§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the National Insurance (Non-participation—Certificates) Regulations, 1959 (S.I., 1959, No. 1860), dated 4th November 1959, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th November, be annulled.Those of us interested in pensions appreciate that we are fortunate that the business of the House has been accelerated and that, therefore, this matter comes on a little earlier than was expected.
As I do not want to waste the time of the House, I would suggest, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we also discuss our Motion relating to the Second Statutory Instrument—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the National Insurance (Non-participation—Benefits and Schemes) Regulations, 1959 (S.I., 1959, No. 1861), dated 4th November, 1959, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th November, be annulled.We had a word with the Minister about that beforehand.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther Grey)
I think that would be convenient for the whole House.
§ Mr. Crossman
The two sets of Regulations cover a most important aspect of the Government's new National Insurance policy; indeed, they cover the whole of the mechanics of contracting out. If the House were to debate the two together, it would be possible to have a useful discussion on the actual working of this unprecedented change in our social services.
I want to concentrate mainly on the second of these two Statutory Instruments, No. 1861, because there is one particular point in it to which we want to call attention from this side of the House, namely, the problem of notification, on which the Minister will recall the two sides were in basic disagreement during the Committee stage. I fear that our disagreement and alarm has been somewhat increased since we saw the 1352 detailed provisions which the Minister has made for informing the millions of employees concerned about this issue of their schemes being contracted out. Therefore, we want specially to concentrate our attention on that problem. The first Statutory Instrument, No. 1860, which deals with benefits and regulations—
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
When the hon. Member said No. 1861, I think he meant No. 1860.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am sorry, I have to reverse the order. The one which deals with non-notification is No. 1860. The one which deals with benefits and with what equivalence means is No. 1861.
This huge new scheme will come into force in April, 1961. If we asked the people of the country what they knew, I would be very surprised if one person in ten was aware that a complete reform of our whole system of pensions is due to come into force.
§ Mr. Crossman
I congratulate the Government on their brilliant success in concealing this fact from the electorate throughout the three weeks of the election. Throughout those three weeks, one might have believed that there was a Labour Party scheme called national superannuation and that, apart from that, the Government were promising simply that pensions would be very good indeed but certainly not suggesting that contributions would be substantially raised and that millions of people already were committed by the Government to paying a new kind of graduated contribution in addition to the flat rate contribution. This was successfully concealed from the people until after the election. It is time that we drew attention to the coming of this great change. Despite the Government's modesty, we have decided tonight to give a little publicity to their scheme by trying to discuss it in detail.
It is not true that people are inattentive to the scheme. I was looking at the Guardian today and was amused to discover an interesting advertisement called "The New State Pension Scheme" from 1353 the Noble Lowndes Pension Service. The advertisement states:The new State pension scheme and its integration with existing private pension funds and schemes is a subject of vital concern to every employer at this time. Expert advice, on a professional fee basis, can be obtained from the Noble Lowndes Pension Service".Then we have an elaborate description of what the Service will do—and how right it is. Employers will have to make some important decisions in the coming months about whether they should contract their schemes out of the Government scheme or whether it will pay them to stay in. This is of vital interest to an employer and will justify him in raying to Messrs. Noble Lowndes a large fee, which will be chargeable against tax, to get the best advice.
It is equally true that employees will need good advice on what they should do about the Government scheme, except that nobody will give them good advice because, as far as possible, the employees will not be told about it. Our central point of criticism, to which we want to call attention and to protest against this evening, is the deliberate intention, indicated clearly in these Statutory Instruments, to make the minimum modification possible and to see that practically no precautions are taken to ensure that, before it is too late, anybody understands the decision which is to be taken on his behalf by his employer.
The millions of workers, who are as vitally affected as the employers, are in equal need of advice. I am hoping that their trade unions will give them that advice, but I shall indicate tonight how difficult it will be to give the right advice, because in many cases it will be difficult to calculate whether it pays a person to go into the Government scheme or to go out of it.
I am sure that everybody here, unlike ordinary citizens outside, knows the Government's scheme by heart. But suppose there is anyone who does not know about the scheme which will come into force in April, 1961. Let me remind him that from 1st April, 1961, anyone who earns over £9 a week will start paying a new unprecedented tax. If he is within the £9 to £15 wage band he will pay a tax. It is not a tax on those who earn £15 or £9. If a person earns over £9 a week he will pay 4½ per cent. 1354 each week on the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th £ and on the sixteenth £ he will be free again. A person will pay on that band. He will pay 4½ per cent. in addition to his flat-rate contribution, and the employer also will pay 4½ per cent.
I need not remind the House of the princely returns. The Daily Express stated that we would have a £5 pension, but did not add that this would happen in the year 2005. A young man of 18 earning £15 a week who in 1961 joins the scheme will, by 2005, draw 21s. in addition to his 50s. flat-rate pension, which will be about £2 10s. below the National Assistance level at that time. It may be said that this is too remote. The Minister said on a previous occasion, "We do not intend the scheme to last as long as that. We shall change everything long before that", and he has told us how many times in the last ten years the rates have been changed four times over.
Now let us take the case of a man who is aged 50. He is concerned with his pension. If we earns £15 a week he will pay 4½ per cent. each week on £6 of his wages and, as a result, will get 13s. extra after 15 years, again far below the National Assistance level which will obtain at that time. However, I shall be out of order if I discuss that aspect of the scheme. Therefore, let us remind ourselves of what might be called the inspiring framework which the Minister has set and see how clearly it has been his desire not to encourage people to enter the Government scheme but to get out of it. This is why the arrangements for contracting out are so important.
This scheme is almost unique in social service history. The aim of the Government is to persuade as many people as possible to get out of it if they conceivably can. We have discussed at great length the organisation for contracting out of this new State scheme. We on this side would not suggest for a moment that we do not like the idea of contracting out, because we invented it ourselves in our own scheme two years ago. We were very tender and delicate at that time. It was before the Minister made up his mind whether contracting out was impossible and was one of the typical things that a skiffle group of professors 1355 invented or something sensible that he would do. However, he came down in general on the side of contracting out and took a great many of our ideas about contracting out.
Contracting out is essential if it is proposed to add on top of a flat-rate pension a graded pension. It is clear to me that we should not insist that those already in a good graded private scheme shall in addition be made to contribute to a State scheme. Therefore, a State scheme is supplementary to good private schemes. This was the basis of our proposition. This common principle was accepted by the Minister, and we emphasise that in criticising the Regulations we do not criticise the principle that any great advance in pensions will involve contracting out. The better the State schemes the stronger the case for having genuine contracting out between the two schemes. We do not criticise the Government for taking over this principle.
When I look at the first of the Statutory Instruments, I congratulate the Government on accepting two basic principles which seem to us to be of the very greatest importance in reform of the pension law. The first concerns the principle of the transferability of pension rights. This is something for which trade unionists have fought and have demanded for many years, and it is of the greatest importance in achieving that mobility of labour after middle-age for which some of us feel a pressing need. It is difficult for anyone over 45 years of age to change his job if he is in a superannuation job because he is afraid of losing superannuation rights. There is, therefore, for the first time a chance for middle-aged people to change their job and to get on in life if there are arrangements for the transferability of their pension rights so that they can carry them with them as they move from job to job.
One of the great things for which we were trying to work in national superannuation was a scheme under which pension rights would be transferable in future.
Now I would not go so far as to say that the Government have conceded the substance of what we demand, for their own scheme is so miserable that nothing 1356 worth transferring is transferred. But it is of enormous importance that the principle of transferability is indicated in these Regulations, which are to ensure that, supposing one is in a private scheme and the employer contracts one out of the State scheme, then at least if one changes jobs, one carries with one pension rights equivalent to the maximum which anybody could have earned under the Government scheme.
The Minister was perfectly right, in drawing up his own scheme, to insist that anybody in a private scheme should be entitled on changing his job to reach the top level of the Government scheme, as though he were earning £15 a week and had been credited with that. Therefore, any private scheme must provide that everybody, if only earning £10 a week, must have the equivalent rate of those earning £15 a week in the Government scheme. This happens from 1st April, 1961, to everybody earning over £9. Those earning under £9 are, of course, unfortunate in their pension rights. Everybody will be earning pension rights which are to some extent transferable, except for a miserable proportion. But there will come a time when another Government will, no doubt, take this principle and apply it properly.
I believe that even this Government, when they actually approach 1st April, 1961, will not dare to present the people with such miserable benefits and will be compelled to improve their scheme by making pension rights more worth having than they are at present. Still, there is the principle laid down.
Secondly, I congratulate the Minister on the principle that pension rights cannot be taken away from a person merely because he absconds with the money in the till or misbehaves with the manager's wife or does anything else which is highly reprehensible. It is a principle in superannuation that when one has earned the sum one has earned it and what one does afterwards does not take it away. It is deferred pay, and therefore a person cannot be disqualified from having earned it by anything he does afterwards.
I was extremely glad in reading the Report of the National Insurance Advisory Committee to find that when certain recommendations were made 1357 to the Committee that there might be written into the regulations that a person should not be allowed to take his pension rights with him if he misbehaved, the Committee indignantly refuted this. I was glad also that the Minister was not in any way disposed to give way to the demands for this provision. People suffering from mental disorder, of course, cannot be said to he capable of taking their pension rights with them, but the rights are absolutely the rights of the person. They are his to be transferred, and that is what we want.
When we see a scheme involving what is regarded as equivalency, however, we bitterly regret that the Minister did not insist on widows' pensions being written in as something which every private employer had to provide if the pension was to be regarded as equivalent and suitable for contracting out of the State scheme. It is a grave mistake, and I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would relent. I am glad to see that the hon. Lady the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance is here. I am sure that she will support me in this. Her predecessor, too, had a soft heart when it came to widows' rights. It is ridiculous that this provision is not made and that private schemes should not be required to have these rights attached to them.
It is outrageous that when one is trying to get an equivalent to a State scheme which has widow's benefits one should not insist that private schemes with the right to contract out of a State scheme should include a widow's pension, however small. I would not mind how miserable was the pension which the Minister gave because all we can hope to get from him is the principle. Therefore, we would like to see the principle of the widow's benefit included in the scheme.
Now I come to my central point of criticism of the Minister. It was a point of criticism which was made by a minority of those who were advising him on the National Insurance Advisory Committee. As the House will appreciate, all these Regulations have to be submitted to that Committee for comment. It is an excellent system, under which an early draft is submitted, the Committee makes its comments, then there is a re-draft. We are grateful for 1358 the complete candour with which the Minister tells us what has been done, so that we can see the effect of the Committee.
There were many improvements brought in by the Committee, but there was one major point on which it concentrated, and that was the problem of notification. I will explain to the House why we on this side regard that as a matter of first-rate importance. In our view, if we are to have contracting out, if we are to have a social service provided by the private employer—and it is extraordinary to allow a private employer to be responsible for providing part of the social service—then in our view there must be a freedom of choice for each person between the private and the public sector. At least there must be some form of option. We wrote into our original plan that each individual should be free to choose either to join the State scheme or to stay in his employer's scheme.
In the course of the Committee stage of the Bill we were convinced by the Minister's extremely powerful arguments that our original proposition was unworkable for a simple reason. This was that if we were to insist on individual option between a private scheme and a State scheme we should wreck contracting out because no employer could calculate whether the group would contract out or not, and the trade unions concerned would be extremely unhappy at the idea that "awkward cusses" could make it impossible to get a scheme put through.
Therefore, we accepted the view that we had put forward a fine abstract argument but had not clothed it in practical form and we had to give up the idea that each individual could have freedom of choice. Then it came to us clearly that if each individual had not got freedom of choice, a veto must be exercised by the employees on the employer if they objected strongly. We believe that before an employer can contract all his employees out of a State scheme, the employees must have a veto. I do not say that they can make the decision, because it is his money and his scheme, so clearly he must decide. However, we put it to the Minister that he could so decide only with a potential veto by his employees if they objected strongly.
1359 We suggested that the way this could be made practicable was that, first, the employer must announce the scheme in sufficient time, giving every individual in the factory or office the details in writing. Secondly, we said that it should be given in a comparative form so that each individual concerned could see the State scheme and the private scheme side by side and so be able to judge for himself how much he gained from being a member of either. This seemed to us to be reasonable. We said that if, after a time, there was a clear indication that a clear majority of the employees were dissatisfied, there should be a ballot, and that if a clear majority voted against the scheme, the scheme could not contract out.
We do not think that this is adventurous, because it is extremely unlikely that this situation would arise unless there was a great outrage being committed. However, we could not see how one could establish firmly the right of the individuals employed without that kind of procedure—first, full notification; secondly, notification to include an objective comparison on the two schemes side by side; thirdly, sufficient time for the employees to discuss it and to form a general opinion; fourthly, in the event of a strong demand, the possibility of a ballot.
We put this forward in Committee, and we were defeated on every ground. We were told that it could not be done and that the decision must rest with the employer. However, at least we got the assurance, so we thought, that even if there were not to be consultation and an active veto, at least the employer would have laid upon him the obligation to notify his employees in such a way that each of them would have a good chance of making his view felt.
That was the view put to the Minister by the minority of his Advisory Committee. We do not know who the minority was, but we learn from page 6 of the Report of the Advisory Committee on National Insurance (Non-Participation—Certificates) Regulations, 1959:Some members of the Committee consider that employers should be required to give individual notice to their employees or that the Registrar should be required to ensure that all practicable steps to notify them had been taken.1360 That is perfectly reasonable.The majority … take the view, however, that employers should be given a choice of methods. …The methods are given and are:(a) notifying the employees individually in writing; or (b) posting up written notices; or (c) making such other provision as may be appropriate. …The third of those should be noted.
To my amazement, the Minister has preferred the majority report and in his Regulations has ruled that there are three things which employers can do. If they bother to do so, they can kindly notify employees. If they do not bother to do that, they can put the notification on the notice board. If they do not bother to do that, they can do anything else which they consider appropriate and which passes the Registrar. My hon. Friends will want to discuss the functions of the Registrar, about which none of us knows very much.
It is a complete fallacy to suppose that the Registrar and his staff will be able to go round policing the efficiency of thousands of private pension schemes. I warn the Minister that if he says that we have no need to worry and that the Registrar will look after the matter and see that employers take appropriate proceedings, I shall not believe him. I do not see how this unfortunate man, who will be very heavily engaged with all his other responsibilities, can possibly be asked to police the activities of employers. It is our case that the whole burden of the responsibility should be put on the shoulders of the employers and that they should be bluntly told that it is their job to ensure that their employees receive notice. If it can be shown that each employee has not received notice, the scheme should not be permitted to contract out. That, in a nutshell, is the case which we are presenting.
This is not some abstract problem, because in 18 months several million people will be affected by these proposals. The Minister should realise that we are making an enormous experiment which we all want to lead to a greatly improved pensions scheme. I cannot pretend to speak as an expert on factory or office organisation, but when in doubt in these cases, the wisest thing is to err on the side of caution, on the side of ensuring that the notification is given.
1361 The Minister has behaved to his Advisory Committee in a peculiar way. There are other things which the Committee suggests. For instance, it says that it might be a good thing if the employer is required to give three months' notice to his employees. Three months is not a very long time, and yet the Minister has insisted on cutting the time to one month on the ground that he cannot get his scheme through by April, 1961, if three months' notice is given. He has to explain to the House how that can be true and how one month's notification, without the writing of a letter, is any notification. The employer is simply to be allowed to contract out without any kind of control by tie employee, and yet he is contracting out the pension rights of the employee. It must not be forgotten that although the pension rights may be small, after the contracting out the employees will not be entitled to the State pension element of their pension. We are therefore enabling this employer to decide that his employees shall not share in the State benefit.
We believe in the principle that it is wrong to allow an employer to do that. We shall change this if we have any power to do so. There is still a chance to take these Regulations back and at least take the advice of the minority on this Advisory Committee who warned the Minister and said, "Be careful."
We do not want to start this kind of scheme off with the suspicion that the Government are on the side of the employers; that the Government want employers to have an easy time, and that they do not want employers to be worried by questions from their men. I ask the Minister to reconsider this.
The question I pose is: "Suppose you or I were members of a pension scheme. Suppose we were being treated in this way and were not notified." We would think that we had been outraged if we w ere not notified in writing about our pension rights. Everybody wants to feel that they belong to the kind of scheme w here they are treated as though they matter. The essence of the new superannuation scheme is to treat every citizen as though he or she really matters. If we allow employers to contract out of the scheme we should err on the side of giving employees more care and not less. 1362 The least that can be done is to write them a letter telling them what is being done.
It is no good saying that that cannot be done. People get wages every week and a printed notice could be inserted in the wage packet explaining the scheme. All these contributions have to be recorded on the P.A.Y.E. card, in a special new line. The idea that the terms of the contract could not be communicated to the people is ridiculous.
Why does the Minister not do it? I will give the answer. It is because he wants this scheme to be popular with employers and give them the minimum amount of bother. He wants to ensure that the private insurance companies and those who run private schemes shall not be bothered if they decide to get out of the Government swindle.
We all know that if one stays in the Government scheme one will then have roughly four-fifths of the 9 per cent. of one's contribution taken away to pay for the deficit on the other pensions. We know that people who stay in the Government scheme will pay a deuce of a lot and get little out of it. If the Civil Service had been going into this scheme we should have heard a lot more about it.
It is because contracting out has been made outrageously easy that this scheme has been able to go through with so little protest. Everybody who matters in life—everybody who has a salary—will contract out.
When the Minister says that it is all right for anybody to contract out, I say, "Yes, I hope that they will", but we are here establishing principles of social legislation. We are laying down that employers shall have the right to contract their people out without adequate notification. This cannot be allowed to pass without a protest from hon. Members on this side of the House against the giving of that kind of power to employers and against this kind of bias in favour of the employer. It will cast doubts on the scheme and will start the scheme off in a thoroughly bad way.
I ask the Minister even now to take these Regulations back, consult his Advisory Committee, recast the Regulations, and at least write into them an insistence that every employer shall notify in writing every employee before 1363 the employer applies to contract out of the scheme.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)
I beg to second the Motion.
The crux of the situation is that in the opinion of my hon. Friends the individual worker is entitled to have a real say in decisions that will affect his immediate standard of living and his ultimate security. We believe that the only satisfactory way of achieving this is on the basis of the Amendment that we tabled during the Committee stage of the Bill. Given the fact that we were defeated in our effort to make Amendments, and given also the basis of contracting out contained in the Bill as it emerged from the Committee and eventually had its Third Reading in the House, we still think that these Regulations are rather poor and disappointing.
I want to concentrate upon two points which we find specially unsatisfactory. The first relates to the question of consulting the relevant trade unions or other associations of the workers concerned. This question was considered by the Insurance Advisory Committee, which said:we see difficulties in the proposal that the employer should be required to give notice to all the associations representing his employees. An employer does not necessarily know what associations every employee belongs to and, if he were placed under a duty to notify them, an inadvertent omission on his part might later cast doubts on the validity of a certificate which had been issued to him.I am surprised that the Minister should have accepted that and not found some formula for consulting the unions concerned. It is silly to say that because there might be the odd case of an individual belonging to an association which an employer did not know about we should throw overboard the whole principle of consulting trade unions.
The trade unions are the proper people to advise their members on matters affecting them at their place of work. This is precisely the kind of problems on which trade unions can build up experience and advise their members. In this sort of situation within an industry one firm might make a decision to contract out and, later on, when another firm was involved, the experience of the first 1364 might be of value. Trade unions can acquire an experience and knowledge which they can pass on to their members in other firms. It may be said that individual members can take up these matters with their trade unions, but the time limit here is only one month. If members raise such matters at their branch meetings they have to be passed through the trade union machinery, which is such that delays inevitably occur, in which case there might not be time for effective action to be taken.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
It is not so much a question of delay in the trade union machinery; the unions will probably have to take legal and technical advice.
§ Mr. Prentice
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. Delay is naturally caused through having to go through the proper channels and take the advice to which my hon. Friend refers. If the Minister sticks to the time limit of one month he will have to provide for the automatic notification of any such decision to trade unions. One would have thought that in any legislation of this nature there would be a provision that trade unions would be consulted. They were included in connection with the main National Insurance Act and Industrial Injuries Act of 1946, and it is extraordinary that in 1959 they should be left out.
My right hon. Friend concentrated upon the question of giving individual notification to every person concerned. It seems to me, as it did to him, that it is fantastic to put the Regulations in this form and to say that the employer may notify individually, or may post up a notice, or may do something else. If he posts up a notice the knowledge of its contents may not reach everybody in every case. It depends upon the nature of the work—what kind of place it is and whether some people work away from the main centre. We may be told that people will talk about it among themselves, but this sometimes takes time to get round. A man may be shy or reserved and he may not talk to his fellow workers. On the other hand, he may be a surly chap whose fellow-workers do not talk to him. Such a worker may have no time in which to make his views known.
1365 The third alternative, of adopting any other method which appears appropriate, is surely the most vague and unsatisfactory. I hope that the Minister will tell us how the Registrar can be effective in enforcing this requirement.
Mr. E. Fernyhongh (Jarrow)
He might put an advertisement in the Financial Times.
§ Mr. Prentice
The Minister may tell us, as he said in Committee on the Bll more than once, that good and reasonable employers will, of course, take steps effectively to notify their work-people. When we are legislating on something like this we should not concern ourselves with the good nor with the average employer. We have to look at what is done by the bad employer and there are still employers in the country who regard their workpeople as so many hirelings who are mollycoddled by their unions and who would do the bare minimum to help their employees. Therefore, it seems essential to legislate clearly, and the only satisfactory thing is to see that every person affected will get individual notification.
This is something which will affect the individual. In the first instance it will affect his take-home pay. If he is involved in the Government scheme there will be the extra deduction of 5s. ld. a week and that will make a difference to him in deciding whether he can pay or not. It will affect the question of whether he is to go on paying into a scheme run by his employers. He will be affected in regard to the pension which he will eventually draw, and he is entitled to know what sort of bargain he may have under one scheme or the other. It will affect previous pension rights which he may have built up.
These are important personal factors bearing on a man's standard of living and his personal security. Therefore, he should be told individually how he stands and have an effective way of making his views known.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
I wish to support the plea for the annulment of these Regulations. There are many points of importance, but one which I should like to mention is that with which my hon. Friend the Member 1366 for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has already dealt. That is the question of the very wide scope given to the employer in explaining to, advising, or merely telling his employees what his intentions are. He can write to them, he can put a notice on the notice board, or advise them in any other way that seems suitable.
That might seem all right if the employer were to deal with all his employees in the same way. It ought to be understood when we are judging the wide scope given to employers that the employer is permitted under the Act to take out of the scheme as many or as few of his employees as he likes. If it had been a question of the employers having to decide that all employees should be in or all employees should be out, we should have been presented with a very different position. I suggest that it must seem very suspicious when the employer is given wide scope to pick and choose between employees and when he is also given as much scope as is necessary to pick and choose between the methods by which he shall advise them.
He might, for example, decide to contract his staff out and the whole matter might be kept dark from the rest of his employees. Under the Regulations he can, if he wishes, notify his staff by means of a personal letter. Then, unless it leaks out by someone talking about it, none of the workpeople need know and the staff can be given special treatment. He might want to bind more closely to him his skilled men. He might single out the skilled men and advise them by letter of his intentions. Nobody else need know anything at all about it. He might pick out his younger men and treat them in one way, leaving the older men to be treated in another way. He can pick and choose, and in fact, he can adopt the practice—and this was mentioned in the Committee when the matter was discussed—of setting off one group of his employees against another group.
Every hon. Member must see that this would be a very serious practice if it were widely adopted. An employer can set one group of employees off against another by giving them special treatment, and he has all the means here at his disposal of disguising the matter and hiding the method which he follows. I 1367 have no doubt that in time these things will leak out.
§ Mr. Lawson
He can, if he likes, pick out non-unionists and give them special treatment, and he can put the unionists in the scheme. He can divide his employees according to age, or according to the amount they are receiving.
In fact, employers have already been advised—and the insurance people have already sent out their recommendations advising them—to pick and choose in this way. They have been advised that those with incomes above a certain level should be taken out of the scheme, while those with incomes below a certain level should be kept in. Firms with employees of mixed incomes might treat them in different ways. The facilities are here for any kind of "divide and rule" tactics to set one set of employees against the other.
This provision, made with unlimited scope for deciding by which method persons are to be advised, seems to me to fit in very closely indeed with what some of us, when we were discussing the matter, thought was a very dangerous tendency to be observed in this Act. Certainly, if there were some very good reason preventing an employer from adopting a single uniform method, if there were some good reason why this should not be so, I would say "Let us have it". If, for example, we were to adopt a method of ensuring that everyone received advice by means of notices being put up, and everyone received individual advice about and details of the scheme, I personally would see no difficulty in this matter at all.
I recall that in my own constituency a firm employing, not in my own constituency alone, but partly there and in other parts of the west of Scotland, some 17,000 people, sent out, not one notice, but three specially printed booklets describing the proposed superannuation scheme which it was to adopt. Every one of those 17,000 people got copies of those three booklets. If that could be done there, I cannot see why it cannot be done in other cases.
If the Minister is able to remove the very deep suspicion that this wide choice 1368 of method is deliberately designed to fit in with the wide choice of facilities to put people in or not—that this one must fit in with the other—I shall be happy. But what we are asking for here is that these Regulations should be taken back or annulled, and that, at the very least, those measures which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East put forward should be incorporated. Certainly this choice that is given of any means that he likes should be limited.
I would remind my hon. Friends from Scotland that the Registrar is to be appointed by no one who is responsible for Scotland, but entirely by someone with responsibilities in England, who will have no voice in respect of Scotland. We are having forced upon us something from England.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
We are dealing tonight with Regulations which, according to the Minister's own estimates, will affect the position of 5 million employed persons during the next twelve months or so. We were told in the Government Actuary's Report and other papers on the Act that it was estimated that 2½ million people in private employment would contract out—or, rather, that the employers of those 2½ million people would decide to contract them out. In addition, there are another 2½ million people in the public service, and the assumption has been that a large proportion of them will be contracted out.
This is a most important matter, because for the £15-a-week man it may mean the difference between his paying 2s. 10d. a week tax towards the emerging cost of the present level of benefit under the National Insurance scheme and his paying 5s. 1d. a week tax. It can make a difference between 2d. in the £ taxation on total income and 4d. in the £ taxation, according to whether the man is contracted in or contracted out. If a man is in the scheme and pays a full contribution on £15 a week, it will cost him another 5s. 1d., whereas if he is outside the scheme it will cost him 2s. 10d., above what is needed to meet the ordinary flat-rate pension.
1369 I am not quite so worried about contracting out at the beginning as I am about the fact that the Regulations cover not only contracting out but the revocation of contracting out at a later stage. It is possible that at present many people will have no objection to being contracted out and will indeed be pleased that their employer has contracted them out, because we are discussing a wage-related pension which provides that a man who has contributed on the basis of earnings of £15 a week for forty-seven years, which will be well outside the lifetime of the vast majority having a voice in this matter, will have a pension of £2 1s. a week more than the present level of the National Insurance benefit when he retires in forty-seven years' time. I think that most employees hope that their employers will contract them out.
On the other hand, there may be new legislation and changes may be made in the present National Insurance flat-rate pension. There may even be changes, although they could have been provided for in the Act of this year, in the wage-related pension. Many employers may find in a year or two that although it was beneficial to them to contract out at the beginning of the scheme, because of subsequent changes in the scheme—and we know that a number of changes have taken place in the ordinary National Insurance scheme since 1946—it appears that perhaps they ought not to have contracted out, and they will apply for the certificate of contracting out to be revoked.
All this will make a difference to the employees' contributions, and I want to make sure that they are given adequate notice of what is to happen to them. We are told that there are to be three different methods which the employer can adopt when he is making an application for a certificate or making an application for the certificate to be revoked. The first involves giving notice in writing, and that is the one which we hope employers will use.
I think that the majority of good employers will use it, but I want to ask the Minister a question about this. In the Second Schedule of the National Insurance Act, 1959, it is laid down that the employer for this purpose of all teachers in the employment of local education authorities shall be the Minister of Education and the employer of all 1370 local government officers shall be the Minister of Housing and Local Government. There is a list of these employees, but I do not want to weary the House by reading them all out. The point is that in certain instances the employer is to be a Minister.
The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance no doubt consulted his colleagues, who are to have responsibility under the Second Schedule, before he made the Regulations. May we have an assurance from him on behalf of his colleagues that when they decide whether to make an application to contract out, they will use Regulation 3 (a) and will notify in writing all the people affected or will take some action through the local education authorities, the local authorities and other bodies concerned to make sure that the individuals affected receive in writing notice of the decision which is being taken about their future pension prospects?
I am sure we all agree that the best method of dealing with this matter is by individual notice in writing being given to the man. In that case it is essential that where the Government are considered to be the employer we should have an early undertaking that they will use what we all believe to be the best method of giving notice in these matters and will set an example to private employers. I hope that the Minister will give the undertaking this evening that where Ministers of the Crown, Government Departments and Government officials are concerned, a good example will be set to employers and all persons affected will be notified in writing as provided for in Regulation 3 (a). I hope also that when the Minister speaks later he will tell us that he will see to it personally, or use whatever influence he has to ensure, that private employers use this procedure as well.
It is also stated that it can be done by posting up a written notice in a conspicuous place. I have seen notice boards, as no doubt have many other hon. Members. It is quite possible that a notice board giving this particularly important information will be posted next door to the results of last week's football swindle which took place in the factory, the fact that table tennis matches are to be played between certain firms on such and such a date and a whole mass of other information which is 1371 usually posted on notice boards and surrounded by many other things which, as the months pass, become flea-bitten. Can we be certain that just because it is on the board people will look at it? Are we to expect that the Registrar has to satisfy himself that a particular notice board was in a prominent place and that people did in fact look at it regularly? I repeat that I have seen notice boards which, I am sure, no one in the employment of the firm concerned had looked at for years. Very many of them are in out-of-the-way places. Has the Registrar to satisfy himself that the notice board was in a position where people could look at it?
There is also the point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) that it is possible under the scheme for an employer to contract out certain grades of his staff and not others. Unless an individual written notice is given to the people affected it will be very difficult for them, by looking at a notice on a board, to try to work out whether they are affected or whether it is Bill Jones who works on the bench at the other end of the workshop. Employees will not be able to tell with any great detail or accuracy from a notice board. A written pronouncement should be given to them personally.
I notice also that it will probably be all right for the employer to make an announcement over the factory Tannoy system that he intends to contract out a whole number of people. I presume that is a method of letting them know. If an employer can go to the Registrar and say that the announcement was made over the Tannoy system every morning for six days, presumably that will be satisfactory, or perhaps he will walk round and tap employees on the shoulder, saying, "I am contracting you out, but leaving in the bloke next door."
All these methods would appear from the Regulations to be all right. The employer can go to the Registrar and say that notification has been effected, but how on earth is the Registrar to check that the job has been done? Unless he receives objections from employees that they have not been properly notified, I cannot see how he is to check whether the notifications have been given. If the employees have not been 1372 properly notified they will not realise that they can go to the Registrar and complain that they have not been notified. It is a vicious circle.
The only way in which it can be properly dealt with is by ensuring that every employee affected is given proper written notice by his employer. If there are employers in this country whose organisation is so bad that it is impossible for them to give a written notice to every member of their staff they ought not to be employers; they are completely inefficient, and that is one of the reasons why production in this country is not increasing as fast as it should. Every employer should be in a position to give written notice to the individual members of his staff likely to be affected by this decision. I hope the Minister will have another look at that Regulation.
I am prepared, however, to accept that it may well be difficult in certain circumstances to ensure that notification is given to all the trade unions involved in any particular industry. It is true that employers may not always be aware of all the unions involved. I hope that the Minister when he speaks later this evening will say that it is his wish that employers will do their utmost to ensure that those unions known to them are informed of any decision. If the right hon. Gentleman says that, it will encourage employers.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will also undertake that, in any instance where Ministers of the Crown are to take these decisions, they will definitely give the information to unions which are known to them to have an interest in the staff involved. It is essential for Ministers of the Crown to give a lead in this respect and to show that they are good employers. If we cannot have good actions from Ministers of the Crown, we cannot expect them from private employers.
I wish to point out one worrying point in the Regulations and in the Act. It seems a long time ago since we did our best in Committee to help the Minister improve this piece of legislation.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Reynolds
Apparently the Minister does not agree with the word "improve", but we did not get much help from him. 1373 We could have improved the Measure much more if the Minister had accepted many of our Amendments. Nevertheless, we have the Act. It seems a long time since I looked at it and I may have become a little rusty on its details, but it appears to me that it will be possible for an employer to contract out, then twelve or eighteen months later change his mind and ask for the certificate to be revoked, then twelve months after that apply for another certificate to enable him to contract out again, and then two or three years later have that certificate revoked. I do not say that many employers are likely to do that, but it would have been better to have set a certain minimum period during which application might be made for revocation of the certificate once it has been issued. For purely administrative reasons I would not have thought it good that an employer, except in exceptional circumstances, should be able to ask for revocation at any time. There may be something in the Regulations to stop an employer doing that, but I cannot find it.
Some weeks or, perhaps, months ago the Minister announced that he had, in effect, named the Registrar-designate, so that employers and others interested in this problem could make approaches to the official in his Ministry knowing that, in due course, that official would be appointed Registrar. Can the Minister tell us what sort of reaction there has been to that appointment? He has had the official in his Department now for some time. Has that person had any inquiries, and what sort of inquiries have they been? Does it appear that the number wanting to contract out will be anything like the estimate given by the Minister when we first started our consideration of this Bill? We shall be glad to have that information.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
The Minister will recall that in Committee we spent some time debating the importance of consultation and proper notification, and I am amazed, on reading Part II of the Regulations—Notices and Elections—that the Ministry suggest three ways of notifying those concerned. First, we have Regulation 3 (1):(a) Notifying them individually in writing. …1374 Had the Regulations stopped there, our objections would not have been so great, but there follows:(b) posting up written notice in some conspicuous place or places at their place of work or employment so that it may be conveniently read by them. …that is to say, by the employees.
Anybody who knows anything about vast industrial concerns knows how difficult that is. In an industrial area like that at Trafford Park there are anything from 10,000 to 20,000 employees. How can the Minister expect men who are leaving their work or going to it to read a notice that is very important to them? It is important because upon that notice, if it is read—or can be read—depends what the employees will decide.
Finally, we have(c) making such other provision for giving notice to them as may be appropriate in the circumstances of the case.That leaves it open for the employer to take such action as he deems advisable.
My connection is with the coal mining industry. I know that not many men in that industry will be brought in, as their wages are below £9 a week, but it will be extremely difficult for any of them to read a notice even if it is put in a conspicuous place. It should be brought to the notice of the Minister that many of these men descend the pit in the dark and come up from it in the dark. A notice, even if it were in a conspicuous place, would not be seen.
I suggest, therefore, that if the Minister wants to satisfy this side of the House and those who will be contracted in or out of the scheme, he should take the Regulations back and remove sub-paragraphs (b) and (c). Then we should know that every individual employee would be notified in writing. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) and my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), this is a matter of vital importance. Future success or failure depends upon proper notification to each individual employee.
The other matter which worries me is the time provided for by the Minister. I should never have expected the Department or the Minister to put in so short a period as one month. Three months would have been satisfactory. We on this side of the House know how these 1375 matters work. We know what the machinery is. While it may be a little cumbersome, it is there and we must operate it according to the rules. Things will be extremely difficult for members of trades organisations if so short a period as one month is insisted upon. It would be much better if the Minister were to take back the Regulations and look at the matter again in the light of what is said on this side of the House. We are not now opposing the Regulations for the sake of opposing them. We oppose them because we think very seriously that they will not foot the bill in the sense that they will not work fairly for the employees who are asked to contribute.
I return to what was said in Committee. I think that the Minister went a long way when he replied to our arguments and said that he was in favour of the greatest possible consultation taking place. Yet he now comes to the House with Regulations which make it impossible for proper consultation to take place on certain important aspects affecting employees. Workpeople will want to know where they are, what they have to pay and how the matter is to be dealt with. The Minister and the Department will make a very serious mistake if they do not agree to take the Regulations back and amend them, not necessarily exactly as we have suggested, but, at any rate, in the light of the views we have expressed.
If the scheme is to be a success—I put it no higher—it is of paramount importance that there must be proper consultation and proper notification. We must take into our confidence the men who will pay into the scheme. I support the Prayer to annul the Regulations.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
I confess that I was startled when some of my hon. Friends pointed out that it will be possible for an employer to pick and choose among his workers who is to be exempted and who is not. I had glanced at the Regulations, but I had not recognised the significance of the words in Regulation 4 (1, c),… if the certificate is not to be general in relation to any employment, a description of the persons in that employment to be included in the certificate or excluded there-from".1376 I should hardly have believed, if I had not heard it said without contradiction tonight, that it was possible for an employer to say that so many of his workers would be excluded and the others would be kept within the Government's scheme.
This is putting a very dangerous weapon in the hands of the employer. For instance, an employer could say that those members of his staff who do not join a trade union will be exempted but those who are trade unionists will be kept within the Government's scheme. He might say that those curious individuals who can be found in certain factories, Tory trade unionists, will be exempted and others will be kept within the Government scheme. I suggest that it should be all or none. If the workers in a particular concern are to be included they should all be included; if they are to be excluded they should all be excluded. I do not like these words, and I hope that the Minister will find it possible to reconsider them.
The other point to which I wish to refer was the one made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) concerning the question of one month being an unreasonably short time. It is fairly obvious that if a notice to this effect goes up in a factory the workers concerned will want to consult their trade union to obtain advice as to what they should do. The trade union may not have sufficient experience of superannuation schemes to give immediate advice. It may want to take further advice, possibly through an experienced insurance broker, who would probably want more than a month to go into the details of the pension scheme of that factory compared with the Government's scheme and give the necessary technical advice to the union to pass on to its members. Therefore, one month seems to be an unreasonably short time, and I appeal to the Minister to have another look at it.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I did not intend to intervene in the debate but I have become rather concerned about the interpretation of these words. I did not have the experience of being on the Committee that examined the Bill, but I know something about the pension scheme which is administered by 1377 an employer who, I suppose, may be regarded as an enlightened employer. I am speaking of the firm of Cadbury, of Bourneville in Birmingham, where 10,000 employees are involved. I am quite sure that this firm would say, "If you ask us to give only a month's notice to our employees it does not enable them, if they would wish to do so, to discuss this with us."
I suppose that the method which that firm would consider appropriate would be to notify the works council, which is representative of the whole of the industry and which also, incidentally, has in a way a connection with the trade union because all the representatives of the workers' side are members of the trade union. I think that it would expect to consider a scheme like this at some length so that all the departmental committees could discuss the matter, which would then come back for discussion with the management of the firm.
It is quite impossible for a good firm adequately to discuss the matter within one month. I suppose that it is up to the firm to give longer notice if it so desires. If an enlightened firm feels that it should have joint consultations to this extent, why should not we say that firms which are not so enlightened should be expected to follow a similar procedure? If the Minister states that a firm shall give one month's notice, is there not a tendency to say that it should give only one month's notice? Can that be satisfactory if it means telling an employer that he need give only one month's notice? This would be totally unsatisfactory in a firm where a pension scheme has been in progress for fifty years and where tremendous questions are involved and the people would wish to argue which scheme was right. They would want full opportunity for consultation, and it is unfair not to let them have it.
I am sure that the firm to which I have referred would find no difficulty in giving an individual notice to employees. Surely, every subscriber to a fund receives an individual notice whenever there is a meeting of the fund. The right thing to do would be to notify all the workpeople by means of a note. Many of us have experience of matters being put on notice boards. We have had hundreds of complaints that notices 1378 that were displayed were not satisfactory. That is my experience, having been for ten years or so a member of a works council representing a large number of people. Many times it was pointed out that the notice was never seen. A firm such as the one to which I have referred would regard it as its duty to give every employee an individual notice and such an arrangement could easily be adopted. Moreover, when the notice has been given, adequate time would be required for consultation.
I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter. Two months would be better than one month. A period of two months would enable people to go to their respective organisations and come back to the firm. It would be much better than one month, and I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter on these lines.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Oram (East Ham, South)
I should like briefly to add my protest to the protests by my hon. Friends at what seem to me to be the fantastically weak provisions for the notification to employees of a decision about their superannuation scheme. The discussion so far has centred upon notification, but I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) reminded the House that we on this side are concerned not only that employees should be adequately notified about the decision of their employer, but that they should have full opportunity of joining in the decision that is made about their scheme.
A number of examples have been given from this side of the House about what good employers are able to do in the way of consultation with their employees. I should like to give another example from my own experience. My example is that of a co-operative society, of which I happen to be a member of the management committee. We have already taken steps to consult the employees about the decision which ultimately will be made. I have been asked to assist in the drafting of a detailed explanation to the employees of their position under the scheme. This will be done before a decision is made. We shall be meticulous in ensuring that we have the full agreement of the employees in any decision which is reached.
1379 If that can be done by us, and if the sort of procedure described by my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) and Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) in relation to private firms is possible, surely other employers can take similar action. It is surely necessary that when a decision has been made, the employees should know about it much longer than a month before it comes into operation. What is the point of giving them notice at all? Surely it is in order that they might be able to make representations about the decision. A month is too short a time for any sort of machinery for representation to have any real effect. The methods of notification are alternatives. Paragraph 3 (1,c) reads:making such other provision for giving notice to them as may be appropriate in the circumstances of the case".That seems to me to be as near as a Parliamentary draftsman can possibly go to telling an employer, "You need not bother very much about this at all."
I support what was said by one of my hon. Friends, that what we are being asked to do is to legislate, not for the good firms, not for the Cadbury's and the firms to which my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell referred and the co-operative society to which I referred, but for the poor employer. The House is being asked to put a limit on notification. That is why I entirely support what was said in urging the Minister to consider that these Regulations are completely inadequate and that he ought to take them back and put in their place something which is very much more protective of the interests of employees.
§ Mr. Arthur Tiley (Bradford, West)
I should like to clear up one point in the hon. Gentleman's mind. A lot of valid argument has been put forward in the debate, but I wish that hon. Members opposite would remove from their minds their ideas about the poor employer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] For the simple reason that every one of the 9 million persons—and it is an intelligent point which I am putting—is in a pension scheme without legislation from this House. They are in because employers, of their own free will, have started voluntary schemes. It is quite wrong for anyone, on either side of the House, to infer that there may be any poor employers involved.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The intervention of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) only shows how ignorant he is about the wages being earned by many workers. Hundreds of thousands of workers are receiving less than £9 a week, the limit imposed by the Bill, and are still contributing to superannuation schemes. It he does not realise that, then let him study the Ministry of Labour's monthly publication. It is time that hon. Members began to understand what is happening in this world and not come here with their high-falutin' nonsense. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to name one wages council which pays a wage of over £9 to an adult worker of 21.
§ Mr. Tiley
That was not the point at issue. It does not matter a jot whether a man has £8, £9, £10, up to £20 or £30 a week. It is an advantage to a man, and a bigger advantage to the lower-paid worker, that his employer should have started a pension scheme. In that way, the employer, of his own free will, is adding something to the man's weekly wage for nothing and without statutory regulations. Hon. Members opposite should at least begin to recognise—
§ Mr. Tiley
I am not talking to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. I am dealing with what was said by the hon. Member for Jarrow. I reckon that the Scots have taken up enough time of the House this week. The only point I am making is this. For goodness sake, let hon. Members recognise what the country recognised five or six weeks ago, namely, that bosses are on the whole good Christian men and have started these schemes of their own free will.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
That was an unusually long intervention. I gave way 1381 to the hon. Gentleman because I am always anxious that he should display his ignorance. I want to ask the Minister whether he will kindly acquaint his hon. Friend with the facts of life with regard to the Act.
If a private employer, employing men and women at below £9 a week, decides to join the Government scheme, those employees receiving below £9 a week will not be eligible to be members of the scheme. The hon. Member should really know something of the Act before he makes an intervention of that kind. We are talking about people who will be embraced by the Act.
I want to put a point to the Minister in a helpful way. I want him to reconsider this matter of one month's notification. Before I became a Member of the House I lived among workers and attended trade union meetings. Trade union branches normally meet once a month. Assuming that an employer sends out a notification the day after they lave met and they do not meet again for another month, what happens? The Minister should seriously consider the further point whether it will be possible under the Regulations for the employers to discriminate.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Then the Minister should not believe that it is the responsibility of agents of Moscow if wild-cat strikes occur. The responsibility will lie at the Minister's door. The wheels cannot be kept turning in British industry today on the basis of making fish of one and fowl of another. In matters of this kind, in particular, where it is a question of reward for services rendered, all employees ought to be embraced. [Laughter.]
§ Mr. Fernyhough
These are the facts of life, but even that fact does not apply in the industry from which my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) comes, because there are no women workers in that industry, and I do not know that it applies in the industry which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South represents. But we cannot have a scheme of this kind which is not all-embracing. We cannot separate the 1382 sheep from the goats and say that the administrative staff shall have one pension scheme and the productive workers another. It is for the Minister to see that as far as possible no such discrimination is made.
More important still is that he should see to it that much longer notice than one month is given. I am sure that he would agree that in the case of notices of this kind, which will have far-reaching long-term defects on the lives of the people concerned, notification should be at more than a month's notice so that discussions can take place and that whatever scheme is adopted by the firm concerned shall be introduced with as little misgiving and as possible. It lies with the Minister whether it comes in that manner, so I hope the right hon. Gentleman will try to help along his own Act by modifying the Regulations along the lines which my hon. Friends have requested.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
It is not necessary for me to emphasise the complexity of the scheme which will come into operation in April, 1961. Anyone who listened to the debate on the original Bill must be only too well aware of the complex nature of the Government's scheme, which will provide a serious headache for many employers as well as employees.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) that the scheme introduces a valuable principle in providing for the transferability of pension rights. We must remember, however, that it does not provide for the transferability of pension rights in all schemes, but only within the context of this scheme. I am not sure what effect that condition will have on the decision of employers to contract out. It is just possible that it may deter some employers from doing so, but we cannot foresee that at the moment. Neither employers nor employees can fully foresee what future changes will take place, and this will make it difficult to decide whether or not contracting out is valuable for any firm or group of employees.
When the Government scheme was introduced originally I spoke in favour of individual option but I was persuaded, 1383 like the hon. Member for Coventry, East, that it was not practicable. This raises the question of notification which has been discussed in this debate. I should think it would have been possible to make a provision for individual notification. One must remember that nearly all the voluntary schemes have been introduced by firms with a concern for their employees. It is usual to give every individual notification of change and the whole thing depends on confidence. I should think that it would have been reasonable to require individual notification and to ask an employer to make a declaration that such notification has been given when applying for a certificate.
I have risen to ask what is to be the context of the notice. Reference has been made to objective comparison, one hon. Member saying that an employee should be able to judge for himself after making an objective comparison. Another hon. Member referred to the need for comparative figures. It will be a difficult job for an employer if he has to get out all the comparative figures and provide evidence to the Registrar that this has been done for each employee. I should like to know what the Minister has in mind, because the Regulations merely state:For the purpose of informing persons employed by him … of his intention to make or revoke an election. …Is the notice merely a formal notice of intention and nothing more; and, if not, what is to be included in the notice?
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
I shall make only a brief intervention. First, I will deal with the point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley). There is a great deal of substance in his point because what we are dealing with is that section of industry which in the main has been enlightened enough to introduce superannuation schemes for its employees. It is true that, to a large degree, there is an element of enlightened employers in this category; but, in dealing with legislation, we are concerned primarily with the less enlightened in all categories. I put it to the hon. Member for Bradford, West, through you, Sir, that a percentage of superannua- 1384 tion schemes have been introduced by firms within this sector, due entirely to pressure from the trade unions.
When one is dealing with bad employers, one cannot think in terms of co-operative societies and Cadburys and enlightened firms of that sort. There is a good deal of substance in what the hon. Member for Bradford, West said, but we have to devote attention to those employers who have introduced superannuation schemes largely as a result of trade union pressure.
§ Mr. Tiley
This is the cut and thrust of debate which the House of Commons is supposed to have. I admit the point the hon. Member is making, but few schemes exist because of the insistence of trade unions. Indeed, trade unions have done too little over the last 10 or 15 years to extend pensions of this sort.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I can speak only from my own experience as a trade union official for fourteen years. I have been employed by only one trade union and I can assure the hon. Member that that union had a department specifically for introducing superannuation schemes in concert with employers.
§ Mr. Reynolds
Would not my hon. Friend agree, from his experience of dealing with these matters as a trade union official, that many employers have introduced superannuation schemes not necessarily out of the kindness of their hearts towards employees, but as a method of trying to tie employees to the firm?
§ Mr. Loughlin
There are obviously certain advantages in such an arrangement, but I would not accept that all employers have regarded superannuation schemes solely as a method of holding people to their employment. Obviously, the greater the turnover of labour, the greater are labour costs. While employers have to be cognisant of the fact that superannuation schemes help to retain employees in their employment, that does not necessarily mean that they are bad employers.
I am not concerned with the good employers. No man can be a trade union official without having to accept that there are good as well as bad employers. We have to legislate to deal with the 1385 worst employer in each category with which we are dealing. It is essential that sufficient notice should be given to employees to permit them to consult their trade unions before employers can be entitled to contract out.
Over the last fifteen years, we have paid much lip-service in this country to joint consultation. Most good industrial consultants today argue that the very basis of productivity is to be found in good industrial relations. If Parliament commits acts which endanger good relations in industry, or in even a small sector of industry, we are failing in our responsibilities to industry. If there is to be any notification, it must be such that it is possible for workpeople employed by bad employers to consult their unions to ensure that their interests are protected. As the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) said, the result may well be that there will be strikes. If strikes are the result of our failure to ensure that there is a requisite period of notice hon. Members opposite must admit to having make a mistake.
1386 The exhibition of notices has been mentioned. The industries with which I was concerned were, to a large extent, covered by wages council orders. A wages council order is issued in the first instance as a proposal. A period of days, normally twenty-one, is allowed for the exhibition of the proposed changes in the Statutory Instrument. Although the law demands that such proposals shall be exhibited in a place that is accessible to the employees, it is my experience that only a small proportion of employees see such an order. If we give the employer the right to choose the place in his factory where the notice is to be exhibited, it will be useless so far as many of the employees are concerned.
The Minister ought to look at the issue of notification again. If an employee is to be affected by any action that we take, he ought in fairness to be given every opportunity to take steps to secure his position both at present and in the future. If there is the slightest doubt whether the provisions that we make will enable him to do that, we ought to change the provisions.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
The debate has certainly served a useful purpose, if only to bring out the very wide measure of, I am sure, quite genuine misunderstanding on the other side of the House both of the effect of these Regulations and of the method by which they were made. That began when the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) told the House—I must say to my astonishment—that these two sets of Regulations contained the whole of the mechanics of contracting out. Let me assure the House that they do not, and that a considerable number of further Regulations will be required before the desirable purpose is wholly achieved.
I was very touched by one thing that the hon. Member for Coventry, East said. He said that during the recent General Election people were left to think that only one pension scheme, the Labour Party one, was being put forward. In view of the results of the General Election, that observation showed very commendable modesty on the part of the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East also said, with that powerful rhetoric which some of us had, shall we say, quite enough of in Standing Committee A, that we were taking steps to ensure that workers would not know what their position would be with respect to contracting out. He ignored the fact that we have widely distributed a leaflet which clearly describes the whole system, though it is fair to say that the only thanks that I have had for issuing it was criticism from the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) that it might have a political effect.
I should like to deal with one or two of the general concepts that have been discussed in the debate. There was a good deal of talk about whether legislation was required for good or bad employers. I do not propose to enter into any generalisation about employers, but hon. Members will realise that we are concerned only with employers who, without compulsion but because they thought it the right thing to do, have provided schemes which give at least as much benefit as the pro- 1388 posed State-graduated scheme at the maximum. That point was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) in an intervention a few minutes ago. Therefore, we are dealing with a highly progressive section of employers. The only employers concerned with these Regulations are those who have existing schemes, or schemes coming into existence, of some substance.
The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) and the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) were apparently very surprised that when an employer applies for a certificate under these Regulations it need not include all his employees. I should be out of order in doing more than pointing out that that power, be it right or wrong, derives not from these Regulations but from the Act. We have to deal not only with the very small but also the very great concerns, which have an infinite variety of employees with infinitely varying needs, and if we said that it was to be all or none we should deny them any opportunity of contracting out.
There has been much discussion as to the precise rights and position of employees in cases where employers apply for certificates. I hope to show that the Regulations provide sufficient safeguards. The greatest safeguard is that no man can be contracted out by his employer under the Regulations unless his employer preserves for him, in one form or another, pension rights at least as great as he could have earned under the State scheme at the maximum.
Reference has been made to the way in which these Regulations have been framed. The hon. Member for Coventry, East referred to the National Insurance Advisory Committee. I want the House to be quite clear as to the procedure followed in making these Regulations, because it has some bearing on their content. They are made under the provisions laid down in the original Act of 1946, the effect of which have been imported into the 1959 Act. I submit Regulations in draft to the National Insurance Advisory Committee, which is a body known to hon. Members on both sides as having a very great standing, authority and experience. Both sets of Regulations were so submitted, and the reports of the National Insurance Ad- 1389 visory Committee on both, accompanied by a statement by me, are available to on. Members. The House will see that, in respect of both sets of Regulations, a number of amendments were suggested by the Advisory Committee, every one of which has been accepted by the Government and is embodied in the Regulations.
I do not suggest for a moment that that fact should inhibit hon. Members from disagreeing—this is a matter for judgment and opinion—but when they recollect not only the standing of the Advisory Committee but the fact that it advertises for and receives representations from all sorts of points of view and organisations, which it considers before making its reports, they will realise that a good deal of weight should be attached to what the Advisory Committee finally recommends, and they will hold it to the credit and strength of Regulations that they embody each and every proposal for amendment which, after considering the representations made to it, this very able and eminent body proposed.
Under Regulation 2 of the Regulations (No. 1860), provision is made for the appointment of the Registrar, which so concerns the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). The hon. Member, however, when he stated that the Registrar was appointed by someone who had nothing to do with Scotland—by which I think he meant my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor—was in error. The Registrar is appointed by me. He has been appointed and, if I may reply to a question another hon. Member asked, first as Registrar-designate and now as Registrar, he has had a very considerable number of inquiries from, and discussions with, persons interested in contracting out. To complete this part of the account, the Registrar-designate, as I informed the House, was Mr. Leach, an under-secretary in my Department, and he has now been confirmed as Registrar. What the hon. Member for Motherwell was thinking about is a functionary not covered by these Regulations at all, the adjudicator.
I come to a point where I must with some modesty disclaim the rather few congratulations which the hon. Member for Coventry, East tendered to me when he congratulated me on the provision about transferability in these Regulations. These Regulations have nothing whatever to do with transferability, and the word 1390 is not mentioned throughout them. I should not like to retain the vote of the hon. Member in support of them by false pretences.
We come to one of the points of substance which was raised, the question of notification. The hon. Member for Coventry, East said that this was left to the free choice of the employer. It is perfectly true that Regulation 3 does provide for three alternative or cumulative methods of giving notification, but what I think he has failed to observe are the provisions of Regulation 14 (4), which I shall read to the House. That states:The Registrar shall not issue, vary, cancel or accept the surrender of any certificate in accordance with an election or the revocation of an election made by an employer unless he is satisfied that the steps taken by the employer to comply with the provisions of regulation 3 of these regulations are reasonable in the circumstances of the case.The matter therefore does not rest, as he suggested, on the free and unfettered choice of the employer. The employer has got to undertake a method of notification which will subsequently satisfy the registrar.
§ Mr. Crossman
This is a point we asked the right hon. Gentleman to clarify. If we take Regulation 14 (4) and study it in connection with 3 (b), we see that Regulation 3 (b) says:posting up written notice in some conspicuous place or places …is a proper method of notification. Regulation 14 (4) says the Registrar must satisfy himself that in each case it is suitable. What we want to know is, how can the Registrar do that except by visiting every factory and office and seeing that it is as conspicuous a notice as possible? I suggested that this was putting on the staff of the Registrar a totally intolerable burden and it was virtually giving the employer freedom because the only check of seeing that it was on the notice board could not be carried out.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon. Member will appreciate that the onus is on the employer to satisfy the Registrar that notification adequate in the circumstances of the case has been given. If he does not so satisfy the Registrar, he does not get a certificate. It is therefore a matter of satisfying the Registrar by 1391 evidence. The hon. Gentleman has disclosed the impracticability of his own proposal that the only method of notification should be individual written notification to every employee. If, as the hon. Gentleman says, it would be difficult for the Registrar to satisfy himself that notices had been placed in factories, it is self-evident that it would be infinitely more difficult for him to satisfy himself that every individual employee had received a notice. The hon. Gentleman has indicated, perhaps more clearly than I was going to, the practical impossibility of his suggestion.
In large concerns having large numbers of employees, some of whom may be sick or abroad, is it reasonable to create a legal position in which, if an employer fails by individual letter to notify one employee, the validity of the certificate itself may be called into question? That is not reasonable in those concerns. When dealing with a small concern with a number of employees always there, the simplest thing would be for the employer to do what hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to want him to do in all cases, and send an individual notification. When dealing with a great and complex organisation with a very large number of employees, a mockery will be made of contracting out if it is to be possible to say, after a certificate has been issued, that there was a failure, however inadvertent, to notify one employee and that therefore the certificate is invalid.
§ Mr. Crossman
It Would be useful to get the point clear. The Minister said that he had great respect for the Committee and held its members in great esteem. He tells me that our proposal for individual notification is impracticable. In that case, the minority on the Committee made an impracticable proposal. We merely asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider what some members of his own Committee had suggested, namely, that employers should be required to give individual notice to their employees. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the members of his Committee who proposed this were proposing nonsense? He has just told us that it was impracticable nonsense. The Minister will not dispute that it was an influential and powerful minority. 1392 Its view was that it would not have been impracticable. The majority did not turn it down as impracticable. It said that it wanted to give the employer more latitude. I am not clear why the right hon. Gentleman thinks it practicable for the Registrar to convince himself that an employer has a conspicuous notice board—it is a thing which you cannot possibly do—and not practicable to suggest that there should be individual notification. Of course it is practicable to insist that each employee should be notified. The Minister does not make it impossible by simply saying that it is impossible, and thereby denying the members of his own Committee who suggested it. He said himself that they were people of the very' greatest importance. Why should he cast a slur on their opinion?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Though they suggested it, they apparently, as the result of the discussion which took place and the views expressed, acquiesced in what is a unanimous Report. It is not right for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that any section of the Committee carried to the final point of dissent a disagreement in favour of the point of view he indicates. When I said that it would be impracticable, I did not say that it would be impracticable on all occasions. I said that it would be impracticable to lay it down as a universal condition regardless of the circumstances.
When dealing, at least in possibility, with some 40,000 pension schemes, from great big ones in great big concerns to quite small ones in quite small concerns, and even quite small ones in big concerns, it is sensible to do as the Regulations do and leave it to the Registrar to consider whether the notification given is reasonable in the circumstances of the case. I must throw the Committee back at the hon. Gentleman. In the face of the Committee's recommendations in favour of the Regulations as they now stand, and in face of the practical problems of laying down one solution for possibly 40,000 differing pension schemes, it would not be wise to limit it as the hon. Gentleman suggests.
The hon. Gentleman said that I had treated the Committee badly over the question of the period of notice. Those were the words he used. He suggested 1393 to the House that the Committee had recommended a longer period. That was the clear implication of what he said. Let me, to resolve the matter, read to the House what the Committee said in paragraph 7 of its Report:We have some sympathy with the view that the period of notice is rather short. On the ether hand, if as much as three months' notice were required in every case it would seriously delay the settlement of applications and might well make it difficult for the Registrar to clear all the applications made before the date on which the national scheme is due to begin. The period of notice provided s, of course, only the minimum and there is no reason why employers should not give their staffs longer notice of their intention; indeed we think there is every reason to believe that in the great majority of cases informal discussions will take place at an early stage. On the whole, therefore we do not favour any extension of the period of notice.To say that in adopting the Committee's recommendation I am treating the Committee badly is really an abuse of language. Of course, the Committee's advice, as is always the case in this Committee, is full of good sense. I have accepted it in a very high proportion of cases indeed, as the hon. Gentleman knows.
We are here dealing, as I said a moment ago, both with large concerns with large pension schemes and with small concerns with small pension schemes. I accept that when we are covering some of the very big ones it may be advantageous to give a longer period of notice than a month.
Here we come again to what has been said on this subject and others by hon. Members opposite. No sane employer is going to attempt to bulldoze his employees on this or any other matter, because, after all, one of the reasons undoubtedly for the introduction of pension schemes is to help produce good industrial relations. An employer who acts as some hon. Members opposite seem to fear some employers will act, and seeks to oppress or diminish the rights of his employees in this matter, will soon learn his lesson by the industrial trouble which an hon. Member opposite said he would undoubtedly bring upon himself. It really is wrong to approach this matter from the point of view that all or a great many em- 1394 ployers are going to behave in the way the hon. Gentleman suggests.
Then the hon. Member for East Ham. North (Mr. Prentice) asked about consultation with the trade unions. As he knows, as I am sure he has read the Report, the Advisory Committee considered whether that should be made a compulsory condition. The Committee rejected it for what seems to me an overwhelmingly practical reason. No employer could necessarily know to which of the many unions in our trade union system each of his employees belonged. There, again, it would surely be a great mistake subsequently to put the validity of a certificate in question because an employer had failed to notify a union which had a member or two among his employees though he was ignorant of the fact.
I will say in response to an appeal by another hon. Member that where there is strong union organisation in the works or firm I cannot imagine any sane employer not, in fact, entering into consultations. Those of us who endured the prolonged marathon of the Committee stage of the Bill will recall that again and again, to a point perhaps which made some hon. Members feel that I was guilty of tedious repetition, I said that I was perfectly certain there would be consultations with those who represent the employees in the firm, and with the employees themselves, over all these stages.
In response to the appeal made to me, I will certainly say that I very much hope that the practice which I ventured to commend during the Committee stage will be very widely adopted. I think the House must accept that to make it a compulsory condition would, for the reason I have given, be quite impracticable.
Then the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) referred to the Second Schedule and, I think, slightly mis-stated the effect of Section 12. Under that Section, it is not the fact, as he suggested, that the "employers" of those in local government and education would necessarily be, for this purpose, my right hon. Friends the Ministers of Local Government and of Education, though regulations may be made to permit that.
1395 I can relieve the hon. Gentleman's apprehensions by referring to Section 12 (3) of the Act, which says very clearly:Before making any regulations under this section the appropriate Minister shall consult with such bodies concerned with employments of the class in question as appear to him fairly to represent the interests of employers and employed persons in those employments.That being in the Act, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it would have been not only superfluous but probably irregular to have added it to these Regulations.
I have already dealt with the trade union point, to which the hon. Member for East Ham, North also referred, so we come to the main principle of these Regulations. Let me repeat, they provide a part of the mechanism for contracting out. They provide a system which is, I hope and believe, as clear and as simple as can be devised for working this far-from-easy business.
As I have said to the House on more than one occasion, no other country has previously operated a system of contracting out from a State graduated pension scheme. I have said before, and I will repeat it, that it is not an easy thing to do. We have tried, while holding the balance fair in these Regulations, to achieve simplicity, and such clarity as the language inevitable in the drafting of regulations permits.
We should make a great mistake if we were to try to make these Regulations, as has been suggested, tighter and more elaborate. We have taken a reasonably middle course. That is my judgment. I may be wrong. This is a new subject, on which practical experience is lacking. We are in an experimental sphere. But I will certainly tell the House that I shall regard it as my duty to watch the effect of these Regulations as they come into operation. I shall certainly keep a watch on the Regulations to see whether the result is what some hon. Members fear—I think, wrongly—will be the case, and, if they turn out to be right and I turn out to be wrong, I shall not hesitate—and I tell the House frankly—to put the matter right.
So far as my judgment goes—and the House knows that I have lived with the subject now for a very long time—I think that we have about the right mean level between undue laxity and undue tightness 1396 in these Regulations. That view, as I say, is shared by the Advisory Committee after hearing the representations made to it. We should, I think, put these Regulations into effect, subject to the undertaking I have given—and which, if I had not given it, the House would have been in a position to expect of me—to watch their effect.
Moving, as we are, in this unknown sphere, I sincerely believe that the apprehensions of some hon. Members are quite unsound. I believe that these Regulations will work but, if I am wrong, I shall put them right.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Will the Minister clear a small point concerning the letter of notification? When superannuation schemes are introduced, a notification is given in writing to employees concerning the deduction of contribution from their wages. That is done, even in a factory where 12,000 people are employed, by the simple insertion in a wage packet of a notice that the employee signs and returns. Is there anything wrong in pursuing the same method of putting a notice in the wage packets of employees for them to return indicating what they think about contracting out or contracting in? The Minister appears to think that there is great difficulty, whereas we find that it is a simple method when introducing superannuation schemes.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
There is a profound difference. The hon. Member, with his trade union experience, will know well that if either there is a failure to give a notification in a wage packet or a wrong notification is given, there would be a quick and proper reaction from the man concerned. It is a quite different thing to put in jeopardy the validity of a certificate, covering, perhaps, thousands of employees, because one man may not have been notified, a man who may have no conceivable reason, such as existed in the case suggested by the hon. Member, for at once reacting and notifying the employer. When the hon. Member thinks about this, he will appreciate that there is no analogy between the two situations.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
My verdict on the right hon. Gentleman's speech is that he has been too stubborn 1397 and argumentative over a matter which he could have disposed of quickly and easily had he taken a simple alternative course. Secondly, he was unduly sarcastic about the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes—on certain of the passages in his speech which referred to the detail of the Regulations. Finally, the right hon. Gentleman is obviously still smarting too much at the close attention we gave to the Bill in Committee some months ago.
These two Statutory Instruments relate to contracting out. Contracting out was settled by the Act and we are dealing with, first, some of the conditions which must be satisfied before an employer can contract out, and, secondly, the mechanics which the employer must use if he proposes to contract out any part of his employees.
I should like to make one or two points on Statutory Instrument No. 1861, which has not received much attention during the debate, and suggest to the Minister that there may be one or two points which should receive his consideration in due course, possibly with a view to making amending Regulations. In deciding whether equivalent pension benefits exist in a private scheme, one of the tests is that the pension or a specified part of it is payable for life and is not capable of being terminated or suspended except for causes, if any, which may be prescribed.
In Regulation 2 (a) of S.I. 1861, certain causes are prescribed. In Regulation 2 (a) (i) the Minister, in response to a recommendation of the National Insurance Advisory Committee, has added in parentheses the wordswhether by operation of law or otherwise.That was intended to meet the comments of the National Insurance Advisory Committee in paragraph 7 of its Report, dealing with the possible termination or suspension of pension on bankruptcy, which said thatmany occupational schemes contain provisions permitting the termination or suspension of a pension on account of bankruptcy and these generally include a discretionary power, vested in the trustees or committee of management, to pay the pension during bankruptcy to the pensioner's wife or other dependant.1398 The Committee went on:This is clearly intended to achieve the same object of protecting the pension from passing to creditors. We are advised that the reference to "alienation" in Regulation 2 (a) could be interpreted as not permitting the inclusion of provisions of this kind in contracted-out schemes, and we recommend that the regulation should be modified so as to make it clear that a rule allowing the termination or suspension of the equivalent pension benefit by reason of bankruptcy shall not be a bar to contracting out.What the right hon. Gentleman has not done in accepting the recommendation of the Committee is to stipulate that in such cases of termination or suspension on account of bankruptcy, the discretionary power, to which the Committee refers as being generally present in such circumstances, shall be present in the scheme before advantage can be taken of the prescribed causes under the heading of bankruptcy.
That is an important point. I notice that in dealing with people who are suffering from mental disorder or inability to act, the Regulations provide that… sub-paragraph (ii) of this paragraph shall not apply unless there is provision enabling the pension to be paid or applied at discretion for the maintenance or support of the pensioner's spouse or of other persons depending on him …The point I am making is that the Minister has not insisted on the proviso for discretionary grants to wife or dependant in the case of a person suffering from mental illness which might involve the suspension or termination of the pension being written into the conditions of suspension or termination of pension in cases of bankruptcy.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The hon. Gentleman is quite right in his analysis of the provision, and the reason is that such payments in bankruptcy cases, so I am advised, would be affected by the bankruptcy law and liable to be payments for the benefit of creditors. Of course, it is not possible to amend the bankruptcy law by means of National Insurance Regulations.
§ Mr. Houghton
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, although it seems strange that value is apparently attached to such a proviso which, as the Committee said, is generally found in vocational schemes, when dealing with the question of treatment of pension in cases of bankruptcy. However, I pass from 1399 the subject. I have made the point and the right hon. Gentleman may wish to consider whether there is anything more to be done.
There is another respect in which Statutory Instrument No. 1861 may need attention in regard to these prescribed causes, because paragraph 2 (b) deals with the possibility of suspension of pension during imprisonment or detention in legal custody, or upon resumption of employment with the employer. I am not sure that the reference to resumption of employment with the employer is very happily placed so close to "imprisonment or detention in legal custody". It rather suggests that when, coming out of prison, a man is re-employed by his employer these conditions will then apply. Actually, of course, the reference to resumption of employment with the employer deals with a man who has retired and who becomes what in the public service would be called a "re-engaged pensioner".
It seems to me that the mere fact of resumption of employment with the employer after having retired does not of itself justify suspension or termination of pension. In the public service, a re-engaged pensioner still retains his right of pension, although it may be abated by the pay he receives for the job for which he is re-engaged. If his pay is greater than his pension, his pension is totally extinguished for a temporary period. I hope there is no suggestion in the Regulations that resumption of employment with the employer might entail complete suspension or termination of pension, irrespective of circumstances. Those are two points on that Statutory Instrument which are worthy of further consideration by the right hon. Gentleman.
I now come to the main issue with which the right hon. Gentleman has been dealing. We prayed against both these Statutory Instruments. There were points of doubt and difficulty on both. We are here dealing with two questions: how long notice shall be given of the employer's intention to contract out and what steps he shall take if he intends to do so.
The right hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to the Report of the National Insurance Advisory Committee on the question of one month versus two or three months notice of intention to con- 1400 tract out. It is true that the Committee did not come down definitely in favour of a longer period than one month, but it is clear from the language that it used that it thought that a longer period would be justified if it were feasible, having regard to the timetable of the scheme.
My conclusion is that the right hon. Gentleman scared the Committee off recommending a longer period by telling the Committee that if it recommended longer than a month we would never get through the work in time. That is a pretty bad thing. If the Bill cannot start on time let it start a little later, but let us have all the processes fully and satisfactorily gone through before the scheme comes into operation.
It may be that employers are being slow off the mark. They have known the details of the scheme for some time and there is no reason why there should be undue delay. Such advice as they need can be taken now. Some employers may be dilatory about it and may be leaving it to the last moment. It is important that they should be encouraged to deal with the matter expeditiously, and a period of three months notice would encourage them to do so.
Finally, what kind of notice shall be given? The right hon. Gentleman made very heavy weather of his objections to adopting the recommendation of the minority of the National Insurance Advisory Committee. Surely the Minister could have reasoned thus. If there is any argument about it, if there is any dispute about it, if there is a minority on the Committee, we will cut through all that by providing for individual notification. After all, the majority of the Committee did not object to individual notification; they merely thought that it was not necessary. The minority on the Committee thought that it was necessary and held to that view. In those circumstances, it would have been much better if the Minister had dispelled any grounds for criticism by providing for individual notification.
There is no difficulty about this—none at all. As has been pointed out by my hon. Friends, wage packets are issued, salary cheques are sent out, notifications of postings and of duties are continuously sent out, and it would be no hardship to the employer if he were required to give individual notification.
1401 Is not that even more essential when the employer may discriminate in favour of contracting out some of his employees and leaving others in the national scheme, and when notices on notice boards may be very difficult to follow, quite apart from them not being accessible to all those concerned? Why bother with the interpretation of the words "in some conspicuous place"? Why bother the Registrar, under paragraph 14 (4), to consider whether the steps taken by the employers are reasonable in the circumstances of the case? Has he not plenty to worry about without trying to decide whether the employer has done what is reasonable?
We are told that the Registrar will not be able to get through his enormous task if three months notice is given, so it is to be one month. Why not make his job lighter by cutting out all this nonsense about having to consider what an employer has done? Will the
§ Registrar have to inquire whether the notice boards were in a conspicuous place? Will he have to inquire how many notice boards there were and what sort of type was in the notice displayed on the notice board?
§ Having some knowledge of the difficulties of civil servants in this position, I am sure they would wish to be relieved of such unpalatable tasks. What they like is something straight and simple—and straight and simple it would have been if individual notice had to be given.
§ In all the circumstances, the Minister must realise that he has failed to convince my right hon. and hon. Friends, and I recommend them to divide.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 133, Noes 196.1403
|Division No. 23.]||AYES||[11.8 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Gourlay, Harry||Owen, Will|
|Albu, Austen||Grey, Charles||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Griffiths, David (Rather Valley)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Awbery, Stan||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Pentland, Norman|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hannan, William||Prentice, R. E.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Beaney, Alan||Hayman, F. H.||Probert, Arthur|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Blackburn, F.||Houghton, Douglas||Randall, Harry|
|Blyton, William||Howell, Charles A.||Rankin, John|
|Boardman, H.||Hoy, James H.||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Boyden, James||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hunter, A. E.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Ross, William|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Carmichael, James||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Chetwynd, George||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Steele, Thomas|
|Cliffe, Michael||King, Dr. Horace||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lawson, George||Stonehouse, John|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stones, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Swain, Thomas|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Loughlin, Charles||Sylvester, George|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McCann, John||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||MacColl, James||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Deer, George||McInnes, James||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Mackie, John||Thornton, Ernest|
|Dempsey, James||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Donnelly, Desmond||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Warbey, William|
|Driberg, Tom||Mahon, Simon||Watkins, Tudor|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Manuel, A. C.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter||Mapp, Charles||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Marsh, Richard||Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mason, Roy||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Evens, Albert||Mayhew, Christopher||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mendelson, J. J.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Finch, Harold||Millan, Bruce||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Fitch, Alan||Monslow, Walter||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Forman, J. C.||Moody, A. S.||Woof, Robert|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Neal, Harold||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Ginsburg, David||Oram, A. E.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Oswald, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Short and Mr. Redhead.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Partridge, E.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Peel, John|
|Arbuthnot, John||Harvey, John (Walthametow, E.)||Percival, Ian|
|Balniel, Lord||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hendry, A. Forbes||Pitman, I. J.|
|Batsford, Brian||Hiley, Joseph||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Pott, Percivall|
|Bidgood, John C.||Hocking, Philip N.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Holland, Philip||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Hollingworth, John||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Bishop, F. P.||Holt, Arthur||Ramsden, James|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hopkins, Alan||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Bossom, Clive||Hornby, R. P.||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Box, Donald||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Roots, William|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hughes-Young, Michael||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Russell, Ronald|
|Brewis, John||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Brooman-White, R.||Iremonger, T. L.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||James, David||Sharples, Richard|
|Bryan, Paul||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Shepherd, William|
|Bullard, Denys||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Smithers, Peter|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Speir, Rupert|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kaberry, Donald||Stodart, J. A.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Storey, S.|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cole, Norman||Kershaw, Anthony||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Collard, Richard||Kimball, Marcus||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Kitson, Timothy||Talbot, John E.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Lambton, Viscount||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Cordle, John||Leburn, Gilmour||Temple, John M.|
|Costain, A. P.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. H.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Critchley, Julian||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Curran, Charles||Lilley, F. J. P.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Dance, James||Litchfield, Capt. John||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Longden, Gilbert||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Loveys, Walter H.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Duncan, Sir James||MacArthur, Ian||Wade, Donald|
|Duthie, Sir William||McMaster, Stanley||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Wall, Patrick|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Webster, David|
|Farr, John||Maddan, Martin||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Whitelaw, William|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marten, Neil||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Mawby, Ray||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Gammans, Lady||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. G.||Wise, Alfred|
|Gardner, Edward||Mills, Stratton||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Montgomery, Fergus||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Morgan, William||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H. (Dorset, N.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Woollam, John|
|Gower, Raymond||Noble, Michael||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gurden, Harold||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Mr. J. E. B. Hill and|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Mr. Chichester-Clark.|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Page, Graham|