§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government (Financial Loss Allowance)Regulations, 1957 (S.I., 1957, No. 1068), dated 24th June, 1957, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th June, be annulled.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I wonder if it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss this and the other Prayer on the Order Paper together. Would that be so?
§ Mr. Mitchison
I understand so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Perhaps the most convenient plan would be for me to move it formally, because I shall not dare to say anything about it. The Prayer raises a somewhat similar point in relation to Scotland—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government (Travelling Allowances, etc.)(Scotland)Amendment Regulations, 1957 (S.I., 1957, No. 1089), dated 21st June, 1957, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th June, be annulled.The English Regulations increase the allowance made to councillors and certain other people engaged on bodies broadly similar to councils for financial loss; that is to say, to put it more 1205 accurately, under the Act under which these Regulations are made, to compensate
a council, in the instance I have taken.
- "(a)loss of earnings which he would otherwise have made; or
- (b)additional expense (other than expense on account of travelling or subsistence)to which he would not otherwise have been subject, is necessarily suffered or incurred by him for the purpose of enabling him to perform any approved duty as a member of"
I must make it perfectly clear that these are Regulations increasing the allowance. What I propose to say tonight is that, although the increase is not large enough, I need not trouble any hon. Member with apprehensions of a Division on the matter. This is, as we see it, half a cake; but we are not going to go back to sheer starvation if we cannot get a whole one.
The question is really a simple one. The Act originally laid down a statutory limit for these expenses. That was the Local Government Act, 1948. By a Private Member's Bill, which I introduced myself and which, ultimately, became the Act of 1953, the statutory limit was, with the agreement of the Tory Government at the time, removed, and there was substituted for it a limit to be given effect to by Regulations from time to time.
Since that Act there has been only one set of Regulations, which came into force on 30th March, 1954, and prescribed limits of 15s. for absence, not extending more than four hours, from home or place of work, and, if the period was more than four hours, 30s. The effect of these Regulations is to increase the 15s. for four hours to 20s. and the 30s. for a longer period to 40s.
These Regulations are apt to follow rather than precede any increase in the average standard of pay and earnings. They seem to me in this instance to be based on some look at any rate at what the average weekly earnings are at the present time. The only statistics I know published are the average weekly statistics of manual wage-earners in the United Kingdom in the manufacturing and certain other industries. The last available figures which I have been able to trace are those which were published in March of this year relating to October of last year. I take the figure for men first. 1206 That was 237s. 11d. The figure common to men and women adults was 200s. 8d.
But I suggest that in this case at any rate the man's figure is the right figure to take. It may well be that that is the one at which the right hon. Gentleman has looked in framing these Regulations. If we take the average number of hours worked, it results in 4s. 11 d. per hour, and for four hours that is roughly the £1 which appears in the Regulations. If we take a 5½day week it is not quite so close, but it broadly conforms.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman who, in the debate we have just finished, has been expressing his enthusiasm for local government, would not wish to penalise those people who give their voluntary services to councils and, in consequence, lose some earnings. In that spirit I ask him, is it really enough? I will tell him the two points which I have in mind.
The first is that which I mentioned just now. The figures with which, broadly speaking, the Regulations conform, appear to relate to October, 1956. I am not concerned with the merits or demerits of particular earnings or rates of pay at the moment; they have nothing whatever to do with the question that I am asking the House to consider. I am talking about the mere fact, which is that these average weekly earnings have been rising steadily for some time past. Consequently, what may have been a good test in October, 1956, is not a good test now because we are about nine months late, and it would certainly not be a good test later on unless, for some reason or other, the trend that has prevailed for many years now is reversed.
There is nothing irrevocable about these Regulations; that was the Object of having the matter dealt with by Regulations instead of by Statute. If, surprisingly, the present inflationary trend conies to some abrupt end or is even completely reversed, there is nothing to prevent new Regulations being made to meet those circumstances. But we must take the probabilities as they are at the minute, and they are that these allowances based upon the October, 1956, figures are insufficient now and will be more insufficient in the fairly early future.
In spite of the continuous rise in earnings—the figures in respect of which I 1207 believe are relevant for these purposes—the previous set of Regulations had been in force for over three years before these appeared. So, on rising prices, they are not a very elastic form of Regulation. They may be more elastic if prices suddenly fall. One knows the hand of the Treasury in these matters, and I do not wish to put too much upon the right hon. Gentleman, because I am asking him quite seriously to reconsider what I believe to be an insufficiently progressive decision.
I now take the second point, which is that these are maximum allowances. Consequently, there will be many people, even in the field of the manual wage earners in manufacturing and certain other industries, who will be earning more than this and whose financial loss will be a good deal more than the average. I again appeal in the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members have been speaking in the course of the debate that has just finished; we are really anxious that local government should flourish.
We are anxious that local government should include people of all kinds, and be representative of all types of the community. I am sure that in that matter I can rely on the support of the whole House. Taking only the manual wage earners for the moment, it is clear that if we base our figure on the average we shall rule out a great many people above it from fair treatment. They will recover only at the average figure, and they have, in fact, suffered what I am supposing at the moment to be a much greater loss.
It may be said, what about the people who may not lose? The answer is that these figures have to be vouched for, and any district auditor doing his duty—I am sure all district auditors do their duty—would at once ask the most awkward questions if he were presented with a series of claims amounting to the maximum from any council. It is the duty of the council in the first place, and that of the district auditor in the second place, to see that members of councils claim and recover only the losses they have actually suffered. As I understand it, therefore, these are maximum figures in the full and proper sense of the word.
Is there to be any upper limit at all? I can see a theoretical case for saying 1208 that people who give voluntary service to councils and to the community should not suffer financial loss in so doing. I think there is a case for saying that kind of thing. But here we have an example of the sort of compromise which has characterised so many of our institutions and forms of government. We say that we cannot make good the professional earnings of, let us say, an exceedingly successful surgeon or lawyer who chooses to give time to local government. We must have some sort of notional limit, but it should not be a notional limit of the average of manual wage earners in what are called manufacturing and certain other industries.
If something is not done about this, we shall go on doing exactly the same thing as has been done twice already. It was a Labour Government—hon. Members can say it if they want to—that put the statutory limit before. I am not concerned with that. The statutory limit was undoubtedly wrong, and with the assent of all hon. Members, a regulation limit was substituted for it. We say that at that moment it became the duty of the right hon. Gentleman, or his predecessor, to look at what was a reasonable maximum; that is to say, to rule out the very high earning cases, but certainly not to consider a limit so low that people of the earning capacity of, let us say, skilled manual workers, or people of the earning capacity—one can think of various other sorts, clerical and, perhaps, lower professional grades and so on—should have to suffer financial loss when attending a council meeting.
It is disgraceful that that should happen. After all, we are paid for our services as Members of this House and councillors are not. We must remember that. There are thousands of people, many of whom have served for years on public authorities, who do not get paid for giving the benefit of experience and ability which, in some competitive and commercial spheres, would attract a considerable remuneration. These people give their services free, and surely the least we can do for them is to see that they do not lose by it. Both political parties do not find it at all easy to get sufficient candidates who can manage to serve on these local authorities. What is the reason? The main reason is that they cannot afford the time. That does 1209 not mean that they want to stay at home and do nothing. In most cases it simply means that they cannot afford to lose the money which that time represents in their weekly budget.
I have met hundreds of such cases, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, who has had a great deal of experience of local government, will agree with what I have said. I appeal to him to reconsider this matter and see that a real maximum is put to it. Of course, the expenses must be vouched; that is the right safeguard; but he should not put the limit at such a figure that a substantial number of people who clearly are of the type and have the capacity one wants on local councils are ruled out because they cannot afford the time.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
I beg to second the Motion.
I think my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)has established a case for increasing the proposed allowance, although he has not stipulated a particular amount. In 1954 the allowance for less than four hours was 15s. and for four hours or more it was 20s. The proposal before us is that it should be increased to 20s. and 40s. My hon. and learned Friend has put forward an admirable case for getting the professional type of people interested in local government work.
This afternoon we have been debating local government finance, and hon. Members on both sides of the House have stressed the desirability of making local government work attractive so that those who desire to serve and devote their time and energy to that valuable work in our democracy might be encouraged and not discouraged from doing so. Here is one of those pin-pricking, pettifogging things which irritate and annoy members of local authorities.
The 20s. and 40s. now suggested were suggested by the local authorities in Scotland in 1954. We all recognise that in the last three years there has been an upward trend in wage and salary levels. It seems a bit of an insult to compensate members of local authorities at the present rates. My hon. and learned Friend has put forward an excellent case for improving them.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
The right hon. and learned Member for Kettering——
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I hope I am anticipating, and not by too long a time. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes)took the House back to 1954. I suspect they did so by design, because they must know that the story really began in July, 1948, when the Labour Government, with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)as Minister of Health and the late Joseph Westwood as Secretary of State for Scotland, invited Lord Lindsay——
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
My right hon. Friend the late Joseph Westwood left the Scottish Office in October, 1947.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I was going to quote the minute of appointment signed by the late Mr. Joseph Westwood, but the hon. Gentleman is quite right. It was in 1946 that the minute of appointment of what is known as the Lindsay Committee was signed. That Committee was the inter-Departmental Committee presided over by Lord Lindsay of Birker, which examined in great detail the whole question of the extent to which local government representatives ought to be remunerated or ought to be compensated for the time spent on local government work.
That Committee, whose Report is a mine of information on the subject, said that the wealth of evidence presented to it was quite generally in favour of the view that local authority service was a service which was at its best when given voluntarily, when men and women gave their time without hope of recompense or material reward and that, in doing that, most of them conciously faced the fact that they would have to undergo certain financial hardships. But the Committee then went on to examine where hardship ended and personal sacrifice began. It said that whilst hardship would be accepted personal sacrifice of a considerable degree should not.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
No, I re-read the Report quite recently, and I am quite sure the hon. Gentleman will see that that is the case.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I could quote paragraphs 41 and 42 if the hon. Gentleman wanted me to do so, but I do not want to take up the time of the House at this hour of the night.
The point really is that the conclusions to which the Committee unanimously came with one exception—a right hon. Member who is still a Member of this House signed a minority Report—was that it ought to be mandatory upon local authorities to pay travelling expenses and subsistence allowances and to recompense for loss of earning time. That is the point which we are on at present.
Why I say that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central did not go far enough back is because I think that they ought to have reminded the House that the recommendation of the Lindsay Committee was that there should be a statutory limitation of 10s. for half a day and 20s. for a full day as compensation for loss of earnings, and that such compensation should be a maximum. The Government of the day, which happened to be a Labour Government, indicated that those should be the figures.
If that figure were right in 1948, then in today's circumstances, with the difference in the value of the £, I cannot believe that there ought to be an increase of more than 100 per cent. The increase proposed is exactly 100 per cent. For 10s. for a half-day in 1948, enacted by the Labour Government, we read 20s., and for 20s. for a full day in 1948, enacted by the Labour Government, we read 40s. It is an increase of 100 per cent. I cannot believe that this is not enough.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
This is one of the attractive Parliamentary occasions on which the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)moves to 1212 annul Regulations and says in the same breath that he does not wish them annulled, that he welcomes them and that he would have preferred them to go further. We can discuss these matters in an amicable spirit. I am extremely glad that we have this opportunity of discussing the Regulations, which I laid about a month ago.
Although in Scotland the history goes back further, in England and Wales the matter dates from the appointment of the inter-Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Lindsay of Birker in July, 1946. Lord Lindsay of Birker was at one time my tutor and was master of my college, and although he never converted me to Socialism, I learned a great deal from him and I am happy to pay that tribute in the House.
He and his Committee produced an almost unanimous Report. They reported in April, 1947, and they recommended that there should be allowances forloss of remunerative timeand that theyshould be subject to a maximum £1 for a full day and 10s. for half a day.That was in April, 1947. It was about a year later that the Labour Government legislated on this matter. When these scales came into operation the cost of living had risen, as it rose continuously through the period of that Government; and yet they stuck to the recommendations of £1 and 10s. It hardly lies with the hon. and learned Member to complain that we are being niggardly in proposing that the allowances should be double what they settled in 1948.
It is worth while for all hon. Members who are interested in this subject to look back to the Report. It appears to me that it cuts across a good deal that has been said by the hon. and learned Member, because the Committee examined the whole question with great thoroughness from every point of view and definitely rejected the idea that we should have a scale of allowances which was in some way adjusted to the individual's earnings. Perhaps I may quote from paragraph 66 of the Report, which reads:It is not reasonably possible to attempt to meet the full loss of the professional or business man, or the higher paid workman, or to deal exactly with cases where attendance 1213 might mean an exceptional loss; and we agree with the principle submitted to us in evidence that the intention of the allowances should be to prevent hardship without necessarily leaving the recipient in exactly the same financial position as if he had remained at his work'The present Government have been guided by the findings of the Lindsay Committee in proposing these new figures of 40s. and 20s. During the interval that principle has not been seriously challenged. I am not aware that the present Government, or their predecessors, have been seriously pressed by the Trades Union Congress or any other organisation, or by the local authority associations, who are themselves obviously concerned with the quality of their membership, to throw over the Lindsay Committee in this respect and to produce a kind of sliding scale of allowances.
I do not believe, and I doubt whether any hon. Member can believe, that one can have a system which would adequately and fairly reward the unskilled labourer and the solicitor, barrister, or other professional man, or the skilled craftsman whose loss of earnings, by reason of his absence on council duty, was so very much greater.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman and to his hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley). Am I driven to the conclusion that the Government's view in this matter is that one should keep constantly to the equivalent of the two figures which appeared in the Local Government Act, 1948, altered in accordance with the rise in prices, or perhaps in earnings since that time? Is that the conclusion we have to accept?
§ Mr. Brooke
We cannot have a continuous adjustment of these figures. They have to be reviewed from time to time, and, if necessary, new Regulations have to be made if at any time the existing figures appear to be too low or too high. Her Majesty's Government, after considering the situation, decided that the figures which had been fixed in 1954 were too low and that they ought to be adjusted.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman is angry with the way in which we are proceeding and says that we are calling for 1214 excessive sacrifices from some councillors and aldermen, I do not want to rely entirely on my own wisdom or that of my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is also concerned. I will appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman's deputy-leader himself, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). He said in 1948:The Lindsay Committee pointed out that it would not be possible, or desirable, to remove the clement of sacrifice from local government service. I would deplore a situation arising where local government became a full-time salaried service. That would entirely destroy its character. The great virtue of local government consists in the fact that the councillors are people going about their normal occupations, which are followed by all the citizens whose affairs they are considering, and Sharing their sentiments and local interests, and are not separated from them.So long as we have local government, we must have an element of sacrifice in those who are serving, and no man should be angry that it is there. There is a great honour in serving on public authorities, and the element of sacrifice should be willingly carried by those who have that honour. Obviously, as the Lindsay Committee pointed out, there ought not to be hardships."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 4th February, 1948; c. 2073–4.]As the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, I am happy to read those words. They were wise words, spoken by a Socialist, who at that time held the position which I now have the honour to hold, and they dispose of the suggestion that the House ought to refuse to accept Regulations unless they are sealed to the particular loss of individual people from time to time. If the hon. and learned Member and other hon. Members opposite suggest that the figures are inadequate, it is up to them to produce evidence of that. The figures reprecent a 100 per cent. increase of what were the figures thought suitable by the Labour Government in March, 1948. They represent a one-third increase on those which were fixed in 1954, and. if I may say so to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I took careful note of a supplementary question which he addressed to me as recently as 4th June this year, when he said, addressing me:Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the average increase in weekly earnings since these rates were fixed, more than three years ago, amounts to about 7s a day? Will he bear that in mind …?1215 I replied:I shall seek to bear everything in mind."—[OFFICIAL REPQRT, 4th June, 1957; Vol. 571, c. 1071.]I thought I was bearing in mind what he said when, three weeks later, I produced Regulations which increased the amounts not by 7s. as he said but by 10s. a day.
I really think that I have seldom heard a weaker case of criticism put up in support of a Prayer in the House. I am delighted that the hon. and learned Gentleman has given me this opportunity of explaining the Government's attitude towards these matters. So far as I was aware, until this debate arose, there was all-party agreement as to the way in which we did these things and the basis on which we did them.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The right hon. Gentleman does not encourage me to approach him in a conciliatory spirit on a point which I should have thought would have appealed to him. Of course, there is sacrifice in local government. My right hon. Friend was perfectly right in saying so. Indeed, I stressed it. These people are giving their services. The question is: ought they to be obliged to suffer financial loss?
What I was trying to find out from the right hon. Gentleman—I have completely failed to find out, and perhaps he will tell me now—is this: is he going to accept for ever and aye the figures in the 1948 Act varied according to rises in prices or earnings? Is he not prepared to consider the present position and look at the present difficulty of getting all the people one would want to serve in local government? That is the real question.
This is a pettifogging answer, if he will excuse me for saying so. I could not make that sort of point. It would not have served any purpose, and what he says does not serve any sort of purpose either. What is the basis on which he fixes these figures? On what basis does he propose to proceed in the future, and is he quite unconcerned about keeping all of these people out of local government service which they would undertake if they could afford it?
§ Mr. Brooke
If the hon. and learned Gentleman addresses me in those terms, I am bound to reply that I think this is 1216 a rather pettifogging Prayer. I am not one who is going to stand up and say that all subsequent Governments should necessarily accept what the Labour Government did in 1948 as supreme perfection. On the other hand, what we have got to do is to look at this matter from time to time, and, if prices and the cost of living change, decide whether there appears evidence that, in relation to the ability of suitable men and women to serve on local authorities, these financial loss allowances are at a particular date unsuitable. I must say I have not really got any evidence, nor has he submitted any hard evidence to me, that these new allowances are unsuitable. Nor, when I consulted the local authority associations about them, as I was careful to do before introducing these Regulations, did I receive any communication from them that the new figures would be unsuitable.
Nobody is more anxious than I—and the hon. and learned Gentleman knows it—to attract into local government service men and women from all walks of life who will have a contribution to make. I must say that I think these figures as laid down in these current Regulations are not ungenerous, and I invite the House to reject the Prayer.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
I speak to the Prayer—indeed, I put down the second Prayer—although I was a Minister in the Labour Government when the Lindsay Committee was set up and when the 1948 Act was passed. I had never regarded the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)as so sacrosanct, as being so equal to the words on the Tablets, as the right hon. Gentleman seems to do. He must not think that anything and everything that the Labour Government did was supreme perfection. [Interruption.] I do not know what has gone wrong with the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). Perhaps he is just being himself.
The right hon. Gentleman ought to bear in mind that when the Lindsay Committee was set up in 1946 to consider the question of financial loss allowances to councillors, it considered the matter against the background of there never having been financial loss allowances before in England and Wales. This was 1217 something completely new. A great many trade unions in England and Wales, to enable working men to serve in local government, had out of the political funds of the trade unions to make good the financial loss suffered by those working men who served on local authorities——
§ Mr. Fraser
And some but not all employers. Even now, there are many trade unions which supplement the financial loss allowances paid under Regulations by whatever sum is necessary to bring the incomes of the members of local authorities up to that which they would have had if they had been at their work. Perhaps that is a good thing. I do not know.
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. Member for Kidderminster may be the only one who is interested, but he is not the only Member in the Chamber. I was referring to the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins), who is much more sensible.
As the Lindsay Committee said—and this is where I corrected the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley)——
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I correctly quoted paragraph 54, but I was wrong in saying "hardship". I should have said "sacrifice" and not "hardship".
§ Mr. Fraser
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I have not read the Report for, I suppose, ten years, but I remember that the Lindsay Committee thought there should be sacrifice, but not hardship. [Interruption.]
Can anything be done, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to bring the hon. Member for Kidderminster to order? Is he interested in the proceedings? Can anything be done with him so that we can continue our proceedings?
§ Mr. Fraser
He is none the less most disorderly.
The position is this—and here I am dealing with the Scottish Regulations. In 1929, provision was made for an allowance for compensation for loss of earnings to be paid to members of county councils of a sum not exceeding 7s. 6d. for half a day and 15s. for a full day. At that time, the industrial worker's wage was less than 10s. a day, so that it was found that the professional worker or the highly skilled worker who earned in excess of the average wage was able to get full reimbursement of his financial loss up to 15s. a day. This was the law in Scotland from 1929 to 1948.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Was it not a fact that that was the law regarding county councils, but that the town councils and district councils in Scotland had no power to make any award?
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. Member could not have heard me. I said that it was payable only to county councillors. Against that background we ought to consider what has been done since and what is being done now. In 1947, I, for one, as a Minister, deeply regretted that the Lindsay Committee did not recommend sums in excess of the 10s. and 20s. which were then recommended. The idea impressed upon me was that the Committee looked at the position in the whole country and was concerned with the position in England and Wales, where there had not hitherto been any system of financial loss allowances, and was not, therefore, over-concerned with amending the position in Scotland. I was a member of the Government and played my part in the passage of the legislation, and what we did in 1948 was to increase the compensation for loss of earnings of a county councillor in Scotland from 15s. to 20s. That in no way took account of the change in the value of money over the years.
I do not know how many hon. Members have informed themselves of the sacrifice suffered by working men and women who serve in local government, or the number who are unable to offer themselves for election on the ground that they feel unable to make a sacrifice of 10s., 15s. or 20s. a day, or how many steelworkers in the constituency of my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for 1219 Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)at Corby will be earning as little as £2 a day—the maximum provided for in these Regulations—or how many skilled miners are earning as little as £2 a day. We know full well that many skilled workers in industry are earning not £2 but £3 a day at present. I know from my own constituency in the County of Lanarkshire, that skilled workers, unless they have grown-up members of their families living at home, in employment and earning wages, feel unable to accept election to the local authority if it means—as it would mean—a sacrifice of 20s. a day.
Under the present Regulations, not the amended ones, I know people who have been sacrificing 30s. a day, and many who might have served in the local authority, but who could not afford to accept election and so had to withhold their services. I think it is a bad thing for local government when these people are unable to offer themselves——
§ Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)
How often does this occur? It is not 30s. a day they are losing, but 30s. on a day when they do council work.
§ Mr. Partridge
Yes, but on how many days in the course of the year does it happen that these men are called upon to suffer this tremendous sacrifice?
§ Mr. Fraser
In some of our larger counties, like Lanarkshire, it can be several days in one week. Of course, meetings can be held in the evenings. The burgh councils in my constituency meet in the evenings. This argument hardly applies to town councils in my constituency——
§ Mr. Fraser
Or to cities, but I have no cities in my constituency. The argument does not apply with the same force to cities in Scotland or to burghs, whose council meetings, generally speaking, are held in the evenings, but it does apply to the county councils, and with particular force in Lanarkshire, Fifeshire and Ayrshire, where, inevitably, meetings have to take place during the day. It is one of the absurdities of the situation that a miner or steel worker who attends 1220 a council meeting which is commenced at 10.30 and concluded at 1.0 o'clock, and so does half a day's work there, cannot go back to his mine or steel works for the other half of the day, but loses his whole day's work.
These councillors are required to attend councils not five days in a year, not even 50 days in a year, but, it may be, 150 days in the year; it may even be 200 days in the year.
§ Mr. Fraser
Unfortunately there are many people who could make a considerable contribution to local government who feel unable to offer themselves, and I think that is a great pity. I see in my own county council places being taken increasingly by persons who have reached the age of retirement, by persons who are employed on their own account and by housewives. I think it is a good thing to have housewives in local government as well as here in the House of Commons, but it is a bad thing to have to choose housewives to serve on councils because it is impossible to obtain the services of people who are in receipt of wages, because they are unable to sacrifice their working time in order to serve on councils. I have seen this over and over again in my constituency, and it is a pathetic experience.
The councils themselves have not been loud in their complaints. The local authority associations have not complained as they might have done. That emphasises the selflessness with which the councillors go about their work, because they do suffer considerable sacrifice. I think the sacrifice is such now that it is becoming hardship, but whether it is or not, the fact remains that men and women are withdrawing their services—the hon. Member for Battersea, South keeps interrupting, and is very sure of himself, but he does not know what happens in Scotland.
§ Mr. Partridge
I am taking the hon. Member's own words. He said councillors lose 250 days' work a year. If my calculations are correct, on a five-day week they must lose more working days than there are in a year. In any case, it is completely contrary to Lord Lindsay's Report, which says we should 1221 not pay councillors. What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that we should pay councillors a wage for an average week's work.
§ Mr. Fraser
I did not say anything of the kind. I said it was not five days a year, but it might be 150 days in a year or even 200. I think HANSARD will show that is what I said.
I do not ask the hon. Gentleman to take a look at what is happening in Scotland. I ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to have a look at what is happening in Fifeshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, to see how many members of councils lose 150 or 200 days work in 12 months to go about their business as councillors. If he finds there are even half-a-dozen such persons, I maintain that that justifies me in saying that some people lose that number of days' work in the year. I am seeking to show that a great many people who could render valuable service in local government are unable to offer themselves because they cannot make this kind of sacrifice.
Let us have a fresh look at this. Lord Lindsay of Birker and his Committee looked at it against the background of there never having been financial loss allowances for England and Wales before; but the Scottish representatives on the Committee took into account that there had been compensation for loss of earnings for county councillors in Scotland from 1929, and they asked for a sum considerably in excess of the sum recommended by the Committee.
Let us not take as sacrosanct the sum paid in 1948. If we find, as inquiry will show, that people earning £2 or £3 a day are unwilling to offer themselves for local government work because the maximum financial loss allowance they can get is £2 a day, and by reason of that the second-best are becoming members of our councils, let us ask ourselves whether it would not be wise and in the interests of local government to permit a maximum financial loss allowance a little in excess of £2. I do not think it would be unreasonable to make the maximum £3. The Minister and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland should consider this sympathetically to see whether the suggested increase in the maximum allowance 1222 would make a contribution to better local government in this country.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I need hardly say that I found the reply of the right hon. Gentleman quite unsatisfactory. I do not think he appreciated the spirit in which we moved this Prayer, or our real intention in so doing, but I made clear that we did not propose to divide the House, and therefore I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.