are some good things in this Bill, but the Minister cannot claim credit for them. One group of them was in the Bill which was turned down by the last Parliament. The cost of them is certainly only a mere fraction of the new charge imposed on the teaching profession and local education authorities. As has even been conceded by the Under-Secretary of State for 1579 Scotland who opened the debate, the other group of improvements has been the work of this House in Committee and would not have been in the Bill tonight if the Minister had been able to stampede the Bill through the House of Commons as he sought to do at the end of last year.
I should be out of order if I followed the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland in speaking on Amendments which we should like to have seen, such as one providing for an adequate widows' and orphans' pension scheme. The other main difference between this Bill and the former Bill is an acceptance of a greater share of actuarial liability, a liability which, as my hon. Friend pointed out, this Government will never have to meet. What I think is an alarming feature of the Bill is that it imposes on local education authorities, already burdened excessively by other actions of this Government, a new financial burden of an extra 1 per cent. In addition is an unknown financial burden in the actuarial liability which they will carry for everything beyond the date which the Government have so neatly pin-pointed and fixed in the Report stage tonight.
We cannot in this debate even congratulate the Minister on the handling of the Bill in Committee, although that is usually a pleasant task on Third Reading. I must say that I preferred to the methods of guillotine and gag which were practised earlier in Committee upstairs the Minister's attitude in later Committee stages when he became more reasonable and ended more pleasantly; but having got his own way on the heart of the Bill he could afford to be a little sweeter at the end. His idea of compromise was to give us none of the main improvements which we demanded upstairs.
It will be quite a time before the House debates another Teachers Superannuation Bill. What an opportunity has been lost of making a really worth while settlement and introducing some of the benefits for which the teaching profession has been asking for over a quarter of a century. Tonight we cannot even say that the excellent qualities so poetically narrated by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland outweigh the blemishes which we have tried in vain to remove.
We cannot thank the Minister for letting us allow him to lick his bad Bill 1580 into shape. It would have been pleasant had we been able to refer to the loyal support for the teachers from the benches opposite by those hon. Members who supported them in the last Parliament. Instead, the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) has stood alone, and one congratulates him on his courage in standing alone on the Government side in denunciation of the Bill.
§ Dr. King
That is true. The teachers have to thank the Government benches for making this a party fight by leaving to the Opposition the defence of the teaching profession.
There is a strange fatality about Conservative Ministers of Education. I ventured to prophesy last November that just as the right hon. Gentleman had followed his predecessor in imposing a 6 per cent. contribution on the teaching profession, so he would inevitably follow in slashing the school building programme. I did not think he would do those things so close together.
The Minister began working well. He set up a working party of teachers and local education authorities. He began to negotiate between teachers and local education authorities some kind of compromise. When the local authorities and the teaching profession dug their heels in, the Minister's method was to use the local education authorities as a shield and to impose the charge that the teachers from the beginning had refused to accept. Despite its excellence and despite the advantages of detail in the Bill, it is a bad Bill and I shall vote against it tonight.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) mentioned "big hearted David". Those of us who believe in some kind of spelling reform associate that with the word "Ask-y" and I join with the hon. Lady in being one of the "Ask-ys", which I think is really the correct association of Bighearted Arthurs, in hoping that everything possible will always be done for education and for those who devote their lives to the teaching of our children.
The hon. Lady, however, said that the gravamen of her charge against the Bill is 1581 that the pensions are wholly inadequate. "Inadequacy" is a relative term, and we ought never to forget that a great many—in fact, by far the greatest majority—of the electors have even worse provision for pensions, and many of them have none at all. It is they upon whom, either as ratepayers or as taxpayers, will fall the need to meet the cost of teachers' pensions, and, therefore, there must at all times be a balance between what is desirable and what is possible.
The question of contributory pensions and whether there should be any contribution at all has been brought up. It has two interesting aspects. In the first place, I am on the whole inclined to join with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in thinking there should be no contributions at all.
I think that that will be so, particularly in a period when there are constantly rising costs—when the cost of everything is on the way up.
There is a good deal to be said for the claim that the employer ought not in such circumstances make to it a condition of service that somebody should make a contribution in a currency which is one value at the time of making the contribution and will have, it may be supposed a quite unpredictable lower value at the end of the time—and the time may well be easily 70 years later—when an incoming teacher will stop drawing his pension in respect of the salary contributions which he first made on entry to the service. It seems to me, therefore, that in so far as it is predictable that costs will continue to go up and money down, it could be said that is undesirable to force any employee to pay any contribution.
Another interesting aspect of this matter is that I know that no member of the Civil Service would agree that if there is a non-contributory pension scheme the non-contributoriness of that scheme is not a factor in depressing the salary scale. In other words, it is undoubtedly true that the employer equates and consolidates both the contribution and the salary, and if there is no contribution or even a low contribution the salary tends to be lower than if it is the other way round, with the contribution at the maximum. In other words, both employers and employees add pension contributions to salary in looking at 1582 remuneration. I imagine that that was the reason why the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) agreed with so many hon. Members on this side of the House when the Minister made his concession, very largely as a result of pressure from this side of the House, and postponed the operative date of the Bill to October, when the new salary scales would come into effect and so pay the contested increase of 1 per cent.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams
Would the hon. Member tell us how long an Amendment from this side of the House to postpone the date on which these payments were to be made was on the Order Paper before hon. Members opposite put any Amendment at all on the Order Paper?
§ Mr. Pitman
An Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) was on the Order Paper certainly a week or two before the Standing Committee began to sit. It will be within the recollection of those of us who attended the Standing Committee sittings that we did absolutely nothing except argue procedure for the whole of the time before Christmas, and that the Amendment was not reached until long after. Therefore, the period of Conservative pressure was not only reasonably long but was, moreover, more acceptable in the eyes of "Bighearted David" than was pressure from the other side of the House.
At any rate, the important consideration, and the point which I wish to make is that the hon. Member for Aberavon said in the Standing Committee when that concession was made that that gave the whole of the case in respect of that element of the Bill because it was perfectly clear that the teachers were going to receive an increase of salary which would cover the 1 per cent. increase in contribution which was to come into force at the very same date.
The issue of whether there has been a breach of faith and whether there was an argument in 1925 about the merits of an inscribed account or whether it should be an invested fund, has again been misunderstood today. What was then said referred not to the treatment of any deficiency, but to the security of investment in a fund. In those days we had just returned to the Gold Standard. Prices were coming down and there was 1583 no fear whatever that there would be any substantial deficiency by reason of teachers' salaries going up on an inflationary scale, and making the account deficient. It was in that context that literally nobody raised the question of what would happen if there was a deficiency by reason of a potential inflation in the currency and a monetary increase in finishing salaries. I have read the proceedings of every stage, both in the other place and in this House, and I can assure the House that nobody raised it.
It has been this fact of monetary increases in finishing salaries which has thrown the whole concept of the fund out of the window. Where this Bill is such an immense improvement on the other Bill is that it introduces a final settlement of this inflationary change, whereas the earlier Bill left open for future argument at some future stage what would happen when yet another deficiency arising from further monetary increases would be shown up by the Government Actuary. Of course, that is a tremendous advantage in this Bill.
The reason why we on this side of the House vote for it is that we are now putting the teachers' superannuation future on a solid basis. If we were not passing this Bill tonight there could be objections by the public requiring the Treasury not to pay teachers' pensions because the 1925 Act was not being fully carried out. So, in putting this Bill on the Statute Book, we will be safe-guarding the future of teachers in an issue which is of the highest importance to them.
It has always seemed to me that there are three respects in which this Bill is such an improvement on the previous one. I have said that it no longer leaves the question in the air. Also it no longer is taxing new teachers for the benefit of arrears in respect of existing teachers. The House will remember that in the Bill which did not go through, the incoming teacher and future teachers were to be required to pay more than their fair share, and so to help in meeting the deficiency of the past. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen can laugh if they like, but they have only to turn up the letter sent by the National Union of Teachers to every hon. Member of this House where they will find this clearly stated.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Would the hon. Gentleman consult the right hon. Lady the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) on this point?
§ Dame Florence Horsbrugh (Manchester, Moss Side)
No, I would prefer my hon. Friend not to do so. My lips are sealed.
§ Mr. Pitman
My right hon. Friend's lips are sealed, but I know that she has on her files the letter which I have on my files from the National Union of Teachers. That was the particular point printed in the blackest type and was a very sore one. If the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) doubts me, I can show him the correspondence—and will undertake publicly to withdraw if the circular from the National Union of Teachers is not found to be as I say.
§ Mr. Pitman
The reference is that this Bill is a better one than the Bill which we did not pass previously.
§ Mr. Pitman
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will refresh his memory from the actual papers which I will see that he sees, as well as the right hon. Member for South Shields. I undertake—
§ Mr. Pitman
The two real enemies of the teacher are inflation and the penury of the finance of local authorities. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the Government."] Inflation makes finishing salaries out of line with past contributions and makes it extremely difficult for teachers' pensions to be kept going. The other enemy of the teachers is our system of local government finance which, being based on rates, is equated to rents which have been stabilised since 1918. What hon. Members opposite ought to do is to help in the improvement of local government finance so that it is not hamstrung and so that the employer of the teacher need not be in such dire straits looking about for the last penny on every issue.
1585 It is recognised in the House that the National Union of Teachers has done a first-class job in bringing forward the grievances of teachers in respect of not only the current pensions Measure, but of the whole conditions of service. However, I think the time has now come when it might well settle down and operate this Measure and then go for the fundamental things which really concern it, being satisfied that it has got security behind it in respect of the pensions scheme.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Moss
As the clock beats out… the little lives of men …I shall be extremely brief. I shall not follow the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) into the question of the standards by which to judge pensions schemes. It seems to me that he bases his opinion on the jingle:Here we suffer grief and pain.Across the road it's just the same,But very much worse next door.Nor should we judge the Bill by comparison with the last Measure.
The Secretary of State for Scotland said that the Bill had had a long and troublesome passage and that it had emerged a better Bill—
§ Mr. Moss
I agree that it has emerged a better Bill than it was when it started. The hon. Gentleman went on to give a long list of the minor improvements which will make life sweeter for teachers. He omitted the major improvement which was referred to in The Times Educational Supplement of 2nd March as the major concession of the Committee stage. That was simply the postponement of the Bill until later this year. We do not postpone a good thing; we postpone a bad thing.
I will try briefly to state our objections to the Bill even though it is a better one now, always remembering that the circumstances of our times demand and justify a generosity towards teachers in that we need teachers in greater numbers and of better quality for the enormous tasks that have to be performed in this country.
First of all, it is not the kind of Bill that teachers want, and because of that it has to be forced upon them. Throughout the 1586 progress of the Bill we have had to bear constantly in mind that it is being imposed upon the teaching profession. That is a major political error. Secondly, it increases teachers' contributions to 6 per cent. at a time when such an increase is least justified and when it is bound to be regarded as a cut in salary. Therefore, it seems to me that we are right to oppose the Third Reading of the Bill on the ground that it is a Bill that the teachers do not want and that it discourages teachers at a time when the need for them is very great indeed.
§ 9.15 p.m.
Earlier in the day I said that the House well knew what my attitude to the Bill was. I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) is not in his place for the Third Reading, because he would have been amply rewarded for showing care and solicitude for my voice by the fact that I am at last on my feet today.
As I said, the House well knew what my attitude to the Bill was and I want to say immediately that that attitude has not changed. I do not wish to deploy the reasons. I deployed them sufficiently on Second Reading. I objected to the Bill, and I still, do because of the principle of the payment of the 6 per cent. contribution. On 1918 we were promised a scheme free from contribution; a compulsory levy came in 1923, and it was legalised in 1925 by Act of Parliament. Now we have the attempt to get a 6 per cent. contribution. My second reason is the omission from the Bill of an adequate and efficient scheme for widows and orphans.
The Bill is vastly improved from what it was at Second Reading and for that I am grateful. We are told that all these ills of the 6 per cent. contribution are surmounted, because the date for the imposition of the 6 per cent. contribution and the date of the salary increases are synchronised. I have never recognised the principle that the two could be dealt with together. I have never recognised the principle that the Burnham Committee will accept an extra 1 per cent. contribution from teachers' salaries as an adequate reason for discussing a salary increase. For those reasons, I still oppose the Bill and I will go into the Division Lobby against the Government on the Third Reading.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I am sure the whole House will wish to compliment the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) upon his courage in stating his convictions as he has done tonight. After his speech, there is very little more that need be said in condemnation of the Bill. At this stage we all recognise that it is a sordid bargain between the Minister and his back benchers in which he has given some amelioration of the previous Bill in order to get his way with the 6 per cent. contribution. Nothing can disguise from the teachers the fact that in October instead of in April they will be paying 6 per cent. instead of 5 per cent. of their salaries. If that is not a reduction in salary, I do not know what is.
In return for that, teachers are supposed to have additional benefits, but they are benefits which are long overdue and very small. They have a pension scheme which does not meet the case at all, which does not yet exist and which can come about only as a result of a long process of negotiation. There is the wiping out of the actuarial deficiency, which never was the responsibility of teachers and which we believe should not at this stage be made the responsibility of the local authorities. There is only the delay of six months.
These few improvements have been gained because the teachers have been making a song and dance and it is absolutely certain that if they had not made that song and dance when the Bill was introduced, there would have been none of these so-called improvements. The Minister has missed a golden opportunity to give a dynamic lead to the teaching profession in its long and hazardous march towards a better professional status. I very much regret that, because he had the good will of the profession at the beginning of his term of office. That good will has now gone.
I cannot accept his linking of the increase in contribution with the increase of pay. What is certain is that there will be an increase in contribution. What is not at the moment certain is what the increase in pay will be. I agree with the teachers at the meeting in Central Hall when they displayed a placard which the Minister quotes in his own favour. It said:What the teachers want are more shekels and less Eccles.1588 The result of the Bill will be fewer shekels than the teachers are entitled to receive.
My final word is this. I hope the teachers will derive a lesson from the way they have been treated over this Measure and will act accordingly in the future. The Minister has upset every interest in the teaching profession, the teachers, the local authorities, and all concerned. I hope the House will reject the Third Reading of this Bill tonight.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
We are now at the last stage in the unhappy history of this Bill. If one were to try and relate its unhappy history, I suppose one would have to begin by referring to the fact that it is an attempt to do something which was attempted rather more than a year ago in the previous Bill on these lines introduced by the Government but, more prudently, withdrawn.
The proverb says that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. How much either of the appellations in the proverb are applicable respectively to the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh), I must leave the House to judge. Having resolved to rush in. the right hon. Gentleman opened the Second Reading debate on the Bill. It was remarkable during that debate how little support the Bill received from any of the back benches opposite. Such speeches as there were from those back benches on that December day were either coldly pedantic, icily critical or plainly hostile to the Government's intention.
It was not long before the Government found that not only did they lack any warmth of support from their own benches but that they had aroused the hostility of the teaching profession. I commend to the Minister's attention what was said on this matter by my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen (Dr. King). He said that the Minister should not underrate the degree of hostility which he has caused. If, out of patience and public spirit, the teaching profession have decided not to proceed to some of the very powerful sanctions which they could have employed if they wished, I hope that the Minister will not quote, and none of his supporters will quote, that as any evidence of the reconciling of the profession to the Bill.
1589 If they should try to pray in their aid the moderation of the teaching profession, they will be inviting the teaching profession to listen to wilder and less moderate counsels.
The Minister next attempted to rush the whole proceedings through the Standing Committee. Some of us remember very well a rather deplorable meeting of that Committee before Christmas. So anxious was the Government to rush the Bill through that they were prepared to hold that meeting of the Committee although the simple requisite of an adequate room for the Committee to meet in had not been provided.
Then, after the Committee had been at work on the Bill for some time, the Government announced that they would do what they had previously said was impossible, namely, have the Bill discussed in two Committees, the ordinary Standing Committee and the Scottish Committee simultaneously.
Having changed its mind, one would have hoped, for the better, on that point, they then proceeded to make that divided treatment of the Bill—as my hon. Friend the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire (Miss Herbison) has pointed out—an excuse for rushing the Scottish part of the Bill and for trying to play off the two Committees one against the other, using in each Committee the argument that the business must be hurried on because the other Committee had already dealt with some point or other. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North dealt with that, and pointed out how ill this assorts with the claim, or promise, of the Government that they would try to see that Scottish affairs were properly discussed by hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies.
Then, as the discussions in the Committee proceeded, the Government had to change their plans about the Bill. To begin with, it had been thought imperative to make this Bill law by 31st March of this year. It required only a little appreciation of the treatment so liberally provided by my right hon. and hon. Friends during the Committee discussions to make the Minister realise that that necessity was not quite so pressing as he had imagined, and the date of the operation of the Bill was altered.
I think that it was at about that stage that two of the Government supporters, in 1590 the happy phrase of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) decided that it was better to accept office, even in the present Administration, than to continue with the distasteful task of being members of a Committee that was rushing this Bill through. Meanwhile, the way in which the Government had handled the matter—first in one Committee and then in two Committees, first with the idea of it becoming law in March and later with the idea of it becoming law in October—obliged them to reconsider the Money Resolution on which all Committee discussions on the Bill had been based. Having first reconsidered the Money Resolution and produced one new Money Resolution, they considered it again and produced another—and we on this side of the House had something to say about that.
Then we found that it was necessary to recommit the Bill in respect of certain Clauses, and Amendments—Government Amendments—continued to drop gently on to the Notice Paper day by day until almost the last day before the Bill came before the House for Report and Third Reading.
One might have thought that, with all this elaborate if rather inept gestation, the Bill would be a really good and well thought out Measure now that it has at last arrived at the Third Reading stage. But no. If one looks at every point at which an attempt has been made to improve the Bill, one is left with a feeling of being tantalised; with a feeling of disappointment; with a feeling that the Government have attempted something under pressure and, either through lack of will or ability, have botched the job.
For example, there is a Clause in the Bill about widows, orphans, and dependants. In its first form, parts of that Clause were almost unintelligible, or if they were intelligible, they did not express the meaning that the Government intended. We had to have Amendments this afternoon to make clearer, as was admitted by the Government, what was really the intention of the Government. One has only to look at that Clause about widows and orphans to say immediately to oneself, "What a pity that the Government, when introducing a Bill containing a Clause about a widows', orphans' and dependants' pension scheme, should 1591 not have seen to it that there was a scheme worth putting into the Bill."
We know the excuse of the Minister for that, or perhaps one should say excuses, because they have been almost as multitudinous as the number of Money Resolutions introduced during the course of this Bill. What did he tell us during the Second Reading debate? He said, "I ask hon. Members to let me go on trying to negotiate." I submit to the House that anyone who listened to those words was bound to come to the conclusion that the Minister—not merely the particular person holding that office at the moment—but that the Minister was anxious to negotiate with local authorities, and that difficulties with the local authorities were what really stood in the way. But when the Bill reached the Committee stage it became quite clear that even if the local authorities had been prepared to negotiate, the Government were not. It is impossible for anyone to read what the Minister said upon those two occasions and to feel that he was being really candid with the House when he expressed what was in his mind.
Again, it is a good thing to have a Clause about "buying in" employment of value to teachers. But why, if we have that Clause, must we also have that tiresome subsection (5), which the Government find it so difficult to justify? It is also good to have a Clause which allows teachers in independent schools to come into the pension scheme, but why could not the Government have gone a little further along the lines of an Amendment which I proposed during the Committee stage?
One has only to look at all the improvements made in the Bill to say to oneself, "If there had been either the will or the skill, this Bill might have been so much better." One feels that the real purpose of the Bill—to which I shall turn in a moment—is to take money out of the pockets of teachers and local authorities, and that the conciliatory parts of the Bill are ill-prepared and stuck in here and there like extravagant bits of icing upon an ill-baked cake.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the lack of Government support which was so apparent during the Second Reading debate has been equally apparent in the debate upon the Third Reading. I have 1592 been present throughout this debate except for periods totalling slightly less than thirty minutes, and I have carefully observed the help which has been given to the Government by hon. Members opposite. There was the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman), who explained to us the reasons why he thought that a non-contributory scheme would be a really good thing. As a defence of a Bill which proposes to raise contributions from 5 per cent. to 6 per cent., an exposition of the case for having contributions of 0 per cent. is not really very helpful—admirable as the exposition was in itself. The hon. Member for Bath also said that he thought it was an excellent thing that the coming into force of the Bill had been postponed. That is not exactly the kind of testimonial that I should want for a Bill, if I were the Minister introducing it to the House.
The hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) praised the Minister, as we all did, for having inserted a Clause about monthly payments. That made the Minister hope that he had a real friend, but something else was to come from the hon. Member to which I shall refer shortly. Another hon. Member, whose constituency I am afraid I forget, said, "Hear, hear," when the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was moving a drafting Amendment. The hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) showed that all the arguments which had been introduced between the Second Reading debate and now had failed to change his opinion that this was a bad Bill, and that he was going to vote against it. Then came the other remark of the hon. Member for Walton. We have said some unkind things about the Minister, but I do not think that any of us has told him to go and search his conscience.
§ Mr. Stewart
That has been the rather shoddy manner in which the Bill has been not so much passed through Parliament as trailed through it.
What does the Bill do? I have deliberately restricted my comments upon that question, since so much has already been said upon the main arguments. It is worth while, however, to notice that it makes certain minor improvements for 1593 teachers. Nobody denies that. But a great many had to be made under pressure, and nobody will suggest that they are of such a nature that, if one said to the teaching profession, "Now, here is the unpleasant part of the Bill, and here are the improvements; do you think that it is worth while?" that profession would give any answer but an emphatic "No."
Not merely the most recently joined and least well-informed members of the profession, but the solid, responsible officials, with the whole weight and responsibility of their past behind them, would say quite plainly that the minor improvements in the Bill are no justification for its main objects.
Then the Bill does that for which the Government have given themselves much credit. Rarely have a Government given themselves so much credit as we have heard them claim during the various stages of the Bill. It has been the most remarkable performance of that kind since the Emperor Caligula awarded himself a triumph for a pretended victory over the waters of the English Channel.
What is this writing off of liability? The liability was the Government's from the beginning; it is important to make that clear. I want to pray in aid not a partisan of ours, not an unthinking zealot from the teaching profesion, but the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) who said in the Scottish Standing Committee, on this matter of where the liability lay:I came to the conclusion that the observations made by the then Minister for Education, Lord Eustace Percy, now Lord Percy of Newcastle, to the late Sir Henry Craik and the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) did constitute a pledge on behalf of the Government that the rate of contribution would not be raised in future.… I still interpret it as a pledge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 14th February, 1956; c. 105–6.]That is so. It is impossible to read what Lord Percy said on that occasion and read into it any other meaning.
The Government will argue that he was talking about whether we ought to have a fund or an account. That was the particular peg on which his statement was hung, but because he said a thing in that connection cannot alter the content of what he said. The burden of his argument was that for a long period 1594 ahead, and until conditions about the payment of pensions had been realised, which have not been realised yet and are not likely to be realised for many years, there ought to be no question of raising the rate of contribution.
That is why we say that when the Government talk about writing off the liability they are merely saying, "We accept a liability which has been ours all the time." That is no excuse for saying, "We accept a past liability which is an obligation which we have to honour, so we are justified in pushing off on to somebody else a future liability which is really ours."
The Government are pushing off on to local authorities and to teachers a burden that should properly be borne by the central Government. The teachers are told that they can get it back through the Burnham negotiations. Is the Minister sincere in that? If so, it means that the whole of the burden which the Government are pushing from their shoulders will come back on to the local authorities. We say that there is nothing in present-day local authority finance to make it either just or sensible to shift part of the cost of education from the central towards the local government.
The Government are not, as they are trying to represent, engaged in heroically handling a grave situation which sooner or later would have threatened teachers' pensions. The legal liability to pay these pensions is, under present legislation, where it has always been, on the central Government. That is the situation. Instead of a heroic handling of a situation we have, on the one hand a smug assumption by the Government of virtue because they are meeting part of a liability the whole of which is really theirs, and on the other an attempt to dodge a future liability and an attempt to make that transaction palatable by concessions most of which have had to be extracted from the Government, and all of which will be regarded by those to whom they are offered as quite inadequate in return for the injury and insult that are being offered to the teaching profession.
We ought to emphasise that one of the main grounds for rejecting the Bill is that the deliberate singling out of teachers in this fashion is taken to be a 1595 measure of the Government's general contempt for popular education. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Hon. Members opposite have had plenty of opportunity during the afternoon to tell us why the Government have introduced the Bill. They have not been able to put forward any suggestions, and I am now putting forward mine. I say that the manner in which the Bill has been trailed through is an affront to Parliament, and the matter which it contains is an affront to education.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I wondered if there would be any new argument put forward against the central proposition in the Bill that the teachers' contribution and the local authority's contribution should be raised by 1 per cent. There are no new arguments, so all that I can do is to restate, as well as I can in the time available, what we feel about the old ones.
Four criticisms have been put forward by hon. Members opposite. First, they said that Clause 2, which raises the contribution, was unnecessary, secondly, that it was a breach of faith, thirdly, that it was treating the teachers worse than other people—picking upon them—and fourthly, that it was a cut in salary. I do not think I need spend much time on the proposition that it is unnecessary. We have heard from time to time insinuations that actuarial calculations are all very unreal, and that because the account has a credit balance we might have postponed this Measure for some years. I do not think that leading members of the teaching profession will support that.
The fact is that the actuaries are the basis of the whole of the British insurance industry, and have a great reputation. It is no good one profession thinking that it can make a case by denigrating another. The actuaries have told us that, leaving on one side the whole of the deficiency which the Exchequer has to bear by itself, a total contribution of 12 per cent. is necesary as from 1st April next to support the known benefits. I believe that is really not in dispute. The working party went into these calculations very carefully. Therefore, I propose to dismiss all the criticism that it is unnecessary to increase the income from one source or another.
1596 The next argument is that it is a breach of faith. It is said that to ask the teaching profession to pay more than 5 per cent. out of the 12 per cent. which is now necessary breaks faith with pledges given in the past. That was repeated just now. I completely disagree, and so does legal opinion which we have consulted many times, with the view put forward by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart).
The 1925 Act contains no specific provisions for dealing with a deficiency. It implies that should such a deficiency be revealed, it has to be met by increased contributions from teachers or employers or both. It makes no distinction. I will read the relevant words of Section 15 (1) of the Act. Since I am charged with breach of faith, I think that I should make some reply. The Section states:… the Treasury shall cause an actuarial inquiry to be made for the purpose of determining whether on the basis of the said account the contributions payable under this Part of this Act are sufficient or more than sufficient, or less than sufficient, to support the benefits payable thereunder in respect of those contributions.All pension schemes of this kind have in them a safeguard for the members of the scheme in the shape of periodic valuations. There is no point in arranging in a scheme, as was done in 1925, for the Government Actuary to look at the figures once so often if, when those valuations reveal that the income is not sufficient to build the account up to meet the known liabilities, nothing is done about it. In that Act there is nothing to say that it is the Exchequer's business to carry the whole deficiency.
Then the hon. Gentleman opposite quotes Lord Eustace Percy, and quotes my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) as saying that Lord Eustace Percy meant what Lord Eustace Percy has said he did not mean. I prefer to trust Lord Eustace Percy rather than an interpretation put upon him.
§ Sir D. Eccles
He was President of the Board of Education, a man who is most respected in the teaching profession and chairman of the Burnham Committee. It is quite clear that what he was referring to related to the question of whether 1597 there should be a fund or an account, and I believe him.
I think that I can best show the position we were in when contemplating the Clauses of this Bill by giving a short recital of the state of the teachers' account as it is today. The income of the account today in respect of England and Wales is £26 million a year. Of this, £18 million is derived from the 10 per cent. on the Teachers' salaries—5 per cent. from teachers and 5 per cent. from local authorities. The sum of £8 million is the 3½ per cent. interest—which is a very favourable rate—accruing on the present credit balance in the account. That makes £26 million. The Actuary shows in his calculation that we require £40 million a year if the account is to be built up to meet the known liabilities; so we are £14 million short.
It is our duty to find that £14 million. For the sake of the teachers it must be found from somewhere. Under this Bill an amount of £10 million is found by adding a notional capital sum to the balance in the Account. This is interest at 3½ per cent. on the sum added to the account and wholly borne by the taxpayer. That leave £4 million, and that is found as to £2 million by the employers—grant-aided by the Exchequer—and as to £2 million by the teachers, both paying 1 per cent. more. Therefore, out of £14 million additional revenue required to make the account solvent as the liabilities are known today £2 million is asked for from the teachers. That is not a breach of faith.
I now turn to the next point. Is it worth it? What do the teachers get for being asked to pay £2 million out of the £14 million? They get a very substantial amount. I would stress first Clause 4 of the Bill, because that Clause does what the teachers have wanted all the time and have never had before—statutory relief from finding any part of any future deficiency. This is a very valuable change in the teachers' pension scheme. We can see how valuable it is this very day.
This very day the Secretary of State for Scotland has signed an order for a 7 per cent, interim increase in Scottish teachers' salaries. Clause 4 begins to operate. The result of adding 7 per cent—which is, after all, only an interim increase in teachers' salaries—is that when the 1598 account is next valued the employers in Scotland—the Scottish local authorities—will have to pay 7 per cent; they will have to pay 1 per cent. more, because that is the result of raising teachers' salaries with the corresponding increase in their pensions.
One would suppose that it cannot be very long before the English teachers and the Welsh teachers also get some increase in salary. As soon as they do, the benefit of Clause 4 will begin to operate. Something had to be given to get Clause 4. That was the bones of the bargain, that the account should start on 1st April next with 12 per cent. evenly divided and, in return for that, the employers should take on all future deficiencies. It may well be that they will be paying 8 per cent., 9 per cent., even 10 per cent., while the teachers continue to pay 6 per cent. That is safeguarded in the Bill.
A wide range of minor benefits have been mentioned. I very much doubt if any teacher, when he carefully looks at this Bill, would say that he would willingly go back to 5 per cent. and have no security in future and none of these many small, but—in their cumulative effect—attractive changes in their favour.
The next argument that is advanced by the teachers is, "Whatever contributions are necessary, why pick on us to pay any more?" They say that no other body of public servants in service has been asked to pay an increased contribution for their pensions. When one looks at that argument one sees that it turns against the teachers because it draws attention to the fact that in putting it forward the teachers are not asking for equal treatment for themselves, but for discrimination very heavily in their favour compared with any other body of public servants.
The teachers fail to recognise the unique position of their pension account. The Actuary told us as long ago as 1935 that the 10 per cent. was insufficient and that a deficiency was building up. Soon afterwards, in 1937, contributions to the local government pensions scheme were increased from 5 per cent. to 6 per cent. It is of course true that the increase applied to new entrants only, but why was that? It was because there was a very small deficiency at that time and, what is much more important, the 1922 Act, under which they were operating, had 1599 already placed the responsibility for deficiencies on the employer. Nothing of that kind is in the Teachers' Act.
§ Mr. Ross
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that that was pointed out at the time by Willie Graham, the former hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. When he drew attention to this suggestion, which the Government now claim is a vice which has wrecked the scheme from the start, the then Government proclaimed as a virtue?
§ Sir D. Eccles
That may be, but the fact remains that the teachers have had their pensions more cheaply than local government servants for the past 20 years. For example, the teacher retiring in 10 years' time will have paid in rather less than one-third of the benefit he will get. He can take off his hat to other local government servants and say, "I have got my pension and lump sum considerably cheaper than yours." I do not think there is any case whatever for saying that they have had discrimination against them; rather the opposite.
Of course the fundamental objection is that this is a cut in salary. The Government have always recognised that, and, as an hon. Member opposite said, the poster which pleased the teachers most said, "More shekels, less Eccles." That represents the teachers' point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not mind that in the least, because they are going to get more shekels. Al] the attempts made by hon. Members opposite to say that the pension has to be treated as something entirely separate from the salary are entirely unrealistic. In point of fact all professional men and women when considering the financial advantages of their job consider both the pension rate and the salary together.
That is why we postponed the date of the Bill, because it would be a hardship for the teachers to have to pay 1 per cent. more, having regard to the rise in the cost of living, before they get their three-yearly salary increase. That has been arranged for. The Bill has been postponed and hon. Members opposite know very well that the letters and the agitation in the country ceased directly this was known.
I want to say a word about widows and orphans. Hon. Members may not have 1600 realised—it is my fault for not telling them—the extent of the repercussions. Such a scheme would have to be extended to local government and National Health Service employees. There are 120,000 men teachers and 530,000 men in the service of local government and the National Health Service. I calculate that any contribution put up by the Government towards a widows' and orphans' scheme if extended to these other bodies would cost three and a half times the amount needed for teachers alone. That is a much larger financial repercussion than we had realised.
To those who, like myself, feel that one day a contributory widows' and orphans' scheme must come, I would say that in present financial circumstances I think it is better for the teachers that such money as is going should be concentrated on their direct interests than that we should have to go through this very long process not knowing exactly where it would end.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is the Minister indicating that such a widows' and orphans' scheme is bound to be linked with local government and the Health Service?
§ Sir D. Eccles
It would be very hard—and I think hon. Members opposite would see to it that we thought it was very hard—to bring in a scheme of this kind for one section of local government employees and not for the others.
I want finally to echo the appeal of the hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King). Now that we have been through the constitutional processes of getting the Bill to its Third Reading, I hope the teachers will realise that the time they have been spending thinking about the 1 per cent. has been out of all proportion to the importance of the 1 per cent. They have much bigger things to go for. All round, the Government are increasing the scale of education. We must have the teachers with us in that. They care about it as much as we do. When one thinks that 1 per cent. is what all this trouble has been about and that my right hon. Friend has today given plus 7 per cent. as an interim increase in salary, it does appear to be out of proportion.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 285, Noes 235.1605
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.