HC Deb 27 June 1957 vol 572 cc577-80

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

11.25 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

I wish to refer to subsection (3) of this Clause and once more to express my regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not been able to agree to an earlier date than 15th May, 1957, for this new scale of gratuities to temporary staffs of the Civil Service which was recommended by the Priestley Commission on the Civil Service in 1955.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that an understanding has been reached on the Civil Service National Whitley Council which would preclude me, as Chairman of the Staff Side of the Whitley Council, from moving any Amendment to the Bill in Committee without a breach of that understanding. That, however, would not have precluded any of my hon. Friends doing so had they wished, but we have tried to keep to that understanding and I am not doing any more than expressing regret that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to do something more generous in this matter of the effective date.

Since the Bill has been before the House, I have received many letters from ex-temporary civil servants who have been discharged in recent months and who are bitterly disappointed that they are not brought within the scope of the Bill. They naturally looked for ward, when they saw the recommendations of the Royal Commission in the autumn of 1955, to an early implementation of those recommendations. They understood, not with complete accuracy, that all the recommendations of the Priestley Commission were in one package and were being adopted comprehensively and as a whole. But those of us who were close to these negotiations understood the distinction, which might he merely technical or real, between those recommendations of the Commission which it was within the power of the Treasury to apply without legislation and those which required this Bill to give effect to them.

There is no more to be said. We either do a thing or we do not in a matter of this kind. There is no close argument to be used as to why there should be an earlier effective date than a later one It just is the fact that the recommendations were made when they were, and it is regrettable that they were not given earlier effect. I acknowledge, however—I want to be quite fair to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor; we have full confidence in his fairness in these matters—that the Bill has come somewhat earlier than his predecessor gave us to understand might be the case, and we are grateful that he has found time to bring the Bill forward this Session and to ask the House to deal with it.

I think that that is a fair acknowledgment of the fact that we have the Bill before us tonight. To that extent, probably, the recommendations of the Commission are beginning earlier than they would have done if the Bill had been introduced later, and certainly earlier, probably, than if the Bill had been introduced in the next Session. I know the wretched administrative difficulties that dog one in all these matters, whether in reforms or otherwise.

I know the difficulty of going back and finding people who have left and of going into their entitlement to these gratuities after they have departed, but a measure of retrospection to the date of the Commission's actual Report or thereabouts would not have provided half the difficulty which we have had in trying to deal fairly with people who have gone out of the Civil Service in the past. I do not wish to detain the Committee a moment longer. I have put this on the record. We shall certainly co-operate in completing the passage of the Bill through the House at the earliest possible moment.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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

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

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